Where Does The Tunnel Lead?

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.

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704 thoughts on “Where Does The Tunnel Lead?

  1. PeterW

    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.

    1. PeterW

      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

    “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

    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!

    1. EverLasting

      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!

  4. Resnir

    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

    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

    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.

    1. EverLasting

      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?

      1. usedname

        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

    —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.

    1. jhowe

      I didn’t find that to be too long at all. No need for apologies when the story is as good as this one. I liked the little “aside’ paragraphs. Nice job.

  8. Jobbo Berry

    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.

    1. Observer Tim

      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.

    2. girl-in-progress

      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. Bilbo Baggins

    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.

    1. jmcody

      It is amazing to me that this somehow came out of this prompt. This reads like an already published novel. I found myself engrossed in it. I like how you interwove the past and present, and even the future. I say this a lot, so sorry sir repeating myself, but you are the real deal Bilbo. Keep going with his one — it’s a winner.

    2. Reaper

      I loved this Bilbo. And not just because of the garden gnomes but the nod made me smile. Your descriptions keep getting better and I don’t know how that is possible since they were already amazing.

      1. Bilbo Baggins

        Thanks, Reaper. I was trying to find a good description for the yard and couldn’t resist sliding that in there. As for the descriptions, I made sure to read various eyewitness accounts of the real thing, including the various guns/units/stuff. That really brought it to life for me.

    3. Critique

      The is wonderful writing Bilbo Baggins. I’m picturing a war movie as I read this.
      How does one access your blog to get the ‘shorter – ‘better’ version?

  10. timelessfloetry29

    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.

    1. Augie

      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.

    2. Observer Tim

      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!

      1. lionetravail

        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.

    3. jmcody

      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!

    4. EverLasting

      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!)

    5. Reaper

      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.

    6. Critique

      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 :)

      1. timelessfloetry29

        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.

  11. DMelde

    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.)

      1. Kerry Charlton

        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?

    1. lionetravail

      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.)

    2. EverLasting

      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. ;)

  12. Reaper

    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.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        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.

    1. jmcody

      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.

    2. Bilbo Baggins

      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.

    3. lionetravail

      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.

    4. usedname

      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

    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.

    1. Bilbo Baggins

      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.)

    2. Herald Harbinger

      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?

        1. jmcody

          Thanks for reading and commenting Moscobiy. I thought no one was even going to read it at this late stage. Glad you found something to like in it.

      1. jmcody

        Thanks, Herald. I think the cemetery is his delusion, a sort of purgatory he has created for himself by refusing to move on. He’s more haunted than haunting.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        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.

        1. jmcody

          “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.

    3. lionetravail

      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.

      1. jmcody

        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!

    4. Reaper

      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.

  14. pinkbamboo

    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

    1. Observer Tim

      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.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        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.

    2. jmcody

      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.

    3. lionetravail

      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.

    4. Reaper

      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.

    5. Critique

      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. Herald Harbinger

    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.”

    1. Observer Tim

      What beautiful imagery, Herald Harbinger! You filled the story with mystic tension and a strong allegory. I almost fear making a guess about what it’s an allegory to.

      Almost. I think it’s about sex. Either that or you just dropped a giant Rorshach test on us and I said something about me. Maybe both.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Relax Tim, it’s a beautiful portrait of first love. Physical yes, but magical in all aspects. Great job on this Herald. If you’re writing about your first love, you have been blessed.

    2. jmcody

      Incredible. Wow. This is the most beautiful description of …. this… that I have ever heard. Sounds like your first love was your wife, or you were hers. Or both. Either way this was gorgeous, spiritual and a powerful reminder of what love is, or should be. Thank you for this, Herald.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Herald, My brother has four sons, went criminally insane because ot it. Only kidding. I had five daughters in six years time. I’m still here, part of me anyway.

    3. Herald Harbinger

      Thank you all for the kind remarks. I must give credit where credit is due a note that I was highly inspired by the Song of Songs/Solomon in the Old Testament of the Bible–a great read/study for relationships if you’re ever interested.

  16. usedname

    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

    1. EverLasting

      Wow.

      Nice job UsedName!

      More punctuation would have been nice, and would have helped the story flow better, but other then that, very go

          1. usedname

            sorry about that ‘z’ it was a mistake. I had seen your story as well! I enjoyed the whole crazy person thing very creative use of the prompt. I am very thankful for your comment, it is my first attempt too. Its been fun reading others stories as well. lets keep writing good things, yeah.

    2. Observer Tim

      I really like this take, usedname. It’s a good reminder that even those we might consider “mentally challenged” know more than enough to be introspective about their lives and mistakes.

      Given the style and quality of prose, I’m guessing Lonny has some kind of savant ability, or only a ‘mild’ disability (if such a thing can be said to exist). Once again, great story.

  17. Bilbo Baggins

    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)

    1. Observer Tim

      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

    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.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      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

    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.

      1. Observer Tim

        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

    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.

    1. lionetravail

      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.

      1. flaboba

        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 :)

    2. Observer Tim

      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. jhowe

    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.

    1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      Jhowe, no need to apologize… I love me some dark stories. :) This one is interesting. Took a time machine to time (perhaps in the future?) where strange people do strange things to strangers. I wonder, though, what that tool (weapon?) was that the masked person(s) arrived with.

      Oh, shit! Birth!! hahaha, nice one. jhowe. Very nice. :) Took me a minute. *gets another cup of coffee*

    2. lionetravail

      “I had made a serious error… time machine.” I got where this was going from the ‘constricted limbs’, but hey, I’m in medicine…. and it was still vastly entertaining :)

  22. girl-in-progress

    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!”
    ###

    1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      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.

    2. lionetravail

      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.

      1. girl-in-progress

        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!

  23. EverLasting

    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.

    1. EverLasting

      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. :)

      1. jhowe

        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.

        1. EverLasting

          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?

          1. Observer Tim

            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.

    2. Observer Tim

      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!

        1. EverLasting

          Thank you so much Observer!

          I really appriciate both you and Jhowe taking time to reply. :)
          And thank you for the welcoming as well. ^_^

  24. flaboba

    “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.

    1. usedname

      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.

  25. M G

    –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.

  26. JPLeonard

    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.

    1. Brian A. Klems Post author

      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

    2. Kerry Charlton

      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.

    3. Observer Tim

      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.

  27. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    “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

      1. derrdevil

        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!

      1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

        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!

        1. Kerry Charlton

          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?

          1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

            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!

  28. thejim

    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.

      1. thejim

        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.

    1. EverLasting

      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. :)

  29. agnesjack

    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.

    1. derrdevil

      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

    2. Observer Tim

      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.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          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!

    3. agnesjack

      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.

    4. Critique

      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.

    5. jmcody

      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!

  30. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    “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.

    1. Marie Therese Knepper

      First, I totally love the fact that you changed your user name!

      Secondly, I totally relate to your MC. If I’d of had a hungry hole monster, my ex-neighbors would have been toast; well, at least in my fantasy world.

      Thanks, Doc :)

  31. Augie

    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!”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        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!

  32. jhowe

    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.

    1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      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.

    2. Observer Tim

      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.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        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.

  33. Reaper

    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.

    1. Observer Tim

      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.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        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.

        1. derrdevil

          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.

    2. jmcody

      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.

    3. jhowe

      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.

    4. Marie Therese Knepper

      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

    5. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      “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.

    6. Amyithist

      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.

      1. rle

        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!

    7. Herald Harbinger

      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.

    8. Critique

      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!

  34. noa12

    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.

  35. Carlos Hammer

    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.

    1. Observer Tim

      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.

  36. jsand419

    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.

  37. jsand419

    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.

  38. jsand419

    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. JRSimmang

    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

    1. Observer Tim

      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.

      1. JRSimmang

        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)?

        1. Observer Tim

          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.

  40. resullewlar

    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.

    1. Observer Tim

      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.

    2. Observer Tim

      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.

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