• 101
    Best Websites
    for Writers

    Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and get the 101 Best Websites for Writers download.

Where Does The Tunnel Lead?

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

You’re outside cutting your grass when you come across a large hole in the ground. You’ve never noticed the hole before, but it looks to be some sort of tunnel to another world. You decide to peek through and see where it leads, only it leads you to a pivotal moment in your past—and it’s giving you an opportunity to change it. Write this scene.

Get two weeks worth of writing prompts that will inspire you to write great stories.Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

Want more creative writing prompts? Download:

The Writing Prompt Boot Camp (Free Download)

You might also like:

  • Print Circulation Form

    Did you love this article? Subscribe Today & Save 58%

704 Responses to Where Does The Tunnel Lead?

  1. PeterW says:

    PLEASE DON’T POST ANOTHER NEW RESPONSE AFTER THIS ONE. THE ADMINS OF THE SITE WOULD LIKE THIS WEEK’S RESPONSES TO BE BOOKENDED. AGAIN PLEASE DON’T POST.

    Writing Prompt Days of Future Past, Unknown Part 2

    The trees danced in the hot intermittent breeze and the sun’s rays of death bled through the leaves. New York wiped the sweat from his brow, released the trigger handle of the motor, and listened as the motor slowly died. He closed his eyes, leaned his head back, and breathed in the deep scent of freshly cut summer grass. When he opened his eyes, he noticed a large hole directly in front of him.

    “What the…” he said.

    The hole hadn’t been there just a few seconds ago—at least he didn’t remember it being there. He used his hand as a visor to get a better look. Sure enough, it was a hole, and it was large enough to haven entirely swallowed him and the mower if he’d kept walking. He looked toward the halfway house he lived in and wondered if anyone was to investigate the strange hole with him. Seeing no one within eyeshot, he stepped around the mower to the hole’s edge.

    As he approached he scratched the pit of his elbow. Though it (the elbow) was three months without the somber entry of the needle, he could still feel its soft brush upon his skin. He still had the desire to satisfy that itch with a fresh prick, he knew he couldn’t. He had almost killed himself the last time, and in the blank, paralyzed state preceding death, he promised to never do it again.

    He peered into the hole and fully expected to see nothing but darkness, but instead he saw a childhood bedroom. Situated in the gloomy room were at least 20 stuffed animals and most strikingly an animatronic teddy, with a yellow scarf. In the warm white bed there was imprint of slim, blonde eleven year old girl, recently wakened and gone downstairs.

    He looked around the halfway’s house lawn. No one was there. He looked into the room again and something seemed to grab his heart and squeeze it tight. Tears brimmed in his eye, threatening to break free. He remembered the night.

    He remembered the night and remembered the night had changed his live forever, and despite this and despite not knowing what would happen if he stepped once again into that gloomy room in the hole before him, he found himself climbing into it before he could stop himself. His legs seemed to fall with the tunnel’s slope carried by the contumacious force of gravity.

    He entered the room. He stepped on its blue-carpeted floor. The soft tick of a Barbie clock on the nightstand ticked and tocked off the darkness moments of his life, and he wondered if it was possible to change it. He didn’t know if he could (change it), but he knew he had to try.

    New York walked past the white bed, entered the hall, and made his way to the guest room two doors down. A shaded lamp in the corner illuminated a cream and tan queen-sized bed, which was ruffled as if someone had recently left its folds. To the left of the bed, steam leaked from the cracked door of the bathroom.

    He approached the door, and his heart raced. Twenty-two years had passed, and she still had an effect on her. Twenty-two years and he still wanted to run and hide.

    He pushed the door open. The steam moistened his face. As he approached the shower curtain, the running water behind it, he reached down to a sheath and retrieved the metal trowel he used to dig out weeds. He reached towards the curtain—his heart slammed harder and harder, threatening to burst through his tight chest. He threw the shower curtain aside.

    “What the…” the eleven year old girl screamed.

    Without hesitation he raised the trowel and cut into her. Each frantic thrust was comparative to each the times she’d stabbed him. Tears bled into his eyes. Hot red blood bled onto the ceramic shower floor.

    She screamed in pain and attempted to fight him off, but the sweat and steam on his skin made him slippery, and her hands slid off of him. He stabbed and stabbed and stabbed in order to prevent the imminent destruction of an innocent man, a boy.

    New York didn’t stop until he realized he was stabbing at the flowing water. He looked down, and the girl stared up at her, choking on blood and water. He suddenly felt he needed to get away. She had caused him years and years of excruciating pain and doubt and horror, and he wanted her pay for all of it, but he couldn’t thrust again, and the trowel fell against ceramic and slid off her bloodied stomach.

    He walked back to the first bedroom (with the white sheets and stuffed animals). The moon shone softly on the indent where she had once slept.

    After taking a deep breath, he stepped back through the hole into his own world. On the other side of that strange portal was an office with a great mahogany desk. He furrowed his brow as he felt a soft tickled at the pit of his elbow. He looked down at a stack of legal papers, pinched his arm, and remembered that he had to file them before the deadline.

    • PeterW says:

      I realized this post is not very polite or nice. However, I wrote this to see what would happen if the sexes were switched in a rape story (scroll to the bottom and see the post). I think the results are completely different. And this to me is incredibly intriguing (though not honorable).

  2. Alexander Edmondson says:

    “Rebirth of a Champion”

    We all know the speech. You could’ve been a contender. You could’ve been someone. But not you’re nothing more than a has-been cutting your own grass and trying to live out an existence that doesn’t mean anything. Food has no taste, drinks have no flavor, your job is a dead end and your love life is basically non-existent. Hell, my whole life is basically non-existent. I was getting close to finishing the lawn when I saw something in the ground. The closer I got to it, the more it started to look like a hole in the ground but this hole was much deeper than I thought. I can’t pay to have this thing fixed. I can’t really fix anything in my life. Hell, I don’t even have one. Then I heard something. Something familiar. Something I thought I would’ve never heard again.
    “You’re one of the best fighter’s I’ve ever trained, Sam.”
    “I don’t feel like it, Gus.”
    “Well, you are. You might not be one of the most technical fighters I’ve seen but you have more heart than anyone else I’ve ever seen. That’s why I know you’re going to beat the Rodriguez for the World Heavyweight Championship. I know you have it in you. Now it’s time to show the whole world that.”
    “Thanks for believing in me, Gus.”
    “Any time, kid.”
    I remember that fight. Rodriguez was tough and I lost on a knockout in the 2nd Round. I never recovered after that. I lost fight after fight and then I eventually retired. Gus never threw the towel in on my but I did that myself. In fact, I’ve been throwing in the towel my whole life. Maybe this whole in the ground was put here for a reason? Maybe I was supposed to throw myself in? Maybe I was supposed to just disappear from the face of the Earth? I had nothing in my life. Therefore, I had nothing left to lose. I stepped right to the edge of the hole, closed my eyes and let gravity do its work.
    “You’re on of the best fighter’s I’ve ever trained.”
    “What?”
    “I said your one of the best fighters I’ve ever trained.”
    “Gus?”
    “Yeah. It’s me, Gus.”
    “But you’re…”
    “I’m what?”
    “You’re…where am I?”
    “Kid, are you okay?”
    “Where am I?”
    “You’re in your locker room. You’re here to face Rodriguez for the Heavyweight Championship, remember?”
    I got up and ran to the closest mirror I could find. There I was. I looked just as I when I faced Rodriguez. Maybe this was all a dream but it felt so real. Maybe I imagined that tunnel in my yard? Whether this was a dream or not, I didn’t care anymore. I let one boxing match determine the course of my life and I paid dearly for it. If this was real and I was getting a second shot, then I was not going to blow it this time.
    “Are you okay?”
    “I’m great. Gus, there’s something I want to tell you. Whether I win or lose tonight, I want to say that I love you. When everyone else gave up on me, you didn’t. I promise you that for now and the rest of my life, I’m not giving up on you and I’m especially not giving up on myself. Now let’s win this thing.”

  3. Resnir says:

    Here we go (again)
    —————————-
    Summer days in Georgia were too hot. At least, Thomas Mercer thought so, trudging along his unkempt lawn, pushing his lawnmower with one hand as it massacred the grass and using the other hand as a visor so he could actually see where he was going. The sun’s insistent rays blinded him and scorched his skin and hair.It was miserable. But if he didn’t do it, who would? Certainly not a hired worker, he couldn’t afford that.

    Something got caught in the blades.

    “Damn,” he muttered. Killing the engine, he tilted the machine over to inspect the sharp array. Something like a large rock was lodged firmly, and despite putting his entire body weight and stomping it with his foot, it wouldn’t nudge. He would need pliers, and unfortunately for him, they were in the backyard which seemed far, far away.

    Kicking the mower over in a fit of frustration, he cursed under his breath and began making his way towards the shed in quick steps, stare focused forward. Throwing open the doors, the scent of wood and sawdust billowed over him. On any other day, the shed would be stuffy and uncomfortable. But not today, today it was a shady oasis and one that Thomas welcomed, sitting for a whole hour and staring up at the azure sky, white marshmallows swimming across a sea of blue.

    Reluctantly, he stood and began making his way back when his foot touched nothing but air and his heart froze. Jumping back, he looked at the ground, cold sweat glistening on his face. There was a small opening in the ground, only big enough for his foot. A sweet melody glided up, ringing in his ears like auditory honey and coaxing him to hear more, which he did on all fours. There was also the sounds of laughter, chattering, dancing, eating, drinking…

    No. This was not real. He was suffering from heat exhaustion, right? That had to be it, yet he couldn’t move a muscle. It was as if he was paralyzed by his own curiosity no less. He wanted to know what was below this hole, forgetting in an instant the lawn that needed mowing or the machine that needed fixing. With shovel in hand and mind pulsing with excitement, he struck the opening and watched in wonder as the soil about the outer circumference caved in and now the sound was enticing, overpowering, and he could smell fragrant meats and foods, and make out brief bits of conversation. Pinching himself hard in the arm, it was confirmed real.

    He climbed down into the hole, and into darkness.
    ——————————
    “May I take your order Monsieur?” Thomas cracked his eyes open, and the light of a bright chandelier scarred his vision. A waiter wearing a vest and bow tie was looking down at him, grinning from ear to ear and balancing a plate in his right hand.

    “Uh, um, no, no thank you, not right now,” he stuttered in reply, disoriented and not having the vaguest idea of where he was. The waiter nodded briefly and was off to serve others. Thomas watched him go, then turned to survey his surroundings.

    It was a fancy establishment, and through a window, he could see the actual Eiffel tower lit up in all its brilliance standing like a bright needle against the dark blue night sky. Cars and people bustled about in the streets below, though they were barely noticeable. There was enough commotion in the room itself to drown out the outside world.

    “Are you sure you can have another?”

    “Of-of course I am! Come on, I’m fine.”

    “No, it’s-it’s just that-”

    The sharp words and voices cut through the beautiful music of the string quartet, and he turned from side to side, searching for the source but finding only people with their backs turned, talking animatedly to others.

    “You worry too much! Relax for chrissake! It’s our wedding night!”

    “Tom, it’s just-”

    “I’m alright, alright?”

    The music was dying out. The conversations seemed distant, and the cheery atmosphere suddenly turned cold and chilling. Even underneath his newly adorned three piece suit, Thomas could feel veins of ice creeping up his arms and legs, wrapping around his heart, and he searched feverishly, sweating.

    And then he saw it.

    There he was, ten years younger, hair combed neatly down. And next to him, a person he could only remember in the pictures of dusty photo albums in his attic, her black hair combed straight, inquisitive green eyes shining lustrously, thin red lips drawn in a questioning smile. And he remembered her name well, a name chiseled into the very facets of his memory.

    Catherine Benoit.

    The music sliced through his thoughts like a knife edge, and the room regained its bloom, its august feel. A lump formed in his throat, and he remembered how the night played out, the bright city lights, the honking horns, the steering wheel slipping through his fingers, the car veering out of control-

    “Monsieur, are you alright?” It was the same waiter, and Thomas quickly dabbed his eyes, unaware that he’d begun crying.

    “Oh, um, no problem. I was just-just looking at the bride and groom.” It was true, and he turned his gaze towards them again, surrounded by friends, laughing and drinking and telling jokes and funny stories.

    “It’s wonderful, is it not? They say Paris is the city for lovers. I agree. And what a better place to have a reception! Why are you sad? Or are you happy? I do not know how to tell the difference.”

    “I’m-I’m fine, it’s nothing.”

    “Would you like to order anything sir? I would advise you order quickly, I have to deliver these drinks to the groom’s party.” Thomas looked down at the menu, then at the plate in the waiter’s hand, balanced with seven beer bottles neatly arranged, and a small smile crossed his face.

    “Could you do me a favor, monsieur?”
    ——————————————————-
    “And then I said get the hell out! You’re not needed here!” Thomas blurted, and everyone erupted in laughter. He smiled, and finished off the last bit of beer.

    “Honestly, don’t you have any other stories to tell?” Catherine chuckled, taking a sip of her wine. “It seems we’ve been listening to that one for the sixteenth time now! You sound like a broken record!”

    “A devilishly handsome, rich broken record,” he replied, and she blushed. “But the real question is, where are our drinks!”

    “Don’t you think you’ve had enough, Tom?” Robert, one of his closest friends, interjected. “Your face man, look at your face. Your as red as the tomatoes my wife grows in the backyard!”

    “I’m fine, I’m fine!” He waved away the comment, scanning the horizon for the waiter. “But I won’t be if I don’t get some more beer.” He saw the waiter at another table, and waved him over. To his dismay, the man gestured for one moment and headed back towards the kitchen.

    “You’ve had enough,” Robert continued badgering him. “I mean, what are you going to do after this? You have to go to the hotel don’t you? Before you get on the flight to America.”

    “I’m fine I said. Damn it Robert, are you deaf?” Thomas hiccuped again, pounding his chest slightly. “I’ve only had like, five beers.”

    “Eight,” Catherine interrupted. “You’ve had eight.”

    But the comment fell on deaf ears. He was too engrossed in searching for the waiter, who he saw marching towards them.

    “Finally,” Thomas exclaimed when the man had arrived. “We’ve been waiting for quite a while, you know.”

    “My apologies, Monsieur Mercer, but I had to assist some other customers first,” the waiter explained curtly, and distributed the drinks. Thomas waited with anticipation, and watched with shock as a glass of water was set before him.

    “What is this?!”

    “Allow me to explain Monsieur. It is compliments of table 13. He insisted you have it.” And without another word, the waiter was gone. Standing up angrily, his eyes darted across the dining room and came to rest on table 13. A man that looked like an older version of him was sitting there alone, sawing through a t-bone steak.

    “Is something wrong?”

    “No, no, nothing’s wrong Cathy.” And he managed a wry smile. “I think I’ve had too much, wouldn’t you agree? Robert, why don’t you drive us to the hotel?”
    ————————————-
    Feedback and comments are all welcome! Feel free to say whatever you want!

    • EverLasting says:

      At first, glancing through, I didn’t understand what was happening. And then I finally had the time to sit down and read it.

      Glad I did.

      Poor, drunk Tom. Didn’t understand. Poor Cathy, who didn’t get to live through Tom’s mistake. (Well, the first time) I’m guessing this is you first story, and it is very good! Keep on writing and welcome to WD!

    • megsylegsy says:

      Lovely story and really well written, the ending felt just a tiny bit rushed, maybe needed a little more finishing? But on the whole, brilliant and very moving with lots of perfect little touches :)

  4. Resnir says:

    Here we go!
    ———————————-
    Summer days were too hot in Georgia. I certainly thought so, taking slowly step after step, trudging along my unruly lawn and pushing my beaten up rusted lawn mower as it massacred the grass. The sun beat down on my back, and I was certain I was being fried from the outside in.

    Something got caught in the blades.

  5. klogorrheicfdhdhd says:

    I’m fond of those mundane, quotidian tasks so commonplace you lose yourself in them. I think of them as requisite pastimes, intervals of reality. Here you are brushing your teeth, wincing at your tired face marked with dark half moons and heavy eyes. You brush, bristles undoing the tolls of the day, until slowly, you dissipate into this interdimensional world, consumed by your thoughts.
    Cutting grass is like that. Living isolated and alone, I have no apparent reason to keep the miniscule four by four lawn intact, apart from self-satisfaction. My reason lies in the process. The mower cuts clean lanes and regurgitates scattered grass, rumbling white noise as you steer it in rectangles. Therapeutic, really.
    Today is different. I’m two thirds done with the lawn, reveling in the grassy musk, when I encounter a large hole. A black circle disturbing the lanes of my lawn. I frown. I’m not used to surprises, they’ve been few since I hit my retirement years.
    I inspect the hole. It’s deep and wide, mud and bits of moss smothering walls, travelling far beyond the scrutiny of sunlight. Strange. As if someone had tried to dig to the Earth’s mantle, and gave up halfway. Curious, I plant my head above the hole.
    What I don’t expect is the sound of home. Clatters of ceramic dishes. Talking. Laughter. Joking. The morning smell of blueberry pancakes, wafting towards me for the first time in fifty years.
    Watery eyed, I almost stumble back in shock. But instead, I fall.
    Mud and bits of moss flicks past me in flurries of fast motion footage until the hardwood floor greets me, hard. Powder flies up and blocks my trachea. I cough. I swat the air with my hands- then I realize- the wrinkles are gone.
    I stumble to my feet and quickly identify the room as my own: the spaceship bedding, tea stained curtains, posterless walls. Hair falls past my unadulterated forehead, black, and my body is lithe and buoyant. In fluid strides I dash to the bathroom mirror. I am about ten, apple cheeked with twin full-moon eyes, staring back almond brown.
    I brush the cold surface of my child reflection, a slow nightmare. When my fingertip connects with its chin, I remember the activity in the dining room. My family, still alive. I already expect it when I spot the wall calendar, and the date spells June 13th, 2016. The day everything ended.
    Life gave me a second chance, I think, and this hits like electricity and I run to the dining room.
    “Morning, Walter,” my mother smiles, and her eyes melt into happy grey slits, like always. She wipes pancake batter onto her apron, checkered with flour stripes. My father’s skimming the paper, wearing his stupid thick rimmed glasses. He gives the occasional affectionate glance towards my sister, sitting beside him. She’s still six, a kindergartener, grinning gap toothed and singing Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.
    “Morning,” I breathe back. I’ve repeated this scene a million times, with a million what-ifs, even after memory failure eroded their faces to irreplaceable pixels, like old broken television screens. After their voices had numbed to monotone and movements slurred and flickered lifelessly, I envisioned the correct response if time was to rewind, and I would feel them again. But nostalgia crippled me. Preparation was useless. It was all so familiar- mom’s slightly pointed ears I liked to pull at, dad’s quiet smiles and his horrible red shirt, Trina’s slight rasp at the h’s, wiggling uneven pigtails, the kitchen clock with magenta numerals, the blocky rectangular mugs that were difficult to hold, the owl drawing I authored when I was eight, proud, and dad framed and nailed to the wall.
    “I missed you.” I choke. I crumple to the floor.
    My mom starts towards me. “Are you okay?”
    Then, like clockwork, the ground heaves, and ripples. My sister stops singing. The circle wood table topples over. My dad grabs my sister, and gravity shakes us between the walls. The mugs fall and shatter. Screams echo from outside, and my sister starts crying. The ceiling is rattling, thin lines tracing a jagged chunk.
    I’ve repeated this scene a million times, with a million what-ifs.
    “Get outside,” I yell, grabbing desperately at my mom’s arm, “Our lawn is clear nothing will fall on us if we get outside.”
    She looks at me. Numb fear.
    The lines become tears, and the ceiling collapses. Earth swallows me.
    I’m deposited back on my partly uncut lawn, next to my mower. Alone. My body sags again. I sit quietly. Then I stand up, and cut the grass.

  6. di22 says:

    Okay, I am usually shy about sharing fiction, but I need to come out of my shell, so here goes…let me know what you think:

    Tunnel Vision

    “Hey Laura, the dark ages called and they want their lawnmower back!” my wise-ass little neighbor yells over the thorny hedge that separates us.

    “The dark ages didn’t have lawnmowers, squirt,” I answer back.

    “Duh. The dark ages didn’t have phones!” Michael yells as he runs off to meet his laughing friends at the end of his driveway. I can’t believe he’s the same cute kid I used to babysit when I was in high school. Sadly, he has entered the obnoxious ‘tween stage.

    There’s nothing wrong with push mowers, I tell myself, they’re environmentally friendly. Actually, that’s what I tell everyone else. The truth is that I just don’t like how loud gas lawnmowers are; I never have, so my parents never made me mow the lawn. When my dad moved out last month, he bought me this push mower. “Sorry pumpkin,” he apologized, “but you’re going to have to mow the lawn for your mom now.”

    Lawn mowing makes me grumpy. It reminds me of my parents’ divorce. People are still shocked to find out about it since no one had ever heard them fight, including me, but I also don’t remember them holding hands, hugging, or saying, “I love you” either. I thought that was just their way. They were great to me, and we always had fun. We did everything together. That’s what a loving family should be like, right?

    As I push-mow my way across the yard, I notice the handle of a shovel sticking up from the ground by our shed. “That’s weird. Who’s digging a hole over there?” I wonder. I start walking over to check it and suddenly find my stomach leaping into my throat. As I drop through the ground, my mouth opens to scream, but nothing comes out.

    I open my eyes when my breath returns to find that I am on my hands and knees in a tunnel looking at a strangely familiar scene—and when I say “scene,” I mean it literally. The figures of my mom and my dad and me are frozen in front of me as if in a 3D photograph. I recognize the scene immediately from one of the family photos on our piano. I was only three when it was taken, so I don’t remember the trip to the ocean specifically, but I have always remembered it from that picture—me between my parents, being swung off my feet with a rolling blue wave stuck in mid-curl behind us.

    This is a happy memory, as so many of my childhood memories are. Photos of the good times we’ve shared are displayed all over our house, and most are similar to this one—I am flanked by my parents and each of us is smiling, me at the camera and them usually at me. Without thinking about how this scene is even possible, I stand and take in the moment while a bittersweet flood of both happiness and mourning sweeps over me. I begin to recall the last twenty-two years of household family photos in my mind, and slowly, a thought occurs to me. I walk over to the threesome and re-arrange the tableau by joining my parents’ hands, and moving me to one side.
    The next thing I know, I’m back to mowing the lawn again, but with a big loud lawnmower that’s not bothering me at all. In fact, I seem strangely used to it. My mom is on the front porch motioning for me to come and take one of the glasses of lemonade she is holding out. I let go of the lawnmower handle and cross the yard as the sputtering gas engine gives way once more to the buzz of summer cicadas.

    “Thanks, mom,” I say, grabbing an ice-cold lemonade from her hand.

    • EverLasting says:

      You shouldn’t be shy, this was very good!

      Though one thing I’m slightly confused about is, are the parents together now? Or was the MC just changing the memory?

      • usedname says:

        Yeah thats not entirely clear to me either. But i did enjoy the story and the little touches you add like about pushovers being environmentally friendly

  7. EverLasting says:

    —Sorry guys, this is way over word limit, I just didn’t have the heart to cut it. I’ll try not to let it happen again!—

    I was mowing my ungrateful Mother’s lawn again. She was old, and pretty much blind, and disliked me highly. Loved my sister though. Sadly, Maddy couldn’t come mow this week. And neither could her husband. They–well, SHE, was having a baby.

    They just didn’t care if they inconvenienced me, did they?

    I sighed, and turned the mower to avoid a dead bird in the yard.

    And neither did my Mom’s Cat, apparently.

    I tried to remember when my Mother started hating me. I guess it was when I wrecked my Step-Dad’s precious Ford Truck, “Sally”, and caused a huge arguement. In case you haven’t figured it out, I was driving underage. My Step-Dad left that same day. Of course….it wasn’t all my fault. Hank, (no need to call him Step-Dad, anymore) started yelling at Mom about how HE was the only one working to raise these kids right. And how he was sure GLAD that Maddy—actually more behaved at five then i was at thirteen—was his kid and not Jim’s! (My real Dad who died beside Hank in World War 2)

    Mom started yelling about how Hank was wrong. Jim was a wondrous man and she wished she had married a man more like Jim instead of Hank.

    My family is very disfunctional.

    I kept mowing. That stupid Cat can finish off the bird. It can even catch something else.

    Like an illness.

    Suddenly, there was a sort of groaning sound nearby. A tree came crashing down beside me. I yelped and leaped off to one side. It crushed the mower, but I was unharmed. “WHAT THE—” I was cut short by the sight. A huge hole where the tree had been….and inside that hole….was Dad. And Hank. Standing side-by-side. Both in Soldier uniforms. Then Maddy appeared beside Hank. More shadowy and see-through.

    Like a ghost.

    “Pick.” Whispered the hole.

    I was frozen. I saw the two Soldiers move forward together, walking blindly toward a tell-tale lump in the ground.

    A land mine.

    Somehow i felt compelled to leap into the hole. So i did. I found myself as a misty, ghost-like figure, floating towards the two Soldiers. Neither of them appeared to see me. Maddy followed me quietly. The two Soldiers were limping, bloody, dirty….and I had to choose between them.

    “Piiiiick.” The hole whispered impatiently.

    I took a deep breath. I knew if I chose Dad….Maddy wouldnt exist.

    I knew if I picked Hank, I would have to remember not to drive Sally.

    I looked Maddy.

    I thought of the many times both she and Mom had been awful to me. I thought of the many times my Mom’s Demon-Cat had attacked me. (I had the scars to prove that last one)

    Why wasn’t I the one allowed to die?

    I took a deep, shaky breath. I thought of the many times Maddy had rushed to comfort me as young children when i got a throttling from Mom, even if she had no reason to. Compassion swelled inside me. I took one last deep breath, and made my decision.

    I leaped, and knocked one of the two Soldiers out of the way. There was a sudden explosion of the land mine nearby. I stood up and closed my eyes. Tears streamed down my ghostly face.

    Dad was dead.

  8. Jobbo Berry says:

    Ralph Martin was tired. He had finished weeding the flower beds around the house, as he always did before getting out the mower. He carefully drove the bright green rider from the garage, whisked around the smaller front yard, and then headed for the back. He was annoyed at the lawn, the mower, and his life in general.
    A large oak tree marked the center of “Hell’s Half-acre”, as he called the back yard on mowing days. Today, as always, he had saved the tree for last. There was something comforting from being in its shade on a hot day. His routine was to circle the tree as closely as he could get with the tractor, then switch to the push mower to work around the roots.
    As he finished this last lap, something caught his eye and he stopped. He leaned to his left, toward the base of the tree, and discovered a large hole between the roots. He had never noticed the hole before. He dismounted from the tractor, and moved closer. He was surprised at how large it was. He could almost get his entire head inside, but he had no desire to do so.
    After looking into the hole from different angles, he realized that he was seeing a scene from another time and place. He saw a line of school busses parked outside of a school. He somehow knew that he was looking at that moment forty years ago, when his bus driver mother was going to introduce him to a girl. Instead, he had gone to the beach with his friends.
    He could hear his mother saying, “I’m sorry, dear, but he decided to go surfing today. I am so upset with him, but nothing gets in his way when the surf is up.”
    The girl appears to take it all in stride. Ralph knows that she is self-confident, and not particularly interested in finding a steady guy on this particular day. She had only been humoring the nice bus driver when she agreed to meet her son.
    He remembers how upset his mother had been. He had cancelled the bus ride in favor of an epic swell that he and his friends would later recall when hanging out at the beach on flat days. Had that day been worth what he had lost? He had had dreams of being married to someone who would not cheat on him. In those dreams, he was always with that young girl.
    Suddenly, he finds himself driving his multi-colored VW surf van into that high school parking lot. His mother notices him as he starts up the steps of her bus. She smiles and turns to the girl, in order to introduce the two. She realizes that they are looking at each other, neither moving; neither speaking.
    “Do you two already know each other?”
    “No, but this had better the one you were planning for me to meet.”
    It was.

    • EverLasting says:

      Amazing.

      I was sad to see the end of this story!

      I honestly hope it worked out for the MC! :)

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is really nice, Jobbo Berry. It’s pleasant and romantic, with excellently-described imagery.

      My eyeballs want me to ask you if, in future posts, you could put an extra blank line between paragraphs; that opens the spacing and makes it easier for them to separate paragraphs.

    • girl-in-progress says:

      Nice story, Jobbo Berry! I agree with Observer Tim though, it will be real nice if you leave a tad bit of white space between paragraphs. Besides, it will be more aesthetically pleasing to the eyes!

  9. LEVITTOWN PLOWSHARES
    (This second part’s a lot bigger for you guys. I figured some flash-forwards were necessary.)

    My parents were there in Manhattan, in the joyous autumn of 1945, when I came off the ship. I had a clean shave and a pack slung over my shoulder. Japan had surrendered, the war was over. Soldiers danced, crowds in city streets cheered.

    I remembered walking down the gangplank, my eyes drinking in the skyscrapers, the jubilant shouts, the automobiles—it was home, America. Scared dizzy wondering what it’d be like to see them again, father had surfaced first, beaming with pride. Mother followed, her mouth agape, arms flowing around me. I’d obliged them with a smile, but it seemed half-hearted.

    “We’re so proud of you,” they chorused. “So proud of you… so proud….”
    _______________________________________________

    The cold water sloshes around me, biting into my legs and chest, with a harsh chill that does not paralyze me but moves me forward. Benny is right beside me, our lieutenant leading the pack towards the beach.

    “Come on, men, move forward!” He’s shaking like a Pacific palm tree, holding his rifle above the waves.

    The bunkers belch only small strings at first, mere warnings, but then pick up with a deafening roar, splitting the air around us with reverberating blasts. Our battleships answer the dare, firing in the direction of shore, until we’re bathed in screaming shells.

    The sand rises to meet us, our drenched uniforms now vulnerable to a more fatal threat. I see earthworks, barbed wire bouncing in front of me, German machine guns chattering like my future in-laws. My first hit comes as a sting, barely noticeable, and I look down to see my entire hand covered in blood. Surging forward, I brace myself against a wooden obstacle, the panicked rush forcing my heart to go faster and faster.

    “Benny, go for the seaway!”
    The 116th flows around us, but he stops and comes back for me.

    “What, are you insane?! Go forward!”
    “No, I need to help you!” he replies, sliding my arm around his. “Come on!”

    Coming out, the whole beach is full of bodies, snipers picking off those that remain. My slippery rifle nearly falling from my hand, yells from the captured machine guns… so close, yet, he might still die.
    _______________________________________________

    The yard was small, weeds taking over flower beds and garden gnomes (that was for you, Reaper) with a vengeance. But, there were signs of at least some maintenance- a hose sprawled onto the driveway, still sputtering, a trowel shoved in the dirt.

    My boots tread cautiously to the front door. I rapped on the screen, Benny’s package in my hands. A graying, frail woman answered the door, with hazel eyes. There’s a small guilt, perhaps the officers that came a year ago were enough, I should’ve stayed home.

    “Hello, ma’am… are you Benny’s mother by any chance?”
    “No, I’m his grandmother. His mother’s at the store.”

    She notices the package, and I look down, handing it over.
    “I was his friend, Albert Knells. I wanted to give you this journal of his. He gave it to me, before…”

    She nods, takes it. Her gaze is unusually warm.
    “Yes, he wrote about you all the time. Said you were a hero.”

    He really said that? I want to turn away, but seemingly can’t bear to. It’s only with great heaviness that I leave his memory behind, clap my car door closed, drive away. The radio is silent, my hands sliding along the steering wheel.

    “I’m sorry, Benny… I truly am.”
    _______________________________________________

    We meet up with the lieutenant at the seaway, who’s still issuing orders though half his leg is carried away. A few of the Rangers half-stand, shooting with their Brownings.

    “Medic, we got another one!” he bellows.
    A healthy shot of morphine seems to do the trick, but Benny’s as restless as the red tide behind us. I will the lieutenant to stop him.

    “Officer, we have to get up there, disable those bunkers!”

    Lt. Oscar groaned, rubbing his thigh. “Look, private, half our platoon’s gone! If you want to try it out, take a few men and get the hell up there!”

    Benny corrals a few bulky men around him, grenades shaking the ground on the other side. The hill rises up imposingly, but I can do it.
    “Come on, Benny! Let’s get up there!”

    I grab my gun, ignoring his protests. Hopping over the wall, we close in on their trenches. Somebody falls behind, my eyes clouding. Five feet there, and the Kraut burp guns open up in a sheet. Benny staggers, shot through the hip, and I curse, holding him up.

    Two sergeants blast away with tommy guns, and black uniforms come tumbling out.
    “Don’t worry, we got them!”

    They jump in, one more shot ringing, and it’s virtually silent except for the battalion 500 feet down. Benny’s inconsolable, but I drag him over to the others, panting.

    “You’re going to be okay. I’ll do whatever I have to do,” I whisper, stuffing him inside the trench.

    The formidable sound of a counterattack rises up through the smoke, submachine tracers dancing. I glance up, stunned, no forms visible on the hillside yet. My time has come sooner than I thought.

    “We haven’t even captured the guns yet!” a private moans. But it’s already too late.

    At least I won’t have to mourn over his body, buried in the sand, thinking pitifully that he got to live in France after all. I won’t have to hand his grandmother his journal, pretending all is well when the nightmares visit every night. Even though there’s my family to think of, my future wife I’ve haven’t met, I raise my rifle with duty.

    They can only hope, Benny can only hope, that one day all blood will be wiped away, that we will turn war into peace, beating our swords into Levittown plowshares. And then, no more sons will die.

  10. timelessfloetry29 says:

    This is my first time ever submitting anything. Please excuse the errors and let me know what you think ! Excited to start focusing more on my writing and how to be good at it and hoping these prompts will help me out !. Thank you !.

    I could’ve sworn I felt the mower wheels begin to slowly slink into the grass but I quickly tuned it out as my imagination. Maybe if I hadn’t been so deep in thought thinking about that day I would’ve noticed my own feet were now ankle deep into the dirt. A scream tried to trickle out of my throat as I realized too late that I was now falling into a hole I had never even noticed. He said that was what my problem was. I never noticed things even when they were right in front of my eyes. He knows me so well, I trust him.
    Landing on my back with a thud, sharp pains begin to slowly climb up my neck and cause my scalp to pulsate. Rubbing my hand against the back of my brown short hair, I expected to feel blood. I felt nothing. Where the heck am I now? I murmured to myself as my senses began to stabilize and I remembered the ordeal that just took place.
    Everything looked normal however. Even though I couldn’t see anything I was use to blackness and emptiness. The feeling of being alone had always been a silent companion. This place of complete sadness felt much better than where I had just come from. I didn’t have to pretend here.
    Slowly rising to my feet I noticed a tiny coffin laying a few feet away from me. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what or whose it was, yet something told me I knew. You never notice anything, God when would his voice stop haunting me? I did notice things, I swear I did!
    Walking to the coffin I realized why this was so familiar. My hands begin to tremble and sweat began to what seemed like magically appear between my fingertips. I remembered this coffin I remembered this day.
    He didn’t think I noticed things but I did.
    I noticed when I felt the covers move on the side of my bed ever so slightly and a warm body slid beside me in a way that chilled my soul and made every muscle in me tense.
    I noticed when the bed dipped down and his lips grazed my ears and whispered Just give me a little bit.
    I noticed when it was all over and my legs trembled and they felt so wet and weak that I just laid there and dozed off into a nightmare.
    I noticed when you found me and you hugged me and you didn’t ask.
    I noticed when my period didn’t come that first week or the next week or the week after that.
    I noticed when you held my hand and promised you would be there no matter what I decided to do.
    I noticed when the doctor said it’s all over and I could go home.
    But the one thing I missed the one thing I didn’t notice as I opened the casket and looked down at the cause of all my sorrow.
    Was the fact that she looked so much like you.

    • Augie says:

      This story is moving! You write like a master. Every sentence is well thought out with minimal ‘filler’. That is a tough challenge. The feeling of being alone, becoming your silent companion gave me chills. Just amazing.

    • Marie Therese Knepper says:

      Well done.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This story echoes an intense sadness, timelessfloetry. You’ve written it clearly and conveyed the emotiion well.

      In the way of criticism, I wasn’t clear on who “he” was in the second paragraph – it’s a pronoun without a noun.

      The only other thing is that it’s easier on these old eyes if you put an extra blank line between paragraphs.

      Welcome to the site, and keep on writing!

      • lionetravail says:

        Great story, sad in a lovely way- I hope you keep writing and adding to our enjoyment! A couple other minor constructive critiques to add: there’s some tense changing going on in your story, from present to past- that can distract from the power of your story.”He knows me so well, I trust him”, vs. “Walking to the coffin I realized…”

        Second, if you have dialogue in the piece, it’s often good to put quotations around it to help us recognize it as such, even if it’s a recollection of dialogue.

        On the very plus side, the line: “The feeling of being alone had always been a silent companion” is marvelous, because of the seeming contradiction in it- nicely done.

      • timelessfloetry29 says:

        thank you, and I def will remember that next time. =]

      • timelessfloetry29 says:

        Thank you for your feedback and reply! I appreciate it . Will keep that in mind for my future posts. =]

      • timelessfloetry29 says:

        will do , =] thank you !

    • jmcody says:

      This had such a beautiful, irresistible rhythm and flow (floetry?). So sad, and artfully told. I am looking forward to reading more of your work!

    • EverLasting says:

      For your first story, this was very good.

      I felt very bad for the MC.

      Can’t begin to imagine her emotions. Sad, moving, and powerful.

      (And very nicely written!)

    • Reaper says:

      I admit, I am speed reading, so take with a grain of salt. This is moving, beautiful, and just wonderfully written. I like the lack of a noun, that mystery added to a surrealist feel that permeated your story. The two things that I am lost on are if he and you are the same person. I feel like they are, but I’m not sure. I’m assuming the coffin is the daughter but I’m also thinking it could be the narrator. Either way I would suggest a line break towards the end when you flow into a more poetic style. Otherwise I think those two points of unsurety for me actually add to that surrealist feel I mentioned. Welcome to the site and keep stuff like this up. I have nothing to add that was not already said beyond that. Beautiful story, and I should read it again when I’m not rushing. I’m sure I’ll slap myself and say I get it now.

    • girl-in-progress says:

      What a sad, sad story, timelessfloetry29! (Tissues please!). Not bad for your first post. Keep on writing and welcome to WD!

    • Critique says:

      A heart-hurting story timelessfloetry29. I liked your style of writing and was hooked from the first sentence. I was a little confused with the ‘he’ and ‘you’ and wondered if they were the same person.
      I look forward to reading more of your writing :)

      • timelessfloetry29 says:

        thank you ! and the “you” was suppose to be her having a flashback of “him” saying that to her haha. sorry it’s so confusing. I need more practice on getting the thoughts in my head to become more clear on paper.

    • megsylegsy says:

      very moving and very well written, love the poetry of it.

  11. DMelde says:

    You can’t wash away the sins from your distant past. Until now!

    Introducing the brand new E-Z Portal 9000! Why waste your time and money on old remedies that don’t work? Are you tired of Shamans and messy chicken blood? Have you had it up to here with counseling? Now there’s a better way to wash away your sins with the E-Z Portal 9000.

    Watch how John demonstrates just how easy it is to use. There he is, out in his backyard mowing the grass, grass that he has mowed over and over and over again. He’s fed up but what is he supposed to do? There has to be a better way! Watch as John removes the E-Z Portal from its attractive carrying case, free at no additional charge. Watch as he places the Portal on the grass and before you know it, a tunnel appears right before your eyes leading to your distant past, or even your recent past. You pick the date and time! That’s right! With the E-Z Portal it’s never been easier to go back to any time you choose and fix whatever it is that ails you. Watch as John looks through the tunnel and sees himself as little Johnny, cutting the exact same grass over forty years ago. If only he had known then what he knows now!

    “Burn the damn lawn!” John yells out to a startled little Johnny. (Caution: Read all instructions before using. Side effects include sudden heart failure and jail time.)

    John was able to wash away over forty years of wasted time cutting the grass in the blink of an eye. And you can too! We’ll even include with every order the pocket-sized Demon Extractor at no additional cost. Is your cat possessed? Does it attack and claw defenseless furniture for no apparent reason? Use the Demon Extractor to stop this unwanted behavior. Simply attach the device to your cat with the enclosed reusable stick pads and your cat will start behaving better the very same day.

    But wait, there’s more! Order in the next ten minutes and we’ll double your order! You heard that right, order now and you’ll receive two E-Z Portals for the price of one (Just pay separate shipping and handling.) So what are you waiting for? Call 1-800-GET-PORT. That’s 1-800-GET-PORT. Operators are standing by. 1-800-GET-PORT. (Must be 18 years of age or older. Cannot be used to go back in time and cancel your order. Other restrictions apply.)

    • timelessfloetry29 says:

      This put a genuine smile on my face! I loved how you turned it into an ad, you had me ready to purchase one !.

    • Marie Therese Knepper says:

      Thank you for posting this great take on the prompt. This is my favorite for the week :)

    • Observer Tim says:

      This had me laughing, DMelde! It confirmed to the folks on the bus that I am indeed crazy.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Full of chuckles and amusing smiles, DMelde. I love the two for one and the second use of straightening out the cat.Can you ask the company engineer if it works on son-in-laws?

    • lionetravail says:

      Brilliantly funny, well written, and so typical. I can hear Billy Mays selling it.

      Dang, wish I’d thought of this take :) Nicely entertaining.

      (Can I order the Demon Extractor separately? I don’t want a whole Portal, I’m good with the local Shaman- it’s a union thing.)

    • jmcody says:

      You have a future as a direct response copywriter. This is really clever and funny. Thanks, I got a kick out of it!

    • EverLasting says:

      Hahahaha!

      This is great! Gave me a laugh and a smile. Thank you for that DM!

      I have a feeling that selling Time Portals would be a little hectic, but If I were in that business, you’d be my sales person! :)

      Ps; Also, I have a cat of my own….so….I’m gonna need, like, twenty Demon Extractors for him…
      Haha just kidding….one will suffice. ;)

    • girl-in-progress says:

      Genius!!! :D

    • Critique says:

      So fun- you had me laughing – that you used the prompt as an advertisement. Good job DMelde.

  12. Reaper says:

    Okay Kerry, I can not refuse you. However as with everything this week this took me forever to get to. So it is long, and rough but I do not have the time or energy to cut it down, and well we’re running out of time on this prompt. :) I also chose this method as it answers some of the other comments on my original prompt. Warning, this went very dark.

    How I was Lost II – Wasted Breath

    He is not going to like me as much after today.

    My name is Archibald Charlton the third if you ask me. According to the Taiwanese nationals that crafted me I am product six, lot seven, item thirty two. If you ask the man that currently owns me I’m just Sleazy. My life is not easy.

    When I offered him the choice to go back and make the change I hoped he would take it. In the hollow of my chest I knew he would not. So now it is up to me.

    There is a physics to temporal holes. When they are formed they link to a person. So even though I slid down it my “owner” came with me. So we found ourselves in the room from so many years ago. A room I had never visited but knew intimately from his memories.

    We landed side by side in the darkened room. He almost cried out in shock, and that would have been enough for me. Then his senses kicked in. Flesh striking flesh with the smack of meaty weight, sobbing negations that went unheard, the primitive sounds of rejected thrusting that coalesced in denial of choice. The smell of acrid sweat made an appearance, then joined by an odor reminiscent of bleach. Through it all the human shivered in silent negation of truth, like he always did.

    I was tired of playing the sign game. I let the glowing thing inside me slip across the room and into the “boyfriend” as he stood after his disgusting labors. In the brief transference the human saw my other form. Only then did he speak.

    “Sleazy?” Oh how he sounded shocked.

    “This is the moment.” I intoned in a voice so calm it caused his face to contort in terror.

    “But I decided not to come back.”

    “Strange how conviction enters your voice when you lie. You did what you always do, what so many of your contemporaries do. You chose inaction. Just like that seventeen year old version of you listening at the door, ready to run away when footsteps approach. This moment defines your life.”

    “I was only seventeen, what was I supposed to do?”

    I brought the borrowed foot down on the empty shell that was normally my body. The shattering porcelain echoed in the room. I was furious and the loss mattered little. Whenever I next went there would be a home for me. There is a physics to these things. Still my voice was serene.

    “You were only seventeen.” I gestured to the bed as our eyes continued to adjust to the light. “She was only sixteen. You knew for a year he beat her and you did nothing. You heard this night when he raped her and you did nothing. Maybe you couldn’t stop him, he was larger than you, but you could have stood up for your sister. Or you could have been there for her. Or you could have called the police. So many things you could have done, but instead you refused to act. Did you feel any guilt when she killed herself a month later?”

    “I was a kid.”

    “Right. And when you didn’t kill that hooker in Mexico? It was not because you didn’t want to. The rage was there but you stopped. Had you chosen not to act I would respect it, but you sat there wondering if you should. How about the time in law school, when your friends started pouring shots down the stripper’s throat. You saw she was having trouble breathing. You could have joined them, or you could have stopped them. Instead you sat still and prayed for the best. Or your high school girlfriend you say you left, but really when she told you she was pregnant you just stopped calling her, waiting for her to tell you what to do. When you graduated five firms courted you. You still have no job, not because you refused, but because you refused to answer.”

    “What should I do?”

    “It is too late for that human. You are useless. You should have decided, but instead you fall back on wanting others to do it for you. So now it is my turn to choose.”

    Strangling someone is strange. Normally my hands just stand there in one position. So having the freedom to eliminate a man who has made me waste my breath is gratifying.

    With that task done I am slipping down another hole to 1967. There is a young man there who, thanks to an overbearing mother, always looked to women to make up his mind. When his fiancé was kidnapped he had no one to turn to for that help. I hope, given a second chance he’ll make a choice.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Wow. Intense, dark and EXCELLENT take, Reaper. It appears that “Sleazy” is an avenging angel against indecision; an interesting choice.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Okay Reaper, you earned it with this one, we’re all dropping the ‘freaking’. For your info, we have a ‘third’ in the family. My nephew is Willian Charlton III. Back to Sleazy. I totally agree with him. People that stand on the sidelines of life and let others think for them and act for them, are useless.

        For God’s sakes do something, even if it’s wrong! Inaction is the weadel’s way out. I normally am uncomfortable with dark stories but your’s teaches one of the most important things in life, participation.

        His inability to act and stand by while his sister is being violated, brands him with the worst title you can give mankind, a coward. Where is honor in this miserable human. He’s taking up airspace.

        The pace of the story is rhythmical and powerful, grabs the reader and carries him along whether he wants to go or not. Reading this at 6:18 in the morning led me to call my cat, Miss Kitty to sit with me until daylight.

    • jmcody says:

      Genius still stands, freaking or otherwise. You consistently amaze, Reaper, and I can’t wait to read your novel even though I may have to sleep with the lights on after that.

      This MC is a different kind of villain for you. In some ways he is more chilling because of how commonplace and insidious he is. I wanted to throttle him myself. I don’t think anyone will miss him. This is one of those monsters you’ve talked about that we can potentially glimpse in ourselves, which makes him that much more horrifying. Who among us hasn’t had a moment when action was called for and we failed to act? Of course this guy takes it to the extreme, with horrific consequences.

      Anyway, I no longer want a gnome if he is going to punish me for my failings. I only want a cute one that holds up signs and offers me opportunities. I liked that you gave him a more dignified name in this story. He certainly earned it.

    • Absolutely genius, Reaper. I’ve always liked garden gnomes, creepy or not, for some odd reason. The second to last paragraph was my favorite. I had a feeling your dark side had to kick in somewhere.

    • lionetravail says:

      Great story- hard to add more, Reaper, other than perhaps one minor point which you would sure manage in a longer format, but as an AI, Sleazy has a remarkable grasp on language, in terms of both slang and idiom. “Right. And when you didn’t kill that hooker…”

      The only thing about Sleazy is that he sounds perfectly human, and yet superior to, and despising, of humans (at least the indecisive ones). A back-story that explains that background would ensure I knew why he was so inhumanly human, or else less correct idiom use (I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I’m going with it) would make him stand out as an AI.

      Wonderful take, though I don’t think it’s all that dark- Sleazy’s owner was clearly scum of the Earth, and I got no problem with an avenging AI angel taking him out :). It wasn’t so much tragic and justified homicide for me, which maybe took it out of the dark and into the twilight for me. Love the whole idea with it, and definitely ripe for a longer story out of it, I think.

    • usedname says:

      Freaking loved it. To me its not really all that dark but i suppose that’s because I love reading dark stuff. This character could be developed further into a whole novel even.

  13. jmcody says:

    I struggled with this one… Very short on both time and inspiration this week. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to comment as much as usual, and I hope this doesn’t suck.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________

    Alvie the cemetery groundskeeper likes his feet planted firmly on the earth. That’s why he uses an old push mower. He likes the reassuring predictability of his job and how the mower traverses the grounds the same way every time, leaving a pattern of neat stripes behind. But sometimes the mowing seems endless, and nature impossible to defeat. No matter what he does, the dandelions, clover and crabgrass spring relentlessly, defiantly back to life.

    Today the sun is hot and unforgiving, and the air heavy with the fragrant complaint of injured grass. The familiar roar soothes Alvie, drowning out his more unthinkable thoughts, until a sudden shift jolts him out of his trance. There’s a strange hollowness to the lawnmower’s roar, as if it is emanating from a void. Alvie sees the hole just as it swallows him up.

    With a splash, Alvie plunges into a watery twilight, lit only by the moon above and the constellation of wavering lights ahead. He recognizes the running lights and the familiar stenciled lettering: Rolling in the Deep, Providence R.I. And then he remembers: The boat is sinking fast. All around him people are thrashing in the water.

    It’s the fourth of July, the day Charlie dies. And Alvie will never forgive himself for not saving his little brother.

    The boat was overloaded, with too many drunk, stupid grownups swooning at the fireworks and squealing with each roll of the boat as if it were a carnival ride. Alvie and Charlie had slipped away to the cabin to pig out on Doritos and play Call of Duty. The pivoting stove and hanging lantern squeaked and swayed with the boat as it pitched from side to side, until with one great, shuddering heave, everything turned upside down.

    This can’t happen again, thinks Alvie as he frantically searches for the hatch on the sinking vessel. Finally he finds it and swims through.

    “Charlie!” he calls. A flash of day-glow green catches his eye. It’s Charlie’s T-shirt. He dives and grabs Charlie by the shirt.

    “Hey, Dipshit!” Charlie grins at Alvie through the watery darkness, his t-shirt reflecting an eerie green glow across his pale features.

    “Come on, Charlie I know the way out!”

    “You’re such a scrub Alvie. Don’t you think it’s a little weird that we’re having a conversation under water?”

    “You’re the scrub, Douchebag…”

    Suddenly it dawns on Alvie that the cabin is completely filled with water. Charlie nods toward the place where the table should be, but isn’t because it is bolted to the ceiling.

    “It’s time for you to come with me, big brother.”

    Alvie follows Charlie’s gaze and sees a red cloud gathering around a floating form.

    “It’s you, Alvie. You died that day. We both did.”

    “No… It’s not true…”

    “It’s totally true, Asswipe, so just get over it and come with me.”

    Alvie sees another hole forming beside his brother. This one is swirling like a flushing toilet.

    “Mom always said you had trouble with transitions. You’ve got to learn to let go…”

    “Cut the crap, Charlie. This is bullshit.”

    “Alvie, please… just listen to me for once.”

    Alvie shakes his head. He can never go with Charlie, because he can never, ever forgive himself.

    “It’s now or never, Shit-for-Brains. I don’t know when I’ll be able to get back here again.”

    The swirling hole grows larger, and suddenly Charlie is gone.

    ***
    I must be having a heat stroke, thinks Alvie. He takes a swig of his water bottle, and then pours the rest over his head, but still there’s no hole in sight. He sighs as he surveys the grounds. He still has to mow the lower third before he can pack it in for the day and then start all over again tomorrow. And the day after that, and all the endless, unchanging days after that.

    • Ha! The old cemetery groundskeeper, just doing his job. :-) That’s exactly how my mother feels… no matter how many times she cleans, more dust and dirt pop back up mere hours later. This also describes perfectly why my family doesn’t celebrate July 4th too heartily… too many drunk people and not enough money to buy fireworks. Great work per usual, jmcody. (That second installment you wanted is coming up in around a half hour, if I can manage it.)

    • Great imagery and intriguing story. You really captured the brothers’ relationship in the dialogue. Well done. It makes me wonder now if the rest of the living world sometimes sees the groundskeeper’s ghost?

    • Observer Tim says:

      What a curse! Alvie is stuck in his own version of hell. Excellent story, jmcody; it most definitely does not suck.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        There are such things as hell on earth. You just proved it. The writing is powerful, descriptive and heart breaking at the same time. The conversation between the brothers is dead on. The scenery you paint with words, the rush of water, the bost upside down, the swirling hole, amazes as you read it.

        This week’s promp came with a holiday. I hope Brian lets it live through Friday to give everyone a chance to write what’s on their heart.

        • jmcody says:

          “Dead on…” Ha ha. Well said, Kerry. The language was definitely rougher than I usually write, but I felt like this was kind of a rough crowd. Besides, I’m told that amongst teenaged boys, these sort of insults are actually signs of affection and acceptance. Go figure. I hope it was obvious that the brothers actually loved and cared about each other a great deal, and that was the basis of Alvie’s inability to deal with the reality of what happened.

      • jmcody says:

        Thanks Tim. This one did not come easily. I feel like I’m wearing out the dead guy who doesn’t know he’s dead thing.

    • lionetravail says:

      A ghost story, where Charlie tries to get Alvie to join him in his eternal reward. I’m not sure it’s hell on Earth, per se; more like it’s purgatory on Earth, and Alvie’s own fault he’s in it- at least that’s how I read it. No hope until he’s ready to admit things and transition- I’m just not sure, from the story, what it was that he couldn’t forgive himself for. Going to the cabin to avoid the drunks sounds like bad luck, maybe, if everyone else survived the capsizing, rather than something fault-y.

      Neat take on the prompt, JM- unique, certainly. It’s very good- the reveal by Charlie is interesting, and the cursing between them makes it seem like the interaction is very natural.

      • jmcody says:

        Thanks, L. You understood this exactly the way I intended it, so that’s encouraging! Yeah, the guilt thing probably didn’t totally come across. As the older brother, I think Alvie felt responsible for his brother and was guilt- stricken over not being able to save him. Maybe he lured his brother to the cabin with the promise of video games and Doritos. Also, Alvie’s nature was to resist change, while Charlie was more open and accepting. I agree that Alvie is in a purgatory of his own making, but he’s just a kid and I think he will move on eventually, although it might take a couple hundred years. Charlie’s pretty feisty — I think he will find a way to get his brother to get with the program. Thanks for your helpful comments and questions!

    • Reaper says:

      Wow. I think this is amazing. I had to comment on this one. I like that you bring it back to what could have been a dream and then shatter that with the continuing torment. Even lacking time and inspiration you are amazing. Not sure if you’ll see this since I am so late to the party but I had to say something on this one. Seems like frantic lives are running wild on us this week.

    • girl-in-progress says:

      This must be a pure torture for Alvie, jmcody! Eerie and brilliantly executed. :D

  14. pinkbamboo says:

    was MIA last week. too busy to write with no inspiration at all. jotted this down in 20 mins.

    **
    I trusted the world. That was my mistake.

    I had no idea why I never noticed this hole near my fence before. I fell through it and landed at this familiar place. I sucked in my breath and looked at the tables and chairs through the glass window. It was extra class after school – the day when I finally got a sip of what evil was.

    See, I was a happy kid. I liked being nice to people because I believed people will be nice to me as well. I did not have much but I was content and grateful with what I had. I rarely demanded or complained about what my peers had. I was naive. Maybe stupid even.

    I watched as the teacher in the classroom stood up and every other student did as well. Everyone left the room but seemed that no one noticed me. I stood watching as 15 year old me put her stuff away to the side of the wall. No one was left in the room, everyone had friends, everyone went for a break. Except me. I had no friends, I had no one to talk to.

    I wanted to stop the young me from leaving the room but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I watched as she exit the room and went downstairs with some coins to call home – innocent and trusting. I watched as she came up the stairs again with some bounce in her steps – still trusting, still believing the good in the world.

    Until I watched her frowned as she searched through her stuff – until I watched her broke down in tears when she realized her walkman was missing. Stolen within the few minutes she was away. The gift from her father – my father. Stolen.

    I watched as the whole scene unfolded once again – no culprit was caught but even then I knew who it was. I had no evidence, no proof so my walkman was gone. Stolen. My one sided ear piece walkman which I listened to every single night gone. My first ever expensive purchase gone. I loved that walkman but it was gone. Forever.

    I observed and realized that was the day I stopped trusting the world. It was the day my heart harden and I became wary of people. Evil came in many forms and mistrust took center stage. Darkness walked among us. My heart and soul was tainted with some as well from then on.

    I knew why I couldn’t change the event of the day – I had to learn the hard way to be careful of my belongings. That was the day I grew up and in the years to come, I still thought of my walkman late at night when I struggled to sleep with my fist and toes clenched, hoping that daylight would come faster to take away the heartache and imaginary cries for help from my walkman.

    I wiped my tears and crawled back through the hole as I left 15 year old me crying on the phone.

    That bastard did not just robbed me of my walkman, he robbed my trust and tarnished the way I viewed the world.

    **
    - based on a true story. sorry if this got a little boring with no twist this week =P

    • Not bad for 20 minutes. Sad story. Thanks for sharing.

    • Observer Tim says:

      The emotion is really showing here, pinkbamboo. It’s a great take about the loss of innocence, once again even moreso from being based in reality. I don’t think I have the courage to write about the day my trust in the universe was shattered.

      It’s powerful writing, and the kind of story that needs to be out there. Thanks.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        How cruel the world seems to those that trust and that trust is then broken. A transition into the reality of life. We all go through the same looking glass. Painful that it might be, it’s a step down the pathway of existence. You’ve done a good illustration of life, pinkbamboo.

    • jmcody says:

      Pink, this felt so authentic to me because it reminded me of a similar incident from my childhood. (Mine was a bike — a brand new ten-speed that I had desperately wanted, and which my parents bought me even though they couldn’t afford it, which only compounded the sense of loss.). The loss you felt was so acute because it was about so much more than just the Walkman and you captured that emotion well here.

    • lionetravail says:

      Not boring at all! And I love the fact your MC couldn’t change the past, and probably not because of exotic physics or metaphysics- but because it was a necessary lesson that made her (her?) the person they became. Lovely that the MC recognized it, too, and that it was a necessary lesson, eve as she regrets the loss of that innocence.

      Niiiiice. Me likey.

    • Reaper says:

      Pink this is amazing and not even slightly boring. The loss and the pain were so real and heartfelt, that the walkman was more because it was a gift of love and sacrifice were very apparent. What really touched me though was the emotional paradox. What you don’t say speaks volumes. Not changing the past because this was a necessary event, that adulthood is the hardening of the heart. That is a universal truth we accept, but as writers we know it’s a lie. Ours is a world of wonder, yes we grow up and get guarded but there is something in us that yearns for those days of wonder where everyone could be trusted. We imagine a better world because we /know/ it can not exist. It is that acceptance that is the problem. That world can exist but it is so hard to get to that we can’t imagine the journey, it’s too big for anyone alone and since everyone is working against it we realize we will never get there. That was the tragedy to me and intentional or not you spoke to it well. The loss of innocence was terrible but that continued acceptance that trust and innocence must be she was heartbreaking. Amazing work, and the rawness of it only added to that.

    • girl-in-progress says:

      Great writing pinkbamboo. You can say that again, trust is so fragile…

    • Critique says:

      The loss of innocence and trust came through painfully loud in your story pinkbamboo. I’m glad I took the time to read more prompts for this week and found yours. Good job!

  15. I tried something different with this one. Your thoughts and feedback are appreciated.

    My fourth son is due in days, so my participation in the upcoming weeks may be sporadic.

    In the heat of the night, my lovely has called me to tend her estate. “The orchard and vineyard are plentiful my love and ripe for harvest. Come and let me please you from its bounty,” she said. Yet, I know I must enter with care.

    In days and evenings past, the lord of the manor said I had trespassed, that I was blight to the land and unwelcome. Thus, tonight I fear I will be burdened with regret as I approach the gate. However, my lovely is there to greet me. She said, “Have no fear my darling. All can be forgiven. Tonight our ill sought love and passions past can be redeemed. Tonight you have warrant, right, and passage to my love.”

    I realize the garden gate offers no threat and I approach with confidence. The air is full with sweet perfumes of orange blossoms and lilacs.

    My lovely is waiting. She desires that I stake my claim as much as I. “We must not rush the matters of the heart no more than those of the law,” I tell her.

    I admire the fertile plains and rolling hills. My eyes follow the landscape and I find a chasm tucked away, hidden from all others.

    She draws me in to the inner sanctuary of the garden. I am free to explore…free to learn…free to discover. She said, “Work the land. Make it yours. It will bear fruit.” I find the lawn heavy with dew and needs no implements of man.

    I know this chasm, this tunnel, is a portal to another world equally spiritual as it is physical. A world where only I am welcome and desired. A world that I can enter but never leave or never leave whole. It’s a window to everything that she is–mind, soul, and body. To enter means her past becomes my past, her future becomes my future, forever becoming one in the present.

    I accept the invitation; however, I know the choice is only an illusion. We are beyond control and reason. We discover the garden and all its delicacies together. Sun, moon, and stars arrest their cosmic voyage. Our universe is forever altered. The earth quakes and all is still…silent…perfect.

    I place my hand on the side of her face and draw her lips to mine. I trace the outline of the hills, plains, and fields with the other. I am pleased with my inheritance, my wife, my one, my all. I said, “I claim our love, our passion, my darling…forever. Today you are mine.”

  16. usedname says:

    20 bucks is definitely not worth it. Not this heat stroke inducing sun or knee high jungle of a lawn. With my good hand I swept away stray stands from my sweaty face into my cap. I lumbered along feeding the overgrown lawn to the mower. Sweltering waves rolled off the pavement and wilted the edges of the cut lawn alongside it. From behind loud cheers of “Goooaaal!” could be heard coming from the house. My father found it in himself to ‘finally’, show me the ‘merits of responsibility’ as he called it, so he and his pals could revel in world cup football.

    Even through the heat, tiredness, and itchy grass I still found myself smiling. Dad had never pitied me even though I was different from my sisters. He treated me equally.

    “Whatcha smiling at lefty!” a brutish boy sniggered as he pedaled by with a fleet of bikes. “Lefty! Lefty!” his cronies mocked. Shame washed over me and I shoved the lawn mower to the hedges clutching my shoulder. “What you not even giving us a wave, retard?”

    I knelt my forehead into the metal bar of the mower and allowed the sun bake me. I stood rigid letting the sweat mix with tears. A salty breeze drifted from the hedge carrying the hum of an unknown rhythm. Immediately I shut off the mower as a sense of familiarity struck me. “True colours by Cyndi Lauper?”, I questioned kneeling lower to the source. From just below the beginnings of the hedge a black hole swirled inwardly quickly growing in size. My sneakers slid below me as I stumbled backwards. Green blades were rapidly devoured by the pit, then the mower, and finally me. Horrified I watched as my legs disappeared below me into nothingness. Slowly the lawn crumbled in my hand as I hung on for dear life. I pressed my eyes shut bracing for the pain of the fall which never came.

    Instead I reopened them to reveal the interior of a car. There I sat wedged to the side of the synthetic leather seats and with floppy bunny ears atop my head. As Cyndi Lauper blasted through the car stereo it occurred to me that I was coming home from the pier with my family; a trip that happened 7 years prior before we moved even further west. My lips still had the remnants of cotton candy stuck to it and I firmly grasped a bright red balloon with my left hand. Tears spilled over as I looked at the bobbing balloon.

    “Lonny’s crying mom!” my older sister yelled her hair teased to perfection.

    “No I’m not!” , I defended yanking her headset out the Walkman.

    My balloon dipped out the window and I impulsively reached for it. But then unlike before, I stopped myself and held onto my arm. The metal siding of a fourteen wheeler rushed passed my window in an instant, decimating the crimson balloon

  17. ENCORE

    I watched the dancers rush through the maze of stage props, a leaking cigar balanced between my fingers. My performance’s about to begin, I mused, a smile curling up like the smoke. And this time I have control. My assistant Cassandra walked up, placed my worn bowler on my head.

    “Your disguises have always been ingenious, Vittorio,” she purred, “but this one tops them all.”

    I lowered the cigar to check my watch. “You really think so? This tuxedo is so itchy I want to rip it off and go across the street to the bar instead. But, the show must go on.”

    She laughed. That’s my sister and I, following in our father’s footsteps. They went from a Sicilian village to Chicago’s warehouses, and only I knew how risky it was going to get to maintain them in 1926. Only I knew how, if I didn’t stop this, the torture, the shame, that will destroy our family.

    “We need to go. All our men are in place.”

    She nods, and I braced myself, listened to the crowd on the other side of the curtain. Bernard’s going to be there, and I let go of her for a split second, remembered his chiseled face in the dark, my brother Orlando spewing blood onto the sidewalk, his last words mere rasps.

    “Welcome, one and all, The Amazing Purlicanio!”

    Applause greeted us, my shined feet sharply crossing the stage into the light, both legs intact. I didn’t want to look in his direction, saw the front tables packed, my heart tumbling. Cassandra was behind me with my props, two large bulks draped in cloth.

    “Thank you! Prepare to see magic like you’ve never seen before!”

    With a swift bow, I began my repertoire, the audience gasping excitedly after each trick. Yes, Orlando, you are right beside me. Steady me until the finish. Give me my moment of glory. Let each stabbing memory, your magnetic gaze haunt him, sitting stolidly in his chair.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for our last trick… and the most dangerous.”

    I stiffened. This is the time, to not make the mistake, to not let his bodyguards’ arms close around me. Cassandra whipped aside the cloth. The chandeliers swung, the tinkling crystals reflecting the spotlight onto the wooden box. Bernard’s smug face paled just a little, his stubby fingers threading along his moustache.

    “I need one willing young lady from the crowd,” and I tried to hide my pleasure when his fiancée stood up, made her way to the front. Although he put a stern arm on her, it was useless. She was a cunning red-haired aviatrix who courted danger daily—and mob bosses every four years.

    “We’re going to bind your legs and arms.”

    Cass came forward with the ropes. The woman barely moved as I recollect my years in the Italian Navy, tying knots around her wrists, the crowd hushed all the way up the balcony. Graceful, I admit, from her toes to her swan neck. Shame all she is to me is a token.

    “Now, don’t be alarmed, everyone,” and I allowed a grin to slide through, gazing in his direction, ignoring the hammer blow it brings. “This trick is perfectly safe.”

    I guide her over to the box, flipping open the top.

    “It’s said that exotic spiders from Australia have the worst bite in the world—there’s no cure, and a 100% kill rate. I’m going to place her in this box, and transfer her over to the other one without harm, or the two boxes touching.”

    The crowd murmured, and Bernard’s guards reached inside their pockets. Making sure to have my back to them, I watched her get inside the soundproof container, a tingle in my spine. My eyes said sorry to hers, a pungent green, but the show must go on. Cass closed the lid, and I waited, peering at my ticking watch.

    Thirty seconds went, and I strode to the center of the stage, over the trapdoor I knew was there. Cass walked dramatically to the other box, opened it, Orlando’s bullet-ridden corpse tumbling out. The audience rose as one, Bernard’s face stunned, guns whizzing out, but I tossed my hat towards him, a show of recognition, and I hit the dusty mattress below, already on the move.

    Lead poured through the thick red curtains, machine guns backstage churning above me. Tables overturned, people screeched, glasses of water and opulent cigar boxes smashed on carpet. The mighty dragon roared, his suit now slippery with revenge, his broad chest heaving for one more breath that never came.

    I took a brisk walk down the street, opening up my umbrella, a dizzying freshness in the air. I tipped the newsboy standing at the corner, flipping a coin into the lad’s hand. The sounds of commotion began to arrive, people rushing out, police cars, ambulances.

    In the alleyway behind the old theater, I find the hole again, oddly sickened at what I’ve left behind. Maybe I shouldn’t have killed her, shouldn’t have taken everything from him in return. But that’s a magician’s legacy—shock and deception. And I’ve left behind an encore performance that no one would want to miss.

    (To be honest, this feels forced and too long to me. Any criticism is appreciated. GH)

    • Observer Tim says:

      This doesn’t feel forced to me, Bilbo. It reads like the magician’s act: over too soon and with a little bit of “how did he do that?”

      If I was really intent on criticism, the only point in the narrative that seemed rushed was the magic show, between “Prepare to see…” and when the fiance is called up. Stage magic is about concentration, so the paragraph in between about Orlando, while important, weakens the scene somewhat. Perhaps just a quick nod to him and a longer description of the show…

      Everybody loves a magic show, even people who try to figure out the tricks.

  18. Jack says:

    In middle school my teacher told us that the Mayans couldn’t see Cortez’s ship sitting offshore even though it was perfectly visible, because they just didn’t have any concept for what was right in front of them. That’s how I felt at the bottom of the sinkhole.

    When the ground fell away under me the mower blades must have struck rock because my face had dozens of little gashes. For what felt like a while, all I could think about was the smell of gas-burnt earth and the dark, so dark I felt like I could touch it. But I probed with my hands tentatively thrusting in all directions, finding nothing.

    Finally a pin-prick in the distance. I shambled toward it, arms still stretching out trying and failing to gauge the width and height of the hole I was in. As I approached the light got brighter, and an image came into view. My mother asleep on her side, legs tucked into her chest and the blanket held in place with clenched fists. She was never relaxed, even in sleep. I was standing by her bed, aged nine, a stick figure in a striped shirt and puffy hair, and I finally knew what I was seeing.

    I had been caught stealing from the lunch room that day. The teacher promised to call my parents but my mother worked two jobs and would pass out drunk and exhausted, sometimes in bed, sometimes on the couch, in the bathtub, once or twice face down on the dinner table…

    A phone rang on the nightstand. If she would just wake up, everything would be different. I knew it the way everything in dreams and altered states is known. The boy I used to be tensed up, just like he always had, looking from the phone, back to his mother—my mother—to the phone again.

    “Mom!” I yelled. “Wake up!” I was running as hard as I could. The boy looked at me with a combination of shame and reproach. It was too late, I thought, meeting his gaze. Or too early, really. I ran but the image did not get any closer.

    The phone rang again, the tenth ring. After it stopped there was silence. The person on the other line had given up. I collapsed and screamed “Mom!” again but she didn’t stir. A few seconds passed and the phone started again, and I ran but my mother didn’t answer the phone. The boy accepted long before I could that there was no hope of me waking her up. Finally I saw that I was only hurting him. I did all I could to smile at him and then without a word I turned back the way I came.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Your story is full of sadness and remorse. Very vivid descriptions. I’m going to take a stab at this. The reason he wanted his mother to answer was to receive the information he had stolen. She could have intervened in his life and changed his attitude toward stealing.

      Because she didn’t, he led a life of crime, ending up in prison. Am I anywhere close?
      If this is your first post, welcome to the forum. I’m interested in your next post.

  19. GeneDaniels says:

    The ground became soggy and I pushed hard against the mower with my body weight to make it move. Without warning, the lawnmower inched forward and dissapeared into the ground. There before me lay an odd vision– a 3 x 3 foot circle of spiraling rainbow light– a technicolor pit like the ones from an old 60′s cartoon.

    I stepped forward for a closer look and the ground gave way, thrusting me downward through the pit and almost instantly returning me to my original postion in the yard. I stepped forward a second time and was rotated again like a rotiseree chicken through the pit only to walk forward into the collapsing lights.

    Each trip was the same– the blowing trees, the dying grass, the neighbors dog peeing in a tulip bed, the giggling children blowing bubbles to my left and of course me, walking forward, falling and returning, stuck in an eternal loop.

    • lionetravail says:

      Cool idea, GeneDaniels, only now I want to know how he gets out of this :)

      • Observer Tim says:

        Like he said.

        You painted the scene beautifully, but we need a resolution. I know, “What part of eternal don’t I understand?” But leaving it hanging after so short a build-up has a strong chance of leaving a reader like me unsatisfied.

        Weirdly enough, a more full description would complete this story without providing a resolution. The biggest issue I see is that it’s too short.

  20. flaboba says:

    I tried unsuccessfully to post this yesterday so please forgive me if it double posted. I have cleaned it up a bit.

    “Brother”

    A man balanced on his haunches chipping away at layers of withered clay. The noon sun beat down upon his leathered shoulders, spared only slightly by coats of filth and dust. The moon had shone seventeen times since his last face-to-face encounter.

    Before, he had never known, or even imagined, feelings of loneliness, stress or hunger. He had never fathomed that there was anything beyond the security of his family and home, or the mere possibility that either could cease to exist. For the first time the man felt shame and anger towards himself. His negligence and naiveté had brought him to this place.

    In the beginning he struggled to comprehend the impact of his reaction. Days turned into weeks as he watched his mother lie heaving on the ground, her hollow eyes blackened from crying and sleepless desperation. His once majestic father hunched over his mother, helpless to ease her suffering, and paralyzed by his own grief. The few occasions that his father did glance his way, he appeared to look right through him. The women and children were cloistered in a cave on the far side of the pool, cut off from his presence as if an invisible wall separated him from everyone and everything he had ever known. In seconds his world had ceased to exist.

    The agony he had brought upon his family, and the isolation he had brought himself crushed him inch by inch till he felt the urge to run as fast and far as he could. He ran until he could no longer see anything familiar.
    The man had never been lost before. Grief was replaced by the fear that he might never find his people again. If he could find them, he would live secretly on the outskirts just close enough to be able to hear the voices, and see the children whose faces were already fading in his mind. The man lay down on the soft moss and cried himself to sleep while raindrops mingled with salt, staining the ground with his tears.

    The man walked for days. He passed the wet forest, through the dry forest, by the meadows, to the edge of the dry earth. Maybe this was the place where he could find the One who could help him get home. His grandfather had always said the Maker had made them out of the brown dirt.

    He scraped and poked the soil with the stick, peeling away at the crust until the stick poked clean through a hole. Liquid bubbled up through the opening, seeping across the dirt. He reached to touch the liquid with his cracked, grimy, fingers. It was water. He could smell it, but it felt just like the bubbling of the liquid that ran from his brother’s head.

    “Look at me Cain! Look at me!” he heard his brother’s voice taunting.
    “I beat you again.” Abel laughed, but his laugh was cut short by the rock Cain sent hurdling towards his head.

    • lionetravail says:

      A very interesting idea here, with a minor redirect of the prompt! Nice way to turn the prompt to another historical figure, and with a novel reveal at the end… in a constructive way, I’d suggest that the end could be tightened a bit- I love everything up to the “Look at me Cain” part, because it’s hard without more story to understand:

      was he seeing his dead brother as a ‘haunting’, reflected in the pool, hearing his voice?
      was he tormented by guilt?
      was Abel somehow there? Just a bit more at the end would make your intentions clearer… though, it’s probably been an effective story since I want to know more!

      Nicely done.

      • flaboba says:

        Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I very much appreciate your critique and encouragement and absolutely agree. My idea was that he was racked with guilt and reliving the moment but I see it definitely does need to be refined and defined :)

    • Observer Tim says:

      I very much like this, flaboba. lionetravail’s comments are clear and reasonable; my only addition is that the tale would have been better if you’d dropped one or two more hints (nothing blatant) about the situation beforehand. There’s always a risk of breaking the reveal, but a total reversal at the last instant is a bit of a mental gear shift for me.

      Welcome to the site, and keep on writing!

  21. flaboba says:

    Captivating

  22. jhowe says:

    I toned this short one down a bit. My first story was a little dark. Sorry about that.

    I emerged from the tunnel with constricted limbs. The pressure was immense. I felt a cool breeze and there was some relief from the squeezing constrictions though I still fought for a breath of air. Finally I was able to breathe after a sharp blow elicited a reaction.

    I was able to relax at last after a perilous journey through blindness and vile substances. The reprieve was short lived though as one of the many masked figures approached with a tool of mass destruction. “No,” I shouted but no sound escaped other than a piercing wail. There was a slight pinching in my mid-section but it wasn’t a fraction as bad as I anticipated.

    More masked figures manipulated and probed. One of them dressed me in strange garments which were welcome as I realized my nakedness. I was placed on a soft mountainous terrain which I found strangely tranquil. It was then that I was able to comprehend my situation. It was apparent I had made a serious error with the controls of the time machine.

  23. girl-in-progress says:

    Future Happiness

    ***

    My father already decided my career for me even before I was potty-trained.

    “Jane, sweetness,” he said as he laid down three things before me: a tiny gavel, a pen, and a pair of plastic scissors. “Because you picked this gavel, you’ll be our family’s attorney. We’ll count on you when we’ll screw up with our lives.”

    With that being said, I guess I didn’t have the time to defend myself.

    Fast forward.

    Ben was still asleep on the couch when I headed back after my morning run. We fought last night because he didn’t mow the lawn again. I kept nagging him to give it some TLC since Tuesday but to no avail. This morning, I peeked outside to check our lawn and I couldn’t help cursing. Ben didn’t cut the grass again.

    I didn’t try to wake him up any longer for we would just end up waking our neighbors. Desperate to keep our lawn healthy and to avoid chaos, I decided to do the mowing myself. I took one last bite of toast and stormed out of the backdoor. I directly went to the shed where the mower is kept and started the motor.

    As I trimmed the grass, I spotted a watering hole just a few inches from where I stand. It was so big and clear that a person could actually fit right in. My eyes couldn’t believe it! The hole’s not there the last time I checked. I turned the mower off and leaned forward to examine the mysterious hole. Then, as quick as a wink, I fell straight down, down, down….

    When my feet touched the ground again, I started looking for an escape but everything was in pitch black. I was afraid of darkness so I tried groping for anything to hold onto. All of a sudden, I felt something cold—it was a door knob. I twisted it and the door sprang open as if it was left unlocked for me. I slowly went inside until I could hear voices cheering.

    “Choose! Choose! Choose!”

    From the harmony of voices, I heard something familiar. It was my father’s booming voice. I moved closer until I was head-to-head with my father and…my younger self.

    “Just choose one, Janey.” my father said as he slyly pushed the tiny gavel in front of me. “Choose what makes you happy,” he whispered.

    I couldn’t believe my father effortlessly manipulating me even in the past.

    “I just don’t understand. Why was he forcing me to pick up the gavel and not the pen nor the scissors?” I said deep in thought.

    All I knew is that I had to choose one among these three things in front of me. My father said my future happiness depends on them so I closed my eyes, scrambled the three, and carefully selected one.

    Krrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrringggggggggggggg!

    “Hello? Jane Austen speaking.”

    “Janey? This is your father. I read your book.” There was a slight pause.

    “I always knew you were a writer Janey!”
    ###

    • Heh, one of those fathers. That was pretty good, girl-in-progress. I kept wondering how you would change the past to make the future different. There seemed to be no apparent inner struggle with her job as an attorney, so I kept wondering where you were going with the focus on her careers. :) Good job.

      That said, get those tense shifts under control and add some character turmoil sprinkled throughout and you’ll have a real bread winner! :D Always a pleasure reading your stories, girl.

    • EverLasting says:

      Hmm, of course he always knew Jane was a writer. ;)

      Funny and well written.

      Good job Girl.

    • lionetravail says:

      Very cute take, and the Jane Austen reveal was very clever. There was one tense change to watch out for, (The hole’s not there the last time…) just to be aware of. Oh, and one semi-funny thing: Jane Austen lived pre-telephone, I think. It didn’t interfere with the story at all, but I had a suspicion and then had to look it up to see when she lived.

      I also love the end, as Jane’s father takes credit for her great writing :) How typical!

      Great story, nicely written, and a new take, getting into someone-famous’ head.

      • girl-in-progress says:

        Thanks lionetravail! Yes, I’ll do watch for those tense shifts. :)

        You were right, Jane Austen lived pre-telephone. She didn’t become a lawyer and was never married either. Lol. I just tried to make her modern!

    • Observer Tim says:

      Nice story, girl-in-progress. It manages to be both serious and light at the same time.

  24. EverLasting says:

    I was lying in a field of yellow daisies. The beauty, the tranquility, was almost soothing. Almost. As i sat there, i reflected on my “life”. I smiled as i remembered my high school sweetheart, Bill Hawthorne. After High School–a dull place, by the way–he’d wanted to marry me. I had wanted to say yes, but i didn’t. My parents had wanted me to go to college. They’d been so proud of me. I was an only child. Thanks to a friend–and a good voice behind me–I’d gotten into the entertainment business at age thirteen, and made a good chunk of cash to pay for tuition. I remembered vividly hearing for the first time that he hadn’t waited for me. He’d married Alison Newberry instead. I hate her. My heart broke again just thinking about it. Of course; they were happy….and they’d had a few kids. It was selfish of me….but I’d have wished so many times to be in Alison’s shoes.

    Nobody loved me. I screamed out of pure anger at the world. Suddenly, the earth shook beside me. My happy little vision faded. Ah. On one of the walls, there was a gaping hole. “Where could this go?” I wondered curiously. I walked inside…then…well….outside? I glanced about. Time Travel? Interesting! Sigh. High School, again. “Mary Jane!” I turned and was swept up by none other then Billy. He kissed me then grinned. “Mary….I love you.” He whispered. “Oh, Billy. I love you too.” I said happily. “Will you marry me?” He asked again. With no hesitation, i replied, “YES!” He picked me up and twirled me around. “Put me down. I’m dizzy.” I said. He did. We started dancing. We were married the next day. Life was so beautiful. There was a distant bang….and i was free.

    Three years later

    The nurse was going through files for fun again. “Whats this?” She asked. She picked up a folder with the name Mary….

    “Huh. Lot of entries.”

    Mary Jane Lawrence.
    Age twenty-two.
    Submitted September First, Nineteen-Fourty.

    Characteristics;

    Will, among other things, babble about imaginary people and untrue events.
    Refers to this asylum as her “college”, and her first asylum as “High school” even though she was submitted there at thirteen.

    Was transferred here due to overflow.

    There was a breech in security that lead to her escape on October Twentieth, Nineteen-Fourty-nine.

    A policeman, John Michelson, happened to be on his rounds, and discovered her “dancing” with an invisible figure at her first asylum. She spotted John watching and picked up a brick, while in a “trance-like” state. She attacked him. He was forced to shoot.

    She is now buried with her family, who she actually killed by setting the house on fire with her Father’s pipe.

    “Poor, crazy Mary.” Said the nurse.

    She closed the file.

    • EverLasting says:

      I know i know, this is fairly bad…

      It’s my first time writing and any advice (no matter how harsh) will be appreciated.

      Ps; I’m not entirely sure how to work this website yet (*facepalm*) so if this pops up on anyone else’s story, sorry! it was suppose to go to mine. :)

      • jhowe says:

        Let me start by saying I really enjoyed this story. Lots of twists and unexpected reveals. You did a nice job of weaving us through Mary’s mindset, which by design, was not real clear, as you would expect from a woman like this.

        As far as suggestions go, I would use numerals for 1940 instead of spelling it. It also helps keep the word count down.

        Be carefule to capitalize your I when referring to yourself.

        When two people are talking, I try to seperate the dialog into individual paragraphs, even if there are just a few words, with a space between each paragraph.

        This is really good for your first story. I look forward to seeing more.

        • EverLasting says:

          Thank you so much Jhowe! :D

          I really appriciate the advice.
          I think i see what you mean, and I’ll try to work on that. :)

          Also, are we allowed to post multiple stories on each prompt or no?

          • Observer Tim says:

            Oh yeah. We’ve got a fair number of “serial prompters” on the site, and several people who also play games with the structure, design and linkage of the prompts. I should know, I’m one of them.

    • Observer Tim says:

      I see no need to apologize, EverLasting. This is a great look into Mary’s mind. Jhowe’s advice is a great site, I’m sure like the rest of us you’ll get plenty of fine-tuning. You already seem to know how to fit a whole story into a cramped space. :)

      Welcome to the site!

    • girl-in-progress says:

      What a cool and dark concept you got there EverLasting! Keep on writing and welcome to WD!

  25. flaboba says:

    “Brother”

    A man balanced on his haunches chipping away at layers of withered clay. The noon sun beat his leathered shoulders, spared only slightly by coats of filth and dust. The moon had shone seventeen times since his last face-to-face encounter.

    Before, he had never known or even imagined feelings of loneliness, stress or hunger. He had never fathomed that there was anything beyond the security of his family and home or the possibility that either could cease to exist. For the first time the man felt shame and anger towards himself. His negligence and naiveté had brought him to this place.

    In the beginning he struggled to comprehend the impact of his reaction. Days turned into weeks as he watched his mother lie heaving on the ground, her hollow eyes blackened from crying and sleepless desperation. His once majestic father hunched over his mother, helpless to ease her suffering and paralyzed by his own grief. The few occasions that his father did glance his way, he appeared to look right through him. The women and children were cloistered in a cave on the far side of the pool, cut off from his presence as if an invisible wall separated him from everyone and everything he had ever known. In seconds his world had ceased to exist.

    The agony he had brought upon his family and the isolation he had brought himself crushed him inch by inch till he felt the urge to run as fast and far as he could. He ran until he could no longer see anything familiar.
    The man had never been lost before. Grief was replaced by the fear that he might never find his people again. If he could find them he would live secretly on the outskirts just close enough to be able to hear the voices and see the children who’s faces were already fading in his mind. The man lay down on the soft moss and cried himself to sleep while raindrops mingled with salt stained the ground with his tears.

    The man walked and walked for days. He had passed the wet forest, through the dry forest, by the meadows to the edge of the dry earth. Maybe this was the place where he could find the one who could help him get home. His grandfather had always said the maker had made them out of the brown dirt.

    He scraped and poked the soil with his stick, peeling away at the crust until the stick poked clean through a hole. Liquid bubbled up through the opening seeping across the dirt. He reached down to touch the liquid with his cracked, grimy, fingers. It was water. He could smell it. But it felt just like the bubbling of the liquid that ran from his brother’s head.

    “Look at me Cain! Look at me!” he heard his brother’s voice taunting.

    “I beat you again,” Abel laughed, but his laugh was cut short by the rock Cain had aimed directly at his head.

    • usedname says:

      Wow, really great stuff there. The build up was nice and I could read the mood clearly. I loved how you saved that it was Cain until the end. Very good character description too. I clearly got the biblical allusion and appreciated Cain’s Pov. however i don’t really see how it relates to the prompt. Perhaps you were going for the hole (the stick in mud) indirectly bringing him back to his memories instead of a literal tunnel into the past.

  26. M G says:

    –This one got away from me…in more ways than one. —

    In the summertime where the weather is hot…

    Moisture filled every pore of my body. My T-shirt clung to me like a wetsuit.

    You can stretch right up and touch the sky.

    The air was hot and thick. It felt as if I was weighted down, walking in the deep end of a swimming pool.

    When the weather’s fine…

    Pollen was wreaking havoc on my allergies.

    You got women, you got women on your mind.

    Perspiration coursed down my cheeks and cascaded off of my chin.

    Have a drink, have a drive…

    Sweat stung my eyes.

    Go out and see what you can find.

    But all was well…all was well…

    At that moment, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Mrs. Garcia appear to be yelling something at me from across the street, waving her arms emphatically. “What’s up!” I said, while pulling the headphones away from my ear.

    “I say is a hot one – too hot to be cutting the grass.” Mrs. Garcia’s sweet body was outfitted in cut-off denim shorts, which only covered about the upper four inches of her thighs, and a white tank-top, which due to the now blessed heat, was a bit translucent, slightly exposing her white ample bra. “You gonna get a heatstrrrow.”

    “A whaaa?” I asked, as I killed the motor. “What’s that?”

    “Heatstrrrow. It’s too hot, you gonna catch a heatstrrrow.

    Ah, a heatstroke. She’s adorable. “Yeah, I hear ya. Almost done, though. Small yard. Lucky,” I said, as I began to garner a greater appreciation for the stifling solstice. She smiled and then we waved each other off.

    I threw the Sony’s back on my head, pulled the cord and fired the mower back up. Queue Mungo…

    Chh chh-chh, uh, Chh chh-chh, uh.
    Chh chh-chh, uh, Chh chh-chh, uh.

    .
    “Oh Shhh!” The words escaped me without will. My headphones yanked off my ears and collard my neck. The mower listed left, hard. I braced myself, and with a thrust forward, cleared the hole without injury. I gave a quick a look around and surveyed the neighbors, no one in attendance. I dropped to one knee and peered over the ledge. I inched my face closer, submerged below ground-level, and for some reason, sniffed — smelled like dirt. Then something grabbed me, not physically, but it was as tangible a resistance that can be felt without touch. Actually, it was more like a pull.

    In one swift move, I grasped the ground beside me, turned and lowered myself into the hole, while still hanging from the ledge like a fat kid struggling to do a pull-up in gym class. I started the countdown at five, but before I got to four, I let go.

    The descent and the landing were both instantaneous and simultaneous. There was no crash. There wasn’t even a thud. No hellfire, no snakes, no rotting corpses. No China. I was in an entirely different place, an entirely different time.

    “Hey,” she said, as she leaned in and briskly kissed my cheek. “Where’d you go? Thought you bailed.”

    I stood and stared dumbfounded. I hadn’t seen Megan in fifteen years – fourteen years, three months and one week to be exact and its wound was mortal in subtlety; a slit which bleeds for years…forever.

    “What’s a matta? Sick already?” Megan asked, as the left side of her mouth slowly stretched up and towards her ear in a frisky and intoxicating grin. “Can’t handle your liquor, punk?” Her sapphire eyes sparkled, her skin soft and ageless.

    A lot of kids…teenagers…nineteen-nighty-nine! HOLY SH–

    “What the hell is wrong with you?” Megan’s playfulness changed to concern.

    “What time is it?” was all I can muster.

    Megan dipped her hand into the pocketbook slung from her shoulder and pulled out a pretty pink beeper, “Ten to.”

    “Ten to what?”

    “Eleven. What do you think the ten is to?” Her eyebrows beetled and eyes dimmed to a slight squint. Both cheeks raised and her mouth tightened. “Where were you? You didn’t go smoke with Tyson and them, did you?”

    “What? No, no…..” Within what was probably seven seconds, I tried to pray every prayer I could remember: The Hail Mary, The Lord’s Prayer, The Star Spangled Banner and The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States. I searched for words. I searched for meaning. I searched for courage like that son of a b-tch from Oz.

    F-ck this.

    I cupped the sides of her head in my palms and pulled her close. The music muted. Voices silenced. I gently swiped her cheek with my thumb, feeling every fiber of flesh on her soft, warm face. I took it all in, with all of my senses: the touch of her jaw, the fresh scent of her hair, the erratic bass of my heart, the surreal sight of her splendidness, the taste of atonement.

    Our mouths touched, lips primed and slightly open. The warm feel of her breath comforted my upper lip. My tongue tingled as if I had a mouthful of Pop Rocks. My hands explored her hair. Her arms tightly secured my waist.

    “Megan, I –“

    “Ay Dios, mio! Ay Dios mio!” The neighbor, Mrs. Garcia, cradled her 6-month old in her arms. They were both in tears, but for different reasons. Two Police units and an ambulance were parked at the curb, lights flashing, but sirens off. The officers asking questions, filing reports. The medics sealing a large, black bag before shutting the door of the ambulance. The excavator was shuffling dirt and clearing debris from the cavernous ditch in the front yard. The smell of sewage soured the air.

  27. JPLeonard says:

    Okay fourth attempt to post here. Long story, sorry, 1199 words. I’m a newbie, so be forgiving of my many mistakes.

    Love the many takes on the prompt, love the talent here too.

    ————————————————————————————-

    Storm clouds were brewing to the west, and a warm breeze was rustling through the knee-high grass I was attempting to mow. The worn out Murray I was using kept bogging down and dying. I was working harder cranking the lawnmower than I was mowing the grass. I pushed forward cocking the front up and slowly let it down on the thick damp grass. There was no way I was going to be done before the storm arrived, but I continued.
    “Damn it!” It died again.
    I pulled the cord, nothing. I pulled it again, still nothing. I pulled the mower back a few feet, cocked up the front and stuck my hand under. After pulling a damp clump of clippings from around the blade, I stood up and attempted to crank it several more times, still nothing. My blood pressure rose with frustration. I needed a break, but decided I should check the gas first.
    “Imagine that.” It was empty.
    My gas can was sitting next to a lawn chair under the oak tree at the far corner of the yard. In the summer heat it looked like it was miles away, but the glass of iced tea resting in the chair’s cup holder offered justifiable reward for the heated trek.
    As I emerged from the tall grass into the shade of the tree, I noticed Jasmine, my chocolate Labrador prodding curiously at a small hole in the dirt.
    “Whatcha got there girl?” I asked. She ignored me and continued digging in the dirt. I sat down, facing the opposite direction and took a couple of big gulps.
    “Ah! That’s good.” I said with relief.
    The sunlight dimmed and I looked to the sky. The storm clouds were overhead. Lightning struck, thunder rumbled, and the rain began to come down. Under the cover of the old oak, I enjoyed a light sprinkling through the branches. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes letting little droplets fall against my face. It felt good.
    Water flowed around my feet following the slope of the yard. I kicked my shoes off and put my feet in the cool runoff. I looked back at Jasmine. She was backing away from the hole as the runoff puddled in its place. She settled next to my chair, still staring at the pool of water where the hole had been. Something about that hole really bothered her.
    Lightning stuck again, the thunder was louder and closer this time. Jasmine crawled under my chair, but continued watching the pool of water.
    “Don’t worry about that hole. I’ll let you dig it up later.” She looked at me, and then looked back at the pooling water.
    “We’d better get up to the house.” I stood up. “You ready to run girl?” She was half way to the house by the time I finished asking.
    Lightning struck again, hitting a transformer near the house. The explosion shook the ground and rustled the old oak’s leaves. Then the ground caved in beneath my feet, and I fell deep, landing with a thud.
    The hole was big, at least eight feet deep, and nearly as wide. Runoff was rushing over the edge like a waterfall, and Jasmine was standing at the top looking down barking at me.
    “I’m okay.” I told her as I stood up. “I’m okay.” I checked myself, unsure of my words. I was.
    How am I going to get out of here? I wondered.
    I looked around trying to find a way up…
    my lawn chair. It had taken the fall with me, and it was tall enough to get my hands within reach of the old oak’s roots that were protruding from the side of the hole. After several slippery attempts, I successfully used the chair and the roots to pull my way out.
    I stood at the edge of the hole, looking down, letting the rain wash the mud and the muck off my clothes. I could hear Jasmine at the sliding glass doors up at the house, barking as if saying “Let me in! Let me in!” Then I heard something else, a whisper from the hole.
    “J-a-m-e-s . . . J-a-m-e-s . . .”
    Was it really talking to me?
    Reluctantly I answered, “Uh, hello?”
    The whispering voice came again. “James, if you could change something, a choice you made in the past, what would it be?”
    I thought for a moment as a flood of memories from my past raced through my mind. Bad relationships, lost loved ones, and bad career choices, it all crossed my mind.
    “I . . . I don’t know. It doesn’t matter anyhow. I cannot change the past. What’s done is done.” I answered.
    “Oh, but I can . . . I can change it. Pick something, anything, and see, but beware. I can only change one decision, one time for you. You cannot turn back from the choice you make today.”
    I sat down, dangling my feet over the edge into the hole and lit a cigarette. I thought long and hard about everything that I had been through, all that I had done in my forty years. I feared that changing my past would change my present. What would I gain? What would I lose? Was it worth it? Would I regret it? I feared the opportunity. Then it hit me, clear as the rain falling from the sky. In every memory, every thought, there was one thing that I noticed, a weakness of mine, a plague that would be my ultimate demise. I quickly reached my hand down into my pocket and pulled out my cigarettes and lighter. I looked at them, saddened. They had been my friend, my comfort for so many years.
    “Here, take these.” I tossed them into the muddy pool of water. “I wish I had never stolen that first cigarette when I was a kid. I wished I never started smoking.” My eyes filled with tears as I thought about all the years that I had spent smoking, the damaged cough of my weakened lungs, and the advanced tooth decay that filled my mouth. I threw the cigarette I was smoking into the pit.
    The rain stopped, the sky cleared, and the air filled with steam rising from the hole. When the steam cleared the hole was gone. The ground was dry. I wiped my eyes and took a deep breath, as deep as I could. My lungs did not hurt anymore. I did not cough. It felt amazing.
    I ran up to the house, patted Jasmine on the head as I went inside, she followed. I went to the bathroom and smiled brightly into the mirror. All my teeth, they were there, whole, shiny and white. I could not believe what I was seeing, but it was true. Everything was new again.
    Suddenly, I could not remember why I was standing in front of the mirror looking so happy. I just knew that I loved life, life was good, and I was happy to be alive. I smiled at my reflection in the mirror.
    You are crazy. I thought to myself. I turned out the bathroom light and went back outside to finish mowing the yard.

    • Sorry, I was out of the office on vacation.

      When you’re new to posting to the site, your posts go into a folder and need to be approved before they get posted–and I’m the one that has to approve them to confirm the posts aren’t spam (we get a TON of spam). Once I approve the first couple, you won’t have problems anymore and the posts will show up automatically and immediately. Often, if the first posts by a new user are on Friday afternoon or over the weekend or on a day I’m not in the office, I won’t be able to go through the folder until I return.

      Anyway, you are now approved and can post away! Welcome to the Writer’s Digest community.
      Brian
      Online Editor

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      For a first entry, it’s a really good story. A couple of mechanical thing you can to to make the read easier. Double space between lines of dialogue and between paragraphs. Makes the reading easier on the eyes. The italics thing is a bugger to use. You see your story finished all the way with it.

      Frankley, I enjoyed the story so much, I hardly noticed it.

      Welcome, we’re a friendly group here. We’re all learning to write. Post again, I’m ready to read it.

    • Observer Tim says:

      I can only echo Kerry’s comment. Welcome aboard!

      Your MC made the choice that marks the only “easy” way to quit an addiction, and you painted it so wonderfully. Unlike most anti-smoking messages, this one doesn’t feel heavy-handed.

  28. “Summer of ’46″

    There’s nothing I imagine that is worthy of note in my life. Born to a small family of three, my father was a metal worker who died in 1943 at a battle in Sicily and my mother, once my father died, volunteered her services to the war effort. The Nazis executed her in the summer of ’45 after Germany attacked her arms plant and won the fight she bravely fought. As for me, I was nothing more than an eighteen year old son of a military man who couldn’t fight because I was the only one left in his family.

    In the summer of ’46, I was a nineteen-year-old with a strong back, so I worked the labor camps the Nazis built near my hometown in West Virginia. After the war ended, they realized they could use most people to work for them while the Germans enjoyed their freedom from hard work, so they stopped the execution of most of the able-bodied men and women.

    It wasn’t completely unbearable since I worked the fields, which weren’t monitored as much as all the other areas of “The Farm”. It was equally better because I worked with my good friend Willy, a Negro who saved my life four times in that camp. He was my best friend, a kind and gentle man who taught me a lot of things about life that I still carry with my to this day.

    On July 10, 1946, just as the sun cracked over the edge of the horizon, I pushed the manual mower along a field I would later till. I wiped my already sun-scorched skin clear, licked my salty lips, and took a break. I wasn’t allowed to, but there weren’t any guards around to stop me.

    As a Christian, I recalled as a young boy the things I would pray for: a wooden train, a pellet gun, and so many other things. That day I prayed for them to care for Willy. The guards the day before abused one of our bunkmates, and Willy snapped. He killed the guard, and was arrested. They immediately put him to death by driving a spike through his skill, and they made all of us watch to ensure we understood the consequences.

    As I stood there in that field of misery, I prayed for a better world. I prayed, thanking the Lord that my father, mother, and Willy didn’t have to live in a world controlled by the Nazis. I prayed for forgiveness because I’d stolen a shard of stained glass from the rectory and planned to kill myself that morning.

    Instead, a hole opened in the ground. I tightened my grip upon the glass and looked into that hole. Inside I saw a man feverishly hiding inside a bunker. He looked my direction, though he didn’t seem to see me. It was Hitler, the man responsible for the world’s plight.

    I don’t know what possessed me to jump into that hole, but in no time at all I was in Hitler’s bunker. He looked at me wide-eyed. The fear in his eyes burned more powerfully than I’d ever seen. He tried to run, but I grabbed him and threw him to the ground.

    As I held him there, a woman lay on the ground. It was Eva. It was rumored that she killed herself when she thought the war would go south, but it appeared he’d killer her. I don’t know why, and I didn’t care to ask. Instead, I reached up grabbed the gun laying on the desk and, without hesitation, fired all the rounds into him.

    With his final dying breath he said, “Eva.”

    When I stood, I began toward the hole in the wall but it disappeared. The wall reformed, leaving nothing but a calendar in its place. The date was April 30th, 1945. Somehow, I’d traveled back in time, and through my rage killed the reason for the end of humanity as I knew it.

    I suspect the reason I couldn’t go back is because time had changed. My father was still dead, bless his brave heart. When I arrived back in Virginia, my mother waited for me. I couldn’t explain where I’d gone, only that I wasn’t home when she got back from her shift at the warehouse. I tried to track down Willy, but he’d died anyway during the final battles in Germany. No doubt he went swinging like a true sailor.

    I know this story sounds crazy, but I wanted you understand the role your father played in my life, and that he is the reason we are all here today. Willy was a great man, and this story shows you how much of an impact he made in my life, which gave me the courage to do what needed to be done. I’ll pray for you and your family, and you’re all welcome at my home any time.

    Sincerely,

    Justin T. Walsh

    • Sorry, inspiration struck, I hope you all enjoy this one!

      • derrdevil says:

        Justin Walsh / Jay Wilson – JW . . . Coincidence?! I think not! The man who saved the world. Lol. You just couldn’t help yourself huh…

        I loved the writing, as always. But the story was as if I just picked up a literary fiction and began to read… And just got hooked. Mostly because the mc had a really strong voice, and an even better story!

    • Observer Tim says:

      Great story, Jay. I’ve been waiting for the lost dystopia, and you’ve managed to capture it and put it on display in all its glory.

      • I’ve been dying to do a dystopian story, and this one felt like it really hit the mark with me. I would love to explore that type of reality, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t do this short justice! Thanks for the read and comment, Mr. Smith!

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          I’ve always liked your writing Jay. Especially since we both did time travel this week. We must be seeing the same inspiration rays. This needs a continuation. Sort of a serial series. Same MC, different places and times. What do you think?

          • I like the way you think, Kerry. Perhaps other prompts I’ll try to tackle this character again, but I’m scared I wouldn’t be able to recreate the character for something like that. That would be interesting, though, to have him tell his stories through letters to various people whose lives were changed by his travels.

            Hmm, you may be on to something, Kerry. Also, I’m gonna have to check your response to this one. I swear I looked for it and didn’t see it, was kind of disappointed when I thought you didn’t write one. lol Onward!

        • lionetravail says:

          Was a great choice, and nicely told :)

    • Wow! I love alternative history, so this hit home for me. Great plot, and you described the harsh life in the camps well.

  29. thejim says:

    Sorry for the length. Wont let it happen again. -

    Out on the side lawn where the colossal oak tree shaded the earth from the heat of the sun, a hole appeared. There was nothing unusual about this hole there were no swirling multi colored beams dancing around it, there were no sounds seeping out. There was just a hole.

    Gary, made his way to the shadows of the tree. The heat was too much for him and the John Deer push mower was extra heavy today for some reason. Even though the lawn desperately needed to be prepped and readied for this weekend’s festivities. It was the Gary’s sister’s annual birthday party. It was always a big deal. Gary was the perfect uncle\brother, still a bachelor, he had purchased a house in the burbs just so that Jenny’s twin girls could have an enough room to run and play. It was always a joy to have them all over, even if it was almost every weekend.

    Standing in the coolness of the shade, Gary looked at the hole with puzzlement. It was very deep, he knelt down beside it, and the tall grass tickled his arm. The closer he got to the hole an image appeared, faint, soft, not well lit, but still an image or maybe a movie. The closer his head came to the hole the better he could see it till he was lying on the ground with his head stuck in the hole.

    A small boy was in a bedroom playing hide and seek. Gary saw the boy going into his parent’s closet to hide. In came his older brother. “I know you’re in here”, said the older boy. After looking around the room, he said with a loud, deliberate voice, “maybe not” and turns to leave the room, “I bet you’re in the basement”. Instead of leaving the room the older boy tiptoes over to the closet.

    Gary pulls his head out of the hole. Stood up and walked directly to the house.

    The morning dew settled peacefully on the lawn mower left abandoned in the half mowed track. Gary with a hot cup of coffee in hand approached the hole, this time the hole was larger the first time he saw it, now it was the size of a manhole. Gary laid down and peeked his head once again into the hole. He again saw the boy enter into the closet and the older boy tip toeing in to find him. This time Gary did not pull his head out of the hole, but continued to watch the nightmare unfold before him like a million dreams of nightmares rolled into one, a lifetime of regret, fear and pain returned.

    Before the little boy could get up from be discovered hiding on the closet floor. A man walked in.
    “How many times have I told you never to come in here” he screamed in an evil voice that still made Gary shake. With a mighty back hand the older boys head whipped to the side from the blow and his body followed. The corner of the table caught his head and blood immediately started to pour out. The drunk man said “you think about that” and stormed out of the room. Gary saw the young boy run to the older one but it was already too late his lifeless body lay motionless on the floor.

    Gary stood up with tears streaming down his face made his way to the lawn mower but decided it could wait.

    Three days had passed and Gary stood on the edge of the hole. This time he jumped in. He was in the closet next to the small boy they looked at each other. “I bet you’re in the basement.” Came from outside the dark closet. Gary reached up to the shelf above the clothes hanging so neatly pressed and took down the gun he knew was there and loaded it with the ammunition that sat at the back of the shelf. The door opened and the older boy just stood there with a puzzled look on his face. The loud, boisterous voice entered the room ““How many times have I told you never to come in here.” As the arm of the large man raised the gun shot came.

    Gary was woken up by a swift kick to the butt. He eyes opened slowly and the lawn mower came into focus. “Get you butt up you lazy loser” said a voice from above. Gary’s head turned to see his older brother Dan standing over him He would recognize those caring eyes at any age.
    Gary stood up and gave his brother a big hug. “What’s that for?” Gary just smiled, looked at Dan and said nothing.

    Well come on, you know what today is? Dan said. Gary looked down to see a bouquet of flowers in his hand. Ah… Jenny’s birthday, he thought.

    Gary stood perplexed. What was going on? Dan had driven him out to the Restful Pines Cemetery and he followed Dan, as he made his way through the maze of headstones. They now stood in front of what appeared to be Jenny’s grave site.

    Dan approached the headstone and lay down the flowers. “Happy birthday my sweet Jenny.” Gary with a confused look slowly turned his gaze to Dan. “I wish that gunshot had killed that bastard, He was worse than ever after his recovery, I still can’t believe he lived after the car crash, it should have been him and not Jenny.” Dan said in a low somber voice. “My sweet Jenny… happy birthday”.

    Gary stood once again under the shade of the oak tree. He stared down to the tall green grass where the hole had once been. As a tear rolled down his cheek the silence was broken by the sound of small voices. Gary turned to look as two small twin boys were running toward him, both were screaming his name, further back standing next to the SUV was Gary’s brother Dan, smiling.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is tragic, thejim. Very well written and powerfully told, but tragic.

      • thejim says:

        Thanks OT. It is the epic dilemma that you can not change the past and in turn the balance of present life remains the same. I was also testing whether or not I can have a story where the MC does not speak or think one word, Failed on the thinking (it could be fixed) but made it through with out him uttering a single word.

    • EverLasting says:

      Good job, Thejim.

      What a twist! Very well written.

      Though, if he was a violent drunk, I’m wondering why Jenny was riding with him! I wouldn’t.

      Though other then that, very good job. :)

  30. agnesjack says:

    The damn mole was back. The telltale hole with the volcano-shaped mound was at the base of the big red oak. Jessie cursed and turned off the lawn mower. She had hired a humane trapper last time, but it had been expensive.

    When she got closer, something seemed odd. A ray of light was shining out of the back of the tree. She walked around and saw a large opening, like a doorway, in the trunk. A cavernous space inside the tree led to another, distant doorway. It was the source of the light. Compelled, she stepped in.

    The nearly forgotten scene beyond the second door, made her nauseous. Five children, age eight to sixteen, were sitting at the dinner table with their hands twisted in their laps, staring blankly at their uneaten dinners. Their father sat in his usual patriarchal spot at the head of the table. His new girlfriend sat opposite to him. They were smiling at each other. All through dinner the girlfriend had made crass, inappropriate jokes that Jessie’s father had laughed at with sickly exaggeration. Now, before dessert, he said he had an announcement.

    “Provided that none of you object,” he said, “Gina and I are planning to get married.”

    Dead silence.

    The younger Jessie got up and left the table, so the older Jessie took her place. No one seemed to notice.

    I could do it, now, she thought. I was too cowed then, but I could do it now.

    She lifted her head and looked straight at her father. He was taken aback by her unexpected directness. Agitation began to twitch on his face. His authority was never challenged. Never.

    “I object,” she said.

    The girlfriend let out a little huff that she tried to cover by clearing her throat. Jessie looked over at her. A spark of anger flickered across Gina’s eyes. Dad had money and she wanted it badly.

    “Mom’s only been dead for seven months, Dad,” Jessie said directly to Gina before turning back to her father. “It’s too soon, Daddy. I think you should wait.”

    Like many insecure people, her Dad was a bully. Instilling fear was how he covered his insecurity, but this time Jessie wasn’t afraid and he was at a loss.

    It was a gamble, but she had to try. They had suffered years of pain and horror because of their mute paralysis that night. The dog that was cruelly given away. The jewelry that went missing from their grandmother’s house after Gina had been there to “help” the poor woman, who suffered from dementia. Gina’s never-ending whispers of lies designed to hammer a wedge deeper and deeper between her husband and his children. It had been a nightmare.

    Jessie’s sisters and brother looked up at Jessie and then at their dad. Pam, the youngest, began to cry.

    Gina got up, and with a fixed smile said, “I’m sure you’d like to discuss this with your lovely children, Ned.”

    After she left, Jessie got up and put her arms around her Dad’s shoulders.

    “It’s O.K., Dad,” she said. “A little more time is all we ask. Just a little more time.”

    He began to shake and covered his face with his hands.

    • derrdevil says:

      This was so real. And a normal, everyday thing. Like a window into someone’s life. I felt as if though Jessie was daydreaming about all of this. As if this is what she wished she would have done – objecting. And how differently her life would have turned out. Oh, well, that’s how it read for me – like I was with your cm every step of the way.

      Nice one agnesjack

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a great story, Nancy. Choosing the lesser of two ills is always difficult, especially when there is considerable pressure to do otherwise. You packed a lot of emotion into this response.

      • rle says:

        This could have easily been a page out of someones real life. Nice work!

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Makes me want to weep for the children. They deserve better from their father. His girl friend, well, she’s a case of ill thoughts. And yet the young children are helpless. I would suppose this event happens in many thousands of homes every day.

          Sevem months, nasty. Three years maybe, I would understand, but seven months, jeepers!

    • agnesjack says:

      Thanks derrdevil, OTim, rle and Kerry for your comments.

      I’m just swamped this month with personal stuff, so I haven’t had time to read and respond to your wonderful stories.

      This story does touch on a very real problem for children, whether it’s a parent being replaced after death or after divorce. It’s not easy on the kids in either case. I’m glad it came off as real. That was the intent. Hope I have a little more time for the next prompt.

    • Critique says:

      This felt real which means you did an excellent job of writing the story. The insecurity of the father put him in a vulnerable position for conniving Gina. I’m cheering for Jessie! and hopeful the family works things out and have a happy future.

    • jmcody says:

      Couldn’t let the prompt end without reading your story, A.J.! This father needed exactly what your grown up MC gave him — the gift of time and perspective. No doubt he was reeling from his own pain and his judgment was clouded, as shown by how he chose to present this to his kids. Announcing it to the family with the girlfriend present and then pretending to ask his kids’ approval when he was in fact unwilling to hear any objections seems like a poorly thought out plan. As a child your MC couldn’t have had the wisdom to respond as your adult MC did. If only we could go back and fix everything in our childhoods like this! Thoughtfully written, as always. Glad I made it down here — crazy week!

  31. “Sheldon’s Shack”

    That mother fucker, I thought as I sat on my front patio.

    That piece of shit mother fucker, I thought as I sipped the sweet lemon tea that dripped cold drops of sweat upon my leg.

    A lot of people down in shit-hole mosquito-infested Mississippi would say that the overwhelmingly hot humidity can make someone crazy, but I wasn’t crazy. I knew exactly who my neighbor was, even as he smiled at me and lifted his own refreshing drink from his patio in a toasting gesture. I knew who he was, what he did, and I knew exactly what I was going to do.

    “Neighbor!” I called out and jumped up from my black and blue foldable chair.

    As I approached the two-foot-high yellow and green hedge separating our properties, he said in a thick southern accent, “Nice day, huh?”

    I slapped my neck. The soft tickle was either my imagination or one of those pesky little bastards trying to suck me dry. I decorated my face with a fake smile and said, “Heaven’s sauna.”

    He laughed, and all I wanted to do was to break every one of his teeth. A well-placed fist delivered to that spewer of unintentionally divisive words, a mouth that went places it didn’t belong.

    He said, “I ain’t seen your wife around. Where’s she been?”

    You mother fucker, I thought and sipped the tea to wash down the acid building in the back of my throat.

    I kept the contempt I had for that man close enough to my heart that I felt it beating as a second one in my chest. They drummed against each other in a battle more fierce than that of Menelaus and Paris.

    I said, “I heard you was a lawn mower aficionado of sorts?”

    “Yes, sir. I even enter in the annual Cutters Contest.”

    “Well, I got me a little torch for that now.”

    “Oh, yeah?”

    “Yeah, and you’ll be happier than a tornado in a trailer park when ya here what I got’ta show ya.”

    “What’s that now?”

    “Got me a Dover, fifty-seven horsepower, all-wheel-drive grass eater.”

    The man’s mouth dropped. “Well, Ho-lee shit! You are a good ol’ boy, ain’t ya?”

    “Wanna see it?”

    “You bet yer ass!”

    I led him from the front of the house to the back by way of the side yard. I looked around to make sure none of the other neighbors watched me, and then directed him to a small shed my father constructed fifty-two years prior to that day.

    “It’s right back here.” I said, reached to the shed, and opened the door. I gestured for Ross to go ahead, and as he walked in, I threw my tea and grabbed him from behind. I put my arm around his neck and tightened. He was a weak son-of-a-bitch, so he had no chance to escape.

    He managed to choke out a few words, “What are you doing?”

    I used my foot to kick away the rug hiding a hole in floor. Inside the hole was darkness, but there was an even darker and unsettling evil waiting inside. The malevolent creature had been there since I was a kid, and this would be the first time I fed it since my wife three days prior, so it was hungry.

    “You mother fucker,” I screamed with so much anger that my spit textured the side of his face. “You never sleep with another man’s wife.”

    A deep growl erupted from the tunnel before us, and he tried to plead but I squeezed his neck harder to cut him off.

    I cain’t never change the past,” I said. “But I sure as shit can change my future happiness, good ol’ boy.”

    With that, I pushed him in. He tried to grab the edge, but his fingers slipped. He disappeared into that deep darkness, and it didn’t take long for the screams of his death to erupt from that hole. I waited until the gurgles for help died, and threw the rug over the hole.

    I went back to the front patio, and poured a fresh glass of iced lemon tea. I smiled for the first time in weeks, one that didn’t require me to force the muscles in my face to do something they didn’t want to do.

  32. Augie says:

    Time to go Nuts

    His heart beats faster than the rhythm of the sickle slashing through the field in the distance.

    Left——right——left——right, “Get him Barney!”

    As the speed of the sickle increases, so does his pace.

    Left–right–left–right

    Terrorized, he races over the stump and around the willow tree once again.

    Left-right-left-right-left–right

    The charging predator gains ground.

    Left-right-left-right-left-right-left-right

    Where is it? I can’t find it!

    Left-right-left-right-left–right-left-right-left-right

    He is gaining on me again!

    Left-right-left-right-left-right-left-right-left-right-left-right

    There it is!

    “Poof”

    The sound of the swinging sickle slows.

    Left——— right——— left ——–right

    He sees me again!

    Left-right-left-right-left-right–left-right

    Around the shrub, over the bush, past the stump!

    Left-right-left-right-left-right-left-right-left-right

    I have to get it right this time!

    Left-right-left-right–left-right-left-right-left-right-left-right

    “Poof”

    Left———right———————left———————————————-right

    The exhausted farmer sets his sickle down as a rabbit races by and jumps into a mysterious hole next to a pile of harvested wheat.

    “What?”

    His hound dog Barney runs in circles searching again for the rabbit’s scent.

    Out of curiosity, the farmer looks into the hole and is startled to see his father swinging a sickle as his young self works beside him loading wheat into the cart. The boy pleads, “Dad, we should consider a different type of crop, swinging that sickle all day is going to kill you!”

    A tear falls down the magical time tunnel, landing in the father’s palm. He looks up through the swirling clouds as his son watches from above.

    More tears fall, “It’s a miracle.”

    Moments later…

    Workers toss pecans into barrels.

    Left——-clunk——–right——clunk——-left——clunk——–right—-clunk

    Barney chases the rabbit through the ten acres of pecan trees. The farmer sits in a swing sipping ice tea with his father as the clever rabbit jumps in the time-travel hole, confusing Barney over and over again.

    “Get him Barney!”

    • Observer Tim says:

      Nice subtle turnaround, Augie. I especially like the way the story is focused on the rabbit.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I like the sound of the sickle through the theme of your store. While focusing on the rabbit, the story gets driven home. Clever writing. To make it more powerful to the readers’s imagination, they need to go to a farm and ranch store, buy one of the damn things and go cut a field of Johnson grass [tall weeds in Texas]. Don’t suggest wheat unless they want a rear end full of buckshot.

        Swing a sickle for thirty seconds and you’re on your knees out of breath. Take it from me, I know!

  33. jhowe says:

    He awoke in the night on the dewy grass in need of mowing with a head full of broken glass, his damp clothes sticking to his body. The rabbit hole loomed in front of him, slightly aglow from the full moon overhead. He pulled his left hand from the hole and studied it in the moonlight, starting to recall the events that had propelled him to this moment.

    “What happened to the Coke?” he said trying to raise a line from the mirror coved in a thin layer of white dust, his facial muscles twitching.

    “You did it all,” she said. “I only got a little hit.”

    “Shit,” he said his speech hard and slurred. “Where’s the weed?” The bag was empty, only a few seeds and crumbs left.

    “You smoked it all.”

    “The fuck I did.” He pulled a tequila bottle from the cupboard, only three fingers worth remaining and tipped it up.

    “Hey, give me some,” she said. He answered by draining it and throwing the bottle against the wall.

    “We need more blow,” he said. “Call the goddamn Doctor.”

    “We can’t do that. He’ll want his money.”

    “I’m good for it,” he said.

    “So you’ve said; I don’t think he’ll buy it.”

    “Get the crank,” he said.

    “No Joe. It almost killed you last time.”

    He grabbed her hair and twisted her head sharply to look at her eyes that were shining with fear. He released her and said, “Fix me up baby, ok?”

    She gave a small nod and retrieved a box of corn flakes from the cupboard. She removed a plastic bag from the box and set the contents on the table. She placed a chunk of crystal meth on a spoon and added a few drops of distilled water, heating the bottom of the spoon with a Bic lighter. The mixture quickly dissolved and she allowed it to cool for a few seconds. He held the spoon while she pulled the liquid into a syringe.
    “That’s my baby,” he said gently as he wrapped a rubber tube around his arm. She inserted the needle into the vein of his forearm and depressed the plunger. She stopped short, hoping he wouldn’t notice. He gently put his hand over hers and she pushed it all the way down as he removed the tube.

    The effects were immediate and the rage that followed was intense. Furniture was upturned; dishes were broken as she cowered in a corner of the kitchen. His eyes were wild and unfocussed when he ran outside, oblivious to the glass crunching under his bare feet. She picked up the syringe from the floor and with shaking hands prepared another hit.

    He crawled into the kitchen with damp clothes and bloody feet, his face streaked with dirt, his long hair stuck to the side of his face. She was lying on the floor, the rubber tube still tied around her arm, the syringe lying beside her still body. He lifted her head and cradled her in his arms, her skin cold and her face peaceful. His tears fell and landed on her cheeks as he attempted to breathe life into her lungs. After a while he laid her head down and howled in pain until he saw the plastic bag with a large chunk of crystal meth inside.

    • Jhowe, this story makes me feel dirty, haha. I was confused with the last paragraph until I realized you transitioned back to the moment after his recollections ended. So sad that the length of his sadness is only measured by his need for drugs. I wonder if he overdosed to join her on the other side. I’d like to think so… nice job, Jhowe.

    • derrdevil says:

      Uhm…ya. That’s all I gotta say.

      Crazy, detailed ride! And did I mention detailed?! Lol

    • Observer Tim says:

      You clearly painted a very dislikeable character, but one who is also a slave to the next high. I don’t know whether to loathe or pity him.

      It’s a good story, but I for one am glad of the 500 limit in this case; it strikes me that this could have become even more grim and hopeless if it went longer.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Maybe all the kids who want to do the drug scene, should be forced to read this. The tragedy is in every sentence. All the wasted kids in this country, especially the “The Lost Generation Of Boys” such a waste. You point that out with vivid writing. Definitely a gritty tragedy.

    • Critique says:

      A well written story about wasted lives that become narcissistic – addicted to their next high.

  34. Reaper says:

    How I was Lost

    I have a favorite lawn gnome. Call me crazy but I do. I named him Sleazy and he always makes me laugh.

    So a few minutes ago I was finishing up a long day of snarking at people’s Facebook posts. I looked outside and realize Sleazy was hiding in a jungle of grass. If I didn’t fix that he was likely to bite my shin the next time I went to visit him. So that’s how I ended up cutting my lawn.

    I’m out in my postcard sized lawn using the weed eater. I have to so I can trim close enough to Sleazy for him to see. He bitches endlessly about me whacking him with the wire, but if I use a lawnmower he’d be plaster bits. Neither of us wants that.

    I’m distracted by that mildew smell of tall grass. The one that sticks around for four days after it rains. I look over and see this oversized rabbit hole. I think that’s pretty weird. Mostly because there is a swirling mist inside that is pulsating with a glow that fades from toxic green to radioactive purple then back again. The fact that it’s big enough for me to sit in and shoot down it like a playground slide is odd too. Trust me it is mostly the swirling mist thing though.

    Now Sleazy has this really funny way of communicating with me. He doesn’t speak, because only crazy people listen to lawn gnomes. Instead he holds up these signs that make me think of union guys on strike. So I wonder where the hell that goes, other than Mars, when I look over and see Sleazy has one of those signs up now.

    -This portal leads to the most pivotal moment in your life. You are being given an opportunity to change everything.-

    “Will it make me a better person?” I have to look away for a second so the sign can change to the answer. Don’t ask me to explain the rules of inanimate objects.

    -No, but you will be the man you have dreamed of being. Every decision made after will be changed with this one.-

    “But I don’t have to go?”

    -Of course not.-

    “So this one big decision changes everything. I’m a completely different guy. Have everything I wanted but might want what I have now.”

    -That is a risk. I can tell you, you will be richer.-

    “So this decision. Is it the time I killed that hooker in Mexico?”

    -You never did that.-

    “Oh. Is it the time we manslaughtered the exotic dancer in law school?”

    -No.-

    “Is it when I left my high school girlfriend because she was pregnant?”

    -Shut up and choose to go or not.-

    “I’ll decide tomorrow.”

    I turn to leave. When I come back tomorrow he may still be holding the sign informing me there are only two options and hesitation is not one of them. I won’t like Sleazy as much after today.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Perhaps the big choice was to go or not go…

      This is an intriguing take, Reaper. I always look forward to seeing where your pen is going to lead me. I also like the way you leave us hanging as to whether the event is real or a hallucination. The story stands nicely on its own, but is also ready for a sequel if the hole is still there the next day.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Your voice changes color with each prompt you write. I’m not sure but I think you’re a freaking genius. I’ve only met a couple but you fit the mold. This is most interesting to be sure because I have my very own garden gnome. I bought him at a garage sale almost forty years. His cost was a dollar.

        His arm is broken probably by the KKK. To say he is politically incorrect is slightly the case. That’s why I let the jasmine totally cover him in a hidden corner of the back yard. Every now and then I uncover him to be sure he’s still holding the ring with his one good hand.

        But back to your story, your first line is a fierce hook pulling the reader in. The idea of the gnome holding signs because he can’t speak is wonderfully funny. The name Sleazy is perfect for a gnome. I believe the decision has already been made and not because your MC is afraud of the tunnel, but rather is comfortable with his life as is. [Maybe I’m just writing my own thoughts.

        This is whistling for a second part. If you do that for us, I’l drop the freaking out of the genius title.

        • derrdevil says:

          I usually read the comments before the stories. Bad habit,, but something about Reaper’s tale just sucked me in. But when I got to the comments, what a gem to find a little story about your gnome, Kerry! Loved it. I love these little windows of your life you leave scattered throughout the comments.

          Now, on to the freakin genius! What a ride! Sometimes I feel like I have very little imagination after reading something like this.. Brilliant Reaper.

    • jmcody says:

      I agree with Kerry’s assessment: Freaking Genius. I could read this all day. Nearly every line in it made me grin in a slightly different way. (So now instead of maniacal laughter on the train it’s weird facial contortions.). From the moment you said “gnome” followed by “call me crazy” I knew this was going to be a romp in the tall weeds of madness. Would it be weird if I called this delightful? Because it is. Delightfully crazy. And now I want a gnome.

    • jhowe says:

      I just logged on for the first time and saw the promt, then I read this story as it was the upper most entry at the time. What a treat. I love how you interact with the gnome, especially the ‘turning you back part.’ I can see that the signs would need a chance to change without being looked at. Well done.

    • Marie Therese Knepper says:

      You could start a whole Sleazy gnome series. ;)
      I wish I had a Sleazy gnome. I’ll have to live vicariously through yours.

      Just one of your many admirers…
      Marie-Therese

    • “I won’t like sleazy as much after today.” There is so much character in that line; I love it. Such a colorfully crazy MC, Reaper. Makes me want to write one just like him, haha. Well done! Just enough information to tell you about his past so that you don’t need more story to explain any of it. I am curious, however, about the fact that he said ‘the time WE manslaughtered the exotic dancer.’ Makes me feel like the gnome bites more than just his shins.

    • Amyithist says:

      Wow, Reaper. This was just oozing with psychosis. I loved it. Your MC sounded crazy; but more in an endearing way; like maybe Sleazy was the real villain and the the MC was just along for the ride. I really liked this one.

      • rle says:

        This is why I never read these before I’ve posted mine. If I did, I’d probably not bother with doing one myself. Some day I’ll summon up the courage to write something like this…just not today. My hat is off to you again Reaper, in fact, just let me give you my hat!

    • The lawn gnome was perfect. He was mysterious, comical, and somewhat scary at the same time. I’ve always thought they were a bit creepy. It sounds like the MC has a lot of skeletons in his closet…or he thinks he does.

    • peetaweet says:

      I’ll look at gnomes a bit differently now! Great take on the prompt, Sir!

    • Critique says:

      I confess I’ve never been a fan of garden gnomes. Now, I think I’ll look at those little guys through a different lens :) thanks for an enjoyable read Reaper!

    • girl-in-progress says:

      Great concept Reaper! Your MC indeed offers something delightfully different here.

  35. noa12 says:

    Dark.

    Very Dark.

    That’s the first thought that came to Curtis Morrow’s mind. Wherever he was it was dark, the kind of dark your eyes never adjust to. He stretched his hands out and immediately they made contact with two walls on either side of him. Confused, he lightly ran his hands along the sides of the narrow pathway he was walking through.

    He’s in a tunnel, Curtis realized. His whole body began to shake as reality washed over him. He started to run and run and run. As he turned over his surroundings in his mind his foot slipped out from under him. He was falling, falling and then he smashed his head on the wall to his left. Curtis hit the ground a half second later.

    It was still so, so dark when a small light penetrated Curtis’ vision. A flashlight. Instinctively he held his hands out to find the security of the tunnel walls, but his hands just grasped at air.

    “You okay, man?”

    “Wh-what?” Dazed by the faces staring at him, Curtis’ body began to shake again.

    “That was a wicked fall you took,” a deep voice from behind Curtis said.

    “Oh- I’m fine,” he said, putting on the most reassuring voice he knew how.

    “Good,” said the deep voice that Curtis now recognized as his friend Louie’s. “Now come on, we ain’t got all night”.

    Curtis could see the bag in Louie’s hand. He was holding drugs. Now he knew where -and when- he was. Forty years ago. Despite the fact that Curtis was now semi-lucid, he felt completely aware of his fantastical surroundings.

    “Listen,” Curtis started. “I’m only eighteen. I never even smok-”

    “Yeah, well there’s a first for everything”, another voice interrupted. The group chuckled.

    Stalling, Curtis asked, “Hey, what time is it?”

    “11:19. Now you gonna take them, or what?”

    Curtis looked down at the ground and then at the drugs in Louie’s hand. Hesitantly, he reached for the bag. But before he could, the flashlight’s light started to grow. It grew until it covered him. His friends had disappeared. He was back in the tunnel, being sucked into the light. He became aware of a buzzing. It became louder and louder until Curtis was sure he eardrums would burst. And then it stopped.

    “Time of death, 23:19”.

    A doctor and a nurse stepped away from the man on the table.

    “What a shame,” said the nurse.

    “He’s lucky he didn’t OD sooner,” replied the doctor. “From the looks of it, he’s been using for years. It must be hard to break an addiction that strong. Any identification on him?”

    Fishing his wallet out of the dead man’s back pocket, the nurse said, “Yes. Curtis Morrow, age fifty-eight.”

    “What a shame,” she repeated.

  36. Rethink and Relive

    Something was definitely off. The grass seemed unusually green, the birdbath unusually abundant with birds and everything unusually quiet. But it was all there, she was in her backyard alright. She walked over to the hole (probably created by some animal) that she had always found herself tripping over (once even breaking her leg).

    Why am I out here again? she couldn’t remember for sure but saw the lawn mower and figured she was mowing the grass and tripped over the hole (she was having trouble remembering things, so she was worried she’d fell too hard). Suddenly she heard talking.

    “You ca- cha- the p-” a distant voice mumbled, hard to understand because it was only bits and pieces of it were audible. She looked around for where it could be coming from and saw nothing.
    Is that coming from the hole? she asked herself. Only one way to find out. She plummeted down.

    She was in her home now. She could hear herself screaming for someone but didn’t feel like she was screaming. That was because she wasn’t screaming; past her was the one screaming out for their daughter, Samantha. She saw past her walk down the hallway, looking up the stairs and screaming Samantha’s name.
    “Where am I?” she asked past her, not yet realizing exactly where she was (or, when she was for that matter). Past her turned her head and smiled sweetly.

    “Well, honey, let me help you up,” past her said, walking over to present her and taking her hands to pull her up. Present her repeated the question.

    “Where am I?” she repeated.

    “You don’t remember all this?” past her asked, smirking at present hers misunderstanding.

    “No.”

    “Help me find Samantha and I promise you’ll remember.”

    “Okay,” present her responded and began screaming Samantha’s name too. The two awkwardly wandered around the house, screaming Samantha for a while until finally past her screamed “there you are!”. Present her ran to where she heard the voice, and almost ran into Samantha and past her when she found them. Past her then drew the knife back and shoved it into Samantha’s chest. As the knife penetrated the pink shirt present her remembered what she had done and lunged at past her. She had regretted killing Samantha, her time in jail had been the worst time of her life because she replayed this in her mind over and over. But it was too late; she already heard sirens, already saw Samantha coughing up blood and already regretted doing it again.

    Present her made sure to show up when past her was strapped into the electric chair, laughing and shouting.
    “You’re in hell for what you did to Samantha! You’ll rethink this and relive this moment every day, but you can’t change the past!” past her shouted before the electricity shot through her and everything went black.

    Something was definitely off.

    • Observer Tim says:

      I had to read this through twice to make full sense of it; that’s the sign of a good mindbending time travel story. It’s too bad she realized what was going on too late, though you can’t tell whether the voice she heard first was saying “You can change the past” or “You can’t change the past”. Great job, Carlos.

      I have one suggestion to improve clarity: you might want to refer to the prior self as “Past Her” (with caps). Also refer to Present Her the same way, though you could alternately just call the voice character “her” (no adjective) since Past Her never gets the POV.

  37. jsand419 says:

    I was mowing my lawn, just walking along with my nice quiet reel mower, not really paying attention to what was happening. Suddenly, I felt the mower drop. So I let it go, watching it fall into the big hole I’d never noticed in my lawn. “Where could it go?” I thought to myself as I leaned down to look, and felt the edge fall away, but it was to sudden to react. I was so scared I couldn’t even yell for a second, and next thing I knew I was twenty feet down, yelling, barely even hoping my wife could hear me.

    I felt myself accelerating down this hole, and could see the light at the bottom of the tunnel appeared to be turning blue. I felt and saw my wedding ring disappear from my finger. At the same moment, I felt the dog tags I hadn’t worn in two years against my chest, and had pants and boots on instead of shorts and sneakers.

    Suddenly I found myself in a plane. “Where could I be” I thought. Looking around me, I could see other men and women in Army uniforms. “What happened? I got out two years ago now, or was it all a dream?” I was pretty confused. So, I stopped to look out the window. I could see what looked like a sheet of black glass down below, moonlight reflecting back at me.

    “So, I must be on the way back to the states, on leave. Yes, that letter. How do I remember yelling for my wife, but now we’re meeting in person the first time? This letter is pretty clear, directions to her parents house. I remember helping them leave that house!” It was starting to make sense. As much sense as it could. “I married her. I must have time-traveled falling down that hole in the lawn! Now is the chance to fix all the mistakes I started out with. I’ve learned some about how to be a really stupid husband over the last couple years. Just don’t tell her that for a while. How do I not scare her with the fact that I know we will marry? I’ll look like a psycho!”

    So, I leaned back my chair, chuckling a little as I tried to fall asleep. I needed to remember how our first meeting had gone, so I could repeat what she’d enjoyed about it. I had about sixteen hours left of a long flight across the Atlantic, and another day before we’d actually meet. Time enough to think, and to get some some sleep.

  38. jsand419 says:

    I was mowing my lawn, just walking along with my nice quiet reel mower, not really paying attention to what was happening. Suddenly, I felt the mower drop. So I let it go, watching it fall into the big hole I’d never noticed in my lawn. “Where could it go?” I thought to myself as I leaned down to look, and felt the edge fall away, but it was to sudden to react. I was so scared I couldn’t even yell for a second, and next thing I knew I was twenty feet down, yelling, barely even hoping my wife could hear me.

    I felt myself accelerating down this hole, and could see the light at the bottom of the tunnel appeared to be turning blue. I felt and saw my wedding ring disappear from my finger. At the same moment, I felt the dog tags I hadn’t worn in two years against my chest, and had pants and boots on instead of shorts and sneakers.

    Suddenly I found myself in a plane. “Where could I be” I thought. Looking around me, I could see other men and women in Army uniforms. “What happened? I got out two years ago now, or was it all a dream?” I was pretty confused. So, I stopped to look out the window. I could see what looked like a sheet of black glass down below, moonlight reflecting back at me.

    “So, I must be on the way back to the states, on leave. Yes, that letter. How do I remember yelling for my wife, but now we’re meeting in person the first time? This letter is pretty clear, directions to her parents house. I remember helping them leave that house!” It was starting to make sense. As much sense as it could. “I married her. I must have time-traveled falling down that hole in the lawn! Now is the chance to fix all the mistakes I started out with, and be a little more romantic. I’ve learned some about how to be a really stupid husband over the last couple years. Just don’t tell her that for a while. How do I not scare her with the fact that I know we will marry? I’ll look like a psycho!”

    So, I leaned back my chair, chuckling a little as I tried to fall asleep. I needed to remember how our first meeting had gone, so I could repeat what she’d enjoyed about it. I had about sixteen hours left to cross the Atlantic, and another day before we’d actually meet. Time enough to think, and to get some some sleep.

  39. jsand419 says:

    I was mowing my lawn, just walking along with my nice quiet reel mower, not really paying attention to what was happening. Suddenly, I felt the mower drop. So I let it go, watching it fall into the big hole I’d never noticed in my lawn. “Where could it go?” I thought to myself as I leaned down to look, and felt the edge fall away, but it was to sudden to react. I was so scared I couldn’t even yell for a second, and next thing I knew I was twenty feet down, yelling, barely even hoping my wife could hear me.

    I felt myself accelerating down this hole, and could see the light at the bottom of the tunnel appeared to be turning blue. I felt and saw my wedding ring disappear from my finger. At the same moment, I felt the dog tags I hadn’t worn in two years against my chest, and had pants and boots on instead of shorts and sneakers.

    Suddenly I found myself in a plane. “Where could I be” I thought. Looking around me, I could see other men and women in Army uniforms. “What happened? I got out two years ago now, or was it all a dream?” I was pretty confused. So, I stopped to look out the window. I could see what looked like a sheet of black glass down below, moonlight reflecting back at me.

    “So, I must be on the way back to the states, on leave. Yes, that letter. How do I remember yelling for my wife, but now we’re meeting in person the first time? This letter is pretty clear, directions to her parents house. I remember helping them leave that house!” It was starting to make sense. As much sense as it could. “I married her. I must have time-traveled falling down that hole in the lawn! Now is the chance to fix all the mistakes I started out with, and be a little more romantic. I’ve learned some about how to be a really stupid husband over the last couple years. Just don’t tell her that for a while. How do I not scare her with the fact that I know we will marry? I’ll look like a psycho!”

    So, I leaned back my chair, chuckling a little as I tried to fall asleep. I needed to remember how our first meeting had gone, so I could repeat what she’d enjoyed about it. I had about sixteen hours left to cross the Atlantic, and another day before we’d actually meet. Time enough to think, and to get some some sleep.

  40. JRSimmang says:

    And now for something a little less adolescent, partially inspired by ObserverTim’s scifi.

    PROJECT COLUMBUS, PART 1

    We’ve counted the stars. There are 186 billion, 233, million, 12 thousand, six-hundred one. Most have either died off in some galactic catastrophe, and it serves as a constant reminder that we, as humans, will also at some point diminish into a blue ball and implode.

    I’ve been on The Santa Maria with an operating crew of thirty thousand, and a civilian population of roughly 120 thousand for roughly 23 Earthyears. We are a small, hydrogen-fusion powered, weightless city in between galaxies. In 2033, the year after I was born, our sun erupted a massive coronal ejection which stripped the atmosphere off my parent’s planet. My parents were the terraengineers behind project Columbus, so when the sun blew the Earth the kiss of death, they used it to power our sails. Over the years, we’ve piloted ourselves out of The Milky Way and into the universe at large. My job is primary facilities management, which is fine. From what I understand, the plants need tending.

    On Deck 18, we have a sustainable food production center and it’s populated with chlorophyllic biodendrons. I’ve heard my parents call them trees, which sounds funny to me. But, they’re there, and they essentially provide the breathable oxygen that circulated through our duct system. I care for the hydrophyllic dampening system, or “grass.”

    Recently, we’ve had circuitry issues on decks 50 through 53, mainly tenant housing. It’s no more than a brown-out, and causes little or no disruption in the lives of the residents. So, when I stumbled upon the electrical anomaly embedded under the “oak” (or whatever tree my parents said it was), I was not surprised. In fact, we’ve had several of these power-pockets crop up from time to time in showers, in some of the mess halls, and just outside our ship. No one had ever chanced a trip through, mainly because they are nothing more than protonic discharge, probably formed due to the gravity of the Santa Maria as it splices itself through the dark matter holding the Universe together.

    This one in particular, as I stood staring at it, felt familiar. You see, there are two types of self-combusting electrical anomalies. The ones that are primarily purple in color and behave like a fluid are the ones that have caused damage to our sensors and equipment. The white fragmented ones, up until three weeks ago, kept a cool distance from us. These are enigmatic, often running parallel lines to themselves, tracing the electrical conduit from one room, hall, or floor. We believe they are biological, perhaps a protosynth being, sentient like a dog or cat, capable of repetition, empathy perhaps, but higher order thinking would be lacking.

    I was staring at a red one. Round. Perfect. And through it I saw my mother. She was in a park, playing with a cellular device. As I stood staring, I felt a tug from the hole, and immediately I was under the same tree.

    “Hello, son.”

    “Mother?” I looked down and saw my infant self on his, or my, back on my baby blanket on the ground. I was a cute kid.

    “You see, this is a loop, just one of them.”

    “I don’t understand.” And then I did. “Wait. I’ve done this before.”

    “Every time the timeline loops back to this exact point.”

    I took in a deep breath and tasted for the first time, but really for since the beginning of time, the truth of oxygen and nitrogen, and water molecules gathering in small pockets in my nose-hairs. “So, what have I come here to say?”

    She looked at me. “You’re here to try to stop me.”

    I narrowed my eyes. “There was no coronal ejection.”

    She shook her head. “This is our chance, son, to start over.” She picked herself up and hugged me. Then, abruptly, she pushed me away, and ran down the hill to her automobile. I started to run after her, gaining speed as I let the hill carry me. I caught her sleeve, pulled it and knocked her down to the ground. People were watching, some of them already aiming their cellular devices at us.

    “No! No, son! You don’t understand, these people! They’ve ruined the world!”

    I pinned her arms down, which gave me time to look around. It was early in the morning, yet the sky was a sickly green. The trees were barren, and the ground was stiff and cold. I looked up at the hill where a young woman was picking me up. And, I got this sense of longing, longing to be back on the Santa Maria.

    “You should go back, son. It’ll all be over soon.”

    I got off my mother, helped her up, and asked, “Where do we need to go.”

    She smiled, walked back up the hill to me, and picked me up. “Follow me.”

    I did.

    -JR Simmang

    • Observer Tim says:

      Glad to be of inspiration, JR. Needless to say I’m a big fan of SF.

      This is a really great story; if I read it right, the CME was a “fake” for some other manner in which the Earth was rendered uninhabitable. My guess is it had something to do with either (a) the fusion drive or (b) the red electrical anomalies. Or is the red anomaly related to his mother’s escape route? This definitely begs a longer treatment.

      If I had any criticism, it is in the setup part, where you used quite a bit of technical jargon. When not writing for science geeks like me, that has a strong risk of losing some of your audience. On the other hand, people like me get the satisfiaction of having the “in” that allows a deeper understanding of the story.

      Hmm. I wonder where they’re going and how they’ll know they’ve arrived when they do. That’s a question for further down the story, I guess.

      • JRSimmang says:

        Thanks for the feedback, Tim. I was a little worried about the dryness at the beginning, and you’re right. It certainly needs a buffer to ease the reader in, and this story is only the sounding horn for a greater hunt, so to speak. Do you feel plot should be wrapped in warping time where the main character is drawn into multiple red anomalies, or do you believe this should be a chase to the finish (being his mother’s ultimate pulling of the pin on the Earth’s atmosphere)?

        • Observer Tim says:

          The “ace in the hole” for this story would be wrapping up both plotlines.

          Are the red anomalies one-way or two-way? One-way means they have to go in both directions (future and past) to get the story back to its starting point; two-way makes them a MacGuffin to allow the son (and the mother) to intevene at various points in the story. Is there a temporal equivalent of the Exclusion Principle which prevents him from travelling back to a point he’s already intervened at? And for that matter, whatever/whoever is causing the red anomalies could have their own plans.

          The mother is an excellent “villain” because all the son’s angst comes pre-assembled. Is he going to stop her, or will this be about the chase itself?

          If I were to take this beginning (I’m not you, so this is more PVI than anything), I would make the holes two-way, zapping the son back to the “present” when he’s done what the anomaly creator wants to do. For a while he’d be dropped in according to someone else’s wishes, until he found out who was planning things and how. Once that’s resolved, it becomes a thriller, chasing the mother to stop (?) her plot before it comes to fruition.

          You’ve hit on an incredible beginning here, JR.

  41. resullewlar says:

    Not sure if the quotation sentences are done right. O well.

    I was outside mowing my one acre lawn one day. I had mowed about half when I saw a large hole gaping in the ground in the corner of my yard. I got off my rideable lawnmower and walked over to find a bottomless hole that had a diameter of about four feet. I thought I heard gusts of wind from within the hole. I knelt down and looked within when all of a sudden I found myself at the dinner party I was at the night before. The guests were leaving in the same manner as before, and everyone was saying the exact same things as before. I was back in time.
    Like last night, Mark asked the few remaining guests, including myself, “I forgot! We have two whole extra pies leftover and we don’t want them. Would you guys want to take on home?” The others said no thank you, but I said, “O.K.!” as I did before.
    Mark brought me over to his kitchen and said, “O.K. Henry, we have cherry, boysenberry, and apple! Which would you like? Any is fine, really.” Last night I chose the boysenberry pie. I came home that night and tried it and it wasn’t very good. “Apple,” I said.
    All of a sudden I found myself knelt down in the corner of my backyard. The hole was gone. I ran inside and looked in the fridge to find I had an apple pie. I tasted it and it was much better than the boysenberry.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Tee hee, resullewlar! I guess not every life-changing decision impacts a deep and serious matter. I chuckled after reading this. At least the MC got a better pie out of the deal! If that isn’t winning, what is?

      For the sake of old guy eyes like mine, it would be wonderful if you can put an extra blank line between paragraphs. It makes it easier to read.

    • Observer Tim says:

      P.S. The only glitch my red pencil can see in the quotes is that it’s customary not to have multiple speakers in the same paragraph. That custom would imply a break at Last night I chose… to separate Mark and Henry’s dialogue.

      The punctuation around them and the comma separation are both done correctly.

  42. k.spicer says:

    I can’t take my eyes off of the light. What is this? I remember mowing my lawn, seeing this hole and stopping to see what could have created it. Now I’m staring at it from the other side. It’s like some sort of tunnel.
    “Are you in or out?” A voice from close by thundered in my ear.
    “What?” I forced my eyes away from the ceiling and focused on the people around me.
    “Are you in or out? Quit daydreaming and play.”
    I look toward the voice and froze in place. Harry Stoltz, but that’s impossible. I spent seven years of my life in prison for killing this man. I must be dreaming.
    “Are you going to play or not Romeo?”
    I look down at my hands and feel the cards pressing between my fingers. “What is this?”
    “That’s what we’re going to find out if you’ll quit daydreaming and ante up…unless you’re folding.” Harry said with a sly grin.
    “I can’t believe this, it’s like…” Looking down at the cards in my hand I froze again. Aces and eights, it’s the same hand I held that night; the dead man’s hand.
    “Look, I don’t care if you believe it or not, either ante up or fold so we can deal the next hand.”
    My hand was shaking as I reached down and tossed in my last twenty.
    “You don’t bluff very well Danny boy, you’re shaking like a Chihuahua on a snow bank.” Flipping his cards over he smiles, “Kings over nines” Although his mouth was smiling his eyes were aflame and fixed on me just as they had been that night.
    Turning my cards over I stared at him in silence.
    His eyes exploded in a fit of fury as he jumped to his feet and before I even knew it I held my little Beretta Tomcat beneath the table in my sweaty palm. Harry pulled a knife from what seemed like thin air and nearly jumped across the table. “You’re a dead man.” He shouted as the blade sway from left to right in front of my face.
    My first response was to pull the trigger, but instead I merely held my breath watching the blade sway back and forth. Leaning back in my chair I take in a breath and exhale softly.
    Harry slammed the knife down driving the point through the aces and into the table. Standing straight up he turned in a circle pulling his hair back out of his face. “I can’t believe it. I lost it all; the rent money, the grocery money…everything!”
    Looking toward me Harry’s eyes widened as he saw me putting away the pistol.
    “Danny, you were going to shoot me?”
    Reaching over I pulled the knife out of the wooden table and stared at it.
    “You know I wouldn’t use that on you,” He said. “You’re my friend.”
    Shaking my head I agreed. “Yes Harry you are.” Pushing the money towards him I nodded, “Merry Christmas.”

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a good story, k.spicer. The event visited was certainly a telling one, and Danny’s new decision will likely change the course of his life.

      A request for my aging eyes, please. If you put an extra blank line (carriage return) between paragraphs it generally makes the stories easier to read, especially since we can’t indent.

    • seliz says:

      I’m glad that the MC had the opportunity to go back and fix something I’m sure would have stayed with him the rest of his life. Going to prison for 7 years aside, the guilt of killing a friend would have to be crushing. That being said, Harry should not have waved that knife around like a maniac–serious or not. I’d have been nervous too!

  43. derrdevil says:

    Salah was a careful man. All his life had been guided by caution. Careful, calculated steps that were the bricks to the simple life he built. His father before him had been a boundless spirit, quick to anger, and, as a result, a reckless man. It had cost him his life. He had died before he could see his own son live to be a better man than he. Salah had vowed to be anything like his father. Salah loved life and didn’t wish to die young, even if it was a slave’s life. Such was the precarious nature of slaves, everything worked against one when one didn’t follow the rules.

    Only Salah’s curious nature threatened that caution. And when the abyss had opened before him, his caution had gone with the wind as he peered in, stood on his knees, knuckles turned white as he gripped tight to the freshly cut grass along the lip of the bottomless pit. It was a wonder to young Salah. Never in all his years as a humble slave had he seen anything beyond the border walls of Ashpah. Yet now he lay witness to something he doubted anyone would believe. The hole had a strange pull over him. Perhaps it was his curiosity, but it seemed to edge him deeper inside as if beckoning him to see more. And Salah was only ever interested in more.

    Awash with a new sense of wonder and splendour, Salah felt as if he was falling. But it did not deter him one bit. He was fully encompassed by the altered state of his senses as he witnessed his life flash in a flurry before his eyes. All his life events, influential and ordinary, flowed and unfolded in mesmerising speed and fluidity, yet he was fully conscious of every emotion within those fleeting seconds. Joy, heartbreak, saddness, guilt, anger, loathing, lust, love, jealousy. All of those flushed through him as he fell. And he fell hard. He could feel the tears rip off his face as his mind reeled with fervor. But not before long the memories began to slow down and grind to a halt until a single scene played out before him.

    As his mind slowly began to focus on all the details captured within, he felt himself materialise in the moment. Suddenly he was there, in physical form, in the past. It was an odd sensation, as he could witness himself as a young boy eavesdrop on his father and his master in a heated debate. Bereft of all feelings except an overwhelming confusion, Salah witnessed, as his younger self witnessed, the master grip his father in a strangle hold around his neck.

    A whimper escaped a wide-eyed Salah in a single sentence. “What is this sorcery?”

    His younger self turned to face him. “Who are you?” Younger Salah asked in surprise.

    “Why this moment? Why here?” Salah questioned. Not to the boy, but more to himself, or the heavens.

    “Who are you talking to?” asked the boy, tears streaming down his face. “Aren’t you going to do something?”
     
    Older Salah swung to look at the two men. His father, colour drained from his face as his eyes turned red. The master, growing in crazed confidence as he could feel father’s strength escape him.

    “Stop him! He’s hurting pappa!” the boy pleaded.

    Salah slowly realised what had happened to him. Somehow, by some odd magic, he was brought to this single moment. Why? To change my destiny, he thought. He could stop the master and save his father from death, thereby freeing them from the life they knew. Or he could let the master kill his father as it had happened, and go on to live as he knew, comfortable and sound, safe in his caution.

    Salah was caught between two thoughts, and in his hesitation, the moment began to fade and flicker, his materialisation turning back into a lucid dream state. Before he knew it, he could feel the beating sun on his back as trails of beaded sweat streamed down his skin. He lifted a callused hand to shield his eyes as he looked up towards the sun.

    “Salah! Quit dreaming!” His master bellowed from the courtyard. “Lest you wish me to beat you again. It’s nearly noon and you’re not yet done with the front yard.” 

    “Yes, master. Forgive me, sir,” apologised Salah as he bent over to pick up the slasher blade. “Always the same dream,” he whispered as he got back to cutting the grass.

    • vaderize03 says:

      Wow, I love the fact that he didn’t make the decision I expected him to make.

      You really threw a curveball there, not to mention did an excellent job in conveying your MC’s paralysis. I also love that he keeps getting faced with the same decision, yet is unable to make a change.

      It’s a brilliant metaphor for when, in real life, we are unable to dislodge ourselves from a bad situation, even when new opportunities arise. How many times have we stayed in a bad relationship, or bad job, simply because of comfort?

      Very well done and beautifully written!

      • derrdevil says:

        Ha! Thanks for that. It was the jist of the idea. But I didn’t quite think it through as you did. I just wrote it out as is, within the confines of the basic idea though. I like the way you’ve put it!

    • clairerocksyeah says:

      I tend to dislike stories that end in “and it was all a dream,” but yours was a rare exception to the rule.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This was a well-described and realistic tale, derrdevil. I guess not all protagonists are destined to be heroes. Even so, I found myself empathizing with Salah. Maybe one of these times the dream will help him get away.

      • derrdevil says:

        Yeah! Maybe the reoccuring dream helps him to realise his destiny is in his own hands, and it enforces him with more self-belief and confidence to actually do something about his situation.

    • jmcody says:

      Your voice in this is elegant and classic, and the flow is like a wide, winding river that carries the reader effortlessly. This came across like a timeless fable about being stuck in our own choices and paralyzed by indecision. One of your best, in my opinion. Lovely, Derryn!

      • derrdevil says:

        Haha, I felt that too… about it’s flow. I wrote it from start to finish. There were no breaks or pauses inbetween or readjusting paragraphs to make better sense – I do that a lot (since I hardly ever write with a solid idea in mind). So perhaps that shows. Also, I wrote it in the ‘office’. I guess some of my best work happens in there lol.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Hello Derryn. Elegant as mentioned above is perfect for this. What you are describing about writing in a seamles flow is what I call automatic writing. It’s rare when it happens but I watch my fingers touching the keys and what appears on the screen is new to me as if I were the reader. And of course you can’t stop till you think it’s finished. Of what a finish you ended with, brilliant!

          • derrdevil says:

            Thanks Kerry! I actually got stuck at the ‘two thoughts’ part. Wasn’t sure which way I wanted to take it – cause at that point I had so many ideas. So I just kept going with the original idea. I’m glad how it worked out. It tells so much more of Salah’s story and plight.

    • jhowe says:

      Very nicw derrdevil, I liked this a lot. It was effortless to read and very enjoyable. One minor red pencil comment in the first paragraph: you left out the word ‘not’ when Salah vowed to be unlike his father. Or maybe anything should be nothing. Very well done.

      • derrdevil says:

        Ah snap!! Good eyes there, jhowe. I missed the word ‘not’. Your story was dark!! Very dark :/ made me feel like I needed a shower after I read it. Very nicely described.

  44. Critique says:

    I didn’t tell Maddie the real reason we got the property so cheap.

    The agency said the place was haunted. Fifteen years ago, an elderly couple had lived in the house for six months when they both vanished.

    The place needed major work but I’d have been a fool to pass on it because of some ghost story.

    Maddie’s turned into a nag.

    “Wes, the front yard is full of red ants.” Maddie said. “And the back yard looks like a jungle.”

    “Judy’s bringing the boys and that frayed rope on the swing worries me.” Maddie said.

    “Wes.” Maddie raised her voice. “This place is a dump.”

    The neighbours to the east mow their lawn at eight in the morning – even if it doesn’t need it. A guy can’t get any sleep.

    The OCD folks to the west keep their lawn manicured with kitchen scissors – saw it with my own eyes – bugs the crap out of me. Who cares anyway?

    Live and let live, I always say.

    My daughter Judy left in a huff when the grand kids lost their soccer ball in the two foot tangle of weeds and grass.

    I hauled out the Husqvarna mower – it came with the place when we bought it six months ago – and checked for oil and gas. I yanked on the cord for ten minutes. Nothing. Stupid machine. I’d worked up a lather. My back hurt.

    Tomorrow was another day.

    Lugging the dead machine back to the shed the ground fell away and I found myself corkscrewing down a tunnel.

    “Help! Maddie!”

    I landed unhurt on the rock floor of a cavern. Candles surrounded a bearded man sitting cross legged in the middle of the room. He stared at me.

    “Who are you?” I said.

    “Do you know why you’re here Pete Brewster?” His voice was compelling.

    “Am I dead?” I said.

    “You’ve been offered a chance to reverse a decision you made twenty-five years ago.” He said.

    Twenty-five years ago my son Donnie drowned on his fifth birthday. I still see his gray lips and lifeless little body strapped to the stretcher.

    That day color fled my world. I kept it that way.

    “The people in your life love you very much Pete.” The voice worked magic.

    In stunning colourful focus I could see Maddie’s gentle anxious face, Judy so beautiful like her mother, the fine man she married and my two grandsons.

    “The Book of Wisdom tells us to ‘live until we die’.” The bearded man said. “What’s it going to be Pete?”

    “I want to live.” I began to weep, remorseful for the wasted years of selfish non-living I’d burdened my family with.

    Then I found myself laying next to the Husqvarna amongst the thistles and tall grass.

    I heard myself repeating.“I choose life.”

    I took a deep breath and smelled the warm pungent earth. The sky was a thrilling indigo blue.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Deep, strange, and philosophical. These are three things I like in a story, and you’ve managed to hit every one. Great job.

      • Critique says:

        Thank you Observer Tim. I suffer angst on various levels when I post my little scribbles because I wonder if they are read-worthy?? Your comment is a shot in the arm to keep my fingers in shape on the keyboard :)

    • vaderize03 says:

      This struck a chord, not to mention being every parents’ worst nightmare.

      Nice job!

    • Critique says:

      My apologies! Sometime during my scribble in the early morning, Wes dashed off to the registry and changed his name to Pete :(

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Critique, you touched my heart in so many ways. I had to face this decision seven years ago and I’m still struggling. One step forward, sometimes two back. Either way, I’m trying to work it out. Sometimes the anger is so fierce, I want to step on God’s face.

        Other times, I think, ‘Why am I so weak, I can not recover’? Most menories in my life come and go like the tide, but Leslie’s not the tide. Through my tears, I thank you for the story. Either you have been there, God forbid or you know some one who has. I love your stories and have since I read the first one. Sometimes, it’s this forum who keeps me moving. Come to think, I know it it. God bless every one. Kerry

        • Critique says:

          Your comments touched my heart Kerry. I’m sorry for your loss.

          I read this recently and want to send it to you.
          “When it comes to grief: there is no rule book, no time frame, no judgement. Grief is an individual fingerprint.”

          I agree this forum is remarkable.The positive, constructive and helpful comments shared from each other about our stories creates an environment where we writers can flourish.

          There is a lot of fine talent here. You are one of them Kerry :)
          I enjoy your stories and appreciate your comments!

    • MCKEVIN says:

      This was very good on so many levels. Good job.

    • derrdevil says:

      I had to read this a second time because I got lost somewhere halfway. I didn’t expect such a warm and inviting start to end up so deep. And loaded with meaning. It made me really feel for you MC. I guess it’s that kind of connection to the MC all readers are looking for from their authors. Loved your take, Critique. I always do :)

    • Wow. You had strong emotion, mystery and suspense all wrapped into a well crafted story. Nice work.

    • seliz says:

      What a wonderful story of healing and dealing with life’s chaos. I love the part about choosing to live and the hopeful undertones afterwards.

    • Reaper says:

      Beautiful Critique. Your writing is always good, and one of the things that makes it is what seem like little choices in the narrative that are actually so very important. The fact that the choice was not to save his son, but to live on afterwards made this fantastical piece so very real and relateable. That one choice took and amazing story and elevated it even further.

  45. rle says:

    Weightlessness. The feeling temporarily liberated my mind, body and soul. It seemed for a moment that I’d been in this state of limbo forever, neither here, nor there. Blackness surrounded me as I floated aimlessly about. The intensity of the silence threatened to deafen me. Oddly, this all seemed like bliss.

    Presently a tiny pinpoint of light appeared and approached me(or maybe I approached it, it was hard to tell). As it grew larger, it began to take shape and my sense of calm slowly morphed into a state of panic.

    The light had grown much larger and had become a window just inches from my face. Through the window, I peered at myself on my lawn mower where I’d been just an instant before. There was a sudden flash and the scene changed. This time, it was me sitting in last weeks sales meeting. Flash. Me last Christmas, surrounded by a mountain of wrapping paper putting together a bicycle. Flash. Me standing by my wife’s side seven years ago as she gave birth to our son. Flash. My wedding day. On and on it went, every important event in my life flashing before my eyes. Was I dying? Was this how it happened? Was this how the cloak of death wrapped it’s arms around us and squeezed? I didn’t understand. All I was doing was mowing my grass. What could have possibly happened to have brought me here?

    All of a sudden one final flash filed my eyes, but instead of looking through the window at another moment in my life, I was pulled through and hurled onto a dirty linoleum floor that was all too familiar. I pulled myself to my feet and directed my attention to a small wooden table where three young men sat illuminated by a single, lonely incandescent that hung precariously above their heads. One of the men was me. I was nineteen. Although, it had been twenty plus years since I’d been here, I remembered this night well and I knew I’d been thrust into this moment to change one of the biggest regrets of my life. This was the night I’d become a cocaine addict.

    My pulse quickened. I knew I had to act fast. Two lines of fine white powder rested on a mirror in front of the person I’d been. I started to call out to myself but stopped cold before my mouth could emit a sound. I took an unsteady step backwards and watched as I snorted that first line. This was the beginning of what would eventually become a three year love affair with the stuff. I couldn’t change this even though I wanted to so desperately. I suddenly came to realize that by changing this one small moment, I would alter everything that came after. My addiction was by far, the biggest regret of my entire life, but it was part of who I was. It was part of what made me what I am today. Had I not snorted that first line, I would have never hit rock bottom, never checked into rehab, never fallen in love and married one of my counselors, never fathered our children, never had my ordinary suburban life. Men were never supposed to go back and change history, even if it was merely their own.

    I closed my eyes and exhaled a long breath. I heard a rhythmic rumbling and felt my entire body vibrating in unison. I opened my eyes and I was in my backyard on my lawn mower, exactly where I’d been a nanosecond ago. I looked toward the house where my wife sat on the back porch swing, flanked by our son and daughter. She was reading them one of their favorite books. She glanced up, smiled and waved. I smiled and waved back. Some things should never be changed.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Heartfelt warm and a tinge of what happened during the three year addiction. Good job.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a good reminder of how life works, rle. You told us the MC’s live in flashes, backwards, and as a result I find myself empathizing with him even more. Bravo.

    • Critique says:

      An enjoyable read. Most of us would admit to regrets about some/one decisions we’ve made in the past. There’s no changing that. What matters is changing our ‘scars’ into ‘stars’. Your MC learned valuable lessons and grew in a positive way as a result of them.

  46. Dennis says:

    Second Chances

    Harold didn’t know what the mysterious hole in his yard was, but was more annoyed to be bothered with having to investigate it. Apparently it was found while mowing the grass. “I pay those landscape guys enough,” he grumbled. “Why must I do their work for them?”

    One of the landscape crew picked Harold up in a golf cart. Such things were needed for his twenty acre lot.

    “Ok Jorge, tell me again why I’m going out there?”

    “It’s Julio, sir.”

    “Julio, Jorge, what’s the difference. Never mind, I’ll see for myself?”

    Harold hopped out of the cart and rolled up his sleeves. “Most likely just a sink hole.” He leaned over the edge and thought he heard something, so he leaned in a bit further. To his utter surprise he felt himself sucked into the hole, traveling at some unthinkable speed.

    As he slowed down, what appeared before him was a scene from his past, the very moment that propelled his career forward. He took credit for the report on the China account which led to many promotions and the great life he now lived. Bill Struthers, the man who actually was responsible for the report, was never heard from since. Now Harold found himself back in the scene.

    “Great work everyone. The meeting is adjourned. Harold, could I have a few words with you?”

    “Yes, Mr. Parker.” Once everyone was out of the conference room, Mr. Parker closed the door.

    “Mighty impressive report, Singleton. I see a promotion in your future.”

    The perspiration rolled down Harold’s tense brow. This was a deciding moment for his future. He knew what he should say, what his heart was telling him. Inside his head a voice was screaming “No, don’t tell him!”

    “It was Struthers sir. He did most of the work.”

    “And you are sticking with that story?”

    After what seemed like an eternity of pondering that question, Harold finally answered. “Yes, it was all Struthers sir.”

    “Very well then.”

    Harold began to experience the feeling of being accelerated through space, the same as when he was pulled into the hole. There was a moment when he experienced the life he had been living and what was to be his new life. He had no idea he had imprisoned his heart with such false ideas of happiness.

    Harold found himself back in his yard, leaning against his mower, hearing his name being called. He turned to see his neighbor peeping over the fence.

    “Hey Julio”

    “You alright? You’ve been staring into space the last couple of minutes”

    Harold looked down to where he thought the hole was. “I feel like I just woke up from a dream.”

    “Probably just too much sun.”

    Harold chuckled. “Yeah, probably right.”

    Harold walked inside and kissed his wife. She handed him a glass of cold ice tea.

    “You’d better get cleaned up. Remember, the Struthers’ will be here in a bit for dinner.”

    Harold felt excited to see his best friend again, as if he hadn’t seen him in a long time.

    (Just a tad over but thought it really could use more words to flush it out. Welcome any feedback)

    • seliz says:

      Nicely told story. What a change having a friend in life can do. Then the relief the main character must have felt being able to go back and tell the truth. My favorite line was, “He had no idea he had imprisoned his heart with such false ideas of happiness.” It was so poetic and something can easily be applied to anyone.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Dennis, I have a hunch how this story ends up. What I love about it is the multitude of directions your story coild take. Okay, here’s mine. His friend, Struthers is living the life that Harold had experienced all the years. However Harold was promoted to Chairman Of The Board of the same company, for how rare it is to place the sucess your superior thinks you created to the real creator.

        In doing so, his boss realized what a sense of honor Harold had command of and could be totally dedicated to whatever company he happened to work for thus multiple promotions occured to vault him to the top of the business world.

      • derrdevil says:

        I agree Seliz! That line stuck with me too.

        Dennis, a true Ebenezer Scrooge tale. And Kerry is right. It could have went in so many different directions, but I like the way it ended. It’s a flash of fiction, so it’s a worthy end.

        My take would be that Harold doesn’t change his decision, however, it forces him to realise what he has done to others as well as, most importantly, to himself. And the grumpy old chap turns out to be a truly big hearted guy, living with the regret of the choices he has made, but also knowing hat he has had a second chance to right it over.

        But then again, I doubt that would have fitted in a prompt :/

    • Jessica Friedman says:

      are the postings selective because I tried to submit but it didn’t work…

    • Observer Tim says:

      Very nice take, Dennis. I’m glad to see that the alternate life is still a good one, in many ways better because it is shared.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Very nicely done. It makes me wonder how many friendships have been lost to backstabbing. Good job.

  47. msmarisa13 says:

    What in the world? Rose stopped the riding mower and looked behind her. The sun was bright and shinning in her eyes. Was that hole there all along?

    “Hey Dewayne”, she yelled, “Did you see this hole before we started?” She pointed to place behind her.

    Dewayne, who looked up from his raking when she turned off the mower, glanced to where she was pointing. “No Rose.”

    They looked at each other and began walking toward the hole. They stopped and as they glanced down into it, they realized it was a tunnel. Rose gasped and stepped back, Dewayne just stared with his mouth open. With tears in her eyes, Rose grabbed Dewayne’s hand and together they stepped into the tunnel.

    It was warm, almost humid but not quite. The ground underneath her was hard with rocks and twigs. Eighteen year old Rose’s back hurt from the pressure of the man on top of her. The hand squeezing her throat made it impossible for her to breathe. Tears were rolling down her face. It was dark and she could not see his face. He grunted and with a last harsh thrust flopped on her. She refused to scream to give him the satisfaction. Finally he rolled off her. His hand still around her neck he pulled a knife from somewhere. She felt the tip touch her side sliding along to her chest. She could feel pain and knew he had drawn blood. Suddenly he was off her, laughing as he jumped up and ran away. Rose lay there for a long time. When she finally got up, walls had been built around heart and mind. She forgot she had just been raped.

    Dewayne was seeing the entire incident. With his heart about to burst from sorrow he realized he could do something about this. Knowing what was about to happen, he stood in the trees and watched as the man dragged Rose from a car towards the woods. The man was so intent on what he was trying to do that he did not hear Dewayne run from the trees. Dewayne ran at the man and knocked him to the ground. He punched him in the face over and over and over again. There was blood on his fists and his clothes. He drew his hand back to hit him again but Rose grabbed it. She had gotten off of the ground and looked at him.

    “Enough” she told him. “He’s done”.

    Dewayne got off the man and looked down at him. The man’s chest was rising and falling slowly. They left hand in hand. Not looking back.

    The tunnel closed up and the hole was gone. Rose looked at Dewayne. When she saw the love shinning from his eyes she realized she would never be alone again. The past did not dictate her future. The walls around her heart and mind crashed down. She accepted Dewayne’s love and was able to give him hers.

    • seliz says:

      I love the way you took this piece. Having to relive the rape was probably torture, but the fact that she was able to get closure and someone to help share her feelings with was great. There were so many ways that you could have taken this–having Dewayne kill the man as one–but the fact that you focused on your main characters healing and bringing down walls instead was perfect.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Nice love story, msmarisa. The sense I get is that this incident pulled Rose and Dewayne together, and what was changed would be the years that passed before they finally found each other.

      This is touching.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      The knight in shining armor prevails again. Nice take on the prompt.

      • msmarisa13 says:

        Thank you for the feedback. I feel this story needs to be continued, and yes it is a love story…There is so much more to be said when couples can overcome their past’s and move forward.

  48. Ahsuniv says:

    I am away from home and had to type this on a very basic app. So, I couldn’t count the words nor did I have the time to edit it thoroughly. So, excuse me for any mistakes and pardon my word count.

    ————

    The hole was large enough to fit a whole person through. Jane squatted with her hands on her knees wondering how it got there. As she looked into the depths of the hole, she heard a squeak from below.

    ‘Eeeek!’ she shrieked as a mouse wriggled in the grassy Earth beneath her feet. She shifted her feet in a hurry, lost her balance and got pelted into the hole head first. A sudden darkness engulfed her and she felt the air rush up about her as she fell down. She landed on solid ground with a thump. She heard blaring music growing louder. When the darkness cleared, she squinted as colorful light beams flashed into her eyes and a smoke drifted about, clouding her vision.

    She felt herself transported into a life twenty years into her past. She was sitting in a soft red couch and clutched herself tighter as she felt a chill. Her best friend was dancing with her fiancé to the right. The guy, she couldn’t remember the name of, was dancing oblivious to the drink in his hand spilling and making a beer puddle on the ebony floor. She felt her eyes burn and her body ache. She remembered that she was unwell that night.

    Everything was exactly the same. But, how could it be? She looked at her hands. They were neatly manicured, young and fresh. There was no wedding ring on her finger. She felt a stray strand of hair fall into her eyes and brushed it off realizing how long her hair had been back then. She looked down at her dress. Her favorite dress. A deep purple that matched her eyes. It was the day that the dress got ruined.

    She watched the rest of her friends dancing away with their partners. She felt the past shadow of loneliness creep over her once again. But then the image of her husband came back to her. Him, over worked and tired. Her, looking over his face as he slept. Where was the love? The taste of love was difficult to forget. It was easier to endure lonliness than to miss lost love.

    ‘Jane? Jane…’ called a voice from next to her, snapping her out of her reverie. She looked to her side and saw a smiling face. George. The popular kid from school days who turned up at the party unexpectedly. His dark hair stood up messily on his head. His teeth were neat and pearly white. They gleamed a strange blue in the club’s lighting. He was her school crush. The crush who never knew that she existed.

    ‘Do you want to dance with me?’ He asked sticking out his hand.

    Jane thought back to the last time the situation had presented itself. The only reason that she had refused him back then was because she was ill and hadn’t felt up to it. But now, she knew what refusing him would mean. It would mean losing him forever.

    The previous night’s quarrel with her husband was still fresh in her mind. Her, showing him the vacation tickets to Miami. Him, chucking them in the bin. Her, demanding for a vacation. Him, refusing to give one.

    Perhaps this was God’s way of giving her a new chance at life? Accepting the dance would open up a whole new world for her.

    But then, a fresh memory came into her mind. Him, pointing at a baby store.

    ‘I will do everything in my power to give our children the best,’ he said.

    She thought about the kind of life George would give her. But, she failed to picture it.

    ‘I’m sorry, George. I just don’t feel up to dancing right now,’ she said softly. George got up and walked away without as much as a second glance.

    The next moment, she felt a drink topple over her dress as a man slipped on the puddle of drink, soaking her dress. The man looked up at her with a goofy grin. Jane looked into his eyes and smiled as she saw her future husband in them.

  49. Marie Therese Knepper says:

    This is part 2 to my first take on the prompt. Enjoy!

    EXTREME REGRESSION: THE KILLER WITHIN

    “Frankay! You good for nothin’ piece of shit, where are my smokes?”

    I can’t bring myself to look her in the eye. Look who’s calling who a piece of shit. Does she even know who my real father is?

    “There you are. What the hell, Frankay. You’re gonna get us evicted for sure, diggin’ a hole like that. What are you tryin’ to hide, boy?” She starts to lunge at me, her slapping hand in position for a hard strike.

    I look her square in the eye. “It’s your grave, Maw.”
    She took a few steps back. Hands done at her sides now, she’s the passive one for a change. I maintain my glare. If she has an iota of intelligence she knows I’m not playing.

    As she slowly backs away, the mongrel in her realizes it’s safe to get off a few yaps.

    “You best have that hole filled by the time I get back, or it’ll be your grave.”

    Oh, I’ll fill the hole all right, with your dead body, skeezebag.

    Wait a minute. I walk over to the closest edge. How will I fill this hole? There’s no extra dirt to stop it up. I look deeply into the abyss, searching for answers to more than my immediate question. A dark, ominous vapor shaped like a python rises, hissing at me,

    “You can still choose.”

    We stare at each other for not more than a few seconds. I nod, and then it sucks me into the void.

    Th-thump, th-thump. Something is squeezing me hard. I’m trapped inside some kind of water chamber. As the contractions subside, the full realization of my surroundings sinks in. It’s payback time, bitch.

    The cord is just slightly out of reach. I kick and roll, grabbing it just before the next contraction starts. Slow and steady, Frankie. Chances are good I won’t be Frankie for long. I wonder if I can somehow pick my own name? One thing at a time…

    Feeling the contraction ebbing, I take hold of the cord and pull with all my might. For good measure, I sink my little baby nails into it, too. My little world starts to fill with blood from the gash in skeezebag’s uterus. Wait for it, wait for it, I tell my little self. Feeling the strongest contraction coming, I go bersecker on the cord. Just as it gives way, I’m whisked away by an unseen force.

    Lights. Shouting. Someone sticking their fingers down my throat.

    Someone wipe my eyes, dammit, so I can see my handiwork.

    “You poor little fellow,” someone in a nurse’s uniform coos at me. Standing beside her is another nurse. “He’s one of the most beautiful babies I’ve ever seen. And he hasn’t cried or given us any problems at all. He should be adopted in no time.”

    I smile at them, even wiggling in delight, which evokes more ooh’s and aah’s from my nursery fan club.
    Damn straight, I’ll be adopted. But I’m in no hurry. I’m gonna find me the perfect mom.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Whoa. Awesome follow-up, Marie. So in part one he Frankie got himself a new father and in part two a new mother. This is so surreal it’s perfect! I find myself rooting for him, and hoping that the choice he makes as a baby is a good one.

  50. Jessica Friedman says:

    The smell of tomatoes in the summertime is as refreshing as the sunrise with friends, it reminds me of cool weather, it makes the sweat smell like peaches, it tastes like the best memories. We worked all day until our blisters tore open and the wind still hadn’t swung it’s first batting eyelash. We ate well and drank ourselves to sleep.
    Today was different, with the orange hand in the sky, the sun hand tickled our stomachs and beards and armpit hairs and happy trails like an ant on the skin. Which disappears first, the ant or the sun? The fruit or the leaves?
    Ash walks out and smiles but doesn’t want to garden. They are wearing a t-shirt, holding a rat, drinking water out of a mason jar, studying their own looks as if chanting nonsense from a bible. They haven’t exercised in days but they’ll do a pull up here and there and laugh so hard until they sweat out from the eyes and it’ll transfer to their hands and there it is, a work out. We talk for a minute about tomatoes and the size of Ash’s period pad.
    “Cry me a river,” I joke relating the nature in our yard to the woes of womynhood.
    “It’s the worst,” Ash laments about the woes of womynhood.
    “Do you want to take acid tonight? We’re all going to do it.”
    —-
    Time creeps in like a cockroach at night. It’s dark almost black physique and the alarming quickness to it makes it seem like it’s gone in an instant, but it lingers, making small sounds like a mouse. When the porch creaks it makes us think of older times, freer moments when our bodies hung like wet clothes on the line. We got really high and happy that night and the moon became purple and the leaves pink. We admired our work in the yard in the dim shadows and cried like a child among the tomatoes. We looked about for our eyes and just then and there, a black hole appears in the yard. My mind became min(d)e again. That time when we were 5 at the YMCA in the middle of nowhere Los Angeles appeared as words manifested into spelling bees and water and petri dishes, etc. etc. Sleep is a magical thing when you fall into it. We were 5, stepped into a loose brick and lost control of our footing, and stayed there for 500 years only to become a statue that couldn’t be moved out of art galleries and museums. We were 5, our body brittle sage morphing into cement in a desert field. There was no more grass, no more tomatoes, no more friends, only the fake A.C. wind and the museum-goers. I would see my sister and my mom every couple of years, but they never knew it was me. They’d just pass by me, blank as a black hole, like a creeping cockroach, instantly gone.

    • Observer Tim says:

      There’s a lot of vibrant imagery in here, Jessica. It’s a beautiful and haunting.

      I’m just a wee bit confused, though; is the bit at the end the character tripping, or is it a final reveal of their fate? I’m not sure…

      Welcome to the site!

  51. jessicalouis says:

    The smell of tomatoes in the summertime is as refreshing as the sunrise with friends, it reminds me of cool weather, it makes the sweat smell like peaches, it tastes like the best memories. We worked all day until our blisters tore open and the wind still hadn’t swung it’s first batting eyelash. We ate well and drank ourselves to sleep.

    Today was different, with the orange hand in the sky, the sun hand tickled our stomachs and beards and armpit hairs and happy trails like an ant on the skin. Which disappears first, the ant or the sun? The fruit or the leaves?

    Ash walks out and smiles but doesn’t want to garden. They are wearing a t-shirt, holding a rat, drinking water out of a mason jar, studying their own looks as if chanting nonsense from a bible. They haven’t exercised in days but they’ll do a pull up here and there and laugh so hard until they sweat out from the eyes and it’ll transfer to their hands and there it is, a work out. We talk for a minute about tomatoes and the size of Ash’s period pad.

    “Cry me a river,” I joke relating the nature in our yard to the woes of womynhood.

    “It’s the worst,” Ash laments about the woes of womynhood.

    “Do you want to take acid tonight? We’re all going to do it.”
    —-

    Time creeps in like a cockroach at night. It’s dark almost black physique and the alarming quickness to it makes it seem like it’s gone in an instant, but it lingers, making small sounds like a mouse. When the porch creaks it makes us think of older times, freer moments when our bodies hung like wet clothes on the line. We got really high and happy that night and the moon became purple and the leaves pink. We admired our work in the yard in the dim shadows and cried like a child among the tomatoes. We looked about for our eyes and just then and there, a black hole appears in the yard. My mind became min(d)e again. That time when we were 5 at the YMCA in the middle of nowhere Los Angeles appeared as words manifested into spelling bees and water and petri dishes, etc. etc. Sleep is a magical thing when you fall into it. We were 5, stepped into a loose brick and lost control of our footing, and stayed there for 500 years only to become a statue that couldn’t be moved out of art galleries and museums. We were 5, our body brittle sage morphing into cement in a desert field. There was no more grass, no more tomatoes, no more friends, only the fake A.C. wind and the museum-goers. I would see my sister and my mom every couple of years, but they never knew it was me. They’d just pass by me, blank as a black hole, like a creeping cockroach, instantly gone.

  52. Artemis4421 says:

    [Edited it a bit, but it's still not necessarily under word limit. Closer than it was, though...]

    I go out under the colorless sky, stepping onto the dull grass, thinking about the stories of a different world. The world the Teller tells us stories about under his canvas tent. When the work is done, then I can sneak out again to hear his wonderful stories.

    Today’s work day is almost over, but I have yet to cut the grass behind our house. I climb upon the seat of the grass-cutter, placing my feet on the pedals. I don’t have to use a kids’ cutter anymore; last year my legs finally grew long enough to use the adult version, which only takes two passes instead of four.

    Technically, today is Mom’s turn to cut the grass, but I said I would do it for her after I heard her deep coughing from the next room over. She’s getting sick like most of the adults here; this world just wasn’t made for them. They’re supposed to be in the ‘other world’ where there’s less order, more freedom. No one ever talks about that, but we all know it’s true. We kids have been here since we were young, so it doesn’t take as much adjusting to the strict environment.

    As I begin to pedal, the cutter slowly moves, but halfway through the first pass, one of the front wheels slides down abruptly, and I find myself thrown from the cutter. The grass tickles my face, and my eyes land on a small hole, probably the one the wheel fell into. I reach my hand out to touch it, and the edges fall away, making it much larger. Now it’s a tunnel leading into never-ending blackness.

    I pause, looking at it and wondering what’s happening. This must be another Test; will said specimen go down the hole, or go to authorities like they should? The choices run quickly through my mind, and I go to stand up- and I lose my footing, feeling the ground crumble beneath my feet as I tumble down the hole, the walls battering my ill-prepared body.

    The darkness finally leaves, and I blink to see a bright blue sky. That can’t be right. I sit up, feeling decidedly different, and my gaze lands on a house. It’s a house from the stories the Teller tells us; large and strangely shaped, with a big yard. A big yard filled with bright green grass. My senses are overwhelmed with beauty.

    “Sarah!” A voice calls from the house. I feel my body-or is it Sarah’s body? – get up and go over to the house. I enter the cool place, which has a foreign but pleasant smell to it. I spot a young boy asleep on the couch across the room, and with a start, I realize it must be me, and I must be my mom. It’s a strange situation, but I’m helpless to change it.

    “Sarah, please don’t go! You don’t have to succumb to their experiments! You’re supposed to stay here, in this world. Please rethink this.” An older woman pleads, sitting next to the sleeping boy.

    I try forcing myself to say something, but can’t do anything as the head that isn’t mine shakes. “I’m sorry Ma, you know he put his life into this project,” my mom starts, her voice catching and I feel an unfamiliar ache in my -her – chest. She says nothing more, just grabs the boy off of the couch and casts a loving eye to the woman who now refuses to look at her.

    “I love you, Ma. This’ll work out just fine, you’ll see,” Mom says before walking out the door into the blinding light. Except the blinding light gives way to our small house, and my sick mother is lying on the couch sleeping like I was so long ago. I’ve just lived through one of Mom’s most important decisions, but now it’s time I made my own.

    “I’m sorry Mom,” I whisper to her sleeping form, choking back the ache that I felt when I was in Mom’s body.

    I’ll escape this dreaded city, no matter what it takes. I’ll walk for miles to find a weak spot in the barbed fence, and I’ll climb under it, not caring for the deep scratches it gives me, and the tatters of clothes it leaves me with. I’ll walk across the desert landscape for miles until I find the edge of the other world, and the sky will become brighter the whole time, giving me the hope I need to continue. The whole world will be new and different, and maybe I will be too. Maybe not, but no matter what, I’ll be free.

    • Observer Tim says:

      I love this take, Artemis. You’ve built a world that is both intriguing and disturbing, and then shown us a way out. I’m glad you didn’t let the word limit slavishly restrict you; that would make the other world win.

  53. peetaweet says:

    The thing just stayed with me, that hole out back that I’d come across while mowing earlier that day. I’d stayed clear of it, especially after, after it had whispered to me. I know, I know, I kept it to myself. I try not to make a habit of telling my wife about whispering holes, but by midnight I was tossing and turning. I could hear the thing humming outside. By two Emily mumbled at me because I was buzzing with thought. By three, she tossed me to the guest room.

    I grabbed my pillow, trekking down the hall, stopping cold when I heard the faint call of the whisper again. Fearing my sanity was at stake, I thrust my feet in my shoes and ducked out into the black of night.
    It was mild at just after 3 am, the air held a touch of moisture to it. I grabbed the spade shovel leaning against the shed and marched into the shadows like a grave robber in the moonlight.

    It had grown, flashing and chirring with the crickets, breathing in the dark. I peered down into its depths and then jerked my head up before plunging in with the shovel. I stabbed at the glint of light. The shovel ripped into the earth and dirt but bounced off the impenetrable bubble.

    With each thrust the humming grew louder, pulling me. My heart raced from the physical work, I stabbed harder, and then harder still, grunting and sweating from the labor until finally I brought the shovel down with a savage violence that I’d kept hidden within me, piercing the heaving womb under the dirt and falling into the light.

    I was enveloped by a muted warmth, thick and full, with veiny tentacles that flickered with each beat on my eardrums. I was no longer breathing or being, only lost inside the pinks and purples, the floating amniotic fluids

    Tears fled my eyes, floating and mixing into the substance when I realized that I was looking at my son’s womb. The miracle of life, being just that, meant that there were casualties. The heartbreak of miscarriage, the horror of our stillborn baby that had ripped my soul right out of my chest and left me a drooping, beaten man. That left my wife sobbing softly into her pillow at night when she thought I was sleeping, unwilling to share even a glimpse into her shattered thoughts.

    My strength was fleeting, but the beat was strong, like life. Pulsing and booming, I realized that I wasn’t looking at failure but conception. This one a girl. She was beautiful. Big bright eyes, like her mothers and when I looked around. Up, down, it was too surreal to know the difference, only that I was watching my daughter come alive.

    I held my arms out to touch. To feel. It had been so long since I’d felt anything real or meaningful, since I’d gone a day in a year feeling anything more than a slight chill of the temperature or a instinctual impulse to put food in my life and chew. Yet now I was electrified with the joy of hope.

    I escaped the light exhausted and gasping. When I looked back the hole was just a hole, a depression in the grass with no light or pull or force that whispered my name. Wiping the sweat from my brow, I was alive with chills, shivering down my spine as my though my soul had been recharged. I got to my knees, looking to the house with a smile before taking a breath, hopping to my feet and running inside to kiss my wife.

  54. Poeeop says:

    The Proposal

    Saturday, 9:38 a.m.

    I began this Saturday like I did every Saturday for last three years, I stumbled out of bed, vomited in the toilet, then went downstairs to put on a pot of coffee. Breakfast would consist of two cups of black coffee, one slice of dry untoasted bread followed by the remainder of the coffee laced with the hair of the dog.

    Shuffling through the foyer on my way to the couch, I noticed a flyer taped to the glass of my front door. It was a notice from the neighborhood association, a final warning to cut the front lawn before fines were levied. I peered out at the overgrown lawn and groaned, ever since Emily and the girls were taken from this world by a mad man who I had to fire because he was embezzling funds from the company, finding motivation for the simplest tasks proved to be more difficult than the task itself. The best I could do anymore was just get numb with drink and forge ahead. I’ll mow the front lawn, but back yards are reserved for families who play catch together and barbeque on the Fourth of July and host little girl’s birthday parties. Screw the back yard.

    Halfway through plowing down knee high grass, I was tired and sweaty and in need of a drink. I sat under a tree on the edge of my lawn, then I hear my neighbors; they must be having a brunch party. I can hear faint laughter and a blend of male and female voices echoing with a far away, distant tone. Something isn’t right though, my head becomes light and dizzy, I cannot believe what I hear. Emily?

    I am on the verge of hyperventilating as I crawl towards the voices. I stop dead in my tracks, as I see three feet in front of me a giant hole in the ground. The voices are echoing up out of it along with a cold wind that blows across my hot, sweaty brow and entices me closer. My head hovers over the hole as a misty scene unfolds before me.

    “It’s so good to see you again.” It’s Emily and she’s sitting at a bar talking with a man, who I can see only the back of his head. The scene is so vivid, I can smell the bar food cooking, in the corner a group of guys is cheering while watching a game on a big screen tv, the air is stolen from my lungs when I realize that this is Emily and I on the date when I proposed.

    A soft, deep voice speaks to me, “Daniel, you can change your life right here, right now. You can end your pain and suffering. If you don’t propose here, you and Emily never wed, your daughters are never born and you begin a new life from this night. If you do propose, you’ll wed Emily, you’ll have your daughters back and you’ll be happy again….for a time. However Daniel, you will lose them again. So Daniel, just say aloud, Propose or Don’t Propose.”

    I wake up alone in bed and stretch as I glance at the clock, 9:30 a.m. I stumble out of bed and use the toilet, then shuffle downstairs to put on a pot of coffee. Breakfast would consist of fried eggs, toasted bread with homemade peach jam and two slices of thick cut bacon. Emily is in the kitchen already, pouring a glass of orange juice; she turns and smiles at me with one hand resting on her swollen belly.

    • snuzcook says:

      Lovely. You presented the ending with wonderful, Groundhog’s Day finesse. A sad story that ends with a smile.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Nice twist on the prompt. Good job.

    • Observer Tim says:

      You got me on this one, Poeeop. I was sure the MC would still choose to propose, but didn’t suss how it could still work out. Perhaps all he said was “Propose tomorrow” and that simple change made all the difference.

    • Reaper says:

      Poeeop, this is just a glorious story. Having the moment be pivotal, but not the one the character would really want to change. An amazing choice there. I assume the end was him reliving the happy part of his life, not getting a different present, but that could just be me and seems like a perfect reward for the choice he made.

  55. kittycat4ever says:

    A more edited version, as trimmed up as I think I can get it. Please let me know what you think. Thank you.

    Cut the grass? Guess my grandparents haven’t been outside in long time, cause the grass was dead from the 100+ degrees of summer Texas heat. Rather than fight them on it, I mow it anyway. At the end of the first row, I notice a large hole partially hidden by the lone tree that shades it. Curious, I carefully make my way closer to the hole. I feel odd, dizziness hits and I close my eyes against it. I open them to find I am now standing in my childhood home. I arrived just in time to see my 10 year old self trying to wake my mother. She would not wake.

    “Let her sleep, Jasmine, I need to talk to you.”

    Jasmine looked at our mother with uncertainty,” Shouldn’t we help her? She could die if I don’t help her.”
    Holding Jasmine to me, I asked,”Do you remember the day you promised you would stay no matter how bad it got, that you would always be here to take care of her?”

    “Yes.”

    “That’s a promise you shouldn’t have to make, you should feel safe and loved at home… with an adult who takes care of you. Think about how hard you fought to earn her love, how you push yourself to be the perfect child. All she does is tell you how isn’t good enough, how *you* aren’t good enough….. ” Pain, long buried crept into my voice, tears unbidden caress my cheek.

    “Mom is always taking you to different doctors or therapists, telling them whats wrong with you instead of the other way around. That you are learning disabled and a difficult child because you are ADHD and OCD. What do your teachers say Jasmine?”

    Licking her lips and casting a glance at our mom,” They said I’m really smart. I scored really high on the IQ test and I should be in Advance classes, maybe even skip a grade.”

    “That’s right, and she won’t let you get out of special ed classes, even though the school recommends it. You act out because you are bored. She has to switch doctors alot to keep them from the truth. It is not about making things better, its about money, control and how she looks good being a single mother to her two *difficult* children.”

    I force myself to say the painful words,”She knew how our step dad touched us. She knew everything and never told the therapists or our doctor. She never got you any real help… I am 18 and I still remember what he did. It haunts me. I also remember the times she threw stuff at me or when she hurled that heavy book bag at my head. Or when she beat me until I was balled up on the floor crying while she kicking me screaming,”How do you like it?!” Or when she yelled as me for hours at time, the names she called me and the isolation from our little “family”. I was always so alone, my friends weren’t good enough for her nor was I good enough to be downstairs. Always banished to the upstairs, alone, while they lived downstairs.”

    I gave Jasmine a hug saying,”Mom isn’t taking care of our brother either. No, she doesn’t hit him, but shes abusing him just the same. You know he’s not retarded like she wants the doctors to say. No one will listen to you cause your a child and she’s got all the professionals fooled. Let me tell you a secret, in six years, when she dies…. he fights to be a normal kid with friends and is eventually put in advanced math classes.”

    The words rush out of me like a dam breaking,”Let her sleep! For our sake, save us from the next six years of hell before she dies in agony. No one expects a child who is in special ed classes to know what diabetic shock is. No one will question it if you just go upstairs and play. She’s sleeping, there will be no pain for her. You and our brother will end up with our Grandparents or our Aunt. They won’t let him be taken away. I promise. It is better for everyone this way.”

    Slowly guiding Jasmine upstairs I turn on the N64 and hand her the controller. “Sometimes we have stop doing things for others and take care of ourselves.” Leaning forward I kiss Jasmine’s forehead. “You thought she was sleeping and you played games until it got dark. Never feel guilty for this moment. You are beautiful, valuable, smart, talented and anything else is a lie. Tell the grief counselor about what our step-dad did, cause trying to forget it won’t work. Things will only get better from here, you’ll see.”

    Stepping back into the void, I close my eyes and when I open them, I realize the sound of the waves on the lake has lulled me to sleep again. My brother was running toward me, begging to hang out on the boat with my friends during my summer party. “Sure, but only til 10pm. You’re only twelve kiddo.” A smile played on my lips as I headed inside to change, its my last summer here in Oregon before I go to college. I got a full ride to Rice University this fall. I’m sure my mother would be proud if she was still here.

    • snuzcook says:

      Kittycat, you have told a story of the way we all wish the universe worked: That we can go back and rescue children from abusive and toxic situations and make sure they get the chance they deserve to thrive. Even readers who do not have the same trauma in their lives can relate to the wish that we had the chance to avert disaster. Well done.

    • Observer Tim says:

      I read the other version first, and the only difference in how great it is is the length. You’ve told a great story of “the advice I’d give my younger self”, and you’ve told it in a wondrous way.

    • Reaper says:

      Wonderful blending of sweet and dark here. I kept changing my mind about what I wanted to happen. That last line is perfectly twisted and sums it all up perfectly.

    • seliz says:

      You did a great job giving the MC’s background in a way that was effortless to read. It had me rooting for her to get the healing she needed. I was glad that it worked out well for the MC and that she got the life she always wanted.

  56. kittycat4ever says:

    I apologize for being WAY over word count, but I couldn’t figure out how to trim it down any more without losing information.

    Cut the grass? Maybe my grandparents just hadn’t been outside in long time, cause the grass was dead. Brown, lifeless nubs of grass surrounded the house in the Texas summer heat. Days of 100+ degree are normal and so is the lack of rain this time of year. At 18, I had no money for college so I was staying home and working for a while before I went to school. Wanting to keep the peace, I started mowing the lawn anyway. As I reached the spot where our land ended and the empty lot began, I noticed a large hole just a few feet into the field, partially hidden by the lone tree that shaded it.

    Curious as to what had made such a large hole, i carefully made my way closer to the hole, peering inside. Suddenly, I was standing in my old living room from my childhood. My 10 year old self trying to wake my mother. She wouldn’t wake up no matter how hard she shook her or called her name. “Let her sleep, Jasmine, I need to talk to you.”

    Jasmine looked at our mother with uncertainty and then says to me,” Shouldn’t we help her? She’s sick again. She could die if I don’t help her.”

    Holding Jasmine to me, I asked,”Do you remember the day you promised you would stay no matter how bad it got, that you would always be here to take care of her?”

    “Yes.”

    “That’s a promise you shouldn’t have to make, you should feel safe and loved at home… with an adult who takes care of you.Think about all the times you tried so hard to earn her love. All those A’s in school, and the lone B- is all she can talk about to her friends.” Pain, long buried crept into my voice, tears unbidden caressed my cheek.

    “You are so smart Jasmine, and she keeps you in remedial classes. Saying you need them because your ADHD and OCD, that you are learning disabled. Always taking you to the doctors and therapists, telling them whats wrong with you instead of the other way around. And what do your teachers say Jasmine?”

    Licking her lips and casting a glance at our mom,” They said I’m really smart. I scored really high on the IQ test and I should be in Advance classes, maybe even skip a grade.”

    “That’s right, and she won’t let you get out of those classes even though the school recommends it. She changes doctors and therapists when they start asking too many questions. It is not about making things better, its about money and how she looks being a *good* mother to her two *difficult* children.” Pulling a breath into my lungs, I launched into the hardest part of my childhood.

    “She knew how our step dad touched us. She knew everything and never told the therapists or our doctor. She never got you any real help… I am 18 and I still remember the times she threw stuff at me or when she hurled that heavy book bag at my head. The times she beat me until I was balled up on the floor, her kicking me screaming,”How do you like it?”. The days where she yelled as me for hours at time, the names she called me and the isolation from our little “family”. Always upstairs, always alone, never allowed to be part of our family. I am 8 years older than you and I will always remember.”

    “She isn’t taking care of you. Nor is she taking care of our brother.You don’t think he’s retarded like the doctors want to label him. No one will listen to you cause your a child and she’s got all the professionals fooled. Let me tell you a secret, we’re right. He’s not retarded, its her influence that makes him this way. In my world, he’s a normal kid with friends and is even in advanced math classes.”

    “I know you love her, and maybe in some way she loves you….. Let her sleep. For our sake, save us from the next six years of hell before she dies in agony. You’re 10 years old. No one expects a child who is in special ed classes to know what diabetic shock is. No one will question it if you just go upstairs and play. She’s sleeping, she won’t feel any pain. You and our brother will end up with Grandma and Grandpa or our Aunt. They won’t let him be taken away. I promise.”

    Slowly guiding Jasmine upstairs I turn on the N64 that I am perpetually grounded from and hand her the controller. “Sometimes we have stop doing things for others and take care of ourselves. You’re going to have friends that grandma doesn’t like but trusts you anyways. Life will be better than you have ever known. You have a chance. The past doesn’t have to hold you back like it did me.” Leaning forward I kiss Jasmine’s forehead. “You thought she was sleeping and you played games until it got dark. Never feel guilty for this moment. You are beautiful, valuable, smart, talented and anything else is a lie. Tell the grief counselor about what our step-dad did, cause trying to forget it won’t work. In a few hours you will be free.”

    Stepping back into the void, the world spun around me. Images of my past morphed, shifted, changing their order, generating new ones. I closed my eyes and when I opened them, I realized the sound of the waves on the lake had lulled me to sleep again. Summers here in Oregon are very comfortable and mild. My brother was running toward me, begging to hang out on the boat with us during my summer party. “Sure, but you can only stay out til 10. You’re only twelve kiddo.” A smile played on my lips as headed inside to change, this summer is my last before I to college on a full scholarship to Rice University. The future is bright.

  57. icandootoo says:

    It wasn’t there yesterday, that hole. A sinkhole? I sigh and cut the mower engine.

    Strange. There is water running up the sides of the hole, and in the bottom…

    “Isabel, what are you doing?” I hear my Mother’s voice echo up the sides of the tube, and I gasp.

    “I’m digging a hole.”

    “Why would you want to dig a hole?”

    “To catch ant lions, of course. For my bug collection.”

    I hear my Mother’s sigh. “Isabel, girls do not collect bugs.”

    “They do when they’re scientists.”

    “Don’t be ridiculous. Girls can’t be scientists.”

    “Why not?”

    “I don’t know. It’s not a feminine pursuit.”

    “Madame Curie was a girl.”

    I see my mother roll her eyes, and it’s all I can do not to dive through that hole and rip them out. “Madame Curie died of cancer from the radium she played with. Fill in the hole –we don’t want your father falling in when he’s cutting the lawn.”

    My eyes follow my mother back to the house, the chores, and the crisp, pressed linen dress that is waiting for my child self, and then back to the hole.

    I watch myself look back, and a small, silver pearl drifts down my young cheek, joining the flow of water wall of the tunnel.

    Here, in the now, I gasp. The water! Tears

    A million tears from a million disappointments. A million regrets. A million unfulfilled dreams.

    It wouldn’t be so hard, I think, to jump down into this portal and take myself in hand and tell myself that I can be ANYONE, to remind myself that Madame Curie was one KICK ASS GIRL.

    Wouldn’t be so hard. But it would violate a million laws of physics, and a few science fiction tropes, and I would probably end up deleting myself from history.

    And although they took this girl out of science, they’ve never taken the science out of the girl,; and I know that it’s likely I’m having a mid-life crisis, and if I jump I’ll wake up with a broken ankle, at the bottom of a six foot deep hole, and a lot of explaining to do.

    Still, I think, on the off chance that I am not hallucinating; if this is my shining moment, then the universe must want me to do something. But what?

    I am pondering this, when I hear a thump, and a dusting of sand sails out of the hole, landing next to my feet.

    And I know I am too late.

    My daughter runs off the porch, shovel in hand.

    “Did you dig this hole, darling?”

    My daughter giggles. “Uh huh.”

    “Why?”

    “I’m searching for lost civilizations.”

    “Don’t be silly, darling.”

    She stares at me with eyes wide.

    “A shovel might damage delicate evidence. You’ll need a trowel, a toothbrush and an old window screen.”

    I glance down. The hole is sandy, and smooth, and at the bottom – inconceivably out of place, an ant lion wriggles.

    • kittycat4ever says:

      I like this one. Its sweet and reminds me of when I was in school and a teacher said that girls shouldn’t be upset if boys made better grades in math and science. I scowled at her and proceeded to get the top marks in science. :)

      • icandootoo says:

        :-)

        Autobiographically, I became a food scientist.

        But then again, autobiographically, my mother was the one who would have grabbed a trowel and a toothbrush, and not the one pressing dresses on a hot summer day ;-)

        Nice to meet a kindred soul *waves hello*

    • snuzcook says:

      From one creepy crawly collector to another, loved this story! Had me worried just before the end in that moment when she might echo her mother’s words, then *phew!* she nurtures the spirit in the child and all is right with the world.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a wonderful story. I remember the comments about girls and math/science, and even as a boy in the sub-ten years I thought “That’s a really stupid idea.”

      You can keep the creepy-crawlies though, icandootoo. In fact, if you keep them away from me it will spare me many moments of abject utter terror (the most recent of which was less than a week ago). Of course I would have tripped into the hole while staring up at the sky … to each their own.

      • icandootoo says:

        I’d probably have been at the bottom with you, having rolled over after collecting the ant lion – holes block extraneous light-noise you know – the sky is much lovelier when the city lights are blocked. <3 ;-)

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Girls rock! You rock! Nicely done!

    • Reaper says:

      Wonderful story. Loved the bait and switch at the ending. Very sweet and endearing and all around well done.

    • seliz says:

      I love this. The fact that the MC holds onto her practical way of thinking, and decides not to change her past was great. Then taking what she learned from her own experiences and applying it to how she raised her child was perfect.

  58. Kerry Charlton says:

    See PartOne , Wrong Bathroom prompt.

    A TIME FOR WAR
    [PART TWO]

    ‘It seems incredible I really did travel through time,’ Tom mused. Leaving The Washington Post he headed back to The Brooking Institute and walked into Research and Development.

    “May I help you Mr. Johnson?”, Brenda Jennings asked.

    “Please run two profiles Brenda.”

    Tom handed over the girl’s names, Delores Black and Nancy Ferguson, as well as a print of the Post’s news article.

    “I need an hour Mr. Johnson, I’ll notify you.”

    On Delores’ profile, short and sweet, he worried about two dead ends,

    ‘On February 14th, 1942 theJapanese navy sank the USAT Meigs Army transport in Darwin Harbor. Among the missing, Delores Black’s name registered.’

    But on Nancy Ferguson, he hit the mother lode. Retired from the US Navy Medical Corps in 1972 as a full Colonel her residence listed as Salem, Mass. Tom’s mind leapt, ‘Is she still alive?’ Find A Grave shattered that thought.

    ‘Died January 19th, 1992, Interment, Old Burying Point Cemetary, Salem.’

    A cold January wind greeted Tom as he walked among the ancient tombstones dating back to 1637. Nancy’s looked out of character with only a few years of the elements of time showing. ‘Why the tears,’ Tom thought. ‘I barely knew her. Could it be, she’s watching me now?’

    Touching her marker, he lowered his head in prayer wondering, ‘How?’

    Hearing the stone rumble, his eyes rose as the marker slid to the left, revealing a small chasm. Without hesitation his eyes riveted on a vision that appeared. Dressed as he saw her originally, Nancy Ferguson beckoned to him.

    “Come join me Tom. We need to try again.”

    Her arm wrapped around his, they stood together on Pennsylvania Avenue. Cars from the 1930′s traveled behind them as they approached the guards at the gate.

    “I believed you when we met today,” she said, “I’m carrying your driver’s licence. They turrned us away from seeing the President.”

    ‘God’s given a second chance to us,’ Tom thought. ‘ We must not fail again.’

    I’m sorry miss we’ve been all through this today,” the guard announced.

    “But I’ve brought proof,” she said. “This is Tom Johnson I talked to you about.”

    “Without a pass you can not enter.”

    Tom’s mind surged. ‘Secretary Of War, 1941, who in God’s name…….. Then it came to him,

    “Can we see John McChoy, Secretary Of War?”

    “Not without the proper papers.”

    Do you believe the US ciurrency Lieutenant?”

    “I beg your parden?”

    ‘Do you believe this quarter? Look at the date.”

    Tom raised the coin before the lieutenant’s face, showing the number.

    The guard stared at the coin.

    “Read the date again, Tom asked. “2014, 2014, 2014 2014. Winds rose to a fury, the sky darked to an ink hue. Tom felt the rush through time again. As he opened his eyes in the dwindling twilight, he fell at Nancy’s tombstone. His fingers traced the the lettering in the lower left hand corner,

    ‘We believed Tom. We tried our best.’

    • snuzcook says:

      Wonderful feeling of being transported along with the characters, Kerry! This really speaks to the theme that if you believe and try your utmost, you can move the wheels of destiny. Though as yet unsuccessful, your characters have not let even the boundaries of time and space, life and death, block them from that moment. That’s a wonderful heart for a story, and you are telling it well!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you snuzcook. I’m wanting to continue with the theme and story. I may go back to part one and write Tom’s wife out and make him single. I can’t think of anything more romantic then a love affair that spans time, especially if Tom goes back and saves Delores from drowning when her ship was sunk by the Japanese. There’s also the idea that perhaps both girls fall in love with Tom. There’s many avenues I could take this story to. Thank you for the wonderful idea.

      • lionetravail says:

        Awesome story. It totally captures the feeling of desperate attempts to make a difference, and trying to overcome the very weight of history. It gives me a lot of the same feeling as Stepphen King’s novel 1963. Love it.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Thank you David. I’m far from finished with it. Chapter three, Nancy and Tom will travel back to 1942, in the Pacific and try to save Delores from drowning. This will involve the Japanese and American naval forces. Stay tuned and see what transpires. Thanks for all your support. At the present time you know exactly what I do, nothing.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Excellent sequel, Kerry. It sounds like he didn’t change the past, but who knows whether 2403 Americans died at Pearl Harbor this time, or whether it was a different (hopefully smaller) number. Maybe he remembers the 4,117 who died and sees the current figure…

      I love time travel stories, and this is a really good one. Keep on going, please!

    • Critique says:

      I enjoyed this. It’s intriguing. I look forward to where you take this story Kerry.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thanks, Critique. I’ll have to keep my mind on nuetral until the next prompt comes rolling by. Somehow, I’ll fit chapter three in. As always, thank you for the read. i

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Very nice Kerry. I love time pieces too and for you to make this a full blown love story is a great idea. I hope you follow your heart and tell it like only you can.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thanks MCKEVIN. That’s exactly what I plan on doing, following my heart, and trugeing through syrup, sweetness, disappointment, frustration, love, anger and passion. Leave the cutting tools to the younger generation.

        You have to remember, I saw the news reels of the horror in Germany when I was nine years old. We all saw them as kids. It made a lasting impression on the mind of a child. Never forget Eisenhauer’s quote. “Take all the pictures you can, for some day some son of a bitch is going to say this never happened.”

    • jmcody says:

      Kerry, this story is as vast and sweeping as your imagination, spanning the depth and breadth of time, distance and the human heart. I like the moody, almost tragic tone along with a sense of limitless possibilities. This has so many of my favorite elements: period drama, romance, surrealism and tragedy tempered by hope. Can’t wait to see what happens. Keep it coming!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thanks jm. You are an entire cheering section for me. Everytime you roll off words like this, it inspires me to try even harder then before. Chapter three may be a doozey!

    • Wow, Kerry.. very nice addition to the Wrong Bathroom response! Reading the comments, perhaps you should leave the wife in it, but gradually find that the character is drawn to Nancy and thus buds a inter-time(?) romance.

      I would love to see more of this in the future, count me one of the fans of this character. :)

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thnnk you Jay for your support and ideas. A married man, Tom Johnson, falling in love with a woman who had died 22 years ago, is a strong lead, especially if he falls gently and through many time battles with Nancy at his side. I think that’s the right track to take this story. Armed with knowledge and a brilliant mind and a woman who rose through the ranks in the forties and fifties in the military. These two will make a strong team, putting their talents to work for believable causes.

    • This was suspenseful and intriguing. I’m glad I finally got online to read it.

    • Reaper says:

      Beautiful Kerry. The love story aspect I see in the comments is awesome and this story is definitely one that could only come from you. I love what I read here, that no matter what he never changes the past in a huge way, but every trip back makes a difference to this one woman, and to him. Another suggestion on the wife could be leaving her in but some change he makes alters his own present so in the middle of his gentle love, his guilt over an affair with a ghost he wakes to find himself single. It seems to fit with that hopeful tragedy feeling. I love this and can’t wait for more.

      Speaking of more. How did your conversation with the Rabbi go? I am one of your rabid fans waiting for more of the Copper Scroll as well. At least you haven’t gone all George RR Martin on us yet. Your serials are a highlight to my week, this and the other. I need to look into starting a fan club for you. I’ll even leave my knives at home for the meetings.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Herald for your thoughts , I’m formulating chapter three in my mind.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Reaper. I’m glad you’re enthused about this story, so am I. I like your ideas about the wife and the possibility he will have an affair. The correlation between brilliance and affairs is amazing to me.
        The theme of tragedy will be woven through this as well as mental torment on the aspect Tom and Nancy may not be able to change much of history but then the reader might be surprised about events.

        A far as the Copper Scroll, Jack Bemporad suggested I read a book called “The Deception Of The Dead Sea Scrolls.’ I’m wading through it. But the most surprising thing he mentioned, “Why not explore that no one really has proven who ‘The Beloved Disciple Of Christ’ was.

        Fascinating for a Rabbi to suggest this. But Jack is an unusual man, older than I and traveling the world from meeting to meeting and speech to speech.

    • seliz says:

      This was really well done. The first part was very well written, and so was this. They flowed together effortlessly and cemented the last line from the first part, “The pathway of history, never waivers.”

  59. seliz says:

    It’s safe to say the hole in my back yard is gaping. It’s large enough for me to crawl through and investigate—not that I would.

    “Mom?”

    I find her in the living room, staring at the television with blank eyes. Her hair is a tangled nest and her eyes puffy. She’s been crying again.

    “Mom, there’s some kind of hole in the backyard.”

    She looks at me with dead eyes.

    “Do you have to argue everything? All I asked was for you to mow the lawn.”

    “I’m not arguing. I just wanted to know what’s going on out there.”

    “Figure it out,” she says, her eyes flicking back to the television.

    Rage burns inside me. I lost her, too. She was my sister—my twin. Doesn’t she know I’m in pain, too? But there’s no point in arguing. My mom is lost in her memories.

    Angry tears stream down my face as I stomp outside. Plopping in front of the hole, I stare into the blackness. It should have been me that died. It was my idea to go into that house.

    As I blink away my tears, the world around me shifts.

    Darkness surrounds me like a thick cloak. Instead of a hole in the ground, the Ford manor stretches in front of me. A twisted metal fence hangs off the hinges, a reminder of forgotten wealth. The manor itself is a formidable sight with pointed towers disappearing into the darkness.

    “The haunted manor.”

    My heart quickens at the sound.

    It’s Laura, my sister.

    Her face is pale as she stares dubiously at the manor.

    “Don’t tell me you’re afraid,” Shelly says. “Angie, tell your sister to pull it together.”

    As I turn to Laura, images swim before me. Memories of me telling her that we’d be fine. Laura following us inside, shaking with every step she took.

    I can still hear the crack of the floorboard, as she disappeared from sight. Her shriek of panic ringing in my ears. Jagged pieces of rotting wood surrounding the hole where she had stood.

    In the beam of the flashlight, she looked so pale, her body twisted the wrong way.

    “Earth to Angie,” Shelly snaps. “Don’t tell me your chickening out, too. You told me you guys were cool. I didn’t come all the way out here to hang out with some losers.”

    Before I can stop myself, I jerk up my arm and punch her. She drops to the ground with a thud. Tears of relief blur my eyes as I look at my sister—alive and well. As I wipe my tears, the word shifts again.

    “Angie?”

    Laura’s next to me, hunched over the hole in the back yard.

    “What happened back here?”

    “Oh no,” I say, as I pull her away from the hole. “You stay away from there. You have bad luck with falling into things.”

  60. Violet Hayes says:

    MEMORY
    (This one isn’t my best, but this idea and concept has been a story I’ve always held close. So I went with it.)

    The lawnmower was a distant, rhythmic whirring behind me. In fact, the whole world seemed very far away, someplace I couldn’t quite reach. And I didn’t want to. All I wanted to do was step into the hole set in the grass in front of me.

    It hadn’t been there last week, or maybe it had, because it was tucked under the bushes on the side of my uncle’s ramshackle, whitewashed house. I only noticed it when I tried to turn the mower around in such a small space and my foot went straight in. I had immediately crouched down to get a better look—God, please don’t let this be a snake hole, please—and, without warning, I couldn’t move. My gaze caught at the shadows hiding whatever lie at the bottom of the hole, one I noticed to be big enough for me to slide into. I could find out what it hid, reveal its secrets.

    Find out who was beckoning me from the darkness.

    “Ches…” A whisper, soft and changing as a breeze, reached up from the hole. “Chester…” it said again. And then it issued a simple command. “Come to me.”

    I couldn’t stop myself. I leaned forward and tumbled into the hole.

    As soon as I began the plunge downwards, my senses slammed back into my body. Feeling the air rush past my face, not knowing how deep this hole was or what I was going to find at the bottom, I screamed out cuss words and scrabbled at the dirt walls surrounding me. I couldn’t see past my body; I had already forgotten how long I’d been falling. After what felt like hours, I closed my eyes and waited for me to hit the ground.

    And I stopped. I was no longer falling. Very slowly I opened my eyes—and found myself staring into a different pair of large blue ones. I was surprised, but again, I couldn’t move. I could only stare up at the girl crouched over me, her tears dripping onto my face, her blonde ponytail tickling my skin. I recognized her. She had lived across the street from me for years, but I knew her only for the fact that ghost stories always surrounded the girl supposed to be an actual ancestor of Alice Liddell. Her name was—

    My mouth curved around the syllables, my voice coming out as a hoarse, pained moan. “Izzy.”

    I was aware now of the blinding pain in my stomach, and of the pressure of her hands on what must’ve surely been a fatal wound. When she raised one hand to my face, it was stained with blood. “Ches,” she sobbed. “Cheshire, don’t die, don’t die…”

    Laughter came from behind her. She whipped her head around, a fierce look twisting her features. A man with fiery red hair and an eccentric top hat wound with brightly colored ribbons looked condescendingly back. He, too, was injured, slumped against what looked like a stone wall a ways back. “What now, Alice?” he asked her deliriously. “If you sever us from here, he won’t remember you at all! But if you don’t, you’ll be stuck! Either way, he might die before you make a choice.” He let his head fall back against the stones, cackling madly.

    I stared up at the girl, barely processing this all. My mind seemed to take it in stride when I knew I shouldn’t. I should think I was crazy. But all I could think was that I had to get her home. Alice or not, I had to get her home again.

    And suddenly my body was my own again, and I knew what this was. A second chance. Did I choose my memory, her love? Or did I choose her safety? As the man said, either way, I lost. In one, I died. In the other, I forgot her.

    But in only one would she end up happy herself.

    When she looked back down at me, eyes wide with fear and indecision, I rasped without hesitation, “Do it. Cut the line.”

    Because it didn’t matter what happened to me, or what I felt. There was never any choice to be made. I would choose her happiness any day.

    Later, when I sat down on the front porch and stared across the street at the strange old house, I wondered at the odd dream I’d had. So lifelike.

    I leaned back into the porch steps and smiled at my ridiculousness, watching the blonde girl trot down her driveway and stop in front of her mailbox. She glanced up and caught me looking, and, for a moment, I thought I saw her face crumple in grief. But then she hurried back the way she’d come.

    I shook my head, telling myself again that it had only been a dream. Surely I would remember something like that.

    • kittycat4ever says:

      So sad. She remembers but he doesn’t. I hope she is able to defies them all and make him fall in love with her again. Love (normally) conquers all. He deserves it for putting her ahead of himself.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a touching story, Violet. It paints a surreal and somewhat frightening picture of wonderland, darker that Carroll’s. Now that Ches remembers, even in the form of a dream, perhaps he will manage to reopen a door.

      My red pencil says “descendent” of Alice Liddell, not ancestor.

  61. lionetravail says:

    “Second Time Around”

    I loved my Husqvarna- it reminded me of the jeeps of my days in ‘Nam, with high seat, rollbar, and four-wheel fun in the sun. Besides looking awesome and making my neighbor Jerry jealous as hell, it let me still do the yardwork despite the contraption the VA docs strapped to my left thigh.

    That thing lets me walk, and not too badly with this latest model, but I’d have to hire Jerry’s kid to handle the mowing if I had to rely on it for gardening.

    **Crump!**

    Nertz! Felt like my right rear tire’d hit a pothole and blew, and… wait, a pothole?

    I pulled forward and turned off the Husq. I climbed down to see the flat, and let out a heartfelt curse. And there it was, a huge hole I’d never seen before, exposed by the mowing. A sinkhole maybe? I looked into it, and saw that it seemed to descend at an angle, its depths lost in shadow from the sun. Huh.

    I got down onto my good knee and leaned sideways go get down. I turned on my stomach to get a good look in there, and saw something flicker in the depths. I belly-crawled into the tunnel, and felt a flashback to another tunnel…

    … and found myself suddenly there !

    A hissing rain fell around me as I crawled halfway out of a tunnel into wet, heavy brush. “Fuck!’ I breathed.

    “Billy, get outta there already! We gotta get to the rally point!”

    I knew the voice, even though his face was blurred by the downpour- Johnny Knapp! “Johnny? What…?”

    I pushed all the way out of the tunnel, and realized I did it with two good legs, no contraption! “Fuck!” I said again, from the ground.

    Johnny let out a laugh. “Let’s get moving before Charlie makes our position…”

    Sudden gunfire erupted from the woods, and I saw blood bloom on his chest and shoulder from multiple wounds. He yelled as he went down, and I knew I’d seen this happen before! I dropped to my stomach, where sick dread had just been born.

    “Billy, I’m hit, I hit!” Johnny bawled.

    It was all happening again, that night in the jungles! Thirty years ago, right now, I went out to get him and took a coupla rounds in my left leg. I dragged him miles through the jungle, and got medals and a contraption instead of a leg. And Johnny… Johnny never made it out of ‘Nam anyway- he died of an infection when the docs missed a bullet fragment in his chest.

    I could have two fucking legs again!

    “Billy, help me,” he gasped, sobbing.

    God forgive me, I thought, sick at the thought of the coming surgeries, the amputation, the years at the VA, and I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t fucking do it!

    And then I crawled out to Billy as more bullets flew. This time around, I thought, I’d tell the docs about the bullet fragment. Maybe I’d even end up with Billy as a neighbor, green with envy about my Husqvarna…

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      One of your best, David. The MC’s decision to save his buddy a second time despite knowing what will happen to him, marks the story. Sounds like a haunting memory tha keeps coming back over and over to the MC. And still he hesitates each time, but continues anyway.

      On a side note, damn those Husqvarna’s. All I do is hit trees and telephone poles. I threatened to shoot one through the heart wth a .357 magnum.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Great take, lionetravail. You had me going, thinking Billy would ditch his buddy to save himself. That he made another choice is a wonderful surprise.

      • lionetravail says:

        Thanks Tim! I’d really thought about the ending a lot, and decided to go with the “have the chance to change the past, but not take it, because it was more heroic not to”. I’m glad the ultimate reveal surprised an experienced reader/writer- mission accomplished :)

    • Critique says:

      Ooh I loved the ending! Your MC is a hero hands down.

  62. Augie says:

    “Hello Grandmother, what a beautiful day!” Dan hugs her and sits up against her still form. Together they gaze across the well-maintained yard as her saplings dance in the gentle breeze. Robins race across the grass gathering food for their young nesting high above.

    Dan sees a large patch of stinging nettles, “oh, that’s not good!” The invasive weed sucks the nutrients out of the soil and delivers a nasty sting to anyone who touches it. “I’ll be back!”

    Dan walks to the garage playfully zigzagging. Weed-eater in hand, the children draw back in fear. The whipping nylon strands rip through the nettle patch with ease. Back and forth, back and forth, he carefully guides the rotating spindle of death.

    With one uncalculated swing, he hits a child. She falls to the ground in agony. “No!” Don throws the weed-eater and picks her up. He looks up in shame at the grandmother. The damage is done. Heartbroken, he carries her toward the house as ancient roots tremble across the park.

    Grandmother rumbles with gypsy magic, shaking the earth in rage. A deep hole opens below Dan’s feet. He spins in circles tumbling down a long tunnel. Images of the day flash before him. Time is reset to his morning greeting.

    The day begins again.

    “Hello grandmother, what a beautiful day it is!” Dan hugs the ancient gypsy ash tree and looks across his yard at her joyous saplings. He sees a patch of stinging nettles and decides to rip them out by hand.

    “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn”
    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

  63. snuzcook says:

    (Okay, so I didn’t ‘hold back’ on word length. I’ve been whittling at this thing for the past 36 hours and I’m going with it as is. If you don’t have time, please feel free to skip this long one, and my apologies.)

    HOLDING BACK

    The crumby birds are making a racket in the big maple tree at the corner of the yard. They do that on sunny mornings like this, when a guy really wants to sleep in. But no, the birds are up, and Mom is up and that means everyone else in the world should be up. And once I’m up on any morning when school’s out it means I’m her slave until whatever earth-shattering project she’s come up with is done.

    “Don’t forget to set the mower for tall grass. That area around the tree hasn’t been mowed for a while.”

    Like I wouldn’t have thought of that eventually. I fool with the old mower a while, setting it so it rides higher than normal. I remember my Dad’s cautions about fingers around the mower blades.

    I’d love to see Mom’s face if the mower took off my hand because she made me adjust the height. On second thought, she’d probably just yell at me for bleeding on the carpet and say I should have been more careful. Like she did when I nearly took my toe off with the weed whacker.

    Like she did when Lukie hit me with the shovel. Lukie, her precious little boy, and me, the stepson, the scapegoat. It was the glaring example of her loving that little kid and just tolerating me. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember how it felt, her ordering me into the bathroom to clean the blood of my face, and her taking Lukie by the hand and just walking out of the house to take him to the park.

    I pull some branches out of the way before I start to mow, and find a depression filled with sand. In the middle of the sand is my old Tonka tow truck, my favorite one I thought was lost back when I was a little kid. I step into the sand and reach for the truck, but as I grab hold of it the sand sucks me in, like quicksand and closes in over me.

    I claw through it and find something to push my feet against. I climb back up into the light. But it’s a different place. I’m in the middle of a sand box, our sandbox, the sandbox I remember from when I was little. I climb out of the sandbox just in time to see two boys approaching. I recognize Lukie, but he’s only about four. And the other kid must be me, about eight, wearing my old favorite Mariners shirt.

    Lukie and the younger me come over and sit in the sand box. They ignore me completely, so I figure I must be invisible or something. The younger me reaches into the sand for the Tonka truck, but as he pulls it out of the sand, Lukie squawks, grabs a garden trowel nearby and throws it. It hits the younger me right above the eye, and blood starts to run down his face. Lukie starts crying, and runs to the house. The younger me runs after him.

    I look down at the trowel lying in the sand. This was the shovel he hit me with?

    I follow to see what will happen. Inside, Mom is inspecting the cut on the younger me’s forehead. She hands him a clean cloth and tells him to go to the bathroom and wash it off, and put a band-aid on it.

    Lukie is still crying. In fact, he is nearly hysterical. He’s red in the face and looks like he’s going to puke. Mom takes him by the hand, says they’re going to the park, and hurries him outside. I join them. Lukie is hiccoughing like he can’t catch his breath and keeps saying ‘it’s like Pete.’

    Then I get it. Pete was Mom’s boyfriend before Dad. Pete was a really bad guy, I mean he would hit Mom and Lukie and stuff. I’d been told that Pete was drunk and got killed in a fight one night.

    “You have to forget about Pete, Lukie,” Mom says, mad-like when we’re out of sight of the house. She shakes him. “You have to forget what you saw.” Her voice softens, her hands loosen. “It was just a dream, what you thought you saw that night, Lukie.” She starts stroking his hair, rubbing his back. “Pete will never hurt us again.”

    Lukie starts to calm down and I close my eyes. I finally get it. Mom had always been different with Lukie than with me, not because she loved me less, but because she had a secret.

    I feel something in my hand and look down. It’s the old Tonka Truck. I look around and I am again standing in the back yard in the sand. I see Lukie coming out of the house, the twelve year old Lukie that’s almost as tall as I am. “Hey, Lukie!” I yell. “Look what I found.”

    • Augie says:

      Wonderful writing! I read your story over and over (grabbed a kleenex a few times). I wish I could go back in time and discover what went wrong. The plot is so deep, it makes me raise an eyebrow questioning fiction/non-fiction. Great Job snuzcook!

      • snuzcook says:

        Augie, I am humbled by your praise.
        In retrospect, i realize this story is a re-chewing of the fictional situation that showed up in my story from the ‘Back in Time’ prompt. Not sure where the mother and child icons in the two stories came from, but I suspect they will show up again as they have a wider story still waiting to be told.

    • That gave me goosebumps, Snuz! So, ***spoiler*** she killed her abusive drunk lover? Hmm, I’m not usual one who enjoys dramas, but now I’m curious how she got away with it… haha

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        A powerful story snuzcook. I’m with Jay on the murder. but probaly Lukie only remembers because she keeps reminding him to forget what he saw. I loved the entire story and wonder if the rabbit hole only existed in the MC’s mind as his thoughts finally puts the pieces together.

        • snuzcook says:

          Thanks, Kerry! Interesting irony you point out, and a funny truism–that we get so anxious about wanting people to forget or ignore something, that the very fact that we push the issue causes them to remember it.

      • snuzcook says:

        Goosebumps? you? High praise indeed, Doc! Yes, you and Kerry are spot on about her secret–which exacted the price that she could not form a close, nurturing relationship with the stepson.

      • derrdevil says:

        Haha jay! You and your morbid fascination!!!

        I loved the story snug, and I totally appreciate the 36 hrs that went into it. It’s a written David in the form of a prompt haha. I’m glad you didn’t toss this one aside. Beautiful take on it,

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a great story of developing understanding, snuzcook. It does leave me wondering where the MC’s father is, given that he’s with his stepmother. I assume he’s out of town or something similar. At least his dad isn’t Pete, I hope. And where was the MC when Pete got what was coming to him? I know there’s a chronology that makes this work, but it’s not gelling with me yet. My brain hurts.

      Okay, I think I have it. (1) Mom has Lukie. (2) Mom kills Pete. (3) Mom meet’s MC’s dad and the two join the household; dad is boyfriend/husband after Pete. That seems to work. Life is complicated.

      • snuzcook says:

        Sorry to make your brain hurt! Definitely not a good sign for the accessibility of the story.
        But you’ve got it, O.Tim. Mom and Lukie joined the MC’s family at some point after Pete died–but not all that much time had passed, since Lukie is able to verbalize the traumatic memory and he is only about 4 yrs old at the time of the flashback. We are assuming that Dad had no role to play in the Pete story, and no significant part in how Mom, Lukie and the MC worked out their relationship.

    • seliz says:

      Honestly I didn’t even notice the length because this flowed so nicely. The thought of being able to go back and see the things that were so traumatic to us as children with adult eyes was brilliant. Great job!

  64. Marie Therese Knepper says:

    In His Eyes

    The atmosphere of fresh landscape tingled with the anticipation of life renewed. Seriously, the air in my garden seemed to be supercharged with a life of its own. Each step I placed on the flagstone path to Bob’s eternal rest electrified me with anticipation of what, I didn’t know. The one thing I was sure of: I was not alone.
    Bob would have loved this garden. I smiled. Bob will love this garden. Feeling his presence in and around me, I remove the cover from his crematory urn. “I’ll give you a daisy a day, dear. I’ll give you a daisy a day. I’ll love you until the rivers run still, and the four winds we know blow away*.” I sing our wedding song in tribute to my one and only true love while scattering his ashes in the spot of my future daisy patch. I stood there who knows how long; eyes closed, reminiscing.
    “Bonnie.”
    I pull my arms tighter around my self, enjoying memories of his breathless whispers against my pillow.
    “Bonnie.”
    A sweet, inviting breeze caressed my eyes open, leading me down beautifully carved marble stairs. I found myself gazing into Bob’s eyes. He was down on one knee, holding his grandmother’s wedding ring.
    “Bonnie, will you marry me?”
    Gazing into Bob’s eyes, I recognized what my younger self failed to grasp all those years ago.
    “Bob, I will ‘love you until the rivers run still.’ I want to grow old with you.” Tracing my finger along his youthfully stubborn jaw, I continue, “and I will watch your body be eaten away from the cancer you could have prevented.”
    Bob stares up at me in shock. Before he can utter a word, I touch my fingers to his lips.
    “It’s true. I’ve seen our future. We have many wonderful years together until cancer takes you from me. Please Bob, promise me you’ll quit the habit. I don’t want to see you suffer in agony.”
    Closing my eyes against the onslaught of repressed tears, I’m soothed by familiar arms tightening around my torso.
    “Bonnie. Open your eyes.”
    Bob nestled his cheek against mine. A dazzling display of daisies greeted me with enthusiasm. Grabbing my hand, Bob steered me to a lovely swing sporting a big red bow.
    “Happy Anniversary, darling.”

    *lines from “A Daisy A Day,” by Jud Strunk

    • Augie says:

      When a reader flows with the story and feels the rapids of emotion crash against rocks in their path , thats writing! Thank You for this story Marie!

      • Marie Therese Knepper says:

        Ty, Augie. I’m trying to find my niche as a writer. Every week I fight my natural inclination to write something with a comedic twist. This week I gave in, writing about mafia dons and sperm gremlins. A story like this one really stretches me as a writer.

    • seliz says:

      This was really nicely done. The theme with the daisies throughout was wonderful and sweet. Even though finding you’re niche as a writer, you definitely have your craft down. This was a well written piece that flowed nicely. Great job :)

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is beautiful, Marie. “A Daisy A Day” is one of my favourite love songs, and you captured the feeling perfectly in your prose. Keep stretching like this and you will be able to write anything, and capture a string of hearts along the way.

    • Reaper says:

      This is a thing of beauty Marie.

  65. snuzcook says:

    A ROSE IS A ROSE

    The recovered memory is as sudden and irresistible as a guillotine: The hole, the journey and the odd confrontations. It had been the summer when everyone and everything seemed to be annoyingly wrong, as if I didn’t fit in my own life anymore. I had dreamed such an incredible, revealing dream sitting under this very tree. In the dream, I had been every shape and size, and met some truly dreadful creatures and others I considered wise and confusing. I had tried to tell everyone what was wrong with how they did things, but they mostly wouldn’t listen.

    It seems serendipitous that I would find myself again under this tree after so many decades have rolled by, in an uncannily similar frame of mind. My grown children don’t listen to me, my ex-husband has remarried to a younger woman, the department where I work is changing so I have to work much harder and get less respect. And now, this property that my parents left me will have to be sold to cover the taxes and unpaid bills. In short, everyone and everything seems to be annoyingly wrong. Nothing is the way I thought it would turn out. And I am wondering where the hell I fit.

    The grass around the hole is just as fragrant and inviting as it was those long years ago. On impulse, I spread my sweater on the ground, gingerly get down on my arthritic knees to stretch out and peer into the blackness. There is a faint light far below. I reach in to brush away roots that are blocking my view, but the roots twist themselves around my wrists and arms and pull me forward until I find myself falling.

    I land with a bump in a seated position at a familiar table. My ex-husband is sitting at the head of the table wearing a ridiculous hat. “You’re late! We were having a lovely time and now you’ve spoilt it. If you want tea, I’m afraid Dormouse has fallen asleep in it.”

    “No, thanks.”

    “You look quite old, you know,” the March Hare comments. It looks uncannily like the new wife.

    “Quite. And that outfit is unbecoming. No shape to it. Have you put on a few pounds?”

    Dormouse sings in his sleep. “Twinkle Twinkle Cheshire Cat, I do believe she’s grown too fat.”

    I am starting to fume when I see the White Rabbit poke his head around a shrub.

    “You there, Rabbit!” I yell.

    “Oh, dear!” He scampers off. I jump up to follow him.

    “So nice to see all of you again,” I say to my hosts. “And you can kiss my hemorrhoids!”

    Chasing after the Rabbit I entering the Red Queen’s garden, not at all sure what to expect. I walk cautiously along the rose-lined path. Cards turn toward me and bow. How curious! I get to the dais, but the throne is empty. The White Rabbit appears and blows his herald’s horn, then bows low to me. “Your Majesty, if it please you, we are ready to begin.”

    I mount the steps and take my place on the throne. “Now this makes sense.” I notice the Royal Axeman is standing in the wings. Finally! I push up my sleeves and smile. It’s time to do a little pruning in this garden, and I’m just the gal to do it.

    • Augie says:

      Bravo Alice! Bravo!

    • icandootoo says:

      This might be my favorite prompt response in all the universe. I kiss your face.

      • snuzcook says:

        **/\ _ /\**

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Wonderful snuzcook. I wish I could male a smiley that would travel from one edge of the screen to the other side. There are distinct advantages to sliding down a rabbit hole, especially when you are anointed ‘Your Majesty’. I truly wish the ‘White Rabbit’ would cross my path, sprinkle magic powder all over me and teach me to spell! At last report there’s always the chance to implant a spelling app between my ears.

          • snuzcook says:

            Glad you enjoyed it, Kerry!
            As to the magical gifts, if you find the way to do it, I’ll take one of those apps, and one for typos and for redundant word choices. I just can’t seem to see them before I post!

    • Observer Tim says:

      Whoa, sounds like somebody spent too much time near the hookah-smoking caterpillar. This is a fantastic story, Snuzcook, in both senses of the term. This is one of my faves.

    • lionetravail says:

      Brilliant retelling. I can see this on Broadway, Snuzcook, playing across the street from “Wicked”. Really awesome!

      • snuzcook says:

        High praise, indeed, lionetravail! I confess that I recently came across a movie version of the Alice story told from the perspective of an older Alice revisiting–but she was in her late teens (I think–I missed most of it) and she had become too–nice.
        I thought this would be a fun way to go.

    • Critique says:

      I loved this! What a fabulous remake of Alice in Wonderland now that Alice is mature ;)
      This could be a screen play or movie signed by you snuzcook :)

      • snuzcook says:

        You’ve got me, Critique! One of my alter egos is a script-writer wannabe working hard to be something more. Wouldn’t it be fun, kinda like “Reds” meets the Red Queen.

    • jmcody says:

      This was brilliant and I loved it, from the hole being as “irresistible as a guillotine” to the March Hare and dormouse’s snarky comments to the MC’s decision to do a little pruning. Delicious and satisfying as afternoon tea.

    • Reaper says:

      Snuzcook, I think I just fell in love with you a little bit. It might be bias because I love Alice in Wonderland but even speed reading I could not pass up telling you how amazing this was.

  66. nastimal says:

    This One Time, When I was Cutting the Lawn
    This story is also available at BillyBoyBlog
    “Dad, I don’t understand why I have to cut the lawn with scissors” Billy Jacobs complained to his father.
    “Son, this is what happens after you give your school a fake subpoena claiming that their smell is offending the bakery next door,” Billy Jacobs was a bit of a troubled ruffian. He had been that way ever since he first gave Goofy, the 2nd grade class dog, half of his Milkyway.
    Billy continued to cut the lawn until he came across a rock in the backyard that he somehow never noticed before. “Dad, I really hit a rock here.”
    “That’s right son, you’re between a rock and a hard place right now” His dad was on the porch reading the newspaper and not paying attention.
    Billy decided to turn the rock over and found a wormhole. “Dad, I’m going to another world.”
    “Son, my punishment is really not that bad, that you have to be that dramatic.” Billy shrugged and proceeded to jump through the hole.
    “Okay class, now it’s time to go say goodbye to Goofy.” Billy was shocked! He wound up in his 2nd classroom! “Now, I’m going to choose one student this week to go up and pet the dog.” Billy suddenly remembered that his teacher would only let one person go up and pet the dog because the dog is old and gets frightened is multiple people come up and put their hands on his nice coat of fur. “This week, that lucky student is Billy Jacobs!”
    Billy realized that the wormhole must have been placed to give him the opportunity to go back and change his ways. Billy was a very intelligent boy. Billy then saw his former self get up, Milkyway in his pocket (Billy was also a little bit of a porky student), ready to make the moment that would turn from fat, angelic student to ruffian. Billy realized right then and there that he had to do something to prevent his former self from giving that dog the candy bar. Billy knew that time travel rendered him a bystander and so he was completely, incorporeal and unable to interact with the past. From watching past re-runs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Billy also knew that even though he was incorporeal, he was able to communicate with people who let him into their mind.
    Billy ran over to his former self and whispered, “It’s Taco Tuesday,” which sent young Billy running toward the cafeteria instead of toward the dog. Unfortunately, Billy then remembered the end of the first Back to the Future and started to vanish. But Billy was happy that instead of being the ruffian, he would now be the good little boy that doesn’t issues subpoenas to his teachers and cuts the lawn with a pair of safety scissors.

    • snuzcook says:

      Fun story, Billy. I am torn, though. Despite the pivotal event when your MC gave chocolate to an old, timid dog (which seemed like an act of kindness and probably made the dog’s day much more interesting if it didn’t kill him), I like the Billy who writes fake subpoenas more than an a tamer, less involved version of himself. The depiction of the oblivious Dad got me chuckling. Clever take on the prompt!

    • Observer Tim says:

      Good story, nastimal. Of course, making this change doesn’t neccessarily mean Billy will never become the little hell-raiser who eventually has to cut the grass with scissors. It may just delay things a bit, or change the circumstances.

      I love how Billy’s knowledge of time travel and its paradoxes comes from TV and movies.

    • lionetravail says:

      Fun story, and nice take :) i agree, the line about not being the little boy who issues subpoenas is a great, warm, telling line.

      As a constructive comment, and as i mentioned earlier to another prompt, there is a bit of exposition, or explanation, in this tale which could also be edited to make the story even more immersive. Example (billy was also a little bit of a porky student)… its a little like having your storyteller explain something while telling the story. If you said something like: Billy then saw his former self get up, and thought: “Ugh, no wonder i had a milky way that day, I was a real porker in 2nd grade!”

      That makes us feel with your character, and gives you the chance to use that thought later if the character grows from that realization.

      Overall, a fun story!

  67. M G says:

    — This one got away from me, in more ways than one. —

    In the summertime where the weather is hot…

    Moisture filled every pore of my body. My T-shirt clung to me like a wetsuit.

    You can stretch right up and touch the sky.

    The air was hot and thick. It felt as if I was weighted down, walking in the deep end of a swimming pool.

    When the weather’s fine…

    The airborne pollen was wreaking havoc on my allergies.

    You got women, you got women on your mind.

    Perspiration coursed down my cheeks and cascaded off of my chin.

    Have a drink, have a drive…

    Sweat stung my eyes.

    Go out and see what you can find.

    But all was well…all was well…

    “Oh Shhh!” The words escaped me without will. My headphones yanked off my head and collard my neck. The mower listed left, hard. I braced myself, and with a thrust forward, cleared the hole without injury. I gave a quick a look around and surveyed the neighbors, no one in attendance. I dropped to one knee and peered over the ledge. I inched my face closer, submerged below ground level, and for some reason, sniffed: smelled like dirt. Then something grabbed me, not physically, but it was as tangible a resistance that can be felt without touch. Actually, it was more like a pull.

    In one swift move, I grasped the ground beside me, turned and lowered myself into the hole, still hanging from the ledge like a fat kid struggling to do a pull-up in gym class. I started the countdown at five, but before I got to four, I let go.

    The descent and the landing were both instantaneous and simultaneous. There was no crash. There wasn’t even a thud. No hellfire, no snakes, no rotting corpses. No China. I was in an entirely different place, an entirely different time.

    “Hey,” she said, as she leaned in and briskly kissed my cheek. “Where’d you go? Thought you bailed.”

    I stood and stared dumbfounded. I hadn’t seen Megan in fifteen years – fourteen years, three months and one week to be exact and it had mortally wounded me in subtlety. A slight cut which bleeds for years…forever.

    “What’s a matta? Sick already?” Megan asked, as the left side of her mouth slowly stretched up and towards her ear in a frisky and intoxicating grin. “Can’t handle your liquor, punk?” Her sapphire eyes sparkled, her skin soft and ageless.

    A lot of kids…teenagers…nineteen-nighty-nine! HOLY SH–

    “What the hell is wrong with you?” Megan’s playfulness changed to concern.

    “What time is it?” was all I can muster.

    Megan dipped her hand into the pocketbook hanging from her shoulder and pulled out a pretty pink beeper, “Ten to.”

    “Ten to what?”

    “Eleven. What do you think the ten is to?” Her eyebrows beetled and eyes dimmed to a slight squint. Both cheeks raised and her mouth tightened. “Where were you? You didn’t go smoke with Tyson and them, did you?”

    “What? No, no…..” Within what was probably seven seconds, I tried to pray every prayer I could remember: The Hail Mary, The Lord’s Prayer, The Star Spangled Banner and The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States. I searched for words. I searched for meaning. I searched for courage like that son of a b-tch from Oz.
    Make it count.

    I cupped the sides of her head in my palms and pulled her close. The music muted. Voices silenced. I gently swiped her cheek with my thumb, feeling every fiber of flesh on her soft, warm face. I took it all in, with all of my senses: the touch of her jaw, the fresh scent of her hair, the erratic thump of my heart, the surreal sight of her splendidness, the taste of atonement.

    Our mouths touched, lips primed and slightly open. The warm feel of her breath comforted my upper lip. My tongue tingled as if I had a mouthful of Pop Rocks. My hands explored her hair. Her arms tightly secured my waist.

    “Megan, I –“

    “Ay Dios, mio! Ay Dios mio!” The neighbor, Mrs. Garcia, cradled her 6-month old in her arms. They both were in tears, but for different reasons. Two Police units and an ambulance were parked at the curb, lights flashing, but sirens off. The officers asking questions, filing reports. The medics sealing a large, black bag before shutting the door of the ambulance. The excavator was shuffling dirt and clearing debris from the cavernous ditch in the front yard. The smell of sewage soured the air.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Okay, I think this is the most recent one. Welcome to the site, M G, glad to see you made it past the human intervention stage. :)

      I liked your take on grieving and the way you wove in the lyrics of the song (yay, Mungo Jerry). If I’m reading this right, the MC chose to be with Megan when she was killed. It’s very touching.

  68. M G says:

    — This one got away from me in more ways than one. Also had trouble posting for some reason, so I apologize if this crap shows up more than once.—-

    In the summertime where the weather is hot…

    Moisture filled every pore of my body. My T-shirt clung to me like a wetsuit.

    You can stretch right up and touch the sky.

    The air was hot and thick. It felt as if I was weighted down, walking in the deep end of a swimming pool.

    When the weather’s fine…

    The airborne pollen was wreaking havoc on my allergies.

    You got women, you got women on your mind.

    Perspiration coursed down my cheeks and cascaded off of my chin.

    Have a drink, have a drive…

    Sweat stung my eyes.

    Go out and see what you can find.

    But all was well…all was well…

    “Oh Shhh!” The words escaped me without will. My headphones yanked off my head and collard my neck. The mower listed left, hard. I braced myself, and with a thrust forward, cleared the hole without injury. I gave a quick a look around and surveyed the neighbors, no one in attendance. I dropped to one knee and peered over the ledge. I inched my face closer, submerged below ground level, and for some reason, sniffed: smelled like dirt. Then something grabbed me, not physically, but it was as tangible a resistance that can be felt without touch. Actually, it was more like a pull.

    In one swift move, I grasped the ground beside me, turned and lowered myself into the hole, still hanging from the ledge like a fat kid struggling to do a pull-up in gym class. I started the countdown at five, but before I got to four, I let go.

    The descent and the landing were both instantaneous and simultaneous. There was no crash. There wasn’t even a thud. No hellfire, no snakes, no rotting corpses. No China. I was in an entirely different place, an entirely different time.

    “Hey,” she said, as she leaned in and briskly kissed my cheek. “Where’d you go? Thought you bailed.”

    I stood and stared dumbfounded. I hadn’t seen Megan in fifteen years – fourteen years, three months and one week to be exact and it had mortally wounded me in subtlety. A slight cut which bleeds for years…forever.

    “What’s a matta? Sick already?” Megan asked, as the left side of her mouth slowly stretched up and towards her ear in a frisky and intoxicating grin. “Can’t handle your liquor, punk?” Her sapphire eyes sparkled, her skin soft and ageless.

    A lot of kids…teenagers…nineteen-nighty-nine! HOLY SH–

    “What the hell is wrong with you?” Megan’s playfulness changed to concern.

    “What time is it?” was all I can muster.

    Megan dipped her hand into the pocketbook hanging from her shoulder and pulled out a pretty pink beeper, “Ten to.”

    “Ten to what?”

    “Eleven. What do you think the ten is to?” Her eyebrows beetled and eyes dimmed to a slight squint. Both cheeks raised and her mouth tightened. “Where were you? You didn’t go smoke with Tyson and them, did you?”

    “What? No, no…..” Within what was probably seven seconds, I tried to pray every prayer I could remember: The Hail Mary, The Lord’s Prayer, The Star Spangled Banner and The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States. I searched for words. I searched for meaning. I searched for courage like that son of a b-tch from Oz.
    Make it count.

    I cupped the sides of her head in my palms and pulled her close. The music muted. Voices silenced. I gently swiped her cheek with my thumb, feeling every fiber of flesh on her soft, warm face. I took it all in, with all of my senses: the touch of her jaw, the fresh scent of her hair, the erratic thump of my heart, the surreal sight of her splendidness, the taste of atonement.

    Our mouths touched, lips primed and slightly open. The warm feel of her breath comforted my upper lip. My tongue tingled as if I had a mouthful of Pop Rocks. My hands explored her hair. Her arms tightly secured my waist.

    “Megan, I –“

    “Ay Dios, mio! Ay Dios mio!” The neighbor, Mrs. Garcia, cradled her 6-month old in her arms. They both were in tears, but for different reasons. Two Police units and an ambulance were parked at the curb, lights flashing, but sirens off. The officers asking questions, filing reports. The medics sealing a large, black bag before shutting the door of the ambulance. The excavator was shuffling dirt and clearing debris from the cavernous ditch in the front yard. The smell of sewage soured the air.

  69. mvg81 says:

    —- This one got a way from me…in more ways than one —-

    In the summertime where the weather is hot…

    Moisture filled every pore of my body. My T-shirt clung to me like a wetsuit.

    You can stretch right up and touch the sky.

    The air was hot and thick. It felt as if I was weighted down, walking in the deep end of a swimming pool.

    When the weather’s fine…

    The airborne pollen was wreaking havoc on my allergies.

    You got women, you got women on your mind.

    Perspiration coursed down my cheeks and cascaded off of my chin.

    Have a drink, have a drive…

    Sweat stung my eyes.

    Go out and see what you can find.

    But all was well…all was well…

    “Oh Shhh!” The words escaped me without will. My headphones yanked off my head and collard my neck. The mower listed left, hard. I braced myself, and with a thrust forward, cleared the hole without injury. I gave a quick a look around and surveyed the neighbors, no one in attendance. I dropped to one knee and peered over the ledge. I inched my face closer, submerged below ground level, and for some reason, sniffed: smelled like dirt. Then something grabbed me, not physically, but it was as tangible a resistance that can be felt without touch. Actually, it was more like a pull.

    In one swift move, I grasped the ground beside me, turned and lowered myself into the hole, still hanging from the ledge like a fat kid struggling to do a pull-up in gym class. I started the countdown at five, but before I got to four, I let go.

    The descent and the landing were both instantaneous and simultaneous. There was no crash. There wasn’t even a thud. No hellfire, no snakes, no rotting corpses. No China. I was in an entirely different place, an entirely different time.

    “Hey,” she said, as she leaned in and briskly kissed my cheek. “Where’d you go? Thought you bailed.”

    I stood and stared dumbfounded. I hadn’t seen Megan in fifteen years – fourteen years, three months and one week to be exact and it had mortally wounded me in subtlety. A slight cut which bleeds for years…forever.

    “What’s a matta? Sick already?” Megan asked, as the left side of her mouth slowly stretched up and towards her ear in a frisky and intoxicating grin. “Can’t handle your liquor, punk?” Her sapphire eyes sparkled, her skin soft and ageless.

    A lot of kids…teenagers…nineteen-nighty-nine! HOLY SH–

    “What the hell is wrong with you?” Megan’s playfulness changed to concern.

    “What time is it?” was all I can muster.

    Megan dipped her hand into the pocketbook hanging from her shoulder and pulled out a pretty pink beeper, “Ten to.”

    “Ten to what?”

    “Eleven. What do you think the ten is to?” Her eyebrows beetled and eyes dimmed to a slight squint. Both cheeks raised and her mouth tightened. “Where were you? You didn’t go smoke with Tyson and them, did you?”

    “What? No, no…..” Within what was probably seven seconds, I tried to pray every prayer I could remember: The Hail Mary, The Lord’s Prayer, The Star Spangled Banner and The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States. I searched for words. I searched for meaning. I searched for courage like that son of a b-tch from Oz.
    Make it count.

    I cupped the sides of her head in my palms and pulled her close. The music muted. Voices silenced. I gently swiped her cheek with my thumb, feeling every fiber of flesh on her soft, warm face. I took it all in, with all of my senses: the touch of her jaw, the fresh scent of her hair, the erratic thump of my heart, the surreal sight of her splendidness, the taste of atonement.

    Our mouths touched, lips primed and slightly open. The warm feel of her breath comforted my upper lip. My tongue tingled as if I had a mouthful of Pop Rocks. My hands explored her hair. Her arms tightly secured my waist.

    “Megan, I –“

    “Ay Dios, mio! Ay Dios mio!” The neighbor, Mrs. Garcia, cradled her 6-month old in her arms. They both were in tears, but for different reasons. Two Police units and an ambulance were parked at the curb, lights flashing, but sirens off. The officers asking questions, filing reports. The medics sealing a large, black bag before shutting the door of the ambulance. The excavator was shuffling dirt and clearing debris from the cavernous ditch in the front yard. The smell of sewage soured the air.

  70. mvg81 says:

    In the summertime where the weather is hot…

    Moisture filled every pore of my body. My T-shirt clung to me like a wetsuit.

    You can stretch right up and touch the sky.

    The air was hot and thick. It felt as if I was weighted down, walking in the deep end of a swimming pool.

    When the weather’s fine…

    The airborne pollen was wreaking havoc on my allergies.

    You got women, you got women on your mind.

    Perspiration coursed down my cheeks and cascaded off of my chin.

    Have a drink, have a drive…

    Sweat stung my eyes.

    Go out and see what you can find.

    But all was well…all was well…

    “Oh Shhh!” The words escaped me without will. My headphones yanked off my head and collard my neck. The mower listed left, hard. I braced myself, and with a thrust forward, cleared the hole without injury. I gave a quick a look around and surveyed the neighbors, no one in attendance. I dropped to one knee and peered over the ledge. I inched my face closer, submerged below ground level, and for some reason, sniffed: smelled like dirt. Then something grabbed me, not physically, but it was as tangible a resistance that can be felt without touch. Actually, it was more like a pull.

    In one swift move, I grasped the ground beside me, turned and lowered myself into the hole, still hanging from the ledge like a fat kid struggling to do a pull-up in gym class. I started the countdown at five, but before I got to four, I let go.

    The descent and the landing were both instantaneous and simultaneous. There was no crash. There wasn’t even a thud. No hellfire, no snakes, no rotting corpses. No China. I was in an entirely different place, an entirely different time.

    “Hey,” she said, as she leaned in and briskly kissed my cheek. “Where’d you go? Thought you bailed.”

    I stood and stared dumbfounded. I hadn’t seen Megan in fifteen years – fourteen years, three months and one week, to be exact and it had mortally wounded me in subtlety. A slight cut which bleeds for years…forever.

    “What’s a matta? Sick already?” Megan asked, as the left side of her mouth slowly stretched up and towards her ear in a frisky, and intoxicating, grin. “Can’t handle your liquor, punk?” Her sapphire eyes sparkled, her skin soft and ageless.

    A lot of kids…teenagers…nineteen-nighty-nine! HOLY SH–

    “What the hell is wrong with you?” Megan’s playfulness changed to concern.

    “What time is it?” was all I can muster.

    Megan dipped her hand into the pocketbook hanging from her shoulder and pulled out a pretty pink beeper, “Ten to.”

    “Ten to what?”

    “Eleven, what do you think the ten is to?” Her eyebrows beetled and eyes dimmed to a slight squint. Both cheeks raised and her mouth tightened. “Where were you? You didn’t go smoke with Tyson and them, did you?”

    “What? No, no…..” Within what was probably seven seconds, I tried to pray every prayer I could remember: The Hail Mary, The Lord’s Prayer, The Star Spangled Banner and The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States. I searched for words. I searched for meaning. I searched for courage like that son of a b-tch from Oz.
    Make it count.

    I cupped the sides of her head in my palms and pulled her close. The music muted. Voices silenced. I gently swiped her cheek with my thumb, feeling every fiber of flesh on her soft, warm face. I took it all in, with all of my senses: the touch of her jaw, the fresh scent of her hair, the sound of my heart, the surreal sight of her splendidness, the taste of atonement.

    Our mouths touched, lips primed and slightly open. The warm feel of her breath comforted my upper lip. My tongue tingled as if I had a mouthful of Pop Rocks. My hands explored her hair. Her arms tightly secured my waist.

    “Megan, I –“

    “Ay Dios, mio! Ay Dios mio!” The neighbor, Mrs. Garcia, cradled her 6-month old in her arms. They both were in tears, but for different reasons. Two Police units and an ambulance were parked across the street at her house, lights flashing, but sirens off. The officers asking questions, filing reports. The medics sealing a large, black bag before shutting the door of the ambulance. The excavator was shuffling dirt and clearing debris from the cavernous ditch in the front yard. The smell of sewage soured the air.

  71. MrSparky says:

    A Tumble Down The Hole Of Atonement

    Sweat glistened on Ben’s forehead, running down his face, neck, and pooling on his tee-shirt collar. The smell of freshly cut grass permeated the humid, summer air as he pulled a U-turn to head back for the garage. Just as he passed under the big tree in the front yard, a movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. A rabbit disappeared down a particularly large hole in the ground; a hole far too big for a gopher.

    He shut off the lawn mower and climbed down off it. As he approached the hole, the rabbit soared out of it and took off toward the street. Tires screeched, followed by a dull thud. Ben didn’t notice. He was lost to the world as he gazed into the hold in his yard. Something translucent, but slightly visible, covered the opening of the hole; it looked like white smoke riding on waves of air.

    Ben fell to his knees and stretched an arm toward the mysterious barrier. His hand went through; he felt nothing. He could see a faint light at the bottom of the hole, and with a deep sigh like someone who’s resolved to diffuse a live bomb, he bent down and stuck his head through the smoky barrier.

    Ben stood in a kitchen. He saw himself; his sixteen-year-old self. Younger Ben was standing in a dark hallway, pointing a gun at his mother’s back as she stood in the kitchen, cracking open eggs and plopping them in the frying pan with a brief sizzling sound. The sizzling was like nails on a chalk board.

    An egg cracked open. Plopped into the pan.

    Sizzle.

    Younger Ben flinched from the sound as if in pain. He looked up at his mother’s back, his face wrinkling into a twisted mesh of hate and rage. His hand holding the pistol straightened again and was steady.

    Ben somehow knew what was happening. He was being given a second chance; a chance to change his mother’s future, and by extension, his own. Ben had been a troubled child with no father and a mother whose mood fluctuated from day to day like the wind, whipping him with a spiked a belt one day (and splashing vodka on the bloody wounds, between swigs), and then cooking him yummy eggs followed by a kiss on the cheek the next.

    One day he had decided that killing her was his only chance for freedom. When the deed was done, he buried her in the basement and got away scot free. She never had friends. They’re only family looked down upon them with pity, but avoided them nonetheless. The cost was the memory of that day: throwing her into the hole he dug, her hair matted with dirt and blood, her face somehow still pretty while her clothes had soaked a deep scarlet.

    Ben was being given a chance to change everything, but he had hesitated too long. He leaped forward from behind the fridge, arms outstretched. Two shots rang out. Ben lay on the floor, blood spreading from two holes in his chest. Younger Ben stared at him, eyes wide and mouth gaping, like his lower jaw had unhinged. Before darkness carried Ben away in its skeletal arms, he saw Younger Ben dematerialize until he had disappeared completely.

    His mother, alive and healthy, screamed. The lights went out.

    • lionetravail says:

      Very cool story- your MC did change the past, and the future, and found a ‘different path’ for certain. I loved the sizzle in the pan, and everything which made the story nicely tactile.

      One constructive comment: there’s a little bit of ‘exposition’ in the “Ben somehow knew what was happening” paragraph, by which I mean that you tell the back story (which is, of course heart-wrenching). You could make that part even more powerful by avoiding telling it to us, and instead have your character’s living reactions make us feel it even more. A quick example- instead of that paragraph continuing “Ben had been a troubled child….”:
      “Ben flinched from the random snap of the frying eggs, so much like the sound of the spiked leather belt when she’d swung it against his bare flesh during his own troubled childhood. He remembered the burn of the vodka his mother had poured over the welts, between her own swigs. The smell of the frying eggs took him back to those random days when she seemed another person, a loving mother, right down to the kiss on the cheek.”

      It’s just a way to draw your reader into your tale by the scents, sounds, and tastes which resonate for him so powerfully- it can totally amp up the already-high emotion you’ve got in this one.

      Great job!

      • M G says:

        Hey lionetravail – quick question for ya…do the stories post right away or is there some turnaround time before they appear? I’ve been trying to submit mine, but it’s not showing up. Not sure if it’s something I’m doing wrong, but I don’t want it to finally appear – 4 times. It’s not worth 4 times :). Thanks!

      • MrSparky says:

        Thanks for the constructive criticism, lion. I’ll definitely remember that next time I sit down to write another short piece. I have a problem with diarrhea of the word processor, and get a little wordy.

        Thanks to everyone else who read it as well. Lots of good ones in this. ;)

    • seliz says:

      Great descriptions! I agree with lionetravail about the loving the sizzle of the pan part. It immediately built up tension by slowing down the pace for a moment, allowing the reader to feel his sense of dread. Nicely done!

    • snuzcook says:

      The rabbit was a nice precursor of ominous things to come, MrSparky. The use of the eggs and sizzle to engage the reader was masterful. The obliteration of both of the MCs selves at the end was thought-provoking. The theme of the ephemeral nature of truth–the mother’s changeable nature, the idea that he was simply able to make her disappear without consequences, his dual selves existing at the same time–was nicely explored. Well done.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a fascinating and mind-bending take. MrSparky. I’m a little curious why older Ben’s death caused younger Ben to fade away, but there are several explanations.

      I agree with lionetravail, first about the wonderful description and second about the way you could make it even better.

    • jmcody says:

      I’m not generally one for gore, but your descriptions of the carnage were masterful, especially the image of the mother’s face still appearing pretty while the scarlet stain spreads across her dirt covered clothes. That was so visual and really put me in the moment. And I somehow felt your MC’s rage at the sound of the frying eggs. Well done!

  72. moscoboy says:

    Show Me How To Live

    In Houston you mow your yard ten months out of the year. Two weeks ago I was out mowing my cul-de-sac lot on my self-propelled mower. I reached the farthest corner of the property when I noticed a large rat or prairie dog scurry down a hole. I shut the mower off and walked to investigate the hole that seemed to be about the size of a gallon of paint. As I neared, I noticed that the perimeter grass was overgrown and obscured the hole. I pulled the carpet grass away from the edges and found that it could accommodate a person. I got on my hands and knees and looked into the dirt hole and found it was a polished onyx stone twice the size of a manhole cover. The suns rays illuminated the blackness and I could see myself all sweaty and dirty. I brushed back the sweat from my forehead and a scene from my past captured my attention.

    I could see my wife Bella and I in an animated conversation at our kitchen table. All of our arguments were always about money or sex. I could smell the cigarette she was smoking and I could hear the TV in the background playing the Live At Five News. I was drinking a can of Diet Coke.

    “There is no way in hell we can afford a baby,” I said. “Look Bella, you know I have two kids from my first marriage that are eating a large portion of my salary in child support. I don’t want to have another child. I love you, but I enjoy our single lifestyle.”

    Bella dropped her cigarette inside my coke can and said, “All of my sister’s have kids. Come on Jake, all I want is one child we can call our own.”

    I saw her mouth moving, but all I could hear was her cigarette sizzling inside the full can of coke I had just opened. I regained my composure and said, “You smoke dope, you drink alcohol, and you do lots of lines of coke. If you took out your IUD and got pregnant we’d have a three eyed monster.” She grabbed the can of coke and threw it at my forehead. The full can produced a loud thud to my forehead that sounded like it came from a base drum.

    I continued to stare at my history thinking to myself, “Say, have the baby.” All I could hear coming from my mouth was, “You fucking slut that was a full can of coke and it hurt like hell you bitch.”

    According to the ER doc that treated me, he said a thick skull can only withstand so much pummeling from full cans of coke.

    Bella and I divorced a few months after that episode and I went on to wife number three who had her tubes tied and could not and did not want any more children. Maybe it was for the best.

    • lionetravail says:

      Nice- this was gritty, start to finish, from the cigarette in the cane of coke to the conversation, and all that way to the “Maybe it was for the best”.

    • snuzcook says:

      For the best, indeed! Sometimes its fun to have a story with no sympathetic characters, and this one fits that bill for me. An interesting look at a moment that was far from ideal, but better not altered.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Interesting story of ordinary people, moscoboy. I have relatives who have been through similar incidents and conversations. I could tell you’ve been there.

      This story seems to have a lot of “I’s” in it; the first paragraph needs them, but once you get to the scene you might consider describing rather than perceiving. For example, rather than “I could smell the cigarette… I could hear”, maybe shift to “The cigarette left a blue haze in the air while Live at Five News sounded in the background.” Just a thought.

  73. Observer Tim says:

    My name is Natasha and I’m eight years old; that’s about fifteen to you. Last name? I don’t know, we don’t use them on Mars. There are only sixty of us living there, under a dome that keeps the air in and cosmic rays out. I was born there, but my mother committed suicide while I was a baby. Maybe this “last name” thing is in your records, Earther.

    How did I get here? Well, it was Saturday and I’d just finished cutting the grass. Of course we have grass! It’s part of the environment system; cut grass particles in the air help fertilize the food crops. Anyway, I’d just put the cutter away when I saw the Aperture.

    Syke! Do you guys even read the reports we send back? An Aperture is a space-time rift; it looks like a glowing circle. Stepping in teleports you a few kilometers away and a few seconds back in time. We’re still working out the details; it’s on my hand comp. Which I would like back sometime soon.

    Anyway, when an Aperture opens, we’re supposed to notify Central and then step through. The enviro-kit will keep us alive for about two hours under Martian conditions, which is enough for a rescue drop if needed. Last week Jayar did a hop so short he was able to walk back. So I notified control and stepped through.

    Teleporting is usually instant; this time it took a while, like twenty or thirty seconds. I was just starting to calm down when I came out and got crushed. Earth’s gravity is about 2.7 times Mars standard; nothing can prepare you for that. Also your atmosphere is like soup even though most of it is filler, and I hate to break it to you but this planet reeks. It’s super-noisy too.

    I was totally syked out and would have been in real trouble if I hadn’t landed on the field during that sport thing. They called it a track meet, I think. Anyway, one of the girls there saw me struggling and gasping and got me to their medical tech. That’s where you picked me up.

    “So what happens now?”

    “Now? We have to do some tests…”

    “More tests? Well, can you at least contact Control and tell them where I am?”

    “That will be difficult.”

    “What, another solar storm?”

    “No, we don’t have a Mars colony. Nobody does.”

    “No colony? What the syke is the date?”

    “July fourth, twenty-fourteen.”

    “Twenty-fourteen? I won’t even be born for another eighteen years!”

    “Don’t worry, with the information on your hand computer we should be able to get there in time, just barely.”

    And then it sunk in. My mother had been the first human to reach Mars. During the year-long trip the computer had artificially inseminated her with her own DNA, producing me. That’s what tipped her over the edge to suicide.

    So I’m my mother now. I’ve been given another chance, but to do what? I don’t know, but I have eighteen years to figure it out.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Whoa! This is only the 2nd day of the post and the offerings are off the map! Lol. This was good on so many levels. I don’t usually like Sci Fi stuff because it can hard to follow. I feel I’m getting in on the ground floor with this piece and pray that you continue a series with it. This would be something awesome. Good job and thanks for sharing. I bet Dmelde (another writer who posts Sci Fi here.) would love this. Lol.

      • Observer Tim says:

        Thanks McKevin. This is high praise for SF; too many authors like to bury their readers in jargon. I think of faraway planets with strange sounding names as real places, no less so than Moscow or Kabul. Terms are best explained so that they make sense to a reasonably-educated reader.

        What happens next is already going on in the part of my mind that dreams; all I have to do is tease out the interesting bits.

    • lionetravail says:

      What a wild ride, Tim! Great story, hitting a few classic tropes but with a voice all your own to tell it in a new way, and all in around 500. Great job- I’ve been drawing a blank for myself, at least for something unique. This was cool.

    • seliz says:

      Wow, wonderful take on the prompt. I loved the voice of the main character. It made the background information flow effortlessly throughout the piece. The last paragraph was perfect with the hopeful intonation, rather than despair at her current situation.

    • snuzcook says:

      I really love the way you unfold the story, O.Tim, with only a bit of exposition at the end. Curious about ‘syke’–could it refer to Dr. Mark Sykes? Lots more to explore in this story.

      • Augie says:

        You deliver once again! I look forward each week to read the journey ‘Observer’ will take us on. Thanks!

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          This one’s special for me to read. I get so lost in sci-fi but not your story. The interest level is so acute, I wish you would continue with it and flesh it out. Your talent level shows week in and week out. Thats extrarordionary.

        • Observer Tim says:

          Thanks Augie, and Kerry. There is more to this story, both before and after. It actually follows from a story I posted on my own site (http://www.observer-tim.com) back in January (Jan 20) called “Immaculate”, about Natasha’s conception. Of course the cat’s out of the bag, now.

          There is more to this story.

      • Observer Tim says:

        I hadn’t really thought about Dr. Sykes; this general-purpose future invective is a corruption of the most frightening test a Mars colonist would face – the psych evaluation.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Four Earth-years later:

      I round the corner and freeze. Why didn’t those bastards tell me? I’ve been at MIT nearly a month and nobody told me. Now I’m standing face to face with Natasha Miller. My mother. The first human being to set foot on Mars. The woman I’m a clone of. She’s about an inch shorter than me, probably from living with this stupid Earth gravity, but otherwise I could be looking in a mirror…

      And then she’s gone. She pushed right past me on the way to wherever. Maybe she registered that this other girl looks like kind of like her, but that’s it. I want to chase after her, hug her, become her friend, develop ANY kind of relationship.

      And I would get pulled out of here faster than if somebody shouted “dome breach” and the place started filling with Martian atmosphere. So I’ll play it cool, find some way to get close to her. Even if she can’t be told the truth, I want to be near my Mommy.

    • jmcody says:

      Fascinating and readable, with a good dose of the humanity that is sometimes lacking in sci fi. Great job, O. Tim.

    • Delightfully entertaining, Mr. Smith!

  74. mvg81 says:

    —- This one got away from me…in more ways than one. —-

    In the summertime where the weather is hot…

    Moisture filled every pore of my body. My T-shirt clung to me like a wetsuit.

    You can stretch right up and touch the sky.

    The air was hot and thick. It felt as if I was weighted down, walking in the deep end of a swimming pool.

    When the weather’s fine…

    The airborne pollen was wreaking havoc on my allergies.

    You got women, you got women on your mind.

    Perspiration coursed down my cheeks and cascaded off of my chin.

    Have a drink, have a drive…

    Sweat stung my eyes.

    Go out and see what you can find.

    But all was well…all was well…

    “Oh Shhh!” The words escaped me without will. My headphones yanked off my head and collard my neck. The mower listed left, hard. I braced myself, and with a thrust forward, cleared the hole without injury. I gave a quick a look around and surveyed the neighbors, no one in attendance. I dropped to one knee and peered over the ledge. I inched my face closer, submerged below ground level, and for some reason, sniffed: smelled like dirt. Then something grabbed me, not physically, but it was as tangible a resistance that can be felt without touch. Actually, it was more like a pull.

    In one swift move, I grasped the ground beside me, turned and lowered myself into the hole, still hanging from the ledge like a fat kid struggling to do a pull-up in gym class. I started the countdown at five, but before I got to four, I let go.

    The descent and the landing were both instantaneous and simultaneous. There was no crash. There wasn’t even a thud. No hellfire, no snakes, no rotting corpses. No China. I was in an entirely different place, an entirely different time.

    “Hey,” she said, as she leaned in and briskly kissed my cheek. “Where’d you go? Thought you bailed.”

    I stood and stared dumbfounded. I hadn’t seen Megan in fifteen years – fourteen years, three months and one week, to be exact and it had mortally wounded me in subtlety. A slight cut which bleeds for years…forever.

    “What’s a matta? Sick already?” Megan asked, as the left side of her mouth slowly stretched up and towards her ear in a frisky, and intoxicating, grin. “Can’t handle your liquor, punk?” Her sapphire eyes sparkled, her skin soft and ageless.

    A lot of kids…teenagers…nineteen-nighty-nine! HOLY SH–

    “What the hell is wrong with you?” Megan’s playfulness changed to concern.

    “What time is it?” was all I can muster.

    Megan dipped her hand into the pocketbook hanging from her shoulder and pulled out a pretty pink beeper, “Ten to.”

    “Ten to what?”

    “Eleven, what do you think the ten is to?” Her eyebrows beetled and eyes dimmed to a slight squint. Both cheeks raised and her mouth tightened. “Where were you? You didn’t go smoke with Tyson and them, did you?”

    “What? No, no…..” Within what was probably seven seconds, I tried to pray every prayer I could remember: The Hail Mary, The Lord’s Prayer, The Star Spangled Banner and The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States. I searched for words. I searched for meaning. I searched for courage like that son of a b-tch from Oz.
    Make it count.

    I cupped the sides of her head in my palms and pulled her close. The music muted. Voices silenced. I gently swiped her cheek with my thumb, feeling every fiber of flesh on her soft, warm face. I took it all in, with all of my senses: the touch of her jaw, the fresh scent of her hair, the sound of my heart, the surreal sight of her splendidness, the taste of atonement.

    Our mouths touched, lips primed and slightly open. The warm feel of her breath comforted my upper lip. My tongue tingled as if I had a mouthful of Pop Rocks. My hands explored her hair. Her arms tightly secured my waist.

    “Megan, I –“

    “Ay Dios, mio! Ay Dios mio!” The neighbor, Mrs. Garcia, cradled her 6-month old in her arms. They both were in tears, but for different reasons. Two Franklin County Police cars and one St. Margaret’s of Scotland ambulance were parked at the curb in front of her house, lights flashing, but sirens off. The excavator was shuffling dirt and clearing debris from the cavernous ditch in the front yard. The smell of sewage soured the air.

  75. sjmca1966 says:

    Jay, your scene setting is impeccable, from your use of memoriblia to the description of the torment raging in your MC.
    A great ending that demonstrated perfectly the different roads our lives can take when we stand up to our demons.
    Well done.

  76. mausua says:

    They sat across the aisle not looking at each other as the bus swayed through the empty city streets. His eyes nailed to the street lights that grew and shrank in the windows. Hers plastered to the puddle of melting snow on the floor, her thumb swiping through her phone of its own accord.

    What remained of the gaggle of passengers that had begun the trip with them had hours ago given themselves over to their dreams. They had traveled a great distance already and had been champions of chatter and polite smiles, but had finally exhausted their talent for mindless small talk.

    She grasped for the right words to break the silence, but it was like trying to catch snowflakes and she was too tired to focus. Alarms sounded in her mind, urging her to go against her instincts and speak instead of continue the demure facade of ladylike timidity. But she could not. He remained a statue, determined to stare into each blinding streetlight as it passed, even as the color began to rise in his cheeks. Finally, her eyes betrayed her and returned the puddle of melting snow.

    Then, there was something suddenly strange about the moment. After a brief sensation of falling through a long tunnel, her eyes snapped to his face and she immediately knew that this moment could not pass.

    He was all control, but she was all rebellion.

    Her eyes narrowed to slits. Biting the inside of her lip, she returned her attention to her phone and typed a message. He reached for the gadget humming in the brown leather backpack at his feet and she took the opportunity to cross the aisle. Settling in two seats away, she began typing another message before he could have a chance to dismiss the first and turned to face him, stretching her long, jean-clad legs out until her stiletos were in his line of vision.

    His brow furrowed as his eyes moved through the lines of text. Before he could finish reading and find the next streetlight, she slowly folded her legs, moving herself another seat closer and laid her chin on her knees. His hand dropped to his side without deleting the text, she extended one leg across his lap. Reaching out for her other leg, he pulled it across his lap and, releasing a long-held breath, turned his transparent gaze towards her, pulled across the final seat, and spoke first.

    “Say it out loud.”

  77. BENNY GOOD (499 Words)

    It was always Benny’s dream to live in France. He was the scraggly kid standing the in the corner of the drug store, sipping a glass Coke bottle. Of course, dreams are fragile, and when Panzers rolled into Paris it was no exception. My gang would roam the streets, looking for some entertainment in depression-era LA, while my parents sat back at home listening to Roosevelt’s fireside chats on the radio.

    “Look at him!” we jeered, breezing out the door, but when a small port in Hawaii became the talk of the town we were forced together—for good. Most of my friends went to the Pacific, but Benny and I stayed together, shipped to England, across a howling salt sea where U-boats lurked around every corner. It was a far cry from worrying about what pictures were out next.

    That era was so far removed the day I found the hole. Levittown, NY, was always the same—same houses, same yards, same perfect kids and families, but I’d found something different. Crouching down to examine it, Sharon came out, a toddler in her arms.

    “What are you doing there, honey?”

    Little Sam smiled happily, and I looked over, wiping my forehead.

    “Oh, nothing. Just thinking about having the landscapers over again.”

    “All right. The Millers have asked me over. Dinner’s already prepared.”

    She disappeared back into our new home, and I peered back into the hole. It was dark, two feet across, and definitely not ordinary. Leaning over it, suddenly a harsh wind came up and began to suck me in like an Oz twister. Before I could shout out anything, I slipped down into the tube.

    I felt something whip into my face, several layers of wet film, and went almost upside down. Harsh wind howled into my ears. Feeling suddenly queasy, I held up my hands, running into this metal barrier. Vomit rushed up my throat, burning, my stomach muscles quaking. A heavy hand fell on my shoulder.

    “Feeling all right?”

    I coughed, and realized that I was standing in a boat. Icy gray water was sloshing violently in front of me. I know that voice. Looking back, it was Benny, impeccable in his green uniform, but his face wrinkled in worry and fear.

    “Oh, yeah, all right,” but I couldn’t hide my wide eyes at seeing him again, out of my dreams. Tears almost welled up, but there’s something about this that tightens, not releases. I can always change this. I don’t know if it’s right or not, if this is even real, but maybe it’s worth a shot.

    I think of how we jeered him, thought, he deserves better. The coastline of France loomed ahead, brute black pillboxes jutting out from the sand. Hands tensed on rifles, and our commanders waited. I was weighing a man’s life in the balances. And when the ramp splashed down, and the yellow bullets began to whiz by, there was a decision to be made.

    –To be Continued– *Dramatic music plays*

  78. sjmca1966 says:

    “Good morning Barbara-Anne!” yelled Abigail.

    I turned to greet my neighbor, who was busy—as was I—clearing her little section of grass. As I turned to say hello, I took a backward step, my feet were whisked from under me, I was been consumed by a void.

    I tried with all my might to stay above ground, but it was futile, as a vacuum was now sucking me below ground.

    Abigail stared in horror as I disappeared from her sight.

    I was falling for no more than five seconds before I landed with a thud. I soon recognized where I was, but when I regained my feet I felt remarkably rejuvenated. I was no longer overweight and there was definitely a new spring in my step.

    That’s when I saw him, standing at the edge of the stream. It was a young Ricky Drysdale, looking as handsome as he did the first time I met him. Startled, he turned to face me. I remembered this scene from my youth. This time was different, as Ricky hadn’t noticed me back then and I had been to shy to approach him. God he was a hunk.

    I’d always hated The Beach Boys, but when he started singing, my heart started racing, “Baa-Baa-Baa Ba-Barbara-Anne, Baa-Baa-Baa Ba-Barbara-Anne.”

    “Hi Ricky,” I said.

    “What brings you to this neck of the woods?”

    There was a confidence in my voice that was certainly lacking back in the day, “Oh, you know, just taking a break from the daily grind.”

    We talked all morning, and when he suggested we take a walk to somewhere a bit more private, I did my best girly-giggle and agreed. I was going to lose my virginity again, but not to the geeky Barry Romney this time.

    When I woke to the setting sun, Ricky was gone. That’s when I remembered. I would never see him again and my heart sank. I ran as fast as I could back to the spot that had brought me back in time. I searched and searched, but alas in vain. The void was nowhere to be found.

    Without a moments hesitation I ran in the direction of the station. If I couldn’t go back, then I wanted to be stuck in the past with Ricky.

    Half way to the station I saw my mother talking to Mr Dorset, “Where are you heading in such a rush young lady?” she asked.

    “I’ll explain later. Love you.”

    When I made it to the top of the rise overlooking the station, I was relieved to see the coach still there. I was out of breath and stopped in horror when I saw Ricky and Keri Hill sneaking onto the coach while the drivers back was turned.

    I stood crying uncontrollably like the young woman I once was.

    “Have a nice life in Abattoir. Asshole!” I yelled, ‘Wherever the hell that is,” I mumbled.

    I turned and headed back to see my mother, who I hadn’t seen in so-so long.

    • snuzcook says:

      Nice twist at the end, with the MC living a different parallel reality. Will she retain what she has learned and make different choices? Hard to tell so far. Good choice for your story, well written.

      • Augie says:

        wow! I like your words! Abigail, (my fathers joy) and Abattoir! (a place I would never want to go to) This story is told with class and flows like a gentle life changing stream. Bravo sjmca1966!

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a great take, sjmca. It’s a great reminder that even if we take a different path, most of the world will continue on the same way. Also, sometimes the things we pursue aren’t so shiny and perfect as we remember them.

      Excellent story on several levels.

    • jmcody says:

      There are a lot of subtleties to this story. Your MC was able to fulfill a fantasy from her youth, which turned out to be disappointing. Your story makes me want to know more about how this different turn of events affects her life after that. It might not affect it at all, or it might make her life go in a completely different direction. I tend to think she would grow up more confident, but jaded, and would make different decisions.

      This was well written and thought provoking.

    • girl-in-progress says:

      Remarkable job sjmca!

  79. RuthieShev says:

    Crazy Mary

    Jumping off the mower, I almost fell in a huge hole in the yard. Not the adventurous type, I called for my husband. Something strange forced me to check out that hole. I saw a set of stairs leading to people I thought I knew. Oh well since this is a dream I may as well check it out. It can’t hurt me, can it?

    At the bottom of the stairs were friends of mine dressed in short shorts, striped pedal pushers and clothes from 1960. I felt the ponytail in my hair noticing I wore a skort below a bare midriff crop top. A new school jointure had begun and I was visiting a neighboring town where no one knew me except the kids from school.

    My friends were giggling and as normal the conversation turned to boys. I was a shy thirteen year old, delighted these girls wanted to be friends. I would have done almost anything to fit in.

    Suddenly one of them pointed to an old woman across the street dressed in long brown dress, apron, high black laced up boots and a babushka covering her hair. She carried a feed sack over her shoulders as she walked slowly down the street.

    Almost in unison, I heard the girls sing several verses of, “Crazy Mary will you get up”. I asked them why do they call her Crazy Mary? “She’s weird, offering us apples and vegetables from her sack when she is poorer than us.” They laughed and turned to run the other way up the street. With a painful look, I turned and followed my “friends”. .

    End of story.

    If I had it to do over, I would have never run away. I would have told them the story of the old woman from Poland. As a young girl she was a beautiful teen who loved life. Her parents sent her back to the country of their birth to stay with an aunt and learn the culture. She fell in love with a poor worker on her aunt’s estate.

    The worker followed her back to America and they were married against her parents’ wishes. He worked in the coal mines and they owned a boarding house. They were a very happy couple and had three daughters. Tragedy struck when they were having their fourth child. Her husband got the swine flu and died like so many in 19l8.

    She had to fend for herself and her girls. She wasn’t allowed to keep the boarding house so she moved on a small farm with apple trees and grew vegetables for sale. She also took in mending and ironing.

    Knowing how often she had little food for her children, she now offers what she has to every child she sees.

    When they asked how I knew about this old woman, I would simply say “ Because she is my Grandmother.”

    By Ruth Crowell Shevock

    • RuthieShev says:

      Just for reference a “skort” was an outfit that had shorts in the back and a skirt in the front. Very popular in the 60′s. I was lucky I had a cousin who gave us her used clothes so I was able to have some of the popular styles.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Very good. I liked the story even without the reference to the grandmother but it was even better with it. Good job.

    • sjmca1966 says:

      Oh, the things we do as kids just to try and fit-in.
      This was a lovely story well told, with great imagery Ruth.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      I just needed to say that if you ever get writer’s block or experience a situation in life that’s tough to handle, ask or pray to Crazy Mary for help and answers. She’ll always be there to help when you get stuck in any of life’s situations. If you haven’t made her your muse you should do so today I think she’s reaching to you in ways you can’t begin to see. Good luck in your future endeavors.

      • RuthieShev says:

        Thank you so much MCKEVIN. You just made me smile and cry at the same time. What you just wrote was the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me about my work and my grandmother. Good luck to you also.

    • snuzcook says:

      What a wonderful parable of how much richer life is and how much more we are able to live as human beings when we have glimpsed shape and weight of another person’s existence. It is the girl’s capacity to learn that is the beauty of her story, and the consistance of Crazy Mary’s compassion and generosity that gave her the lesson from which to grow. What a fine legacy you have shared with us from both!

    • Observer Tim says:

      This story hurt to read, Ruthie. I’ve been the one on the outside.

      Very well written and poignant (I don’t use that word often), and a good reminder that there many people who are different, and for many reasons.

    • jmcody says:

      This was touching. Thirteen is a tough age. At thirteen its normal to want to separate yourself from your family (to some degree) and to identify more with your friends. Nothing is more important than being accepted. You’ve shown that here, along with the wisdom and perspective that comes with living, and the lessons about kindness and empathy that your grandmother taught you.

      I like the way you illustrated the generational contrast with clothing. The girls’ clothing was young and carefree and spoke of the relative prosperity of 1960, while the Grandmother’s heavy, dark clothing told of hardship and old world ways.

    • Reaper says:

      This is both tragic and beautiful Ruthie. I always love your writing, even more when it is based in your past. Maybe I’m wrong but I think your grandmother would understand, especially since I’m sure she’d be proud of the woman you grew into.

      • RuthieShev says:

        Thank you so much for the wonderful comment. I loved my grandmother but you all are right that thirteen is a tough age and your whole world revolves around fitting in. And yes, I am sure my grandmother would understand.

    • girl-in-progress says:

      Wow Ruthie! Beautiful sharing. I could totally feel your dilemma back then. If only we could do it both…

  80. MCKEVIN says:

    Five years ago today Doug and I bought the house of my dreams. Mrs. Sims our now deceased neighbor advised us “we got a steal because it’s haunted. Also, somewhere around the house is a place where the homeowners hide their pain. Not scary haunted but a place to cleanse your soul.” Nonsense I thought until one day a Juniper branch full of red berries jammed the lawnmower. I found a secret doorway under the Juniper bush. Inside I saw the trophy lined blue walls of my childhood friend’s room. Richard was a jock I was a reader. Our parents were the only reason our friendship existed. We were born in the same hospital, lived on the same block, attended the same schools and both very competitive. Richard excelled in sports I advanced in academia. I won spelling bees, essay contests and was accepted into college based on my mental capabilities. Richard received a college football scholarship. I became a teacher/writer Dick became a coach/minister spreading the word of forgiveness. I stepped inside the entryway and instantly a memory snatched my breath away. Hot. I needed to vomit. Smells. Fear. The taste of blood gagged me. Three of Dick’s teammates were seated in his room without him there.
    “I came by to help-”
    I said to Benny Dick’s middle school team’s quarterback. I never liked Benny. He didn’t care for geeks like me. My gut warned me to leave.
    “Why don’t you wait-“
    “I-“
    Darkness. Someone pulled something over my head, another teammate grabbed my arms yet another yanked my pants down while pinning me to the floor. Smells. Cologne. Obsession. I couldn’t see couldn’t breathe. HELP! Anyone! I couldn’t move. Conscious but couldn’t stop what was happening. Mom Dad Help! Oh God NO! I tasted my own blood. Smells. Deodorant. Right Guard. Father God, please make them stop I screamed. PLEASE! No one heard me. I wanted to die. Hot. Sweat. Smells. Musk. Semen. I gagged, vomited and passed out.
    “NO!” I scream. As a cool wind brings me back to my present. Coughing.
    “Cleanse your soul” I hear Mrs. Sims say. The scene replays. I kick out towards Benny catching him between his legs. I can’t see but he hollers like a stray cat someone set on fire. I push backwards. Two teammates fall to the floor. I bite the hand covering my mouth. I pull my pocket knife from my jacket sleeve, cutting someone with one hand while trying to break free with the other. I kick hitting a teammate in the face. I hear teeth clicking. I continue stabbing while removing the cover from my head. I hear screams but they are not mine. I stand covered in blood. It is not mine. I jump over three dead bodies, race out the door and bump into Reverend Dick.
    “Hey, slow down.” Reverend Dick says.
    “Forgive them father for they know not what they do.” I say.
    “What?”
    “Don’t worry Dick. I took care of it. All is forgiven.”

    • Marie Therese Knepper says:

      I love the idea of having a place to hide your pain and cleanse your soul. I believe I get more out of your story with each read. :)

      • RuthieShev says:

        I agree with Marie. Everyone needs a place like that sometimes. Nicely written.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        If that’s true, that means I did something right. Lol. I hope you read it again and expand on what you wrote. When I was in the dating world, I used to ask people I met where do you put your pain? Most people answered with “I don’t know.” They in turn would ask “Why do you need to that?” My response was “Because I want you to see for me and not the pain someone else caused you.”

    • sjmca1966 says:

      There was a real grittiness to this piece with some great descriptions and mood setting.
      Well done McKevin.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Thank you sjmca1966 for reading. The grittiness is there because this story is about a teenager remembering being raped. He goes back in time and kills his 3 rapists which changes the original story’s ending like the prompt instructed us to do.

    • vaderize03 says:

      What an awesome piece, MCKEVIN.

      I wasn’t sure at first if the MC was male or female, but knowing he’s male makes what happened all the more powerful. Male rape is a subject talked about in very hushed tones in this country, and I give you credit for having the guts to write about it.

      Very well done!

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Thank you vaderized03. My response to this prompt is an extension to a previous prompt dated 08 14 2012. The prompt was entitled “A Mysterious Request.” My response there was a male rape victim receives a letter from his rapist asking for forgiveness many years after the rape happened. I think you might like it as well as the buzz it created here in our forum. Again, thank you for your kind words and acknowledging my writer’s voice.

        • vaderize03 says:

          Your welcome.

          …and I’ll be sure to check it out.

          • Augie says:

            MCKEVIN, I have wanted to respond to your story all day but couldn’t summon the correct words. If you did indeed open the vault to your depths, it was heard and respected. No other feedback is necessary. No one should experience this type of abuse. Salutes—

    • Observer Tim says:

      Fascinating story, McKevin, with plenty of spiritual weight. It is interesting that your MC only feels cleansed when he kills his attackers, but some crimes suffered are truly that bad.

      In answer to your question: I keep my pain in the burning desert of things I can’t do anything about, while my joys live in the cool shade I have built for them. I stand in the twilight between, watching.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Hi OT… So you think the MC “only” feels cleansed when he killed his attackers? What about self defense (sadly deaths) and then forgiveness? It must be okay to kill someone in self defense and forgive them for bringing the act of finality on themselves. Out legal system do it every day.

        In the majority of my postings here, Doug and Tracy are my go to characters. Doug is the only person who can get under Tracy’s skin because Tracy loves him. My character that gives Doug a run his money vying for Tracy’s attention is “Washington.” If Washington answered the question “Where Do You Put Your Pain?” like you did, then Doug should watch out and up his love game. Lol. Those are the type of words that would get Tracy’s attention. You have no idea of the thought process you’ve started with those words. Lol. My mind is buzzing with ideas. Thank you so much.

        • Observer Tim says:

          Touché. Having only been physically attacked a few times in my life (thank God) and never in the presence of a weapon, I can’t speak to this as well as I’d like. My intent was to use “only” in the exclusive sense (the only solution), not the diminutive one.

          As for forgiveness, that is the only thing that has ever been successful at finally evaporating the things in the desert.

    • jmcody says:

      This was pretty surreal, and if you hadn’t said that the MC actually traveled back in time and killed his rapists, I would have read it as more metaphorical. Upon my first read, I interpreted the hole in the ground as his subconscious, and the killing as a his way of finally reckoning with the incident and putting it behind him. (“Cleansing his soul” and “All is forgiven.”) That last statement is intriguing. Who is he forgiving — Dick? The Rapists? Or had he somehow held himself responsible for this incident (as victims sometimes do) and now he is finally absolving himself of the responsibility and placing the blame where it belongs — with the rapists?

      The question of “Where do you put your pain?” is a fascinating one that could make a good writing prompt in and of itself. There is a lot of depth in this piece, McKevin.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Your story ran on all eights, pounding my brain with the horror your Mc went thriough. The descriptions are breath taking on their power. Makes me wonder where do people put the horror and pain of rape? I truly can not imsagine the turmoil. And your thoughts you give your MC to justify to himself the actual act of multiple murder, are so plausable. You’ve melted the entire prompt with this story. ,

        • MCKEVIN says:

          Thank you for those words Kerry. Rape for a male or female is horrible on all levels. I’m glad you feel I my story captured the very horror of it. I still ask people where do they put their pain but I’m not event specific when I present the question. Lol.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Why do I get the feeling you could have written so much here jmcody? You have a fascinating imagination and I think you see more than in the author’s intent than the authors that post here and that’s a good thing. The last line indicates he does in fact forgives his rapists even though he kills them in the process. He imitating our legal system. Lol. Not sure why you thought he should forgive Reverend Dick because he wasn’t one of the rapists. This was a simple case of a victim being a second chance to change the outcome of a horrific event. The MC used death to create change in his life and forgave his attackers in the process. OT had a wonderful answer for the “Where Do You Put Your Pain?” question. You should check it out. Thanks for reading and commenting.

        • jmcody says:

          Hmm… I think it was the interpretation of killing as forgiveness that threw me. Doesn’t seem very forgiving, although I suppose it is possible to forgive the rapists after killing them!

          • jmcody says:

            Mckevin, I’ve been thinking about this story all day, and I just want to add that while I did not make any assumptions about which parts were real and which were fiction, it is obvious that your pain is the basis of and reason for this story. I think Augie said it best — you have been heard and respected. I admire your courage in dealing head on with this, and your ability to transform your pain into art.

          • MCKEVIN says:

            jmcody don’t stress over this story. I write what comes up or through me. There is no personal event that is associated with this my writing here. The best compliment you and Augie have given me is to assume that I’ve been through what my MC goes through in my story. Nothing is further from the truth but I have to admit as a writer the assumption is a great compliment. Just for the record, the writer in me believes; a person can be voted father of the year and still be a murder. A wife can forgive her husband’s infidelities for the sake of her kids but then leave him when he’s dying in a hospital. In my stories senior citizens kill people who attack them simply because they’re old and gay people become their own super heroes. It is my writer’s creative license. In my writer’s world a church widow will sleep with the pastor even though he’s married. The pastor’s wife in turn may kill both the widow and the pastor. They are not “psychopaths” they are human. Like I said, don’t stress over this story because there will be many like it to come. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • derrdevil says:

      This was a hard tale to digest. Truly mesmerizing. It leaves you with a deep empty thought. And that question: where do you put your pain. WHAT!!! That’s so heavy only something tragic can produce a question like that. I never really thought of it, since I always took life as a lesson. Every encounter we meet is a lesson to be learnt. And as life goes, the lessons get much more difficult. I always looked at pain as an intrusive force. Something that doesn’t belong in a soul. It doesn’t fit with the essence of man and his conscious thoughts. Kind of like an outside influence. Kind of like a lesson. And I always tried to learn the lesson. I never let pain manifest into something bigger, since that is only bringing negativity to your personal self. Anyway, I’m shutting up now. Thanks for sharing that, mckevin. In awe.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Hi derrdevil, thanks for taking time to read and respond to my story. If you have read any of my past posts then I’m sure you’ve found that I don’t like sappy endings. There’s nothing wrong with them I just don’t care for them. Life doesn’t always gives us sappy endings in our day in and day out lives so my writings reflect that usually to the extreme. Pain is intrusive and obviously necessary or it wouldn’t be here. I love to hear people answer my question “Where Do You Put Your Pain?” because I think everything we do is a direction of how we process pain and other emotions. But in my opinion, if pain is never confronted and dissected it shows itself in other ways. Infidelity, drug use, alcoholism etc are forms of unresolved pains exhibiting itself. The best compliments I’ve received on this piece assumes that I’ve had to have been raped in order to write such a piece. I haven’t but the assumption is music to this writer’s ears. Thanks again and I’ll see you at the next prompt. McKevin

    • Reaper says:

      I am reading without commenting much now because I am so far behind on this and everything else this week. However I have to pause and say this is amazing. Gritty and traumatizing without being graphic. Both in the initial and the revenge part. Very well written.

  81. vaderize03 says:

    I crawled over to the lip of the hole. Behind me, the ancient mower sputtered and wheezed like a kid with bad asthma. I frowned; a month had passed since I last trimmed the lawn, and I didn’t remember this unwelcome circle. Rimmed with fresh dirt, it stared back at me like a toothless Sarlacc, inviting yet mocking. Poised on all fours, I leaned over the edge. Instinct said run, but my curiosity had always been stronger than my common sense, not to mention my talent for getting into trouble.

    “Hello?” I called, but was greeted only by a wave of soft echoes. Beneath me lay pure darkness; more than just the absence of light, it was the suffocating black of a pit of crude oil, or the midnight sky on a cold winter’s night. A wave of goosebumps raced up my arms, but I couldn’t turn back. My hand slid out, almost lovingly, and stroked the nothingness. It was cold, like touching a glacier, and-

    With a reluctant sneeze, the dirt beneath me gave way, and I pitched headfirst into the tunnel. Falling, I screamed, but no-one could hear. My vision was gone, and there was a roaring sound in my ears. I flailed my arms and legs, looking for something, anything to grab onto, and then everything stopped. With a thud, I landed, butt first, on something soft. Light pricked my eyes, and I pried open the lids.

    “Are you listening to me?” a voice asked. My vision swam into focus, and I gasped. Across the desk, the Chairman of the Department of Medicine glared at me with onyx eyes, his salt-and-pepper goatee bristling as he breathed.

    “Yes sir,” I said. What the hell was going on? I hadn’t been in this office for over five years. Between us, a paper calender announced the date as June 4th, 2009. I blinked, but it didn’t go away. How could this be? I looked down; beneath my belt, the ostomy pouch was gone, replaced by a gnawing pain that was equal parts colitis and fear.

    No way. This wasn’t happening; I couldn’t have gone back in time.

    He leaned forward. “I’ve received reports of certain unprofessional behaviors on your part, and we need to discuss them.”

    Unprofessional behaviors? I recalled this conversation, and it hadn’t ended well; something about allowing the stress of living with Crohn’s and problems at home to interfere with how I was doing my job. But my father, nearly-dead from end-stage cancer, had been clear: suck it up. Be tough. When he’d been a resident, sick days didn’t exist. Remember, the patient was the one with the disease; if you wanted to be a doctor, you had to put others first, no matter how tired you were or how bad you felt. Dying parent? Too bad. Don’t take time off; they’ll think you’re weak. People will talk, they’ll say you can’t cut it. Your last program director hadn’t been forgiving, so what makes you think this one will be?

    I closed my eyes again. I love you dad, but in a lifetime of imparted wisdom, that was the only piece of bad advice you’d ever given me. When I’d first faced the Chairman, I’d been smug, defiant, certain of my ability to handle any problem, but then he’d held up a mirror, and I saw the truth: I was short-tempered, sick, and unworthy to graduate. I already had a job, so they’d let me through, but he’d told the place I was going to keep a close eye. The shame had been strong, and so had the guilt.

    But not this time. This time I could change, make the right choice. I would lay it all out: things were awful at home, and I was too sick to function. I had thought it noble not to ask for help, but true strength involved knowing your limits. How could I care for the ill unless I cared for myself? I couldn’t, and it was time to face the music.

    Three feet away, the Chairman was waiting. I cleared my throat, and looked him dead in the eye. “Dr. Eisen,” I said, “I need some time off.”