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The Discovery

Categories: Creative Writing Prompts Tags: creative writing exercises, creative writing prompts, writing prompt.

When you return to school for a conference, you bump into one of your old professors, who is rambling on excitedly about a new discovery. He asks you to follow him to his office—he has something he wants to show you. What is the new discovery? Why is your professor so excited? Write this scene.

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464 Responses to The Discovery

  1. Jonas says:

    “Please Brian! I’ll make it worth your while, I promise.”

    Brian had been listening to his former sociology professor incessantly ramble over something he had in his office for quite some time now. Brian was only here because other professors, ones he actually liked, would want to hear about his latest escapades within his law firm.
    Brian didn’t particularly enjoy the company of this professor. He didn’t much care for sociology after about two courses. His classmates annoyed him, and the professor was always…peculiar. Brian had always sensed something was off with Doctor Sidwell. And here he was, going on and on about something. This is what happens when you try to be cordial, Brian thought to himself.

    Christ, this guy is relentless, Brian thought to himself.

    “Okay show me whatever it is you wanted to show me.” Brian interrupted the former professor with. “Just please make it quick.”

    “Of course. Follow me please.” The professor responded.

    They walked down the hallway of the auditorium and into one of the dorm rooms. Doctor Sidwell poked his head around cautiously before putting his key-card into the slot.

    “Last time I checked offices weren’t in dorms.” Brian said suspiciously.

    “Calm down. I said I’ll make it worth your while, didn’t I?” The professor stood in the doorway, quaking with excitement.

    Why do I always let my curiosity take over my common sense? Brian asked himself before stepping into the dorm.

    Walking down the halls, he suddenly remembered his former dorm room. Room 117. He was looking at the numbers engraved on the doors flashing by as he tried to keep up with the professors pace. 112, 113, 114, 155, 116, 117. He came to a half in front of his old room. How many fellow students used to nervously fidget outside his door like he was doing now? But he wasn’t here to buy weed from his former self and roommate, so why was he idiotically staring at the engraved number on the door?

    “Are you coming or not?” The professor barked at him from down the hallway.

    Brian continued following the professor to the end of the hallway, and into the laundry room. The professor jumped onto a dryer and opened a ceiling tile above it.

    “Well, jump on up!”

    Brian pulled himself onto the dryer and stood up. The professor turned on a flashlight. Brian saw dozens of white blocks of what appeared to be clay. Then a red light started blinking on every single block of clay. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. 0.

    THUD. Brian awoke with a start seeing the clenched fist of the bartender as his makeshift alarm clock. Or a go the fuck home clock. Most likely the latter.

    “Bar’s closing Brian, go home.”

    Brian drunkenly stumbled out of the small bar and into the street. If only reality was as exciting as dreams.

  2. Sujakosa says:

    “You’ll wish you hadn’t left the department.”
    Same old awards lined the wall. Franz Boas Award, the Textor award, and those damn diplomas from Yale and Oxford.
    “Doc, I’m not interested in the past no more.”
    “C’mon, I thought the Gold Coast had open minded people. Look at this,” and he passed five stapled sheets my way. I leaned back in the stiff chair that survives purging in academia. The damn thing felt as ossified as the department’s fixations.
    “A genetics report,” I flipped another page, “on big bones? Do you want me to review the tests?”
    “Keep reading. Green tea?”
    I skimmed the report and nodded.
    “But Mammoths didn’t live in the Bronze Age. Near Giza.”
    “I know. Keep going,” as he poured the steaming drink. I inspected the mug he chose for me, looking for signs of filth.
    “Still afraid of the little germs?” Doc asked, grinning.
    “I work in a lab. They can contaminate anything,” and reached for the mug. Green tea aroma always blanks my mind. For a few seconds. Nothing grimy shown on the lip of the mug. I hoped the hot water cleansed the interior before sipping.
    “Still looking for the cure to cancer?” he asked. I chuckled.
    “Genetics can solve problems for our future. Are you still looking for dinosaurs?”
    “Keep reading.” I obeyed, like an undergraduate again. Reporting all my fossil findings. Tidying my documents. Digging extra hours. I didn’t miss it.
    I sensed him lean back. Watching me. Waiting.
    “Eighty-eight percent human? That’s embarrassing. I wonder what they mixed up in the lab to make that conclusion.”
    Doc laughed. True joy fell from his mouth. Only babies watching bubbles float laugh like that. He must have seen something new.
    “Three different labs tested that sample. And it looks like a femur six feet long.”
    “Is this a joke?”
    Doc shook his head.
    “Where’s the camera? Is Professor Krauss gonna walk through the door laughing?”
    “James, I’m telling you,” and his stretched his arms out wide, “Six feet long.”
    “You got a picture?”
    And he leaned behind his desk to open a bottom drawer. I wouldn’t be played for a sucker. Not in a million years. If they ever dug up my bones, they’d find “Skeptic” engraved in them.
    He dropped the photo on the desk. And there he was. White hair dusted in sand. Sandals covered in dirt. Crouching. Over a giant femur? The color looked amazing. The shadows look right.
    “Did you photoshop this?”
    “No! I’m telling you this is incredible.”
    “Yeah, I’m not believing it. So you found giants? Near the pyramids?”
    “Within 50 miles of Giza. That explains their construction,” he shot back.
    “All this time, grave robbers and imperial archaeologists have sniffed around the Pyramids, and no one ever saw a bone this big. In the first layer of sediment. Why does it show up now?”
    “Because I found it.”

  3. Red mage says:

    “Don’t you realize what we have here? We have possibly found the first steps to answering one of life’s great questions.”

    It was a statement she had heard before. Nevertheless, Aisha carefully perused the document detailing the methodology and results of a prolonged social psychological study. Her old mentor was beaming across from her from behind his desk.

    Not receiving an immediate response he continued, “This project has taken decades to come to a conclusion. I had to use a lot of graduate assistantships over the years to bring it together.”

    “It’s amazing, professor,” Aisha said at last. She really did mean it. Her mentor had always been an optimist and at one time, she may have been one of his co-authors—but that was back when she thought society could change.

    “It’s potentially a great find. I’m thinking of presenting it on the last day of the conference—“

    “I can’t let you do that.” Aisha’s voice was soft but firm.

    She always hated the silence that followed. There was an immediate change in the air. Her professor’s face shifted from bewilderment, to shock and then suspicion. He narrowed his eyes at his former student, but her face was a cool mask of finality.

    “The people are not ready, professor.”

    He sank further into his chair and exhaled deeply.

    “Of all people… You’re one of them?”

    “The people are not ready.”

    “Bullshit!” She did not flinch at his outburst, but it was rare sight to see her mentor this angry.

    “You people always say ‘we’re not ready’! How are you to assess that if we don’t even try? Nothing will get better if we just stand still!”

    “The people are not ready.” She repeated the mantra hoping it would sink in to him as easily as it had for her.
    It appeared to do little to dissuade her professor from his tirade, so she tried a more reasonable approach.

    “Professor,” Aisha interjected, “you know what we do to those who do not comply. It’s not just you, but everyone who was involved in this project.” At this, she saw him freeze and knew she had the proper leverage.

    “We targeted you because you are the principal investigator and have the largest oversight over the others. Rest assured, we will contact them shortly.”

    Her professor wasn’t saying anything anymore. She had won. Aisha straightened and rested her hand on the files before her.

    “We will be confiscating your findings. It is best to live for now and wait for another time to reveal your results. But society is not ready today.”

    Aisha left the office with a heavy binder of articles, references, data, and an extensive contact list. A few blocks away, she pulled out a special cell phone to report her success to her superior.

    “We could have been on our way to solving the current educational crisis,” Aisha noted with some bitterness.

    “We exist to protect the people from themselves,” the voice assured. “They will never be ready.”

  4. SIERRA ENIGMA – PART 2
    ====================

    Continued from Part 1 back on October 29, 2013 prompt ‘The Journal’

    I took the heavy box inside, placed it on the kitchen table and turned the kettle on. The chill was settling in my bones and I was shaking. I was pretty sure I was coming down with something. Carefully unwrapping the package, the faint smell of aged paper filled the air. It was a stack of hard-bound lab notebooks, each titled ‘Sierra’ and dated; thirty journals from late-1982 to mid-2002 when the fire happened.

    There was an envelope tucked in the box. It had my name on it in my mother’s handwriting. The letter inside was hurriedly written. I started reading as the kettle’s whistle blared.

    ‘Sierra, this is your life. I’m sorry.’

    ******

    The walk to the science building took longer than usual. Between my deepening cold and Mom’s research, I slept terribly. I wrapped my fingers around the cappuccino cup and prayed for the feeling to creep back in my fingers.

    The interview was today. I’d known everyone on the panel since I was a kid when my mother took me with her to work. The doctors and professors were like family to me. I had no other. It was just me and Mom.

    Gladstone, Mareset and Peters waited for me upstairs, but I didn’t want to go. Not now. They were on Mom’s project at the time of the accident. Seeing their names peppered through those thirty-year-old journals gave me pause.

    “Sierra, this is your life.”

    My name is Elizabeth Franklin. Sierra is my middle name. No one called me that but Mom. It was a secret name. Something between her and I. The rest of the world knew me as Beth.

    “Protocol Sierra.”

    “I’m sorry”

    A pair of hands snaked under my arms from behind and squeezed gently. He always smelled like cinnamon. Instantly, I felt warmer and smiled.

    “Hey, Chris.”

    “Good morning,” he said and kissed my neck. “Ready for your dog-and-pony show?”

    I turned around and punched him playfully in the shoulder. “That’s not nice.”

    “You’re late, you know.”

    I nodded and raised my paper cup. “I didn’t sleep well. I need the boost. I got a chill, that’s all.”

    He gave me another hug. “Gotta run. Macroeconomics awaits. You contagious?”

    “I don’t think so.”

    “Good,” he said and kissed me deeply. “Knock ‘em dead.”

    I watched him leave, feeling better, but still troubled. Why didn’t I tell him about the journals? We’ve dated on and off for years and we’re finally getting somewhere. Still…

    “Beth,” came a voice above me, loud and ringing. The atrium’s three stories made every pin drop a bell chime.

    I looked up. “Doctor Peters, I’m sorry I’m late.”

    He waved me off. “Never mind. Those other two fools went on the hunt for some Cantonese. We got time. Come on up. I want to show you something.”

    Intrigued, I ascended the stairs. Doctor Peters, Uncle Enos to me, always had something neat to show me. He was an experimental geneticist like Mom and they spent a lot of time together. I often wondered if they were more than colleagues. Maybe I could ask him about the project journals.

    For some reason, I kept thinking the project as outside of me, that there was some other Sierra. I bit my lower lip as I followed him inside his lab.

    He closed the door and threw the controlled access seal. With several million dollars worth of equipment, security was paramount– especially since the lab accident.

    I walked across the lab to the clean room and tapped on the observation mirror. It looked empty but the specimen light was on. Normally, I expected to see human analog pigs or even primates. There was no trappings of occupation either. No feeding trough, no interactivity test objects. Nothing.

    “Did Wendy send you the package?” he asked as he came along side me and peered through the glass.

    “Wendy? You mean the librarian? Yeah, I got a package. That was from you?”

    “Did you read the journals?”

    “Yes,” I lied.

    “So, you know why you’re here then.”

  5. CrAzy 8thz says:

    “Devin, here step into my office. I have something that I need to show you.” Mr. Gundi guided his hand to where he wanted me to walk. “I’ve found a new discovery, ” he said while speed walking and clenching my arm down the long narrow hall way. I have not seen Mr. Gundi since I graduated and that was 12 years ago but it seemed that he was very happy to see me. As we rushed down to his office I noticed a smirk on his face.

    “Mr. Gundi, why are your so excited today? I came here for the school conference now were both is going to be late” , i said while looked at my wrist watch. It was 8:53 and the conference started at 8:50. “Don’t worry about it”, he said, “This is way more important than that and i want you to be the first one to show.”

    As we entered his office Mr. Gundi quickly closed his door behind us, as if he was hiding something.I noticed a weird looking creature sitting on his desk. I never saw this creature before. Its pink-green lizard-like skin looked very moist, its arms and hands was very small but nails was as long as it tail. The right eyeball was noticeably larger than its left and it stood on two legs between 12-14 inches tall.

    “Woah, what is that” i said jumping back. My heart felt like it skipped a beat as I never saw any creature like this one before. Mr. Gundi laughed and said,

    “This right here is one of my newest creations.”

  6. Observer Tim says:

    This is also late (like last week’s), so I used it as a prequel to this week’s.

    MULLIGAN

    It was my first time back at Olsson since I graduated, and the seminar had been intense and tiring. Finally I got a break; rather than rub egos with my colleagues, I found a nice bench on the Lawn where I could watch the coeds go by.

    I was watching a big shaggy black dog roughhousing with some girls when a hand touched my shoulder. It was Professor McFadden, my old physics professor.

    “Dennis? Is that you?”

    “Sure is, Doc. How ya been?”

    “Fantastic! I’ve made the most incredible breakthrough. Come see!”

    Before I knew it I was towed to his office in the Science Building; McFadden’s office was in the same place it had been twenty years ago. So was the sticky glazed doughnut that always perched on the corner of his desk. I knew he bought one every day, it just looked like the same doughnut.

    As I was taking off my jacket it knocked the doughnut off the table. Expecting a sugary splat, I was astonished when Doc caught it.

    “You’re fast, Doc!”

    “Haha, no lad. I’m prepared. That’s what my invention is about.”

    “I don’t follow you.”

    “You remember how I always used to complain that there was no ‘do-over’ in life? How the Second Law of Thermodynamics held us prisoner?”

    “Yes…”

    “I’ve beaten it.”

    “But that’s impossible!”

    “Apparently not. I couldn’t change the entropy, so I messed with the time. I’ve managed to build a time reverser.”

    “A time reverser?”

    He nodded. “It only works for a short period, a couple of hours according to my calculations, but it allows me to go back and try again. I call it the Mulligan Machine.”

    “But that’s…” No, I’d already said it’s impossible. “Do you know what you could do with this?” Ideas were already forming in my head: some of them ethical, some not so much.

    “That’s why I was happy to see you, Dennis. You were always practical. Before I get your thoughts on what to do with it, would you like to try it out?”

    “Sure.”

    He handed it to me; it was about the size and shape of a cell phone with a bluetooth earbud. I put it in my shirt pocket as instructed and put the earbud in. Then he took a bite from the doughnut.

    “Now think about activating it.”

    There was a flicker and the doughnut was intact in his hand.

    “Did I just…?”

    He nodded.

    “That’s amazing! So if I went back a couple of hours, I’d remember the session but could go do something else?”

    “Just so. I haven’t tried it though.”

    “I’ll be your guinea pig, Doc.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “I need the rest. See you in a couple of hours, Doc.”

    I cranked it to max and activated it.
    ___

    The clock on the wall said 4:00 am. The calendar said January 1986. I was three years old. It would be more than a couple of hours before I saw Doc again.

  7. Mandolin says:

    I turned to grab my books off the desk and noticed a yellow slip of paper sticking between the pages of my textbook. I pulled the slip loose and unfolded the paper. The note was scrawled in hastily written words.

    Please come to my office. It is of utmost importance. Hurry. I found it.

    Signed, Professor Morrow

    I hadn’t seen the professor in over a week, which was not unusual when he was working on a project, he would lock himself away in his lab furiously testing formulas and theories. I think the man sometimes forgot to eat and he always appeared in a slight disarray; rumpled clothes and stained lab coats dominated his wardrobe.
    I stepped out into the hallway, took a right, and headed towards the basement door. The rooms I passed were empty. It was the last day before break and late in the evening. All the students had been long gone, headed towards sandy beaches, late night parties, and all day hangovers. My heels clicked along the gray, tiled floor as I strode down the hall. I had been working with Professor Morrow since the end of my freshman year, a prestigious accomplishment for a freshman, soon to be sophomore. Professor Morrow rarely accepted any student below a second semester junior into his program.
    Microbiology had fascinated me for as long as I could remember, from the first time I laid eyes on a moldy sandwich shoved in the bottom of my backpack, the result of a lunch forgotten, to now. Of course it had not gained me many friends during my childhood or teen years, or even now I suppose. My days were spent studying and nights were spent in the lab. Books, research papers, test tubes and bunson burners became my companions. My classmates viewed me as quirky and my colleagues couldn’t understand why I worked so hard, both shunned me and rarely was I ever invited to join them, not that I would have gone anyway, I was content to let them have their parties, the movie date nights, their never ending social obligations. One day I would show them all, that I was more important. They would regret shunning me when I became renowned for my work.
    I descended down to the basement and opened the door to the lab. The white walls and floor calmed me, the sterile counters and antiseptic smell comforted me. Professor Morrow sat on a stool hunched over a microscope, his gray hair was frazzled, and his clothes were rumpled as never before.
    “Hello, Professor. What have you found?”
    “Oh, I am so glad you are here. I have been going over your work from last week and it is brilliant! I ran some additional tests and calculated more formulas, just to double check and make sure, but I found it! I found the cure for cancer! Once I announce this to the world I will be famous!”
    “You what? YOU found it? Professor Morrow, that is my work, you mean I found it. I have poured everything I have into that research!”
    “Now calm down. I’ll see to it, that your name is mentioned in the research paper. I have worked for years in this forsaken lab, grovelling for funding and grants, I am due this accomplishment. It was my research that lead to the discovery, your work only helped me find it a bit sooner.”
    “No, Professor Morrow, I don’t think so, I need it more than you.”
    “Need what? What are you doing? Now wait a minute! No,stop!”
    I turned to grab the research papers of the desk and I noticed a few splatters across the white paper. I stepped over the red puddle that was now forming on the white floor, my heels clicked as I stepped out of the lab. Now my classmates couldn’t possibly shun me. They wouldn’t dare shun the person that had discovered the cure for cancer. I would finally be popular and I discovered that keeping a pocket knife in my bookbag would come in handy one day.

    • snuzcook says:

      Oh human, evil is the deed
      you commit just to succeed!

      Good story, Mandolin. A few sentences that ran on a bit, but the story built suspense subtly and ended with a nice twist.

  8. bubblesfreak says:

    Arial is walking down the school hallway. She bumps into a guy.

    “ Oh i’m sorry.”
    “ It’s fine, wait… Hey Arial, how are you?”
    “ Oh, hi Professor. Bectel i’m doing good, what about you?”
    “ That’s good and i’m doing good thanks for asking. Hey I have something to show you can you come to my classroom for a second?”
    “ Um, yeah sure, but what do you have to show me?”
    “ Well, I went on my hike with my family like I do every year and I found something really cool when we went.
    “ Oh, what is it?”
    “ You’ll see, but it’s really cool.”

    They walk up to the professor’s door, he takes his key and unlocks it.

    “ Here we go now it’s really cool and I think I could sell it to a museum and get a lot of money but I think I want to keep it.”
    “ What is it?”
    “ Ok, here it is.”
    “ Is that a crown?”
    “ Yes, it is and where we were hiking guess who was the queen there.”
    “ Who?”
    “ Queen Clancy.”
    “ Wow, for real?”
    “ Yeah, isn’t it cool.”
    “ Very.”

    She looks at the crown and wonders if there is a way she can get it and take it home. Thinking and thinking to herself she can not come up with any way to get it. Finally she comes up with a idea.

    “ Hey, when you die who are you going to pass it down to?”
    “ Well, if I die when my wife is still alive the it will go down to her but when she dies then it will go to probably my oldest son.”
    “ Oh.”
    “ Yeah, I just can’t believe that I have Queen Clancy’s crown. She was the most powerful queen ever she didn’t let anybody touch her crown ever and now I have it.

    Arial thinks to herself again and won’t stop until she has a idea to get that crown.

    “ Hey, Professor Bectel Hannah is here to and she said that she really wants to see you because she misses having you as a teacher.”
    “ Ok, where is she?”
    “ Down by the bathrooms by Ms. Kelly’s room.”
    “ Ok, i’ll be back.”

    Walks out of the room to go see another one of his former students. When he gets halfway out the door he turns around.

    “ Almost forgot i’m gonna bring the crown down there because you never know someone could steal and I wouldn’t want Hannah to not have time to come see the crown now would I.”
    Ok, how did you know.”
    Well, it’s obvious because you kept doing things but if you want i’ll let you borrow it but you have to bring it back.”
    “ Really?”
    “ Yeah, after all you were my number one student and made me look like an excellent teacher.”

    Takes the crown and hands it to Arial and says:

    “ Just don’t let anybody take it though.”

    She smiles and then turns around as she walks away she turns around.

    “ Thank you Professor Bectel.”
    “ No problem.”

  9. Queen.Bum says:

    As Christiana was taking the stairs, she took a quick glance up and she saw someone, but she wasn’t sure if it was the person she thought he was.

    “Professor John?” she asked.
    “Oh hello Christiana.” he replied.
    “Hi professor, what are you doing here?” asked Christiana.

    As she asked and was standing there for his response, he kind of looked excited for something, but she didn’t know what. She quickly asked, “you seem really excited for something sir… What is it?”. Her and professor John were quite close, when he was her professor in college.
    “Well you see, are you in a hurry?” he asked.
    “No sir, why?” as she was standing there not knowing what was happening he told her to go to his office with him.
    “Come with me to my office Christaina.”

    As they were walking through the halls and as she was passing her conference room, she noticed people were in there waiting and eating the snacks that were there. She looked at the time and thought to herself, ok I have an hour then I have to be back for this conference. As she and professor John were walking to his office, he just kept going on and on babbling on how he was so exited on his discovery.

    “So what is this discovery you found, professor John?”
    “Just wait and see, we are almost to my office.”

    Man your office is far, she thought to herself. As they kept passing rooms and conference meetings, she kept on getting more and more worried. Where is he taking me? As they finally arrived to his office, he told her to go in.

    “Come in.” he said.
    As I was walking in, I saw huge machines out of no where and he began to explain his discovery.
    “Wow you found all of this out?” she asked.
    “Yes, it took me a while but I finally found what I’ve been looking for.” he replied.

    As he was showing her the charts and the discovery, she thought it was a pretty cool discovery.
    “When did you discover all of the swirls?” she asked.
    As he was explaining how he found all of the swirls, she thought it was amazing that he discovered this a couple of weeks ago and that it took him a long time to get all of the information for everything he needed to find the swirls. As he was explaining everything to her about the swirls she said, “I’m sorry sir but, I kind of have to go to my conference meeting.¨ But I would love to come after and you can finish telling me your discovery.”
    As she walks aways to go to her conference the professor says, “it was nice seeing you again Christian.”
    “It was nice seeing you too professor.” she replied

  10. Royce07 says:

    “Hello professor turner, how have you been?”
    “Oh Johnny, I have been really good, I have a new discovery that I need to show you follow me to my laboratory, if you will.”
    “Yes, professor.”
    “Johnny I have to tell you this new discovery can change the world, I still don’t know whether it could be for good or bad, but I know that it’s going to be a big impact in the world. My biggest concern is how the people are going to see it as, even worst how the government is going to react to it. I want you to see so you can tell me what you think about it.”
    “Why me? Don’t you have colleagues in the science field that will give you better feedback than me?”
    “Yes, but I can’t trust those greedy backstabbers will do anything to convince me that it’s a bad idea so that one of them can use it.”

    We arrived to his laboratory and I could tell that he was busy working on experiments, it was a mess in there, once in the room, he took me to the back where there was a door, before he opened the door he turned back to me and said..

    “Before I open theses doors. I need to know if I can trust you, what you will see behind these doors must stay between me and you, no one must know what is here until I decide that the people are ready for it.”
    “Of course professor, I won’t tell anyone you have my trust 100 percent.”
    He opened the door it looked to be like a long hallway, I could not tell really the lights hanging up from the ceiling were very dim maybe because all the spider webs were covering the light bulb. I heard him lock the door behind us.

    “Follow me this way.”
    I followed him down the hallway, the walk took forever, I felt like I was walking miles until we reached another door, he unlocked the door and we stepped inside. It was another laboratory it was nothing compared to his other one this one was more clean and organized, also looked more advanced.
    “Johnny are you ready to see my new discovery?”
    “Yes, I am.”
    He opened a briefcase and pulled out a dozen of tubes.
    “Here it is Johnny one of these tubes can cure any disease. I have been running tests with this and finally, after years of trying and trying it is finally done.”
    “Professor, this is incredible, when you told me that you had a new discovery this is not what I had in mind, wow I am amazed.”

  11. Optimistic17 says:

    It was another boring, normal Tuesday. I stayed after school for a long speech I was going to be giving. I was president, so this wasn’t anything new for me. As I started to walk into the meeting room, I got bumped into.

    “Hey! Watch where you’re-” I started to say. It was Professor Harrington.

    “I knew it! I knew they were real! I told everyone that they were real and no one listened!” Professor Harrington rambled down the hall. “Ah! Yes. My favorite student, you must come see what I have discovered. Come, come.” He stopped me.

    “Um..I actually have to go.” I stuttered.

    “Ah, no. It’s okay. Come with me.” he grabbed my wrist and twirled around.

    “Uh, okay?” I followed along.

    We came to his office door and it was dark inside. He unlocked the door with a small golden key and twisted the knob.

    “Why is it so dark in here?” I asked as he pulled me through the door. A gush of cold wind hit my face. I was a little frightened. Professor Harrington can be pretty crazy sometimes. The professor let go of my wrist and I reached for the light switch.

    WHACK!

    Mr.Harrington slapped my hand.

    “No! Don’t touch that! You’ll wake her…” He panicked.

    “Her? Her who?”

    “Follow me back here… Watch your step.” He grabbed my wrist again.

    “Woah…” There was a big tank full of water and a small light inside. The waves reflected
    off the walls and Professor Harrington’s glasses. Inside of the tank was a beautiful creature.

    “Professor… Is that what I think it is?” I stared in disbelief.

    “Yes, yes it is. I have finally found one! But you can’t tell anyone about her yet… I want to do a little more research on her. If people find out about her now, they will try to steal her and claim her! People will be offering me money before I can find out everything I need to know!” His hair was sticking up along the sides as usual, because on the front part he had no hair. His eyes got wide. “Swear not to tell a single soul?”

    “I swear.” I was still staring at the beautiful creature. She had long blonde hair that swooshed around through the water. Her tail had blue scales and she was wearing a blue top. Her eyes were gently closed. Had he killed her?

    “Professor Harrington… Is she dead?” I asked.

    “Oh! No, no. She’s not dead. What would she be worth if she was? She is sleeping. I gave her sleeping medicine when I captured her. That way she couldn’t escape.”

    When I turned to look back at her, her hands were against the glass tank and her big blue eyes were wide open, staring right back at me.

  12. gamefreak17 says:

    As Ryan is walking down the stairs, he sees his old professor running down the hallway. As he looks at his professor in shock about him running he goes ahead and talks to him.

    “Hi professor Rice. Nice to see you again.” Ryan said.
    “Oh hey sorry but I have to go I just discovered something amazing. Want to come and see?” His professor said taking deep breaths at the sametime.
    “Sure what is it.” Ryan asked.
    “I’ll tell you on the way there. Professor. Rice said.

    Ryan and the Professor both run up to his office. Ryan was surprised that his old teacher can run faster then him. They both enter into the office.

    “So what is it that you wanted to show me?” Ryan asked his professor.
    “I’ll tell you right now.” Rice said while locking up his door.

    Ryan looks around his office to try to find out why his professor was so excited.The professor then goes behind his desk and picks up a plate wrapped in tin foil. Why is he getting a plate for? Ryan thought to himself.

    “You made dinner?” Ryan said with a confused look on his face.
    “No no no. I found crystals in the backyard of my house.” The professor said.
    “Crystals? What kind of crystals?” Ryan asked.
    “These are really rare purple crystals.” He said with excitement opening the tin foil.
    “How do you know that these are rare crystals?” With a questioning look.
    “ The only purple crystals that are in the world today were found in somewhere in Asia and Africa by a man who was just planting fruits in his backyard.” He replied.
    “So then what are you going to do with them. Are you planning on selling them or keeping them forever?” Ryan asked.
    “Thats the thing, I really don’t know what I’m going to do.” The Professor replied.
    “Okay well if you need help getting rid of them just tell me when you have the chance.” Ryan told his Professor.
    “Well that’s one of the reasons why I wanted you here. I wanted you to have one before I give them aways if I do end up giving them away.” The professor told Ryan.

  13. Lilly Wheatfield says:

    You never know what you have until its gone. I never thought that that would apply to school. School gave us purpose, but you don’t realize that until you’re done. I missed this place, Advena University. Every time they have some big conference, I come back here. I guess I miss this school, it gave me purpose for six years. Now I have a degree in Space science and no job; no purpose.

    “You’re here for every one of these stupid conferences Jason .” A voice from behind me says.

    “Dr. Barbaricus.” I say as I turn around, to face the man who changed my life.

    “You say that stupid line every time.” He laughs.

    He still looks the same as he did the first day I met him; Pepper haired, lightly wrinkled skin, and a big warm smile. This man was my teacher, my tutor, my mentor, my adviser, and my role model. He gave me a purpose. This man showed me wonders and beauties of outerspace. This man had a passion for outer space, and all it contained. A passion that he passes onto me. I longed to go up there, and learn everything I can. I want to go up there, I want to go back home. No one but Dr.Barbaricus understood that. When I say I want to go back home, I mean thats where we were from. At least thats what some believe. One of my favorite astronomers, Carl Sagan, once said, “We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff,”. That quote changed my life. That was how I saw outer space, my home. Dr. Barbaricus believed that it was not just home to us, though.

    “How have you been, Jason?” He asked looking at me.

    “I’ve been getting by, sir. It’s harder than I thought to get a job with a Space Science degree.” I said dryly.

    “Jason, there are other jobs you could take, matter-of-fact yes, but those jobs don’t give me a purpose.”
    Dr. Barbaricus looked at me, then looked to see if anyone was around.

    “If it’s purpose you’re looking for, then I can give it to you. Come into my office, we must talk.”
    He pulled me into his office, looked around to see if anyone was near,then closed and locked the door. “I need your help, Jason.” Then he looked me dead in the eyes and said, “ I found them.”
    “Found whom?” I asked.

    “The aliens”

  14. DrewOrange says:

    It was time. I finally made it back. After about three years all the graduates, and professors are all back for this small get together here. It’s crazy how I’m going back to the place where my career started from. Back in college my favorite subject was science. Nothing was better than learning that. Mr. Wright, was my favorite professor without a doubt. Seeing my favorite professor and discussing my career now, and the subject that got me started with it.

    Half an hour into the get together, and I have yet to see Mr. Wright. I mean back then he was always the first one in class. It’s quite surprising him not being one of the first people being here. Not seeing him here tonight will really hurt me. That’s mainly the only person I came to see her tonight, and wanted to talk to.

    “Have you seen Professor Wright?” I asked Ms. Pollegan.

    “I seen him earlier today, he was walking around campus earlier today.”

    “Did you know if he is going to be joining us tonight?”

    “I honestly do not know, sorry Dana.”

    He could be in his room. I thought to myself. I decided to walk around campus. Hopefully I would run in to him somewhere at this point here.

    I walked outside of the hall, seeing nothing at all. When I started to make steps out, the lights started to come on. As the final row of lights came on, I saw a short man pacing down the hall. I could tell by the back of his funny looking shoes it was Mr. Wright.

    “Professor Wright!” I yelled out.

    He stopped walking, I could tell he turned his body and looked back at me. I started softly jogging his way.

    “Mr. Wright, Remember me? It’s Me Dana Smith.” I said.

    He took his glasses off and looked up at me.

    “Oh yes, I remember you, Miss Smith. I was actually looking for you.” Professor Smith said.

    “Really?”

    “Yes, I must show you something new I discovered immediately.”

    He had to show me something? This made me feel really special. I was honored to possibly be the first person to what he has discovered.

    While walking down with Professor Wright down to his lab, my mind was wondering so much. I really wanted to know what he had discovered, but I didn’t want to nuisance and ask him.

    “So how many people have seen you discovery, Professor Wright?” I asked.

    “None. Yet.. You’ll be the first to see it.”

    My heart jumped with merriment. I’m going to be the first person to see his discovery this was exciting to me.
    When we walked into his lab, he leads me straight to a closet.

    “This is your new discovery? A closet?” I questioned.

    He smacked his forehead with frustration.

    “Open the closet Miss Smith.”

    I felt my face flush. Well, this is embarrassing I thought to myself. After I felt my face cool down opened the closet door.

    “Oh wow.”

    I couldn’t believe my eyes. Another Professor Wright.

  15. The Kcirps says:

    “Come with me come with me now, you have to come and see?” My Professor said
    “What is wrong professor?” I say
    “Nothing everything is good, in fact everything is perfect” He said
    “Then tell what’s going on” I said

    He stops and turns around and stares at me with a look I have never seen from him it was a kind of look of a crazy man but, the professor is not crazy he is a very smart man.

    “How about you come and find out!” My professor said
    “Okay” I replied
    He leads me into a hallway that I have never been down and we walk for miles it seems like. All of a sudden we turn into a lab and the lab was normal and claim but the professor was not.

    “Where did he go?”
    “Who professor? Where did who go?” I say
    “Come help me we must find him we must, now!”
    “Would you just tell me who” I say
    “Yes..yes all in good time, you know I have been working with stem cells, yes?” Said the Professor
    “Yea” I say
    Well I have figured it out finally I was up all night working on it and, and it worked
    “What did tell me” I say one more
    “The clones, I have found a way to clone people using stems cells and last night I went to the annual Ball and there he was the vice president and he talked to me. I grab a strand of his hair and ran back here. Where I took his hair into the machine over there. Using the 3D printer with a whole block of human stem cells I came to copy the vice president. Now we must find him.
    Getting the information I want I said that I would help him find the clone.

    We looked high and low for the clone. We went everywhere and couldn’t find a trail of him. I mean how hard could it be you think someone would see a naked man running down the street none the least a copy of the vice president. By now it should be on the News, but its not and he is out there somewhere. When we were about to give up hope we found him down on the waterfront. He seemed sad and unhappy when he saw us coming he jumped in and treaded on water for a little bit and then he went under never to resurface.
    “Well I guess there are still some bugs to fix” Said the Professor
    “You think the vice president just killed himself!” I say
    “On the bright side I can always make more.” Said the professor
    “ Thats just messed up your creation just killed itself” I say
    “So..” He said
    “So if you were god and your creation you just made came to the conclusion to kill itself how would you feel?” I say
    “Not that bad to be truthful” He said
    “Wow I can’t be apart of that” I say
    “Wait, think about it I could bring back your father.” the Professor said
    I turn around to look him in the eye and I stood there.
    “Really?”

  16. Sarah Pancakes says:

    “Quickly now child, quickly!” Professor Stan exclaimed. I rushed right on his heel so I wouldn’t loose him, I still don’t understand what can be so important to take me from trying to figure out where I’m suppose to live, it wasn’t like him to cause an inconvenience, but at this point, he didn’t seem to care. It was fairly easy to follow him because he is a particularly heavier man, long hair he was forced to tie in a ponytail.

    “Where are we going so fast Mr. Stan?” I said merely out of breath, I didn’t understand how he managed to rush this long without caving in. Before I knew it, we were on the other side of the campus, heading to the science wing.

    “My room Sarah! I’ve done it! Finally done it!”

    “What? What have you figured out?”

    “The missing piece, don’t tell me you don’t remember!” He said pushing forward; we were now down the hall of his room. Only, it was his room from last year, his room was in the new hall that was built over the summer. This building was dark and cold; the only light that was shown was from the wide, vine-covered windows. I hadn’t the slightest clue to what he was talking about, last year I spent some time in his room after class because his theories peaked my interest. I remember taking all kinds of notes and observing him attempt to make his mind seem right. I also remember him being obsessed with animals, and dinosaurs and how they compared to humans (besides the obvious way) he liked to look at how we evolved from them and with them to the littlest detail. Could that be what he was talking about? Maybe he finally came up with his theory and he’s going to explain to me how he altered the actual facts to make himself seem right, and on the first day? Oh joy. We finally made it to the front of his room where he stopped to take in a long breath.

    “Now…you have to promise me that you wont tell a SOUL what you see in here.” He managed to mutter out.

    “I promise.” I said nonchalantly, I know it is just a theory in his head; he might be too paranoid for another person to take it and call it their own. He looked around as he took the key out of his pocket; the lock was loud as it unhinged itself. He opens the door only wide enough to let he and myself inside, once we were, he shut the door. With a smile on his face and ran to the other side of the room where an old rusty desk stood.
    “Are you prepared Sarah?” He asked, bending behind the desk.

    “Sure.” I muttered rolling my eyes. He stood up with his hand hidden.

    “I present to you. A real, live, Dinosaur” he said as he placed a tiny Triceratops on the desk.

  17. Kemter says:

    **I guess I’m a little late to the party with this one, but I thought I’d put it out there anyways.**

    Hector tried to imagine there were other students working with teachers in the dark classrooms he passed. Tried to pick out any sound at all besides the echoing tap tap tap of his sneakers on the tile floor.

    Mr. Dugan had requested he return after school for a “teacher-student conference” and the misgivings Hector felt when he agreed hadn’t shaken throughout the rest of his classes. He would be worrying about the usual problems (for instance his history teacher trying to rape him) but Hector had a little something extra special in his corner when it came to a fight.

    His strength.

    He was pretty sure he was an alien or maybe a superhero because both his Mom and Dad were human and also certifiably his parents. It was something he knew to hide, but there was a reason Greendale Middle School had no bullies. Hector wasn’t afraid to kick an ass where it need be kicked.

    He found Mr. Dugan at his desk in room 233B. The old professor had majored in ancient cultures for in-state tuition and only found out later how unfortunate that was for his career.

    Mr. Dugan looked up at him with a slow smile, “Take a seat Hector. This shouldn’t take long.”
    Hector threw himself down and waited for the fight to come to him.

    Looking down over the rims of his spectacles Mr. Dugan asked, “Do you recall our unit on ancient mythology?”

    Hector vaguely remembered a dream in which he was a roman gladiator, “Yes.”

    “And do you remember your project on ancient heroes?”

    “I did Hercules,” Hector sat straighter; he had never seen his history teacher so excited.

    Mr. Dugan stood unexpectedly, jauntily walking to sit on the edge of his desk by Hector as he commented sternly, “You’re report was incredibly accurate for a straight C student.”

    “I didn’t cheat!” Hector found his hand making a dent in the metal support of his desk. One thing he prided himself in the most was his sense of morality. To have it question when he had never even littered sent Hector’s blood boiling.

    “Oh I know,” Mr. Dugan seemed to smile wickedly if the man had a the personality to pull off such a face, “You left out a vital piece of information. Hercules, after completing his 12 Labors of penance, was to become a God. But the fool didn’t want to part with his mortality. Do you follow?”

    Hector nodded, he could understand not wanting to give up a piece of yourself for power when you already had so much of it.

    Dugan continued, “Hercules fought to regain his mortal soul from Hades—”

    “And he succeeded in stealing it back,” Hector knew the story.

    Nodding, his teacher asked, “And do you know what happened after that?”

    “Nothing happened after that,” Hector squinted with confusion, “that’s the end of the story.”

    “Wrong,” roared Dugan, “That fool broke the natural order of mortality! All mortal beings must die, and their souls belong to Hades. By disrupting the cycle Hercules forced the Fates to start back the clock and reincarnate him and all the other pathetic heroes in the ancient world. He created a new cycle in which he was born again and again so his mortality could be retained!”

    Hector blinked, interested but taken aback by the outburst, “It’s just a story Mr. Dugan. Why did you call me back for this?”

    His teacher laughed deep and sinister although his flesh began to gray. Hector could only balk open-mouthed as Mr. Dugan hardened into a charcoal shell through which burst a man two feet taller. This new man was cloaked in black mist that fell like a toga down his pale, nearly translucent, skin.

    He slicked a hand through his inky hair as if disintegrating Mr. Dugan had misplaced an invaluable strand.

    “I called you back, you insignificant worm, because I will see an end to this insufferable cycle yet. How do you steal your soul back? I am HADES and you WILL ANSWER ME!”

  18. Gurney Halleck says:

    I looked in awe at the Traveller Building, as I had as a freshman, and I must admit as a graduate student as well. The columns of the entrance were not Doric or Ionic, but shaped like infinity symbols. The doors bright stained glass depicted historical events both real and alternative. My personal favorite was the depiction of Washington being rowed across the Delaware in chains with General Howe in the back of the boat.
    I opened the doors and walked in. I had all afternoon to catch up with my professors before giving my talk about the time distortion present at the event horizon of a black hole. Some recent missions by the International Space Agency had brought back some interesting data that I had some theories about.
    I walked down the main hall, past the large lecture halls filled with freshmen taking their required world history class. I had started as a history major and transferred to the college, wanting a more practical application of the major.
    I took the stairs up past the second floor where there were more intimate classrooms for advanced classes. I prefered the stairs. They were much more stable and less likely to change with time. At the third floor, I stepped into the Hillyer Gallery and admired the statues and busts of those who had been the leading members of the college. Their eyes seemed to look towards the future, while their visage was bent towards the past. It was most fitting.
    I exited the gallery into the hall of the professors, my hard soled shoes tapping and echoing on the marble floors. Again, consistency of use offset the outrageous cost. I glanced at the signs on the doors as I went by. Professor Milford – Slang and Jargon of Europe, Early 17th Century. Professor Warren – Theoretical Application of Electricity in Ancient Times. Professor Livonia – Fashions of Africa AD. I had found her classes exceptionally helpful at times and was quite a tailor in my own right, or so I thought.
    “Jon. Jon? I thought that was you. What in the world are you doing here?”
    It was Professor Krenim. I had taken his class on philosophical paradoxes and had struck up a friendship with him. His wild white hair, never controlled by his Louisville Grays ballcap, still shot in different directions as he strode towards me.
    “I just knew it was you. I knew you would be here for the conference, but I have something to show you. It’s about your talk.”
    He beamed as he steered me not towards his office, but one of the labs.
    “I’ve gotten around the paradox Jon. I figured it out and Hans here,” he pointed to a small man in a lab coat, “did the math and made it possible.” He waved his hand and someone stepped out from behind a row of machinery.
    “Oh Christ,” I muttered, as I stared at myself.
    “Exactly,” I replied.

  19. Manidipa says:

    Hi everyone, this is my first post here, it was really difficult to cut down and reach the word count limit…hope this still is a good read.

    Walking the corridors of the Linguistics department in JNU brought back long lost memories. The students, the professors and the endless chatter. But now was not the time to be lost in the past. I had to get a series of jobs done to run the Annual Linguistics Conference smoothly.

    I moved swiftly towards the Head of Department’s office. On the way I peeked into the department office and saw a familiar face, office manager Mr. Rawat. I went in to say hello, he blinked and stared at my face. I said, “Monica”, he squinted a little longer, “2002, re-routed field trip”, slowly his squint changed into a smile of recognition. “You have changed a lot since”, he said. I nodded and asked who the HOD was now. As he uttered “Amisha Ahmed”, I was thrilled – she was my favorite professor and I was her favorite too. I knocked on the HOD’s office door with anticipation.

    I was excited to meet Amisha again after ten long years. I have thought of her often, but never had the courage to come and see her. But today I was here to meet the HOD and it happens to be her.

    “Come in”, boomed Amisha’s voice from inside. I stumbled in and stood there with a nervous smile. She looked up, screamed “Monica!!” and spread out her arms. I hugged her. She was happy to see me. “You went missing for so long, how have you been? Why didn’t you ever get in touch with me? ” But before I could answer her questions she went on enthusiastically, “you know, this is such a special time, I just returned from a field trip in the remote north east India – Arunachal Pradesh. There is this tribe called Polani with only five surviving native speakers whom I met for data collection. They have Dravidian words in their lexicon and the syntax has its influence too! It is a very significant finding because the other languages in that region don’t have this influence at all.” She went on.

    All this talk was making me uneasy and I started fidgeting.

    Amisha noticed my uneasiness and stopped, “What happened Monica, why do you look distracted? Does this news not excite you?”

    I couldn’t meet her gaze, I kept looking down, “I…I am…out of touch Amisha, I have not even thought about this in a long time.”

    Amisha couldn’t hide her shock , “How come Monica? You were one of our best students…What, what were you doing all these years?”

    With my eyes about to overflow and my heart about to explode I manged to mumble, “I had to work…my family…support.” The room was filled with silence.

    She spoke again after a long pause, with a hint of disappointment in her voice, “So what brings you here today?”

    “I am here to coordinate the Annual Linguistic Conference”, I said. Amisha raised a brow. “I am employed with the event management company you have hired for this conference.”

    • Reaper says:

      Welcome Manidipa! I hope we see more from you. I found your story enjoyable and very readable, so please don’t take anything below as anything except helpful advice that you should freely ignore if you disagree with it.

      Nice read. Good twist at the end. The characters were relatable and believable. If I were to give any advice it would be two pieces.

      In a time of text messaging it is hard to resist unexplained acronyms, but unless you use the full phrase once I would avoid using things like HOD. In quote or text it makes sense and does help with the word count but seeing head of department once would have made it easier to interpret.

      Second is when you are editing down look for unnecessary double explanations. When your MC meets her old professor you say, She was happy to see me. While it doesn’t detract from your story it was unnecessary. When someone speaks in exclamation and then hugs another person they are usually happy to see them. You did a good enough job of expressing the joy that you could have used the words from the restate somewhere else that you cut out.

      This is good, and trust me, most of us struggle with the word count. It does help with tightening up your other writing though.

      • TiaKuwai says:

        Thank you so much Reper for the feedback.
        Now that I read the line (she was happy) it looks redundant to me too.
        About HOD, since I mentioned Head of department once at the beginning of the paragraph I thought using just HOD would suffice. Maybe that MC was headed to meet the head of department was not very clear. Will try to be cleaner next time.
        Thanks!

  20. aschneps says:

    If there’s one thing he was always good at it was leading me to new places, unexplored and unimaginable in my ignorant and uncultured little brain.

    But that was college.

    I’ve since made a conquistador of myself, letting the travel be my source of wisdom, the road be my scripture… or some such bullshit.

    “This is…this is…this is…”

    He can’t even get the words out. The excitement boils below his skin and radiates through his fingertips, a spastic pointing and grasping in the air for a concrete conceptualization but no such luck.

    “You’ll just have to wait and see, old friend, you’ll just have to wait and see,” he says, pawing at me.

    He was always a little weird; even in college. His passion was almost zealotry, radicalism, a dedication to thought that would imprison any other person without the outlet of the classroom. He didn’t need attentive students to enjoy what he taught; it was the facts and figures that he loved and maybe, in the end, it didn’t make him the greatest teacher because he couldn’t care for his students the way he cared for the material but at least he loved something. I found him inspiring, still find him inspiring, as we barrel down the hallway nearly breaking into a run like kids racing to shotgun the front seat of the car.

    He puts his gruff, old hand on the door and pauses. A look of panic washes over his face.

    “What is it, professor?”

    “This is…this is…this is…”

    “Is everything ok?”

    He takes a deep breath.

    “What was I…”

    He takes another deep breath.

    “You had something to show me. You said it couldn’t wait.”

    “Couldn’t wait?”

    “You dismissed your class early.”

    “I did?”

    I’m not used to this. This is unusual. I’ve never seen him act like this.

    “Are you sure everything’s ok?”

    As quickly as it came the panic washes away and he yells, “God fucking damn it! That’s right! HA!”

    He throws the door open. The room is plastered with sheets of paper–on the walls, ceiling, floor, all over his desk, some with writing, some with type, some with nothing at all, an unfinished part of a larger canvas. He jettisons to the top drawer of the desk, slams it shut, the next one down, slams it shut, the bottom one, slams it shut, laughs to himself at his own absurdity and continues the hunt.

    “I’m looking for something…”

    He’s singing his sentences.

    “Iiiiiiiiiiii’m lookin’…. for somethiiiiiiiiiiiiing!”

    I want to believe that he knows what he’s looking for, but what I’m starting to see is that he’s searching for a thought that doesn’t exist, never existed. He’s in perpetual discovery with nothing to write with but a stick in the sand on a windy day at the beach.

    “Every time I pin down whaaaat I think I waaaant it slips awayyyyyy…” he sings, quietly, under his breath, somehow knowing that he’ll never be able to show me what he’s found and yet continuing to look anyway.

    “There it gooooes–slips aaaawaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy…………………………………………….”

  21. kj6hvc says:

    I ambled slowly down the hallway, ghosts of my college days echoing through my mind. Ghosts, to me, not memories. College was a lifetime ago. Not literally, of course. Really only a dozen years ago. But it was a different life, one very much dead to me. So much hope, so much optimism. I was going to take the world by storm. Inside one of the classrooms I passed, I half-remembered a long ago conversation. Me, as a brash young twenty-one year old, detailing my life goals. None of which happened, of course. Fresh from graduating, I took a temporary job, to save money to fund my start-up. Twelve years later, I still work that job, and I still have nothing saved. Penance, maybe? Mental self-flagellation for my days in college? So young, so arrogant. In those days, I would have done anything I wanted. And I suppose I did. I certainly had no moral code back then. Do I now? Or do I only have regret. The light in these halls was always so dim. Even back then.
    I don’t know why I still come to these conferences. I always do this. I always get bored at the reception and leave, to wander the campus and re-live the wild glory days of my youth. I always imagine: this year, I’ll change. I’ll find focus, buckle down, re-claim the dreams of my youth. I imagine re-living my life. Exercising discipline as a young man. Respecting people. Not ruining my life, or his … well. I can’t change any of that now, can I? Besides, he doesn’t even know. And yet, as always, I find myself outside his office. Every year. I’m frankly surprised he still works here.
    Only this time, he’s there. Awfully late for him to be working. I’d heard he poured his life into his job after his wife left him, but I’d never seen him working during one of these symposiums.
    I’m silent outside his office door, but the professor seems to notice me there anyway. He stops writing abruptly, I assume mid-sentence, and looks up to see me. His eyes are blank at first, dull and lifeless. He blink twice, slowly. And then the old life, the old fire, returns to his eyes. He instantly seems ten years younger.
    The professor greets me warmly, enthusiastically even. Invites me in, tells me to sit. He’s clearly excited about something.
    “I’ve just made a wonderful discovery!” he exclaims, a little to loudly. “Come in!” he insists again, “Sit! Sit!” I must tell you about it!” Hesitantly, I enter the old office. It smells the same. Funny how I remember the smell. The lights are still too dim also. Awkwardly, I sit in one of the chairs opposite my old teacher.
    There’s an awkward silence that hangs between us for a few moments. Too much time has gone by, too many ghosts. I wonder why he’s so eager to share his new discovery with me.

    It’s the professor who breaks the silence. “Twelve years,” he says. “I’ve been looking for twelve years. But I found it.”

    I know. At that point, I know, instinctively, what he’s found. Why he’s so excited. My heart sinks, my every instinct tells me to leave. But I can’t. I can’t.

    His demeanor changes suddenly, and drastically, and I know I’m right. I’ve been discovered. My reckless youth, haunting me after all this time. And for what? I gained nothing for my wanton ways. I’m … mediocre. And still I have to face this man.
    The excitement is gone from his face. The fire is still in his eyes, but now it is a fire of hatred, not exuberance. “It was you,” he says softly, his words barely audible above the lights.
    He pushes a file folder over to me. I assume it contains proof of my indiscretions. I don’t open it. “Twelve years ago, it was you.” I say nothing to defend myself. “You slept with my wife. And when that wasn’t enough, you convinced her to leave me.”
    Another awkward silence.
    “I would have taken her back, you know. But she loved you. Ten years her junior, and she loved you. And when you laughed her off … ” He doesn’t finish the sentence. He doesn’t have to. The ghosts of the past whisper the ending to me.

    “…she killed herself.” they whisper in my ear.

    I say nothing. My silence convicts me. But what is there to say? The professor’s accusation is true; he knows it and I know it. And in that moment, I know that he didn’t lose himself in his work those past dozen years. He poured himself into his search for answers. And he found them. Somewhere, some tiny scrap of evidence, some ghost from the past, pursued relentlessly, unearthed itself. And the whole tragic tale fell into place.
    I don’t know what he found, specifically. I don’t know what damning piece of evidence is in that envelope in front of me. It doesn’t matter.
    We sit there in silence for several minutes. I stare at nothing on his desk; he stares right through me.
    I think we both know his victory is hollow. He’s got nothing left now. And neither do I; I’ve never made anything of my life. There’s nothing he can take from me. I don’t have anything. I’m mediocre.
    I think we both realize, at that moment, that our lives both ended twelve years ago. We’re just too lost to die.

    We’re ghosts.

    • Reaper says:

      I again find myself not commenting much as more of the week goes by, especially as we approach the new prompt and I know this place will swallow much of my life for e a few days. Rushing to keep up I am reading but limiting the comments. This one though I could not pass by.

      There are some words early on that could use an edit like to when you meant too. But that is a small think. This is beautiful and brilliant. I found myself wanting to scream about the mediocrity comments and smack your MC. I accidentally read the last line before starting and thought this was a different kind of story. Even with that slip the line still had power. Your ending paragraph and then that line made me stop breathing for a second. Morose and melancholy and it seems like too much self pity and then the end slams home that, no, it is possibly not enough. The too many ghosts scattered throughout are obvious foreshadowing but not in the way one thinks, and they are beautiful and then slam home with that last bit. I could go on and on about this and still not capture how beautiful, well written, inspiring, and inspired it is. Damn. Just, keep this up.

    • jhowe says:

      That was a great story. I wish it had been posted a little earlier because some may not see it since the new prompt will come out soon. I am certainly glad I saw it though. I thouroughly enjoyed your writing style and the message in this piece. I will remember the name kj6hvc and eagerly look for future posts. I commend you.

    • jmcody says:

      I agree wholeheartedly with the others. This one SHOULD NOT BE MISSED. See, I am shouting so others will stop and look. Three lives ruined by tragically bad choices — kind of reminds me of Atonement, which is one of my favorite books in recent memory. You have a rich and compelling voice, and a deft way of weaving the narrative through the past, present, and ultimately the bleak future. WOW,

  22. wordityabsurdity says:

    The other day I was invited to speak at a conference at my old university. Because I am a recent graduate who struck oil and landed a job as the art director at the airport, I’m considered a shining example of what a young artist could become. The truth is: my job sucks big time. When I was in college I wanted to be a painter who sold his work for thousands of dollars in famous galleries across the U.S. Instead I’m a sell out. I sit in an office all day and look at other people’s art. Anytime the airport decides a wall looks to plain or boring, its my job to find a piece of artwork to fill that void. The regular paycheck is nice. I get paid more than most recently graduated artists in the state and that is essentially why the university wants me to speak on their behalf. They want me tell their art students that if they work hard then they too can have a nice and fat paycheck every couple of weeks. What I really want to tell them is the truth but I can’t.

    • wordityabsurdity says:

      When I finally make it to the university an hour early for the conference I contemplate what would happen if I stood in front of the crowd of young faces and told them that they’ll never be the artist they want to be. The thought is very laughable in my head but I wouldn’t ever do anything like that. So instead I reviewed the speech I typed up outside the conference room. It’s essentially a glorified pep-talk. It’s a way to keep the university’s art majors motivated when all of their peers are telling them how dumb they are for getting an art degree. When I look back on it, I guess it was pretty stupid but then again I got lucky, which was why I was at the conference in the first place.
      So there I was, standing outside the room which the conference was to take place when I hear a woman say:
      “Blake? Blake Dixon?”
      I looked up from my speech and see that its one of my old professors Judy Hall. I had her for a couple of painting classes and color theory. I was actually pretty pleased to see her. I always liked her because she was attractive to me in a weird hippy sort of way.
      I smiled and we gave each other a big hug and she smelled really nice. The way you imagine old ladies in tea shops to smell.
      “How are you, Blake? I heard that you were speaking today at the Alumni conference?”
      “That, I am.”
      “We’ll good for you. So you’ve been making a name for yourself in the local art community?”
      “Not exactly. I’m the art director at the airport. Basically, I’m in charge of what art goes where. Not exactly my dream job but Its not bad.”
      “Well I’m happy for you all the same. Have you been painting on your free time?”
      “Not really.”
      Then there’s was a little pause in the conversation. She was probably disappointed in my answer but really what did she expect? Nobody becomes a famous painter a few years out of college. Her silence made me feel uncomfortable.
      “There’s still time” I told her.
      She looked really serious at me and for a second I thought she didn’t think my joke was funny until she said:
      “Blake, can you keep a secret?”
      “Sure?” I said hesitantly.
      “It’s just that, something really weird just happened to me last night and I wasn’t sure who to tell. You see, I moved into a new office building. It’s one of the oldest on campus. I can’t exactly tell the other staff members because they’ll think I’m crazy. I don’t know. Maybe, I’m getting old and my brain isn’t functioning like it use to. I’m probably just crazy and I shouldn’t be saying this but I feel like I have to tell someone. If I don’t tell anyone than it’ll just eat me and eat at me until I can’t hold it in anymore and I’ll tell the wrong person, you know? Like I know I can trust you because, you were a good student and you don’t hold the same judgments of me as my coworkers.”
      At this point I started to get really uncomfortable.
      “Okay, what exactly are we talking about here, Judy? Are you okay?”
      “I’m fine. Well I’m not trying to scare you but last night, as I was leaving my office for the night, I saw a ghost. It was a bearded man about your height he was walking down the hallway whistling. I peaked outside my door for a second and I saw him. He turned to look at me and he stopped whistling and then vanished.I immediately packed my things and left and I haven’t been to my office since. do you believe in ghosts?”
      “Um, not exactly. I mean, they could be real I guess.”
      “You think I’m crazy don’t you?”
      “No, no. That’s not what I’m saying at all. Its just, are you sure it was a ghost? Maybe it was a Janitor that turned a corner or something?”
      “Blake, I know what I saw. my new office building is haunted and if you don’t believe me then let’s go back tonight.”

  23. RLDickson says:

    Admittedly, I was shocked to see that Professor Michelson still employed at the University. Seven years ago he was on the cusp of the world’s greatest discovery. His lectures where riddled with hints and indications of a discovery that would turn the world as we know it upside down. The popularity of his courses was undoubted. Students rushed to get a spot in the infamous Professors class. I wish I could say it was because of his brilliant mind and intriguing lectures. In fact the class was considered an easy A. He spent most of the lecture mumbling and scribbling nonsense on the boards. Students chatted, updated their Facebook status, or caught up on other more serious coursework.
    As he rushed toward me in the hallway, I found myself excited to see him.
    “I’ve done it, I’ve finally done it.” He waved his hands excitedly in the air as he approached me.
    “Professor Michelson how wonderful to see you. I’d hope you’d be speaking at this conference though I didn’t see your name on the itinerary.” I said leafing through the welcome packet.
    “Speaking?” He said, confused. “No, I can’t waste my time on such nonsense.” He grabbed me and led me down the hall. “I have undeniable proof of what I have known for years. Now the world will know. Come with me you will be the first to witness this prodigious discovery.”
    His laboratory was dark and moist. The humidity in the air and what it would most certainly do my hair made me instantly regret my decision to follow the professor.
    “I apologize for the temperature dear, but I find it necessary for the proper development of my creation.”
    I followed the Professor further into his lab. I could feel my pulse race as sweat poured from my body. We walked deeper into the lab stumbling through pounds of vegetation and heavy mist. Passage through the last batch of hanging vines revealed a bright hot area of the lab. In the middle of the room stood a white table covered in soil of some sort. Magnifying glasses hung loosely over the table.
    “Have a look. “ He said.
    I made my way to one of the magnifying glasses and peered down at the table. What I saw was unbelievable yet undeniably real.
    “Life that is what I have discovered.” He stood behind me with his hands clasped behind his back rocking on his heels.
    The Professor explained that he had isolated the human genetic code in such a way that allowed him to recreate human life.
    “They are miniature about an inch tall yet human all the same” He said. He had created a miniature world for his creation to dwell in, tiny communities, small farms, and his studies of their day to day habits revealed that they performed and exhibited behaviors identical to ours. He’d finally done it, he finally made the discover that would most certainly turn the world as we know it upside down.

  24. Marc Ellis says:

    I posted late last week, so I’m posting earlier this time. I know it needs some work.

    —-

    Simon Alberts loved animals. This love for animals brought him to the University of Oregon to study pre-veterinary medicine. There he met Dr. Ansel Williams. Dr. Williams was the head of the university’s biology department, and Simon enjoyed multiple courses of which Dr. Williams instructed. Dr. Williams was one of the few truly influential intellectuals in Simon’s life, and Simon partially credited him with his subsequent success as a veterinarian and primate specialist at the San Diego Zoo.

    Simon’s love for animals now brought him back to Eugene, OR for the International Society of Primate Scientists conference. When he checked in at the front desk of the conference hotel, he was pleased to find a note waiting for him from Dr. Williams. It requested that Simon contact him when he arrived.

    After getting settled, Simon called the front desk and asked to be connected with Dr. Williams’ room.

    “Hello,” said the voice on the line. After hours of Dr. Williams’ lectures, there was no mistaking his voice.

    “Dr. Williams, this is Simon Alberts. I arrived in Eugene this afternoon and got your message at the front desk.”

    “Simon…glad to hear you made it. Please, call me Ansel. I trust your travels were uneventful.”

    “My plane landed early, and my luggage was waiting for me when I got here, so I can’t complain. How are you?”

    “A few more aches and pains since you were a student. However, life is great. I’d love to meet over coffee while you’re here and catch up.”

    After a few minutes of casual conversation, they made arrangements to meet later that evening at the campus coffee shop.

    When Simon arrived at the shop, it was easy to spot Dr. Williams with his grizzled white beard and the remnant of gray hair that swayed as people walked by.

    Simon reached Dr. Williams’ table, and the doctor immediately got up and said, “Simon. Great to see you. Grab a coffee and let’s go.”

    Dr. Williams usually had an excited air about him. This was mostly attributed to his love for his work and partly fueled by his continuous coffee intake. Simon paid for his coffee, and turned to follow Dr. Williams who was already waiting at the door. Dr. Williams said, “Hop in my car; let’s go to my office.”

    As they drove through the campus they resumed their conversation from earlier that day. Simon quizzed the Dr. about changes he noticed as he passed familiar buildings. It wasn’t long before he noticed they were leaving the campus altogether.

    “Dr. Williams…where are we going?”

    “We’re going to my new lab. I have a private sponsorship for a small facility in the Willamette National Forest.”

    After leaving the lights of the city, the only lights that could be seen were the headlights of the car illuminating the dense curtain of pine trees. Simon wondered how many nocturnal creatures were watching them invade their territory. After a few minutes on a minimum maintenance road, they arrived at a small modular complex surrounded by a menacing fence topped with barbed wire.

    “So what do you have going on out here doc?” Simon asked Dr. Williams.

    “Ansel…please, call me Ansel.” Dr. Williams was now whispering and moved to the gate like an eight-year-old playing cops and robbers. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. You have to see this…and I need your help.”

    “My help?”

    Simon followed Dr. Williams into the facility and they walked through the dark toward the back of the building.

    “Should we turn on a light?”

    “No, it might frighten the creature.”

    “The what?”

    They entered a small room that had been outfitted with an earthen hut in one corner. It was large enough that two or three average-sized humans cold easily stand or lay inside. The crazy-haired professor slowly walked into the hut leaving Simon to watch him disappear into the darkness.

    Simon heard a low, prolonged voice-like grumble. Then the professor emerged holding the hand of what would be the greatest scientific discovery of the century. “I’ve named him Oliver,” said Dr. Williams as he introduced a very real, very living sasquatch. “He’s sick, and you’re the only person I trust that can help him.”

    “But…how?” Simon stammered. How could he refuse? He loved animals.

  25. LiveOakLea says:

    Joe-Joe:

    Spring was in the air and Margaret had pushed the heavy laboratory windows wide open, admitting the Professor’s excited voice and someone else’s voice, a woman’s, riding on the lavender scented breeze from the garden below. When Margaret finished mopping her way across the grimy linoleum floor and rolled her bucket out, I waited until the door closed behind her then made my way from the Professor’s office alcove toward the window sill.

    One of my elbows upset an open book resting on the cluttered counter and sent it crashing into a snake cage below. Margaret must have heard the ruckus. The door creaked open and Margaret’s bandanna wrapped head poked in. The fallen book was hidden behind the scenic desert poster backing the rattler habitat. My cheeks felt flushed, but she looked right past me and scanned the room, then shrugged and pulled the door closed behind her. I heard the key turn in the lock and hurried over to the window.

    He was sitting on a bench with a younger woman, gesturing wildly, and pointing up toward the window. I ducked for cover when she glanced up, following the Professor’s extended finger, though I don’t think I was visible from there.

    I decided to finish my rounds and was refilling the young owls’ mash tray when I heard the key turning in the door lock again. I stopped still when I heard two voices, the Professor’s and the woman’s, in the hall. What was going on? With no time to think, I dashed into the closet, squeezing behind the rack of lab coats.

    Morgan Hall:

    My plane from San Francisco was delayed six hours, so when I finally made it to Tulane campus, my alma mater, I didn’t have time to nap before my presentation at the World SciFi Writers Symposium. Then to top that off, I couldn’t seem to break away from Professor Stern in time to get my hair done. I smiled at the Professor as he pulled me over to the garden bench, trying to practice my new be-here-now mindset. All the hours sitting cross legged in meditation at the zen center was paying off. After listening to the Professor, I forgot about my presentation and my lack of sleep. My hair, though, was prickling up at the nape of my neck.

    Professor Stern:

    “Joe-Joe, come out. It’s okay. This is Miss Hall. She was a student of mine before she changed her major. Now she’s a New York Times bestselling author. Science Fiction. Don’t be frightened. I’m going to turn the green light on so we can see you. The lab coats are shaking. I know you’re back there.

    “Yes, come on out. All the way.

    “Morgan, this is Joe-Joe. Joe-Joe this is Miss Hall. She …

    “Morgan? Are you okay? Wait, don’t go. Wait! Morgan! Miss Hall! Come back!

    “Joe-Joe! Next time, don’t do that pig face when you first meet them. It can be a little frightening to humans.”

  26. NoelleK says:

    “I was mistaken!” shouted the professor. “Come with me. You have to see!”

    We walked the same steps to the professor’s office that we had taken a thousand times before. The professor’s office opens up to a gray room with ceiling high windows on two walls, an office area, a living room/lounging area, and a bathroom. His office is as much of a disaster as he is. But the object of his excitement and the bane of my 4 years at this school sits in the corner, just as gray as the room itself.

    “So what’s all of the excitement?” I asked.

    “That”, he said, nodding towards the large box in the corner. “It works. I’ve done it! It works!”

    Here we go again – the “time machine”. For as brilliant as he has always been the professor has always believed that he could manipulate time. His idea consisted of the backseat of a Kaiser on stacked wooden pallets held together by magnetic strips, forming walls and a ceiling all of which were covered in carpet for “sound proofing”. There are wires sticking through some of the pallet openings.

    “I know, don’t look like that. I’m serious this time; I’ve done it! And it works!” said the professor. “You spent years with me because of my brilliance. One last time, let me prove it to you. I need you to believe me. Please…” he gestured towards the pallet box asking me to get in.

    Inside I noticed that he had added new computers and speakers. Then he quickly explained “I can get us back to the day we met – the day of that nasty storm. You were fending off the rain and wind with a big tree and I convinced you to get into my car, that it was safer should lightening begin. You should never do that by the way, that’s very dangerous” he admonished.

    “I know I know…I promise to never get in a car with you again.” I joked.

    The professor pressed some buttons. Lights from the ceiling glared down on us.

    “I discovered what was lacking – more power. There was simply not enough electricity to contain this machine and what it was created for. As long as I travel through time to places with a power source I can move around! Brilliant isn’t it. Right now there’s no going back too far in the past but once I add solar panels I could go anywhere!” Then the professor exclaimed “We’re here!” and opened the door.

    “Professor, wait. Didn’t you say that each trip requires a full electrical charge to work?”

    “Yes, it does. As long as we charge before we take off we’ll be just fine.”

    “But you’ve taken us back to the day we met – the day of the storm. Didn’t we lose power for two weeks because of that storm?”

    “Yes we did! It was terrible! We…oh…OH!”

    This was also the day I stopped talking to the professor.

  27. mimcmullen says:

    My car was barely in the parking spot before Professor Stenson ran out to greet me. His smile was a mile long and his eyes were two bright winter moons set against the still dark of the pre-dawn campus of Rockside Community College, my alma mater.

    Rockside isn’t a gleaming jewel in the world of academia. It’s population is mostly kids who barely graduated high school, like me, and who didn’t feel ready for the full responsibility of adult life, like me.

    Professor Stenson was your stereotypical mad scientist. His hair was never brushed, he spoke in a rapid fire manner that informed you his brain was working doublequick and the only way to get his ideas out were to say them without running them through a filter. You got used to it.

    He grabbed my hand and practically dragged me to his lab. The room looked almost exactly the same as it did when I graduated. It was impeccably organized except for the Professor’s desk which was buried under layers of loose paper and thick books. One thing was different. In the corner of the room, a large metal ball sat on top of three aluminum legs. I stared at it, not sure what to think.

    “What am I looking at?” I asked.
    “I call it the DeFartifier!” he exclaimed.

    A few hours ago, I was laying comfortably in my bed, having a wild and not open for discussion dream about Claudia Schiffer when my phone buzzed. The LCD had burned my retinas like the blast of a nuclear bomb. When I saw the Professor’s name on the Caller ID, I could have turned over. I could have gone back to sleep, back to Claudia, but no.

    “What?” I said, flatly.
    “It sends out small quantum vibrations through the room that break down the gases in your system. Never again will you need to deal with embarrassing flatulence!”
    “You know, they have pills for that now,” I said. He scoffed and walked over to the metal sphere. Placing his hand on his masterpiece, he said “Voilà!”

    The sensation was, to say the least, odd. I felt a slight electric buzz over my body, and waves of light danced before my eyes. When it was over, I looked around. This was not the science lab at Rockside. This was not Rockside at all.

    “Professor, where are we?”
    Professor Stenson frowned and surveyed the dusty red landscape. “Em,” he said. It was not a reassuring answer.

    We heard a mechanical whirring and the sound of tires rolling over gravel. I turned and saw a small vehicle, wheels mounted on spidery legs. The single eye on its box like head looked me up and down. I too surveyed it not sure what to think. Then I saw it. A single word printed on the side of its metal skeleton: CURIOSITY.

  28. Critique says:

    My alma mater smelled the same after ten years – a mixture of musty canvas and driftwood – and triggered a wave of nostalgia.

    Hundreds of us had gathered to honour Professor Villous on his promotion to head the ChemMedSci program.

    Making my way to the coffee table I felt a tug on my elbow. Turning I looked into twinkling blue eyes overshadowed by immense eyebrows. Professor Villous’ familiar mane of hair was all the more startling now that it had turned snow white.

    “Russell Shorn?” He chuckled. “You were one of my favourites you know.”

    “Professor Vill.” I smiled clasping his outstretched hand. “Good to see you. Congratulations on your promotion.”

    “Yes. Yes. Thank you.” His stared at my bald head.

    Did he notice the strip scars?

    The past ten years had been hell. Months of therapy, antidepressants, and two brutal botched hair transplants – they looked so fake – had left me bankrupt. Bitter and demoralized I managed to trump my male pattern baldness by climbing onto the fashion wagon of buzzed heads. You need hair – not three strands – for a comb-over.

    Professor Bushel Head – an undercover nickname the students fondly dubbed him with – was at least thirty years plus my senior and had enough hair to outfit dozens of wigs. I felt ashamed but the unfairness of it rankled.

    “Russell I’d like you to see something.” I allowed him to steer me down the hall. “It’s been a long process but all the data and research is complete.” He chattered excitedly about a new invention that involved quantum physics and a complex secret formula. He unlocked a door. “I’m expecting to have it patented within the month.”

    Entering the lab my attention was immediately drawn to a wall. There were dozens of pictures of downcast men with shiny balding heads and beside them pictures of the same men – smiling – with full heads of hair.

    Professor Villous noticed my interest. “Russell I have discovered the remedy for baldness. It’s worked with every single case study.”

    My heart did an excited gallop. I looked at him skeptically .

    “These pictures are only a percentage of the success stories I’ve documented.” He placed a kindly hand on my shoulder. “Russell, I couldn’t help but notice – you’ve had transplants. Those charlatans make a fortune. I’d like to incorporate you in my study – at no cost.”

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

    Professor Villous’ is using my before and after picture to promote his patent and its close to making a billion in North America, Europe and the United Kingdom. Japan and China are next.

    It’s been eighteen months and there isn’t a shiny spot to be found on the top of my skull. I do my part to keep shampoo companies in business.

    Let’s just say bankruptcy is a thing of the past. My confidence is through the roof.

    • agnesjack says:

      Nicely told story, Critique. I think it’s a shame, though, that confidence is attached to hair, or, rather, hair that’s permanently attached to the head. I’m female, and I would take a proud, bald head any day over a comb-over. ;-)

      • starwatcher says:

        I agree with you, agnesjack. Men’s hair (and the fact that their confidence is attached to it) is basically like a women’s weight and age. Human nature hasn’t changed that much over the years; we still judge a book by its cover.

    • Critique says:

      I agree with your comments agnesjack, starwatcher and Kerry but I do know that it can become a huge issue with many men and that’s unfortunate. I would take a man with character and heart any day then one whose self confidence figures largely in their hair or lack thereof :)

      p.s.Comb-overs usually look terrible and don’t fool anybody. Guys, you are fine just the way you are!

      Thank you for the feedback :)

    • don potter says:

      Guys hair is a strange vanity. We might let ourselves go to pot in other ways but don’t mess with our hair. Even nearly bald guys have a certain attachment to what little may be left. The comb over may be the last stand against the inevitable. Your story gave us something to think about.

      • Critique says:

        Thanks for your comments Don. It’s a sensitive issue.

        I kinda wish I’d taken a different track with my story now.

        Russell takes charge. He’s fed up with letting hair loss control his life, shaves his head, discovers he likes his head (meets the love of his life) and tells Professor Bushel Head how great it feels to be Russell Shorn ;)

        • jmcody says:

          I couldn’t agree with you more, Critique! I was struggling with how to respond to this one. You are someone whose work I have come to enjoy week after week, and although this was well written, it left me wanting a more satisfying conclusion. Your story presented an opportunity to explore the deeper meaning of insecurities like this. I would like to see Russell learn self-acceptance.

  29. Critique says:

    Let’s just say bankruptcy is a thing of the past. My confidence is through the roof.

    • Critique says:

      Sorry. I don’t know how this sneaked in – the last sentence to my story :(

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I need the good professor’s phone number. I’ll be voulenteer number two. A billion is too low an estimate. Although Yul Brenner could turn a lot of women on, unfortunately, most of us, don’t have his body.

        I enjoyed your story. I thiink it might easier to teach man to fly like a bird then treat him to grow hair. But I have a strange feeling, through personal experience, most women are looking for something else in a man then the ability to grow hair.

  30. agnesjack says:

    Alice signed up for the “Jacques Derrida Today” conference at her old alma mater, not because she was a big fan of Deconstruction theory, but because she heard her favorite English professor, Theodore Lundquist, was going to be there.

    Professor Lundquist was a brilliant teacher. Alice had adored his classes, because his love and knowledge of classic poetry and literature brought the most difficult text to glorious life. Yet, whenever she thought of him, she always felt a little sad. He had been overweight, had wispy, reddish hair that he didn’t try to manage very well, and his pale complexion had been peppered with pink blotches. The saddest thing she remembered about him, however, was that he still wore his wedding ring years after his wife had died. A few times after class, Alice had seen him sitting in his beat up Honda, staring blankly ahead for several minutes before sputtering away. She used to picture him in an old upholstered chair, eating canned soup and escaping into one of the books from his cherished collection. She never imagined him watching television. She never imagined him out with friends.

    It had been more than ten years since she had graduated. She worried a little that he might not remember her, but when she caught his eye outside the auditorium, he smiled broadly, came over and took her hand.

    “Alice, how very nice to see you,” he said. “If you have a moment after the conference, come to my office. Something extraordinary came into my book collection that I know you will appreciate.”

    The conference was as tedious as Alice had expected, but when she walked into Professor Lundquist’s office afterward, he was beaming. He handed her a book. It was old, but not a first edition. It was in good, not mint, condition. There was nothing particularly rare about the book at all. In fact, it was a book of children’s stories. She gave him a puzzled looked.

    “Look at the notation on the inside front cover,” he said.

    In faded pencil, a steady hand had written, To Teddy, love Father.

    Somehow, through the inexplicable machinations of time and coincidence, the book that Professor Lundquist’s father had given to him as a child, and which had been lost for decades, had found its winding way back to him.

    Alice sat down, and in his familiar tenor voice, the masterful teacher of the classics, began to read:

    IN the High and Far-Off Times the Elephant, O Best Beloved, had no trunk. He had only a blackish, bulgy nose, as big as a boot, that he could wriggle about from side to side; but he couldn’t pick up things with it. But there was one Elephant—a new Elephant—an Elephant’s Child—who was full of ‘satiable curtiosity, and that means he asked ever so many questions. . . .

    As he read, all Alice’s preconceived notions of him as a lonely, tragic figure faded from memory. She saw a happy man whose passion for literature had given him a full and satisfying life.

    We should all be so blessed, she thought.

    ________________

    [The excerpt is from “The Elephant’s Child” by Rudyard Kipling, which appears in the collection Just So Stories.]

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Such a beautiful, expressive story Nancy. It hit my heartbeat not only from the skill in which you’ve written, especially in the descriptive power of what the professor was like not only in physical apperance but your words actually painted a portrait of his soul. Do you realize how powerful this makes your story? I, as a reader, slipped into his physical body as well as his mind.

      I’ve never done that with anything I’ve read before. The mind of course, the physical also, but never both. It is quite an unusual experience. Also, as a young child, I had a book about a boy that had a pair of magic shoes. When he put them on, he was flown to a magical land. I can’t remember the title or author, yet I’m still looking for it, so I can relate to the professor’s joy, when he found his.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thank you, Kerry. I wanted to touch on our perceptions of people, and how we sometimes write a biography for them that is more about drama than reality. Because of his appearance, and assumptions about his grief at losing his wife, Alice made judgments, but in the end, as you said, she finally saw his soul.

        On a personal note, this story is a tip of the hat to my father, whose name is Theodore. I have his copy of the “Just So Stories,” which had been given to him as a child by his grandmother and aunt. My dad loved reading those stories to us, especially “The Elephant’s Child,” where he would act out all the various characters with hammy glee.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          You have cherished memories of your father. You are blessed in that respect. I have the same memories of crawling up in my Mother’s lap, and looking out the window of the second floor as she would describe what the clouds meant to her, a carousel horse, or perhaps a unicorn or a pink elephant or two.

          I wrote a story about it called “Castles In The Sky”.

    • starwatcher says:

      I enjoyed your interpretation of this prompt. If I could make a slight criticism (and it didn’t detract from the story at all, but) I noticed, at least in the first half, that you reuse some of the words. For example, at the end of the second paragraph, the last three sentences start with “she.”

      • agnesjack says:

        Thank you, starwatcher. I always appreciate comments and criticism. Actually, the use of “she” to finish off the paragraph was purposeful. Sometimes I feel repetition helps the rhythm of a story, and in my experience the use of “threes” usually works. However, that said, if it was jarring to you, then perhaps it wasn’t successful here.

    • Critique says:

      Your MC was likeable and completely believable. Beautifully written. You set the bar for me. Thanks!

    • don potter says:

      I enjoyed your heart warming story and was with it all the way. We have preconceived notions about people being lonely when they are alone. The professor obviously has a rich collection of friends.

    • jmcody says:

      How lucky you are to have had a father who instilled in you not only a love of books and reading, but such an exquisite sensitivity. This was eye opening, and something we learn over and over again in life — that things are rarely as they appear, and that you can’t presume to know the state of another person’s soul. Very gracefully and sensitively written. Lovely.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thanks very much, jm. Actually, my dad can be a little difficult, but when he read those stories to us as children, his inner child came out. It is a nice memory and he and my mom (whose favorite thing to read to us was “Winnie the Pooh”), not only instilled in us a love for books, but for music and art as well.

    • Reaper says:

      There is not much to say that hasn’t been said. But this was so good I’m going to anyway. I normally pick up on the repetitive words but did not in this. Part of that was they are more common words which need to be repeated more than others. The other part was it fit the style so well.

      Your story was touching and beautiful. I found myself in the same boat with Kerry, except it was your MC I slipped into, which was weird for me.

      Your voice was poetic and I believe that was intentional. Parts have meter and flow like a poem and you even have some rhymes that jumped out at me. Specifically cherished collection with watching television and, but not a first edition. It was in good, not mint, condition where your words become not only poetic but lyrical. Nicely done on that.

      I also wanted to compliment your deft characterization in this. You painted well the thing that we all do where we make up stories for people. What I caught more was that your MC was the type who not only made up stories but then assumed them to be correct and judged them by her values and wants. She was likely right that the professor missed his wife and spent time alone with books. Because for her that would have been misery and loneliness she never imagined that for him it could be still connected and married in his heart to the love of his life and happy in his quiet solitude. We all do that to some extent but you painted it as part of who she was. Yet I was still shocked when she looked at the book and didn’t look deeper for the value. I had this moment of “she doesn’t pay attention and how can she not look deeper?” then I remembered. Oh right, I know this, why am I expecting better of her? Because I was doing the same thing she did to the professor.

      The understanding at the end was what made this sheer perfection, a nice cherry on top. Okay, I’ll shut up now. I loved this one though.

      • agnesjack says:

        Reaper, I so much appreciate your thoughtful responses. I wish I could say that the rhyming was intentional. It wasn’t, but I do tend to write with an ear for the cadence of the words. I play around with the phrasing until it just sounds right to me.

        Your analyses of the MC and her perceptions of the professor were spot on. She was projecting her own fears and sense of loneliness onto him. The fact that she couldn’t imagine that he, a widow, could still be, as you so beautifully put it, “connected and married in his heart to the love of his life and happy in his quiet solitude,” is a window into her character. Her last thought, “We should all be so blessed,” reflects her inability to “look deeper,” as you observed, into the value of things and find peace. I love that thought, Reaper. I really do.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      I appreciate the theme of your story. It artfully illustrates how our assumptions and expectations influence our perceptions of others. In your story, it was fortunate that the MC only felt sorry for the professor. Unfortunately, when others don’t fit within our personal paradigms of happiness or success, we are just as likely to judge then negatively. We really should envy those who have found happiness in simple beauty rather than discount them in our vain attempts at the American Dream.

  31. derrdevil says:

    It was one of of those ridiculously frustrating days. Those days that seem to drone on and on and stretch time to its most extreme lengths. A day where the most mundane come at you all at once, like the dean standing at the hall’s podium apathetically giving us his annual budget speech for the faculty board. It was made worse as I was unfortunately sat besides the blabbering Professor Auspitz – or rather, as his students more aptly named him, Professor Au-spits-a-lot. I was beside him a mere five minutes and already my sleeve felt sopping wet against my arm. I shuddered at my morbid reality.

    “Did you here me, Mr Hastly?” He whispered.

    “What, Harold?” I turned to face him as I was sure whatever boring subject he was on about was exceptionally more interesting than the dean’s speech.

    “Pornography!” He blurted as a trace of spittle flew into my face.

    “Jesus! Lower your voice, you fool. What are you on about?”

    “He is a sick, sick man.”

    “Hold on a sec! Repeat what you just said,” I asked as I dabbed my handkerchief at my cheek.

    “Pornography! Disgusting pornography!”

    “I heard that. But what of it? And what about the dean?”

    “Have you not been listening to a word I’ve said?”

    No one listens to you, old man. No one wants to listen to you drabble on and no one especially wants to taste your ancient spittle. “No. Sorry, I was highly engrossed in the dean’s most compelling speech,” I said hoping that the sarcasm was enough to indicate my mood.

    “Ah! Very well then.” He turned to face the stage, my statement clearly not registering with him.

    “You are truly an incredulous case, arnt you, Professor?”

    “What’s this now?”

    “Nothing,” I sighed. “What were you on about?”

    “But the speech–”

    “Nevermind that, you oaf. The pornography? What about the pornography?”

    “Ah, yes, yes!” The pornography?” There was a momentary pause in the old man before his eyes darted around as if searching for the words and then he leant nearer my face. I arched back for the anticipated shower to come as he whispered, “What pornography?”

    Jeez! This old, infuriating man. “The dean? You said something about him and something about porn?”

    “Did I?” He sat back into his seat. “My, my! Pornography? Are you certain?”

    “Professor Auspitz! Mr Hastly! My word, the smut out of your mouths.”

    I turned around on my hard back chair to see Mrs Baum, the sixty-two year old English teacher, glaring at us with wide eyes. I could almost feel myself dying as this day dragged on.

    • jmcody says:

      This was very entertaining, Derrdevil. The flying spittle and the wet sleeve, and “no one wants to taste your ancient spittle” made me both cringe and laugh out loud. The two professors behaving like kids, talking about pornography and insulting each other, and then getting in trouble with the English teacher was hilarious. Loved it!

      • derrdevil says:

        Haha glad you enjoyed it. And sorry for the disgusting bits. I had something else planned for this prompt, but when I thought of the characters this story sort of just happened :)

  32. AlienAlmanac says:

    This story came to mind when I read the prompt. Maybe Spielberg will ask for a reboot one day.
    —————————————————————————————————————————

    “Marty! Marty!

    I looked around the conference room for the familiar voice. A tall man with wiry white hair, wide eyes, and dressed in a white lab coat hurried through the crowded assembly toward me.

    “Doc! I didn’t know you still worked at the school.” I shook his hand. It felt good seeing my dearest friend again after four years.

    “I don’t…I mean, I do.” Doc waved his hands. “Never mind that now. Marty! You have to come. It’s of grave importance.”

    Before I could answer, Doc pulled me through the crowd even bumping a few people into one another without a pardon or care. Once we exited the conference room, he pulled me faster down the hall and into the stairwell.

    I stopped hard and pulled my hand out of his grip. “What is this all about, Doc?”

    “Tell me something. Are you and Jennifer still together?”

    “What’s this got to do with her?” I asked.

    “Well are you?”

    “No, Doc. We broke up a couple of years—”

    “Great Scott! It’s exactly as I had feared,” Doc said. His white eyebrows rose up and down as he slapped his forehead. “Come with me!”

    He grabbed my hand and raced down the stairs to the basement. After several turns, he pulled a wad of keys out of his pocket and worked four keys into deadbolts and padlocks then entered a passcode on a keypad and finally leaned forward for a retinal scan. A nondescript door, looking more like a storage closet, opened silently into a well-stocked lab and test facility.

    “This is heavy, Doc,” I said. “Is this all yours?”

    “We don’t have enough time.” Doc waved me over to a reinforced concrete bay.

    Sitting in the middle of the bay was a 1980s style telephone booth. Doc pushed on the bi-fold door and lifted the hand receiver. “Take a look, Marty.”

    He cracked open the phone box. Inside behind the dialer was a miniature flux-capacitor.

    “No way, Doc! You said you were done.” My heart raced. Familiar feelings of anxiety rose inside me. “There’s no way I’m going back to the future.”

    “Not the future, Marty. It’s your past. You have to stop yourself from going into the past.”

    “Hold on a second. That doesn’t make any sense.”

    “The changes you made back in 1955 created a paradox. You have to go back to 1985 and erase it all.”

    “Why me? You can stop me just the same.”

    Like a veil, calmness fell over Doc’s face. “Marty, you are my greatest friend. This is a one way trip. Once you go back and correct the paradox, there is no future to return. Your future will be lived as it should have always been.”

  33. deathisforpoets says:

    An expansive hand landed firmly on my shoulder, and I jerked embarrassingly. I’d succumbed to sleep as a monotone English professor in wrinkled pants sermonized on slush piles.

    “I’ve looked for you all morning,” whispered the man at my shoulder, and I twisted gently to view my captor, then grinned. Professor Foster! He tipped his head toward the exit and slipped away as I gingerly lifted my sack lunch from the auditorium floor and shuffled, hunched, past a handful of dozing conferees, to follow him.

    A swift tête-à-tête ensued as Jack Foster guided me briskly across the deserted summer commons toward the James P. Lockner Technology Center. I’d done well in journalism, I said, pulled down a passel of Associated Press awards, until the mega media companies desecrated the newspaper industry. Happily unmarried, though, no kids, a cat, a vision of becoming a best-selling novelist. “You?”

    Still the perennial bachelor, he smiled, tenured now, still questioning the “Is of Everything”. Ten years ago, philosophy was my favorite subject and Jack Foster was my favorite professor, though he knew nothing of my blazing crush on this older man. Now, at 78, the man remained handsome; tall, austere, with a luminous, silver ponytail running down his back, bound in a leather wrap.

    Hastily, Jack unlocked a rear door of the tech building, steel slamming behind us, and a sharp uneasiness slipped down my vertebrae like tumbling dominoes. He gripped my elbow. “I’ve done something … invented something. I need you to make a choice. Today.”

    We wended through a maze of short, sterile hallways to a door in the crook of a turn and entered. Aged Life magazines lay strewn across a marble tabletop. A neatly pressed floral dress hung on a dressing screen, with matching yellow pumps and a vintage handbag below it. Centered on the tile floor was an aged Windsor chair, affixed with metal arms, wired to a network of laptops. I shoved my hands in my pants pockets nervously.

    “Do you remember your final? Your essay, ‘If Given the Choice’?”

    In 2004, I penned a 3,000-word essay on time travel and why I’d choose the 1960s. I staggered in the flash of nuclear fusion of memory and reality, then gripped the marble tabletop to steady myself. “You didn’t … time travel?”

    His nod was steady, his dark eyes solemn. “You can go if you want. And you can come back. If you want. It’s your decision.”

    The shoes slipped a bit, but the dress fit perfectly and when I stepped away from the dressing screen Jack Foster smiled at me like a schoolboy at prom. “You look like you waltzed out of a magazine ad.”

    My heart raced beneath the daisy print linen. I perched anxiously in the chair, crossing and uncrossing my legs as Jack muttered behind me for several minutes, typing code.

    “Now, you can trust me, Claire, okay?” He knelt before me and pinned an envelope swollen with documents to the shoulder of my dress, then placed my wrists, pulse down, on the modified metal arms of the chair. “I already know you’re coming. It’s all programmed, all you have to do is press the button again and you’ll return with no lost time if you want to come back.” Then he placed a friendly hand on my forearm. “But, if you stay, I’ve instructed myself to destroy this chair. Do you understand?”

    “I do,” I promised, slipping my left pointer finger over the rubber button. After a pause of many drawn seconds, I closed my eyes and pressed my finger slowly, deliberately down. “I’ll be seeing you,” I said. Then the black turned to white, and the white turned to light and the light turned to a new day.

    A familiar, heavy hand fell on my shoulder and I turned my chin to catch a glimmer from the gold band on my captor’s finger. “It’s our special anniversary,” Jack whispered, and we shuffled quietly from the auditorium, from the droning book editor and his sleeping subjects, to the deserted summer commons for lunch together, as we’d done, on this day, since 1965.

    • jmcody says:

      You have a such a beautiful, lyrical voice. What a treat this was to read. The story line was compelling, with the MC finally getting to live her dream. But the language was so beautifully crafted I would have enjoyed it just as much no matter what the story was. Very impressive. I am looking forward to reading more of your writing.

    • Critique says:

      A sweet story well penned.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I’m going to chime in with jm and Critigue. Your story was magical and so well written, You’ve made my day. Don’t you dare go away. We want to read a lot more from you. Looking forward to your next response. By the way, where have you been?

    • Reaper says:

      This story is good and well told. The language is, as others have said, beautiful with an amazing and captivating voice. I do wonder if you meant to give the story a most sinister feel at the end there. Using the word captor changed my impression of the professor and led me to believe you were going for an implication of darkness.

      I love that name and it suits you well so far. I also look forward to reading many more of your stories.

  34. Foxwriter says:

    How much can people tell us when we look at them? For most of us, this is left to the unconscious. To Dr. Constance White, little is left out of her observation.
    Constance lounged in a slick leather seat at her gate in the airport, clinging to her morning cup of coffee. Her black hair was neatly cropped in a bun, and she had a crisp uniform on; she wanted to be completely prepared for the conference Dr. Nightly had prepared on the latest in psychiatric medicine.
    She quietly observed the frantic people of the airport. One man waited at the counter of a terminal gate, tapping his fingers on the counter. Constance could see his head tilted to cover his throat, an unconscious defence mechanism, as he argued with the woman working at the counter.
    A flashback hit her like an oncoming train, “Constance, I told you to pick up your things. Go to your room, now!” She dropped her coffee, and it splattered into a puddle on the ground.
    “Good one, Connie,” said the voice of a tall man sitting next to her.
    Constance just glared at this man, her brother, as they worked to clean up the mess.
    Kevin flashed a handsome smile before saying, “You know, I can really call you an absent-minded professor now.”
    Constance rolled her eyes. She hated having these bombarding memories. They came when she least expected them, but they had always been there–a terrible rift in her past never fully mended. At least it all inspired her to work as a psychiatrist. Even the most monstrous storm has a silver lining.
    The woman at the counter announced they were now boarding all passengers. Constance quickly cleaned up the mess, and made her way in line. She could see that Kevin was very attracted to the woman at the counter as he would not break his gaze from her. Constance pointed at the woman’s ring finger, “Married,” she whispered to Kevin. He just gave an exasperated sigh as they made their way on the plane.
    ***

    The large university conference room was much as she had remembered it as a student. Dr. Nightly made his way to the podium and began to discuss the latest in medical research. She was always impressed with his articulate abilities–even though his bushy hair and shaggy clothes would all point to the contrary.
    Another flashback. Constance shrieked as she imagined herself submerged in water. Several members of the audience turned to her with concern, including Dr. Nightly. He did not have a look of concern however–just a knowing, welcoming smile.
    Constance just stared out a window of the hallway as people began to file out of the conference room. She didn’t dare meet any of their stares, though she could feel them piercing her as they filed away.
    “Constance!” said a familiar voice. It was Dr. Nightly. He came up to her, and gave her a warm embrace. “You still remain to be my star student.”
    Constance was still shaken up about her memory, but she still returned Dr. Nightly’s hug, “It’s been too long. How’s the research coming?”
    “Well, you see, that’s why I am glad you came,” said Dr. Nightly. He pulled out a small, transparent pill from his pocket. “This was inspired by you.”
    “What is it?” asked Constance, baffled.
    “It’s still in the trial phase, but I call it Memorex. I want you to take it before…”
    “Dr. Nightly, I really don’t think that’s appropriate.”
    “Please, Connie,” he sounded sincere–like a father to her. “I promise you won’t regret it.”
    Connie pocketed the small pill, gave Dr. Nightly one more hug, and made her way from the hall.
    “Have a safe journey. And remember our control to change the past is limited.”
    Connie just paused to give him a concerned look before exiting out the hallway door.

    ***

    Constance rolled the small pill around in her fingers as she sat propped up in bed. This seemed reckless, but she knew Dr. Nightly would never put her in a situation he wasn’t willing to undertake himself. She quickly popped the pill before giving anymore thought to it, turned off the lamp, and went to lie down. She was amazed at the sedative power of the medicine, as she quickly dozed off into a haze.
    When she woke, she was lying in a large bathroom on the floor. The cheap tile was unlike that in her own bathroom. Where was she? Had she been kidnapped? Panic began to set in as she woke. She lunged for the door, and found it was locked. Constance began to scream, banging on the door.
    She looked in the mirror through the dim light of the bathroom. Her hair was not in its neat bun but was falling in tangles around her. Without warning, her reflection changed to something grotesque. She was no longer staring at herself but a whimpering, monstrous creature–a werewolf.
    It all began to fall into place. A little girl in the bathtub lie unconscious, the bath water still filling. Constance immediately went to turn the bath water off, but she slammed into an invisible barrier. She could only watch as the girl slowly began to drown to death.
    “Help!” Connie screamed.
    It all seemed futile, but she knew now she was reliving her worst trauma in vivid reality. She could hear power tools from outside. Her father was working on his latest project. Constance began to remember her last conversation with Dr. Nightly before graduating, “Dr. Nightly, sometimes I feel like a monster. It’s like a I never gave my father a chance to tell his side of the story.”
    “A monster?” Dr. Nightly began to laugh. “You’re a lot of things, but you’ll never be a monster.”
    With those words in mind, Constance confronted the beast in the mirror. It’s monstrous body was covered in fur, and it growled at her. All that remained human were Connie’s eyes. She reached her hand out to the mirror, and the beast reflected her movement. A piercing light penetrated the bathroom, but the girl remained submerged, slowly dying.
    “Connie, sweetie! Are you alright?” a man’s voice said. He slammed through the door when there was no answer and immediately scooped the girl out of the water. She began to cough, and in a flash of light, Constance was back in her room.
    She could barely catch her breath as reality hit her. All these years she had lied to herself. She was convinced she had pulled herself from the bath water, and her father had completely forgotten her. Forgiveness never works as fast as the initial trauma, and the real work would soon begin. Mending pain always takes more courage and reflection than inflicting it.

    • jmcody says:

      This is an intriguing idea. If only we could relive certain moments from out childhoods with the perspective of an adult and see things as they really were. This would probably cure a lot of heartache. Very imaginative story.

  35. margi33 says:

    I jogged through the empty corridor, cursing my memory. Where was that damn auditorium again? Ten years out of school, and I felt as lost as a mouse in a tube sock. The keynote speaker would be on any minute. Leave it to me to pay good money and miss the event.

    Rounding a corner, I spied an old man. Maybe he could direct me. I skidded to a stop in my loafers, almost crashing into his extended cane.

    “Pardon me,” I said, my breath escaping in huffs, “but do you know where Cramer’s Auditorium is? I’m a little lost.”

    “Anthony, is that you?” The old man peered at me from eyebrows that threatened to consume his forehead. But beneath the hunched back and musty smell, something about him was familiar. Oh, yes, molecular biology. The parade of F’s on my tests probably etched his face somewhere in my subconscious.

    “Professor Z?” I replied.

    “Why, yes, my boy. You are just the one I was looking for.”

    “Me?” I asked. “Why? For what? You know I’m just here for the writer’s conference.”

    Professor Z shook his head dismissing that fact. “You’re connected with the military. That’s why. I’ve got something to show you.”

    “But —”

    “You’re the only lad who can help.”

    “— I’m not in the military, sir. You must have me confused. I’m a writer, or at least trying to be.” I blushed.

    “Smoke and mirrors. I understand. I’d be the same in your position.”

    “What?” I began to sweat. I was never very good in awkward situations. “But, sir…”

    His palsied hand pointed right at my eyes, two fingers spread. Then he swept his hand in the universal follow me motion. What else could I do? I followed.

    The pace he set for a man with a cane was impressive. The last turn brought us into a brick box of a room. Fluorescent lighting blinked and shuddered, only half working. Folding tables stretched three long with six times as many vials and beakers lined on top.

    “And see. Here. The wave of the future.” Professor Z wagged a loaded syringe in my face. Running was my first instinct but curiosity took over.

    “So show me,” I said and held my breath.

    He jerked his shirt up, exposing sagging wrinkles and jabbed the large needle into his abdomen. I flinched in response.

    The skin of his torso tore immediately, sounding like velcro unfastening. Amber scales grew like angel’s wings, enveloping his core. I smelled the tang of fertile earth. “God, you look like a —

    “Yes, a cockroach,” he said beaming, “virtually indestructible. Like I said before… the wave of the future. Think of the possibilities.” I couldn’t keep my mouth from gaping.

    “Now, Anthony… the anecdote before I turn permanently.”

    “What anecdote?” I replied. My heart beat double-time.

    Professor Z’s eyes widened in fear. “I didn’t prepare the anecdote fir— ?” Before he could complete the sentence, his face cracked and mandibles jutted, replacing his mouth. Antenna sprouted from what used to be Professor Z’s head. His arms and legs began to shrivel and crisp. His body smacked horizontally onto the linoleum floor and his needle-like legs skittered in a frenzy.

    Run like hell was my only thought.

    I bolted toward the door and slammed it. Panting with the door at my back, my mind swirled.

    What now?

    • Silver Sister says:

      Eeewww! Creepy. I zipped right through this story; it flowed so well. Nice writing here. I smiled at the eyebrows that threatened to engulf the professor’s forehead.

      • margi33 says:

        Thanks Silver Sister. I’m glad you liked it, and I appreciate your comments. The process of becoming adept at writing seems daunting (and never-ending at times). I’m sure most can relate :)

    • Reaper says:

      Beautiful imagery, nice little mistake from an old absent minded professor. I was immersed in this well told story. I admit I chuckled at the word anecdote instead of antidote because of the reference to being a writer in the story.

      • margi33 says:

        Thanks Reaper for the positive comments. At first the “anecdote” was a typo (no genius on my part I’m afraid), but then I just left it. As you said, it made sense that the protagonist heard the word as it related to him.

    • While I hate cockroaches, I liked this story about one (sort of)! Nice job.

    • jmcody says:

      So it’s true that the cockroaches will inherit the earth! This was such a creative response to the prompt, and to the problem of man’s search for immortality. This flowed so well, and you provided compelling visuals that kept me in the story. It was a nice smooth ride from the beginning, right up until the cockroach’s body hit the linoleum. Then I was right behind you MC running like hell.

      The cockroaches were especially reminiscent of my own college experience because I went to college in New York City and lived in a dorm there. Enough said. I had cockroach nightmares for a long time after I graduated.

      • margi33 says:

        Thanks jmcody for all of your positive comments! And for the personal story. I grew up in the southeast, so plenty of roaches there. They always disgusted me, but I am also convinced they could survive anything.

        One redeeming quality about the snowy west, where I currently live, is the lack of roaches, but I guess I do have to battle bears, wolves, mtn lions, etc. Still, I’d take those over roaches ;)

    • Critique says:

      Well done margi33. Professor Z’s in a bad spot ;)

  36. kbaktygul says:

    I thought that the exciting event of the week would be the conference that was hosted at my wonderful school where I became really different person after I graduated from it. This time the conference on the sustainability of the environment issues took my attention and promised me some kind of development for my career but this was not the big news. The bigger picture appeared to be the meeting of my former teacher-professor whom I met after the conference, and he was just excited to explain about his discovery. I should say that he has been already 20-year astronomer-amateur trying to make sense of life on looking up to the sky through the space-watching binocular and probably finding the alien life up there. So, Mr. Rushmore literally asked me to follow him to his office to look on his binocular so that I could watch on his discovery. He was so excited that he rumbled on and tried to convince me that this is a breakthrough. I became some kind of excited too and rushed to the professor’s office. He first told me to look on through the long tube-like device, which was seated on the table and directed by one side to the sky.
    “Kelly, do you see anything?” he asked me.
    I had seen a tiny ball-like brown-colored circle. “I see a tiny ball,” I said.
    “Well, that’s what is supposed to be seen,” the professor excitedly said back.
    “Mr. Rushmore, have you found a new planet?” I tried to guess in advance
    “Yes, you are right!” he said excitedly.
    “And why do you think, professor, this is a news?” I asked with surprise
    “I believe that there maybe an earth-like life in there! And this discovery may be a true sensation for the living on Earth,” he said with optimism.
    “Mr. Rushmore, this may be a great discovery, but don’t you think that for most of the people on earth this is not going to be a sensation?” I said.
    “Ok, you want to say that they don’t care about what is going on up in the sky.” he said back.
    “I don’t want to be rude but I’m suspicious about the earth-like life on the universe.” I said trying to convey my opinion.
    “I understand what you are trying to say me. But there should be life like we have in other planet too in this big universe.”

    • devsmess says:

      I love space themed discoveries…! I’m a National Geographic lover, for sure. And certainly at least I would like and appreciate the discovery. :)
      I liked the build up at the start. I would suggest reading your dialogue out loud to see how it sounds in conversational voice. Sometimes we know what we want them to say, but need to figure out how they’d say it themselves. Let the characters pull you along… it’s a loss of control, but totally worth it! :)

      Cheers!

      -Steph

  37. THE UNFORTUNATES (Third in the Union series)

    Filtered sunlight flickered on and off my polished black boots as I walked briskly past the avenue of barred windows. My arms clenched behind my back, I glanced around the dusty, dim hall. One lonely wooden door, made of small sanded planks, greeted me at the end.

    “Captain S. Morgan, reporting for First Colonel McHaill,” I said in my best authoritative tone. Seeing that no metal key fitted into the slot, I pulled it open. The colonel was at his usual desk, hunched over what looked like a grey typewriter, typing furiously. He glanced up, a shock of black hair running over the sweat line on his forehead. His wild blue eyes recognized me, and his hands slid off the machine.

    “Morgan! You look so old now. Come, shut the door and sit.” He pulled his red-lined army cap down snug. With another glance down the empty corridor I snapped the door shut.

    I pulled up a stool from the corner. “The war academy seems so destitute now.”

    He took a long drink from a canteen and set it down.

    “Can’t help it if the government ignores our pleas for funding. But—that’s beside the point. I just discovered something… alarming, shall we say, just after breakfast. Come look.”

    I stood up and clomped over to the desk. He had an impatient air about him, one he only wore when battle orders had been issued. When he would grimly salute, converse with his officers in hushed tones behind cigar smoke, and then send a few thousand off to die.

    “It has to involve this encryption machine I discovered in the basement. I just started—“

    “Hold up. Encryption? I thought they stopped issuing these years ago.”

    He stood up and started pacing from one corner to the other, which was only around five feet.

    “Yes, that one’s dated prior to the Great Catastrophe, goes all the way back to World War Three. Was surprised it still worked, but it died, although a bit rusted up. I was just tinkering around with it this morning when I started receiving messages, load of them. Take—take a look, Morgan.”

    He thrust his hand out, pointing hurriedly, and started pacing again. I slid into the chair and examined the paper. With a surprise I noted the seal at the top.

    “How did you intercept this from the High War Council?” I held up the crinkling paper so he could see the purple lion. He just stiffly put his hands in his jacket pockets.

    “Somehow the older technology passed through the security radar.” His eyes cut through the concrete floor with a laser-like grip. “But that’s not what bothers me most. Read it—out loud.”

    I frowned, but then cleared my throat. Apparently the thought of being executed for treason had not occurred to me yet.

    “Direct Order No. 4567, from War Secretary Fifth General Isaiah Herman, to—“ I broke off and shook my head. “I can’t do this.”

    “Read it.” His firm command echoed sharply as a bunk towel whip.

    “All right…. To all commanding generals in capital city and sectors A, B, C, D, and E… that’s all of them…” My mouth hovered over the next sentence in my disbelief. “To all commanding generals… you are ordered to, on midnight the 21st, to immediately begin raids on apartment districts and kill all men under 18 and over 50… the First Army and Unit Q are called to action. Long live the emperor, and Godspeed on your mission…”

    There was a tense silence in the room, like a rope slowly being stretched. He walked back over to me and sighed.

    “We were not notified of this. Only the tops generals were supposed to receive it. This is—this is big, bigger than anything.” I looked up and his eyelids were creased with worry. He adjusted his collar. “I should have known that the emperor would not tolerate the breadline riots for too long.”

    I swiveled around and jammed it back in the typewriter. I thought of when I visited the apartment districts once, the crammed souls in the upper rooms, the solitary cry of a child whose parents were slowly dying in a back bedroom, surrounded by trash and insects. Of the young men who snuck out after curfew to snag bakery bread, who had their jaws broken in the streets with dignity, their last blood-filled cry shouting for freedom. Of the parents I tried hard to forget, who I still didn’t know were alive or dead.

    “How can we stop it?”

    “That’s what’s so horrible. We can’t.”

    Gunfire exploded, and a small doll went into the gutter. “No, we have to! I don’t see why you had to drag me here just to helplessly know our own government is plotting a—“ I sank down into the chair and quickly composed myself just as one solitary droplet ran down.

    “Look, listen, Morgan.” Suddenly his tense face was right above me. “We have to move fast, and now. Once they find out the signal’s been tapped, they’ll be knocking this door down shortly. The important thing is that we now know what’s going on. I can trust you to help me with this.”

    He glanced out the peephole and threw me a rifle.

    “Let’s get going. We have a bit of a walk to do. The old train station’s a few miles away.”

    I buttoned up my greatcoat and remained silent. He seemed only out for himself, and as I fingered the scope I imagined me stopping the raid, gunning down my own comrades. It was a radical thought, one I couldn’t have imagined owning days ago. But one misplaced order can spill secrets from a higher plane to another. We billowed down the halls to safety, checking for any shouts, and the hounds of our mystical burden followed in our wake.

    GH

    • devsmess says:

      Loved it!

      This… “He had an impatient air about him, one he only wore when battle orders had been issued. When he would grimly salute, converse with his officers in hushed tones behind cigar smoke, and then send a few thousand off to die.”
      I could feel the entire ‘feels’, all of the classic movie scenes pulled back to me to create a picture.
      And the bakery bread paragraph as well…
      Just wonderful!

      Nice job…!

      -Steph

    • Reaper says:

      Towards the beginning you had a misspelled words, and using typing after typewriter was a little jarring. I mention that when I normally wouldn’t because as soon as you hit your stride I fell into this world you are creating. The imagery was beautifully written, the tension palpable, your language and voice sublime, and the story and emotion intense. My heart broke for the MC and while I understood the commander and his fears I jeered him and called him a coward for only thinking of himself, but another part of me rejoiced that he had the intelligence to show the communication to a braver man who might do something. I imagined the conflict your MC going through to be something like what certain German soldiers privy to the wrong information must have felt and hope he is not a good German. He was so real for me that I was holding my breath hoping that not only does he do the right thing but that against all odds he wins. Though my heart tells me this is a tale of tragedy. Once again you are amazing Mr. Baggins.

      • Thanks for telling me about the few mishaps. I usually skimp on the editing part, but I’ll try harder to look over it a bit more. But, after that, thanks a lot for your kind comment! You just blew me away. I enjoy creating characters that you can root for and despise at the same time, so I’m glad that hit home. And, yes, I did design the government and uniforms after Nazi Germany– they are both virtual dictatorships, after all. I’m also excited that the MC leapt off the page as well. He does seem reluctant to part with his loyalty at first, but he’s more concerned for civilians that most. Lastly, about the tragedy, I did design it out that way. I’m going to leave it at that, because I hate spoilers.

    • margi33 says:

      Your descriptive language is spot on for forming great visuals. The flow was easy to follow for the most part. And the writing succeeded in eliciting emotion. I definitely enjoyed reading the piece. Good work.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I couldn’t help myself. I feel into your story. Because the canteen was mentioned, at first though,I surmised WWII. But this was a horrifying trip through the future and I had no way to stop from reading it.

        General Eisenhauer stated, take pictures and more pictures, because at some point, some Son Of A bitch is going to announce that this horror never happened.

    • jmcody says:

      I love the dystopian thing you’ve been doing the past couple of weeks, and I think this is the best one yet. This was so cinematic, from the close-up on the black boots striding down the dusty hall, to what I presumed was a WWI or WWI office setting until the revelation that this was actually the future. I loved that you had the general typing on a typewriter, showing the breakdown of society that has taken place. This is shaping up to be a great adventure, and one that I would definitely want to read

      I am going to throw your own words back to you now — you just keep getting better and better.

  38. Writeright2 says:

    The day I died started off exciting. I was the first female cardiothoracic surgeon to receive the Joseph R. Utley award to be presented by my old professor that evening. He was the smartest man I knew and I was honored. Maybe that’s why I missed and dismissed every warning sign. Excitement mixed with excess reverence can make one blind.

    Except for a few strands of grey Ms. Yvette looked as beautiful as she did twenty years ago. I pulled the sunglasses atop my head and walked into the office in time to hear her fussing on the phone about some missing mail. “Hey pretty lady.” I sung out to her.

    “Lawd Hammercy, Debra Asher!” she squealed, abandoning the call and her work with outstretched arms to give me a proper warm greeting. Documents from her desk fell to the floor. “So good to see you again Deb! You’re early for the conference. Have a seat the professor should be back any minute!” I smelled a whiff of vanilla as she motioned to a chair that was in its’ last days.

    I surveyed the office with nostalgia and a smile while I waited. I sat back and reminisced of my days on campus with my mentor, the professor. “Does he still have that pink food truck that he and Ms. Martha drove all around town?”

    “Chile no, that hunk of junk finally died right around the time Ms. Martha took sick.”

    “I didn’t know she was ill.”

    “She ain’t. She’s dead…and he’s crazy.” She replied flatly.

    “Unbelievable.” Melancholy settled over me.” I remember her so clearly. She always wore that navy blue dress with the little frogs on it. She never met a stranger. And the professor isn’t crazy he’s just a little eccentric.” I felt a need to defend the man – reverence makes you do that too.

    “You know he’s always been nuts. You educated folk call it eccentric, but I call it like I see it. He’s crazy as a Bessie Bug and it only got worse since his wife died. He could get a crazy check from the state. Tenure is the only reason he’s still around.” She peered over rimless glasses, “And speakin of fruit loops…” she nodded toward the door.

    The professor stood in the doorway with a huge grin on his face. A bunch of dirty carrots in one hand and a coffee mug in the other. If he owned a pair of shoes, I’ve never seen them. He was barefoot and in desperate need of a pedicure. He could grab his dinner out of a lake with those feet.

    “You two catch up. I’m going to central processing to pick up the mail – again! And Imma file a complaint against Mr. Love, this is the fourth day he hasn’t delivered our mail.” Yvette left in a huff.

    “My lil’ egg head. I’m so proud of you.” The professor adjusted his bow tie and gave me a congratulatory pat on the back. “I can’t think of anyone more deserving.” The professor shoved the carrots at me. “I read in your last interview that you are a vegetarian now. I knew these would make you happy. Fresh from my garden.”

    He was animated and looked so comical with red curly hair everywhere except the top. He was excited and his excitement was contagious. “I’m so happy to see you professor I’m anxious about this discovery of yours.”

    “Yes. Yes, I’ve been waiting for you. I can’t wait to show you! Let’s go to my lab across campus. I couldn’t go a step further without you!” Everything about him lit up, except his eyes, but I wasn’t paying attention.

    The Midwest humidity did a number on my hair as we made the long trek up Cardiac Hill. My bangs clung to my damp forehead. Halfway up the hill I offer condolences.

    “Yvette told me about Ms. Martha. I’m so sorry for your loss. You must miss her terribly.” The professor turned to me, “Do you know the secret of life?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Love and happiness. When you have those two you have everything. I appreciate love. When you find love and happiness you hold on tight and never let go.” Some of his words were slurred.

    Is that liquor? I asked pointing to his coffee cup. “You know this is a dry campus.” I scolded.

    “It’s still dry.” He touched the ground, pretending to test for moisture. “I haven’t spilled a drop… Onward!”

    Outside the lab, an awful stench blanketed over us: part lye, part chlorine but I couldn’t make out the rest and I didn’t want to. What’s that horrible smell?

    He started singing, “Love is in the air.” He laughed.

    The smell was stronger inside. He flipped on the lights. Fluorescents flickered overhead.
    I couldn’t believe my eyes. I blinked them. I rubbed them. Nothing changed. There laying on the slab was Mr. Love. His chest wide open, disemboweled and part of his skull missing. He won’t be delivering any more mail.

    Everything within me said run, but I could not move. I could not scream. Bile crawled up my throat.

    “What’s the matter Deb? I told you Love was in the air.”

    “Y-y-you, killed him?” I didn’t recognized my own voice, hoarse and laced with fear.

    “Now that would make me a murder. No. No. No. This is a sacrifice. Love is giving.” The professor was agitated and fidgety.

    I backed up shaking my head hoping to shake away this nightmare playing before me. I fell into the closet door. It sprang open. A decaying corpse in a navy blue dress with little frogs on it came crashing to the floor, landing at my feet

    “Oops. I’m not the only one with skeletons in my closet you know.” He approached awkwardly and cornered me before I could run.

    Loud and off key he starts singing;
    Love and happiness
    Make you do wrong
    Make you do right

    “….ah Al Green was a genius.” He exclaimed to the ceiling.”

    “I’m gonna get my Martha back! You complete my discovery for eternal life Deb. I’ve got Love”, He motioned toward Mr. Love. “And I’ve got happiness”, he pointed at me.

    “But I’m not happy about being sacrificed, so this won’t work.” I tried to reason with a crazy man.

    In low slow tenor, “Oh but happy isn’t just how you feel, it’s what you ARE. You are happy Deb Asher. You are happy. Asher. Hebrew. Happy.”

    He withdrew a long needle from his pocket. In one swift move it disappeared into my neck. First burning, then a sweet smell, then nothing. I couldn’t feel a thing. The world as I had known it, faded to black the day I died.

    • devsmess says:

      Pulled my on a string the whole way through!
      I loved it. Yvette’s character, and the professor… they were sitting next to me like old friends.

      Well done, and thank you for sharing!
      -Steph

      • devsmess says:

        Oh, and I have to add… killer opening sentence. Tension, the ‘hanging question’ and wonder… grabbed from the get-go. NICE.

      • Writeright2 says:

        Thanks devsmess-Steph,

        I like Yvette and absolutely love the “nutty” professor. However, my story didn’t turn out the way it was in my mind. Turns out it was too large once I got to writing it and I felt under pressure to condense it. Therefore my lab scene was sacrificed (pun intended).

    • jmcody says:

      Lord Hammercy that was creepy! And yet it was also somehow fun. I think that’s because of the incredibly vivid characters you painted. I just love that blue dress with the frogs on it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a dress, but that certainly would be memorable.

      Favorite line: “Everything about him lit up, except his eyes.”

    • Critique says:

      A horror story at it’s best. I kept hoping Dr. Asher would find a way out but then, maybe she didn’t really die? and there could be a sequel to prolong the grisly tale.

  39. Arazimith says:

    Darby Turner had looked forward to attending the Habitable Worlds Spring Symposium in Baltimore. The conference was not far from her alma mater. She had attended the John Hopkins University for both her undergraduate and post graduate work. This was a trip home. The conference was not for another day so she decided to walk through the old halls in which she had once spent so much time. The sights and smells filled her with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. She began to wonder how many of her old professors still held forth in their lecture halls.

    “Darby Turner? Is this Darby Turner I see before me?”

    A shot of lightning ran down Darby’s spine as she recognized the voice. She turned and said, “Yes, Professor Crocker. It’s me, Darby Turner.”

    The deep blue eyes behind the thick glasses still had the slow burn she remembered from her undergraduate years. They still disturbed her in a way she found hard to articulate. Darby took a moment and a breath before she said, “I see you’re still here, Professor. Was just wondering how much has changed around here.”

    “Nothing much has changed and everything has changed. If you have a moment, I would like to show you what I have found,” said Professor Crocker.

    Blurred and quick cut flashbacks played through her mind of Professor Crocker’s eccentric antics. She knew better when she answered, “Certainly, Professor.”

    She followed him down the hall and down the stairs to his office. Darby entered the small cramped room with not just a little trepidation. Professor Crocker motioned her to an old wooden chair that was obviously missing a caster. She did her best to balance as she sat.

    “Calm yourself, Miss Turner. Calm yourself. I am not so befuddled that I am unaware of the view most students have of me. Students and faculty. I can assure you that I mean no harm,” spoke Professor Crocker in an almost sing song cadence.

    Claiming that he meant her no harm only heightened her awareness. Hoping to keep her voice even, she said, “What is it you’ve found, Professor?”

    Professor glanced at what appeared to be a covered bird cage atop an uneven stack of books with an almost vindictive smirk. Darby acknowledged the bird cage by gesturing with her hand.

    “And what is this, Professor?”

    “Fairy godparents!” exclaimed Professor Crocker; gesticulating wildly as he spoke.

    Darby had been afraid of this. Professor Crocker had seen fairies around every corner. He had devised makeshift devices out old kitchen utensils to track them. He had taken his classes to the field under the pretense of studying local geology. They always ended up searching for fairies. It had always ended in embarrassment for him.

    When Professor Crocker saw the dejected look in Darby’s eye; he grimaced and pulled the cover off the cage. Whatever Darby expected to see under the cover was not what she saw. Inside the cage were two diminutive creatures. Each were no taller than Darby’s hand. They were humanoid in form only stretched with dark blue-gray skin and naked. Instead of wings of gossamer, they sported what appeared to be bat wings. A wing on one of them appeared to be broken. As soon as Professor Crocker removed the cover, they both began to make high pitched mewing. Darby had to find a way out of the room. She started to edge her way towards the door.

    “Just wait, Miss Turner. It will not be long before they start to grant me wishes. You will see. You will all see,” said Professor Crocker with uncomfortable edge to his voice.

    Darby left the room and the campus. She wanted desperately to get home.

    • jhowe says:

      That was good. Nice descriptions of the crazy old professor. I liked the un-fairy like fairies.

    • Writeright2 says:

      I enjoyed this. Very fresh. Was the choice in name deliberate? Crocker. Crock – nonsense,

    • jmcody says:

      Where are Cosmo and Wanda? And Jorgen von Strangle and Icky Vicky? Actually Crocker is one of the looniest characters in cartoons today — I’m glad you went with him, and I thought you captured his psychosis well.

      I’ve always thought that show was just a nefarious plot of the pharmaceutical industry, designed to sell more Ritalin.

  40. thejim says:

    “No!” I said with a stern voice. “I don’t give a Shi% what you say I won’t do it!”

    I quickly turned away and walk down the road. I headed to the old relic of a building that housed some of the greatest minds the world has ever known. The huge oak door loomed over me as I stood in front of the building my hand raised inches from the entry pad but not moving.

    I decided not to attend the conference in the auditorium on the other end of campus. It reminded me of my career path. The one that was given to me but never fully assimilated into my neuro-pathways. For some reason my mind relentlessly rebel against all that was laid out before me. What was it in my head that prevented me from fully embracing my selected path? The war raged on. Here I stood dammed if I do, dammed if I don’t.

    I spun around to scurry away like a freighted mouse when I ran straight into Professor T. H. Halbert.
    “Ahhhh! Mr. Proke! What a surprise to see you here! He exclaimed. I figured you were at that tedious conference like the rest of the mindless drones that call themselves graduates. Please come inside, I would very much like to show you something of the greatest importance. Well… great might be a little over stating it or maybe not, it could be, I never can tell with these sort of things.”

    His ragged frame scampered into the building straight down the large hall to a 1 person lift. He moved in and turned to look at me. “Well then, come on.”

    “But it is a single…”

    “Oh never mind that! Come on, come on.” He said with a flourished hand movement.

    Holding a deep breath to make room we made our way to the deepest parts of the structure. We emerged into a weakly lit hall reminiscent of hollows of Nerunie 5.

    Once we found our way into his lab the bioluminescent lamps began to fill the room with light. I could see this was no ordinary lab, but with decades old dirty equipment next to brand new polished.

    “Come quick now it is right over here” He pointed to the back of the room where the light fell off into dim corridors. “I have a finding that is something quite noteworthy.”

    We stood before a large rock. He flipped and nearby switch and the lights from above enclosed it and held it captive on the large table.

    In this rock I have discovered the oldest DNA strand known. Some may think this is no biggie, but we know that DNA methylation is essential for normal development. This strand has a completely different genomic imprinting, with a never before seen properties. These extracted genes, and not through heredity, will directly affect the DNA structure and the results are immediate. Which means we can manipulate the coding of the DNA.

    He slowly reached behind him and flicked a switch to reveal a room behind a mesaphoric force field.
    Large cages lined the wall. Extremely mutated animals, beasts of all sizes filled the pens. Some had multiple arms and legs, gigantic jaws. Animals that this world has never seen, hideous and beautiful all at the same time. My heart sank, I was in shock, the horror hit me, at the same time knew I was finally where I should be.

    • seliz says:

      I was a little confused by the second to last paragraph. Was the professor speaking or the MC? But other than that, it was an interesting story. Creepy ending, but perfect for the MC.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        And so, the madness would continue double-fold. Unusual response and very imaginative. I also saw the confusion in the paragraph, altho I knew it was the professor speaking. Using quotation marks and a tag will take care of that minor issue.

        A couple of minor tweaks will put more power here. For example, third sentence: “The huge oak door loomed over me as I stood in front of the building my hand raised inches from the entry pad but not moving.” It could go like this:

        “I stood before the front wall of the structure. A massive oak door filled my sight and my hand, frozen from doubt, paused at the entry pad.”

        Four less words to use somewhere else.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Also, I can’t count.

        • thejim says:

          I was sort of rushing this one had to have it done in 10 to 15 minutes, so I missed stuff. Thanks for the tweaks for better sentence structure! I think I need to look at each line or so and try to express the action more precisely.
          I wanted the enormous door to be the center of that sentence like he felt insignificant as a person. So maybe just: “The huge oak door loomed over me as I stood frozen from doubt my hand raised inches from the entry pad.”
          Hidden were clues to him being week and strong at the same time. First sentence he was firm, then walked away – did not go to conference but could not enter the door. Did not want to get into the elevator then when told to he did etc…
          Thanks for the advice I will take it all to heart.

    • Dennis says:

      Nice take, very sci-fi like. Oh the dangers of messing with DNA

    • jmcody says:

      Hmm… the was really interesting. The thing that horrified him was also the thing that finally gave him the sense of purpose and belonging that he had never been able to find in his career. That is profoundly twisted, thejim. I like it!

  41. sudhiriyer says:

    ‘Vishwaas! ’ I heard a voice call me just as I was about to enter the auditorium.

    The voice was familiar. It echoed through the empty auditorium. The large number of unoccupied chairs cried out for higher participant turnout.

    Nothing much had changed in college except the paint on the walls.

    “This is Emeritus Professor Laxman from the Applied Physics department” I hurriedly said to Avery, my colleague and the co-author of our paper on Multipath TCP. We were going to present it in the symposium.
    Professor Laxman was 78 when I graduated from college five years ago. I was surprised that he still taught at the college and even more so to see his child-like inclination to ideas, seminars and ideation even on that day.

    “Yes Professor”, said I,” How’re you? It’s such a pleasure to…”

    And before I could complete, Prof. Laxman hurriedly held me by my hand and remarked “Show me your thesis. Let’s go to my lab. I want to show you something.”

    Surprised, I said , “Thesis? You mean this one” pointing the red Manila folder I had held in my hand. It did have the paper on Multipath TCP!

    “You’re aware of this…and you knew I was going to present this today?” I said to Professor.

    “He still reads all the tech journals! He was 78 five years ago. Impressive! How else would he know about what I am going to present. This is his subject of teaching & research – Telecommunications”, I quietly whispered to Avery, careful enough that Professor Laxman does not overhear me.

    He strictly disliked people distractedly talking amongst themselves when he means business. That was 5 years ago.

    We were led into the lab. The lab was cluttered. The musty smell of stacks of dog-eared, hardbound books filled the room, just as they did five years ago.

    “He reads quantum physics, electromagnetic and telecommunication but there is not one gadget in his room, except the wired phone.” I thought to myself.

    But I still respected him. He was an astute physicist. His stories of how he ate pizza with Marconi’s protégés, and worked closely with scientists like Schwinger and Bethe was still etched in my mind as I stood in the room, enthused at the thought of what he was going to show and tell.

    The Professor started, “Maxwell’s four equations. You know the way it changed the world of electromagnetism. There is a fifth equation today and no one knows about. Ask why?”

    Puzzled, I asked.”Why?Sir?”

    “I derived it last year.”

    Every student of Electromagnetism knows the indomitable influence of those four equations. There never was a fifth and the need was never felt. But professor has…

    “These papers” he showed us some A4 sized papers with equations scribbled with blue, red and black ink in greek letters, “tell the need for fifth equation, and your thesis disregards this newly discovered equation.”

    “…YOUR THESIS…DISREGARDS…THIS..NEWLY DISCOVERED EQUATION”, these words played in my mind again and struck a blow.

    I thought to myself, “How did we manage to publish this if it lacked something so basic!”

    My success in the symposium depended on my believing in my proposal of the concept of Multipath TCP.
    But Professor Laxman had hacked my confidence without even referring to any section of my paper.
    Dumbfound, I gathered some courage to speak with the same respect and submissiveness as I’d have five years ago. “This is not good news…really…but Professor….I…We will be interested to know why you…” and just as I was about to go on, I heard the speakers.

    “THANK YOU FOR COMING TODAY..YOU’RE WELCOME TO THE FIRST ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM ON EMERGING TELECOMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES..”

    “We got to go. We can talk to professor later” said Avery to me.

    “We will be back, Sir” saying this we took Professor’s leave and started emerging out from his cabin. As we left, he said in a long train of words “The thesis must obey the fifth equation…otherwise the…” his voice faded away as we left the lab.

    The symposium went well. There were questions we answered. And no one, thankfully, spoke of the fifth, sixth or seventh equation.

    “Relief” I heard an inner voice. But the unanswered quest bothered me.

    After quenching our parched throats with cold Cola, Avery and I went back to Professor’s lab. It was locked. He was gone.

    We went down to the Canteen on the basement for lunch. I bumped into an old staff from college from the Math department. We talked over lunch. The talk with the Math lecturer led to a revelation – about Professor Laxman.

    He was sick for the past 3 years with a rare combination of two neurodegenerative diseases.

    He had acquired Alzheimer’s and Schizophrenia. Retired from active teaching, he is a now resident patient at the hospital managed by the trustees of the college.

    That day, we later found out, he had walked out from his hostel unit without anyone noticing.

    Everything that happened that day had a remote linkage of relevance – his finding us, the thesis, the four equations and the fifth equation – were all linked in a manner that couldn’t have been dismissed at the outset.
    “Vishwaas!” He had called out. I should have guessed something was wrong that time. Because my name is Sudhir. Who was Vishwaas? And is there really a fifth equation?

    • Dennis says:

      Interesting premise. I liked the detail of the science. Some awkward sentences, either wrong tense or fragments, but otherwise a nice job.

    • jmcody says:

      This captured a very real fear for me: That split second when you suddenly suspect everything you’re about to present in the big meeting is completely wrong, and the blood rushes to your head and your knees go weak and… oh wait, nevermind. It’s cool.

      Hate when that happens. :)

  42. pinkbamboo says:

    as usual, i got sidetracked with the prompt .. took it and ran with it .. hope it’s fine.

    ============

    “Come along Lisa. This is going to be a groundbreaking invention” Professor Lee gestured as I
    tried to catch up with him.

    “Prof, I need to get ..”

    “It won’t take long. I just have to show you this” he looked so excited as he turned to see if I
    was following him. His white hair bounced slightly as his pace quickened. I followed him into
    his office where he locked the door and took out a silver box. I looked with anticipation as he
    opened it and sighed with disappointment when I noticed it was just a button. A black shirt
    button.

    “Umm prof, it’s a shirt button” I turned to him.

    He shook his head. “That’s the beauty of this. It’s actually a tracking device disguised as a
    button”

    “I thought the tracking technology already existed”

    “Not just a tracking button. You’ll be able to track everything from the person. You can see,
    hear and smell everything the person experience”

    “As if you’re right there with that person” I was amazed.

    “Exactly. Imagine not missing any more important event just cause you can’t be there
    physically. It’s the next best thing”

    “How do you see with this?” I picked up the button.

    He smiled and pulled out a small gadget which looked like an ordinary handphone and turned it
    on. I could see my face on the screen and as I moved the button around.

    “Way cool, prof. No distance restriction?”

    “None at all. I told you it was amazing” he smiled proudly as he handed the gadget to me to
    have a look.

    I got to get my hands on this. This is just what I need.

    *****

    Max smiled and kissed my forehead as I rested my head on his arm.

    “Thanks for dinner” I mumbled against his shoulder.

    “No problem. I’m going to miss you so much”

    “I wish you don’t have to go” I pout.

    “You know I don’t want to but work is work” he pushed my hair behind my ear.

    “Well, as long as you behave yourself” I pushed his hand away.

    “I know, I know. I’m sorry for that. I was drunk and she ..” Max started to explain

    I shook my head.

    “You told me. I forgave you, remember?” I cupped his face in my hands.

    “I love you Lis. 2 weeks without you is going to be torture. I wish I can take you with me” Max
    leaned forward and kissed me. Oh yes, you will. I kissed him back as he moved his arms down
    to my waist.

    “Why don’t you go take a shower first and we’ll put on a movie?” I moved his arms away.

    Max stroked my leg for a while before he nodded and headed to the bathroom. I got to his
    luggage, pulled out his favorite navy shirt and snipped off the top button to replace with the
    tracking device. Once that was done, I got rid of all evidence.

    **

    “Come on Lis, you need to drive me to the airport” Max kissed my shoulder.

    “Okay, I’m up” I grabbed my towel and went into the bathroom. Now that the button is in
    place, I can track whatever Max is up to. The previous incident had me shaken up and upset for
    two weeks. Max is leaving for work and I can’t let this issue rest. I’m doing the right thing.

    When I came out from the bathroom, I heard Max talking in the hall. The other voice sounded
    annoyed and I walked slowly to the doorway to see who the visitor was.

    “Hit you on the head and stole your stuff! That’s a nasty bruise. What a bitch” Max shook his
    head in disgust as the other man sat on the couch with an ice pack on his head.

    Then he saw me and smiled. My eyes widen, my heart raced and I looked away unable to move
    from my spot.

    “Lisa, this is my dad” he gestured to the other man.

    “Hi prof” I mumbled. Shit.

    • seliz says:

      I really enjoyed this. I was hoping to find out what would happen on that business trip, right along with Lisa. You really build up the anticipation well. And the last bit with the professor being her Max’s dad was priceless and unexpected. Nice job.

    • Reaper says:

      Oh the follies of mistrust. Nice twist at the end. I like that you can maintain your love story roots while giving us something different every week. I think that shows a lot of strength as a writer but an understanding that our past is important to us. I would say you have two strong lessons here. One, never believe a woman when she says she forgives you, because suspicion will haunt you until the injustice stops haunting her no matter what she says. Two, and more importantly. Never say you forgive someone unless and until you really do. That lie will cause harm to both parties even though it is unintentional. Your social commentary is always subtle and profound.

    • Silver Sister says:

      What goes around comes around! I admire your twist at the end. This is a weak spot of mine, so when I see it deftly done (as it was here), I always appreciate the skill involved.

    • Dennis says:

      Nice twist, having used the new gadget to spy on the cheating husband, only to have that backfire. Best to just get that stuff out in the open and deal with it that play spy games. Good job with the prompt.

    • jmcody says:

      I love how your female protagonists always have these very affectionate men who cook for them, have glasses of wine waiting for them when they get home from work, and that sort of thing. If it weren’t for all the deceit and treachery and people getting hit in the head, I would want to live in your world. ;)

      Your story was very readable and well paced, with realistic dialogue and nice attention to detail.

      • pinkbamboo says:

        Lol .. I never noticed that before but maybe the sweeter the gesture, the more devastating it when the ladies turn against them. Probably I’m projecting a darker side of myself when I write these. 500 words made me considered which detail is needed for the sake of the story.

  43. don potter says:

    I looked forward to returning to my college to chair a conference of industry leaders. It had been far too many years since I stepped foot on this beautiful campus. Once checked in, I hoped to rest for an hour before the reception and dinner.

    As I turned to go to my room Professor Willoughby, we called him “The Mad Scientist,” stopped me in my tracks.

    “Dickey, Dickey Anderson. I read you were attending the conference, so I’ve been waiting here to share something with you.”

    “Well, Professor, here I am.”

    “Yes, yes come with me. I have a surprise for you.”

    “Can it wait? The trip was long and I would like to clean up before the evening’s festivities begin.”

    “No, no that will not do. This is too important.”

    “If that’s the case, I’ll go with you.”

    “Fine, fine you will not be disappointed.”

    The spry old man took off in the direction of his laboratory. I followed wondering if he was going to show me one of the ill-fated experiments the good professor was famous for trying and abandoning before moving on to the next idea.

    We arrived at the lab and he stretched out his arm to stop me from entering.

    “Wait, wait I want you to appreciate the full impact of this.”

    “Whatever you say.”

    “If, if you will, please close your eyes.”

    “Okay.”

    “Oh, oh better yet allow me to put a blindfold on you to make sure this is a surprise.”

    “I hope this is as big a deal for me as it seems to be for you.”

    “You, you will definitely be impressed. Put your hand on my shoulder and follow me. Let me know if I walk too fast.”

    Why I bought into his little game is a puzzle, but I had gone this far so I might as well play along. After all, the little guy is probably overdue for retirement and this may be his last hurrah. I heard keys rattle, doors open and lights being switched on as we moved forward at a rather slow pace.

    “I, I am sorry for the secrecy, but one can never be too careful. The last leg of our journey requires going down a flight of stairs. There is a sturdy railing to help with your descent. Be sure to keep the other hand on my shoulder.”

    When we reached the bottom step, I shivered from the chill of an earthen basement and smelled the mustiness in the thick air.

    “This has gone far enough, professor. I’m getting tired.”

    “Good, good. We have arrived; you may now remove the blindfold.”

    I took off the handkerchief coving my eyes. Facing me were several members of the Greek Society I could not afford to join back in my college days.

    “Why are you here?” I asked.

    “It, it is time to receive the respect you deserve,” the professor said. “And these gentlemen are here to bring you into the fraternity that should have accepted you years ago. It is time for your initiation.”

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      I just lost my response to you by the ‘error in data base’ monster. This is one of your best, Don. ‘In Hoc Signo Vinces’ I sure hope it’s Sigma Chi, Gamma Phi chapter, University Of Miami, 1958.

      You did a great job in humanizing the professor by using a double worded response in his dialogue. Also the descriptions of Dickie’s walk with the professor was done beautifully. Made the walk creepy, yet the reader knew Dickie was not in danger. Great job here. Post! Damn It!

    • Reaper says:

      This is a beautiful intro that leaves me wanting more. I agree with Kerry that the double words are humanizing. I also feel they explain a lot of the mad professor label. Due to all of that my heart tells me Dickey is about to take the ride of his life into something akin to the Illuminati.

    • seliz says:

      Another unexpected ending. As soon as the mention of the “chill of the earthen basement,” I started to worry about the MC’s safety. But it seems that MC gets what he deserves…in a good way!

    • Silver Sister says:

      I admire how this story is so open to interpretation. One can see it as a long deserved recognition, the beginning of an adventure, or the start of something more sinister. The unexpected ending showed real flair.

    • Dennis says:

      I too enjoyed the unexpected ending and thought for sure the MC was going to be a lab rat or worse. I wondered what the MC actually felt having been offered the initiation after so many years. Nice take on the prompt.

    • jmcody says:

      I thought something creepy was coming, and I’m still not convinced that grown men waiting in a damp basement for an “initiation” are not entirely uncreepy. The verbal tic was a nice touch. It might have enhanced the outcome if there has been some backstory on how he felt like an outsider at college, or why the crazy science prof would be involved with this. I know — the tyranny of the word count strikes again…

    • agnesjack says:

      I agree that I wasn’t sure if this “initiation” was a good thing or a bad thing. You write great dialogue, don, and the professor’s stuttering at the beginning of each sentence, at first made him endearing, but at the end it seemed more like the nervousness of a spider leading a fly.

    • Critique says:

      The prof’s stutter made him come alive for me. I’m thinking ‘be careful what you wish/ed for. The damp basement and initiation – seem ominous.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      This was very entertaining. I reminded me a bit of the movie The Skulls based on the Skull and Bones at Yale. The suspense and delivery at the end was done well.

  44. Silver Sister says:

    He certainly lived up the mispronunciation of his name. It’s like the old saying. We have two names – the one we’re given and the one we make for ourselves. Your story demonstrates that well.

  45. jmcody says:

    THE UNBURNING

    The silver key was as gleaming and untarnished as my memory of the man who had given it to me. I inserted it in the lock and held my breath. Inside there might be nothing more than false hope, or nothing less than redemption – his, and my own.

    * * *
    I spotted Dr. Victor Keating right away, seated in the front row with his familiar grey ponytail. As Chief Research Chemist at 3M, I was the keynote speaker at the Industrial Solvents and Adhesives conference at my alma mater, The College of the Divine Mercy.

    The crowd dispersed, and Dr. Keating made his way to the podium with the same distracted, baffled air I remembered from college.

    “Veronica Payne, is that really you?”

    He was called Crazy Keating for his habit of mumbling to himself while aimlessly wandering the campus. The talk was that he had gone insane back in the seventies when his research on alternative fuels had been used in the manufacture of napalm. Images of burning Viet Nam villages and one tiny, naked girl running and screaming over and over again on the six o’clock news had been more than he could bear, and he had cracked under the weight of his guilt.

    “Dr. Keating, I can’t believe you remember me!”

    Actually I could believe it. Dr. Keating had singled me out in his freshman year chemistry class. “You have a different way of seeing things,” he had proclaimed, “You must have had either a great education or a difficult childhood.” The truth was a mixture of both, but I never told that to Dr. Keating.

    He made me his research assistant that day. Mostly we studied how things burned. Dr. Keating was obsessed with burning things, while I only wanted to fix things. In my work at 3M, I wanted nothing to do with the solvents that took things apart, only the adhesives that held them together. They put up with me because I knew more about glue than anyone in the industry.

    “I need to show you something,” said Keating as he led me to his office. “I’ve finally done it. I’ve discovered the secret to decombustion.”

    “Decom… what?”

    “Don’t you remember all those experiments we did? Well, I’ve finally figured out how to un-burn things.”

    “What do you mean – un-burn?”

    “Decombust. I can reverse all the fire damage that has ever been done.”

    Poor Dr. Keating had truly lost his mind. It was simply not possible. Once something was burnt, there was no way it could be unburnt, any more than life could be unlived, a heart could be unbroken, or a child could be untraumatized. There were some things that could not be fixed with any amount of glue.

    “We can undo every burn that has ever been inflicted in the name of war, and maybe…” he faltered, and his voice dropped to a near whisper “… maybe I can be forgiven.”

    “Oh, Dr. Keating…” I put my hand on his thin, stooped shoulder. “You never meant any harm.”

    “But listen… They’re after me.”

    “Who’s after you?”

    “The Feds,” he said, “They’ve been following me.” He thrust a small, silver key into my hand. “If anything happens to me, the secrets of my life’s work are hidden in this safe deposit box.”

    “Dr. Keating, I don’t think…”

    “Please, Veronica. You’re the only one who understands. Promise me you’ll listen.”

    “Okay, sure Dr. Keating,” I said to placate him. “Maybe you should get some rest now.”

    Three days later, Dr. Keating started up his car and was killed by a fireball.

    * * *
    I reached inside the safe deposit box and pulled out a sheaf of papers that looked like a recipe for insanity. Shaking my head, I flipped through the mostly unintelligible scribbles, until I saw it, there in the middle of the third page, and the realization dawned on me.

    Maybe. Just maybe.

    At the College of the Divine Mercy they taught that a man had once done the impossible, and had risen from the dead. And that sins could be forgiven.

    With the one word “Maybe” ringing in my head, I called my boss at 3M and tendered my resignation. I had a lot of work to do, and this was one thing that could not be fixed with glue.

    • jmcody says:

      FYI, The girl in the picture was named Phan Thi Kim Phuc, and she s alive and well and living in Canada today.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      A wonderful, powerful and uplifting story, highlighted by the next to last paragraph……..’they taught that a man had once done the impossible, and had risen from the dead. And that sins could be forgiven.”
      You just keep getting better each week, jm. The journey you are on is illuminating to the spirit of life itself. You’re about to enter a threshold with your writing that people only dream about. It’s wonderful to see it happening before my old eyes.

    • Silver Sister says:

      I have seen – in some of your replies to comments on your work – you describe yourself as not really a writer. I think I saw you use the word ‘fraud’ once. Please don’t ever describe yourself as this ever again. Maybe you are new to writing fiction, but you are not a fraud. Your talent is the real deal. I’m not just being kind. It’s absolutely true.

      • jmcody says:

        Ok, I am going to stop that now. I am over it. Now I just think I’m a writer who has taken her sweet time getting around to actually writing. What made me realize this (other than you wonderful people on this forum) is that bits and pieces of most of my stories have been floating around in my head for years. I finally have a place to tell those stories. Thank you, Sister.

    • What can I say, jm? You just keep getting better and better. Your characterizations are seemingly effortless, and that’s what makes your stories so good to me.

    • Reaper says:

      You had me from your title. Titles are hard and yours spoke of secrets I needed to hear in a voice I wanted to listen to. It got even better from there. The twist on the word was amazing. Your voice and your words in this are beautiful. I particularly liked, You must have had either a great education or a difficult childhood. as a way of explaining a different way of seeing things. Just gorgeous. Well written as always, and the combination of trust, love, and maybe into a definition of faith and faith into a catalyst for action was awe inspiring. This is inspiring.

      Oh, and I now do something very childish and point to the comments by Kerry and Silver before sticking my tongue out at you and saying… “Told you so!”

      • jmcody says:

        Yes, Reaper. Yes you did. Repeatedly. And I thank you for that. It’s an ongoing evolution, but I am changing the way I see myself in large part because of the people on this forum. This place, and the people in it like you, Kerry, Silver Sister, GTB, and many, many others, has been life changing for me. And now I’m a little verklempt, thank you very much, and I stick my tongue right back out at you.

        :)

    • seliz says:

      I absolutely loved this. The mention of the picture was set the perfect albeit sad tone. You expressed the professors guilt well. The paragraph explaining that things couldn’t be unburnt and a life unlived was beautiful and poetic. Nicely done.

    • Dennis says:

      Aha, I knew you could write a plot driven story. But it still had all those great little details, like her work at 3M, the line from the professor, “You must have had either a great education or a difficult childhood.”. And the irony of him dying by a fireball. And everything comes together with the second to last paragraph. Let’s not forget the beginning lines, pure poetry. Your secret is out: you’re and awesome writer.

    • Writeright2 says:

      LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! “Held my attention all the way through!” Exclaimed the ADHD author. ;-)

    • Foxwriter says:

      This is an interesting read. For such a short piece, I felt connected to the characters. It’s a terrible fate Dr. Keating faced, but I admire his dedication to his work. After so many years of burning things, he was finally willing to put them back together.

      I think we all strive to fix things after the damage is done.

      Very nice work!

      • jmcody says:

        Dr. Keatings was obsessed with studying the properties of burning matter because he was looking for a way to reverse the process. Maybe I could have made that clearer. Thanks for reading and commenting, Foxwriter.

    • snuzcook says:

      I absolutely loved this story, JM! It was a complete, mature piece. I greatly appreciate the layers of imagery, the care you took to weave in references to destruction and reconstruction. I love the idea of the MC being cognizant of, and therefore the reader being invested in, her personal philosophy about needing to mend things, unite things while others were committed to de-constructing.

      **Brava!**

    • Critique says:

      This story had my full on attention from the title. Superbly written. Wow.

    • agnesjack says:

      I remember that picture vividly, because I am old enough to have seen in it real time.

      This was a haunting story. It made me think of a comment Einstein made. He had written a letter to FDR in 1939 encouraging development of nuclear energy because he had heard that the Germans were pursuing it. Yet, afterward he said, “Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I never would have lifted a finger.” Many scientists of the Manhattan Project signed a petition to Truman expressing their moral concerns about the use of the A-Bomb.

      I mention this, not as a history lesson, but because you so successfully told a story about a scientist, whose pursuit of enlightenment and knowledge, resulted in having his discoveries hijacked and used in such a horribly destructive way. It would haunt anyone. How sad that he spent his whole life trying to undo this. There is something beautiful about your MC, who was always trying to mend things — hold them together — attempting to do this for her old professor.

      • jmcody says:

        I’d like to claim I invented this from whole cloth, but there really was a professor at my college who had a similar story (according to the rumors), and who seemed to be a little daft, if not downright haunted. Although, to the point of your story, no one knows the real story or his internal state, so most of it is just an invention on my part. Thanks for adding some very interesting perspective to my story.

    • margi33 says:

      The characterizations, descriptions and emotions were really good. The inventiveness of many of the lines were interesting as well (” You must have had either a great education or a difficult childhood.” is an interesting way of stating the person’s creativity as you alluded to their background). I especially liked the juxtaposition of the MC trying to fix things (and the creativity of coming up w/her as a working at 3M) with her professor tearing things apart.

      It was a thought-provoking piece without it lacking interest or getting the reader lost. Nice job.

    • don potter says:

      Redemption is a beautiful thing. Just like acheiving True North, it’s abstract and you never know if you reached it or not. However, going in the right direction is what counts, and the good professor sought to do just that. Great storytelling.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      Strong characters and a good story. I learned something too when I looked up the story of the girl. Thanks.

    • jmcody says:

      Thanks, everyone, for your insightful and encouraging comments.

  46. starwatcher says:

    (Please feel free to tear apart my story.)

    ////

    I walk down the walkway of Jonsson Center, remembering my younger past. I run my hand across the walls, thinking back to Julie…and Nora…and Stacey. I can’t believe I’d nailed the “Triple Crowns” by the end of sophomore year. Sure it helped that I was part of the football team, not to mention that my dad was the governor which meant I was set for life. Though – Kevin paused his inner narrator as his phone went off. “Texas Genetics Society, this is Kevin.”

    “Kevin, where the hell are you?” There goes Andrew, off on one of his tangents. “I’m at our table in room 136.7 in the Science Learning Center, sitting next to Dean Marcos of Dean Pharmaceuticals, and he’s asking to meet the head of marketing. Now I’m going to say that you’re in pisser and going to be back in two minutes, and you are going to be back in one minute. Got it?”

    “Yeah, man, I got it. Just chill.” He closed the phone. Jeez, this guy is wound tight, remarked Kevin. He quickly made his way to the elevator doors and pressed the silver button. Nothing happened. Kevin pressed the button again. Nothing. “Chinese crap.”

    Someone passed behind him from his right. Huh, that looks like Dr. Bill McMillan from Gen 101. Okay, don’t make eye contact. Don’t say anything. You’re in a hurry, and Andrew’s going to kill you if you get to talking with Dr. McMillan.

    “Excuse me, but you remind me of a student I had; by the name of Keith Banski?”

    “It’s Kevin.” I hate myself.

    “Ah! Yes, Kevin. How have you been?” He looked at my nametag, “Texas Genetics Society, um…good for you.”

    “It wasn’t my first choice.” Cut to the chase, Kevin. You said hi, now say bye and get to Andrew. “And you?”

    That’s it, I have a problem.

    “Oh, same old, same old. Well…actually, I have been working on something.” Oh jeez. Here it comes. “You see, I’ve found the cure for,” Cancer, Alzheimer’s, the common cold, “deep vein thrombosis.”

    Seriously? “Seriously?”

    “Yes. Do you know how many people are plagued by it every day?” Dr. McMillan sniffed, “600,000 people. And you’re the first person I’ve told so don’t go shouting it out to everyone, okay?”

    “Congrats, and don’t worry, I won’t. Oh look at the time; I really need to get going. There’s a meeting I need to get to. So….” Come on, let me go.

    “Of course, Kevin, I’ll let you go now. Nice seeing you.” He stuck out his large, fat hand. Kevin gripped it, wondering how a man can have such a weak grip. Then he felt a prick on his thumb.

    “Ow!” Kevin tried to pull back but the doctor held on, his grip growing stronger. “Wha are ya thoing?” Kevin fell into the doctor, who propped Kevin up on his shoulder.

    “Looks like you’re going to miss that meeting, Keith,” said Dr. Horrible, as he brought Kevin to his lab. “I’m always in need of another volunteer.”

    • Daenerys says:

      A very subtle read. It was written in a comedic sense and I found humor in the MC’s annoyance at his demanding boss and the old professor detaining him. Seems to me Kevin is a fellow with ill luck as he’s now to be made of a new lab rat. Mad scientists are indeed forever on a perpetual spree for fleshed human sacrifices after testing the life out of rats. I wish him much luck!

      • starwatcher says:

        Thanks Daenerys, hopefully not too subtle. Anything to improve on?

        • Daenerys says:

          For the most part, I would suggest incorporating a more refining style of writing, if I may . I’ve noticed the power of words when worded the right way.; it can change mood, feel, and flow and such. It’s still a learning process for me as well.

          Some phrases appeared too colloquial. One of which was, “Cut to the chase, Kevin. you said hi, now say bye and get to Andrew” . Preferably, it could be something along the lines of , “Cut to the chase, Kevin. What more do you need? You’ve already exceeded the boundaries of courtesies, now be on your way.” …something along those lines, if you get my drift.

          Hope this was helpful.

    • Reaper says:

      I loved the story. You successfully managed to write a creepy old villain and then make him seem harmless. At your reveal I was able to believe it, and it was such a sudden change that that is hard to do. The internal monologue was great and funny. At the end the reference to Dr. Horrible had me flashing on Neil Patrick Harris though I don’t know if that was intentional.

      The only issue I saw, and this is going to sound harsher than I mean it I’m sure, is that the voice seemed schizophrenic through the first half. The words were good, and the story flowed but, and this may just be me, one moment I was convinced your MC was British, the next from the deep south, then the midwest. None of the word choices were wrong, but there seemed to be a lot of varied colloquialisms from different areas an cultures. Maybe this is intentional or just particular to me. Otherwise I have no criticisms.

      • starwatcher says:

        Thanks for getting the Dr. Horrible reference. I also understand your confusion. As I re-read the story, looking at the tone of the dialogue, I realized you’re right (and he really DID seem British). Probably should have gone for more consistency in that matter. Thanks, Reaper.

    • Dennis says:

      I really enjoyed the rhythm of the writing, feeling the tension in the MC. He also didn’t seem to have high regards for himself which is maybe why he ended up in the hands of Dr. Horrible. The inner dialog was fun and I too did not see the change in Dr. McMillan coming. Nice job.

    • jmcody says:

      You did a good job portraying your MC as a jerk. I especially liked how you portrayed Kevin succumbing to the effects of whatever he had bee injected with. The slurring was a nice touch.

      • starwatcher says:

        Thanks, I wasn’t sure if the slurring was too much. Any critiques?

        • jmcody says:

          Ok, if you insist… just one:

          “Kevin paused his inner narrator as his phone went off” struck me as being a little too self aware and artificial. I don’t think you needed to say this. Maybe just say that his thoughts were interrupted by the cell phone or something like that.

          I admire your courage in pushing for criticism.

    • Foxwriter says:

      The ending of this surprised me. Throughout most of it, I was laughing at Kevin’s inner dialogue. Then all of a sudden the story turns malevolent and dark. I like it!

    • agnesjack says:

      I admire your bravery in asking for criticism and I think you’ve gotten some good comments.

      So, all I’d like to say is you have a good story here. The MC is fascinating in the sense that he seems a little out of his element. Everything seems to have come easily to him in his life because of who he was, and while ruminating on his past conquests and not focusing on the task at hand, he falls prey to the evil Dr. Horrible.

      • starwatcher says:

        Thanks, agnesjack. Like I said at the beginning: feel free to tear apart my story. I figure (and this may just be me) hard criticism will help me more than compliments if I want to be a serious writer. Of course compliments are nice, but the main reason I write here is to improve and receive feedback – both positive and negative.

    • Critique says:

      Oh oh. The name change says it all: Dr. McMillan now Dr. Horrible. Methinks more than Kevin’s deep veins are imperilled.

  47. rle says:

    It had been years since I’d been on my old college campus and although many things throughout my life had changed, it was nice to see that some things had remained the same. A I casually strolled down the brick sidewalk toward Madison Hall, I breathed in the sights and sounds around me. The cold November air nipped at my ears and cheeks while the crisp breeze whipped up mini tornadoes of crunchy leaves at my feet.

    As I neared the lecture hall, I wondered whether today’s speaker would live up to her billing. She was relatively unknown in the field and no one I knew had ever heard her speak. I figured even if she was the worst speaker ever, this trip down memory lane was worth the trouble.

    As I mounted the steps and began the short ascent to the lobby, I heard someone call out from behind me, “Joshua Goddard?”

    I turned to see my old philosophy professor, Dr. Johansen hurrying toward me.

    I felt a broad smile stretch across my face. Dr. Johansen had been my favorite professor during my time in college. Although we had agreed on little, over the years we had garnered a mutual respect for one another and had even become fairly close friends.

    “Joshua Goddard,” he said again as he approached me and patted me on the back, “or do you prefer Dr. Goddard these days?”

    I looked the old man up and down, “You always just called me Josh in class, no reason that won’t still work.”

    “Josh, I was so hoping I might run into you again someday. I made a discovery recently regarding something you and I used to discuss frequently. If you have a minute, could I persuade you to come to my office?”

    I looked down at my watch. I didn’t really have all that much extra time, but Dr. Johansen had been my mentor, friend, and father figure all those years ago, so I felt the least I could do was lend him a few moments of my time.

    “Sure,” I agreed as I turned tail and hurried after the old man, who was already fifteen steps ahead of me. The professor had always seemed younger than his years and even now, well into his eighties, he moved with the speed and agility of a stalking panther.

    “So, do you still teach?” I asked as I finally caught up with him.

    “Oh’ I still do a class or two every now and then. I’m what they call semi-retired,” he spoke sarcastically as he pushed open the door to the small building that housed his office.

    When we stepped inside his so called office, which had never been anything more than a glorified broom closet, I felt like I’d gone back in time to 1989. Everything looked just like it had twenty five years earlier.

    The old man scurried to an over stuffed chair that sat across from his desk. It was the same musty chair that I myself had sat in years earlier and debated a myriad of profound questions with the good doctor. He gathered a pile of books, folders, and lose papers from it’s cushion and sat them on the corner of his desk. He invited me to sit. I wondered if anyone else had ever sat there since I last had.

    He went around the desk and sat in his own seat, a rickety old metal folding chair. It protested under his weight.

    “Josh,” he began as he folded his arms across his chest, “you were one of the finest debaters that ever passed through these hallowed halls and I thoroughly enjoyed all of our many discussions. But, there was on question we debated far more often than any other. Do you remember what that question was?”

    I did remember. I remembered it well, in fact it had been the basis for my thesis. “What is the secret to life?” I smiled.

    “What is the secret to life, indeed,” Dr. Johansen echoed with a smile of his own. “Josh, I believe I may have just discovered the secret to life.”

    I sat up as straight as I could and waited in eager anticipation for the doctor to reveal his discovery. His watery blue eyes twinkled like the stars on a clear moonless night.

    “After a lifetime of research and contemplation,” he sighed, “I have reached the undisputable conclusion Dr. Goddard, that the secret to life is….there is no secret.”

    • starwatcher says:

      Awww, poor Dr. Johansen! That’s too bad. I want to know how he came to that conclusion.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I loved the premise of your story. In my opinion the secret to life ia unbelieveably simple. Place yourself in the arms of the one that went before you to prepare a place for you and do not hesitate.

        • rle says:

          After reading this weeks prompt, I heard the Faith Hill song ‘The Secret of Life’ If you’re not familiar with it, you should give it a listen. After hearing that, the story almost wrote itself. This was one of the easier ones I’ve done.

    • Silver Sister says:

      Josh’s making time for the professor, though he’s busy, unfortunately sets him a part. He pays a respect to the professor that makes me like him. I also liked his answer to the professor’s question about what to call him.

    • Dennis says:

      I really wanted my professor to be a philospher but couldn’t think of a good premise. I like yours and would love to be around to hear the debate that Johansen’s discovery would start.

    • jmcody says:

      I liked how your MC embraced the nostalgia of the visit, and you did a good job recreating the atmosphere. I found myself wanting to be back on my old college campus on a crisp fall afternoon. I agree that your MC was likeable.

    • Critique says:

      This was nicely written: a pleasant trip down memory lane with characters I liked. I’d be interested to know how Josh responded to Dr. Johansen’s conclusion. I’d be interested to know what the professor researched, what his contemplations were about and how he reached his final ‘undisputable conclusion’.

      Thanks for the provocative story rle.

  48. TheAwkwardLlama says:

    Afraid I didn’t properly read the prompt, so I may try to rewrite it so it takes place at a conference.

    The email was from a person whose name I hadn’t seen in many years. Dr. Harvey Ferris. I sipped reflectively from my mug of coffee. The man had made my college career interesting, to say the least. I would have dropped my anthropology major in freshman year and stuck with math if it hadn’t been for his sometimes borderline insane encouragement. “How can you squander your brilliant creativity and spirit on dry, dead, NUMBERS, Joshua?” he ranted when I told him I had accepted a position teaching algebra at a community college. He threw a tattered textbook violently on his desk. We had just come back from a successful collaboration on a project in Amazon, documenting the custom of the live burial of deformed infants. Barely successful, that is. Dr. Ferris had nearly died from maggots burrowing into his skin.
    As it was we were well-hailed in the anthropology community. I had had enough. I wanted a peaceful life with my girlfriend, Anna, and I wanted to teach. Dr. Ferris was a madman. Dedicated, passionate to be sure, brilliant even, but he was obsessed with the Amazon. He had not spoken to me after the day I told him I was leaving and he brandished a poison-tipped spear at me as I walked out.
    “Dear Joshua,” the email read. “I see that you are only an hour away from the university. I still haven’t forgiven you, but there is no other man I know who possesses the grit and strength of the true explorer. Please, come to my office and speak to me. I would not beg any other man.”
    I checked my watch. Well, I had four hours til I was supposed to be at the school for office hours. I kissed Anna, who was absorbed in deciphering one of her student’s handwriting, and headed for the door before she could ask where I was going. She had an adorable five minute delay in responding when she was grading papers.
    The anthropology building was in a frenzy, of the kind that could only be Dr. Ferris’s handiwork. “You will not allow him to convince you to join,” I told myself sternly as I passed four men carrying a wooden crate stamped Brazil. The crates, the exotic locales labeling them, orders being shouted, that intangible scent of adventure in the air made my heart beat faster in spite of myself. I opened the door to Dr. Ferris’s office. A young woman with dark brown hair was on the phone. “No, no, we will need ten mules,” she said in exasperated Portuguese. Her eyes opened wide. “Hang on, um minuto por favor, Joshua is that you?” she said.
    “Sarah, you haven’t changed a bit,” I said. “Where’s your father?”
    A man with a long white beard nearly fell off the ladder leaning against the bookshelf. He ran to me and embraced me. “Dr. Ferris! What’s going on?”
    “The lost city of Z, Joshua! I know where Colonel Percy Fawcett is!”

  49. Daenerys says:

    Slightly changed the prompt to accommodate my take on it. This is a different era for me, different culture, new style of writing, and I hope I incorporated it properly. My main ambition is to divorce conventional writings and explore new ones. Hope you guys enjoy it and happy reading and writing to you all!
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

    A Game of Science

    Solon, son of Codrus, walked briskly in a flourish of billowing plain, white tunic as he negotiated a crisp turn towards the healing temple. He grew late for his private lesson with the schoolmaster. He was admonished appear before sundown.

    The sun dwindled as it made its descent. He surpassed overshadowed mud bricked homes covered in plaster, roofs of pottery tiles, and holed walls for windows. The road was harsh and unforgiving with sharp pebbles and stones speckled on the path. Cold stones pillowed menacingly in the common Doric architecture favored by the Greek as his path was soon shrouded by darkness. But Solon was afforded the good faith of the gods to find his way. He clutched his stylus beneath his defining arms as he at last sauntered across the steep steps of the monumental ministry.

    As Solon circumvented beyond the towering columns, his silver slippers reverberating against the polished flooring, he became privy to the irregular pitched sounds of a withered voice from across the halls.

    “…a magnificent discovery…..why of course…..absence of air….I must know…”

    Though initially proven hard by the ill afforded light, Solon soon identified the enlivened quagmire of rants as those of no more than his private schoolmaster and self-proclaimed physician, Soranus of Asclepiad. It is rumored amongst the scholars he was directly descended from Asclepius; the god of healing, although not many if any knew from whence the assumption originated.

    Solon’s attributes in the field of medicine were never acknowledged; in particular his speculation of the human body. He believed it to be made up of elements when properly balanced allowed a person to be healthy, and in the event of unbalance, the person to fall ill. He firmly believed in the physical healing of the body by men rather than solely the offerings to Asclepius. He introduced the bold beliefs that no gods took part in the favorable outcomes of the body. His speculations were rejected as that of lunacy.

    Solon observed the frail elder from askew a column with disquiet as he paced back and forth with his thick sleeved arms behind his willowy back. His long white beard rested un-ravaged on his chest as he delved deeper into the sanctuary of his own burgeoning ponderings; whispering incoherently.

    “Magnificent, indeed!” He lifted a bony finger in the air for emphasis. He slowly climbed down the summits of his reflections as he ultimately became aware of a presence.

    “Solon, is that you?” he inquired warily.

    “Tis I, master.” He emerged dutifully from the shadowy depth of the pale column.

    “Loved of Asclepius, I am ill to swallow my excitement, why come you now?” His witty eyes glistened with unbridled intelligence as he settled tired, green eyes on him. “No matter, no matter. Come, come. The moon is upon us,” he beckoned with both an eager and impatience.

    He disappeared into an arched doorway and materialized with a strange bowl. He walked swiftly towards a clearing where the moon was cast its silver hue. Acquainted with his sporadic temperaments and his curiosity fully piqued, Solon followed short behind leaving behind the formidable statue of Asclepius.

    Soranus lifted his closed palm from over the mouth of the bowl and lighted Solon to its contents by holding it under his curious stare. A piercing crystallized light illuminated from within. Solon looked up at him in puzzlement.

    “To fully grasp the mastery behind cures, one must first identify the source as to what kills.”

    Comprehension soon dawned.

    “Professor, you mustn’t. ‘Tis forbidden. We’re bound by oath.”

    “I have forsaken my oaths, pupil. Mayhap the gods will look kindly upon me as the Greeks are wont believe.”

    With a slight shake of his hands, he tipped the bowl and downed its contents in a single swallow.

    • starwatcher says:

      I love your descriptions: “the road was harsh and unforgiving with sharp pebbles and stones speckled on the path” and “Solon observed the frail elder from askew a column with disquiet as he paced back and forth with his thick sleeved arms behind his willowy back.” It set a beautiful picture.

      • Daenerys says:

        Thank you, starwatcher. (P.S. I, too, am a star-gazer as I have a certain fetish for the celestial. I tend to simply sit on my patio steps at night amidst the gentle breeze and stare at the sky for hours. Seems most peaceful.)

        • starwatcher says:

          I totally agree with you, Daenerys.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            I’m not familiar with this style, never-the-less, I find it powerful, embraced by acute awareness and brilliance. I felt as if in a dream of the mystery of life source and why it is deemed to end, sometimes when one gains the knowledge and power of life, yet the body collapses and takes the brilliance with it. This is by design obviously, but why? What is the real meaning?

          • Daenerys says:

            @Kerry, well especially back then, you had brave men who risked their lives to prove a cause. Particularly in the field of science and medicine where experimentations were very limited. Most often then not, they experimented on themselves.
            In this case, namely my story, the schoolmaster is experimenting with medicine. He tries to find ways to cure the body without the reliance of the gods. He does, however, discover a poison that kills. He theories that when illuminated by the moon’s hue which is said to house healing powers, becomes not a poison but a curable medicine. It is after all an assumption not yet proven. With his apprentice in tow, he tests the concoction on himself. Only the gods know what he discovers. Maybe he survives or maybe he dies trying.

            Not sure if I’ll continue this story. Just my take on the prompt. Thank you for your words.

    • Dennis says:

      Kudos for testing the waters in a new style. I found it very effective and felt transported to some ancient time. What will the professor discover? I like the taking a risk in the name of truth. Great writing.

  50. jhowe says:

    Zachery Miller was a man who could get just about anything, for a price. Some called him The Utility Man, some called him Doctor Z, but most of us from Stanford called him The Professor. As you might expect, there was never a shortage of professors at Stanford in the early nineties. But Zachery Miller was not an educated man. Not in the traditional sense.

    When it came to supply services, a janitor was the perfect cover for such activities. And The Professor was the perfect man to fill the role. His janitor gig got him in all the right places and as long as we got what we wanted no one was inclined to rat him out. It was a win win for all. That had been over twenty years ago.

    When I flew into San Francisco from Mexico City about two years ago, The Professor was the reason for my visit. I was looking for a contact in the world of academia. Final exams were coming up and the products I brokered were in high demand during these stressful times.

    The limo dropped me off in front of Martel’s near Pier 39. The Professor was waiting for me at a sidewalk table. He had a glass of water in front of him. I held out my hand, “Professor, it’s great to see you. It’s been a long time.”

    “It’s good to see you too Carlos,” said The Professor. “But please call me Zack.”

    “OK Zack. I trust you received the samples I sent?”

    “Oh yes, very high quality,” said The Professor. “And I trust there is more where that came from?”

    “I would prefer you see that for yourself. The warehouse is literally around the corner.”

    The Professor examined the product lined up on skids on the warehouse floor. “What do we have here, fifteen, twenty million on the street?”

    “About that,” I said. “What do you think?” For some reason I badly wanted to impress The Professor. He had always come through for me and I wanted to do the same.

    “You’ve done well for yourself Carlos,” said The Professor.

    “I can make you a rich man Zack.”

    “How do we work this Carlos, with the money and all?”

    “I’ll introduce you to Peter shortly. He’ll be your drop guy. Just follow his instructions.”

    As if on cue Peter, ashen faced, walked into the warehouse followed by three men I did not know, each with a hand in his jacket.

    “Carlos, I’ve been dying to show you something since you got here,” said The Professor. He pulled out his wallet and showed me his badge.

    That had been two years ago. Today I walked around the yard before supper and I paused near the spot where Peter had electrocuted himself on the perimeter fence last month. A tower guard whistled and motioned for me to keep walking. The fence had been scheduled to be turned off for maintenance. I was the one who had bribed the clerk in charge of facilities. The clerk never looked me in the eye again. My only pleasure was knowing the dread he lived with at being found out, not by the authorities but by the other inmates. The horn blew and I went inside and followed the line of men to the mess hall. They were serving fish sticks tonight, my favorite.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Nitty gritty, down and dirty, jhowe. I about fell out my chair at the last sentence, ‘They were serving fish stciks tonight, my favorite.’ a real rib tickler and so real because of your inner dialogue.

      A lesson in hesitation. Poor Carlos, Poor Carlos.

    • Dennis says:

      Very original with the use of “The Professor.” I tried to think of a different take on this prompt and couldn’t think of one. Well done.

    • Daenerys says:

      This was priceless. I particularly love the way this flowed as the scenes unraveled. I applaud you on a bloody job so effortlessly done. I, too, love the last line. Like a BOSS! He sorta reminded me of Morgan Freedmen’s awesome role in Shawshank Redemption, for some reason. He was also the handy man, the It man, and the man who knew the right way to bribe and obtain what he wanted. Thank you for reminding me of that.

    • Silver Sister says:

      You know the economy is rough when someone from the Farm has to sell drugs for a living! :) The characterization and flow are two big strengths in this story. I enjoyed the read.

    • seliz says:

      You have a way with making distinct, believe voices for your characters. This prompt was no different. Like Kerry said, it was nitty gritty, which was perfect for the way you took this prompt.

    • jmcody says:

      I agree with everyone. This was very imaginative and well done.

    • agnesjack says:

      This is quite different for you, jhowe, and I liked it. Gritty and real, with a unique idea for “the Professor.” What really sold this for me, though, was the ruthlessness of your MC, Carlos. Peter had to go, but Carlos will enjoy his fish sticks at dinner.

    • Critique says:

      I liked the prompt take on The Professor. People change – that was Carlos big mistake. The last sentence expressed something so simple but in context of the story gives weight to Carlos character.

    • Foxwriter says:

      This was an interesting take on the prompt for sure! The ending was nothing I expected it to be.

    • don potter says:

      A good janitor always cleans up his messes. I liked your take on this prompt.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      Good story with a nice twist at the end. The MC is true to his character all the way through–even in prison. Enjoyable read.

  51. ZeedoubleU says:

    The ringing will not stop and the white will not go away. I am floating in a blank abyss utterly frustrated that my senses were rendered useless for an undisclosed amount of time. The hypnotic dance of sense trading begins as I come to. The ringing begins to die down as I start to feel my limbs again, the pins and needles you feel after your foot or arm fall asleep. The light begins to fade into darkness. Looking around I see nothing until I realize me eyes are closed and I am coughing my lungs out doubled over on the floor. The ringing has subsided. I open my eyes but tears make everything blurry. If I hadn’t been through this many times before, I might have been scared. But thanks to a particular kind of seasoning I have gone through in my profession, I know to just sit and let it subside.

    Ten Minutes later Dr. Sam and I are standing at his desk trying to figure out what happened. From what we have collected thus far, Dr. Sam has made an invention, turned it on, and we were blasted to the other side of his office. About a good 10 feet from the desk. Now the machine is blinking a green LED.

    “You seem brighter”
    “Please tell me you know what happened to us.”
    “Can’t say I really do there, son.”
    “You made this, didn’t you?”
    “Well, I made it, yes. But I don’t really remember what I had in mind when making it.”

    Dr. Sam does not really believe in safety, trial tests, or going by too many rules. That’s probably why he is his own investor and he rarely publishes any of his findings. If people knew how he found his results he would be charged everything from animal cruelty to boarder-line treason. I was his favorite pupil thanks to one night of too much gin and an interest to see if we could send the rival university’s pig into orbit for a laugh. We forgot most everything we did that night, so we were both fairly surprised when a capsule came in from orbit during one of the homecoming games, crashed into the field, and the pig came out and began yelling “The Hog Skins Suck!” We’ve done so much for the advancement of technology and forced evolution that will never be spoken of again.

    “Oh, would you look at that? I stopped time. Or we’re just moving really fast.”
    I’ve seen a lot with Dr. Sam. And each experience is uniquely the strangest thing I have ever witnessed or done. There is a shine to us, a visible brightness illuminating from our bodies, and everyone else around us is still.
    “Well Dr. Sam, that’s pretty cool. Can we switch back?”
    I look back and Dr. Sam is looking under the front of the Dean’s blouse.
    “Man, dude. Really?”
    “Once in a lifetime opportunity Jack. Carpe Diem.”

    • Dennis says:

      Very clever. I like the idea of all of these groundbreaking discoveries being made by a questionable “science” scientist and his sidekick.

    • starwatcher says:

      I laughed when I read, “the pig came out and began yelling ‘The Hog Skins Suck!'”

    • agnesjack says:

      This was a lot of fun. Loved the orbiting pig and the easy acceptance of the student to his teacher’s crazy experimentations. This had a childlike quality to it, which made it feel harmless rather than scary, although someone needs to reign in that professor before someone get hurt.

  52. seliz says:

    It was his hands I noticed first. Age spotted, wrinkled hands that trembled wildly.

    “Professor, are you all right?”

    He looked up with wide, lost eyes that seemed to float past me to distant thoughts.

    “Professor?”

    It was as if I had roused him from sleep.

    “Margaret? What are you doing here?”

    “I’m here for the science conference. Don’t you remember?”

    “Never mind that. I have something to show you!”

    He lead me to his office, where I had sat so many times grading papers. It was just as I remembered it. Simple and plain, every corner reeking of sterilized surfaces. There was only one difference. In a jar on his desk sat a creature. A creature I’d never seen before, but read about enough to know it’s name.

    Fairy.

    The professor had discovered a real fairy.

    I crept closer, peering at the creature with narrowed eyes.

    It’s tiny body looked like it had been dipped in green pain. Wide, intelligent eyes stared up at me, it’s face twisted into a snarl. The fairy moved desperately around the jar at blurring speeds. It only stopped after crashing into the glass with a thud. With a growl, it flicked it’s eyes to me.

    The look it gave me was of pure, murderous contempt.

    “This changes everything! Don’t you see?” the professor said excitedly. “This creature is old, very old. If we can learn about it’s realm—no, not learn—travel to. If we can travel to it’s realm, we could change the life cycle of humans forever.”

    The creature seemed to understand the professor, moving closer to the glass and beckoning with a tiny hand.

    “See! It wants us to go!” he exclaimed, pressing a wrinkled hand against the jar.

    “Let’s just take some time to think about this,” I said, a sense of foreboding creeping in.

    It wasn’t an inviting look I saw in the creature. It was treachery. As if in response to my thoughts, the creature snapped pointed teeth at me, before it’s mouth twisted into a wide, wicked smile.

    “I don’t have time,” the professor said, sadness creeping into his voice. “I don’t want to die. I have so much to do still.”

    Tears sprung into his eyes.

    Suddenly, he was nothing more than an old man afraid of dying.

    He gave me an embarrassed smile, red tinging his cheeks.

    “Could you get me a tissue? I feel like a fool for blubbering like this.”

    “Of course,” I said with a nod.

    I was halfway across the room when I heard the crash. I spun around, but was too late.

    The jar lay shattered on the floor and the creature was gone. The professor gone along with it. On the desk was a tiny pastry with a note attached.

    A treat to calm the frightened

    Desire crashed over me. I wanted nothing more than to taste the pastry.

    With two fingers, I picked up the treat—and dropped it into the trash can.

    I’d had enough fairy games.

    • jhowe says:

      That was great seliz. I was so happy when she dropped the pastry in the trash. The damn little fairy irked me.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        A temptation from the fairy, what imagination you have. It’s a good thing, Margaret didn’t fall for the old trick. Sweet desires breed nothing but danger and I’m not only referring to pastries. But on the other hand, I also would be mad as hell being bottled up, you see.

      • seliz says:

        Thanks. I was toying with her trying it, but that would have been a whole other story all together because of the fairy lore.

    • Dennis says:

      Very imaginative take on the prompt. Never knew fairies could be so evil.

    • starwatcher says:

      You always have to look out for those pesky, evil fairies.

    • Silver Sister says:

      This ain’t your mama’s Tinkerbell. Margaret is sensible, likeable character. Well done.

      • seliz says:

        Haha, it sure ain’t :) And thank you, I’m glad you liked her. I was afraid people wouldn’t like her because instead of being excited about the fairy, she was so wary of it.

    • Reaper says:

      It’s tiny body looked like it had been dipped in green pain. I don’t honestly know if this is an intentional line or a spelling error and you meant paint. However I assume it is intentional because the idea of a fairy dipped in green pain evoked such a complete response in me about how esoteric and beautiful the words were. A great story steeped in classical fairy lore including not eating anything a fairy offers you. I sense celtic roots to this one. All of your characters were sympathetic and beautiful and aside from your MC who I just plain liked the other two had great moments of being flawed and unlikable as well. Just awesome.

      • seliz says:

        Thank you! You always have such kind words to say. The green pain was actually an error, but I see what you mean by pain being a fitting word as well. I should have you read my manuscript so you make me feel better about all my errors!

        • Reaper says:

          And here I thought I was kind of a jerk since I often nitpick little details. Though I spent so long not showing my own work to anyone because I was overly sensitive to criticism I do try to be gentle. We all need some correction but there is no need to be rude about it and often there is more good than flawed. Making someone feel good about their errors is a talent I had to learn because I need to do it for myself. When I edit, hooboy! Do I have some doozies, and often repeatedly the same ones. I’d be happy to take on that task for a small one percent of the royalties when you make it big. ;)

    • jmcody says:

      Your writing is so tight, and yet so expressive. That’s a tough thing to pull off, but you did it beautifully here. To me this seems very polished and professional. Your characterization of the mean little fairy, the sad old professor and the wary narrator was also excellent. Well done.

    • agnesjack says:

      Excellent, seliz. You built this story to the climax wonderfully. I, too, was glad that she threw the “treat” into the trash.

      The allegory of the professor’s desire to escape death was very nice. I can only hope that he ended up in a magical place, as he had hoped, and not a glass dungeon, which I expect.

    • don potter says:

      I never think of faries as wicked, but you changed my mind with this tale. Do you imagine it would hurt to take one little bite of the pastry?

      • seliz says:

        In certain folklore, faeries were described as cruel, especially to humans. One way they tortured humans were by giving them fairy food that would sicken them, drive them mad, or even kill them. The stories differ. But the points the same, always say no to fairy food!

        • Reaper says:

          I have to jump in here because your story and some of the reactions have had a couple of things running through my mind. In celtic tradition faeries were bad news. One of the big reasons was if you entered fairy land and took even one bite of fairy food you were trapped there forever. And that was actually one of the nicer things they did.

          The big one that keeps running through my head is the scene from Labyrinth where the fairy bites the MC and she is so shocked and horrified and going on about “It bit me!” and Hoggel has the perfect response of “Of course it did. What did you think fairies do?” Your story has me wanting to watch that movie again.

  53. moscoboy says:

    Time Capsule

    I returned to Southwestern College for a special conference and I ran into my philosophy professor Cliff Webber. The prof hurried me in to his cramped office to discuss a find of immense importance.

    “Cliff, you haven’t aged,” said professor Webber as he offered me a stiff backed oak chair that brought back black memories from my past. “I have found your birth parents.” He struggled to extricate himself from his leather office chair to give me a hug, but I stopped the charade in midstride.

    “Look professor Webber, I don’t care about your special find and I don’t enjoy being alone in this office.” I motioned to the familiar oak chair that I was obliged to sit while I orally serviced him in return for passing grades so I could maintain a 3.5 GPA and keep my full scholarship.

    He slumped back in his creaking chair and assumed a subservient attitude. “My boy, I have found your real parents. That’s all you ever talked about during your undergraduate days here.” He took a used tissue from his drawer and wiped his wet eyes as small tears ran down his washed out wrinkled face. “I just wanted to please you.”

    “I thought that was my job Webber; pleasing you to maintain my GPA.”

    “What conference are you attending?” He took out a pen and was ready to take notes.

    I leaned against the raised wood paneled office door, “It’s a survivors conference.” It took all the energy I had to stifle the laugh. “There are fourteen and counting, apparently your carnal proclivities are coming back to haunt you. I’m here to give a statement of your abuses. It’s Facebook, Webber. The word is out and everyone you’ve ever abused is coming out of his or hers closets or off their psychiatrists couch to give testimony to your twisted perversions.”

    He offered me a sheaf of papers, “Here is all the data I’ve compiled on your birth parents and their pertinent information, this is what you’ve been looking for all of your life.”

    A bag full of gold wouldn’t move me. I was in my mid thirties and I had grieved, sought professional help and had moved on with my life. The empty gesture into my past was not needed. My only goal was to get out of his office without pummeling his face into mush.

    “I have a 3 p.m. appointment, I have to go.” I turned and reached for the doorknob and Webber began to babble.

    “I have an advanced case of dementia Clit Face, remember when I used to call you that every time you took me in your mouth. Imagine when you lawyer’s are presented with the medical findings.” He cackled and leaned back in his chair. “I’ve still got the mojo. Dementia, don’t you love it? That’s my ticket to keep on enjoying life. Come Clit Face, how about one for old times sake?”

    • Dennis says:

      Ooh, something bad needs to happen to that man. Good take on a very dark topic.

    • starwatcher says:

      Ga! I feel the MC’s frustration toward his abuser. I wouldn’t be surprised if something terrible happened to Webber.

    • Silver Sister says:

      Prof. Webber is a perfect portrait of an abuser. Everything about him rings true. The vile nickname shows the abuser’s need to humiliate his victim. His parting question shows he has no remorse ; he truly doesn’t care how his actions hurt others. Even his locating the MC’s parents wasn’t done out of the goodness of his heart. He’s trying to once more lure him in, to have power over him, to make the MC ‘owe’ him. He’s a twisted mister, but you portray him honestly. This was dark, but powerful.

    • jmcody says:

      Well, I wasn’t going to comment because I don’t like to think about things like this, but I have to give you credit for your fearlessness in taking this on. I think the face pummeling was a better idea though.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was very disturbing, but realistic. The professor who always used a carrot to get what he wanted, was thwarted by the man who had found a way to move on and out from under his dark influence. The fact that the professor was still conniving with a carrot that he thought Cliff could not resist, is horrible and tragic, but not unbelievable. Dark, but very well done.

  54. Dennis says:

    The business symposium ended late as usual, and Jason really wanted to get home, but decided to take a walk around his old alma mater. He hadn’t been on the campus in years. So he unbuttoned his blazer, loosened his tie, and began to take a stroll down memory lane.

    There were definitely many changes with additions of new buildings and parking lots, but it still felt like home to him. As he watched students walking around in their campus sweatshirts and jeans, a flood of memories washed through. He remembered what great fun he had and wondered where all of the time had gone.

    Eventually Jason made his way to the Archeology building where he spent many a day. As he passed by a display booth he saw a photo of Prof. Higgins and his crack team, which included himself. Those were the days, many adventures looking for lost treasures. He could almost feel the dirt under his fingernails. But after he graduated he decided he needed to grow up and get a big man’s job, going for his MBA and entering the business world never to look back. He wondered now if he made the right choice. It seemed his family was all that was keeping him going, that he lost the spark he had in his youth.

    As Jason was wondering if Prof. Higgins could still be around, he felt a presence in the hall and turned to look. Down at the other end was a man who was babbling on about finding something. Before he rounded the corner, he turned to look at Jason and motioned for him to follow. It was hard to see but Jason was sure it was Prof. Higgins and headed down the hallway trying to catch up.

    When Jason rounded the corner, there was no one to be seen. He walked for a bit calling out the professor’s name. He came upon the professor’s office and knocked on the door.
    “Professor Higgins, hello, Professor Higgins?”

    No one answered . A gentleman peeked his head out of his office.

    “Can I help you?”
    “I was seeing if Prof. Higgins was in. I’m sure I saw him walking this way.”
    “Unfortunately, he passed away a couple of years ago. But there are those who say his ghost still wanders the halls. I’m Prof. Cornwell”
    “Jason Carter.”
    “Jason Carter? Wait here, I have something for you.”

    Prof. Cornwell came back out of his office and handed Jason a black book.

    “There was a note for you to have this. We couldn’t seem to track you down.”

    Jason flipped through the book.

    “Seems to be full of gibberish. Mean anything to you?”

    Jason shook his head. “Thanks for this. Unfortunately I need to be going.”

    Jason didn’t say anymore and headed to his car, heart racing. He didn’t let on that he knew what the gibberish was. Prof. Higgins had created a code in case his findings got in the wrong hands. Only a few knew the code and he was one of them. Sifting through the book he knew this was about the Lost City that Higgins had been looking for. Flipping back to the first page, Jason read, Live Life to the Fullest. He felt a presence again and saw Prof Higgins sitting next to him in the car. He smiled, nodding to Jason. Jason nodded back and the image was gone. Jason knew his life was going to be different from that moment on.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      A really great story Dennis. We seemed to be on the same page with the prompt. I”ll make a deal with you. I’ll take you to the lost treasures of the Second Temple if you’ll lead me to the lost city. I loved the ghost bit, especially when the professor climbed in the car with Jason. Athough I will admit the professor won’t look as good as Rachael does.

    • starwatcher says:

      The MC gets a second chance to do what he loves. Good ending.

    • Silver Sister says:

      I think maybe Jason will recapture his old spark. Well done.

    • jmcody says:

      You must have tapped into forum zeitgeist this week. We both wrote stories about undoing past mistakes. I have to applaud your efforts this week to imbue your plot with deeper meaning, as you said you wanted to do. Nice job!

    • agnesjack says:

      A very poignant story on the choices that we make and the reasons for it. I liked this, because it brought back a memory. When I was twenty, my sister and I bought an old beat up van and drove cross-country for two months. It was a fabulous experience, which I would never have been able to do later in life. Consequently, I tell my nieces and nephews all the time that they will have plenty of time to be responsible and practical, so they should “Live Life to the Fullest” now. Lovely, story of second chances to follow your heart.

    • Critique says:

      I love a story about second chances :) This one needs to continue….

    • don potter says:

      There were a number of times when I felt the professor’s presence in your story. Nicely done. And how important it was for Jason, at this stage in his life, to understand the impact of thsoe words: Live Life to the Fullest.

  55. snuzcook says:

    REVELATIONS

    I was on the University of Washington campus for a meeting regarding the status of a tunnel project under Seattle’s waterfront. The project was in trouble. Big Bertha, an expensive, sophisticated tunnel-boring machine, was stalled due to a series of technical difficulties. Cost overruns were already projected in the millions. The meeting was slated to go all day, with local experts and representatives of vested interests of both sides of the issue getting their chance to speak.

    At a break in the proceedings, my old Anthropology Professor, Dr. Plum, found me.

    “Can I see you for a moment in my office, Miss Avery? I have something to show you.”

    In his small, cluttered office he uncovered a tray of artifacts. There were knapped stone tools of chalcedony and obsidian, bone and shell implements, a fragment of netting that appeared to be made of cedar bark.

    “These are from the salvage trench we dug when the boring machine first got stuck.”

    “The fibers of the cedar bark net are exceptionally well preserved.”

    “Yes, we think that a mudslide may have covered a number of structures of an old village, sealing off the oxygen and preserving organic materials.”

    “That’s wonderful, Professor. What a coup for the University!”

    “Yes, yes. But this is what I wanted to show you.” The Professor directed my attention to an object that was covered by a protective wrapping. He gingerly removed the wrappings and switched on a magnifying viewer, positioning it so I could see.

    It was the rounded triangle of a seal scapula. On its surface was etched an image, an image eerily familiar.

    “That looks just like…”

    “Yes, Miss Avery. It is identical to the Space Needle. But it was recorded nearly three hundred years before the European settlers first arrived in Puget Sound.”

    “But what does it mean?”

    “It means, Miss Avery, that I can’t allow the tunnel project to continue. It will destroy our chance to explore the site. It will destroy possible evidence that this area was visited by an advanced civilization.”

    “You’re talking extra terrestrials?”

    “Possibly, or time travelers.”

    “You can’t be serious!”

    “Oh, but I am.”

    “No one will believe you, Professor. You’ll be laughed right out of the Department. You’ll put the reputation of the University at risk!”

    “It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we fully explore the site for additional evidence. And that means shutting down the project—permanently. And you’re going to help me.”

    “I don’t think so, Professor. Give me one compelling reason why I should.”

    He sat down and silently pulled a faded folder from a stack of papers on his desk. With a jolt I recognized the folder. It was the thesis I thought I had destroyed fifteen years ago, the thesis written by my brilliant but terminally ill roommate. It was the thesis I had plagiarized to gain my degree and to win the position I now held in Olympia.

    The old coot was sharper than I thought. Well, it wouldn’t take much to kill the tunnel project at this point. It was already in trouble. A few facts released out of context could be enough to force an immediate halt to hemorrhage of cash. It could actually turn out to be a good move, career-wise.

    I sat down in the only available chair, crossed my legs and looked across the desk at him. “Okay, Professor, let’s talk.”

    • jimmieg says:

      So this is the real reason Bertha won’t be back in operation until March 2015. I liv ein West Seattle, so this is very topical for me. Good stuff.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      You’re at the top of your game with this, snuzcook. There is so much here to work with, time travel, advanced civilization, aliens, you name it. It’s a fascinating read and a wonderful start. I loved it.

    • Very good, Snuzcook. I was totally drawn in with the twists and turns of the dialogue. There are so many different facets of this to explore.

    • Dennis says:

      Very well put together and great attention to detail. The whole thing flowed really well. Now I just need to know what they find out.

    • Silver Sister says:

      Miss Avery is nobody’s fool. She’s seems like the kind of person that can fall into an outhouse and come out smelling like a rose. She’s an engrossing character.

    • Reaper says:

      Oh, if only this would happen. Nicely written and very believable. Your MC reminds me of one of our old govenors. In the sense that she is hard core and yet I still find myself disliking her.

    • Amyithist says:

      How wonderfully clever to pull from today’s headlines and use it in the prompt. Wonderfully done. Well written. Can’t wait for more!

    • jmcody says:

      This felt very real, and I gather from the comments that some of it is. The story was engrossing and well written, and I could definitely go on reading. Miss Avery is a survive at all costs type and would do well in politics. I do think she would double cross the professor eventually if given the word count.

      I want to know what it is about the Pacific Northwest that produces so many excellent writers. It seems like there are a lot of you here. Is it the weather? Or the coffee? Whatever, it is working for you Snuzcook, as you are consistently excellent.

      • snuzcook says:

        Thank you for your comments, JM!

        As to the PNW, I suspect it is more a matter of not knowing where everyone else hails from in this wonderfully rich mix of talent.
        I worked on a community history book once, and it included a characterization of the neighborhood as predominantly Scandinavian. Truth was, the population was never more than 1/3 from those countries–it’s just that because the Scandinavians were recognizable by traditions and language, it was assumed they were more numerous than anyone else. Perhaps we mossbacks are just easier to recognize because we throw out so many clues–or, of course, it could be the coffee that keeps us up at night! ;0)

    • agnesjack says:

      The past not only comes back to intrigue and inform us, but to haunt us, as well (at least for the MC). The question is: Will he give her that paper after she does his bidding so that she can destroy it, or will she be at his mercy forever? I liked the originality of this story, snuzcook.

    • don potter says:

      I felt sorry for Ms. Avery being put in a compromising position because of a mistake made diring her youth. Now she has compounded the problem by making another dishonest decision. Thinkinhing this could be a good career move proves she is a scumbag. The professor isn’t very high on my ethics list, either. This tale of tattered values was well told.

  56. Kerry Charlton says:

    THE COPPER SCROLL

    Richard Barrington walked the halls of Princeton as memories slowed his pace to Rachael Denning’s office. How many years ago? Maybe twenty five or so. As grad students of Archaeology, they had travelled to Israel and while there, had fallen in love. He had always wondered, what if?

    His father had pushed him into his brokerage firm, while Rachael traveled the world on a quest, only he knew about.Now as Chair of Archaeology at Princeton, she had called him after all these years. Why?

    “My God Richard, you look fabulous.”

    “You still have that Ava Gardner look,” he replied.

    She melted in his arms and their lips touched.

    ‘It can’t be,’ Richard thought. ‘Is it possible the fire never left?’

    He felt her body quiver to his touch as he carassed her face, Suddenly, she broke away.

    “I’m sorrry,” she said. “Can you forgive me?”

    “There’s nothing to forgive. Do you remember our pledge?”

    “I would never forget, decipher the ‘Copper Scroll’. That’s why you’re here Richard.”

    “Have you found the key?”

    “Yes, but I need your help to translate.”

    “Did you know I never married?”

    “Of course. You’re chairman of the largest bank in Philadelphia, world traveler philanthropist and avid hunter.”

    “Your career has been outstanding, Rachael. Nominated for the Pulitzer at forty.”

    “Will you help me, Richard?”

    He placed his hands, gently on her beautiful face and kissed her eyes, tenderly. “Yes.”

    The Copper Scroll had been analyzed since the discovery of The Dead Sea Scrolls. Lettering had been stamped into the copper and the story told, bore witness to millions but Richard and Rachael knew the secret had been written in code over two thousand years ago.

    The scroll had revealed sixty four burial places where the local essences had taken the precious, sacred treasures from the Second Temple and hidden them from the Romans before the destruction of the Temple. And yet, no items from the Temple, had ever been found.

    “And now,’ Richard thought, ‘Rachael holds the key to the mystery.’

    The two, once lovers and possible future kindred souls, talked till dawn and planned a secret meeting on the Jersey Shore for the weekend. With the key in place, it might take a week or three years to decipher, but that wouldn’t sway them from the search.

    One last kiss before dawn turned to a force that neither had been prepared for. Locked in each other’s arms, they renewed their passion for each other.

    Richard left Rachael at her doorstep, waitng until she had safe entry and then against a sky turned golden with early light, he made his way back to Philadelphia. Stopping at his high-rise to refresh, he automatically tripped his answering machine. The first two messages were mundane reminders, but his expession froze in disbelief and fury from the third call…….

    “Mr. Barrington, we have Dr. Denning in a safe pace. If you value her life, come to the lobby of the Penn Building at noon today. Do not notify anyone or both of you will be executed.”

    • snuzcook says:

      Ah, the game’s afoot! Wonderful offering in your signature style, Kerry! Eager for more of the story.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you snuzcook. You bet the game’s a foot. I’m charged up about this start and as soon as I research, I’m going full speed with this. Thanks for the read.

    • Didn’t expect the ending! I, too, feel a need to read more. Very good job with this.

    • Dennis says:

      Ah, Kerry, indeed we had similar ideas. And you are right, can’t beat Ava Gardner in looks. My other favorite of the time is Rita Hayworth. Oh those ladies of yesteryear. Fun story and like where you leave it. Would enjoy the whole thing when you are finished.

    • don potter says:

      You told a wonderful love story and opened the door to what could be a terrific thriller in so few words. Great job, Kerry.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thanks for the wonderful compliment Don. I’ m definitely going ahead with this. It’s the first time in a while I’m been energized by something I’ve written.

    • Silver Sister says:

      Romance, adventure, intrigue . . . What more could a reader want? I fully support your intention to go further with this. I think this is too good to ignore.

    • Reaper says:

      I was breathless through this at the beautiful love story. Made me think in some small way of Same Time Next Year. Touching, warm and very real. Then I felt the rage at the audacity of it all and immediately blamed the Catholic Church keeping secrets buried! I would love to read more of this as it is definitely too good not to continue.

      You have a way of making those ladies of the true silver screen come alive again Kerry. Though I have to say, with all due respect to Dennis, that Brigitte Bardot is hands down the at least hottest of all time. Damn I am awestruck by this one.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thanks for the wonderful thoughts Reaper. BB was magnificant in her ‘And God Created Woman,’ but don’t forget Rita Hayworth in the dance of the seven veils. I was young when I first saw it but went out of my mind as she danced.

        Question, Reaper. I think I may have fallen in love with Rachael. Is it possible?

        I have a close friend, younger, who’s father is a distinguished Rabbi, my age, who teaches the Old Testament at the Vatican every spring. Maybe he’ll help with the research on the lost treasures of the Temple.

        I’m really excited about the forium’s response to this, especially yours.

        • Reaper says:

          Well there is a reason it was Rita and not Brigitte on the wall of Shawshank. “I don’t have her down my pants right now, sorry to say.” Oh Red. I had to go watch the scene and I think I fell in love.

          I think it is not only possible but probable that you have fallen in love with her. We tend to put pieces of ourselves and/or other people in the characters we write. In reading Rachael I got the feeling there was a specific woman in your past, possibly that first teacher we all have crushes on, that was the baseline but that there were little aspects of other important women in your life added in.
          Ultimately I think that is a good thing, it means the story will be stronger. The best stories are often those we have passion for and are emotionally invested in ourselves. I am convinced there are two main types of writers, though there is a lot of room in the middle most fall more towards one or the other. There are those that create a strong outline with points and research and have the beginning and end decided and fill in the blanks. Then there are those that have an idea, a setting, some characters and a vague notion of the story they want to tell and research as necessary as they go along.
          No matter which someone is when they are invested in the story they develop a strong attachment to the characters they are writing. Eventually the story takes on a life of its own and the characters become real and start doing things you did not tell them to. In a way we are writing a new world. When that happens you know you have a story worth telling and you can truly love those characters, because while they are fiction they are real to you in that moment and will be real to your readers because of it. Of course when that happens we tend to want to take control like an over controlling parent but when we really arrive we let them do as they please and enjoy their exploits.

          That is how Rachael reads to me, especially because of your question. A character you created who then jumped off the page and told you she was there and it was time for her story to be told.

          Okay, this got really long because your question woke up the philosopher in my head. I will end by saying that sounds like an awesome research resource, and I am so happy that the responses excite you (especially mine because lets be honest if I didn’t have at least a little narcissistic streak I wouldn’t be a writer) because you are amazing and have in a very real way arrived. I want to buy your book some day soon.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            Thank you, Reaper for taking your time in responding.I never outline a story nor do I worry about the ending. On last week’s prompt, I wrote that Teresa had entered the office where Sal was raising Hell. That ‘s all I wrote and planned a stop to figure out the end. I saw my hands typing the ending about the 357 Magnum, blowing the hell out of the computer and asking if he’d like an early lunch. All this happened in twenty seconds.

            That’s what I mean about automatic writing. I like writing stories And at the same time enjoying the story, having no clue where it going.

            As for your teaching lesson, I’ve learned more about writing today and how to do it, then the last six years I’ve been working at it. You have am amazing gift Reaper.

          • Dennis says:

            For my first novel I used a bit of an outline to point the way but left a lot of room for scenes to appear as I was writing. I agree with getting emotionally involved with the characters and enjoy those who can do it well, you Kerry, Reaper, JMCody to name a few. It is my weak point but I’m inspired to start working more on that going forward. You should be in love with Rachel, I would be with that description. In fact, when she is done with finding the lost treasures, can I borrow her to help find the lost city. Ha ha!

            I digress one last time to the silver screen. My first love was in college. They were showing a screening of Casablanca on campus and it was the first time I saw it on a big screen. When the first scene of Ingrid Bergman’s, entering Ferrari’s, appeared I was mesmerized by her beauty and wanted to marry her in that moment. And my favorite line is when she tells Rick near the end, “you’ll have to think for the both of us.” How many time have I replayed that with me as Rick.

            Thanks Kerry for your excitement with you writing. It definitely is rubbing off on the rest of us.

    • Amyithist says:

      I loved this take, Kerry. The action really picked up there at the end. Kind of reminded me of an Indiana Jones adventure. I would love it if you would continue this. I want to know what happens to Dr. Denning. How sad it would be should the two lovers lose their lives after just reconnecting. GREAT job!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Amyithist. I’ll definitely take the story forward and I won’t kill off either one of them.[Read my response to Reaper above.] This really has charged up my old engine. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

    • starwatcher says:

      I don’t know what it is about your stories, but they always ring true to me. Another amazing adventure!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Why thank you, starwatcher. I’m glad you enjoyed the story . It will be an amazing trip for me, and hopefully for anyone that cares to read it. I’m cranking up on the continue as soon as I get back to San Antonio on Sunday.

    • jmcody says:

      I also got shades of Indiana Jones, if it had been written by Dan Brown.

      You sure know how to write passion, Kerry. I have never attempted to write anything of the sort, but now that I’m thinking about it, I guess you would almost have to fall in love with your characters to be able to do this so effectively. In the wrong hands, these scenes can become almost skin crawling, but in yours, the passion is palpable and breathtaking. The conversation between you and Reaper was fascinating (and why wouldn’t it be — it’s you and Reaper), and incredibly enlightening. This place is turning into kind of a writer’s think tank, and I love it.

      On a very silly note… being from the East Coast, I couldn’t help snicker at the mention of the Jersey Shore in the middle of all this hot, steamy passion and adventure. Sorry, the image of Snooki just took me right out of the story. But I get it — you were looking for an out of the way place within reach of Philadelphia.

      Bottom line — write this book! I’ll get on line behind Reaper to buy it.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you jm for the kind words. I spent my summers in Avalon as a child, growing future skin cancers as did the rest of the family. Sorry for popping you out of the story for a moment. I should have picked a less interesting spot, since it has no bearing on the plot, or does it? Cape May would do as well, the largest restoration of Victorian architecture in the country. It’s two thirty in the morning, I’m planning the entry of chapter two and going for it. Thank you for all your support.

    • agnesjack says:

      Kerry, this is a movie! Wonderful historical descriptions, with the human heart intertwined. Even though I’m female, I’ve always appreciated Ava Gardner’s hypnotic appeal. Best movie in my opinion: “Night of the Iguana,” because she is so strong and so vulnerable at the same time.

      Your opening line, “Richard Barrington walked the halls of Princeton as memories slowed his pace to Rachael Denning’s office.” set the stage beautifully. I also really liked the historical reference to the Second Temple. You often infuse your stories with historical history, which I like very much.

      Next chapter?

      • agnesjack says:

        I meant “historical references not history“, which came from my brain’s Department of Redundancy Department. ;-)

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I’m writing it Nancy. I started yesterday. Thank you for all your wonderful thoughts. If I’m going to pull this off, I’ve got a lot to learn about the Second Temple. At first, I thought ‘Just write the 500 and make it interesting,’ but my fingers had other thoughts. That’s why the cliff-hanger, Now I’ve got a year’s work ahead of me.

        My wife also said, “Where is the rest of it?” Well, the rest of it is going to take some time. More walking, more Wheaties and more vitamins and an oil change once in a while, will be the order of the day.

    • Critique says:

      This is wonderful Kerry. It has all the elements of being a best selling thriller. Sweet romance rekindled, archaeology, greed, passion etc. I want to know more ;)

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Critique for your kind thoughts. I have started chapter two and am loosely formulating the next two chapters. Hopefully the story will have it’s own mmentum from there. I don’t want Harrison Ford rolling his eyes at this. I need to take my own path.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      This also made me think of Casablanca. It’s Casablanca meets Indiana Jones. Another entertaining story. Cool story.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Marc. I’ve already written chapter two. I’m going to use a format like the old action serials they had in the movies. Ten minutes of fast action and then the hero,heroine or both get in serious trouble at the end of each chapter, telling the reader to turn the page to the next chapter to find out how they get out of trouble and then right into another dire situation. I loved those action movie serielsas a kid.

        If this idea doesn’t work, I’ll rewrite in a novel format.

  57. NoBlock says:

    Professor Mouldon’s Five-D

    As an esteemed Alum, I am frequently asked back to my Alma Mater to speak at fundraising dinners, to participate in scholarship voting (when it pertained to the Science Department) and on this occasion I am to be the keynote speaker for the Spring graduation ceremonies.

    It’s always very nostalgic for me when I return to the university and walk through the 150 year old halls of the place where many great minds before me have attained their search for something greater, enlightenment. The place still looks the same, the university president and her board really have done a fantastic job of retaining the integrity and demure for future generations.

    I am woken from my walking slumber to the distant yells of…..my name.

    I circle in place and crane my neck through the mass of collegiate throng to find a fondly familiar face, the man who taught me to love Chemistry, Professor Mouldon.

    “Jake!….. Jake!” He pulls up straight out of his jog, then bends over and grabs his knees, out of breath. “Jake,… whew okay. Jake, I am so delighted to have caught you before you left town. There is something I must, must, must show you. Come quickly Jake.”

    He left me no opportunity for rebuttal as he darted again in the opposite direction, shouting after me to “quickly, quickly, quickly follow please”. He strode with quite the cadence for a man of his age.

    As we approached his office he instructed me not to enter, but to wait for him just outside. Not two minutes gone by and he flies out of his office and is imploring for my patience as I begin to question his actions.

    “Come with me Jake, this demonstration is far more effective if we take to the central courtyard.” He says with that same brilliant light emanating from his soul, through his eyes.

    “Professor, what is going on?”

    “Jake, trust me as you did when you were my pupil.” He paused and searched my eyes for acceptance, “ Only you can appreciate the discovery I have made. And you’ll want to be sitting, the effects can be a little disorienting.”

    We both sit, side by side on a bench in the courtyard and the professor takes my hand and drops a multi-colored, segmented pill about an inch long in it. Then he sees the concern on my face, “Trust me Jake.”

    I swallow his pill.

    “Now Jake I want you to take a moment and look around, see the trees? Smell the food in the air? Listen to the sounds. Feel the grass under your feet and taste the soda I gave you.”

    I do all of these things, just as he instructed with nothing extraordinary to note.

    “Professor I don’t know wh-“
    Then I hear the sound of ocean waves, crisp as if I’m on the beach and realize it’s the wind blowing through the trees. I notice the leaves and the detail in each leaf is incredible, they are a color green that I did not know existed in nature.

    I curl my toes in the lush, tall grass and it’s as if I am the ground is covered with goose down feathers. It is so soft and lush that I cannot resist the urge to lie down in it and make goose down feather angels while staring at the whitest, fluffiest clouds in the most brilliantly blue sky God has ever created.

    • snuzcook says:

      Your story reminds me of the old days when Timothy Leary was spreading sensory expansion drops across a generation. Very sensual; and the sudden pace change at the end seemed quite fitting.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I also thought about Timothy. Think what the world would be like, with just a pill. I loved the descriptive prose describing Jake’s awareness to nature.

    • Dennis says:

      Yeah, the whole thing was a sensory experience, from beginning to end. Nice take on the prompt.

    • Reaper says:

      Did the professor dose the MC? Or did he actually give him a pill that opens his mind to the broader spiritual side of nature? I feel like only Native Americans would know for sure. Beautiful story and the down shift in pace as well as the amazing descriptions at the end were perfect.

    • jmcody says:

      Your lush descriptions were the strength of this story. Wish I could lie down on those goose down feathers instead of being crammed into this tin can commuter train. Where can I get me one of those? ;). Actually I wish it had been something other than a pill, because we all know pills come with a dark side. Great trip — thanks for the ride.

    • agnesjack says:

      I enjoyed the images and the joy of sensuous discovery at the end. It reminded me of a more innocent time when that type of experimentation was not as dark and dangerous.

  58. Reaper says:

    Seargeant’s Bluff

    Ingraham High my alma mater.
    In my youth I strode these halls
    like an obese leathered knight,
    or at least an angry jester.
    Scents of desperation and
    misspent youth surround me
    much as shadows do. Why am I
    here so late? Oh yes,
    homecoming. Staff insisted on a
    conference with those of us still
    single. To make sure we do not
    hit on the teenage girls. Like
    we need reminding it is immoral
    to date teens again before you’re
    sixty. I see Mr. Seargeant striding down the hall. This
    cannot be the dour and apoplectic man I remember.
    He is almost skipping towards me. “Great news!” He
    intones with a joy reserved for speaking to adults.
    “Come with me.” His voice is commanding as
    I remember it. I follow him to the library where I spent
    little time. A metalhead nerded in the real library. Silence surrounds my ears as the smell of the printed page overwhelms my nose. Only a moment am I allowed to lament that the children of tomorrow will never know that scent of elusive knowledge and careless creativity cavorting in a manner exclusive to hippies indulging in free love. Then he is hopping like a dwarfish Poe villain, pointing at a device I can barely fathom. Images long forgotten of leg braces necessitated by childhood malady flood my mind. I ask in a hushed voice. “What is it?” He is somber now. “My invention to help the lame walk with legs three times normal strength and no crutches. For Miss Buttler. They could be modified for the arms instead and give Miss Pace the power to protect herself from unruly students. You could help because you were always smart.” ”I’m confused Mr. Seargeant.” “Why?” “I was never in your class. You were a mean man. More, Miss Buttler was happy as she was and she died. Miss Pace started as a nun in Catholic schools and needed no more than a look to control students. She died too. You were the one that relied on strength. You didn’t teach here but at Viewlands Elementary, and I’m pretty sure you’re dead too.” He grabs me and with the strength of the dead slams me back as I saw him do to so many students but never felt myself. Then it was against stone, here the hard bite of metal chills my spine. As I feel the vertebrae snap and sunder he growls. “Well at least someone will need it.” Knowing I will never walk again without help I whimper out. “I’ll help.” But too late. Reminded of his own mortality one of the greatest men I ever knew fades from my reality. The magical device that would aid so many fades with him on the wings of fantasy. Two things that should still be are in an instant stolen from the world by my hubris and lack of accepting imagination. Of all people a writer should know better than to reject the unbelievable out of hand.

    • snuzcook says:

      A very touching, piece, Reaper. You had so many thought-provoking messages in this story. I loved the line: “Only a moment am I allowed to lament that the children of tomorrow will never know that scent of elusive knowledge…” and “…careless creativity cavorting in a manner exclusive to hippies indulging in free love.” I suspect that you chose the run-together form because it is a stream-of-consciousness piece, and as such it works well.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        The prose is magnificant in the format that you chose. You certainly were inspired with this prompt. One line that stuck in my conscience: “In my youth I strode these halls like an obese, leathered knight, or at least an angry jester.” It sounds like a description of me in the ninth grade, trapped by the weight I bore. I was finally released from it as a senior, and then and only then, did the girls come.

        • Reaper says:

          Thank you for the comments Kerry. When I hit junior high my family finally had some money so I went from an emaciated kid to a pretty heavy one and kept ballooning. Over the last few years I have been whittling it down, so still waiting for the girls to come! I hung out with a lot of metal heads in high school and that line is pretty true to form. We tended to be in honors classes but trying to be rebels with our own honor. In our own way we were trying to be knights but we were so conflicted between rebellion and keeping the grades up that everyone had to be laughing at us.

          Oh! I watched the beyond the lense on Muscle Shoals and couldn’t help but think about you and some of the stories you told because much of the music was from that period. No mention of gangsters so I was sad.

      • Reaper says:

        Thanks snuzcook. I think in this case the run-together form chose me. It was very stream of conciousness, though I am prone to long sentences. I have been working on that. In this case I edited for word count and wording but decided to let the style be because of it. I’m glad it worked because I was worried about it.

    • Dennis says:

      Great writing as always, a step above the rest. I like your use of words. I also like the shape the words form on the page.

    • jmcody says:

      It started out like a poem, and then expanded into something like a stream of consciousness. I read this several times. At first I thought it might be a dream, but now I think it is a depiction of a writer’s internal struggle to free his mind. Reaper, you have more imagination than most humans. I wonder, is this what your imagination puts you through? If so, it’s working for you. This was brilliant and strange, in a very right-brain kind of way, and completely original, reminiscent of no one that I can think of, except the original Reaper. You have outdone yourself.

      • Reaper says:

        That means a lot to me jmcody. This idea fleshed out when I had my eyes closed so it was kind of a dream for me. I have been wanting to write something stream of conciousness for a while but have been afraid to.

        I have also been thinking of people that led me to writing and wanted to honor them. The teachers mentioned were actually in my grade school.
        Mr. Seargeant was a throw back who used to slam kids against the wall to correct them but all his students loved him.
        Miss Pace defrocked herself as a nun to teach in public school instead of private and she was a strict, brilliant, and wonderful lady who pulled no punches. She was the first teacher to tell me I was slacking and couldn’t skate by because I was smart. She also made us all learn the basics of sewing, knitting, and cooking. All I still know the basics of and only cooking did I fall in love with.
        Miss Buttler taught a creative writing class that those who had really high grades in English got to go to twice a week. Since I was reading at a high school level in second grade I got in. She had leg braces from surviving polio and was just the sweetest lady. She was the first person to get me to write, encouraged and molded it, and told me if I worked at it I might have a career in it and to never give up the dream. She meant a lot to me.

        All three of them have passed and I wanted to honor them. This was so personal I almost didn’t post it but I was inspired by some of the posts last week. So my imagination puts me through a lot, but this is what I would say it gifts me with.

        Yeah, I know, I’m over sharing, but these are people that I believe deserve some credit for what they did and this is my small way of saying thank you to them.

        • jmcody says:

          Your explanation makes this even more special. You are lucky to have had such people in your life, and your gratitude is touching. Thank you for sharing this piece of your heart with all of us.

    • Silver Sister says:

      Oh, Reaper. This is beautiful. You have a true talent for ‘showing’ instead of ‘telling’. I applaud your ability to illustrate how a person’s disbelief and lack of imagination can be paralyzing. I must say, your stories broaden my horizons. I always look forward to reading your work.

      • Reaper says:

        Silver Sister, these words are so kind they are a gift. I can only try to live up to deserving them. That you look forward to reading my work lifts me up. The rest builds my spirit. I have never thought I was showing not telling, but it inspires me to see it that way. I am so pleased the message came through that clearly. I have said before and continue to believe that as writers one of the things we seek is to touch and inspire. We tend to be philosophers or teachers as well as artists at our core. Any time I broaden the horizon for you I feel I have done my job for the week.

    • Amyithist says:

      Reaper, this piece was like an excerpt from a lost H.P. Lovecraft story. It was haunting and yet incredibly beautiful. I enjoyed it fully. I must say that the despcriptions and the way you strung your words together put me in a place of pure awe. Your vocabulary is something that I admire and strive to match. Thank you for the take on the prompt. As always, I’m inspired by you.

      • Reaper says:

        I am always amazed when I can cause awe in a master wordsmith. Thank you for that and I am glad you enjoyed it. I struggle with my vocabulary because there are moments that I find it too simple, and others where I try to string too many big words together and the prose become purple. There are some writers on here, yourself a primary example, that stun me with beautiful descriptions with a conservative word count and what I consider the perfect blend of vocabulary. It sits in that perfect place for me that is never dull and at the same time does not become so lofty as to smack of the ideas of intelligentsia. You straddle a fine line where I learn something from the words you use and how you use them but do not feel forced to. That is what I am striving for so hearing you strive to match mine warms my heart with ideas that I am getting there. I am always happy to inspire, especially in a place filled with so many inspirational people.

    • Once again you are amazing, Mr. Reaper. The style you chose for this is amazing. There are so many great lines. That same sentence that snuzcook pointed out I really zeroed in on.

      • rle says:

        Well Reaper, you’ve gone and done it again. You and a few of the others have me feeling a little inferior again this week. I liked the story and have loved some of your comments above. I too remember the teacher that first encouraged me to write. I still remember it feeling so foreign at first but after a while it became as natural as breathing. For the last twenty years or so I had all but abandoned it altogether. Then, a couple of months ago, I found this forum and all of you fine folks and I must say that it,and you all, have breathed new life into a part of me that I thought had long since passed. It’s nice to have my creative juices flowing again.

        • Reaper says:

          Thank you rle. I aim to please, well mostly I just aim to let the stories out of my head, but pleasing and someday making money with this are close seconds. I am sorry I have not commented on your story. I read and enjoyed it. I have found that my life is swallowing much of my writing and this forum, as much as I love it, was eating more time than I intended. I have had to pull back a bit. However you should never feel inferior. You are good and you write stories that touch and teach. If you see something or someone you consider good or great then aspiration is wonderful but you should never feel inferior.

          Those of us who do this have it hard enough with the judgments of the world. From the moment we hear “But what do you really want to do?” or “How will you pay the bills while you see if it works out?” we know we are different and it is implied that we are lesser, because stories don’t pay the bills, and don’t build societies. Then we here from painters, actors, and other artists that writing isn’t real art and we know even in our tribe we are the outsiders who are looked down on. Well you know what? Storytelling has built society, it brings joy, intelligence, peace, and greatness to the world and it has been around longer than those careers that are now considered viable and will be here when something new has crushed those paths underfoot and moved on. The world makes us feel inferior enough, never do that to yourself. Know that you are great and aspire to be even better. Because you are, and you can be but so can the rest of us. I refuse to feel inferior when I read something by one of the giants. I just realize I’ve got a big task ahead of me to fill those shoes. Please know that you are brave and amazing and helping to build a better world.

          Okay. There came my soapbox. Maybe commenting on too little sleep and a few adult beverages is not the best idea in the world, but I meant every word of it. I am glad you found it again and hope you stick with it. I have gone on and off. I never completely lost it but would set it aside for “real life” from time to time. Never give up now that you’re back though. My own story is I have three completed novels and another one that I’m working on. Not because they have been rejected multiple times, but because I have been afraid to put them out there. So I think losing the path is more respectable than seeing it and being afraid to walk it. But we’re both making up for lost time.

          • agnesjack says:

            Forgive me for butting in here, but your statement “Storytelling has built society” is so very true. It’s how we understand ourselves and those who have come before.

            I, too, have a collection of short stories that I hope some day to submit. One of my writing professors told me “do it!” and don’t worry about rejection because everyone gets rejected. I believe it was Isaac Asimov who said once, “submit, submit, submit.” You have talent, Reaper. I say go for it!

          • jmcody says:

            Likewise butting in. This wasn’t directed to me, but I think I want to frame it and hang it on the wall somewhere…

            A couple of points:

            1. Why is it that book is always, ALWAYS better than the movie?

            and

            2. You better publish those books, Reaper, or you will have to deal with me.

            :)

          • jmcody says:

            THE book. argh… And I only had one adult beverage.

          • Reaper says:

            Agnesjack and jmcody. Since we are at the point that I have to reply to my own post I will respond to both of you here.

            For both of you. Not butting in at all. While I did direct this at rle I believe it is true of everyone here. We are our own worst critics and while humility is wonderful I see too many writers beating themselves up. Which I know leads to fear and not sharing stories with the world. We are a community here so please jump in any time.

            Agnesjack, thank you for that. It was a soapbox rant fueled by a few beers with my brother in law but I like to think this is a case of en vino veritas. History tells the story of what happened, fiction tells the story of what could be and brings us together into community.

            Please submit that. I would buy it because you are talented and I would support anyone here. I have been submitting and have one good lead. Come July I’ll be looking at self publishing because I’m at that point for the first novel and will go from there, but then I have to build that platform and harass people to buy my book! So I am hoping for a more traditional route.

            jmcody, I know it is arrogant but I kind of want to frame it myself. While directed at rle it is something I think we all need to remember, and in many ways I was spouting things I wish I had heard. So I should put it on the computer where I write. As for your points.

            1. There are a very few rare exceptions where the movie is better. But they are exceptions that prove the rule, and it is because books take place in the theater of the mind. An author uses words and our brains fill in the rest. Movies are translated by a group of other writers, interpreted by directors and diluted by sets, actors, and special effects. None of which can match language and imagination. Between author and reader there is a special connection, between movie and watcher there is ham fisted interpretation and big business.

            2. Working on it, I don’t need to poke the mama bear. See above comment about publishing. Though I do state that what I do here is my light stuff. I pull no punches with the novels as I believe art should be uncensored.

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you Mr. Baggins. That means a lot to me, I love having memorable and quotable lines so hearing them called great does me proud. I think that line tells me I am getting old. I find myself lamenting the fact that there are, or will soon be children who will never know that magical smell of books and libraries as we isolate ourselves more and every school kid has an ereader and a smart phone. At least the art will survive, but the feel, look, and smell of a book is something magical to me. I believe most aspiring authors can feel that pain as the same medium that is making books more accessible it making it harder to get published in a traditional manner.

    • margi33 says:

      I do like this Reaper. The stream of consciousness was bold but worked well and turned out intriguing and even caused me to feel strong emotions toward the protagonist. I especially liked how your descriptors were the unlikely versions — unique and compelling. The piece was poetic and artistic but still highly readable. Well done.

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you for those kind words Margi33. I strive to take chances, sometimes more than others. I am glad this one seemed to work out so well. I was worried it would not.

    • agnesjack says:

      Fabulous last two lines that sum up an amazing truth, Reaper. I love the mention of the smell of the books. I don’t have a Kindle because I love that smell — and the feel of a book, the turning of the pages. Ah.

      I haven’t read the comments yet, so forgive me if I repeat. You are such an inventive writer. The images were clear and the characters floated visibly before me. You brought me into the mind of the imagination. I had the sense of creativity needing to be free-flowing, not harnessed or controlled. It is a gift that we should accept without judgment.

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you agnesjack. I see you went back and read the comments. Most of what I wanted to say is above. I actually avoid the kindle because the conflict between print and electronic publishing makes me worry about the future of the publishing industry, but as I stated above, the magic of books is something I do not want to see lost. The nights I had a lamp on, a book I was racing to finish and my mother telling me reading by that light would ruin my eyes and to go to sleep were just amazing times. Can’t get that with a reader.

        I thank you for the first part of your second paragraph, and the last two lines I could not agree more with. Thank you for seeing and stating some of my strong personal beliefs in such beautiful words.

        • agnesjack says:

          You brought back a long forgotten memory for me, Reaper. I did not become an avid reader until I was in High School, but my sister was reading novels at a very young age. She, too, would read in bed when she was supposed to be sleeping, so she tied a long string to the light in the closet next to her bed so that she could quickly turn it off when she heard mom or dad coming up the stairs.

          • Reaper says:

            That sounds amazing. Your sister is brilliant. I ended up under covers with a flashlight. Wish I had though of that one.

    • Critique says:

      I find your writing inspiring Reaper. I’ve never tried writing in a stream of consciousness (actually something new I learned) but finding/recognizing it on here has inspired me to want to take the risk and give it a go sometime. Thank you Reaper, for sharing personally of the special people who were instrumental in inspiring you down this exciting and challenging path of writing.

      Not enough credit is given to those special people some of us are lucky to have had or still have in our lives – and if not – this is a great place to find some :) Writing is a lonley road and the feedback here has been unbelievably encouraging for me and I thank you all. Sometimes all it takes is a few kind understanding words to keep that unconfident writer wielding the pen – or pecking at the computer. I think it’s a good exercise to try and submit something every week as life and time permits – even if we don’t feel it has much merit. It’s keep us writing.

      • Reaper says:

        Critique, thank you. Your comments is beautiful and inspiring to me. I love to inspire talented people that share my passion and dream. I am glad to share this because I agree that there is not enough recognition for those few people that say take a chance, instead of filling out heads with cold logic. Writing is not a logical choice, it is a beautiful one. Those that support us are special and magical people. I agree that this is a good place to find those people if you are lacking them, because writing can be lonely but since coming here it is much less so.

        I have shared this with at least one other person here but I am going to throw out a quote here because your last paragraph makes me think of it. It’s from Stephen King, from Firestarter and taken out of context but that only makes it more beautiful when using it to promote encouragement for the unconfident writer, or, well, anything.

        “Life is short, and pain is long, and we were all put on this earth to help one another.”

    • don potter says:

      Abstract writing is not my gift but it certainly is yours. Great job.

  59. yaxomoxay says:

    Generally I don’t work on people I am acquainted with, but I have to pay the bills and no intention on cutting down my lifestile. My client, the powerful Mrs. Astridge and owner of the AstridgeBio Fuel, asked me to investigate Professor Joe McCarmy’s activities. He used to be my biology teacher, when I still cared about everything except getting good grades. Now, twenty years later, I don’t worry about anything, and my opinion on grades is no different.
    Mrs. Astridge was convinced that the Professor, a consultant for her company, was stealing company secrets. She told me I could meet him in a convention at the local university. The event was even more boring than I expected, a painful exercise of my resistance. I quickly recognized the man in the crowd. Although I retained no information of what he taught me, I still remember that his charming attitude and well-maintained body made all the girls drool for him. Now, he looked like a pathetic old man, with spirited eyes and more wrinkles than an oak tree.
    I introduced myself as one of his old students, but I noticed by his body language and his pitiful sarcasm that he was absolutely uninterested at what I was saying. This went on until I mentioned my job as a PI – there was no need to lie. At the revelation, he started talking fast, in a low vocal tone. He mentioned an “invention” and wanted to know if I could be his bodyguard. To convince me, he invited me to his apartment, an unexpected progress in my investigation.
    His house was the epitome of clutter and disgust. I felt at home. In a furious load of explanations – the kind that all old senile men have – he handed me some papers.
    He was right, he needed a bodyguard. Too bad for him I wasn’t the one. I didn’t understand zip about biology, but if what he said was true, he had found out a way to triplicate the mileage of a gallon of fuel while lowering emissions and costs. Apparently the solution was so easy, in front of everyone’s eyes, that nobody saw it. He found the new fuel by randomly looking at some blueprints on a new kind of engine developed by AstridgeBioFuel. He was not supposed to know about it, but he kept digging. During his inquiry he found that Mrs. Astridge misplaced some of the R&D fundings for her own purposes. He didn’t know this but he was digging his own grave.
    He pleaded again to have me as his bodyguard, to help him protect his secrets for a while. I was delightful to know that he was asking for protection to the one person hired to do the opposite. He even offered me twice as much as my regular PI rate, but it was just a portion of what Mrs. Astridge offered me.
    After his thorough explanation, delivered with the same charm of his old lessons, I pulled out my gun. He was old, but tried to resist. I just needed a well-thrown punch to his stomach to make him see the hardwood floor from up close. With him down, I got possession of his papers and his laptop without any difficulty. He did not realize it, but in a way I was saving his life. He wasn’t a threat to Mrs. Astridge anymore, and her path is not crossed without consequences.
    As I was leaving, from the ground, he asked me why I was doing this.
    “I gotta pay the bills, old man.”

    • snuzcook says:

      Good story, yaxomoxay. I think you communicated the character of the PI well, and the cluelessness of the man he was investigating. I liked the line: “I just needed a well-thrown punch to his stomach to make him see the hardwood floor from up close.”

    • Dennis says:

      Great use of the PI dialog to set the tone. I like how you reused the I gotta pay the bills line that started out the story. Well done.

    • starwatcher says:

      I loved the explanation of the MC’s actions:”I gotta pay the bills.”

    • Reaper says:

      I liked your story but it was the character that thrilled me. You took me on a journey here. It started with me liking a hard nosed detective who made justifications to do what I assumed was the right thing. I saw a character that could be a bruiser but probably had a heart of gold. Then you peeled away the layers of the onion. Finally I saw a shallow, bitter little man who saw the right thing in front of him and justified his actions so he could still be the hero of his own story. So I went in a few short words from aw ain’t he sweet, to what a dick! Great work.

    • agnesjack says:

      My opinion about the PI changed, also. The only one I felt any sympathy for at the end was the professor. He was depicted as a bit of a jerk, but he was the only one trying to do something that would benefit many, not just himself. Interesting story.

      p.s. If you put two returns between paragraphs it makes the read easier. Word paragraph spacing doesn’t convert to HTML.

  60. Amyithist says:

    Professor Craft’s eyes fairly gleamed as he rambled on about his latest “discovery”. Of course, the gleam could have very well been Whiskey induced as I had to step back to avoid the strong scent wafting from his slacked jaw. “Emily, it’s astounding,” he slurred. My heart fell at the sight of him. Professor Craft of Ellensburg University was once revered as one of the most amazing and gifted professors in the country; but that was before the drinking and the rumors of his dwindling sanity.
    “Professor Craft, are you aware that you’ve been eradicated from this university?” My eyes darted around the swarming campus, searching for hints of recognition. Most of the faces buzzing by were new to Ellensburg and therefore unaware of the man standing before me. His eyes clouded with fury and he threw his hands in the air.
    “I haven’t been treated fairly, Emily,” he protested. His lower lip quivered and I felt my heart sink a little lower.
    “Professor, I have to get to cl-“
    “Not until you see what I have to show you,” he said quickly. Before I could counter, his long bony fingers wrapped around my wrist and tugged me toward the woods that lined the university. One of the many pulls of Ellensburg was its rustic charm. There had been several mornings in which I had awaken to find a herd of deer plodding through the campus.
    Professor Craft led me down a trail that wound through thick overgrowth. To the left, a river carved its own rough path through the vegetation. The sound of the water echoed off of the slicked tree trunks and little dollops of sunshine slipped through the canopy above, creating long, willowy shadows that seemed to dance through the forest. It was like I was walking in a dream.
    “I’ve never been back here before,” I breathed. “It’s beautiful.”
    Professor Craft smiled and held his hand up, stopping abruptly. “Look around,” he whispered.
    I craned my neck, taking in the view of the illuminated treetops, the little waterfall that crept down a small ravine that fed into the gentle river, and the moss covered tree trunks that seemed to be reaching up toward the azure sky. As beautiful as the scenery was, I couldn’t discern what had changed. “What am I looking at,” I whispered.
    “Look behind you,” Professor Craft replied, his lips curling over his yellowed teeth.
    I turned, expecting to see the outline of Ellensburg University looming beyond the pines, but I couldn’t make it out. Had we really come that far? I turned back to Professor Craft, my eyes wide with confusion. “What’s going on?”
    “I found it,” he said lowly, stepping closer to me. My heart began to crawl into my throat.
    “Found what?”
    He grinned wider. “Time. I found time. It’s all over. It’s nowhere. It’s here. It’s there. I found how to change it; manipulate it…” He pointed at his watch and I leaned in, glimpsing the time. 11:45 am. Then I saw the date and my mind began to swirl with disbelief. July 22, 1876.
    I looked back to him, my stomach clenching at the realization. Professor Craft wasn’t crazy after all. He’d been right the whole time. “Professor, how do we get back?” My voice was trembling.
    He shook his head, stepping even closer to me. I could smell the whiskey curdling on his breath.
    “There is no going back,” he hissed. “No one believed me, Emily. No one thought I could do it…now they know.”
    “What do you mean we can’t go back,” I screamed. “I don’t want to be here! I don’t want to be here!”
    “EMILY!” Suddenly two hands shook me and as I opened my eyes, I realized I was sitting in my desk. The stunned faces of my classmates peered back at me. I wiped at my mouth, embarrassment searing over my skin. Professor Craft gripped my shoulders, his blue eyes wide with concern.
    “I-I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I just…”
    “The dream seemed real,” he asked gently.
    I nodded, tears swelling in my eyes. He smiled and leaned in, whispering, “Look around.”
    Fear tugged at my heart as my eyes shifted around the room. I gasped and gripped the edge of the desk. Professor Craft smiled as he straightened himself. I realized the students surrounding me were dressed in calico dresses and cotton trousers. Everyone looked as though they’d stepped off of the set of Little House on the Prairie. It hadn’t been a dream! It was real! And I was stuck in 1876!

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      A marvelous read, Amyithist. A very powerful story of time travel. What puts this story on the cutting edge is the description put forth all through your story. “The sound of water,echoed off the slicked tree trunks and little dollops of sunshine slipped through the canopy above, creating long willowy shadows that seemed to dance through the forest.” It doesn’t get any better than this.

    • Dennis says:

      Really enjoyed all of the description, especially of the landscape. I thought of using time as the theme. Can’t say I want to be stuck in 1876, but there are times to be stuck in. Nice writing as always.

    • snuzcook says:

      “Time. I found time. It’s all over. It’s nowhere. It’s here. It’s there.” Just how I can image I would say it if I had been the one to make that discovery. Nicely done, Amyithist. You drew the scenes well and so compellingly that it made me homesick for a time and place I’ve only glimpsed. Too bad it’s a one-way ticket.

    • starwatcher says:

      I heartily enjoyed this story.

    • Silver Sister says:

      To be kidnapped from a world of Wi-Fi, iPods and , um, electricity to 1876! Poor Emily. I thought this was a creative take and the prompt and enjoyed the read.

    • Reaper says:

      The fact that it is one way is was a beautiful touch for avoiding paradox questions and both wonderful and scary as hell at the same time. I was sympathetic for your slightly off his rocker old professor until he kidnapped poor Emily. You have written some frightening villains but this one takes the cake. He is more insidious because I do not believe he meant any harm and despite him making my skin crawl I still feel a little bad for him. Excellent work. Your descriptions are superior as always and your dialogue here is perfectly breathtaking. The line snuzcook mentioned stands out for me too. Just wow. I have mentioned before that I am judgmental on it was all a dream stories so I almost wept when she woke up. Part of me was saying oh good for her, and another part saying no! don’t do that to this fabulously wicked story. You got me with that because my heart fell for her when you revealed it was real. I am impressed again.

    • jmcody says:

      This was incredibly well crafted and vivid. I was right there in the woods with you screaming Don’t do it Emily! Don’t go into the woods with Dr. Creepy! I’m with a Reaper — I’m glad it wasn’t a dream.

    • Foxwriter says:

      This is a good story. I really felt for Emily when she realized she was stuck in the past with Professor Craft. He may be brilliant, but his company might be hard to endure. This would make for an interesting novel; you could develop how their relationship plays out. Your imagery for the forest was spot-on.

      I have noticed an interesting trend for this prompt. Most people collectively depict professors as a bit eccentric or completely over-the-top crazy.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      I liked your story. I like the creepy take on time travel. It was like Alice in Wonderland trapped in Back to the Future.

  61. QUITTING TIME (You don’t even want to know how many words this is)

    Virtually the only time I’ll resist road rage is when I visit my old school. That’s where you pretend that your whole life’s been a raging success since you left. So, I painfully watched as old Dean Higginbotham did a fifteen-pointer trying to back into a spot. Then I rocketed ahead to some empty pavement next to a tree, and switched off the car.

    “Okay, Richard, just play alive for a few hours.” The long drive had come too soon after an all-night Easter experience with twin nephews Hell and Destruction. I had personally offered to buy leashes for the two china sniffers but my sister had refused.

    With my tie crooked, my belly bulging through my jacket, and my face lathered with uncertainty, I edged my way through the lobby crowd, reuniting with some friends. We chatted about how our lives had ended up and remembered the stunts we pulled that made the principal’s office our residence for a large chunk of the year.

    As I ambled slowly in the direction of the restroom, someone came up. It was only when I further examined the greying hair, murky brown eyes, and slipping glasses that I realized with a shock that it was my science teacher. He looked older, but it was him, all right.

    “Richard Feynemer, I thought I recognized that face!” He began to scratch behind his ear, as he always did when he forgot what to say during a lecture.

    “Professor Linus,” I greeted him, and then tried to expertly side-step him. His gaunt, thin legs blocked the way ahead instead.

    “Richard, it’s really been too long,” he jittered. “You should’ve seen all the experiments I’ve done. Given quite a, a scare to the students!” He attempted a laugh, which only made spit fly everywhere.

    “I’m sure, Professor.” He was my favorite teacher, always known for his wild eccentrics, like that one time he nearly blew out the school’s circuits trying to harvest lightning.

    “In fact,” he began, “my latest experiment has surpassed all before it!” He tugged at my sleeve. “I’m sure you’d like to see it. You always liked my class.”

    “Oh… all right.” He led me away from the crowd and into the maze of halls.

    “I thought your office was down that way.”

    We turned in the opposite direction and came to the elevator.

    “That entire wing had to be demolished after a mold experiment got out of hand.”

    “That’s… nice. Where is it now?”

    “Oh, just in the basement,” he said nonchalantly.

    I peered back, but the doors had already swung shut.

    “You mean the ghost-filled basement; the one we used to make dares about?”

    He waved his hand. “Scientists aren’t supposed to believe in superstition. Besides, it was the only place big enough for the equipment.”

    The door opened and a cold blast of frigid air brought up my arm hairs.

    “Well, I guess that’s a good enough excuse.” I gazed around the lit basement, recognizing the same nooks that my friends would burst out laughing behind. It seemed somehow smaller, less dramatic. There were two tables set up, beakers and test tubes almost flowing off them.

    “I’ve been toiling hard for months,” he said with a grandiose arm flourish, “and finally it’s been paying off in clubs. Behold—the future of mankind!”

    My eyes cut over to a large, bookcase-looking object draped in a red cape.

    “What?”

    “Oh, sorry,” and he raced over.

    He whipped down the cloth, underneath it being a large empty cage. There was a tense silence.

    “Oh, dear,” he said, tapping his forehead worriedly. “I’m afraid my monkey cyborg prototype has escaped somehow.”

    True enough, two bars near the center were pushed out.

    “Monkey cyborg?” This had to be some prank. Probably a belated April Fool’s. As long as it was in the entire month it was fair game for him.

    “Yes, trained to climb trees, eat bananas, hoot and howl, and all the rest.”

    “And, what good does that do for mankind, exactly?”

    He poured his eyes over his crammed notes.

    “Apparently, not much. I have, however, engaged a parasympathetic gland in the artificial hypothalamus that switches off the flight mechanism. Makes it quite a veritable fighting machine.”

    That was the last thing I wanted to hear. I checked behind me, but only a cobweb was there.

    “Is it dangerous?”

    “Probably. Here, take this training banana. I guess I should’ve thought of this.”

    Armed with my nefarious yellow tool, we began to patrol. Without warning, I heard this shrill, metallic screech, and the grey thing came swinging down from a gas pipe onto his shoulder.

    “Great Copernicus! Richard, throw yours into the corner!”

    I hurled the fruit near the old electric panel. Attracted by the movement, the cyborg leapt off of Professor Linus. Once it had devoured the snack, it was about to jump towards us again when this gray mist rose up from the panel and surrounded it. With another cry it fought valiantly against the wispy arms, but it slowly faded into nothing. The cloud settled back down slowly.

    “I’m getting way too old for this,” he said finally, rubbing his scratched-up shirt. A little rivulet of blood was coming from his shoulder. “Once you get to my years you start seeing things.”

    I remained still. “I guess the rumors of ghosts were true after all.”

    “I wouldn’t be worried. At least the instruments weren’t bothered.”

    We took the elevator back up. I was going to go to the bathroom, but when I looked down I realized there was no need to. I just zipped my jacket completely closed and breezed through the crowd.

    “Take care!” he called to me from the hallway. “Maybe one day you can return and see my graphite tornado.” Then he began to meander off. “I better call up Dr. Venkman for this one…”

    GH

    • Dennis says:

      Very humorous. I liked the absentmindedness of Linus and all of his expressions. And those crazy experiments.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I love monkeys, any kind will do and when I read , ‘I heard this shrill, metallic screech, and the grey thing came swinging down…’ I was ready to do battle against the hairy pile of nuts and bolts. Very amusng tale , especially when your tale came to the training banana. I’ve got to remember that one.

        • Thanks, Dennis and Kerry! To be honest, I would have no clue what to do against a monkey cyborg, but maybe a Tarzan imitation would win it over, at least until I could secretly grab a wrench from the table and bang its head in.

    • snuzcook says:

      ‘ “. . .Makes it quite a veritable fighting machine.”
      That was the last thing I wanted to hear.’
      Good lines, and your dry humor is entertaining throughout, BB. The whole idea of the story is fun; I found myself at the end looking back through the experience of the read as a whole and thinking, ‘what a cool idea for a story–mad scientist creates cyborg menace, destroyed by rumored ghosts in basement.’ Something very satisfying about that.

    • starwatcher says:

      I was laughing through this whole story.

    • Silver Sister says:

      You have a distinctive voice that has an undeniable flair. This story is proof of it. It gave me a smiled when I needed it.

    • jmcody says:

      You are incredibly versatile. This was as funny and clever as your response last week was profound and beautiful. So many great lines, and as always some vivid imagery. This was a fun surprise from you, Bilbo.

  62. Ahsuniv says:

    My heart pounded as I walked through my old school. It reminded me of my childhood sweetheart Ralph and made my vision blurry with tears. He had died in a freak accident last month.

    As I peeked into my old classroom, I heard a familiar, high pitched voice rambling behind me. I whirled around to see my old science professor, Gregory, limping through the sea of students. Gregory turned her head in my direction and stopped dead in her tracks. I saw her walk towards me on her stiff, arthritis legs.

    ‘Good morning, Mrs.Gregory. How are you?’ I asked.

    ‘Give the courtesies a rest, girl! I need your help. Come on.’

    Always to the point. Such a sweet old lady she was, I thought as I followed her.

    They used to say that Gregory had a lot of queer things in her private lab. There was even a tale that a group of students broke into her lab to see what she was doing and never came back out.

    ‘Swarms of students, yet none capable of doing any real work,’ she muttered.

    She led me into her lab and closed the door. I felt scared and thrilled at the same time.

    ‘Remove that white sheet from the table.’

    Nodding my head, I swiped the white sheet from the table in the middle of the room and fell back in a gasp as I saw the naked corpse of a black haired man lying on the table.

    ‘You can do all your gasping when I am done with the experiment.’

    She pulled out a can and some tubes.

    ‘I am going to stick the tubes in the nose and I want you to pump the can until it shows red on the indicator. Got it?’

    ‘Yes. But, what exactly are we doing?’

    ‘No questions. I couldn’t find any adults to help me and you were the only one I could find. So, no need to feel special.’

    I wanted to stick the tubes into her, but simply took the can from her instead.

    ‘Now,’ she said holding the tubes to the dead man’s nose and I started pumping the can as hard as I could. I saw the indictor go from green to red and stopped.

    Gregory seemed as curious as me as we watched the dead man. Suddenly the corpse sprung up in a powerful movement, making me jump in horror. Gregory however looked excited.

    ‘Hello, do you remember your name?’ She asked.

    The man had blank eyes and thrashed his arms wildly, knocking over the can in my hands. It hit the wall and cracked, making it’s contents whoosh out.

    He brought his arm thrashing into Gregory next. She too hit the wall behind her and collapsed on the floor. The corpse walked out of the lab as I cowered.

    I called out to Gregory. She didn’t respond and I realized that she was dead as I went and checked her pulse.

    I went to the door to see where the corpse was headed and heard a grunt behind me. I looked back to find Gregory standing up in a blind haze.

    ***

    It was a beautiful day and I caught a whiff of blueberry pancakes from a neighboring house.

    ‘Hello, Patrick,’ I waved to my neighbor on the opposite street as he walked his pet. ‘Sally’s looking good!’ I shouted, complimenting his pet.

    It was the perfect day to walk a pet.

    ‘Come on, Ralph. Be a good boy now,’ I said to my boyfriend Ralph as he pulled on the leash binding his hands and dragged him along to see if I could get a bite of the pancakes. Just another perfect day it was.

    • Ahsuniv says:

      I went over the word limit. And, I am not at all happy with this one. I am in a bad state of mind right now so it’ll have to do for this week I guess. Sorry to irritate you guys with this :P

    • Dennis says:

      Very interesting, going old school with the discovery. Not sure how that relationship with Ralph is going to work out. I also liked Gregory’s dialog.

    • snuzcook says:

      That must have been some powerful stuff in that can. And obviously, the MC is not a girl to pass up an opportunity. In fact, she went from wimp to very interesting in that last segment. Fun story, Ahsuniv.

    • starwatcher says:

      I never thought of a zombie take on this prompt! If I could nitpick one thing, it would be the last sentence, “Just another perfect day it was.” Sounded like Yoda there for a second. But that’s just a common wording mistake that made me laugh.

    • jmcody says:

      Hope I didn’t post this twice…

      I’m sorry you are feeling less enthusiastic about this response, because I thought there were many things to like about it. It flowed well, and I especially enjoyed your characters and the crisp dialogue. It was actually very good!

  63. jimmieg says:

    (this is obscenely over the 500 word count. For which I offer many apologies and will gladly suffer any admonishment you care to give. Again, many apologies.)

    The New International

    The Student Union never looked this cool when Jacob went here. In the early nineties it looked like a Fisher Price college, My First University. Back then the Union’s cafe looked like a bunch of fast-food style picnic tables had gotten lost in the lobby. Now the Union was as enticing as an experimenting freshman. And the football team was now worth watching sober, but Jacob wouldn’t do that. Tradition must be honored.

    His lecture on Wormhole Displacement Theory wouldn’t start for another hour so he wandered the campus like a tourist. The stadium sized parking lot that once rented the space between the Union and the classroom buildings had been evicted and given back to nature. It was now a grassy pasture, criss-crossed with paths of crushed red rock
    What a beautiful annoyance. Where the hell are you supposed to park now?

    Jacob’s thoughts were interrupted by a familiar muttering that took him back fifteen years to the lab of Professor Donna Jahner. He wasn’t a student then. Jacob was her lead research assistant, he was there the day it happened. But what the hell was ‘it’? Again his thoughts were interrupted by the excited muttering. Jacob had not turned around. He was afraid to see what fifteen years had done to the Professor.
    “Syrup, of course it should be that. 47 years. Should have seen it before. No matter. Time is neither here or there, but everywhere, and all that. Yes. Yes. Finally. Now to find the last piece. I know I left it here somewhere. ” She careened into Jacob and so there was nothing left but to have a look.

    “There you are Jacob. I knew I left you here somewhere. I do hope you’re one of the good ones. The last several have been simply useless.”, she said as she shuffled past a startled Jacob.

    “You really mustn’t dawdle anymore, not when we are so close dear.”

    Her skin hung on her cheeks like a draped curtain. She craned her neck in close to Jacob’s face as though to look inside his head.

    “How long has it been since ‘it’ happened dear boy?”

    “Fifteen years”

    “Aha” she said as she whirled about, her finger beckoning Jacob to follow.

    “Fifteen years! Further proof we are neither here nor there. So delicious, the syrup, it tells it true.

    Professor Jahner walked past the Neil Degrasse Tyson Building and straight into the Arts and Sciences Auditorium. The only building it seemed untouched by the University’s make over. It stood as it always had, ugly and utilitarian, like a river rock for whom the water had made way. Was it reverence or neglect?
    Jacob was hard on the Professor’s heels as she wound her way up the circling stairs, moving impossibly fast for a woman her age. She came to a stop at a narrow door simply marked, ‘Closet’.

    Her three wraps were answered by three wraps. Then two, then one. The final wrap was chased by a question riding on the accent of a cockney pirate.

    “Arrr. How do I know ye to be true of this time and not some other from here or there?”

    The Professor turned back to Jacob, beaming with the pride of a mother whose child had properly showed off for company.

    Turning back to the door she answered the cockney pirate’s question. “Because syrup should make pancakes soggy”.

    The narrow door open to reveal exactly what it’s sign said it would be. A closet. Nothing more.

    Jacob’s disappointment was mixed with confusion as the cockney pirate turned out to be an Asian man some seven feet tall.

    The seven foot Asian cockney pirate swung sideways to let them in, and there, at the other end of the narrow closet, sitting atop the wringer of a mop bucket, ‘it’ sat.

    A ‘New International’ Double Keyboard typewriter.
    On the top keyboard resided the usual numbers and letters. The bottom keyboard however, was home to a vast array of mathematical symbols.

    “What the fuck is this?” is all Jacob could think to say.

    “Even when balancing on the fulcrum of a Universal Time Shift Paradox, one needn’t be vulgar Jacob”.

    “Arrr”

    Jacob shook his head in acknowledgment, glassy eyed from an understanding he couldn’t understand.

    “Do you remember the formula matey?”

    “I know hundreds of formulas”

    “Do you remember ‘it’, Jacob dear. Try to feel your back to ‘it’.”

    Right. ‘It’ wasn’t a thing. The odd keyboard is not what had stirred an understanding in Jacob. ‘It’ was a formula. He couldn’t remember it, but somehow he knew his fingers did.

    He looked to the seven foot Asian cockney pirate, who offered Jacob an encouraging “Arrrrr”.

    Then to his Professor that had aged so many years in the span of decade and a half. “The formula was always right Jacob, dear. We were just in the wrong place. Go on. Bring us back to right.”

    Jacob typed out the formula and hit enter after a brief pause. It was all so silly. What did he think would happen? He was after all in a small closet typing out a complex formula on a typewriter more than a hundred years old.

    “What the fuck are we doing in here Professor?”

    “Really, Jacob. The vulgarity dulls your brightness. Though I too would like to know what the fuck we are doing in this closet”

    The small Asian man staring at them both, seemed also to be wondering what the fuck they were doing in his broom closet.

    Jacob collected the New International Double Keyboard typewriter and offered an awkward “thank you”.

    He and the Professor hurried out the broom closet. Lab was starting in less than an hour and they had a radical new formula to try out.

    • Artemis4421 says:

      I really enjoyed this one- it kept me captivated and I’m fond of all the details as well. Great job!

    • Dennis says:

      I enjoyed all of the detail as well, especially of the changes to the university. Very interesting premise.

    • snuzcook says:

      That was an amazing story, jimmieg. The details that hinted at but did not come right out and say that the universe was cattywampus were delightful. This was a very densely packed bit of writing, with lots to sink one’s teeth and brain cells into. I enjoyed the dawning realization at the end of the story, when things returned to normal, of the many ironic and twisted details of the prior scenes.

      There were a few amusing typos — or what I took as typos — (the repeated use of ‘wrap’ for knocking at the closet door, when wraps live in a closet but do not exist as knocks; and the use of an ‘enter’ key on a typewriter is inappropriate technology–typewriters use a carriage return mechanism to physically move the page at the end of a line rather than post data onto a data file).

      • jimmieg says:

        Ha. I was so embarrassed when I realized, too late, that I had written wrap, instead of rap. Although, I love how you explain what wrap is and is not, “when wraps live in a closet but do not exist as knocks”. I want that to be a prompt. I happy for the mistake just to have read that line. May I use it as a quote at the front of the story on my site? Seriously. And the whole ‘enter’ thing thankfully never ‘entered’ my mind until I read your comments. If it had I know there would be another hundred words just playing with the image of Jacob pulling that carriage return. Oi.

        • snuzcook says:

          So glad my comments did not irritate, JG! Feel free to cut and paste if you want to.

          Having had an antique clunky, black metal typewriter of vintage similar to the International when I was first learning to type, the transition to ‘enter’ from carriage return was a significant moment in my life, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to comment on that one.

          • jimmieg says:

            Fantastic. I added you as a quote at the top of the piece. I also created a link back to this prompt so my few followers can check your response to the prompt. Thank you for all your comments to so many of these posts. You’re awesome.

    • jmcody says:

      I for one am very happy that you did not cut this to fit into the 500 word limit, because I think it would have lost its free-wheeling style. I really, really loved this. As Snuz said, it was so densely packed with verbal treats — ” glassy eyed from an understanding he couldn’t understand,” “It stood as it always had, ugly and utilitarian, like a river rock for whom the water had made way.’ Even the swearing was clever: “The vulgarity dulls your brightness. Though I too would like to know what the fuck we are doing in this closet.” See, I don’t normally swear, but you just made me copy and paste that. I laughed a lot. You are great, jimmieg.

      • jmcody says:

        Ha! Just clicked on your name and saw the prototype of the New International Double Keyboard Typewriter. Very cool. Your website looks great too — I will visit again and read more.

    • starwatcher says:

      This was a very fun take on the prompt. It sounds like you really enjoyed writing this.

    • Silver Sister says:

      You do know how to turn a phrase. Besides, the ones already listed by others, I especially liked the ‘Fisher Price college, My First University’ description. Your description of the renovated parking lot pulled double duty. The detail not only described the campus, but also gave me a glimpse into Jacob’s way of thinking.

  64. Artemis4421 says:

    [If you're expecting this to be within word limit, then you are mistaken and apparently do not know my writing style too well haha. Anyways critiques would be great, as usual and I apologize if it's not a realistic campus setting but I've never been on one...Anyways, without further ado...]

    It’s a beautiful day on my old college campus. After being dismissed from the conference for a lunch break, I find myself the first one out the door and into the warm spring air. The sun is shining down from directly above, but the slight breeze manages to alleviate any uncomfortable heat caused by the sun’s rays. Nonetheless, I find a tree, sitting under its shade and smiling to myself as I pull my lunch from by bag and cross my legs beneath me.

    There are many more people streaming out from the building now, most appearing to be in heated debates, which are no doubt centered around the lecture we had just heard on dark matter in the universe. However, one person has caught my eye as they came out from the building, and I’ve caught theirs too.

    Professor Hemmingford makes his way over to me with a quick pace, and even before he reaches me, I can tell that he’s quite excited. “Elizabeth, if you don’t mind, I would love to show you something very important.” He says in a tone filled with excitement and secrecy. It only takes me a second to make up my mind. I’m quickly on my feet, shouldering my bag once again. With a nod of approval, Professor Hemmingford is leading me off.

    Following the still-familiar route to his office, he starts mumbling again and I can only catch small phrases. “This changes everything,” and “I think you’ll like this” are the phrases echoing in my head by the time we reach his office.

    “Elizabeth, please sit down, we have a lot to get through in such a short amount of time.” I nod and take a seat in one of the chairs positioned in front of his desk, letting my bag slide down to the floor beside me as I wait for whatever it is that’s so important. I watch as Professor Hemmingford frantically gathers up papers which had previously been scattered about on his desk with no apparent sense of order. After about two minutes of muttering to himself and shuffling the papers around into the correct order, he finally looks up at me.

    “Elizabeth,” he starts, and I realize he’s said my name each time he’s addressed me, which I remember as one of his old habits. “What I’m about to show you is exceedingly important. They are only rough drafts of the research, but please know that all of what I’m about to show you has been finally proven, through decades of scientific research and a plethora of very smart people putting together the pieces. It is imperative that you do not tell anyone else about what I am about to show you here today. Are we clear?”

    I nod, thoroughly curious and excited now, wondering what secrets could possibly be on those papers, “Yes, Professor. Clear as can be.” After a pause, he nods, “Very well, just sit here and take your time; tell me what you think.”

    I feel myself quivering with anticipation as he finally hands over the papers. Even what I see on just the first page makes my heart rate quicken. I flip through the pages, trying not to give away how incredible this is, but I find myself sighing in wonder. Pages upon pages of finally solved science mysteries. Most are small, but a few are bigger, and though I’m not as disclosure to tell you what they are, Professor Hemmingford was definitely right.

    These definitely are game changers, yet the only game they’ll change is the game of the universe…and of course everything in it.

    • Amyithist says:

      I like the idea of this. Solved mysteries…

    • Dennis says:

      Great Story and didn’t feel long. I actually had to go over the word count myself this time.

    • jmcody says:

      I agree that it didn’t seem overly long. You devoted a lot of the word count to describing the surroundings and building suspense. With such a big buildup of suspense I couldn’t help but want a bigger payoff! What secrets are we talking about? I need to know! ;)

      • Artemis4421 says:

        Thank you for the compliments jmcody, but to be honest, I don’t know what the secrets are either! After all, Elizabeth said they were confidential, right? Haha I wrote it like that because this is one of the prompts where I really couldn’t decide which way to take it, so I left it vague and open for the reader to wonder and imagine exactly what they were. (:

    • starwatcher says:

      Great descriptions and story. Interesting take on the prompt.

    • Silver Sister says:

      I know it’s hard to elaborate because of the word count, but I’m a little curious about which mysteries are solved. Are they interconnected somehow. I agree with the others; your story didn’t seem long at all. So however many words you went over were well spent. :)

      • Artemis4421 says:

        Thank you Silver Sister, I appreciate your comment, and as I told jmcody, I would love to tell you what secrets were solved, but I truly can’t!

    • snuzcook says:

      Artemis4421, this was what I think of as a vignette more than a story, and as such I enjoyed it.
      It created a scene and showed us the characters and an interaction without the intent to give the details or even describe the specifics of how the interaction would eventually impact the characters.

  65. Writeright2 says:

    That was awesome. Enjoyed from beginning to end

  66. Dennis says:

    Nice twist at the end. Greed wins out in the end like so many other real-life stories. I like the play on the MC’s name. I would have hated to have that name growing up. The jokes would have been endless. Nicely written.

  67. peetaweet says:

    After the conference, we proceeded through the heart of campus for the group tour of the gleaming research facility. We had the place wholly to ourselves, it was June 1st, and we were kicking off our annual awareness month. I’d been travelling like crazy in preparation of our busiest month. We’d scheduled dozens of 5k’s, concerts, and countless other events, so the stop to my old school was a welcomed sojourn, although seeing the professor was a complete surprise.

    “Professor, it’s wonderful to see you again,” I said, trying my best to keep my eyes off the hideous toupee on his head. It was in bad taste, his prank, at least in my opinion. But his eyes were full such immediacy I let it go.

    “I have something that I must show you,” he said, and I begged off the tour. I followed the frazzled professor to the lab, thinking how he still looked the same as he did twenty years ago, only now with the ridiculous hair. But he was still timeworn and unfashionable, right down to the wobbly glasses that bounced as he rambled on excitedly.

    “I’ve been so excited. I had to show this to someone.” He spoke in clipped, rapid sentences, gushing like a freshly uncorked bottle. We entered the lab and he motioned to one of the laptops on the tables, opened to colorful graphs and charts. My heart skipped.

    “Is this…no way…”

    “Eric,” he said in a dramatic whisper, “we’ve done it. We’ve cured androgenetic alopecia!”

    As director of Male Pattern Baldness Research Foundation, I was pulling down a nice little salary. I had a beach house. Jill and Amy went to private schools. What was he trying to do here?

    “Eric?”

    “This is,…this is good.”

    He scoffed “Good? Eric, this is a game changer. And it isn’t just about the hair. What about depression, self-esteem issues? This could change the world.”

    Damn right it wasn’t just about the hair. I returned his scoff. “Change the world? Let’s not get carried away.”

    After a brief volley of scoffs, I grabbed the table to reel myself in. I’d worked too hard to get top. Sweat careened down my barren scalp.

    “Eric, are you okay?”

    “Alright, off with it.” I tugged at the hair.

    “Ow!”

    “You….can’t…. do this to me!”

    We tumbled to the floor, grappling as I yanked at his very realistic hair. He flailed and kicked as research papers took flight and our feet tangled in power cords and network cables, gasping as I overpowered him. I gritted my teeth, heaving as I took his neck. I can’t say how it would have ended, but…

    The lights flicked on and I spun around to find a collection of jaws on the floor, many of them belonging to the press, who whipped out phones and snapped away. They smelled a scandal. The dean hoisted me to my feet, his face pale with shock.

    I lost my job as director, which, with the new discovery was inevitable. The papers went nuts. Dateline NBC followed and Carla filed for divorce. I was lampooned on late-night television and mocked with my own (fake) twitter account. Rob Ford breathed a sigh of relief. I spent weeks on my couch, in my underwear, flipping through the channels in a daze and following my story with an unhealthy addiction.

    My only solace came when I’d run a hand over my head, feeling the budding prickles of hair and dreaming of a new cause in which to stake my claim.

    • Dennis says:

      As always, great descriptive writing. How sad but true this depiction of human nature is. Very nicely written.

    • jmcody says:

      Vintage Peetaweet. You make me laugh almost every week with your wacky, well imagined characters and realistic yet comical scenes. This was a lot of fun.

    • snuzcook says:

      This fun story actually points in the direction of a real and tragic truth in our society: that medical conditions make money, and (for example) a true cure for cancer could bankrupt an entire industry.

      I think you chose a fun scenario, and made a very entertaining and well-written story. Thanks!

    • starwatcher says:

      Sad to think that this is a very likely scenario. Congrats, this story made me think. (And that’s not easy to do. Ha ha.)

    • Silver Sister says:

      It’s true that cures aren’t in the medical industry’s best interests (no offense if anyone here is in the medical field, this is just my opinion). This story illustrated this truth without being melodramatic or bitter. That’s not easy! I like that the MC’s behavior brought him down, but nobody was killed. Thanks for the immensely readable story.

    • agnesjack says:

      Loved the description of the professor with the bouncing glasses. As others have said, this was humorous and sad at the same time. All I could think of was: what is it about baldness that humans find so unattractive that a multibillion dollar industry crops up to address it? It’s kind of ludicrous when you think about it.

  68. rainiemills says:

    Okay, here goes… trying to work on my tense shifting because I know it is an issue :) All critiques are welcome and appreciated.
    ____________________________________
    “Professor Calloway?” The small man whirls toward me. There is no mistaking that handlebar moustache, finely waxed into two perfect swirls. “Good to see you.”

    Professor Calloway, always an eccentric man and my favorite teacher. His history lectures were the highlight of my academic days, bizarre and unbelievable, like the time he said mermaids were real. I smile at the thought of his gullibility.

    His eyes instantly gloss over with uncontainable excitement, a look I have seen numerous times in the past. “Kate, you’re never going to believe this. I found it.” His voice riddled with excitement. “I was able to put all the pieces together… you have to see it for yourself.” I noticed the professors around us all roll their eyes. I guess I am not the only one who thought he was a little off. “Let’s go to my office. I find it best to keep it under lock and key.”

    Leading the way he constantly surveys the hallway for uninvited guests. Always paranoid, I shake the thought out of my head. “Hurry up then.” He unlocks the door and rushes me through. Fidgeting hands scoured through the papers adorning his desk as he mumbles to himself. “You haven’t changed.” I chuckle.

    “Here it is, give me a minute.” He says, holding the key he uncovered from the desk. He ducks behind the desk, all I hear is a scrape and a loud thunk.

    “Are you okay?” His turns with wild excitement and lays a wooden chest on the desk. His hands caress the gilded wood as if it was his greatest treasure. “What I am about to show you, is extraordinary and I couldn’t have done it without you.” I sit back in shock, without me, what did I do?

    I hold my breath as he slowly opens the box. Using tweezers, he gently lifts the brittle yellowed parchment so I could see. Thick streaks of ancient penmanship cover the paper. I glance briefly at the parchment, noticing the red “x” on the bottom covered in a wax seal of a skull and crossbones. The signature of a pirate.

    Pirates, my final paper was about Blackbeard and his lost treasure. I scoured the document looking for confirmation. “Is this?”

    “Yes it is, this is what is going to lead us to Blackbeard’s treasure.”

    • Dennis says:

      Very fun story and would love to know how it all turns out. The tenses seemed to work for me, but I’ll leave that to the experts. I think sometimes the punctuation is incorrect in a couple places, using commas instead of periods, but nothing major.

    • Reaper says:

      There are some tense shifts in this one, however they fluctuate between more and less noticeable. Part of that is some of them are correct as you are shifting between a present tense story and past tense remembrance. Which makes it a lot harder to stay in the correct tense as a writer and a lot easier to miss them as a reader. There was one spot where you wrote his when you meant he as well. A good story, stylistically I would have liked a hint earlier on, because the ending is good but felt like it should have had an aha moment because pirates and adventuring for buried treasure are exciting things. Maybe a not to the Blackbeard paper as the reason the good doctor said that mermaids were real. It could give too much away though so take that with a grain of salt.

    • jmcody says:

      I thought you did a better job with the tenses this week. I did notice a few sentence fragments though, that were a bit distracting. But let’s stop nitpicking your grammar already! Your story was upbeat and your characters lively and charming. Keep up the good work!

    • starwatcher says:

      Good job on this one. I had almost no problem with the tenses.

    • Silver Sister says:

      I can see a lot growth in your work! This one was fun and adventurous. Good job.

    • rainiemills says:

      Thank you all for your feedback and comments!

    • agnesjack says:

      I think you have improved with the tense shifts, etc. It all comes with practice and developing an ear for what is correct.

      I liked this story. You had my attention throughout and I felt that the professor was a well-realized character. I could see him very clearly. I’d like to know where the next adventure leads, although I can’t imagine that the MC will be able to drop everything in her life and search for buried treasure.

  69. lacigb says:

    ’Stop You, Bastard!’

    Wow! That was a voice and a shout I hadn’t heard in years, and for an instant, it still gave me the shivers! Dutyfully I stopped and turned around, to see my old professor, Dr. Hickey hurrying toward me with a determined look on his face.

    I should have known, that no matter how hard I’d tried all those years ago, he still wouldn’t remember how to pronounce my name: ’B’astaard’ with a long „a” sound in the middle. I coundn’t help the fact that my name was from somewhere in Europe and therefore not the usual, but I also coundn’t live it down! So much for enlightenment!

    I greeted Dr. Hickey with a polite hello, and waited for him to start talking, but instead he grabbed me without saying a word, and dragged me through the open door to his room – one that’s been his since time began, and would probably remain his when his ghost would surely haunt the school!

    As I walked in, memories of boyhood fun, pranks, exam stress and some interesting and odd experiements came back to me, so I almost didn’t notice that he’d closed and locked the door behind him.

    He beackoned me to his desk where he sat down, and fumbled for his favourite distraction – his customary bag of dried apricots which he’d chew on endlessly, probably needing the all-day sugar-rush!

    ’Bastard, I’m glad to see you! Sorry for grabbing you so suddenly, but I need your help, and I’m running out of time’ – he said in-between chews.
    ’I found something… shall we say interesting… during my research, and since you always showed a particular interest in that field, I thought you might appreciate it – and perhaps you could help me.’

    I was a little surprised, but I was also kind of glad he’d remembered me and my interests… and of course, where I worked. Couldn’t be an accident that he meant to find me eventually.

    I stayed quiet, waiting for him to continue. He leaned back and pondered something, absently chewitng on his dried-fruit, and then he leaned forward again and fixed me with his stare – that killer stare we’d all been afraid of back then.

    ’You know I’ve been working on a way to make food last longer, so that we need less of it to live. And I know you liked the idea of no-more hungry people in the world, and that’s probably the reason for you ending up with that food giant! – he paused.

    How is your research these days?’

    He looked at me quizzically, but I felt it was a rhetorical question as he knew full-well that our research into nano-foods was on-hold.

    ’So as I was tinkering, I came up – quite by accident – with a way to preserve food and it’s nutrients longer. It took a while, but I managed to make a prototype food, just to try it out. See for yourself!’

    He reached into his mouth and took out a chewed-up piece of the dried apricots, and held it in his palm. I looked at it but couldn’t tell anything different, then it hit me: he’d been chewing on the same piece since we met!

    ’Professor, how long have you been eating this?’ I asked, hoping he’d not just discovered chewing-gum!
    ’About a month! And every day I test it, and it still has 90% of the original sugar content! Do you know what this means? ’

    Of course I did: if food technology like this were widely available, a tenth of the current food production would feed everyone in the world! No more hunger, no more expensive crops, no more forest or other habitat destruction – and no more huge profits for my employers!!!

    I looked into my old teacher’s eyes, examining his expectant gaze, and knew what he wanted from me, what he expected from me. In a perfect world, I would have taken him and his research to work, and fought for it to be funded, and developed so that our company could be the one – the only one with this technology.

    In a perfect world.

    World without greed, power, ego and status.

    As they say though, ’nobody’s perfect’, and that was certainly true for me. I had my flaws, and my fair share of failures, and in-time, it was inevitable that someone would and could use those against me.

    That was why it was both difficult but also easy for me to step back from the table, pull out my gun from it’s concealed holster, and quickly fire 3 rounds. One would have done, but I had to be sure.

    Because there were greater interests and greater forces at work, and today, my previous weaknesses made me their instrument.

    • Dennis says:

      Nice twist at the end. Greed wins out in the end like so many other real-life stories. I like the play on the MC’s name. I would have hated to have that name growing up. The jokes would have been endless. Nicely written.

    • jmcody says:

      How quickly this former idealist sold out his ideals. A troubling story of greed and corruption. The idea was good, the character was aptly named and the chewed apricot was appropriately gross. The only suggestion I would make is fewer exclamation points. Otherwise, this was well written.

      • starwatcher says:

        I was going to say the same thing about the exclamation points. Also I noticed that you used apostrophes instead of quotes so I sometimes was confused. Otherwise, good story.

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