War Never Changes

During your trip to Turkey, you check into an old hotel. After settling yourself you notice a weathered chest in the corner. Upon opening it, war relics from the First World War and the Ottoman Empire lay before you. What stories do you find?

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

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501 thoughts on “War Never Changes

  1. FritzTheAngel

    I’m not a very good writer, and this is extremely late and my first time posting something to this.

    The World’s Truth

    I sighed as I looked around the crappy hotel room. I had gotten a free plane ticket to Turkey from my work place. Probably because I specialized in artifacts of the Ottoman Empire. This could easily be a set up, most of my coworkers did, in fact, hate me. I slipped into the bathroom to brush my teeth and saw the mirror was further from the wall than it should have been. My finger subconsciously slide behind it to surprise me with a gap. With that knowledge, I pried the mirror off the wall.

    Behind it sat an old wooden chest, Chinese dragons littering the perimeter. The golden lock still shown, as if brand new, I ran my fingers over the gentle swirls. Then I opened it, the box was lined with brightly colored silk. My fingers moved across that as well. It felt brand new, but it didn’t feel like any silk I had felt before. Finally, I looked at the items held within. The first thing I saw was a shimmering golden ring filled with blood red gems, probably rubies. I picked it up carefully and slid it on my finger curiously. It fit, a little big though. The only thing left was a piece of paper, yellow paper mind you. The only indicator of it actually being old was the characters scribbled onto it.

    It was not any language I had ever seen before, nor was it any characters I had seen before. As I studied them, they started shifting. As quickly as it started, the characters settled. Now they formed English words in my head, but on the paper it was still the scribbled language.

    It’s all a lie

    It started with.

    All of history is wrong, for a mere second They had me thinking like all the others. Never has anything happened they say it was written

    I reread that a few times, confused.

    They, They don’t have a name. They are the devils on earth though, eliminating anyone who thinks a stray though from what They’ve written I’m not sure if anyone will be able to read this, first written alphabet. If you are reading this, well, good luck.

    I starred at the paper, that was it? Nothing else was written on the paper. I picked up the ring again, hoping for a clue, and just held it.

    Someone cleared their voice from behind me. I turned around slowly and looked at the man.

    “How did you get in here?”

    “I knew you were one.”


    “Kill her,” he said, expressionless and emotionless.

    “Wait,” I said.


    “Can I at least have an explanation?”

    “Most human beings are too simple minded to understand how the world really works or what is actually happening,” he said with a shrug, “it’s easier if every human is like that instead of as smart as us.”

    “W-what?””see you in, well, what you call Help, he smirked. I felt myself collapse.

    I opened my eyes to see an underground city. Who ever it was that ‘killed’ me, stood there smiling at me.

    “What the heck?”

    “What, did yo think we’d make the smart humans suffer forever?”


    I learned that, in fact, everything we know is a lie. I also found out that his kind had a human to the watch over and kind of protect. This was the one they secretly loved, sorta. Basically when their person died, they actually got to meet them. His name was Andy…

  2. girl-in-progress

    English Version:


    First off, I want to congratulate you for finding this document! You, the one reading this, whoever you are, you are so blessed. Don’t you realize that? Of the billions of people in this world, you have found my letter. I carefully hid it in a secret compartment that can only be opened with a special latch from the inside of this Pashas chest. You must be so clever. May Allah give you, your children, and your great-great grandchildren abundance.

    I’ll put it simply. I am writing this letter because I want to share with you one of the beloved recipes of my father, Asli Efendi, great-grandson of Iskender Efendi of Hüdavendigar (now Bursa).

    Have you heard of döner kebap? Have you tasted one already? Is it good? Well, ours is the best, not just one of the best. The bestest. I’m not bragging but our clan, the Efendis invented doner—marinated it to perfection. We’re the original makers of it and if you want additional evidence, you may look into your present culinary books. That’s how popular we are.

    I want to share this authentic Ottoman cuisine to you; to the world for fear that I might not continue the line. I have no children and my relatives are not at all interested with lambs. All they do is feast! So my dear friend, keep this recipe. Treasure it, for at this very moment it is yours to cook and share to one and all.

    Below this line is the recipe.


    Signed with our honor,



    “Whoa! I didn’t know you can read Turkish. But, I’m wondering where the recipe is?” My wife, Ana, asked suddenly getting impatient.

    “You silly,” I lectured. “I’m 50% Turk, 50% American. You sure you’re my wife? And to answer your question, the recipe is written in invisible ink.” I placed the letter over an incandescent light. “Here, see?”

    “Amazing! Oh honey you’re really good!”

    “Thanks, my father taught me how to read invisible letters.” I lied. I accidentally found out about it. ”So, what are you waiting for?”

    “Huh?” My wife shot me a puzzled look.

    “We’re going meat shopping!!!”

  3. girl-in-progress

    I’m sorry for the delay…


    Two days ago, our family business plummeted down to the rocks. I didn’t see it all coming so without much deliberation, I decided to follow suit.

    Everything was actually ready.

    I dressed to the nines—made sure I’d leave a lasting impression. I even uttered my prayers to various gods and asked for forgiveness. I also kissed my wife and daughter goodbye.

    I checked my watch. It was three minutes to nine—three full minutes more to bask in this wretched life.

    To kill time, I took one last sweep of this moldy hotel room my daughter paid for. Later, it would be my infamous deathbed.

    It was the worse room ever, I couldn’t feel any sicker. Intricate cobwebs abound the shed ceiling where I firmly tied the drapes I was going to use for later. The tawny wooden planks squeaked and squealed. The painted dividers were chipping dry.

    I then looked to my left and saw this quaint treasure chest resting in the corner beside a dusty window. I walked towards it and peered inside, only to my disappointment. Fake gold-plated trophies and dirty dishes were stacked side by side. I was about to close the damn box when I felt something protruding from the inside. My eyesight was getting worse so I carried the box first to the bed and put on my glasses. I dumped all the contents onto our bed and inspected it closely. That was when I found a tiny latch about half the size of my thumb. I cranked it open and a brownish somewhat crumply parchment popped. Slowly but surely, I straightened the paper and scanned its words. The daisy freshness in me gradually came back.

    “Goodness gracious me! What did you get yourself into?” My wife shrieked eye sockets bulging.

    “Oh, these?” I said chuckling. “Answered prayers.”

    “Are those, by chance, stolen?” She asked nervously eyeing the golden saucers scattered on our king-sized hotel bed and the note I was holding.

    “’Course not. What do you think of me? Even if I am now a poor man, I will not ever steal nor kill.” I answered defensively while tugging the curtains I seamlessly knotted an hour ago.

    “Come sit beside me.” I motioned. “And let me read this good news to you.”

    “O-kay,” she stammered.

    Once seated, she gave the letter a quick once-over. “But honey,” she said. “It is not written in English!”

    “Relax,” I assured her. “Watch and learn.”


    Öncelikle, ben bu belgeyi bulmak için sizi tebrik etmek istiyorum! Sen, bu okuma bir, sen kim, sen çok mübarek vardır. Bunu farkında değil misin? Bu dünyada insanların milyarlarca, benim mektubumu bulduk. Ben dikkatle, sadece bu Paşalar göğüs içeriden özel bir mandal ile açılabilen gizli bir bölmeye sakladı. Çok zeki olmalı. Allah sana, senin çocukların, ve senin büyük-büyük torunu bereket versin.

    Ben sadece onu koyacağım. Sana babam, Aslı Efendi, Hüdavendigar İskender Efendi (şimdi Bursa) büyük-torunu sevgili tarifleri biri ile paylaşmak istiyorum çünkü ben bu mektubu yazıyorum.

    Eğer döner kebap duydunuz mu? Eğer zaten bir tadı var? İyi miydi? Eh, bizimki iyi değil sadece bir en iyisidir.Bestest. Ben palavra değilim ama bizim klan, Efendis mükemmellik için döner-marine icat. Biz bunu orijinal yapımcıları konum ve ek delil isterseniz, sizin mevcut yemek kitaplarından içine bakmak olabilir. İşte biz ne kadar popüler.

    Çünkü ben çizgiyi devam olmayabilir korku dünyasına, size bu otantik Osmanlı mutfağı paylaşmaya karar verdi. Ben hiç çocuk var ve benim akrabaları bütün kuzular ile ilgilenmiyor. Tüm yaptıkları bayram olduğunu! Yani, benim sevgili arkadaşım, bu tarifi tutun. Bu çok an senindir yemek ve bir ve bütün paylaşmaktır için, hazine.

    Bu çizginin altına reçetedir.

    Tadını çıkarın!

    Bizim onur ile imzalanan,



    Eren Levent was the only Black person in the airport in Turkey that day but he should have known something wasn’t right when the stewardess asked him…
    “Who are you with?”
    “I’m by myself.”
    He said and she stared at him like she didn’t want to understand English. Also, several other passengers kept telling him…
    “Where’s my luggage? I need my luggage!”
    “I need mine too!”
    Eren responded especially to those who refused to see him for himself. He retrieved his luggage and tried to hail a cab. Numerous cabbies pulled up, popped their trunks and said…
    “Put things in back.”
    He realized what was happening after he looked around to see who they were talking to and he flagged them on. The only other Black person he saw was a cab driver. This guy stopped, asked if he needed a cab and Eren let him take him and his baggage to his hotel.
    “What is it about a Black man traveling and wearing a business suit mind you that make some people uncomfortable?” Eren asked his driver.
    “We’re a rarity here sir. I’m of mixed heritage so I’m use to it.”
    “I’m American and I guess I’ll never get use to it.”
    “You’re here on business?”
    “Yes, I’m an antique collector.”
    “You sir, are rarer than me.”
    They laughed at the thought. Eren thanked him for his courtesy then headed inside the hotel. There were sprawling white staircases, huge ivory and glass chandeliers and an off white gold marbled registration desk.
    “May I help you?”
    The big boned redhead concierge asked.
    “Reservation for Eren Levent?”
    She examined him twice from head to toe then stabbed at several computer keys and finally eyed Eren like he was lost. The funny thing about this whole situation was the hotel or the airline didn’t have a problem taking his money when he reserved his room and plane ticket.
    “Is there a problem?”
    Eren asked when she didn’t respond timely.
    “Wait here.”
    “Wait here!”
    Helga firmly said then disappeared into a small office. She returned with a bald guy who wore an ID badge with the name Adem Bora.
    “Mr. Levent, this way please.”
    Eren looked down at his luggage and without missing a beat Adem beckoned a Bellhop gathered the luggage and followed them to Eren’s room.
    He said as he tipped the bellhop. The bellhop nodded then disappeared.
    “Mr. Levent I’ll be the only person assisting you. Ask for me directly if you need anything.”
    “Thank you.”
    Eren said locking his door behind Adem. Eren opened his tablet and reread Sotheby’s email again.
    “When you arrive at the Serkan hotel, look for the great box.”
    The map Eren purchased from the Arsel’s estate auction was paying off. He just needed to find the box. The room contained vintage curtains, a VCR and a cigar box mounted inside a picture frame. He removed the picture from the wall and the cigar box lid slid off. Old war medals, gold coins and aged envelopes with crumbling letters inside fell out. He’d found the treasure. He read the email again but didn’t understand the ending.
    “Whatever you do, don’t trust Red Hurricane!”
    Eren realized he’d gotten what he came for and decided to leave. He replaced the picture and packed the box’s contents in his suitcase. He yanked the door opened and came face to face with a 45 automatic.
    “Leaving so soon Mr. Levent?”
    Adem said as Eren damned near turned white and almost crapped in his pants.

    1. Observer Tim

      An engaging tale, McKevin. Poor Eren is a total fish out of water in Turkey, except by the end he is in water – specifically hot water.

      The (very small) amount of research I did luckily indicates that Turkish people may look oddly at black people, but the shunning scenario is far more likely in the USA. However, it does set a clear tone of being in a strange land.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Reads like a Phillip Marlowe story. I like the tension here and the last paragraph suits your story well. Cliff-hangers are always good. Maybe he can talk the big-boned red head out of her pants and then ther gun won’t matter any more,

        Where’s the next part, MCKEVIN?

    2. lionetravail

      Adem is red, in turkish… Bora is something to do with wind, so the warning about the villain was in the name, eh McKevin? Nicely chosen, well written. I agree with wanting to hear more.

    3. k.spicer

      I liked the scene, tension was good. Sentence structure was a little off but that didn’t bother me, mine isn’t perfect either. I agree with Observer Tim however, I know a few places here in the US (sadly) that this was likely to have occurred. But in the end it didn’t come down to racial profiling, it came down to the age old colorblind problems of greed, lust, and thievery…come to think of it this could have been a story about a corporation since we’re talking about greed, lust, and thievery!

  5. Reaper

    A little long but you all asked for it. Will see if I can get the next part done tonight.

    A Saner Boss II

    My mind was easier as I entered the land named for peace and known for war.

    I had my itinerary and I was on the greatest hits tour. We Italians did the mob best, at least in the states. We weren’t the first or the last though. There were two cultures known for it before we perfected the practice and two after we as a people moved on to more genteel pursuits. There were exceptions to that moving on and I was one of them.

    So I had to travel all over the world for business instead of pleasure in my retirement. Turkey had been an odd start but it was on to bigger and better things. I finally understood what I was doing too. Samantha had explained it. I was laying the groundwork for one of my new friends. This was also my retribution tour.

    So the first stop was the land of the Micks. Seemed fitting, I needed a drink after the reporter. I hadn’t gotten blood on my hands in a lot of years. They were going to be exfoliating in it by the time I was home. That drink would dull the bloodshed.

    It was late but the whiskey was good. My fingertips sat on the bar, leaving prints I wasn’t concerned with. As the last patrons staggered into the street I hailed the bartender. He was polished a glass with his apron while he made his way down.

    “Do you know where Mad Maggie resides these days?”

    From the look he gave me I could tell the tender thought I was queer.

    “She’s a working girl, about fifty now, used to work out of this pub years back.”

    “No Mad Maggie here. If I did have prostitutes working here I’d get some younger.”

    “You don’t hold to history then?” I nodded my understanding at his words while frowning my disappointment.

    “I hold to history fine, just not old whores.”

    “So you do understand your family’s betrayal almost a century ago?”

    I watched comprehension dawn in his eyes. When my great grandfather was setting up shop in New York this man’s family had done something terrible to him. We Italians had honor but before us the Irish and the Jews ran crime. They were ruthless compared to us. They had been shameless in what they did. The debt was coming due.

    I like irony so I drew the wine bottle filled with homemade napalm from inside my overcoat. It was heavy so when it shattered against his chest it drove him back into bottles and mirrors.

    I realized I had forgotten to light it. I was losing my touch in my old age. Pulling my favorite Zippo I flicked it to life and lobbed it onto the tender’s chest. The stink of burning human and blazing alcohol filled my nose, screams doing the same to my ears. I exited to get a better view from outside.

    Samuel stood outside the pub watching flames lick up into the night sky. It was not a protestant hospital but the sight still reminded him of his last trip to Ireland. He was becoming a reflective man in his old age.

    Samuel considered the changes with a smile. Protestant or Catholic, orange or green, everyone burned the same. Their skin seared and hair stank. He thought he wanted away from that life but he was finding a renewed taste for it. He spoke into his phone, addressing his daughter as the strange European sirens grew closer.

    “Jerusalem next… I leave tomorrow need to visit an old whore first.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Captivating second hit, Reaper. I can’t quite tell whether to like or hate the MC, which makes him a perfect anti-hero. And the voice is excellent, a sort of post-noir tough guy. I’ll keep reading as long as these keep coming…

    2. k.spicer

      Other than one tense shift (the bartender was “polishing” a glass) this was spot on. Good writing, good tension, and one very bad MC…makes for a very good story! Wouldn’t want to be on his bad side; come to think of it, Mad Maggie may be crispy before he leaves for Jerusalem!

  6. Augie

    Excuse me for being so active this week with post. I promise I will find a hobby soon, still adjusting.

    I am being bombarded with text from knuckleheads far-far-away to write this. Hope you guys don’t mind…….


    My ‘Brothers’ Chest

    The pitiful, privileged, young Naval Officer, Ensign Betterthanyou has been in the military for 9 months and is ready to make his mark. He approaches Scorpion, a seasoned US NAVY SEAL with 18 years of service, severing his heart.

    “ Hey Scorpion, what’s it been, a week, maybe two? “

    Scorpion thinks, (slash throat, break neck) and responds, “Yup.”

    The Ensign shouts, “Your will respond to me as SIR!”

    Scorpion thinks, (pull BFG, three shots to head, coconut pattern) and responds,


    The Ensign backs up as though capable of reading Scorpions mind. If he could, he would cry like a little bitch in Scorpion’s shadows of death that kills for the light of hope.

    Betterthanyou clears his throat, “Well, I think you need a little vacation to forget about Aguila. He’s retired now, you have to get used to that!

    (Kick in nuts, smash in face.) “No prob, where am I going?”

    Betterthanyou smirks, “Istanbul, take a week off and get Aguila out of your system!’


    The entire flight Scorp processes the years of service he shared with Aguila. The last of the so-called ‘rebels’ has now retired. He remembers describing Aguila to young members of the team.

    “He will cut a man down for kicking a dog, shoot a dog for harming a child. Orders shouted over his shoulder he will follow. But if you’re not in ‘da-shit’ with him, shut the hell up and deal with what he delivers.

    He wants you to build dam’s to gather your tears. When it’s all over, let them flow at fire talk with your brothers. But not until then, and with no one else!

    That is a warrior!”

    Scorpion walks into the Hotel through restaurant entrance and processes the scene.

    (Motion detector, attached to door –clever- Hinges on exterior –stupid-)

    One step in

    (Male, Caucasian, 5’9 ,180 pounds. Shoelaces tied left over right; eating with left hand, thumb on bottom of handle, intentional flexing, white ring on skin, ring finger. –no-threat-)

    (Female laughs at his joke, keys on table, two house keys, one master lock key, drives a Toyota. –no threat-)

    (Two punks, large hole in ears, t-shirts have word DEATH white on black, scanning my movements -Joke-)

    (Cashier, male, slept in clothes last night, leaning on counter, hung over, -no threat-)

    (Woman, business suit, adjust bra strap? No, Adjust gun sling strap, small bulge just below left breast, possibly 380 or 9mm. Weapon is concealed. Small round dull earrings, black shoes, low heals, light make up, back to wall, eyes scanning. American, Federal. –no threat-)

    (Peeling paint on wall, lead? Asbestos? Not friable or airborne.)

    Nine steps from entrance

    (Emergency exit blocked by serving cart, alternate route detected.)

    (Fire extinguisher, potassium bicarbonate.)

    (Federal gal scans, looking for the barrel of my 92FS to peak out from my shirt. No eye contact.)

    (Waitress, fake smile, red eyes, cashier watches, definite connection –No threat-)

    (Cameras, wireless, pointed to kitchen, cashier, and restroom hall. SVAT system, recorder on site. –stupid-)

    14 steps to front desk

    “I need a room.” (Woman, fifties, cute.) (Scent: cigarettes, whisky, cheap perfume) (Never mind)

    Scorpion scouts his room and finds an old chest under the window. He pries open the lid, then the tears flow. He has broken Aguila’s rule.

    Inside are medals from different nations stabbed into the interior of the chest from WWI. The most obvious is ‘Pip, Squeak, and Wilfred”, Medals from the British Army.

    Yes, Mutt and Jeff hang separately and are highly respected by this Navy SEAL. All the sacrifice these men suffered for humanity.

    Scorpion smiles and opens his suitcase. He pulls out his Humanitarian Medal, tears flowing. It’s the only Medal Aguila accepted as worthy. Hard to earn, risking it all, for the innocence. You could put this Medal on Aguila’s gravestone and feel him smile.

    Scorp stares at his bronze Humanitarian Medal, one side is mans open palm, offering his hand. “The hand of hope.”

    He turns the medal and reads the engraving, ‘FOR HUMANITARION SERVICES’
    Just below is an image of an oak branch with three leaves and three acorns.

    “So we all can be free”

    Scorp burst out into tears. “I miss you brother.”

    He shifts the medal in his hand, four silver stars and one bronze is attached to the purple silk cloth. He sits and remembers every mission he served with Aguila receiving this medal, 22 times. (Silver stars represent 5 times, Bronze once, Medal once.)

    Scorpion stabs his Humanitarian Medal’s two pronged pins into soft wood next to other brothers that have served.

    He closes the lid, wipes his tears, and smiles.

    Fire-talk has been around for a very long time.

    (Observer Tim, I kept one of my Medals. It’s all I needed. )

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a wonderful story, Augie. I know what it’s like to be the last man standing, though not in any profession where I’d be shot at for the privilege. Congratulations on your retirement; I hope that it’s a long one, surrounded by caring friends and loving family.

    2. Observer Tim

      On the topic of medals, I can certainly understand that. You can only be told you’re a hero so often; the awards you keep are the ones that mean something to you.

      I have a (civilian) medal given out on the occasion of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (2012-13). While I am proud of its meaning [meritorious service to the Crown as an unknown cog in the civil service], I am far more proud of the fact that on the day I received it my Father couldn’t attend because he was at another ceremony receiving the same medal for his work with retired servicemen and the Royal Canadian Legion. The only shame is that we never were able to get our pictures taken together because he died seven months after receiving it.

      1. Augie

        My respects to you and your father. I attempted multiple responses to you, but couldn’t find the right words. I hope, I get it right this time and don’t have to erase each thought and start all over again. I have served with the proud CSOR and know what drives their engines. Humanity. When I walked through the sand, explosions and rapid fire in the back ground, I wrote about throwing my medals away as I looked into the mirror of what they want me to see, A civilian reached out to me from Canada. Tim. He basically said, “be proud” So… That is why I wrote this, letting you know I cling on to what makes me smile. Thank you for sharing. Good fire talk.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        An extremely moving and powerful write. It’s never the metals that are important. It’s never the prize you strive for that is important. It’s never the fame, it’s never the glory, It’s never the praise. Well, what is important? I only speak for myself in this issue, For me, it’s always the quest that is important, the first part of each journey through life, when the mission is pure, and the mind is not jaded from the past..

    3. snuzcook

      Sometimes the most appropriate response to a story is silent witness, especially when the what has been shared extends beyond one’s own experience in a deep and profound way. Bu this is a site where no response can mean ambivalence or even absence.
      I stand in silent witness.

  7. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    In the meantime here’s a quick and dirty story while I wait for the next prompt to post…

    I stood outside the room, staring at the number written upon the door in brass lettering eaten by time. It read 1232, a number I didn’t know, yet it carried the enormous weight of my emotional past. What did it mean to me at that time? Nothing, but I knew it would come to mean so much once I finally found the courage to enter the room.

    I slipped my closed hand over the knob, and twisted. The rusted mechanics ground together and let loose a soft metallic whine. As I pushed the door open, I kept wondering what I might find on the other side of it. In twenty years I’d come to expect disappointment, but there was hope. Hope that my heart might find something I’d been missing for over thirty years.

    Inside the room there was a tattered bed sitting against a window that bled bars of gold light upon the filthy sheets. A small nightstand stood next to the bed with a lamp encrusted with the grime of age and a vase with an unrecognizably desiccated plant. There was also a chest, wrapped with worn leather straps and secured with a padlock, sitting at the foot of the bed. Everything was as they said it would be.

    I inspected the lock, and it looked as though time and seized it, but I had to know. From my pocket I retrieved a small key, one with the engraving LP on one side. I pushed the old ticket into the tumbler and took a deep breath. I didn’t know what I might find in that timeworn chest, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I was content to accept all the things I’d grown to believe, and in one short turn of a key, I knew I could unravel every bit of it and send myself into emotional torment.

    I twisted the key, and the lock didn’t resist me. At the time, I wished it had, but after removing the lock and cracking the rusted seal, I was glad it didn’t.

    Inside, I found a heap of folded clothes, loose papers, a small book, a smaller box, and a scent that tasted old but was entirely pleasant. I lifted an old military uniform from the chest and set it aside, noting the size could fit my twenty-year-old son perfectly. Next, I took a handful of the papers, which felt thin and brittle, and sifted through them. Some of them were nothing more than receipts and articles cut from newspapers concerning the war. Then I grabbed the box, and a sudden shiver pinched my skin into gooseflesh.

    Apprehension told me not to open it, to continue to admire the ornate ink design of the exterior, but I couldn’t. The script LP on the head of it beckoned me to satiate my curiosity, my need to know the truth, and so I used my thumb to open the latch and peer inside.

    The contents included nothing more than paper. I unfolded the one laying on top and began to read it:

    January 5th, 1945

    I’ve been in the care of the Turks for a little over a week now. They tended to my wounds, and continue to do so even though they know I am going to die.

    My eyes burned, and a singular tear leapt from an eyelash and landed upon the yellowed page.

    I keep hoping that my wife and son will march through that door. That I’ll be able to see little Lincoln Phelps, Junior’s chubby smile once more, but I know that can’t happen. They are at home, which is where I’d rather they be. I came here to protect them, and I hope that they are safe from any of the darkness on this side of the world.

    I do wish that I could tell them that I love them so very much. I wish that I could tell my wife to be strong when I’m gone, and that she will do a fine job raising Lincoln. I married her for all the right reasons, and I know she will pass all those reasons right on to Lincoln.

    I want to tell my son that he will need to take care of his mother in my absence. There will be times that she will need his strength to press on, and that together they will need each other’s love to find happiness when it seems that the shadow of my death may weigh heavily upon them.

    I want to tell them all of this and more, but I know that there is no need. I know that Lincoln will grow to be a man I can be proud of, and my wife will never let him down.

    That tired feeling I keep getting is coming back again, and the nurses are scheduled to come in any time now. I hope that this war will be over soon. I worry so much for their safety.

    Lincoln Phelps, Sr.

    The corners of the page were pressed tightly between my fingers as I read the final lines my father wrote before he passed. I had this idea that my father was a wartime hero, and I was mostly right. After reading the letters I learned that he did things that might make him seem like a hero in other people’s eyes, but the real hero was the father in him, the man that died to protect his wife and his son.

    I thought he’d died alone, but we were always with him. In his thoughts and in his heart. I pressed the letter to my chest, and a squeal of pain escaped my quivering lips. It was nearly identical to the letter my son had written to his wife and daughter before the war in Afghanistan took him. I hope wherever he is he knows he and my mother raised a son who was able to raise a grandson that he could be proud of, and the mark he left not on the world but on us limited few will never be forgotten.

  8. flaboba

    My momma carried my baby sister, Talin in her arms while my brother and I stumbled along behind her. My momma, who was always perfectly coiffed in her flowing robe, hair artfully swept up, now appeared sweaty, dirty and ragged. Every inch of her good gown was torn and stained. Her hair hung loose around her face giving her, an almost child like appearance.

    My brother and I dragged sticks in the dirt or kicked rocks over the dust. We did anything we could to amuse ourselves even though at six I was conflicted between the horror of what had happened and the guilt of laughing again with my brother.

    Seven days prior men with the funny hats had arrived. We were at church the day they battered down the doors and ordered all of us out into the town center. A neighbor’s baby was being baptized and the bad men wouldn’t even let the parents dress their baby.

    They divided us into two groups; women and boys under ten and men and boys eleven and up. First they took all the men that had been leaders or teachers or business owners and they hung them right in front of us. My mother stood shaking but quiet as a stone. She clamped her hands over my mouth and my brother’s mouth so that I could barely breathe. Then they shot whoever was left. I couldn’t see what was happening because I was so little but I could smell the smoke and hear the screams of my mother and the other women in a crescendo of agony that I will never be able to rip from my mind.

    After three days half of us were gone. My mother told me the old women and babies were dying of dehydration and starvation. I didn’t know what that meant but I was scared for my little sister Talin. Their bodies were left where they fell, no ceremony, no grave.

    Six days later my mother’s hollow black eyes looked through me with an empty stare. The soldiers had marched us, hundreds of women and children into the desert with no water and no food. No one would tell us where we were going.

    “We aren’t going anywhere,” screamed one hysterical woman again and again until a soldier came and hit her on the head hard with the butt of his gun.

    On the seventh day, my mother was visibly ill. She was shaking and having trouble walking. She stopped every few feet to adjust Talin in her arms. I reached to take Talin from her but she just pushed my little hands away.

    I was drawing a circle in the sand with my stick when my brother grabbed my shoulder. I looked up just in time to see my mother stumble. She fell to the ground and baby Talin flew from her arms landing with a thud. The baby’s screams were instantly extinguished by the hooves of a soldier’s horse. I ran to my mother who kneeled cradling what was left of my baby sister. Soon after a soldier rode up on his horse and stopped in front of my mother.

    He said to her “Give me the girl,” nodding to me.

    My mother grabbed me pulling me close to her, speechless for fear of losing two daughters in one fell swoop.

    He looked at her and said in a more authoritative tone, “Give her to me now.”

    My mother refused. . “You know she will die if she stays with you. At least this way she will live,” he softened. I never saw my mother or my brother again after that.

    My name is Eliza. I’m from the town of Harput. My family is from Hussenig. If you find this letter please tell them I’m here.


    I placed the letter back into the lining of the box and set the box back on the shelf. Tomorrow I would leave this B&B and continue my journey like every other summer tourist but tonight I would sleep with the ghosts of one hundred years to keep me company.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a truly depressing tale, flaboba. It is artful and powerful, and reads like a story written by a survivor (which is what it’s supposed to). Great job.

      It’s amazing the horrors that can be inflicted on humans by humans. I would say I am happy it can’t happen here, but then I remember the Navajo.

    2. Augie

      WOW. You hit deep with this incredible description of what ‘bad guys’ do. I don’t think I breathed once through this,as though setting up for a shot. What a sad and well written image you printed in my head. Great job flaboba!

    3. snuzcook

      Well written, flaboba. A story of such terrors and uncomprehensible events told from the perspective of a child–the ultimate innocence and helplessness–is very powerful. All the touchstones are broken–mother, friends, church, propriety, even the expectation of food or rest.
      This is a very moving exercise in empathy.

    4. Reaper

      There is so much power and emotion in this writing and the subject so dark, real, and repetitive through history that I wanted to rush through it. I wanted to get done and be done with this pain. But your voice was so compelling, the mind of a child so real I found myself slowing down instead to witness every word, to be in the moment with everything you were telling me. Then the ending, well the letter ending, broke my heart and I was not sorry at all for the journey. That is some amazing writing.

    5. k.spicer

      What can I say to this? Horrifyingly well written. An eye for detail, movement, and story. I think you should take this scene and write a novel around it. That’s how good this very bad scene was! Well done!

  9. smallPencil

    Pack of smokes. Can’t read the brand name, Turkish or something. One cigarette remains; turned up: for luck.

    Boots. Lovingly cleaned. But it remains apparent: the tops were once caked with dirt.

    No helmet. Curious. Perhaps lost. Perhaps in a charge.

    A rifle. Beautiful stock. Ironwork; one piece, resembling a pawn, juts out to the side. The strap is worn, frayed. Bayonet attached, bloodstained. The stain is darker along the first half.

    A uniform shirt. One slice through the middle. Bloodstain radiating from it. The wearer was horizontal while it spread.

    A photograph. Crumpled. Covered in bloody fingerprints. Black and white of a young woman. No one bothered to smooth it out.

    1. Observer Tim

      Once again you’ve placed an interesting implied story into a tiny space.

      Personally I prefer a little more narrative (which is why I disregard Hemingway’s “six word novel”), but you’ve done an excellent job on the style, smallPencil.

    2. lionetravail

      It’s almost like a piece of Cornell box art- ordinary things placed in juxtaposition in a glass-fronted box, able to pretty much speak a poem themselves; concrete items, yet with abstract meanings, spelling out what the artist ‘wrote’ and what people read into it.

      It’s powerful to see it in written format. Nice!

    3. Augie

      Your pencil must be one of those ‘hybrid’ types. You cover so much terrain with so few words! Great post smallpencil! You make it easy for me to fill in all the unnecessary ‘bla,bla,bla’s’ Getting caught up in description is the fastest way to make me yawn! It only takes a couple of sentences to tell when someone is ‘writing’ or practicing their vocabulary describing a boring, never ending, style. Once again, great job!

    4. k.spicer

      So much story and detail in so few words. The human mind works in mysterious ways, and this is a testament of letting the mind do its job. Well done!

  10. yaxomoxay

    Mysteries are born within mysteries. They are the transcendental link between numerous ethereal realms. Some visible places are left as empirical monuments to them.

    On the September 3rd 1999, wealthy Raymond Edward Bley fulfilled his desire to visit the historic Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, and resided in Room 411. Bley’s wish was not the fruit of a simple caprice, infact Agatha Christie wrote “Murder on The Orient Express” in the same room.

    As soon as he entered the room, together with his fez wearing chaperone, Bley inhaled deeply as if he tried to smell the room’s history.

    As soon as the chaperone left, not without a tip, Bley laid on the bed, falling asleep thinking that he was under the same roof that hosted Agatha Christie and Ataturk.

    Bley was aware from extensive research of Room 411’s mystery: objects appear. Decades earlier, a brass key once owned by Agatha Christies appeared in the room. No one ever figured out what was the use of the brass key, likely the key to Agatha’s mysterious ten-day long disappearance.

    During the first night of his stay, a wooden, wet-ragged box appeared just opposite to the bed, by the window. Noticing the box at dawn, Bley ran to open it, still in his pajama, almost tripping on the handmade carpet. To his surprise, the box seemed to contain small cardboard boxes, tens of them, neatly ordered in layers. He opened the first box the same way a child would open a present under the Christmas tree. After a fast, heartfelt, examination he promptly recognized that the box contained Niepce’s photograph, the first one ever. Was it a copy? The picture was supplemented by other photographs from the end of the XIX century to the First World War period. There was a picture of Ataturk as an Ottoman officer, then several pictures from the battlefields, and other pictures of common Ottoman life.

    Then, Bley opened a second box. It contained newspapers and more pictures but this time from the years that followed. The third box contained pictures from the Second World War, its atrocities and several documents. Bley went on opening box by box, carefully trying to keep everything in order. Every box contained pictures and documents, and Bley looked at each one of them.

    As it was getting darker, and rain poured outside, a thunder woke up Bley from his hypnotic research. He didn’t have lunch, and didn’t even go to the restroom. He was too afraid that the box would disappear with its contents. Instead, a second thunder made him realize that the last box contained a newspaper headlining Izmit’s devastating earthquake that happened just a few days earlier, on August 17th 1999. Bley heart beat fast, as two more boxes were left to open and he had already reached the contemporary time.

    With shaking hands, he opened the first of the remaining boxes. It was strange, and felt wrong. Pictures from Giza’s pyramids lighted by fireworks and newspapers celebrating the new millennium were quickly replaced by impossible images of New York City under attack. Bley sweated as he witnessed future wars and even a financial crisis. The last newspaper was from New Year’s Eve 2014 and the people in the pictures looked happy despite the obvious adversities.

    Then, feeling feverish, Bley picked up the last box. It felt light, the objects inside made a bumping noise. It was harder to open than the others as there was more friction like it happens with brand new items.
    Inside there was another newspaper, this time welcoming the spring of 2015. Then, a picture that Bley recognized even if he had never seen. It was the last picture ever taken. Its subject, complete destruction.

    These are the last actions of Raymond Edward Bley, son of August and Emily, hubristic entrepreneur, book lover and amateur historian, who was found dead of heart attack next to a timeworn, empty box.

  11. Observer Tim

    Just to show I’m not totally hung up on last week’s prompt…

    All’s Fair

    ‘Pasha’ arched her back and made sure Gunther got a good view. He was totally naked and she had on about forty-three square centimeters of silk. She’d measured. She handed him a glass and he downed the last of it. She massaged his cheeks, letting her long fingernails tease his lips.

    He took a firm grip on her chest, then slumped back and went limp. About bloody time, she thought, I thought a Mickey Finn was supposed to work quickly. This guy nearly got all the money. She put on the annoying undergarments and then the silk dress, making sure she looked like a proper Turkish courtesan (read: streetwalker) again.

    The key was in his pocket where she thought it would be. She took it over to the footlocker and opened the padlock. The heavy lid resisted, but in vain. And inside… jackpot!

    She pulled out the large map, carefully memorizing how it was folded. A half-dozen snapshots and she had the entire battle plan. After folding it back up perfectly she studied the rest of the contents. Nothing unexpected, but she took a few snaps anyway for good measure. Finally she put everything back exactly as she found it and re-locked the chest. The key went back in Gunther’s pocket.

    She thought for a moment. Why am I here? I have to make it look reasonable. She took out Gunther’s wallet and lifted all the cash, then wiped it down to ruin any fingerprints. A few moments later she was out the door and headed for street level.

    Askaray is an ancient and beautiful part of Istanbul. According to the brochure it’s within walking distance of the Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, and more. Pasha didn’t care; it was also close to the Grand Bazaar, which was enough. She felt the eyes of a number of Turkish and foreign men checking her out, but her goal was already set. She got to her hotel a few blocks from where the job had gone down and went to her more modest room.

    In moments the black wig was gone and the shower and special soap were sluicing away her dark complexion. She was glad she’d taken the time to go full body, and that those last forty-three square centimeters had stayed covered. Bright red hair ‘down under’ would have been hard to explain. Once dressed in something more sensible she called the special phone number she’d been given.

    “Hello?” She confirmed that she knew his voice.

    “David, it’s Janet. I have the plans, plus a few extra photos. I’m e-mailing them over.”

    “Thanks. You’re the greatest, sis.”

    Five minutes later Janet’s cell phone rang. The call display said David.

    “Hi David. Did everything come out okay?”

    “Great. But why do I have a picture of some guy’s… you know?”

    “So you can see how close you came to an international incident. Now transfer the rest of the money and go win your toy soldiers tournament. I’ve got shopping to do.”

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Sexy romp for an early morning read. This is good Tim. Writing is crisp, but maybe the math is still a little fuzzy, [Pun intended]. Eighty seven square centimeters is 13.5″ in my book. A little more than you need to cover a ‘you know’. Now some math genius will invade your story and prove both of us wrong. 2.54 x 2.54 = 6.45 87cm Divided by 6.45 = 13.48″

          That’s okay with me, how about you?

          1. Observer Tim

            Bad news, I am that math geek; that’s why I had to reconsider this. My logic was that 87 square centimeters would be a square (√87≈) 9.33 cm (3.7 in) on a side, just enough material to allow for a small amount of modesty in the lass’s unmentionables.

            On the other hand (or body part), 42 square cm ≈ 6.48 cm (2.5 in) on a side; enough for some girls but not others. I’m not sure, but I don’t think Janet is that type of lass.

          2. Observer Tim

            The thing that threw me is that the first measurement is just slightly smaller than a credit card (46.75 sq cm). I couldn’t quite convince myself it would cover all of the red hair it was required to (though in the case of some individuals it would). That was why I thought to “correct” it upwards…

          3. k.spicer

            Not sure where the 87 square centimeters came from but 43 square centimeters of silk piqued my interest.

        2. Kerry Charlton

          Okay, Wiz Head. Figure this out.

          Three men rent a room together. It’s $30.00. Each man gives the room clerk a $10.00 bill. The room clerk return five single dollars to the oldest man. When the bellhop carries the bags upstairs, the older man gives the bellhop two dollars. That leaves three dollars, one of which he keeps and one each to the other men.

          Pause, you have this so far? Good.

          Each nan started with a ten dollar bill, having a single dollar back They each spent a net of $9.00 You with me? Good

          Three times nine is $27.00 Two dollars to the bellhop as a tip. Add them up $27.00 plus $2.00 equals $29.00 WHAT HAPPENED TO TO THE OTHER DOLLAR?

          1. lionetravail

            No, no, no, you can’t confuse us that way- the plus $2 for the bellhop’s tip is added on- they already gave the bellhop his tip in the 9$ from each guy.

            Each guy has a dollar. The other 27$ is 25 for the room and 2 for the bellhop.

            Nice try, Kerry “Waves his hands around a lot to mystify and obfuscate the situation” Charlton!

            (actually, that’s a great, if hand-cramping, middle name- you should consider it)


          2. Kerry Charlton

            No chance David. My middle name is Brian. I like the ring of Kerry Brian Obfuscate Charlton, Esq.

    1. lionetravail

      Heh, lots of fun. And not at all hung up on last week’s prompt!

      Delightfully written, but wow- who knew that miniatures wargaming had gotten so cutthroat as to warrant a spy-quality seduction and espionage action?

      1. Observer Tim

        I’ve had to make a bit of a stretch here, either that or these teens and twenty-somethings really want those tournament points. Of course, I’ve known some Warhammer 40K people who would go to those lengths…

    2. Reaper

      Very nice Tim. And a buddy of mine runs a Gamesworkshop store. If any of the players had sisters that liked them they really would go to these lengths so also very believable. 😉

  12. Critique

    The fruitless six week pilgrimage I was on to find my Great Grandfather’s Turkish roots led me to a busy market street in Istanbul. Exiting the taxi I lugged my suitcase up the steps of the run-down hotel. Anticipating refuge from the unbearable heat and humidity I was dismayed to find there was no air conditioning. It felt hotter inside.

    “There is no reservation here for you madam.” The bald man sporting an enormous moustache with waxed lethal tips quivering out both sides of his cheeks – flipped through the book in front of him. He squinted up at me.“It appears we are full.”

    Great Grandfather’s diary had led me across the continent and I discovered humanity is the same everywhere. Perhaps the tears gathering in my eyes was the mental stimulant he needed because he held up a finger and called to someone in the back room. “Aysel come please.”

    An old woman shuffled out from the back and an animated conversation in Turkish ensued.

    Waxed tips aquiver he smiled winningly at me. “It appears we have a room. It has not been aired or used for some time but you may stay if you desire.”

    Ten minutes later I followed Aysel (who moved at a snail’s pace) up narrow flights of stairs – the elevator was out of order – and arrived sweaty and short of breath to an attic room on the fourth floor.

    The cramped musty room featured a single cot with a pillow, a folded chair resting against the wall and a tall metal chest in the corner. I could see a layer of dust on everything. Aysel tossed a sheet and pillowcase on the bed, pointed out the tiny closet in the corner that housed a sink and commode and shuffled back down the stairs. Grateful to have a place I set my luggage on the floor. I opened the window and an intoxicating blend of scents wafted in from the spice bazaar down the street.

    Curious, I crossed the room to the chest and with some effort pried open the top drawer. It was empty. I dug a coin out of my pocket and jimmied the locks on the remaining two drawers. The second one was empty too but bending down I saw a wooden crate at the back of the third drawer.

    Setting the box on top of the chest my heart pounded with excitement when I saw what it contained. I recognized a set of prismatic binoculars – like the ones in my Great Grandfather’s picture – two medals with strange markings and a flat brown papered package. Could I have hit the jackpot? Were these my Great Grandfather’s? He had stayed in this hotel during WWI. It was all in his diary.

    I uttered a squeal of joy when I recognized his name on the back of one of the medals. Fingers trembling I unwrapped a notebook and began reading my Great Grandfather’s journal.

    1. Reaper

      Interesting take Critique. Aysel as the agent of fate and the triumph of human kindness were very sweet. The touch of a treasure that was more important and personal than valuable was a very nice touch. I had a nice warm smile by the end of this.

        1. lionetravail

          Gotta go for part 2 (or 5… someone on these prompts has been doing multi-part stories, the goof)!

          It’s a great story, Critique, and well written. The sense of success and triumph, as stated, is its own reward for the reader 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        It’s a wonderful start Ctitique. I endever you to write part two and describe the diary. You just can’t leave us here. You’ve painted an atmospheric touch of Tutrkey, now we need to know what beats in the mind of your great grandfather.

        Perhaps a lost love he had to leave in Istanbul,.during the call of duty, for example. Perhaps a first love before he met you great grandmother.

    2. k.spicer

      Nice story Critique, well written. But I have to agree with Observer Tim, when I got to the end I wanted more. But that’s the challenge with the 500 word limit. I find myself too often settling for a funny or strange ending to sum up the story within the word limit. It’s really hard to do a serious scene in 500 words…at least for most of us! Good job!

  13. Augie

    Laundering Money

    The godfather waves Tony and Mo into his office. Since becoming part of New York’s Medici family, neither of them has been productive. Tony stumbles on the plush carpet in the boss’s office as Mo laughs, “stupid!”

    The godfather slaps his hand on his desk, “You two are idiots! I ask you to do one simple thing, collect protection money from our eastern zone, and you fail. If it weren’t for your cousin Vinny, I’d bury you both!”

    Tony giggles, “boss, we aren’t dead, why would ya bury us?”

    The godfather slams his fist on his desk, “You idiots bought four thousand Lotto scratch tickets with the protection money! Even worse, you didn’t read the damn instructions and scratched every block off, which made the only winning five dollar ticket worthless!”

    Mo clears his throat, “weze was trying ta double your money boss.”

    The godfather had had enough, “I’m sending you two to Istanbul! Your cousin Marko has a good thing going there!”

    Tony scratches his head, “Istanbul? Is dat in Jersey?”

    11 hours later, the Delta flight lands in Istanbul. The flight attendants are relieved as Tony and Mo disembark the plane while the air marshal removes their handcuffs.

    They arrive at the hotel and check in. Apparently cousin Marko made their reservations. The boys stumble into the room struggling with suitcases when a voice in the corner startles them.

    “So, now I’m stuck with you two morons! I received a call from homeland security, they verified you two are just plain stupid. Apparently you ran around the plane screaming ‘kidnappers’ because a flight to Jersey is only 30 minutes.”

    The mobsters drop 12 suitcases. “Sorry boss.”

    Marko looks at the suitcases, “Are all those yours?”

    Mo gets excited, “It’s like Easter egg hunting boss! Dis conveyer cycles and everyone rushes ta grab the bags as fast as dey can! Tony had ta punch a couple of fellas, but we scored more dan most!”

    Marko shakes his head, “shut up and listen you dummies, here is a map for your pick ups for the next three days. Don’t screw up!”

    Later that evening…

    Tony notices an old chest in the room with the word, ‘çamaşır‘ printed on top. He lifts the lid and discovers a shinny pin that says WWIN with a yellow falling star printed.

    “Hey Mo, lookie here! It’s a pin from one of dem soldiers in WWI.“ Tony snaps the pin on his collar and marches around the room like a solider. “Hup-2-3-5, Hup-2-3-5.”

    Mo slaps Tony on the back of the head, “Stupid, do we look like were in Nam? We gotta go, grab da gun!”

    The mobsters make the pickups and hide the money in the chest in their room. After three days of stashing cash, Marko shows up to collect.

    “Where’s da money?”

    Tony runs to the chest, “its all here boss!”

    Marko covers his face with his palms, “Are you really dat stupid? You see dis?” Marko points to the word ‘çamaşır‘ on the lid of the chest.

    “Dats the freaking laundry chute you idiots!”

    Tony stutters, “I thought dat was the soldier’s name printed on his war chest. I even found a uniform pin from WWI.”

    Marko shouts, “You can’t possibly be that dumb! Dats a freaking radio station in Baltimore! WWIN 95.9! Deys have a convention here once a month. Dats how we get da money back to da godfather!”

    Mo scratches his head, “so are we in Jersey or Maryland?”

    The laundry workers in the basement of the hotel have a great week until two screaming Italians come flying down the chute!

    1. lionetravail

      I keep waiting for Curly to show up with Mo and Tony 🙂

      Brilliantly funny, Augie, and very well written. So very impish, and so incredibly slapstick, it should be taught in writing classes as an example! Sitting at a wine tasting and my friends are looking at me funny because I’m reading my phone and chuckling. Nice job!

      1. Augie

        I had a blast with this! When Mo slaps Tony because he thinks WWI was fought in Nam I laughed for 15 minutes! Thank You for your wonderful comments lionetravail!

    2. Reaper

      Oh my! I couldn’t help but laugh through this entire thing. Beautiful. There are some tense shifts but that actually seems to work in this. I ended up thinking three stooges because of Mo but started off imagining the comedy characters from Pirates of the Caribbean turned gangsters. Just fun to read.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A fun romp for an early morning read, Augie. I l loved your take. In the back corners of my mind,I remember these two goons worked in our construction business. When we sent them to a job to paint sixty french doors, they painted the glass panes also. 1200 razer blades later, they finished the job.

  14. lionetravail

    Part 5: Coda- Wettest Work

    I watched the pulse in her throat almost hypnotically as she stood before me. “Have you ever read the Book of Eibon?” I said softly.

    She licked her lips. “Was he one of the suppressed apostles?” she said, her voice rough.

    “Eibon was a sorcerer of Hyperborea, lived somewhere between 11,000 and 20,000 before the common era. In his book, which I have, in fact, read, he shares his knowledge of horrors which pre-date life on Earth, and which he fought against, in his time. Specifically, he details Tsathoggua, patron ‘deity’ of an alien world, ‘bat-like wings, furred, with a queer, forked tongue’… sound familiar?”

    Her eyes were wide- I couldn’t tell whether it was disbelief, surprise, or terror.

    “Among others, all alien, all inimical to life- Yog Sototh, Cthulhu, Ithaqua… they are, for all intents and purposes numberless. Don’t misunderstand me,” I said softly. “I believe in god, or, more accurately, gods- they have been here since before our history began, causing real misery, pain, demanding human sacrifice, and worse. Their powers rise and fall through both the conjunction of the celestial heavens… and through worship and ritual.”

    She shook her head slowly, back and forth. “You’re insane!” she breathed.

    I reached for stillness, and imposed it around me once again, though I excluded her from its control. “No. I speak only truth. Your faith was created to armor you in belief and ignorance to blind you to the true struggle, for fear that would cause overwhelming despair. See for yourself- sorcery, eldritch magic, is real,” I said.

    The girl looked around at the frozen scene of the inside of the Hagia Sophia, the whites of her eyes showing all the way around now. There was no sound, no movement. Anywhere. “What are you? Why are you here?” she whispered in horror.

    “I am here to draw Tsathoggua from the stone.”

    “And m…m…me?” she stuttered, tears forming in her eyes.

    In answer, I drew forth the jeweled dagger from my coat. She whimpered when she saw it. I drew her shaking form toward me, and gently turned her to face the stone. “Watch, and decide,” I said.

    I jabbed my fingertip with the blade, and flicked one drop of blood at the stone. It moved through the air with almost infinite slowness, and then it struck.

    Something obscene swirled in the depths of the stone, and the girl moaned. I had to hold her up as her knees buckled.

    “You’re going to release that, that Devil? That… thing?”


    “And you’re going to sac…sacrifice me to do it?”

    “Yes. If you agree.”

    She went stiff with shock. “Well, I don’t…!” she began, hurriedly

    I silenced her by moving the flat of the dagger to her lips. “I must draw Tsathoggua from the stone now, before its conjunction is upon us, before it is at full strength,” I said.


    “If I am to have a hope of slaying it, according to Eibon, it must be while it is still vulnerable.”

    “You… you’re not here to… to worship it?” she breathed.

    “No,” I said. “I’m here to stop it- it will not be the first such Old One I’ve dispatched. But in the end, they are legion. My actions may only be small victories in a war humanity seems destined to lose.”

    “And I have to die for you to do this?” She turned to face me, eyes softer than before.

    “Not you, specifically,” I said. “It would require some effort, but I could choose another.”

    A moment passed, two. I saw her decision made written plainly in her face. “No, Cain failed god’s charge- I will be my brother’s keeper,” she said firmly.

    “You’re certain?”

    A look of calm resolution came over her. “‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit’,” she quoted. “Peter, first gospel, 3:18.”

    I slowly turned her to face the stone. “Are you ready?” I said, my voice now the rough one.

    “‘Joy to the world, the Lord is come’,” she whispered.

    I felt tears in my eyes as my hand jerked strongly and smoothly to the side. The blood jetted out from her throat and hit the stone. It seemed to sink into it, and I saw that there was frenetic movement within it now. She sagged in my arms, and I lowered her, carefully, to the stone floor.

    “I wish you luck finding your god,” I whispered to her. Impossibly, she smiled at me, and died.

    I stood once more and faced the stone as it began to bulge outwards towards me. With my right hand I held the blade ready, and with my left I dashed the blurring tears from my eyes. As I moved forward to attack, I found, to my surprise, that I was whispering:

    “‘Yea, though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…’”

    (the end)

    1. Observer Tim

      Ah, the Cthulhu mythos; nice to have a victory for a change; in Lovecraft’s stories, the best anyone ever seemed to manage was survival (with or without sanity). This is a very entertaining story, lionetravail. I figured out where it was going when you mentioned Tsathoggua, and prepared for a last stand against the ultimate incomprehensibility. I am truly impressed.

      At least the MC has a chance, since he seems to be going after Ashton-Smith’s version. Lovecraft was a stickler about that ‘infinite’ thing. I would love to see what the MC would do in the small boarding house at the dark end of the Rue d’Auseil (The Music of Erich Zann, my absolute favourite HPL). Pickman’s model would have been a snap.

      1. lionetravail

        Thanks for bearing wigh me through the whole thing! Yes, i’ve always loved the desperate nature of the mythos, and the epic horror of it, but i’ve always thought that there could be victories for humanity- pyrrhic, bloody, costly in lives and hope and morality- strewn into the eternal conflict.

        I wanted to hint at that here, take it in a slightly new direction: hope, at least for temporary victories… and in this story, the personal cost for the MC. I’m also glad that i managed to maintain the sense of mystery through the last installment and into this one. Thank you, and all the other brave souls who will follow, for taking the time to read, comment, and make me be a better writer.

    2. snuzcook

      My comments come from the oblivious reader who is not familiar with the writings of HPL or others who have pursued these archetypes.

      You skillfully engaged my interest, though it was interest in what appeared to be an incredibly intriguing and powerful villain, then turned the narrator into an even more fascinating hero without a human heart, then revealed his heart at the end. I found the woman in the church at first very familiar from the way you drew her, then she became my surrogate in concerns over the MC, and finally the heroic ally–all the time entirely true to her core essence.

      The consistency of the characters to their essence, even as you revealed actions that might superficially seem inconsistent, was for me the true art of this piece. And as the reader, finding that I could follow those twists was very satisfying. It could so easily have been just above my ability to grasp what was going on.

      I would recommend it in a heartbeat.

      1. lionetravail

        Thank you so, so much, Snuzcook! I hoped that neither the story nor characters would come out 2 dimensional, and had concerns that the mythology, and thus the story, might be too divergent or convoluted for readers unfamiliar with it.

        Youve totally made my day! I’m incredibly honored by your enjoyment and your comments. Thank you so much!

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I also want to jump in. Being a novice in the area you write, nevertheless, didn’t stop my wonderment of your story. I see there is so much to learn in this area. But the story was certainly three dimensional in all aspects.

          You’re cranking them out David. How you find time to write five chapters in one prompt amazes me, for I know you have a busy job also to handle. When do you sleep?

          1. lionetravail

            It was one of those things that just demanded it be told, and then started to flow. I don’t expect to be doing this every week 🙂

            The truth is I don’t really sleep all that much. Unfortunately, I need to!

            But thank you so much for reading, especially as it’s not your ‘comfort zone’- it means so much when I get helpful feedback!

    3. Reaper

      I take back what I said earlier about villains who call themselves evil. You hooked me, reeled me in, and kept me on edge and guessing the whole way. This is an ending that was done with a master’s touch. Everything here fits with the mythos as well as what you wrote and I am amazed.

      I believe I have hinted or said before that I am odd about Lovecraft. As a writer I always find his stuff lackluster and repetitive. One of the first to write by formula. However, as the creator of a mythology he was amazing. Deep, rich, dark, rooted in terrible heavy handed believability. Those who write in his world fall into one of two categories. Those that write by his formula and tend to be boring, and those that take the myths, modify them to fit their story and stay true to the feeling but branch out from the style and tend to be awe inspiring. You sir, are of the second type.

    4. sjmca1966

      I merged and saved this story as I feel I will want to return to it more than once. Having almost zeo knowledge on the subjects of which you wrote, I read purely as a piece of entertainment. I now feel compelled (not by dark forces, hehe) to do a little study in the area. Thank you lionetravail.

      1. lionetravail

        Thank you both, Reaper and sjmca for the very kind thoughts. Knowing that other writers have enjoyed, and been stimulated to think or imagine in different ways, is one of the highest compliments I could receive.

        1. flaboba

          I am not familiar with this genre but thoroughly enjoyed it. I read it several times. It was fascinating at the end how he contradicted himself. I also loved the part where he said he could choose another but it would be difficult. This made me want to read more of this story and also of this style.

          1. lionetravail

            Thank you so much for reading and commenting- i’m ecstatic that what i wrote made you enjoy enough to look for more. I highly recommend reading Charles Stross’ books under the series name “the laundry files”- highly entertaining, modern take on the mythology in a setting of current day england… funny, action, everything.

            As for mine, im still compiling and editing it all together. It starts way at the bottom of this prompt with part 1, and reads upward to go in order. It will make a lot more sense if you read from the beginning, which will include how it fit this prompt.

            Again, thank you so much 🙂

  15. Reaper

    Jay and Kerry, this one is for you. It should come after My Participation Trophy V and has a few more parts before One Alone. Hopefully the voice will make more sense as those other parts fill in. Anyway, here you are.

    A Saner Boss I

    I’m sure you’ve heard of me. Everyone has. My name is Samuel, eighteen middle names that match saints like all good Catholics, Saner. The people closest to me know me as Sammy the Salamander. These days the people closest to me tend to be the Feds that are hunting my daughter. Funny how things turn out, that’s one of the reasons I ended up in Turkey.

    Mostly it’s to see the goalie. The World Cup is coming up and I have business to tend to. In my line of work even the retired have obligations to meet. Reason two, is to lay some groundwork to get the FBI off my girl’s ass. Reason three is that I like to travel.

    I’m getting on in years and pounds. I figure you gotta see the world before it burns or you do. I’m not that different than most I think. Look, I know what you assume. Everyone believes I’m a bad guy but those days are behind me. Now you’re not going to buy that because the way this story starts will probably make me seem like a monster, but in some ways I’m a traditionalist. In others… not so much.

    I mean it was a break with tradition to let Sebastian live. You know Sebastian; he’s the star player for the US team this year. Got a really nice family I wish I could meet. It wouldn’t be safe for them though. If I knew where they were Samantha could find out. That would be bad for everyone.

    I broke convention again when I made Sebastian. He wasn’t Italian. Mostly it was letting him live though. You see his father ratted us out. By the code that means his whole line dies, but I couldn’t do it. It was also a breach of tradition to let a skirt take over my territory, but I ain’t got a son and my daughter ain’t gonna be held down by no glass ceiling while I’m alive. Think that might be why she’s so damn ruthless? Definitely living in a man’s world.

    Anyway, none of that is why I agreed to this interview. You see. I need something from you. It’s pretty simple…

    Samuel Saner had cleared out the chest at the foot of the bed earlier in the day. The treasures inside meant nothing to him. So despite their beautiful story they went into the fireplace. A single shot echoed on the tape after the recorded interview. The reporter’s body and his recording device fit nicely into the chest.

    Samuel forgot to hit the stop button and the tape continued to roll. When it was eventually discovered the tape contained a conversation with the Turkish goaltender. The haggling over the price of one missed goal was short. The sound of a door closing was followed by a brief conversation into his cellular phone.

    “Sammy? It’s pop… Yeah it’s done. I don’t know what you need all this for but I’m off to Dublin next.”

    1. vaderize03

      You’ve got the makings of a book here for sure.

      I was instantly hooked and totally draw into his character. This is great; please keep it coming.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reaper, for a fascinating read as always.I couldn’t agree more with vaderize03. Your voice is mesmerizing as usual. You can go onto the next chapter, ten more after that, then I’ll collect them and tell somebody, I wrote them. You know I wouldn’t do that unless the money was just right. Pleade don’t come after me! Kidding only.

    2. sjmca1966

      Reaper, I remember the story from my first week here, I hope that gives some indication of the impact your writing has. So smooth, so intense.
      Well done.

  16. k.spicer

    I Couldn’t resist trying it again.

    It wasn’t easy but I managed to lose the tail that MIT had put on me. The Turkish secret service has become very good at what they do since Israeli’s Mossad began training them, but they still have their limits. I also have become very good at what I do and changed my appearance quickly; one must learn these things to stay alive in my business.

    I arrived in my new identity at the address that I was given in Ankara. It was an old house on a side street that was often used for boarding. I gave them the name that I was given and was escorted to a second story room at the corner of the building with a view of the street below. I was told that there would be a chest at the foot of the bed but it looked more like a worn footlocker. I opened it and lifted an old blanket and tossed it aside. I removed the case which was hidden below and laid it on the bed. Opening the case I smiled and closed it again. This day is going to be remembered for a very long time.

    I carried the case out with me as I returned to the busy streets of Ankara. When I arrived at the hotel I walked passed at least two MIT agents that I knew of without even peeking their curiosity; MOSSAD would have never made that mistake.

    Checking into the hotel I was given the room that I had reserved overlooking the hotel entrance across the street. Looking out the window I smiled for the second time today. Opening the window I walked over to the bed and snapped open the case. I assembled the rifle in a few simple steps. It was a T-12 MKEK bolt action; not my favorite weapon of choice but still one of Turkey’s finest.

    I only had to wait a short while before he came out the front entrance surrounded by his usual entourage of well-meaning but sloppy security personnel; it was almost too easy. When I squeezed the trigger there was no doubt that the bullet hit the mark. I laid the rifle on the bed and exited through the rear of the building and was gone as quickly as I had come.

    As I passed through the airport terminal on my way to the plane heading back to New York I saw the news on a television screen and only slowed long enough to hear part of what the reporter standing in front of the hotel was saying. “The assassination of one of the United States finest entertainers…” A woman interrupted, “You’ll have to hurry sir if you want to catch your flight; it’s departing now.”

    I thanked her and hurried to my seat. As the plane lifted off I smiled for the third time today and leaned back in my seat, satisfied that Jerry Springer’s carrier had just come to an end.

    1. Reaper

      Wow. That’s some ruthless show business there. You definitely hooked me into this and surprised me with the ending. Very nicely done. Nice tension. Two things I noticed that plague me are a tense shift in the second paragraph and a few thats that were not entirely necessary. Other than those and a typo in the last sentence just good writing and an interesting story I enjoyed reading.

    2. Observer Tim

      Nice intrigue story, k.spicer. I wonder which of his competitors paid for the hit, or was it the mother of the Transsexual Nazi Inbred Stripper Impersonator?

      One suggestion; the word “favorite” isn’t really needed in “…not my weapon of choice…”.

    3. vaderize03

      I like the cold, calculating nature of your MC; I felt his smug satisfaction of a job well done.

      Two quick things: I think you meant to say that your MC didn’t “pique” the agents’ interest, not “peek”. Also, in the last sentence, did you mean “career”, as opposed to carrier?

      Just some thoughts :).

    4. k.spicer

      Thanks everyone, this scene is an example of why you shouldn’t post something you just wrote at 2:33 am when you’re squinting your eyes to see what you just wrote. I usually wait and read it later for editing but I can only blame sleep deprivation. I just now re-read it and I was surprised that it wasn’t any worse than it was. But at least Jerry Springer wont be a concern after last night!

    5. lionetravail

      Nicely done! Well written, cool story, and as brisk as the pace of the action. It was fun to watch your assassin springer into action 🙂

    6. sjmca1966

      “And this just through,” said the newscaster, “Jerry Springer Junior promises to honor, his fathers legacy with new talk show. Direct competitor, Jeremy Kyle says he looks forward to the challenge.”
      The ratings War Never Changes!

  17. lionetravail

    Part 4: Whet Work

    Inside the doorway entrance, I ignored the tiled Byzantine mosaics that people stood admiring. Instead, I went through the inner arch into the high ceilinged cathedral, and saw the young religious woman standing at the back of a group with a docent to lead them. I walked swiftly to catch up.

    The docent was saying: “The Hagia Sophia was originally known as the Great Church when it was constructed at the order of the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian the First in 537. It was an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral for most of its existence before…” I stopped paying attention to the words almost immediately as the group began to slowly move around the structure, and I with them. There was only one place inside where my interests lay, and I could afford the time before reaching it. Much would change when I did what I had come for.

    Walking at the back of the tour, I noticed the African-American girl glancing at me periodically. When we stopped at a column and the docent again addressed the group, she moved to stand next to me. “Isn’t this amazing?” she said, indicating the entire Cathedral

    I nodded. “An attempt, Martin Luther said, around 1600 of the common era, to make man feel dwarfed in the presence of god, so as to induce humility and a need to look beyond oneself.”

    “I don’t think that the Reformer meant it in the cynical way that you do,” she said, an edge to her voice.

    I smiled, enjoying this exchange. “I suspect you’re right. It is said that he was terror-stricken when he gave his first Mass, at the thought of standing before almighty god.”

    She crossed her arms. “And you never have?”

    “No. There is far more to be terror-stricken of than the Christian god,” I said.

    The group moved on, and we followed, listening to the docent as we spoke together quietly, behind the rest. “Why are you here?” she said.

    “I am here because I refuse to be terror-stricken,” I said. “Why are you here?”

    “I’m not sure, but I would not be surprised if god led my life in its path just so that we would meet here.” I snorted, but she went on regardless. “Wait, I don’t understand your answer: why would coming to Hagia Sophia be an act of refusing to be afraid? Afraid of what?”

    The tour stopped again. “Here,” the docent said, “is a stone where legend has it that Satan is trapped.” People snapped the requisite pictures. I was finally where I needed to be, and stayed when the group moved on. The girl stayed too.

    I turned to her, and felt the weight of the Topkapi Emerald dagger in my coat against my chest. “I don’t expect you to believe me,” I said, meeting her gaze. “But since you ask, do you, yourself, believe that the Devil is imprisoned in this stone?” I pointed at it.

    She looked at it, then back at me. “Not really,” she said.

    “But if some of your religion is true for you, why isn’t all of it?”

    “Because people lie and make stuff up,” she said.

    “Yes,” I said. “Like they did about many things, in order to hide the truth.”

    “What truth? Do you believe Satan is in there?”

    “No,” I replied. “Rather, something far worse than a make-believe sop we blame as the ultimate source for all the evil we do.”

    “What are you talking about?” she said. She backed up a bit, which took her closer to the stone behind her.


    (to be continued- one last part to come, faithful readers)

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Still enjoying the ride. I notice this particular chapter to be very crisp writing with an extreme amount of tension building. On to five above.

  18. moscoboy

    Silver Service
    I always wanted to write a book about the church in Ephesus. My plans for the trip had to be made before the region was consumed in the mid-east conflagration.

    The Hotel Pasha was situated on the perimeter corner of a shopping bazaar with no frontage. There was a faded green sign over a brass-framed front door. I rang a bell at the front counter. A white haired gentleman in an unbleached muslin thawb came out of the back room. I could smell lamb cooking over an open fire. “Yes, mr. sir, you lost?”

    “No, I’d like a room for three days. I’m here to tour the ruins.”

    “Yes,” his dark brown hand chose a large brass room key. “Fill out form and give me passport. You go up stairs to room with plaque.”

    I found room 201 with the antique brass plaque. There was a red wax seal on the door that covered the lock. I interrupted the attendant’s meal.

    “Ah yes, the seal. The plaque; it say this room is reserved for Sultan Mehmed VI. He stayed, then he lost his throne in 1920.” He pried enough of the wax seal to accommodate my key with his long yellow fingernails. The hinges screeched in protest as he opened the door and went straight to the single window to air out the musty room. “Long time no one stay in Sultan’s room. Please no open green trunk, items of personal nature to the Sultan, we honor his request.

    While unpacking a young man in a black suit with a pale complexion and long oiled hair came bearing a bottle of water on a silver tray.

    “What’s in the trunk? The old man said I could not open the trunk.”

    “Did he say never or was he meaning now as you come in? Surely if you open the trunk you will not die,” said the young man as he left.

    I opened the trunk and found an old WWI revolver with three notches on its wooden handle, a curved sword with Turkish letterings and fighting scenes and a short rosary. I knew this was a rosary for the dead as it had only four decades.

    There was a knock; I opened the door and found the old man with a plastic tray that held a pitcher of stagnant water and a stained glass. He gasped in horror at the sight of the opened trunk.

    “Why you open trunk?” asked the old man. “These are relics for killing and death.”

    “A young man came in and served me a bottle of water and was of the opinion that it was safe to open the trunk.”

    “Mr. sir,” said the old man. “My wife and I are the only ones who work in this hotel.” He Sultan’s trunk.”

    I took the local folklore in good humor and lay on the bed to nap and the young man came in and stabbed me with a silver dagger and said, “I am the Father Of Lies.”

    1. Reaper

      Wow, that was a twisted ending and well done. The voice and the broken English came across well. Though I am confused by He Sultan’s trunk.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A real jolt of an ending to your story. I like the way you set the scene, the old man and the musty room. I was anticipating anything but the young man plunging a dagger in his chest. Need a minute or two to recover.

          1. moscoboy

            Lionetravail all of my replies are filtering down here. There is something wrong with my comp. or the system’s comp. Anyway thanks to all for you positive comments.

    2. WritingKittenOfLoki

      I know what I am about to say won’t make any sense – but I got this feeling that, even though he was stabbed, the revolver got another notch.

  19. rle

    Boy, it seems like the last couple of weeks I’ve really fallen of of the conformity wagon. This week I had plenty of inspiration but it wasn’t the prompt itself that did it, it was merely the title. This is just a little over the word limit again too.


    It was a perfect day in an imperfect world. Fluffy snow white cotton candy clouds floated carelessly across an otherwise crystal blue sky. Occasionally they would blot out the rays of the warm October sun. When this combined with the gentle breeze, a brief chill blanketed the meadow.

    Anna Brumgardner sat quietly in a folding chair flanked by her son and daughter-in-law. Her arthritic hands clutched a dogeared piece of paper. She tried with all the might she could muster to stifle tears, but it was no use; they came anyway. She gazed off and focused on the distant hills that were ablaze with a hundred shades of red, yellow, and orange. Her mind went back forty-one years to the day she first read the letter she now held in her hands. Her ninety-seven year old mind was growing weak, but she remembered this particular day like it had only been yesterday. It was a picturesque October morning, just like today.

    Anna’s father had left his young pregnant wife in 1917 to fight in World War One. He promised her that he’d return and they’d buy a little farm and begin raising their family there. Olive Miller was uneasy about the prospect of his absence, but vowed to keep the home fires burning and care for their child until his return. Unfortunately, destiny and the perils of battle had other plans for her husband. Charles Miller was killed in action during the late spring of 1918. They would never settle together on that little farm and baby Anna would never know her father.

    In October of 1973, Anna got the letter that would change her life forever. As it turns out, A British construction worker stumbled across an old chest in the basement of a London hotel. Inside the chest were relics from the first World War. Among them was a letter addressed to Olive Miller of Philadelphia Pennsylvania. The worker turned over the contents of the chest to his brother who happened to be a British diplomat. After a couple of months and some research, the letter found it’s way to the only living relative of Charles Miller, his daughter, Anna Brumgardner.

    What Anna found when she opened the stained and brittle envelope was not a letter to her late mother, but a letter addressed to ‘Baby Miller’. It was dated two days prior to he father’s death. She read the letter twenty times that first day and hundreds of times more over the next forty years. Anna had never known her father, but each time she read his words, she felt closer to him.

    Baby Miller,
    You don’t know my name and nor do I know yours, but I know you because you are part of me; the very best of me. War is a dirty business and there’s a very real chance I suppose, that I will never see your face, touch your hand, or hear your laughter, but know I will always be with you, in your heart. I don’t understand why we must engage in war in pursuit of peace. I guess that’s why I’m here in this foxhole and not somewhere else making the decisions. I hope this letter finds you and your mother well. I’d send you both all of my love, but you already have it all.
    Love Daddy

    The first volley of seven shots rang out and pierced the serenity of the autumn morning, snapping Anna back to the present and the stark reality she faced. Her knotty twisted fingers held fast to the letter in her lap. Two more sets of seven cried out and echoed in the valley below them. Anna knew she wasn’t long for this world, but there were two things she knew for sure. As long as man inhabited the planet, there would be wars. Some would be fought over territory, others over oil, some for religion and others for freedom. The price of war is dear. The blood of man stained nearly every crevice of the globe in the name of peace, freedom or power; like that of the father she’d never known nearly a hundred years ago, and now, the great-grandson whom she had cherished with all her heart. War never changes.

    1. Reaper

      This is beautiful, deep, and powerful. Follow your muse because you have done it again. There are some stories that I wonder when they are going to hit the prompt, then there are ones like this. I forgot there was a prompt in the reading of this and only went back to see where you touched on it after the fact. Once again you are amazing and inspiring and your commentary was as powerful as your story.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I love these kind of stories that move thriugh time as a tool of writing and this is one of your best, rle. Points out the bitterness of loss, when a daughter will never have the pleasure of knowing her own father. Brings me back to the song ‘Where Have All The Flowrrs Gone?’

    2. sjmca1966

      Great message in a deep story well told rle. The letter was touching in not only dealing nicely with the prompt, but also reminding us that everyone was a child once.

  20. icandootoo

    I am sitting on a rented cot, in a dilapidated section of the city. The muezzin has just issued the call to prayer, and the streets are silent. I am less than a mile from the garden my great-grandfather once tended, in the courtyard of the home he once cherished, before things changed, before he fled the country little but his family.

    I am sitting, and I am staring. At these spare, white, plaster walls, chipped and yellowing. I am staring at the embroidered yellow coverlet on the bed, incongruously luxuriant. I am staring, at the lamp, and the ceiling, and the print on the wall, when I see it – the old, weathered chest in the corner under the mirror, another relic – a reminder of glories long since passed.

    I am looking, and then I am touching… and then I am touched. The trunk is no empty shell.
    There, folded neatly, with cedar balls and tissue paper neatly surrounding it, is a uniform, khaki wool pewter buttons, deep blue piping still crisp on the sharply pointed collar. A red star with gold crescent lies nestled in a separate box.

    The uniform, so carefully tailored, looks my size. I cannot help myself: I strip off my own drab fatigues, with their pixilated camouflage, and thrust my arms into the soft, woolen arms of the jacket. I smooth the front and carefully pin the star to my chest.

    A hat lies below the jacket. I place that on my head – it also fits — and the mirror is no longer showing an American serviceman, but rather at an Ottoman soldier, the image in the plain wooden frame so like the one my great-grandfather always carried with him, that my chest tightens, and I cannot breathe. He was a hero, once. He wore a medal like this on his chest, fought side by side with his countrymen, proud of his country, his service, his cause.

    He fought. I fight. We are always fighting. Wars, the same wars; and rumours of wars swirl around inside my head.

    Where is the owner of this chest? Fighting bravely alongside his countrymen, did he suspect that his blood and religion were wrong, would always be wrong, in the eyes of his comrades? Was he aware of the storm coming, that would sweep his children and grandchildren into a new life, a new world, a new country where their spices and accents and blood and religion would once again make them suspicious, and wrong, so wrong, always wrong.

    The soldier in the mirror frowns – how long, I wonder, before I, too, am fleeing? How long before my service is forgotten, my family threatened, my goods confiscated, and my life forfeit?

    Does anything ever truly change? Is there anywhere where I, a Jew, will ever be able to call home?

    I shed the uniform, placing it carefully back into the chest, and slip back on my own.

    The phone rings – it ismy C.O., calling me to war.

    1. Augie

      yes, you can-do-to! You have captured so much emotion and realism with this. In particular your line that begins with, ‘does anything ever truly change’. Great way to start my day! Thank you for this.

      1. icandootoo

        Thank you. You know, when I first read the prompt, I couldn’t ‘taste’ it in my mind and was pretty unenthusiastic until I allowed myself to use my own family history (my great grandfather really was a Ottoman Army Hero, and Jew from Istanbul, and we really do come from a military serving background) and then the words flowed like tears….

        1. vaderize03

          It’s definitely easier when you can find a connection to the material. You did, and it showed. Your writing flowed, and was very enjoyable.

          Well done!

    2. snuzcook

      You’ve done it, icandootoo–communication direct from heart to heart. A moving piece, both philosophical and sentimental. An interesting twist, wondering if the soldier in the picture knew “that his blood and religion were wrong, would always be wrong, in the eyes of his comrades…”
      Wonderful, personal images.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I feel as if you put your great grandfather’s soul in this story. It’s marvelous to write about heroes especially since it is blood kin. I can tell you put all of you into this story. It’s as it should be for a writer. For to write with a false heart, is betraying your quest. This is a beautiful, provocative story.

      1. icandootoo

        Thank you so much, Observer Tim,

        My grandfather had a saying: War is only thought glorious by young men and fools.

        My family has always been proud to serve the countries we have been citizens of, and to fight to protect our people and way of life. But war always, always comes at a price.

        thank you for recognizing this and putting words to my heart…

    3. sjmca1966

      I could feel the awareness and personal significance in this piece icandootoo. This was a very imaginative way to tel your story. I’m very impressed. Well done.

      1. lionetravail

        Beautifully done. This is another example of where writing your heart can take you- it is so easy to make an emotional connection with your piece here. And the story of the Jew- the whole insider/outsider dichotomy everywhere we’ve lived- it’s timeless, and unbound by geography. This story could have been set in Russia, Italy, England, anywhere- just nicely done!

        1. icandootoo

          Thank you. :blush: Perhaps it is because of our family history there – everything about Turkey strikes chords of melancholy in me. I am very grateful for your thoughtful insight and commentary. <3

      2. icandootoo

        Thank you so much. If you had told me a month ago that I could have mined my soul so deeply for a prompt I hated, I would have laughed in your face… but this was a blessing to write. It is also a blessing to hear your kind words. Thank you.

  21. sjmca1966

    This one’s a little different from my first effort.

    Crossed Wires –

    You definitely wouldn’t have called the woman handing Michael his room key a young Turk, she was ninety if she was a day, “What you do in Lycia?” she asked.

    “Me? oh I’m doing research for my book on the Ottoman Empire,” said Michael.

    “Aghh, crazy man, crazy man!” yelled the old woman, as she shuffled off up the wooden stairs to the right of the reception desk. She was waving her arms in the air like a demented orangutan.

    A younger man then appeared from the open door behind the desk, “I am sorry about my grandmother,” he said, “Time it is catching up to her I fear.”

    “That’s really no problem,” said Michael.

    “I am Kasim, but my friends, they call me Qasim.”

    “I’m Michael, nice to meet you Qasim.”

    “Come, come,” said Qasim, gesturing for Michael to follow him up the stairs, “I overhear you say why you in Lycia.”

    “The Ottoman Empire? Yes, yes.”

    “Do you . . . how you say? scoobie dive?”

    “If you mean scuba? then yes, yes I do.”

    Qasim stopped on the stairs and pulled a card from his top pocket, “You talk to Mesut, he is my cousin, he take you where you need to go. You tell him I send you,” he said.

    “Thank you, I’ll do that.”

    Later that night, Michael woke and went to the bathroom. As he was about to switch off the light and get back in bed he saw a chest in the corner of the room, he hadn’t noticed it on his arrival. It was the nature of his occupation to be inquisitive, he wandered over and lifted the lid to the archaic looking structure. Michael stared in amazement at the contents, Jackpot, he thought to himself. The figurines in the chest all looked genuine, however he was more than confused by the tails adorning all the human looking statuettes.

    In the morning, Michael made his way to the local fishing port. He pulled the card Qasim had given him from his jacket pocket and started looking for the boat name that was on the card, Gizli Dünya. The water was like a mill-pond and there were only a dozen or so boats in port, making his task easier.

    “Mesut?” Michael called out to the man standing on the Gizli Dünya. The man that turned was the spitting image of Qasim.

    “You must be Michael, I have been expecting you.”

    An hour after leaving port the boat stopped, Mesut handed Michael his scuba gear. They were under water for about three minutes, when Mesut gestured to Michael to follow him into an ominous looking cave. When they surfaced from the cave, Michael removed his mask and rubbed his eyes more than once to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him. He’d arrived in a palace of gleaming gold and silver.

    A regal looking man helped Michael and Mesut up onto the marble floor, when he turned he was sporting a furry tail, much the same as the figurines in the chest, “Welcome to my Empire, I am Otterman and this is my faithful companion, Dolphinboy.”

    1. snuzcook

      Ba Dum Bum!
      I could not repress the groan at your last line, sjmca1966, but I was full grinning at the same time.
      Well told story with absolutely no clue where you were going.
      The light note was a welcome counterpoint to the topic. Thanks!

    2. lionetravail

      Goof! Heh, a nicely turned punchline at the end of a great story, absolutely made by the human interactions in it. Nicely done dialogue!

    3. sjmca1966

      SJ peeks his head up over the literary trench, he offers a barely audible and slightly insincere, “Sorry Guy’s, hehe,” He then slumps back down with a mischevious twinkle in his eye and starts working on character development for Otterman and Dolphinboy. Perhaps for future prompts.
      Thanks All!

  22. Augie

    –The end of all wars—

    December 19th 2012

    Two days before the predicted end of the world according to the Mayan calendar.

    Jack, an American military advisor checks into his hotel room in Istanbul. He needs a few days to relax before going home. Although advisor is a subtle way to put it, he is happy to leave Afghanistan and reset his moral clock. The woman at the front desk debates with him about what room he should have. Being one of the military’s top linguists, he stands his ground.

    “Bottom floor, near an exit and I’m not afraid of ghosts!”

    He walks into the musky room that has probably never been visited by a maid and collapses on the bed. A solider can control his emotions, as long as he stays awake. He wasn’t sure if it was the dream or the constant buzzing that woke him.

    -Bzzz- -clunk-

    “What the hell is that?”

    -Bzzz- -clunk-

    Jack walks toward the annoying sound. It seems to be coming from an old chest in the corner of the room.

    -Bzzz- -clunk-

    He attempts to lift the chest.

    -Bzzz- -clunk-

    “What the hell?” The chest is definitely mounted to the floor. He reach’s inside and discovers the chest has a false bottom. Once the thin bottom is removed, a rusty iron handle is exposed penetrating the hardwood floor.

    Jack twists the handle and the room shakes violently. Plaster and dust from the ceiling fall as a section of wall opens to a staircase.

    -Bzzz- -clunk-


    A string of lights with incandescent bulbs illuminates the stairwell. Jack cautiously steps down the stairs that open into a large room filled with charts pinned on the wall. The room is covered with blueprints and global maps. Most of the black and white photos show volcanoes with red X’s crossed through them.

    In the center of the room sits an old reel-to-reel projector.


    Light flickers across the room as the black and white movie plays. An image of a volcano erupts. Its blasting lava devastates the surrounding terrain. A man wearing a German uniform appears on screen.

    Jack translates the thick German accent.

    “That was Japan’s Sakurajima volcano. This proves our device is effective and can make any volcano erupt. This was filmed on January 11th 1914. You can see the power our empire holds over the world. Just imagine our device activating multiple super volcanoes. It would be the end of the world.

    Our spies and loyalists have planted these devices on multiple super volcanoes.”

    Images flash of each location as the German solider calls out the names.

    “In America, Yellowstone National Park, Long Valley Caldera, and Valles Caldera.

    In Indonesia, Lake Toba.

    In New Zealand, Taupo Caldera.

    It is unfortunate, but all of the spies and loyalist that planted the devices have been exterminated along with the planners and scientist. That leaves us, ten German soldiers that are aware of the devices and their locations. We are sworn to secrecy!”

    The speaker snaps his boots together. “If Germany is defeated we can manually detonate the devices. You have been given the coordinate charts. If we are all killed, the detonators are set to a pre-determined date. The date will not be revealed until two days prior to detonation. If we are successful in the war, we will deactivate each individual device by removing this gear.”

    An image of the device appears and the German solider points to the idler gear.

    The film on the reel reaches its end and flaps against the projector.


    Jake runs around the room looking at blueprints and charts.

    -Bzzz- -Clunk-

    Jack runs toward the sound as three gears rotate on the concrete wall. Numbers stamped around each gear rotate and stop at a red pointer mounted to the wall.

    The first and largest gear points to 12

    The second gear 21

    The third gear 2012

    “December 21st 2012! Shit!”

    Jack races to the front desk and shouts at the woman, “What did you mean when you said that room is haunted by German ghosts?”

    The woman smirks, “I told you its haunted! Nine German soldiers were executed in that room. Rumor has it, when Hitler was just a Corporal in WWI he murdered them for no reason.”

    Jack grabs his phone; “I need to speak to the Secretary of Defense, now!”

    “One moment sir.”

    1. sjmca1966

      Augie, this is a better idea than the 2012 movie from a couple of years ago. There is a saying here that ‘when Rangitoto blows, Auckland she goes’. I might just stop and look at Rangitoto Island a bit differently next time I take a stroll on the waterfront.
      Nice work.

      1. Augie

        Thanks, I was extra careful with my dates and locations.(fear of the red pencil) ha! I thought about the old Indiana Jones movies where the Germans had these crazy inventions and military machines.

    2. snuzcook

      Incredibly clever and intriguing, Augie! Now, let me get this straight–the devices can be deactivated via the idler-arm device. The name implies it is kind of like a snooze button on an alarm clock.
      So when is the next historically predicted EOW event, and do we have the next plot point still to come?
      Just saying…

      1. Augie

        your awesome! The ladies are away for two days and that gave me the chance to just sit outside and write. I do have ideas of how to make Jack save the world several times, maybe in future post. Thanks snuzcook!

    3. Reaper

      This is like a literary restaurant. Nice fusion of a few different ideas. Good hook, good writing. Action is one of those that I will often pass on unless it is done really well and I doubt I could put this down if it was longer. Well done once again.

    4. lionetravail

      What a brillliant an inventive story of a possible ‘alternate’ history. It is as reasonable a premise to embarj on for that kind of story- nicely done.

  23. Kemter

    “ To my beloved,

    The soldier man has given us paper and ink to pen our goodbyes. Never did I imagine I would need bid you farewell. I’ve known since the day we sheltered under the arches of Hadrian’s Gate my heart had been stolen. Every morning here I see your smile in the sun, I taste your lips in the spare swallows of water provided, and I remember the touch of your arms when the rags I wear brush against the others. Please protect my heart, for I give it to you now. Hold our child and whisper to her of her father, whisper to her of the spirit that watches over her. Know in my last moments I will have thought of you, and I will carry that to our maker. Do not cry for me my love for I will be with you when the wind blows and the sun shines. I will be with you when the rain falls and when it doesn’t. I will be with you when you hear the birds sing and when the silence seems unbearable. I will be with you through every beat of your heart and I will be waiting when it finally sleeps.
    Yours in eternity,
    Your Beloved ”

    I set down the time stained parchment to choose another from the trunk.

    “ Mother,

    I am afraid.
    I do not feel ready to leave this world, I am afraid of the pain. I am afraid I have abandoned you and my brothers to ruin. I have enclosed a total of my pension but I am afraid it will not be enough. I am afraid I will die without explaining why I couldn’t stay. But above all, I am afraid I will depart having never gotten to tell you I love you. I am afraid you may never forgive me. I am afraid my brothers will not understand. I am afraid after all my talk of courage I face death with a mask of fear. I am afraid I will never become the man you hoped I would be. I am afraid.
    With all my love, forever
    Your son ”

    I realize now why this letter had been opened among the sealed stack, no money remains in the flaking envelope. I gingerly select one more at random.

    “ To our precious Daughter,

    You came into this world early my dear, tiny as to fit in one hand and loud as to wake the dead. Carry your head high my darling, even when the sun beats you to the ground. We pray this world to become a better one when you are grown, and that you will understand the sacrifice that had to be made to achieve it. Grow old my baby, grow very old. Let your hair turn gray and find your love and dance until your heart beats fast and know when it does that you are alive. When you feel alone spread your arms wide and we will walk into your embrace. Be strong little girl, look into the eyes of your enemies with confidence. Bend, child, but do not break. When you laugh, we will laugh. When you cry, we will cry. And when you yell, as you have since the day you were born, we will glow with pride. You have been loved from the very beginning and should you ever forget it, simply close your eyes and we will be with you.
    We miss you painfully,
    Your Parents ”

    I close the trunk, aware that my cheeks are cold with wet. These are the stories of war.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      This is as moving and powerful a piece of literature that I have read in a very long time. It’s a work of art the way you structured the story. There are so many thoughts and themes for such a short 500. I can not wait for you to engage my senses again.

    2. sjmca1966

      So emotive Kemter. So heartbreaking to think of so many letters, that over the history of war, have never reached their destination.
      Well done.

    3. Observer Tim

      This is quite moving, Kemter; you’ve done a great job of carrying the emotions of the writers, and also of telling their backstories without actually mentioning anything concrete. I am truly impressed.

    4. Reaper

      Magnificent in style and content. This tore and tugged at my emotions. The letters are amazing, and the side comment about only one of them being open was inspired. Pure perfection.

  24. DMelde

    Istanbul is a beautiful city with palm trees dotting manicured lawns. Sidewalk cafes line the waterfront, where the scent of fresh spices mingle together and dance in the air. I was there in 2013, at the Rock’n Coke music fest, and that’s when I fell in love with the city and its people. I had a room in an old hotel called the Sultan. Its furnishings were worn, but it was clean and it had a decent bar downstairs where I’d sit and sip juice. There, in the bar, I’d watch the belly dancers move to the music. The women were so expressive in their movements, telling tales of love and comfort, of toil and accomplishment.

    My hotel room was much like any other, a double bed—old but soft, a dresser made from roughhewn wood, and a trunk that doubled as a nightstand. It was on the third night that I decided to open the trunk. The lid was stuck shut, but with a little prying it came open and I peered inside.

    Inside the trunk I found an old bayonet. It still had a shine and it was a good two feet long, but it had lost its razor sharp edge. I guessed it was from the First World War, or older, because of its age. I wondered what battles it had been used in, and I thought of its victims who had felt the heat of its sting. How many times had a man thrust it into the belly of another, looked into his dying eyes, and felt the heaviness of his victim’s body as he collapsed to the ground? This bayonet represented a side of Istanbul that I was unfamiliar with. I saw only its beauty. Would I have loved the city a hundred years ago during the Ottoman Empire, when wars were much more common?

    The city of the empire was different, less tolerant. Then it was under constant siege, both from within and from without. Back then would I have been under suspect as a spy? I tucked the bayonet back into the trunk, unwilling to explore the dark side of the ancient city any longer.

    War has changed since the time of the bayonet. In this age of drones we no longer look into the eye of the enemy. Our hands, although just as bloody, don’t get dirty anymore. When men fought with bayonets I wonder if wars were resolved more quickly. Did fighting in close quarters, with bloodied hands, help shorten their duration? I wonder if using a joystick to control a drone, and pushing a button to make the kill is turning modern war into a video game of sorts, a game with dire consequences. We’ve become desensitized. Will our war games last longer because of it? Or will we become bored with playing war, like we do with every other game. Maybe…hopefully, we’ll get tired of playing and stop. What a wonderful outcome that would be, one where everyone wins.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Your approach to this prompt was a sophisticated take on the morality of war. The finding of a bayonet old and wondering about war used to be, hand and hand fighting was a perfect illustration of the madness of war. . It reminds me of tPatton, when he across a killing field of German and American tanks. A survivor had described the battle when upon all tanks being demobilized, the fighting was hand to hand.

      Patton’s eyes geamed when he said “a glorious battlefield.” At that point I realized how insane the general was. Perhaps a bloody ping pong match to him.

      1. Reaper

        I think I have to pile onto Kerry’s comments and ditto it. I liked that you ended with hope rather than the idea of desensitizing making it worse. Though I think you illustrate the other idea of Patton, who may very well have been insane but like so many was also brilliant. I’m thinking of when he was asked at the end of the war about machines that fought wars and humans didn’t have to face each other. I don’t remember the quote but there was something about how it was terrible, a war with heroes. Funny that a guy known for innovating war machines hated the idea of a war fought with only them. I wonder if he was asking himself your same question. This is a deep thinker.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a powerful rumination on the changes in how we make war. I remember reading very similar thoughts about the War Between the States (USA 1861-65, the dawn of mechanized weapons), and then again about the Great War (1914-18, the dawn of vehicular war).

      There is a constant tension between those who want to enforce political will while protecting their own people’s lives and those who want to keep us fully involved in the slaughter so we can understand the true horror of war. This story portrays its side of the debate very well.

    3. snuzcook

      You have written a thought-provoking commentary along the lines of one of the most powerful arguments against war, that desensitizing makes bloodshed easier.

      [Soap box alert] I remember the first time that I watched with full awareness footage on the 5 o’clock news of a missile strike on an enemy bunker. Adults and children all over the country watching TV in the snug safety of their living rooms could witness the heat-sensor indications where people were hiding, and then the explosion that destroyed the target. And I thought–for those children it is just a game of shapes and scores, suitable for viewing. And that is the baseline experience of war that they will build upon.

      Whether or not war is determined to be inevitable or practical or appropriate in any given theater, we must remain cognizant of the shifting baseline of our children (and our societal collective conscious) so that in the future they will be able to revisit the question with clear minds when it is thrust upon them.

    4. WritingKittenOfLoki

      “In this age of drones we no longer look into the eye of the enemy. Our hands, although just as bloody, don’t get dirty anymore.”
      Excellent DMelde. Thought provoking, that last paragraph especially. I salute you, for your work well done, and repeat the praise that the others gave. I love it.

  25. lionetravail

    Part 3: Network

    “Who dares disturb my slumber?” squealed a voice simultaneously dusty, rough, and grating.

    My stomach lurched, my ears popped, and for a moment I had nothing to breathe. I fought to center myself, and in moments, did. “I dare, great Mother” I called, voice croaking a bit at first before surging to full strength, even as I continued to hold the Cistern around us in silence.

    “Once was I mother of a thousand young, but am only a forgotten shade now, with scarce the power to wake,” grated the voice. “But thou hast the power to compel me from sleep… if nothing else.”

    “I summon thee to this effigy to beg thy boon, dark Mother! I require thee to awaken this blade to the purpose for which it is needed. By all which is dark, shalt thou curse it. By all which is evil, shalt thou curse it. By all which is unholy, shalt thou curse it!”

    Sparks rose from the tip of the dagger, and cascaded down the blade to the hilt in waves. They fell upon my hand, scorching the skin in places and causing smoke to rise. I breathed through the pain, holding the morning peace of my window view of old Istanbul in mind as my hand burned.

    When the voice next came, it was very faint. “Take your compulsion, My next conjunction is yet ages off, and I fall to my rest once more…”

    I peered at the blade. It appeared unchanged, though I knew that, in a fundamental way, it was. I replaced it inside my coat, and looked at my seared hand. I followed the trail of smoke rising from it, found focus, and relaxed the outside tension I’d been holding.

    Sound surged back around me. An older man standing close to me took a surprised step backward. “So sorry,” he said, in a British accent. “Didn’t see you there, old chap.”

    I stood, gave him a small smile. “I was just taking a closer look.”

    “My, but oh yes,” he said. “I quite understand. The epic Cthonic failed mother figure of ancient Greece, and all that. Fascinating, what?”

    “Indeed,” I said. “But although the Medusa is of Greek myth, she is based on a far more ancient figure: inhuman, monstrous.” He raised his eyebrows at that. “Truly,” I said. “The Greek gods, themselves, are clearly based on human ideal and forms. The concept of the Cthonic monsters were a way the ancients sought to demonize the non-human supernatural. Appropriately so, as it happens.”

    “So, wait a moment chap, you’re saying…?” he began.

    “…That I’m late for an appointment,” I completed, smiling with genuine good humor. “Good day to you, sir.”

    I walked briskly away from him, past the milling crowd, and up the stairs into blinding sunlight. I crossed the street from the Basilica Cistern heading south, and walked across a cobbled square. To my right, in the middle distance, was the Blue Mosque, with thousands of tourists and worshippers of the most militarily enforced quaint notion in the history of the world lined up at its entrance.

    I turned, instead, to my left, towards the hallowed Hagia Sophia. “One could only wish that there was a benevolent god,” I murmured as I stepped into the line for tickets.

    “I’m sorry, did you say something to me?” asked a young African-American woman in front of me, whose accent placed her origin somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.

    “Not specifically,” I said.

    “Oh,” she said. “I thought I heard you say something about god.”

    “I did. I wished, for a moment, that there was a benevolent one.”

    “Oh but he is, Mister!” she said insistently. “He is always ready to take the repentant back to his fold, and there is no glory but his!”

    Fortunately, her turn at the kiosk came just then. She purchased her ticket and went in. As I was asking for my own, she turned back to me. “‘When a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed, and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life’. It’s right there in Ezekiel, 18:27, Mister.” Our eyes met, and she was the first to look away. She went into the Hagia Sophia.

    I bought my ticket and thought it again: one could only wish that there was a benevolent god.

    Then I went in.

    (to be continued)

    1. Reaper

      So I have waited to comment until I got to the latest one. You’ve made me a believer. I have loved the story so far. I normally have this bad reaction to villains who say curse and call themselves evil because nobody believes their’ evil except crazy folks. However, something about this story and your style makes me buy it. It just fits and flows. This story is interesting and compelling all around, can’t wait for the rest.

    2. Observer Tim

      I’m not sure about the theology behind this, but I can set that aside as POV from the main character. In a way I hope he finally gets his a$$ handed to him. I still don’t have him cleanly marked as the villain of the piece; there’s a lot of room for redemption, either full or partial.

      I was going to say this is “engaging”, but found a better word: “enthralling”. You have made the city such a potent backdrop that it truly enhances the story.

    3. snuzcook

      Fascinating, lionetravail! I waited to read the first three installments consecutively, and you have thoroughly piqued my interest. Reading your work I am reminded of Dan Brown. Eager to read more (and apprehensive that bad things are going to happen…).

      1. lionetravail

        I love you guys so much 🙂

        This story has grown organically for me, starting from what I know, and where I thought this was going to go. I had a number of ideas which I thought of and wanted to use, but discarded for one reason or another, and went with my first thought. It should become plain in the last 2 installments. (I think it’ll be 2 installments only!)

        Thank you all for your kind and supportive comments- they, and all those on prior prompts, have made me think ever more deeply as a storyteller, and hope that the ending lives up to your expectations.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I want to put in a word here, David. My term for this is definitely mystical in nature. Sometimes I don’t understandv all of it, but it doesn’t matter. I love being along for the ride. I know you have another post above and I’m heading for it.

  26. Kerry Charlton


    As I recall, it was the fall of ’37. I had been transferred to Intanbul, as a geologist working for Standard Oil Company. With my panache for historical places, I checked into the Uyan Hotel, a has-been of former elegance with iron balconies across it’s exterior of four stories.

    The threat of a new war had accompanied me while I strolled through ancient history of the Ottoman Empire. A gray-yellow sky permenated the horizon, bathing the neighborhood in a mystical aura of wars won and wars lost, of Muslims and Jews who had suffered through WWI, the Turks having lost a quarter of their population from starvation, battlefields and rampent disease.

    My accommodations were primitive although the bed felt comfortable as I lay there studying my surroundings. An old chest resided in a darkened corner and beckened my interest. Lighting from a dim ceiling fixture, cast long shadows across the walls as I rose from my bed and walked across the small room toward the faded, battered trunk.

    The rusted lock gave way as I lifted the hood. An attack to my senses from the musty odor surrounded me and spoke of poverty, military subscription and despicable war. Why these thoughts arrived as the interior of the chest came into view, disturbed me.

    Digging through the contents, I found a Geman high rank officer’s uniform, boots, and a military hat. Having studied German history of WWI, I realized this was no ordinary discovery. Below the military clothes, lay a bound package of letters addressed to:

    ‘General Limon vov Sanders, Far East Commander, Constantinople.’

    Post marks on the letters dated to December, 1913. I set these aside and explored further. Toward the bottom of the trunk, lay a journal encased in moldy, black leather. As I turned the yellowed pages, the life of General Sanders stared back at me.from words written in German with an exquisite, definite flair. Having the ability to read in six languages, the words flowed into my mind.

    “I am proud to think of war, as a time-honored profession,” stated the first page. But as I read further, the General’s ideas reflected his inability to overcome the desperate times, where soldiers were paid twenty five cents a month, their families receiving a monthly allowance of a dollar and twenty cents.

    “Thr Turkish Army, not having shoes to cover their feet, I find it impossible to train them,” he wrote on January 12th, 1914.

    An entry dated July 18th, 1914 amazed me,

    “Have managed to conscript an army of a million ans a half men, through stripping the civilian population of their livestock and way of living. The Turks make a religious experience out of taking the livelihood from the civilian population that are not Muslims.”

    Later on,

    ‘I take no pleasure in this kind of maneuver, having been highly trained in the art of battlefield tactics, not stealing from starving people in order to wage war.’

    A third of the way through the journal, appeared a final note written in haste,

    ‘Should someone read this journal, I can no longer continue to describe the horror I see in the country side that surrounds me. Were I not a trained soldier, I might not continue with this. But because I still have my pride and love for my homeland, I shall persevere.”

    Putting the journal to rest, I carefully placed it back in the chest and closed the lid. Next morning I stepped onto ancient,worn streets as early light surrounded me. I pondered the rising threat of another world war and asked myself,


    1. darren.white58

      That was a really good story, I loved your use vivid descriptions. The dim ceiling fixture and long shadows really popped and gave the scene a very ominous sense of tension.

    2. jhowe

      You’ve got all eight cylinders firing on this ome Kerry. The historical tidbits are wonderful and contribute to a very believable, very interesting story. Thanks for expending a lot of effort on this, or, if it just flowed out of you, great job.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks, jhowe. At my age, nothing flows out of me! I did very little rewrite which is not my normal practice. I’m happy you enjoyed it.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you vaderize03. It’s strange you used ‘haunting’. I’m not a fan of first person stories any more, at least when I write them. As I was composing this, I found myself standing next to the MC as he went through the trunk. We both wanted to know what he discovered as I didn’t have any idea myself until I wrote it. Thank you for the read.

    3. Augie

      Kerry, what an emotional masterpiece! I dropped my retirement papers two times in my career (requesting retirement) , but later pulled them back. Why? Because bad guys have no passion for humanity. As long as I remained on the defending end of things, I viewed it as the right choice.
      War solves nothing, but defending the innocence does. What a great pice you have written here!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Augie. I really appreciate your kind words. I was inspired about this prompt when I did some research on the war. I had no idea of the suffering that went on in that part of the world. Most of our history classes on WW1 concentrated on the European front.

        WWII, I didn’t have to study, I was nine at VJ Day and caught the newsreels at the movies each week. However, I have done a lot of research on the RAF and The Army Air Corp, especially the B17 and B24 raids over Germany. I had an older friend I met at church in Dallas, who flew 33 missions in a B24. He was shot down on the 33rd.

    4. sjmca1966

      So true to the prompt and written with great clarity in description. Very thought provoking Kerry, I really became immersed in this story. Enjoyed a lot.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you sjmca1966. I’m happy you liked this one. My thoughts are to name the MC in the next prompt and write him as my alter-ego. I think that would be a lot of fun for me and maybe the forum would enjoy the MC. Make him talented, tough as nails and caring at the same time. Put him at an age of 30 or so. Turn him loose.

    5. Reaper

      Kerry this is just a step above. There is an elegance and timelessness to this one that makes the word masterpiece so fitting. You have this way of taking me to a different time, and here you did that again. However this time your opening paragraph, your vocabulary, it took me to a place that no longer exists. Yet you wrote about a concern that exists outside of time. You made me care about every character in the story and see them as human beings, ones with flaws but also good sides. Everyone and everything was three dimensional to the point that I could feel the air change and I got lost in the head of your MC. I don’t even know how to compliment this it was that good, everything I love about your writing in one place and just cranked up to the next level.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reaper for your thoughts. I hardly know what to say. I’m not anywhere near the level of writing you’re describing here, but I take hold of what you say about my writing and all that does to me, is make me want to write all the time. I’m working full time in a very complicated area of cut-throat business. Tell me why please?

        Do I enjoy the pain and work? And then I’d answer you……probably. What kind of nut-case is that?

        1. Reaper

          You may not see that level of writing in your work but I do and others would agree in the affect that it has on us. You know I don’t remember, are you still in music or something else these days?

          Ultimately all business are cutthroat and will remain that way until we as a whole recover the economy. We can escape it by working for ourselves but even then our kindness will gain loyalty and cost money. So you might enjoy the work, but the pain? You just have to deal with it because you need to make a living. Not a nutcase at all but a writer not yet discovered and a man who knows he has bills to pay and lives in reality.

          Keep fighting the good fight and showing the rest of us how to do it.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Thanks for the pep talk Reaper. Sine 1981, we’ve been general contractors in San Antonio. Started out in residental, than 15 years ago, moved into commercial work, Finishing out shopping center shells. The work’s okay, the real estate maggots [not a misspell] that own these shopping centers and evelopments, are pieces of work to tend with.

    6. Observer Tim

      This is great, Kerry. I had to look up von Sanders; as usual your story seems spot on. Given that he was arrested after the war (mostly for being on the wrong side as far as I can tell) explains why his journal might have sat unnoticed for a century.

      Once again you have captured in the “real world” what I can only achieve in fiction and allegory. My hat is off to the master.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Tim. That’s high praise coming from you. If there’s any master with a hat on this forum, it most certainly is not yours truly. I’m having a blast doing this, aren’t you?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you snuzcook. I’m happy you liked this one. Perhaps a sequel if a prompt fits. I kind of like the MC and I’d certainly place him in another story again. Maybe even the next prompt. As an alter ego, I’d give him the ability to spell, my worst fault.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Bilbo. You nailed my theme head on. You’ll see more of the MC in future prompts. I’m naming him Dr. Brian Forsyth. He’s a little over thirty. Wife having been hilled in a train accident. No children with a Doctorate in Geology from Texas A & M University. Can’t wait to get him started. .

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you McKevin for your kind words. I’m ready for this MC to jump in and tell his story. If I can past these 50 hour work weeks, I”ll turn him loose.

    7. WritingKittenOfLoki

      Wonderful Kerry, this was sobering to me, and in a very good way. I don’t know a lot about the world wars, but this prompt has stirred up a curiosity in me, and now i want to know as much as I can about the people who fought.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you WritingKitten. I appreciate your read and your comments. I might suggest a book for you on WWII. It’s called “Flags Of Our Fathers.” It’s about the conflict with Japan, the young men 18 to 20 who fought island to island in the Pacific.

        A small warning, It is graphic in nature but then all wars are.

  27. Jack

    I was in Ankara when the world flooded with flame. The sun was gone, so I couldn’t tell how many days had past, or if there were indeed days to speak of.
    At some point I must have torn through the walls and found a box hidden between my room and what was left of my neighbor’s because my arms were bruised and my fingers bloody.
    Inside I found a photograph of British soldiers. The handwritten caption said “Megiddo, 1918.” I found a French gas mask, a German bible, and at the very bottom, a hand-bound volume of at least a thousand pages in a dozen languages.
    I flipped through the book and the passages that were in the languages I could understand all seemed to be about the end. There was a recurring image of the ouroboros. Some of them were rendered so beautifully that I studied them until I had no memory of anything else.
    I sharpened a broken table leg and used it to spear cockroaches. Every time I closed my eyes I dreamed that I could feel them climbing back out of me. One night the pain was so bad that I tried to drive the spear into my stomach. I woke up covered in blood and hungry. After some time there were no cockroaches left. That was when I noticed that the sun had returned.
    I put on the gas mask and started east, the rest of the contents of the box in a bag around my back. The air was still too thick. In the heat of day it shimmered, like the air itself was on fire, so I only traveled at night.
    During the day I hid in burned out buildings, searching ash covered waste for canned vegetables and studying the hand-bound book that I’d found.
    My eyes would fall on words that I recognized as English and I would stare at them. “The dark,” it said on one page. “The dark is always with us,” on another. “It will happen again and again. Megiddo 1918.”
    I read these words over and over, and after a while I started hearing the voice of the man who wrote them in my head. He sounded exhausted, like he’d lost all hope. Sometimes I would forget that the voice was only in my head, and I would start to weep at the sound of another human voice.
    At night I kept moving east. The forests leading up the mountains glowed orange with wildfires.
    Towards the top of the mountain, I started seeing birds again. On my way down the other side, heading into Armenia, I saw longhaired goats. As I neared the bottom, I saw that what I had thought were wildfires were actually campfires. As the people around the campfires approached me, I collapsed.
    I could hear them, speaking a language I’d never heard. They picked me up and I realized it will happen, again and again. I let the book fall, and I wept.

    1. Reaper

      This is… there is not word to explain what this is but all of the ones coming to mind are amazing. Powerful, well delivered, amazing evolving voice. Dark with hope then the loss of it. Just wonderful Jack.

    2. sjmca1966

      Jack, this was eerie, such a great voice from a man alone. I can quite easily imagine you writing something post-apocalyptic or dystopian in novel form.
      I look forward to reading more from you.

    3. Observer Tim

      This is a powerful post-apocalyptic (literally) piece, John. I think the repetition of the place and year (Megiddo 1918) really helped bring it home. Many people thought the Great War was a sign of the end of the world; in many ways it was. And yet we did it again.

    4. snuzcook

      A haunting tale, Jack, and intriguing idea to use the journal of an event that might otherwise appear to be only tangentally relevant to provide a point of reference for the MC in a time of profound apocalyptic crisis. As I write that, I realize that we use journals in a similar way in stories all the time, but your use here feels fresh and inventive.

  28. darren.white58

    I slid my passport across the counter to the pretty young woman, she smiled artificially back at me punching away on an unseen keyboard.

    “Thank you, Mr Brubaker. Room 216 just as requested” She said her accent struggling with the foreignness of the western name. As she passed a little envelope containing the key cards to me I flashed my best wolfish grin. James Brubaker of El Paso TX, was always the alias I gave during my stops in Istanbul.

    “Now honey you wouldn’t happen to have any messages for me would you?” I affected a silly western drawl farmed from King of the Hill episodes. It would probably get me shot in the lone star state, but it was passable for Turkey.

    “One moment sir,” she said turning to the large shelf of rich wood cubbies lining the wall behind her.” Oh Yes it appears so.” Handing me an orange envelope the size of a thick paperback I tipped an invisible hat to her

    “Thank you kindly.”

    Now it was time for business, no more screwing around. I took the stairs up to the second floor, My room was the first door on the left just like the diagram I had studied on the ferry over. With a beep and mechanical click the door opened. I moved to the bed checking the bathroom along the way and dumped the contents of the package on to the garishly patterned duvet. Another little envelope for key cards, thanking me for my stay, fell out along with a picture of a gold orthodox cross; side by side images showing its ornate front and back. The insurance policy I had ordered from my contact, along with the room, was also present and I prayed he had gotten the math right this time. I attached the spool of steel wire to the harness concealed beneath my suit jacket and picked up the new key card, a 516 printed neatly across the envelope. I burned the picture and envelope out on the room’s patio letting the wind scatter the evidence across Asia Minor.

    The mirrored elevator doors opened on the fifth floor and I moved quickly to the client’s room, glancing up and down the hallway as I entered. The room was larger than mine sporting a pair of queens both draped in that same hideous bedspread, and just like I had directed the weathered trunk sat on the corner table. The hinges creaked with age and resisted as it opened. I pulled the heavy cross from its resting place and removed the black satiny cloth from around the top. The glimmering glow of gold always made me smile. Smuggling might not be the most ethical line of work but god dam if it’s not fun I thought as my attention was drawn to a splash of red on the shear fabric contorted around the cross.

    Gently easing the knobby ends of the cross into the pouch attached to my harness, I spread the black cloth out and smoothed it flat. The symbol was a hand waving hat looked like a Jolly Rodger ringed in blocky Cyrillic. It looked like Serbian, and from the little I picked up working in this part world, it translated to “Unification or Death”, or maybe Unity, conjugation wasn’t my strong suit.

    Reminding myself I was now in possession of stolen property got my head back in the game and moved around the room staging a convincingly sloppy hotel break in.

    1. Observer Tim

      Nice tale of the smuggler’s life, Darren. You did a great job bringing the hotel and the heist to life in imagery.

      My red pencil spotted a couple of missing words (e.g. “and I moved” in the last sentence), but nothing that really broke the narrative flow.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I liked the way your described the opening scene between the MC and the pretty little girl. If you had used that accent in San Antonio, you would have found yourself in the back of a ’79 chevy pickup being drived to the historical section of town called ‘Monte Vista’. For you see, sticking halway into the street grows a 500 year old oak called ‘The Hanging Tree.’

  29. snuzcook


    I woke to the taste of salt. Salty blood, salty sweat, salty tears, it didn’t matter which. With the tip of my tongue I pried apart tender, cracked lips. The dry, hot air in the shuttered room was thick with a thousand years of dust and mortar shaken from the stone walls of the old hotel, and it dared my diaphragm to draw it in.

    I rolled off the cot onto the coolness of the floor, ignoring the crumbs of fallen plaster denting my flesh. I could hear voices from the room directly below, the drone of questions, the raised tones of the interrogator, the sharp crack of wood or metal against stone to create fear; and the cries that followed the muted impact of wood or metal against flesh and bone.

    My brain began to clear. I realized that this must be a dream. I was not a prisoner; this was not my life. I just this evening checked into the old hotel to begin my vacation. The last thing I remembered was opening the antique chest in the corner looking for something to read.

    The room was looked entirely different now, but the chest was still there. I half crawled, half stumbled toward it. Passing in front of a mirror, I sank again to the floor. My reflection showed a cadaverous figure in the remnants of what appeared to be a WWI uniform. The short blurb I had read about the hotel came back to me—one of the oldest structures in Istanbul, it had been a prominent location for resistance and occupation forces alike during the city’s long history, most recently during the occupation by Allied forces in 1918.
    The chest must hold the answer. I could hear footsteps approaching in the corridor outside. I scrambled to the chest and lifted the lid.

    / / /

    I woke to the sound of flintlocks in the streets. I could tell these were Turkish troops by the sound of the volleys and the clatter of horses massed below. The Greeks were not as heavily armed, and could only sustain running skirmishes through the streets of Constantinople. I went to the closed shutters, but the thud of a rifle ball on the window frame sent me reeling back. I did not know if my brothers were safe. I could hear footsteps in the corridor outside. I could not allow them to torture me. I had to find a weapon. I opened the chest in the corner.

    / / /

    I woke to the sound of cannon fire and shouting in the street below. The Muslims had broken through the walls and soon the city would be overrun. I was glad that I had sent my family away on the last cog bound for Athens despite the winter storms. The siege had been brutal and few if any of us loyal to the Church were likely to survive. This building, at least, was still standing. I wrote a last letter to my wife, in the hopes it might make it to her eventually, some words to soften her pain until we will meet again on Earth or in Heaven. I heard footsteps approaching in corridor. I looked around for a place to conceal it against the next uncertain hours–the chest in the corner. I opened the lid.

    1. snuzcook

      I am tempted to apologize for the hanging ending, especially since I normally like tidy conclusions. But then another part of me says–that’s how it needs to end. The test is how the reader feels.

    2. jhowe

      I don’t know what’s with that chest, but the guy had better quit opening it. Or maybe he can’t… it seems the only way to escape the impending footsteps. Nice job in keeping the tension cranked to the max. Very enjoyable.

    3. Observer Tim

      This is very well done, snuzcook. I wonder how far back the MC will end up. The Peloponnesian War or the Alexandrian Conquest would be interesting…

      You’re stretching my mind here, and that’s a good thing.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Your descriptive language, set the stage for a fascinating read. This is a story to be proud as an author. It’s so delightful to see you back in action. A week away is too long for us. We missed you, so there. Don’t do it again.

    4. sjmca1966

      Honestly, I think you ended the story perfectly. This could have gone on forever, but I feel you had to let the reader take over, which you did just at the right time. Brilliant read, very creative snuzcook

    5. Reaper

      Ah Snuzcook, with a vengeance. You should never apologize for letting the story end how it ends. Some stories wrap up tidy, some have an open ending, many are in between, some are happy, some are sad. This was perfect. Masterfully written and to echo k.spicer this read like a really good Twilight Zone episode. Oh, and just because I can and it seems to fit.

      “Endings are hard. Any chapped ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning. Endings are impossible. You try to tie up ever loose end, but you know you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There’s always gonna be holes. And since it’s the ending it’s all supposed to add up to something. I’m telling you, they’re a raging pain in the ass.” – Chuck the Prophet, Supernatural. Your comment on endings made me think of that.

      1. snuzcook

        Thanks, Reaper! I love the quote!

        BTW–in defense of my story, AURORA RAGING, I was present last week, just dropped out early before I could pursue multiple posts made myself conspicuous for my parting challenge.
        #2BTW–you all put (past and present tense) me into a awe-coma with your submissions!

      1. snuzcook

        Glad you’re back, Augie!

        I appreciate your kind words, but sincerely I don’t see it myself. The talent pool is so incredibly deep and wide in this exchange, with new amazing talent showing up all the time. I’m just over here practicing my dog paddle while you and others swim with the dolphins!

    6. WritingKittenOfLoki

      What can I say that hasn’t already been said? This was delightful snuzcook! To reference Reaper and Bilbo: this is a, masterfully written, little gem. And the open ending is marvelous, it leaves us to wonder, to try and figure out what happens next on our own.

  30. Observer Tim

    A second part of this came to me. Sorry for the indulgence.

    Oromagra’s Revelation

    The sonic attack caught me completely off-guard. Every nerve cluster in my body vibrated in agony; I was unable to move or even to think. I couldn’t even rotate an eye around to see the source.

    It lasted perhaps ten seconds then stopped. A few seconds later I was able to move voluntarily again. I rotated an eye toward the source and reached toward my weapon.

    The human (that’s what it was) spoke. “Don’t move or I’ll scream again.”

    It didn’t take a Chief Scientist to figure that one out. I stopped, but kept one eye on the gun and the other on the human.

    It was slightly smaller than average and thin, like it had been deprived of fluid. Even with the skin I could infer where certain portions of its endoskeleton were. It was wrapped in distressed fabric with many holes.

    “You can understand me, then. Can you talk, Blobby?”

    “My name is Oromagra.”

    “Maggy, then. I’m called Jane. What are you doing here?”

    “Exterminating humans.”

    “No, I mean here. In this hotel room.”

    I thought about this. We had been warned about how dangerous humans were, and I’d felt it myself. But this one seemed more interested in communication than in splitting my membranes and absorbing my vital fluids. I took the risk.

    “I seek to understand your people.”

    “You have a funny way of showing it. What are these?”

    “Communication records. All appear to be about war and friendship.”

    “You can read them?”

    “My translator can. Can you not decipher them? Are they in code?”

    “No, I just don’t read German, or Greek, or whatever this one is.”

    “Would you like me to translate them for you?” It was an odd gesture, but perhaps this human could be a source of insight.

    It paused. “All right, but if you try anything I’ll scream.”

    Warning taken. I read several of the letters to it; from its nods and vocalizations it clearly understood them better than I. It stopped me partway through number 1c.

    “Maggy, do you feel fear?”

    “I know the emotion. It is unpleasant.”

    “That’s what these are; the writers are afraid, so they communicate with people they care for. That’s what these letters are about.”

    “Does it help?”

    “Sometimes. The thing about these letters is that the senders died before the letters got sent. Otherwise we wouldn’t have them.”

    “So by killing humans I have made some of these letters.” Maybe humans weren’t that different from people after all. I wanted to crawl into a pool of mud and dissociate.

    Then the strangest thing happened. The human started producing a sonic attack, but this one was soft and low, and the words reminded me of distant Garrida.

    There’ll be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover,
    Tomorrow, just you wait and see…

    Perhaps it is not an attack at all, or maybe it is an attack on the desire to go to war. If so, it is working.

    1. jhowe

      What a delightful exchange between the two beings. The sonic attacks were great. I read this before I went back and read your first entry, which was great. This one stands alone but it is a really cool continuation from the first one.

    2. Observer Tim

      To get a bit more of a handle on the aliens, please accept this exchange, which had to be excised due to lack of space.

      “You’re kind of like us, even though you do look like a jellyfish caught in a hat rack.”

      I believe it was referring to my artificial exoskeleton, though I would have to confirm the meanings of ‘jellyfish’ and ‘hat rack’. But the creature was correct about similarities.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          “The White Cliffs Of Dover”, gets me everytime I think of the title or hear the song. As a very young boy, I would sit in the living room with my Mother at the piano, playing the song and singing it to me. I thought this story had rich imagination, wonderful dialogue and a marvelous sense of humor written in. Also loved the sonic attack. Lanor once saw a mouse in the house, screamed so loud, it fell over dead, but that;’s another story I’ll write about when the prompt arrives.

        2. Observer Tim

          Me too, Kerry. When I think of songs about the homecoming from war, it’s always one of three: We’ll Meet Again, The White Cliffs of Dover, or I’ll Be Home For Christmas. World War II had the best soundtrack, and it saddens me that it took an event so horrifying to bring out such wonder.

          Personally, I sometimes need a Jane in my life. Oromagra spotted the commonality, but totally missed the theme. That’s my problem, and that’s why I needed to write this.

          I would love to hear about Lanor and the mouse! I forgot to say last week, but welcome her to the site for me.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            It is a true story. I’ll fit it somewhere. KC Another song I loved from WWII, “Coming In On A Wing And A Prayer.” Remember that one?

          2. Observer Tim

            Wonderful cong. I keep it in the same mental file as “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” and “A Slip of the Lip Might Sink A Ship”. Like I said, WWII had an incredible soundtrack.

            Nothing to do with the war, but that’s also when “Deep In The Heart of Texas” was written. 🙂

    3. Reaper

      Beautiful twist there. You keep the commentary on so many things in this. I doubt there is anything you will not cover when you’re done. This story is flat out addictive, I am waiting for the change to the charge now that you have your customer base. Wait, that’s Heroine. Touching and brilliantly written. Love the line, Maybe these humans weren’t that different from people after all.

    4. k.spicer

      Very well done. I felt the tension between the two combatants along with the curiosity. I have to admit that in my younger and wilder days I had the same reaction to loud sounds after a long night of drinking. But I regress! Good job!

    5. vaderize03

      The dialogue here was excellent–you managed to make it believable without coming across as cheesy. That’s quite a feat, and not easy to pull off.

      I want more!

    6. snuzcook

      O.Tim, you have me laughing as I read a story about aliens exterminating humans, and the importance of finding hope of peace through common emotional experiences. I am ashamed of myself . But I don’t trust Maggie–no I don’t, not one bit. Does that make me a Xenophobe?

      All fun aside, this is well written, and I enjoyed reading the two parts consecutively.

    7. WritingKittenOfLoki

      The sonic attack is great! Wonderful continuation Observer Tim, I love both parts of this. Are you planning more? You should make this a serial, “the adventures of Oromagra.”

  31. originalalchemist

    The Chest
    I could never understand her fascination with old things. She had fancy names for useless items such as antique or heirloom. I preferred to think of them as old pieces of shit. It didn’t matter though, because whatever made Erin happy also made me happy. Her smile was worth the endless hours at garage sales and pointless eBay bidding wars. I didn’t even bother to bat an eye at the décor shift of our bedroom. At least not until a rather large and old looking chest occupied the former home of my sleek and minimalist IKEA dresser.
    “Erin?” I began, puzzled by this monstrosity that obviously wouldn’t be accommodating my 42” flat panel. “What happened to my dresser?”
    “Oh isn’t it great?” she responded not even bothering to come out of the bathroom.
    “Well it’s certainly different. Where’d my TV go? Don’t tell me my clothes are in that thing.”
    Erin leaned out of the bathroom with her robe barely making it to her shoulders. She was toweling her hair with mischievous eyes, and suddenly I knew I had no hope of being upset, much less protesting the new addition.
    “Easy Ben. Your clothes are still in that boring dresser. It’s just down the hall in your study. And I had the TV installed on the wall in the basement. Thought it would help complete your man cave.” She began to saunter over towards me with the smile of an excitable child as she pulled a tarnished key out of the pocket of her robe. “I was waiting for you to get home to open it. It is a survivor of a fire in this grand hotel in Istanbul. Isn’t it great? It’s a relic from Turkey during the First World War. It was there when my Great Grandmother was. I only paid…”
    “Don’t. I don’t even want to know.”
    “Well ok then, let’s see what’s inside. It’s been hard to wait for you to get home. I’m really excited about this piece. I feel like it has such history and a great story.”
    Piece, that was another favored word of hers to describe a recent overpayment for used up rubbish. Erin squeezed between me and the chest backing into me with her body. Her lush raven hair smelled of intoxicating honey vanilla something or other and I couldn’t help sinking my face gently into it. My smile growing as she delicately guided the key into the time worn hole. I placed a hand on hers as she turned the key. The lock unlatched with a clumsy thunk, and Erin pulled the doors apart. A warm earthy smell wafted out and over us.
    “Oh…” Erin stammered. The opened doors revealed five separate shelves equally spaced apart. On the middle shelf sat an antique ring. Erin stood motionless staring at the piece of jewelry. The setting was antique, but the Princess cut diamond was new. I reached around her and picked up the ring.
    “You know it took some serious doing to get to this,” I began to explain. “Your Great Grandmother was a bit of a roaming soul after that war. With some help from your mother I found this. It is the same setting your Great Grandfather got her before he left to fight in that war. The diamond was rather small and I figured I could add something to it. This here chest was in the hotel he proposed to her in. I bought it awhile back and put it up on that antiques site you love. I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist and I wasn’t going to sell to anybody but you. ”
    Erin turned to me with the biggest smile I’d ever seen and I knew all my work was worth it. She balanced on her toes and gave me a big kiss bustling with excitement.
    “You went through all that trouble?! Oh my gosh you’re the best Ben!” she was nearly squealing. “You’re the best husband in the history of the world!”
    I enveloped her in my arms looking at the left door of the chest that still hung open. There was a fresh inscription on the inside that I was going to let her discover later. It read:
    Of all the history in the world, ours will always be my favorite. Happy Tenth Anniversary. I love you. -Ben

    1. jhowe

      I found this story very enjoyable and well written. The conversations between the couple were great. You did a nice job with this. I’m just glad my wife didn’t read it as I feel I may fall short in being as romantic as Ben was.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Observer Tim hit my exact thought. This is a thoughtful romantic treasure brtween two lovers with total trust in each other. It’s as it should be but rare to see. Your entire story went visual before my mind. That seldon happens and when it does, my usual response is, “My hat’s off to you.”

    2. Reaper

      Beautiful story and writing. At first it seemed off that the MC was trying to be upset in the beginning but then I looked back and realized through the whole thing I was getting a sense of methinks he doth protest too much. Nice little clues there, and any man who would choose and IKEA anything over an antique when the option is available better buy big diamonds. Otherwise I can only echo what has been said so far.

    3. sjmca1966

      Very cool originalalchemist. The fact that your MC was still inclined to do something like this after ten years of marriage was a graet touch. The voice was perfect and the story flowed nicely.

  32. k.spicer

    I couldn’t resist at least looking in the old chest. It sat in the far corner and was covered with several old hand woven rugs. I know I shouldn’t have been nosing through someone else’s things but the temptation was overwhelming; besides for what I paid for the room I should have been able to nose around anywhere I wanted.

    I had spread the word around town that I was putting together a climbing team to navigate the mountain. I didn’t have to tell them what I was hoping to find, they already knew. I was searching for the same thing everyone else was searching for; Noah’s Ark.

    The only inn in the town of Igdir was full due to the number of tourist visiting Mount Ararat, and in the remote parts of eastern Turkey you don’t just drive to the next town for a room. After hackling with the inn keeper and flashing a couple large denomination liras under his nose he agreed to put me up in his grandmother’s home just down the street.

    It was an attic room probably used for when family or guest come to visit and was well kept and surprisingly clean. The price included an evening meal which I gladly excepted before I retired for the evening. During the meal the conversation immediately went to the subject of Noah’s Ark. The inn keeper and several others sat around the table explaining that his grandmother had some documents from her father that detailed the location of the ark. They said that her father was an officer in the Turkish army and had been stationed in a remote part of Mount Ararat during a time of war with Persia to protect the ark from claims that the Persians were making on it. It was an intriguing conversation and I happened to catch something that the innkeeper said. He made a comment that the documents were stored in an old chest in the corner of the attic.

    It was while I was lying on the bed resting that I saw it. The corner of the chest was sticking out from under some old rugs. Remembering what the innkeeper had said I couldn’t resist at least taking a look, so I quietly uncovered the old chest and dragged it out. It smelled of old parchment and mildewed paper and was full of old trinkets that looked like the ones sold on any street corner in Turkey; that was the first warning sign.

    I found the documents right on top and picked them up. Examining them I noticed that the paper looked old but was made of modern fibers and the ink wasn’t even iron-gall. The documents weren’t even good fakes.

    The next morning the inn keeper stopped by and offered his assistance in putting a climbing team together. I smiled and thanked him as I climbed into the old Mercedes Jeep and drove off. I do have to admit though; they do have a good scam going.

    1. Observer Tim

      Well done, k.spicer. The problem with a sense of antiquity is that there will always be people willing to fake it…

      Too bad the search for the ark didn’t work out. But I’ve heard that in the catacombs under Old Jerusalem there’s another ark waiting to be found…

  33. Bilbo Baggins


    July 24th, 2015
    2300 Hours

    “I will admit, there are some days that I regret killing my father,” the bearded man stated.

    Piruz watched him pace back and forth across the grimy room.

    “Why’d you kill him? He didn’t get you the toy you wanted?”

    The stranger smiled, but his eyes remained cold.

    “He was a pacifist. He wouldn’t let me do what duty demanded.”

    Piruz glanced back down at the thick ropes binding him to the tiny chair, the wind howling distantly.

    “Wouldn’t let you do what?”

    “Anything,” the stranger replied. “Bombings, robberies, assassinations, tortures—“

    “Oh, so that body hanging from the Old Citadel was you?”

    The other man nodded, reaching for his lighter.

    “Just a small message to the townspeople. Submit or die, like everything else.”

    “Well, I’m sure they didn’t like seeing their mayor’s organs hanging out, for one.”

    “They’re not going to like the sight of yours either.”

    Piruz’s muscles tightened, but the cords refused to budge. The stranger pulled up a metal folding chair with a scraping noise and motioned for his bodyguard, who surfaced from the dark.

    “I’m a tired man, Detective Ayaleth. Tired of being the mouse, of watching other nations feast on Armenia’s land and people. It’s time we understood each other. I want to right history—but you want to keep it wrong.”

    “I only want to save lives…. Mr. Davidian.”

    He appeared slightly surprised, and slipped a cigarette out of his suit pocket.

    “I see my hotel room number is not the only thing you know.”

    “The Turkish police has many contacts,” Piruz admitted.

    The detective again tested the ropes, but caught the attention of the guard, who punched him square in the forehead, his skull slamming into the seat back. Eyes wandering aimlessly around the room, Piruz smacked his lips, tasting fresh blood, which was dripping down his cheeks.

    “Care to name a few, detective?”

    Mr. Davidian’s face cruelly lit up at the silence. Stuffing a cig into his narrow lips, he lit a spark on the second try and let off a small puff of smoke, which drifted up to the leaking ceiling.

    Piruz wearily shook his head, but no further blow came. His arms sagging, he tried to think, formulate at least one coherent sentence. Hotel room, yes… he’d snuck in shortly before being captured. Didn’t find anything but a locked chest. Surely that had something important in it… if he could just escape…

    “Detective, do you hear that?”

    Rolling his head back to gaze at the killer, Piruz listened. The lone lamp above them flickered, and the stream of red, plop, plop, went down his face, onto his thigh, onto the chair. There it was, the almost hidden roar of cold waves of water.

    “That’s Lake Van, the Pearl of the East. I see its curling white foam every day, but it doesn’t bring to mind beauty. It brings to mind murder, agony—genocide. Nearly 100 years ago, the Ottomans forced my people out of eastern Turkey. Millions were slaughtered.”

    He began breathing heavily, and got up again, started pacing. The blood had nearly halted, now clotting on the detective’s rugged cheeks, and he coughed once, felt it slide down his throat.

    “You know, we resisted. We had our own muskets, but the Russians abandoned us! Just a crowd of refugees, my ancestors among them, fired upon without mercy! Nearly all my family was killed!”

    The killer stopped, his chest heaving. When he looked back at Piruz, it was with a burrowing glance of steel that tore right through the shield of blood and into the skull, a shock of black hair running down his crumbling forehead. It was the look of a hungry leopard at a maimed antelope.

    “No more talking, detective. I’ve already given you too much. Now all that remains is for your father’s sins to be laid upon you. Then, then, I can regain our precious soil, with nothing in my way.”

    Mr. Davidian motioned to his guard, extinguishing the cigarette in the ashtray, burying its dying embers. Piruz soaked in everything with a desperation that nearly tore his arms out of their sockets—the dimly lit blue of the killer’s suit, the brown table legs, white walls like a prison’s, and his heart sickened as he recalled his wife, home, children, the sadness, the regret…. always curling up, like the solitary smoke from the ashtray, never to rise again, but to lay battered… broken… dead.

    (There’s going to be a part two… and three, probably. Sorry for not continuing my last series– I’ll work something out for a finale in that area. GH )

    1. jhowe

      There’s a lot of good writing in this one. Nice pacing, realistic dialog, vivid description… and you put it all together so well to create a riviting story.

    2. Reaper

      Mr. Baggins, sometimes you scare me. In a good way. Nice detail, darkness, tension, but you held it to the point where this stayed intellectual instead of graphic. That is a fine line to walk and you did it well, allowing the focus to be on the emotion and the story instead of the gory details. The desperation at the end was palpable and beautifully written. And the overall theme of going to far and not letting go of the slights of the past was amazing. Is there any style you can’t do?

      1. Bilbo Baggins

        Thanks, Reaper! That’s quite a compliment. I tried to make the end as good as possible, knowing it’d stay with the reader. As for styles… I try to experiment with everything, really. Sci-fi, drama, romance, historical, dark… but I’m obviously better in some areas than others.

  34. vaderize03

    Okay, it’s a little off-prompt, but I’m a little obsessed with Tolkien fan-fiction. The connection to WWI is not directly stated (or even implied), but the nature of humanity, and its need for conflict, is a part of the story. Hope everyone likes it.

    * * *

    “From the West”

    I double-checked to make the door was locked and flopped down on the bed. Next to me, the ivory casket, plucked from the gnarled trunk in the corner of the room, lounged on the sheets like a snow-capped mountain, waiting to be explored. I stared at its perfect lines, the smooth white of lovely bones, and traced a finger across the flowing script carved upon its top, the letters in a language that had long-since passed. I thought back to the oath I’d sworn, and the early days of the secret quest. The memory of the Trees had been fresh in my mind, the anger at their death like the wound of a spear. It had been easy to leave those troubled shores, and travel in disguise to the world of Men.

    For countless ages I pursed the box, hoping against hope to find some peace. But now, after all this time and so much pain, I couldn’t bring myself to touch it, to finish that which I had so long ago started. The thought of it froze the breath in my chest and sent my heart galloping faster than a thoroughbred horse. My hands, strong things that fought battles and forged swords, shook like a heroin addict who’d waited too long to get his next fix. I closed my eyes; in the countless ages I’d walked with Men, their violent hearts had failed to change. Here, in this dusty hotel in the middle of the desert, war was once again approaching, and my time would soon run out. There was love here, but evil too, and often in greater measure. Even after thousands of years, the ruinous seed of Morgoth and his lieutenant Sauron still remained to poison the world.

    Could Men be saved? Perhaps, but it was not for me to say. My role was to find it, and set it free; once that was done, nothing else would matter.

    I don’t know why they moved the jewel, but the Valar do not like to explain. I sighed. It was time to bring the quest to a close. The light within had the power to heal, but was it enough for the scars of this world?

    There was only one way to find out.

    With still-shaking hands, I grasped the casket and set it on my lap, cradling it like a newborn baby. I could do this. I’d faced down Uruks and Orcs, and even slew a Balrog once. Since then, Men had become more dangerous than any creature of the Ancient World, but I couldn’t bring myself to abandon all hope. It might work, it might fail, but I would not turn my back and flee from the choice. Whatever happened, I would complete my task.

    A small smile played across my lips. The other two may be forever lost, but there was sufficient light in the one that was left. I closed my eyes again, lifted the lid, and softly spoke the ancient words:

    Auta i lome, aure entuluva!

    The night is passing. Day shall come again.

      1. derrdevil

        Oh Lord! You guys are such nerds!!! Love it! This was gorgeous, Vaderize. Caught me from the get go.. And never let go. Fanfic hey… Didn’t realise it could be this good.

        1. Observer Tim

          Fanfic can be good, but it tends toward the lesser of the skill of the original author and the skill of the fan. Since Tolkien is a classic and Vader is very capable, this one is a classic.

          In mineral terms, a diamond among coprolites.

          1. vaderize03

            Thank you, my friend. Those are very kind words, and I really appreciate it.

            I’m actually planning to write a Tolkien fan-fic novel set during some of the events of The Silmarillion, I’ve just been too busy working on editing some of my other original works. I’m really excited about it, though, so hopefully someday it will come to fruition.

      2. vaderize03

        I’ll leave that you, lol. Could be either, but I’m leaning towards one of the Maiar that took human form and ended up spending thousands (or even tens of thousands) of years here. And yes, it’s the one that fell into the sea; I wanted to present it as an artifact that could potentially bring peace to our troubled world.

        We could use it right about now.

        1. Observer Tim

          More of a darn WordPress thing. Because derrdevil’s comment appeared under mine, yours appeared at the same indent level, but under that comment. So technically (and thematically) it belongs to mine.

          In any case, I’m glad I guessed right. It’s been years since I read the Silmarillion.

          1. vaderize03

            Yes, you certainly did guess right.

            And I must admit, WordPress give me fits. If you are in an intensive-care unit suffering from heart, lung, and kidney failure I can take of you, but figuring out computer software never fails to induce a migraine. Just how I’m wired, I guess.

            Go figure.

    1. sjmca1966

      Nice take on the prompt vaderize03, I must admit the ivory plucked from the trunk had me feeling sorry for the elephant! A very poignant message in this piece. Well written.

    2. Reaper

      Given Tolkien based his world on his experiences in the mentioned war I think you hit the prompt marks. Okay, maybe not Ottoman empire but still a treasure from World War One. I am one of the harshest people on fanfic out there, and I will tell you this was lovely. The fact that it is in the modern time just sets it apart as something of your own that was inspired by and incorporating elements of another’s work. You hooked me and kept me and I felt so many emotions with this one. Just amazing.

      1. vaderize03

        It’s funny, I tend to shy away from fanfic for exactly the same reason: it’s hard to make it credible, since we can never fully live in another author’s head. Yet, for some reason, I am inexplicably drawn to Tolkien. His idea of an ancient world, now forgotten, in which powers and principalities manipulate the story of our lives is something that has always deeply resonated with me.

        I’m glad you liked this, I really struggled with whether or not to even post it. The theme of war, though, is forefront in all our minds, especially now. I have two sons, 7 and 5, and every day I looked at them and worry about the world we’re handing over.

        The thought of a magical talisman that could bring healing just seemed to fit here; I kinda wish it was real. Makes me wonder if Valinor isn’t really out there somewhere.

  35. lionetravail

    Part 2: Wet Work

    Hours later, the risen sun full upon my face, I opened my eyes and lowered my foot. I did my necessaries in the elegant bath, returned, and dressed in lightweight, charcoal-colored dress slacks, an equally light black crew-neck sweater, socks and shoes. I checked my reflection in the mirror, and saw a young, angular, hairless face which many women, and some men, have found attractive, with bottle-green eyes under long black lashes that many women, and some men, have envied. My hair was black and short, and tousled messily in the fashion of models and boy bands.

    Satisfied with my appearance, I went to the antique chest, opened it, and found the item I sought wrapped in soft white muslin. I unwrapped it, its curved and lethal shape revealed: a sheathed dagger of Ottoman design, with three large emeralds in the hilt on one side. I turned it, and the reverse of the hilt was smooth, of inlaid mother-of-pearl. The sheath itself was worked and beaten gold, with enameled flowers on its surface, and was encrusted with more than fifty diamonds. I drew it so as to examine the blade, and became intimately aware of all the blood and tears shed in harvesting its component parts, and each one’s long journey across the globe to be crafted into this princely masterpiece.

    The Topkapi Emerald Dagger- crafted as a gift to establish peace between Mahmud the First and Nadir Shah of Iran in year 1747 following the birth of the Son- returned to Turkey when Nadir Shah was assassinated prior to the exchanging of emissaries. I, perhaps alone, knew that it was cursed by the weight of all the suffering accrued in its assembled parts, and the true cause behind the death of the Iranian leader and the failed embassy of the Ottoman Empire.

    The perfect tool for my needs, easily to hand. It had, of course, been arranged.

    I replaced the sheath in the chest, then slipped on a medium grey silk trench from the closet, and stuck the dagger into the custom-made, soft leather sheath which I’d had put in to replace the inner pocket. I left my room, went downstairs and out the front of the hotel, and turned right.

    It was a short walk to the Basilica Cistern in the warm sun of early morning. I paid my Turkish lira and descended into the cool darkness. Even as early as it was, there were already people below the street, strolling the walkways. The babble of the polyglot of languages being spoken washed over me as I reached the bottom of the stairs. Hardly paying attention, I turned right to go to the small cafe there. There I ordered the strong, Turkish-style coffee from a kiosk, and sat at one of the tables to drink and watch the tourists. And to prepare.

    I looked at my half-drunk cup, and watched a curl of steam rise from it. I concentrated on the thin tendril wending upwards to the point where it began to dissipate, until I achieved the sharpest focus of which I was capable. With a final effort of my will, I flexed what felt like some non-corporeal muscle to the appropriate level of tension and steam froze in place.

    There was silence all around me.

    I stood, keeping that stillness clenched tight, and walked from my table past unmoving folk of all ages and descriptions, to the far northwest corner of the Cistern where my immediate need lay. At the base of the furthest column was the upside-down head of Medusa, relegated to this new underworld, far from her place of birth.

    I knelt in front of the head, and brought out the dagger into the stillness of the underground. I passed it before the eyes of the head as if to show it, then whispered to it: “Obscurum mater inferorum quia oblatio adsum auxilio vestro.” I waited on the flagstone amidst the lapping water all around, and waited.

    (to be continued)

    1. sjmca1966

      Hell, I’m hoping there is some fiction in this story lionetravail. You are blending your experiences with your creativity seamlessly.
      More, more, more!

    2. Observer Tim

      Wow. The magic caught me off guard, but it is so wonderfully fitting in this old-world setting. You’ve captured everything perfectly. I can’t wait for part 3; your wife is very lucky to get to hear it first.

    3. jhowe

      This story is shaping up nicely. I particularly like the lone sentence, “And to prepare.” That sent a chill or two my way. You had better save some of this good stuff for your novel, which if you are not writing, you are very capable of writing.

  36. jhowe

    As an amateur historian of the Ottoman Empire, Jonathon Martin was excited about his trip to Turkey. He had never traveled out of the United States and had made countless preparations for the trip. He was so preoccupied by the activity and anticipation that he boarded the plane in a trance-like state.

    Upon landing, still dazed by the hype, he collected his luggage and was amazed by the people that surrounded him and their Western appearance. Unexpectedly, all the signage was printed in English; surely a sign of modernization, but Jonathon would have preferred Turkish to remain in the spirit of his pilgrimage.

    Once outside, Jonathon got into a taxi cab and was relieved to finally see an exotic face dressed in traditional clothing. Jonathon opened his Turkish language translator booklet and slowly said while flipping pages, “I am from America. I look forward to my visit to Turkey.”

    “You want to go to Turkey?” the driver said in accented English. “I don’t understand your language.”

    “Are you not from Turkey?” Jonathon said.

    “I live in Fayetteville,” he said. “I came here from Pakistan two years ago. Turkey is about 40 miles to the west.”

    “By all means then,” said Jonathon. “Take me to Turkey.” He was really looking forward to some colorful flair.

    The sign read, ‘Welcome to Turkey, population 492.’ A crudely painted tom turkey adorned the sign. Surely there was some mistake. Jonathon retrieved his itinerary from his satchel and studied it. He suddenly realized the $290 plane fare was way too good to be true.

    “Where are we exactly?” he said.

    The driver said, “We are in Turkey, North Carolina. Please pay me ninety two dollars.”

    Jonathon was too embarrassed to tell the driver his plight. “Is there a hotel in the area?”

    “There are no hotels. Please pay me now.”

    Jonathon got his wallet out. “I’m afraid all I have is Turkish Lira. I converted all my money.”

    “I do not take Turkish Lira. Please pay me now!”

    “How about traveler’s checks?”

    The driver looked to the sky. “Yes, I will take traveler’s checks. Pay me now and get out of my cab.”

    As the dust cleared from the accelerating taxi, Jonathon wiped his face with a handkerchief, pulled out the handle on his suitcase and started down the road. He walked up to a farmhouse and knocked at the front door. A short man in bib overalls came out and said, “How are ya’all?”

    Jonathon looked around and confirmed he was alone. “I need a room. Are there any hotels or bed and breakfast inns in the area?”

    “We ain’t got none of that around here. They’s a Motel Six up near Clinton but I wouldn’t recommend it.”

    “Why not?”

    “Cause it’s in Clinton. This here’s Turkey.”

    “How far is it?”


    “The Motel Six.”

    “Bout ten, twelve miles.”

    “Could you drive me there? I’ll pay you.”

    “Hell, whyn’t you just stay here? I have a spare room.”

    “I’ll give you two thousand Turkish Lira for the room.”

    “Well hot dog. I think I just hit the jackpot,” said the farmer.

    In his room, Jonathon organized the contents of his suitcase and got ready for bed. He pondered his predicament and told himself he would worry about it tomorrow. In the corner of the room he saw a very elegant, very old trunk. He crept over to it and slowly opened it. It was empty. He would have been disappointed if it hadn’t been.

    1. sjmca1966

      Oh your poor MC. This reminds me of the poor elderly American couple who arrived here in Auckland some years ago, they actually wanted to go to Oakland for they’re grandchilds christening. They became minor celebrities in the local media.
      This story put a smile on my face jhowe 🙂

        1. Kerry Charlton

          jhowe, this is a rib tickler from the get go and so realistic, I couldn’t believe it. I loved the taxi driver wanting his money over and over, realizing he had a total nut case for a fare. I was half waiting for the farmer’s daughter to come into his bedroom and for a quarter…………………………………..polish his shoes.

          1. Reaper

            I’m with Kerry on this one. I was wondering if this was going to turn into a traveling salesman thing. This is actually a very well done story and had me smiling all the way through, and sad for your MC at the same time.

  37. lionetravail

    Part 1: Prep Work

    The flight had been awful. We’d taken off from New York over an hour late in heavy rain, went north up the coast of Canada, and turned east to pass Greenland. That was when the diabetic man realized that he felt horrible and that his medication was in his checked baggage. Thousands of gallons of dumped fuel to reduce weight, backtracking to a Canadian airport to offload one sick patient, then refueling and resuming our original heading added up to arrival at Ataturk Airport more than eight hours late.

    The accreted irritation of the passengers throughout the plane was something which could not be soothed by free alcohol, copious gourmet food, and extra Turkish delights liberally dispersed. That burgeoning disgruntlement, plus the distress of missed connecting flights, had been the perfect sleep aid for me.

    Landed, processed through Customs and Immigration, I bypassed Baggage Claim with my carry-on in hand. The weary and rumpled state of my fellow passengers brought the hint of a smile to my lips as I left the terminal.

    Oppressive heat met me at the door, but I didn’t mind: it reminded me of home. A cab took me through dusk’s gloaming into Istanbul, through the sprawling streets and malls of any modern European city and then into the old section, to the Ayasofya. The crisp air conditioning of the lobby, the understated and competent desk clerk, and the opulent elegance were indulgences, but well-appreciated ones. I collected the key and went up, eschewing the airy glass and chrome elevator for the earthy marble staircase.

    My room was warm, being between seasons in Europe, and the AC was off. The lights of the ancient Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque were visible through my window, which I opened to a faint, cooling evening breeze. I glanced over at the antique chest which sat unobtrusively in the corner for just a moment, and returned to look out the window. “Too late for either task,” I said softly, sighed, and went out to walk the old streets.

    I ate overlooking the Bosphorus, and could see my first target for the next day. Closer, the Hagia Sophia gleamed behind its walls across the square, darkness at its heart that all dismissed as legend. All but me, anyway. I ordered raki which came in the traditional way: clear in the glass, neat. The waiter poured the water in and the liquid became opaque white, making the traditional ‘lion’s milk’ of social Turks. I drank it in a thoughtful mood before paying my bill and returning to my hotel.

    Sleep came easily, as it does to all those with a clear conscience.

    I woke to an air raid siren; at least, that was my first thought, until I was awake enough to realize it was simply the morning cry to prayer from the Mosque. Naked, I rose from the bed to go to the window, words forming in my mind.

    Ancient Istanbul
    sleeps like me, windows open
    to hear Muezzin’s call

    I brought up one foot to tree position, folded my hands before my heart, and with closed eyes, breathed.

    (to be continued)

      1. lionetravail

        Both, of course. In fact, it’s a sorry admission, but the plane flight there was exactly as described, except for two main things:

        1. we were only 6 hours late, and it was early afternoon when we arrived. Here, I wanted it to be evening.
        2. I slept maybe an hour, was exhausted when we got in. I was picked up by the doctors I was meeting there, taken to my hotel, went out for dinner with them (over the Bosphorus, and with the requisite raki, of course), and all I could think about were my scratchy eyes and not falling asleep on my warm and lovely hosts.

        The hotel is lovely, the view as described, the Muezzin’s call as surprising and jarring as possible when you don’t expect it, at dawn, after pulling an all-nighter the day before 🙂 I wrote that haiku that first morning after waking to that call.

        The rest (if there’s anything leftover) is fiction- heh!

      1. lionetravail

        Thanks so much- last prompt was my first multi-part, and when this one came up, with my trip there earlier this year in the spring and the immediate ideas which came, I had too much to write in 500 words.

    1. sjmca1966

      You kind of hit the ‘prompt jackpot’ this week lionetravail. Your writing certainly does justice to your travel experiences and I look forward to where this leads.
      This is just the hook, but it is very well baited.

    2. Observer Tim

      You’re doing it to me again, lionetravail. Last week it was mars, this week it’s Istanbul (not Constantinople). Please tell me you’re not going to… never mind, I just looked up and saw part 2. Crisis averted.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I passed your part 2 and almost stopped, I was so anxious to read it. I’m glad I didn’t. You’re a brave soul to go to Turkey for any reason. The story crackled with realism and authenticity. Nice writing here. Now I’ll stroll up and catch part two.

  38. loonybird

    “Here you go Miss”
    The nettled voice of the receptionist slices into my thoughts.
    “Oh! …Yes, thank you” I stutter as I take the key card from her hands, hurriedly whisking away my belongings and the newspaper I was reading towards the elevator. Disturbing headline today: Torture escalates at Guantanamo Bay prison.

    As I wait for the doors to open, the haunting image from the news article resurfaces in my mind – a naked body with a plastic bag jostled on its head and a leash around the neck, being ruthlessly dragged across the floor by a uniform clad guard. A shiver runs down my spine, as I recall the blank expression on the guards face. And his eyes, the frosty piercing gape devoid of any emotion. At the elementary level, these are just two human beings; but what could possibly reduce these individuals to interact in such a deplorable manner, I wonder in dismay.

    I step out of the elevator. The incense of traditional Turkey laces the dimly lit hallway. I check into my room, a cozy little space with a small balcony overlooking the bustling bazaars of old Istanbul. The old world charm reminiscent of the hotel is accentuated by the room décor – a brass coffee pot on the table, a multicolored lantern hung outside the balcony, a bronze weathered chest nestled just under the bedside table.

    I lean in to pull out the chest, mildly curious to see what could be inside it. A small cloud of dust escapes as I lift the heavy lid. I reach in to find several ragged pages and old photographs. There’s is also a dusty little red book, with the initials Y.M. plastered on the front. I briefly skimp through the photographs. There’s one of three little boys happily splashing water on each other, another of a beaming family portrait. There’s also a photograph of a young soldier posing proudly with his rifle, yet another of a grim old man in an officers uniform and a few more of the same young man in a soldier’s attire.

    I open the red book. It appears to be the diary of one Yakub Mahmood. In the initial entries, it becomes evident that he had a gleaming childhood, as he reminisces of memories of playing with his brothers, and helping his father on the farm. He describes how this blissful childhood prematurely ended in the summer of 1914, when his parents died in a blast near their village. The subsequent year, Yakub joined the army of the Ottoman Empire. The next several entries suggest sadness, despondence and rage in equal measure, over his parent’s deaths, and the consuming desire to destroy the enemy. On February 23, 1916, he recounts how he and his friend lost contact with their base while out to pick up equipment from the communication trenches, later to be captured by British soldiers. Yakub then relates his time as a prisoner of war, living each day in the fleeting hope of help and rescue. Prisoners of war were routinely beaten and lived in deplorable condition, often going without food for several days. He describes how he felt dead inside, that each second that passed chipped away a piece of his soul. Yakub miraculously managed to escape the camps one night when there was danger of a counterattack on the camp by the German troops. After his return to Turkey, he was posted to work in a prison camp. He recounts in chilling detail how he tortured and tormented the prisoners there. The descriptions are strikingly devoid of any feeling, let alone of any remorse. What is reiterated several times is the overpowering desire to torment and kill. I glance at the photograph of the old man, his eyes as cold as ice, emotionless and lifeless. His icy stare makes me quiver uncomfortably.

    War never does change, does it? I sigh and put the book down. I glance briefly at the photograph of the little boys playing with water, their eyes twinkling in excitement. I am reminded of a quote I had read somewhere: “War isn’t about what is right – it is about what is left”. Besides the wounds and scars that are visible, wars shred a person’s humanity and morality to pieces, turning innocent jovial little boys into atrocious and sadistic monsters.

    1. Augie

      loonybird, I like your story. I think we all have a bit of Hulk in us. The good news is, once we calm down and are out of harms way, we change back into the calm average person. Nice writing!

    2. jhowe

      Well, loony bird, I’ve always wanted to address someone as loonybird, that was really good. It seems you may have done this writing thing once or twice. You either did a lot of research or you know a lot. Either way, good going.

    3. Reaper

      Hello loonybird. Love the name. I like the story and love the message. Even more I love that it has a message that seems to mean a lot to you. The voice of the narrator is well thought out and engaging and the story draws you in. Some of the wording is a bit rough, I might steal a suggestion I have seen on here about reading it out loud to yourself because the story is silky and every once in a while some of the wording jarred me out of a tale that kept pulling me in.

  39. Augie

    No mans land

    Following the black and white illustrations formatted like a comic book, Ronald dons his gas mask. He looks across the rubble in the small hotel room at his friends huddled in the corner. They don their gas mask, trembling in fear.

    “God forgive me.”

    Ronald pulls the activation pin on the SARIN poisonous gas cylinder and tosses it out the window. He repeats this process three times, until the screams below cease.

    Three days earlier…

    Solar powered pumps draw air in through massive carbon filters and CO2 scrubbers. None have ever seen what makes the solar panels work. The last of their batteries are installed in the exterior monitors constantly checking the radioactive levels outside. The walls are lined with towering computers that stopped working over 120 years ago. Memories of before died with the old.

    This large fallout shelter was designed for world leaders, famous scientist and medical professionals. It can easily shelter 300 people and was stocked with two hundred years of dry food and water for them. Even though fifty remain, the food is almost gone along with the knowledge of WW111.

    The average life expectancy is 25 years old. The group leader Ronald just turned 17 and is convinced it is time to leave the shelter.

    “Listen to me, we have to explore. We cannot live down here forever. None of us has ever seen the outside before. There must be other colonies around us. I say we leave. Our monitors indicate that the radiation levels are well below permissible levels. Who will go with me?

    Five boys raise their hands.

    Ronald smiles, “Good. Bring three days of dry food, your pocket dosimeters and gas mask. It is possible that there could be radioactive hot spots. We leave tomorrow.”

    After opening multiple airtight doors, the group of boys panic as a fireball blinds them. They close their eyes in pain and pull out their gas mask.

    Ronald smiles, “Its not radioactive boys. That is the sun. Give your eyes a chance to adjust.”

    Ronald touches the cross around his neck, “God help us.” They begin the journey through the wasteland of rubble and sand. Myrina looks nothing like the songs they learned. Ronald looks out to the black sea as small images bob in the water. He can’t tell if they are getting smaller or larger.

    The youngest in the group shouts, “Look, the harbor! There are boats and people!”

    Ronald looks towards the harbor. Multiple single mast boats raise and lower with the swells. “Galleys?” Ronald recalls seeing pictures of these ancient boats in the shelters history library.

    Large men covered in fur sit around a fire pit below a cluster of tall buildings that survived the nuclear blast.

    Ronald stops his group. “Lets go in one of the buildings and watch them from above.”

    The group climbs up eight flights of stairs in a building labeled Myrina Hotel. Similar to the fall out shelter, doors with numbers line the halls.

    “In here!” The boys enter through a large hole in the hallway where the door for room 811 should be. The exterior wall had been blasted off and the boys crawl through the rubble and peer down at the group of men.

    The men are shouting about a victory in their last battle. They raise copper cups and cheer swinging swords and pikes.

    Chad, shouts, “Over here, what is this?”

    Chad pulls out a dark grey chest from the rubble. A large image of an odd cross is printed on top just above a human skull with two bones forming an x. On the side of the box is the word SARIN and 1914.

    Ronald looks at the box, “Guys, this box was intentionally hidden between walls. When this building was struck, the wall collapsed exposing it. If that is a date, it was during the first world war.”

    Chad pointed to Ronald’s necklace, “the cross looks just like yours, it must be a good thing.”

    Ronald felt uneasy, “I don’t think so.”

    They open the chest, nestled in sawdust are several canisters labeled SARIN. An instructional chart inside the box shows two trenches separated by an area labeled –no mans land-. The diagram shows soldiers donning gas mask, then tossing the canisters into the opposing trenches.

    Just then, a large man covered in animal fur charges into the room swinging a sword.

    “Ha! There you are! I new I heard something up here!”

    Ronald stands in front of the towering man and points his Python 357 revolver to the mans chest, “We come in peace!”

    The man looks at the large pistol in confusion, “What is that thing boy?”

    Ronald backs up “Don’t make me shoot you sir!”

    The man spots the cross around Ronald’s neck and runs out of the room screaming, “Devils!”

    Ronald watches from above as the man runs out of the building alerting his group. The men stomp their feet and chant, “devils must die, devils must die!” They raise swords and pikes and prepare to charge.

    Ronald looks across the room to the boys huddled in the corner, “Put on your mask.”

    1. jhowe

      This was a really cool story. I can see a movie concept about the decendants from a fallout shelter emerging after many years. This was very well done and well written.

    2. lionetravail

      Nice story Augie- very imaginative, and a great way to take on the prompt. Minor critique- the narrator voice is omniscient, and intrudes on your story. Example: “Myrina looks nothing like the songs they learned.” How does the narrator know that, I have to ask?

      It’s smoother if your characters tell us that info: “That’s it?” one of the boys asked. “It’s not like it says in the songs, Ronald.” ….

      A very cool story idea!

    3. Reaper

      Ah, the return of the soldier. Augie this was amazing. I liked the third person omniscient myself mostly because it allowed for the lines about the past being lost. In a short period you touched on two very deep and real topics. The one you mentioned being the past repeating itself, obviously noone in your story learned from the past as they lost it. I actually thought you were going for a time travel or a world reset thing until you brought up the buildings. The second subject that you did beautifully was perspective and how lack of understanding causes strife. The two groups didn’t actually talk, and since we do not know their histories we are left with another perspective not knowing who is in the right though I kind of assume neither and both. This is deep, rich, and just amazing. A great return to the prompts for you.

    4. Observer Tim

      Great story, Augie. The post-apocalypse genre is hard to do well, but you’ve nailed it.

      My red pencil said Sarin was WW2-era, but I slapped it. It was obviously planted for the boys to find, though by what agency I don’t know. Perhaps islamist terrorists hid it in the damaged wall and labelled it in German so those who found it wouln’t understand.

      Also, for this piece, having the whole story in italics gave it a dreamlike feel that only enhanced the slightly alien nature of the native. It may have been unintentional, but give it a Retief. The response is not ‘oops’, but ‘Aha! Just as I planned!’ 😉

      1. Augie

        Thanks Observer Tim, my original story was complete opposite where the men in Fur found a false bottom in the chest that led to a fallout shelter deep below the Hotel. Im glad the italics worked for you.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Welcome back, Augie. You entered with a big bang and the story escalated up. A cool and imaginative response to the prompt. My first thoughts wer HG Wells , “Time Machine.” The small vacation? you took didn’t dull your writing tools one bit.

          Hope everything is going well for you. And I’m looking for another post on the prompt. Don’t want to wait a week for the next one.

          1. Augie

            Thanks Kerry! I had an amazing home coming experience. I thought about telling you now, but would rather save it for a post. I will tell you this, we live on 20 acres in the woods in Kingston, WA. I needed every inch for the group that came to welcome me home.

            Im working on a second story because I know I wont be able to post next week, Thanks again!

  40. JRSimmang


    The breeze is welcome, salted like caramel should be, and the sounds of Trebzon are absorbed into the walls of this hotel room. I lay back on the bed and let the perspiration pool on my forehead and cool me. My fingers reach out and touch the twin Sigs on the nightstand. Suddenly, I’m furious.

    I jolt upright, stand, and rush to the curtains. I rip them from the wall, and quickly I begin tearing at them, ripping them, shredding them with my hands, leaving strips of white muslin gathering into puddles on the floor.

    I devolve into sobbing.

    And it passes. I retreat back to the bed and reach out once more to my pistols. They are but bits of metal. Eventually, I realize they will return once again to the Earth.

    In the corner of the room, the hinged box beckons.


    “In his room.”

    “So the procedure worked.”

    “9 out of 10 times.”

    “I don’t like those odds, Rafe.”

    “You don’t have to. If he fails, he dies.”

    “And we start over.”


    I open the box, which is of recent design, metal, heavy, and find inside yellowing leafs of paper inscribed with High German, which isn’t concerning. I flip through several more pieces of paper, and underneath it all I find a token. Gold medallion, with a swastika inlaid, decorated with a red and black ribbon. On the back, etched with acid, is a name: Gen Sir E Allenby.

    Under that is a Qur’an with the same name written on the inside cover.

    Under that is several thousand Marks-worth, wrapped in a cloth embroidered with the stamp of Emperor William II.


    “1 minute 33.68.01.”


    “I had Dr Weimar complete the same puzzle.”


    “5 minutes 54.97.18.”

    “So we’re confident he’ll succeed.”

    “Of course.”

    “Do we know where he is?”

    “The fact that we don’t means he’s succeeding.”


    8 minutes 16 seconds later and my duffle bag is packed, my pistols strapped to my back, and my coat on. I leave $16 American on my nightstand and exit to the street. It’s 0240. There is a group of teenagers gathered around a shop’s “Closed” neon light. They watch me as I stride to the boat with the single bell. I cannot have witnesses.

    I step onto the boat, turn around, and fire four shots.

    In three hours, I’ll arrive south of Sebastopol.

    The Russians will be angry.

    -JR Simmang

    1. jhowe

      This dripped with great political intrigue that kept my interest the whole way. I liked the two different points of view going back and forth.

    2. Reaper

      Creepy in that I want to keep reading way. This is verging into a genre I don’t normally go in for so the fact that you have me hooked says a lot. When you can draw in people across those lines with your words you are doing an amazing job. I also liked the perspective shifts.

    3. Observer Tim

      Well, I’m hooked. You did a great job portraying the confusion of someone being (brainwashed? conditioned?). The sense of confusion is palapable and a great counterpoint to his surety in the last section.

      My red pencil asked me about the combination of the swastika and Kaiser Wilhelm (whose Germany used the Iron Cross), but I reminded it that the scenario was created for training a mind, so the issue was to create the perception of Germany more than a 100% accuracy. The ‘hooked cross’ was a powerful symbol of Germany against the world.

  41. peetaweet

    It had taken nearly a year of corresponding emails and letters to get this far. I’d given up at times, focusing on less spectacular ventures because after all, bills have to be paid. But her story never fully left my mind. How could it?

    Then she called.

    A week later and nearly crazy, I arrived at Istanbul Ataturk via Heathrow, staying at the hotel in the Kilibarhir port. I toured the sights and enjoyed the breathlessly gorgeous coastline, trying to focus but drinking heavily and fantasizing about what was about to happen.

    I was surprised by all of the Australians, until I was informed that it was Anzac day. I did okay, blending in, drinking beers at noon and taking notes on the scenery. Technically I was being paid for this assignment, but subconsciously I felt that this was my own quest. I was finally going to reel in that marlin.

    I stumbled upon the Gallipoli houses after one of those drinking days, weary and worn and smelling the beer on my own breath. I didn’t have the stamina of the Australians and I needed to get some work done. That night, in my room, I looked over my notes and checked my messages.


    The house was little more than a shack. I tapped on the splintered door, eyeing my surroundings. An attractive older lady introduced herself as Kara. Her eyes took me by surprise and I stammered through the niceties. She had to be close to seventy, spoke scattered English, and I had to suck down my nervousness because at first glance it was highly obvious that she had been telling the truth.

    The wooden floors creaked and cracked under the stress of my weight. Kara introduced me to Gona, her mother, who, according to my notes and what I’d pried from unforthcoming estate lawyers, was nearly 90 years old.

    Inside, Kara stepped into the kitchen, pouring tea and leaving me under the unrelenting stare of Gona. She returned handing me small cup. “We never wanted these published,” she said and I grimaced. “But, now, we don’t have a choice. My grand-daughter is sick and we have very little money.”

    Her mother moaned, speaking in Turkish. Kara nodded and then looked to me again. “It’s our only hope.”

    I nodded, offering my condolences. If what she’d been leading me to believe were true, then money they would have. The tea harsh and I stifled a cough. Kara rose again, looking to her mother before she stepped to an ancient chest, sitting underneath a painting of the House of Osman hanging crooked on the wall. When she opened the chest, my back stiffened. And when I breathed in the mustiness of its contents as Kara gently laid them carefully in front of me, I felt the years of history in the silence of the room.

    “Here they are, from what I can tell they are completely authentic.”

    My hands shook as I pulled out my reading glasses, regarding the yellowed and tattered pages. I recognized the scrawl immediately, turning to Kara. “How has this never….?”

    Kara’s full lips creased. “My mother wanted to honor her word to him.”

    The sun slanted through the ancient wooden blinds, lining my hands and the curled papers before me. I just realized were the four missing vignettes of “In Our Time”. My brain tried to compute the auction price of unpublished Hemingway stories. War correspondence, what looked to be a love story, one titled simply, “Gona”. All of it just rotting away in a trunk.

    I covered my mouth, feeling the two sets of hopeful eyes on my face. “Well,I think your money issues are solved.”

      1. Augie

        peetaweet, you have a way of flowing the reader through your words. I never struggle when I read your writing, Like a good book, I desperately wanted to speed read to see what is in the damn chest! Another incredible post from you. Thank you and I hope you post again on this prompt. You have talent, spoken from a person that likes a good read.

    1. sjmca1966

      Well done peetaweet. When your MC first started talking of big game fishing, I thought of Hemingway and who should pop up at the end.
      Drunken Aussies on Anzac day was a nice touch too.
      Great take on the prompt.

    2. lionetravail

      Great job, putting the literary in literary fiction Peetaweet. Very nice twist, timeline or now.

      Another humane and human tale- love it.

    3. Reaper

      Nicely done peetaweet. You had errors? I am assuming they are in the ages of the characters from your first comments. You always tell a great story and have this way with your words that makes me skip over any errors and just relax in the flow of your tale. This one was no exception.

    4. Observer Tim

      What a great detective story, peetaweet. I automatically period-corrected this into the late 1970’s, where the timeline fits like a charm. The story was wonderfully human, and sounds like something that could really have happened. Much praise has been lavished, and I echo all of it.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I’m joining in on the chorus of approval. This may be the best of the best, peetaweet. Is such a comfortable read as always but this story has a hidden punch the raises the ante. Hemingway! What an aura. I loved it.

  42. lionetravail

    A compelling beginning to a longer story, titillating me with the very opening: “Part 1”.

    I love the pace of this, and the recognition it deserves multiple parts, Jay. I look forward to where you’ll take this.

    Only constructive comment: for me, the present tense of the dream conflicts flow-wise of the story, which is otherwise past and brackets the dream sequence. I think I’d be happier with the dream opening the story, then switching to her awake, rather than starting with her recollecting the dream in present tense (if that makes sense).

    rubs his hands and settles in for the expectation of chilling revelations

    1. lionetravail

      This post belongs under Doc Jay’s first post opening this up.

      Grrr, I have to admit, I hate the popup ad at the bottom of the page on every refresh. It’s interfering with easy surfing, causing mis-clicks, mis-posts, and delays for me. And, apparently, posting replies properly.

      1. Observer Tim

        Hear hear on the pop-ups. Since I have to read in landscape mode they chew up vast amounts of screen real-estate. I understand the need to advertise and support the site, but isn’t that what the sidebar is for?

  43. Observer Tim

    Last week’s prompt is still weighing on my mind.

    A Letter From The Front

    Friend Oromissa;

    In my recent work on Earth I have encountered some documents which I must share with you, knowing our common interest in alien life forms. First of all, Humans are very different from us; they possess internal skeletons, defined muscles and an encasing organ called ‘skin’. Also, their internal organs are stationary within their form. All of this would indicate they are lower animals, but they also possess technological and intellectual abilities almost as great as our own.

    I have been assigned to a team cleaning out a human hive called ‘Istanbul’. Yesterday (Earth’s days are of similar length to Garrida’s), I found a small enclave of humans inside a structure formed of cleverly dried mud. After exterminating them I checked into this structure to search for cultural information that might help us understand them. On the third level I found wealth.

    It was a box, unadorned and placed under a cloth cover in one of the sleeping rooms. The box had been chemically sealed with iron oxides, so I knew it must be valuable information that they wished to keep from our people. Even so, a disruption beam made short work of the seal.

    Inside were hundreds of pieces of human correspondence, neatly filed according to some alien system. Many were from Istanbul; others were from places called ‘Constantinople’ and ‘Byzantium’. They were recorded on thin-pressed wood, using pigments in various colours. I have scanned and attached images of all the contents.

    One such item, number 1915, was from ‘Ronny’ to ‘Lizzy’; it expresses hope that ‘Turks’ will give up quickly so the writer might return home and see the ‘baby’. Attached is an image of two humans, one of which is severely bloated in the midsection.

    Number 1907, from ‘Kiraz’ to ‘Ayberk’ expresses fear of ‘Russians’ and a desire to travel south. There is much discussion of lips. Given the purpose of the human mouth, I assume this involves exchange of food.

    The lowest pure number is 1204, a letter from ‘Theophilus’ to ‘Elena’ expressing worry about ‘Europeans’ and their ‘Crusade’. There is much discussion of wrapping arms and twining legs. I assume this refers to wrestling practice.

    More letters have interrogative marks on the numbers, or sometimes a ‘c’ or ‘BC’. They all share the same tone (according to the translation software), including fear of some enemy or other and discussions of human interaction. A word which translates to ‘friendship (intense)’ is included in all of them.

    I draw your attention especially to the letter numbered ‘1c’. It appears to describe, in great detail, a ritual in which human bodies are fitted together like puzzle globs. Humans apparently find this activity pleasant. After studying this account in detail, I may have to reappraise the function of human lips.

    My friend, I ask that you forward a copy of this information to Doctor Ostrom; as our foremost expert on the humans, he may be able to glean information that my ignorant self has missed.


    1. lionetravail

      Just a wonderful sci fi flavor, and a nice take which extends your Anime line of tales. OT, with this offering, you add the potential to make that story into a dual perspective.

      If i had one suggestion: you do great describing human things and aactions, like lips and love, in terms an alien unfamiliar with Earth and humans might use in a deft way. I think there are some places you can add to that alien feel- example, ‘Wrestling’, with respect to the 1204 letter, might be better expressed as ‘some unarmed form of martial striving’.

      The ‘sealed with iron oxides’, aka the chest was rusted shut, is a very slick example of how you did the above so well. Your stuff is always great, but the multipart from last prompt, and this one here, seem to be stuff just welling out and perfectly done. Write this book- i would absolutely buy it 🙂

    2. seliz

      I loved hearing about the letters from an alien’s point of view. I loved how the alien described humans. It was funny, while at the same time piqued my interest as to what the alien writing the letter looked like. Don’t get me started on the wrestling practice…too funny!

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks, Seliz. I’m sure the Garridans will be around for a while, and there’s a lot more to learn.

        We aleady know they have no internal skeleton, their organs move, and their outer surface is not traditional skin. They’re also very sensitive to high-frequency vibration (see last week). There’s more to learn!

    3. sjmca1966


      Unit O.R.O.M.I.S.S.A has forwarded your report within the specified time period, and as always it is accepted. The Council has scanned in detail your findings, but still remain perplexed about many areas of human behavior.
      As you are aware, you have been recommended for advancement. To promote you beyond the rank of Observer, we the council require one simple achievement from you – you must end all conflict among humans within forty-eight Earth hours.

      Have a nice day

      The Council 🙂

      1. Observer Tim

        Dear Human;

        Your attempts to infiltrate the Garridan communications network have been brought to my attention. Our progress at eliminating human conflict through elimination of all humans proceeds apace, but your suggested timeframe is unrealistic. Perhaps if you would all come out of hiding we could implement our plan more efficiently.

        Alternately, you have been identified by other captives as being skilled at exposition and narrative. There is always a place open in my interrogation chamber for humans such as yourself. We will even forego the use of hyperalgesics until such time as they become necesary.

        May your membranes remain appropriately moist.

        Doctor Ostrom, Chief Scientist

    4. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      Very nice, Mr. Smith. I feel like you really hit your groove with this story. It sounds so natural and unforced that I think this is the kind of writing you have a knack for in the same way that I write about horror. I absolutely love thrillers and suspense, but one of my professors once said, “Wow, you have a natural talent for horror, and I think you should really explore it.”

      In the same way, I believe you have a real natural talent for not only first person, but science fiction in general. I’m really glad I caught this story of yours because it really showcases your skill. Fantastic job, Tim.

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks, Jay. Now my head won’t fit through the door. 😉

        Sci-fi, especially heroic action/adventure, is my favourite and most-read genre. Last week’s prompt nailed it, and this was afterglow. The trick is sustaining it for a whole novel, or even a novella.

    5. Augie

      This was totally precious! History has always amazed me and you definitely nailed it here. What a great read! Thanks Observer Tim. (Now I have to go back and see what I missed last week).

    6. vaderize03

      This is an amazing story in the vein of something I once read by Arthur C. Clarke in which officials from the government of Mars traded correspondence on how to deal with the threat from Earth. Your tone was outstanding and I loved the subtle humor.

      And yes, you definitely need to novelize this; it would be a big hit.

    7. WritingKittenOfLoki

      I am as curious about these aliens as they are about us. I found the letter to be amusing and delightful. You do a marvelous job at writing SiFi, more please!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        How in the world I missed this story, is beyond me. Well here I am and I find it tototally amusing. I have a question? Are you referring to oral sex in one part or is my mind running on a lower track this afternoon, Sunday at that Geez!

  44. Reaper

    A few words over this week and I apologize. I cut as much as I could and hope I did not lose anything in doing so.

    No Parades

    The secretary of the army has asked me to express his deep regret that your husband, Enlisted Five Jeremy W. Jones died in Vietnam on 15 February 1968, from wound received while on combat operation when hit by hostile small arms fire.
    Please accept my deepest sympathy, this confirms personal notification made by a representative of the secretary of the army.

    I was three when that telegram came. I carry it in my breast pocket, close to my heart. With it I feel closer to a father I never knew. In me war skipped a generation.

    Last month, 18 May 2011 0900 local time I received a visit from two Marines in dress blues. Different words, same message. With professional empathy and candor they informed me Terrence M Jones, enlisted three, died in Afghanistan on 11 May 2011 from wounds received on combat operations from hostile artillery.

    I blamed the soldiers no more than the doctors twenty years prior. In the pocket with the telegram is the MRI image showing my wife’s cancer. Found too late. A year later I was a single father.

    I do not know why I chose Turkey or that particular hotel. It was old and out of the way. It seemed like a quiet place where I would not be interrupted. Human interruption was not a concern but the past, as they say, has a way of catching up.

    I traveled with one small handbag. At a local hardware store I added a shopping bag with a single item. Settling in was easy. Opening the suitcase on the foot of the bed I dry swallowed a Vicodin. I do not know why I turned on the TV.

    Waiting for the pill to kick in I made preparations. I tied a knot I learned in boyscouts in the rope obtained on my trip to the store. Standing atop an antique chest my nose filled with the scent of archaic oil. Antique chest?

    I climbed down and opened the relic. Inside were artifacts of the Ottoman Empire. Most important were a black and white photograph and a letter. The photo showed a dapper young man in uniform smiling at an older gentleman. The letter contained different words in another language but the same message. It informed Mr. Humayun his son had died from wounds received in combat with Russian troops during the First World War.

    Through tears I saw faded scuff marks on the rafter I intended to use as a gallows. Victims of war are plentiful and only the combatants lack choice in their stories’ endings. I heard the president announcing our withdrawal from the hellhole that cost me my son on the television. I made a vow to be different than Mr. Humayun. I would not disgrace my son’s sacrifice.

    I could make my loss mean something. I was on a plane home the next day. I arrived and immediately started contacting families. Together we unknown, distant casualties of war will ensure our relatives are not forgotten. In honor of my lost family I am calling my charity, Their Parade.

    1. lionetravail

      Reaper, this is just amazing. I was expecting something dark, but you took us through the bleakness of sorrow to the salvation through reaching out for meaning, and made this beautiful and heart-wrenching. It was, in a word, gorgeous. A triumph of the human spirit, and in a smooth, deeply sad way.

      1. Reaper

        Thank you lionetravail. I struggled briefly with this one and actually named it Echoes and intended the dark ending. Then, before I sat down to write it the real ending came to me, the one that honored the departed instead of using them as an excuse. I had to change the name and I think I was channeling my inner Kerry.

    2. sjmca1966

      When this weeks prompt arrived, I must admit I wondered what Reaper was going to do with it. I was not expecting this. So emotive, so current and so true to the prompt, especially loyal to the title ‘War Never Changes’. Without naming names, there are a few people within this forum that I expect to become successful published writers, you’re right up there Dude!

      1. Reaper

        sjmca1966 I am touched by so many parts of this. Thank you for the comments on the story, I was trying to stay true to that title. I am even more honored that you wondered what I would do with it, and that you have faith in me, and most of all that I was able to surprise you. Thank you.

    3. seliz

      Wow, what a powerful, emotional topic, which you expressed beautifully. I liked that the beginning had a detached feel to it as the MC went over everything he lost due to war. It really gave the feeling that he had made up his mind. Then discovering the chest almost felt like the catalyst to dealing with his emotions.

    4. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      Nice job, Reaper. I would say you didn’t do horror, but as this is about the horrors of war, I’d say you stayed true to the Reaper genre. 🙂 Also, and I’m just spit-balling here, I think this prompt being so emotionally charged might be a good add to the Sammy Saner story line! Part VII, me thinks? Come on, you know you want to. haha 😉

      1. Reaper

        Thanks Jay. I’m okay with not doing horror. I have been thinking about it and when I get published (renewed confidence thanks to above posts) I want to explode onto the scene. Then at the end of my career I want to look back at this amazing body of work and see the career of Hugo Weaving not Christopher Walken. No offense to either man since I love them both but being typecast sucks. I still need to write you a new chapter, mean to get to that today but I meant to get to it yesterday too.

      1. Reaper

        Mr. Baggins, your words are like the hobbits you advocate for. They are sometimes small but always important with the power to change the world. Thank you.

    5. Augie

      I sat looking at the blinking line in this post box for ten minutes wondering what to say. When you wrote:

      ‘Victims of war are plentiful and only the combatants lack choice in their stories’ endings’

      It brought back many, many, memories. What a wonderful message you captured here. When Mark Twain wrote his famous quote about traveling, I don’t think he had soldiers in mind. Incredible job with this Reaper.

      1. Augie

        Reaper, I know you enjoy connections through music. Bryan Adams wrote a song ‘every thing I do, I do it for you.’ That is how I view the children of America in harm’s way. I thought you might like a small glimpse through warriors eyes.



        1. Reaper

          I do enjoy a connection through music. A wonderful song to reference and I can see how your view would go that way.

          I watched the linked song and thought it did not seem very Bryan Adams before realizing it wasn’t. The funny thing is the connections between music and writing. Because there is a line in that song that made me think of one of my favorite Stephen King Passages, it is so similar. From the Dark Tower Series.

          “I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
          I aim with my eye.

          I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
          I shoot with my mind.

          I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father.
          I kill with my heart.”

      2. Reaper

        Augie, your first paragraph moves me beyond words. Thank you for that. I am glad you like that line, it is one I had to work on. I had to look up the quote you meant. I am always honored to have my name mentioned in something with such a great man, and to have that quote referenced even more. Thank you for you contuied encouragement and understanding.

    6. Observer Tim

      I expect a lot from your stories, Reaper, and you’ve satisfied again. This is equal parts somber, heart-wrenching and life-affirming. It’s an excellent story of a man “turning the corner” on tragedy and making it into something bigger.

    7. vaderize03

      This was disheartening at first but uplifting by the end. What a wonderful way for your MC–who seems to have had an awful streak of bad luck–to find a silver lining in the dark cloud of his life. Well done!

    8. Amyithist

      Reaper, this made me cry. I couldn’t help but think of how many close calls like this have really happened. Terrific job, as always. You’re one of my favorites to read. Thanks for the prompt! 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I posted about an hour ago and resisted reading any prompts before I did. Sorry to take so long getting here. You’re showing an amazing maturity in your writing I’ve never though of before. You can’t have aged twenty years in six months. Not only had you lead the last few months but I see you absorbing every thing that’s going here. Well, I want you to know, I’m doing the same and when I see another story from you, I bisect, disect, ingest it and shoot it up.

        I’m only hoping some of it reaches my brain.

        1. Reaper

          I try not to read stories until I post unless I’m really stuck. I also catch up on the reading before responding to comments on mine so I understand Kerry. I think it is actually the opposite, I have regressed twenty years, to a time when I let my passion run free and writing was fun, something I did for me and hoped other people would like it. The one difference is I don’t think I know everything now, I just know I know more than I did then.

          I think as writers we have to be observant. Everyone knows we are creative but they often forget you can’t create a story from nothing and we do not exist in a vacuum. One of the best compliments we can pay another writer is learn from them and their style. So I have to say that someone as great as you saying that about me is an amazing compliment and achievement for me.

          Before you try getting too much of that in your brain you should know something. Once I realized this story did not have a dark ending I was actually hoping to write something closer to your style, with that power and perfect ending. That was one of two things that led me in this. I wanted a story Kerry would be proud of and I wanted a sympathetic MC since I was trying to live up to that promise to JMCody. I hope I succeeded on both.

        2. Kerry Charlton

          I reread your story again. I would agree you wrote in a theme I might have used, but there’s one exception.You did a better job with yours then I would have done.

      2. Reaper

        Amyithist, I would apologize for making you cry but if I’m honest I was hoping for a reaction like that. You are too kind and I thank you as always.

    9. snuzcook

      A powerful story, Reaper, powerfully told. Choices and the reasons we make them are compelling. I think it is interesting that instead of the common line: “…making his death mean something”, you more sincerely focus it on the narrator “I could make my loss mean something.” That distinction really struck a chord for me.

      1. Reaper

        Thank you snuzcook. Your comments are deep and insightful and I appeciate them very much. I’m not even sure I actively thought of the difference in the two lines but I originally had that as the more common line and then changed it. I think it is my upbringing. At the end of the day anyone’s death just means they are gone, it is their life and what we do with how that loss affects us that means something. I’m glad it struck a chord with you, and glad I changed it.

    10. Critique

      This was a emotional story about deep compounded grief that spiralled into depression – hopelessness. The MC is strangely drawn to a chest and reads about another’s suffering and is instilled with the courage to make good out of bad. Thanks for a great read Reaper.

  45. sjmca1966

    9:17 a.m
    21 April 2014

    Like so many Kiwi’s before us—both young and old—Ellen and I had finally made the pilgrimage to Gallipoli.

    Next years hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Çanakkale, on April twenty-fifth (Anzac Day), was going to be chaos, so we’d decided to make the trek a year earlier.

    We’d chosen a rustic hotel in Eceabat and were delighted in our choice when we arrived. We’d both been stuck in the center of Auckland for the past eighteen months and as I opened the rooms leadlight window and looked out over the Sea of Marmara, I took a deep breath.

    “Smell that,” I said.

    “What is it?” asked Ellen.

    “Nothing, absolutely nothing and it’s bloody wonderful.”

    The floor of our room was mostly consumed by a rug that Aladdin himself would have been proud to call his mode of transport. The bed was a four-poster with bridal-veil-falls tied up at each post. In the corner of the room sat an old Turkish dowry chest, faded olive green in color, adorned with intricate designs not dissimilar to those of the rug. Old sticky-beak couldn’t resist opening the chest, she was disappointed to find only extra bedding inside.

    After settling in we decided to take a walk. We were heading back to our hotel when Ellen spotted a signpost that pointed to various cemeteries in the area – Hill 60, 19.4 km, was the one she gently rubbed her right hand across. My great-grandfather had fought at Gallipoli and was one of the lucky ones to make it home, Ellen’s great-grandfather had also fought there, but like one-in-five Kiwi’s there, had never made it back.

    “Let’s go grab the rental,” I said.

    Ellen just looked at me and smiled as she took my hand.

    When we finally made it to Hill 60, Ellen exited the car without speaking, she took a folded piece of paper from the back pocket of her Levi’s and went off on her mission. I lagged a wee way behind her. When she stopped at a grave site, I stopped too. I watched as she slowly sank to her knees. Arriving at her side I saw tears that were one blink away from escaping down her cheeks. I turned to look at the inscription on the gravestone:

    Otago Mounted Rifles N.Z.E.F. Killed in action 27th August 1915 Age 27
    Son of James and Elizabeth Mountford of Winton, Southland, New Zealand.

    I sat down beside her cross-legged and let her fall into me, “I never even met him, I’m being silly?” she said.

    “You owe your existence to him sweetheart, he’s your blood.”

    Ellen then turned and wrapped her arms around me tighter than I could remember her ever doing, “He was the same age as you,” she whispered.

    We sat for nearly two hours. There were long periods of silence, but none of them awkward, there were quiet conversations and even some venting. It was the closest I’d felt to Ellen in the three years I’d known her.

    “We’ll come back before we leave,” I said, as I started the car for the journey back.

    It was in the early hours of the next morning when Ellen jolted up out of bed, “What’s wrong?” I said.

    “There’s something in that chest.”

    As I turned on the bedside lamp, she moved to the chest and unloaded the bedding on the floor. She started knocking on the base, there was definitely a hollow sound. I joined her and watched as she slid the long fingernail of her middle finger under the felt at the back and lifted up a false-bottom to reveal bundles of old letters.

    I went to turn the main light on and Ellen started carrying the bundles over to the bed. I watched as she gently slid the string off a bundle. The envelopes had all been sliced open. She started glancing at the address carriers and flicking the letters face down.

    “You’re starting to freak me out girl.” I said.

    She just kept going until she was about half-way through the pile.

    “Look,” said Ellen.

    I read the front of the envelope:

    Mrs. Mary Mountford
    11 Church Street
    New Zealand

    “Holy crap,” I said.

    Ellen stared for a few seconds before her shaking right hand pulled the paper from the envelope, “I’ve been there you know. Granddad lived there when I was a kid,” she said.

    I snuggled up beside her and we both started silently reading the letter:

    My dearest Mary

    I hope I find you and young Neville in good health. I’m sure it must be freezing for you now, we are experiencing the opposite here, in fact the heat is almost unbearable at times. I hope the vege garden isn’t taking to much of a beating, what with the frost and all. I have not stopped any lead yet, but I had a narrow shave the other night. The Turks tried to blow up one of our advanced trenches. I was hit with fallen earth, which must have missed my head by inches, but I got out of it with only a bruised thigh, I managed to pull clear a good young Auckland lad, I’m guessing he lied about his age to make the trip over here, he’s become my shadow lately, he goes by the name of Jimmy McKillip. . .

    Ellen and I just looked at each other in disbelief. James McKillip was my great-grandfather.

    Later that morning Ellen showered first so I sent her to grab an outdoor table for breakfast while I took my turn in the bathroom.

    I snuck up behind her as she was taking a sip of coffee and tapped her on the shoulder, by the time she turned around I was lowering myself to one knee.

    1. lionetravail

      No need for excuses. what a beautiful piece! The “kiwi” slant to this was really masterfully done, and the sense of predestination and connection over 99 years of history and a world’s geography was breathtaking.

      Well done!

      1. sjmca1966

        Thanks lionetravail, being a Kiwi myself, certainly helped me with this weeks prompt. I normally like to stick to the 500 words, but I had to go way over budget on this one.

    2. seliz

      Nice take on the prompt. I loved the feeling of destiny calling when Ellen woke up out of the dead of sleep knowing where the letter was. The ending fit perfectly with that destiny tone.

      1. sjmca1966

        Thanks seliz, I’m sure that since their demise, the stories of my grandparents war-time romance have become exaggerated. I decided to take it a few steps further with this piece.

    3. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      I think my favorite part of this was the fact that she didn’t even know the man, and yet she felt a connection. It wasn’t because of blood, but rather an internal connection that seems to bond humanity together regardless of distance (whether that distance is time or land). Something no one can readily explain, but it exists in all but the most callous of us.

      You had a lot more to explore here, but I think you did a fine job with the amount of words the Klem gives us.

      Also, yes, I keep telling everyone the Gremlins are real, but no one believes me until it’s too late. We really need to start a club dedicated to eradicated the little buggers. haha

      1. sjmca1966

        Thanks Jay, you’re right and there’s nothing like a bit of quantum entanglement to get a bit of romance going (that sounds colder than I intend it to).

    4. Augie

      What a work of art! Emotional, believable, and inspiring. Great job! (I screwed up worse than you with the italics! Mine is the entire story.)

      1. sjmca1966

        Thanks so much Augie, because of the prompt I think this is the first week I’ve felt safe enough to let my nationality shine through. I should really trust myself to to do it more in the future (not that I don’t enjoy writing from an American POV most of the time).

        1. Augie

          You and I have discussed kiwi’s in the past. Your welcome to tell stories by my fire pit anytime. I spent almost thirty years stripping off socially acceptable paint off men so they would find who they are. Once taken down to bare metal, they realize its great to be themselves. They proved to be the finest warriors the world has ever seen. Its not about the value of a person that make them glisten, its the values they have hidden beneath the layers. I love your writing and hope you continue to peel the layers away and shine like you should.

    5. Reaper

      This is beautiful and amazing. In part I think because you let yourself go and came out with the kiwi. I didn’t even notice you went over the limit it was that good and that engrossing. Reading your responses to comments I have the following to say.

      “When you trip over love, it is easy to get up. But when you fall in love, it is impossible to stand again.” – Albert Einstein. I put this quote here because is one of the greatest scientist, and in my opinion philosophers, of all time can do quotes about love you can describe it with quantum physics without it being cold.

      1. sjmca1966

        Thanks Reaper, it may be a myth, but Einstein was rumoured to have had seven woman on the go at one point in his life. Now that takes some kind of genius.

    6. Observer Tim

      Thank you for the history lesson, sjmca. I’ve read a little about Gallipoli and what happened there, but you put a human face on the price, and on the world that continued to grow after tragedy. I fell for both your main characters, and must admit to a knot in my throat at the last sentence.


      1. sjmca1966

        Thanks WritingKittenOfLoki, I’ve never been afraid to show who I am, I was previously a bit worried that the local references I could be making may be lost on the reader. If I’ve learnt one thing about the wonderful people in this forum, it is that they can definitely be trusted. I’ve learned my lesson 🙂

  46. Amyithist

    The old hotel was situated on the corner of a crowded street. Buildings near dilapidation stared back at her as she climbed out of the taxi. A cool wind lapped at her skin. The air carried a tangible anticipation. She pulled her luggage from the trunk and set it on the street. “Are you sure this is the place,” she asked, glancing around the ancient looking street.
    The taxi driver nodded as he hoisted her last piece of luggage from the trunk. “This is it,” he said in a thick accent. “You have a key here…” he fished an iron key out of the front of his jacket and handed it toward her, “it works in every door.”
    She smiled as she slipped her finger through the ring. “How convenient.”
    The man aided her in carrying her luggage up to the towering double doors. Once upon a time, the hotel had been stunning. As she unlocked the door and pushed it open, the smell of neglected memories wafted up as a semblance of greeting.
    Stepping into the lobby was like stepping fifty years back. The beauty it had once been was faded with cobwebs that had taken over every nook and corner and leaves scattered over the floor. The windows were covered with heavy drapes, dusted with layers and layers of dust.
    “Has anyone taken care of this place in the last fifty years?” She asked.
    The taxi driver shrugged. “I was just told to pick you up and tell you your room is number 236. It’s on the second floor.” He tipped his Paige-boy styled hat at her and turned, hurrying out to his car. As the doors swung back into place, the smell of a pending storm slipped into the room, alleviating the cloying scent of age for a scant moment.
    Sighing heavily, she made her way over to the wall and pushed the light switch up. A pallid glow of light filled the room, giving further illumination to the true condition of the building. She grabbed her luggage and dragged it behind her; up the stairs, to the second floor.
    She found another light switch at the landing and flicked it on. The overhead light buzzed to life. The hallway was long and narrow, with doors on either side. The walls, which had once been a stark white, were now tinged with brown.
    She grunted as she made her way down the hall, lugging her suitcases along. The smell upstairs was no better than the lobby. She thought about how difficult it would be to restore the hotel back to its original prestige. Her grandfather had left her everything in the will; including the Hotel Effendi, but she doubted that the estate would cover the costs it would take to bring the building back up to code. She sagged slightly as she approached room 236.
    As she slid the key into the slot and twisted, a new, fresh scent permeated to air. Surprise undulated over her body as she hit the lights. She gasped at the sight in front of her. The room was stunning; with glowing hardwood floors accented by a beautiful Persian Rug. A four-post King sized bed with fresh linens seemed to beckon to her. Cherry oak furniture added a texture of warmth to the room.
    She felt a swell of gratitude rise in her chest for her grandfather. He’d always had a way of surprising her in life; she never expected him to surprise her in death. Tears welled in her eyes as she stepped further into the room. She noticed a card with her name scrawled on the envelope sitting atop the dresser.
    Trembling, she crossed over to the dresser and pulled the card. It read:
    My Dear Lollipop,
    I left you this hotel in the hopes that you will find as much joy in it as I had when I was young. It’s full of surprises. Start with the chest against the wall. I think you’ll find I left you some pretty amazing things in there. I hope it brings you as much joy as you brought me.
    Love, Pa

    She bit her lower lip as it quivered uncontrollably. She stepped over to the chest beside the dresser and bent, popping it open. Her heart nearly stopped. It was full of relics from the Ottoman Empire. Different stages of its span stared back her from the trunk: a fritware tile with beautiful Calligraphy, a Bronze coin depicting the Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, and other beautifully aged antiques nestled against the silk lining. The relics were more than enough to pay for the restoration of the hotel.
    Sobbing, she rose to her feet and grabbed the card her grandfather had written for her. She held it against her chest. For just a moment, she swore she could smell the tobacco from his pipe filling the air. “I love you, Pa,” she whispered.

    1. originalalchemist

      I love this piece. I appreciate your ability to make this building come alive. My personal favorite line is “the smell of neglected memories wafted up as a semblance of a greeting.” Beautiful! Thanks for posting and I look forward to future posts!

    2. sjmca1966

      Amyithist, you created a lovely ambience that brought the setting to life. I could almost see the hotel as it stands today and the way it once stood so proudly. Your personal touches at the end were perfect and I caught myself taking a deep whiff as my grandfather smoked a pipe.
      All in all a damned good read.

    3. jhowe

      You have an exceptional talent for describing things. The overhead light buzzing to life really adds to the feel of the hotel interior. Nice little piece of writing here.

    4. seliz

      I loved your descriptions in this. The contrast from the hallway to the room with the chest was wonderful and really drove the point that her grandfather left her something special. The line about almost smelling the tobacco from his pipe was both descriptive and sweet.

    5. lionetravail

      Beautiful, Amyithist, and very tactile. I agree the buzz of the light coming on had amazing power to put me right there, even more than the fustiness of age.

      Another wonderful connection across years, and a compelling MC in just the short space available to the prompt. Wonderful 🙂

    6. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      My favorite part is the tobacco. Of all the people I’ve lost in my life, sometimes it seems they still manage to stick around long after they’re gone. A small scent here or the tiniest of sounds there, all living reminders of those that had long since passed.

      You started small, and you turned this baby into a juicy pare. pair? pear? Oh, God! How have I forgotten how to spell that damn fruit?! I never thought I’d lose my mind at only 31… *sigh*

    7. Augie

      I know it has been said, but your ability to describe is amazing! I could see, smell, and touch everything in your story. Most importantly, I could feel the emotion of your MC. Just amazing!

    8. Reaper

      Amyithist, as always your descriptive powers are on superhero level with the rest of us mere mortals watching you fly. What amazed me is you often have a way of terrifying me so when you choose instead to touch my heart I almost cry because you do it just as well. The line about smelling the pipe reminded me of the passage in The Stand where one of the characters is smelling the ghost of her father’s pipe and thinks that it should be a rule that all fathers had to smoke something so their children could associate it with them. Which in turn always reminds me of my grandfathers who smoked pipes. This is so completely lovely and heartwarming. You never cease to be amazing.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Why I manage to get at the bottom of responses, is beyong me. A beautiful story that took me back to 1945, when at the age of nine I rode with my minister grand father when he made visitations on Saturday. He filled the old Plymouth with cigar smoke, especially during winter and the haze from the smoke made it imposible to see. How he managed to drive, must have been angel inspired.

        I loved this story and when you described the pipe, I rushed back and took one more ride with Pop Pop. Thank you, Amyithist.

    9. WritingKittenOfLoki

      Wow Amyithist, this was incredibly sweet. I will risk repeating well know news and say that your description is wonderful and made fell I was there. I really love the line about the tobacco smell.

  47. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    Tick Tock

    To be continued next prompt, and I’ll try to incorporate more of the actual prompt into the story next time, to make it more prompt worthy. 🙁

    Alexis sat on the edge of the hotel bed in her underwear, breathing laboriously. She consumed air as if it’d been the first time she’d sucked such sweet oxygen into her lungs, and that’s exactly what it felt like, too. She’d just risen from a nightmare, one that haunted her for more than two weeks.

    In that dreadful dream, she stood in a living room. She didn’t recognize it, but it felt incredibly familiar. The cream carpet under her bare feet was slightly thicker than usual, and tickled the small space between her toes. A green well-worn couch stood against the far wall. The dark-oak coffee table had a frosted glass center, upon which someone stacked several magazines next to a well-used ashtray. On each wall hung several pictures of blurry-faced people. On the wall to her right was a fireplace, which had a silver alarm clock perched in the center of the molding.

    Each time she had the dream, she tried to move but couldn’t. The place was quieter than a nun’s bedroom at night but for the soft ticking of that alarm clock. It counted and counted, ticking and chipping away at the seconds until it happened. Always at 3:07 in the morning, which she concluded by the darkness outside the windows, a small trickle of blood began to drip from the light fixture above her. Drip, drip, drip, it ticked with the clock, always on her right shoulder first and then her left. Then suddenly, as if the floodgates of Hell had opened into the house, blood poured in by the gallons.

    She struggled to move, her feet firmly planted upon the ground. The warm fluid reached her feet, and raised higher and higher. It touched her knees in seconds, and her crotch not a moment later. Passed her belly button it rose, over her breasts until it tickled the bottom over chin. When it reached her mouth, she tried to purse her lips, but couldn’t. The sweet metallic blood poured in, finding every little spot in her mouth to invade, and she spit and gurgled, trying to get it out, but by then the blood rose to her nose.

    As it submersed her, she held her breath and counted the seconds along with the still-audible ticking clock. She hoped the blood would drain from that room, but it never did. It stayed until she could no longer hold it in, and she blew all the air out, and following that release of oxygen was a sudden gulp of blood into her chest.

    It burned, God did it burn. Like the fires of hell, it burned. She coughed, and reflexes told her to suck in more air to help her cough up the foreign liquid in her chest, but her body only sucked in more blood. She heaved and choked, heaved and choked until there was nothing but spasms. All but the smallest of bubbles of air had vacated her chest—

    That’s when she usually woke up. Her body choked for that air, which it lovingly accepted by the pound. She could still taste the blood in her mouth, and still smell its bitter scent.

    When her breathing finally calmed, she looked at a small treasure chest that sat on the nightstand. She picked it up, and hoped that by studying the little plastic figure, it might get her mind off the nightmare.

    Alexis had always wanted to visit Turkey, but could never afford it. Instead, she decided to stay at a hotel that both reminded her of family and satiated her need to visit the place.

    When she was but a young girl, her mother told stories of her Turkish brother—Alexis’ uncle—who had a fruitful career as a military man and of all the adventures he had overseas. Her father insisted the man—whose name was Bob—was no less German than her father’s favorite actor Diane Kruger and that he lived on the east coast cutting fish on the docks. However, she still had these amazing perceptions of life in Turkey. She supposed it was slightly naïve to think anything her mother said was true, but anything was better than home because home was where the nightmares began.

    As she turned the small chest over to read that item had had been ironically manufactured in Greece, a small tickle in her nose became the precursor to a small drip of blood landing on the pillow of her palm. She reached up, wiped it from her lip, and tilted her head back.

    Oh God, she thought. What’s wrong with me?

    1. Amyithist

      This was fantastic. Very dark. I found myself gasping for breath just sitting here reading the prompt. Very descriptive. The flow worked well, too. GREAT job! 🙂

    2. sjmca1966

      Jay, as someone, who as a kid almost drowned in a seriuos beach rip, I can tell you your description of drowning was pretty bloody close (excuse the pun). Like any good writer of your ilk, you managed to draw me into the MC’s psyche and hold me there until the end of the story. I’m looking forward to the continuation. Well done Sir.

      1. originalalchemist

        Jay you have done it yet again. My mouth tastes as though I’m sitting here sucking on a penny. I felt for Alexis in her panic and suffering as I knew what was coming. It was like I had shared the dream before. Excellent work crafting a story that is going to stay with me when I try to fall asleep. You’ve given many extra details that would make this an excellent story to expand on. I foresee another “fan fiction” filled comment section this week. Kudos!

    3. seliz

      Oh, this is already prompt worthy. The descriptions were great. I found myself holding my breath right along with her. Something about that ticking click made it all the more creepy.

    4. Reaper

      Very good Jay. I want more so am glad you will be continuing this. The details were on a whole different level with this one. You have a couple of words that seem off in your fourth paragraph which normally I would have blown right past. (Passed instead of past, over instead of of her) The reason I noticed and bring them up is the level of sensory and mental input in this made them jarring because I was reading every word meticulously not to miss anything. Loved the blurry pictures in the dream and just the story all together. Now I am waiting for next prompt.

      Oh, and speaking of continuing. What I wrote doesn’t really fit the Saner story but your suggestion got me thinking of something that might that I will try to write and post soon.

    5. vaderize03

      Creepy and excellent. I’m sitting here at the hospital feeling short of breath; your descriptions pulled me right into the moment and didn’t let go.

      Remind me never to get on your bad side :)!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Wonderful Story Jay. Your descriptive verse on drowning in blood was realistic to the point of terror. My wife had a serious nose bleed that took her to a hospital emergency room by ambulance. The blood came so fast, she swallowed a good part of it and the way she described it, fits seamlessly into your story.

        On to part two, please.

    6. flaboba

      OH my goodness it was hard to read but impossible to put down. I still have the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach conjured by the terror of that dream. Every time I prayed it would end it just continued horrifically!!!!!!!! Amazingly authentic description that forces the reader to live it too. Excellent.


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