A Book of Chance

Today is Clean Out Your Bookcase Day. We at WD are notorious book hoarders, of course, but every once in a while we like to reorganize our shelves and donate some of the books that we’ve already read to libraries, schools or prisons. We’d encourage anyone else to do the same, if you feel your shelf has grown overcrowded.

The Prompt: Go over to your bookshelf, close your eyes, and pick up the first book you touch. Open the book to a random page, read the first full sentence on that page, and use it as the inspiration for a story or scene. Please include the original line at the beginning or end of your response.

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

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132 thoughts on “A Book of Chance

  1. rhearai246

    “We shall wait here until your return”
    On the edge of the river, there once existed a small tribe, who called themselves the Pocowatas. Soon hard times fell leaving them with nothing for them to live off of. No money, no gold. The only that kept them together was love. Although they were extremely close, they couldn’t live like this. They needed food and shelter to get through the day. But one thing they did have, was an extraordinary spice: mustard. Mustard grew in their fields, and was exceedingly popular during the time. Although they did have mustard, it grew in a very limited supply, so they had to sell it to a group of people which gave them the most profit. As good as they were, deep in their hearts, they were incessantly greedy, so whenever they got a good offer, they declined it as they thought they would get something better. One day, they got quite a fine offer, but the problem was that it was all the way across the world. They spent a couple of weeks pondering whether they should go or not, and were having many mixed feelings about it, as they did not want to leave their family behind. At last, they came to a decision, a smart but heart-wrenching decision. They knew it was for their best interest if they accept the offer. They decided to go in 4 days time. Gathering all their belongings, all the men set forth into their ship, waving to their family, as everyone pronounced, “We shall wait here until your return.”

  2. Rachelle.Woodbury

    “Land lies in water, it is shadowed green. / Shadows, or are they shallows, at its edges / showing the line of long sea weeded ledges / where weeds hang to the simple blue from green.”
    Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems 1927-1979
    The kelp forest spread out along the beach line, about one hundred feet into the water. These kelp forests had suddenly appeared over the last decade, and scientists believed they appeared due to the large amount of radiation released in the nuclear attacks. The ocean was protecting herself, attempting to absorb the huge amounts of iodine still present in the atmosphere.
    Jessie dove again, collecting a sample for the day. Every day, she dove down into the teal blue waters of mama ocean. This place felt more like home than above, on land, since she’d spent more of her life in the water than out. Growing up in the Florida Keys in a post nuclear world meant there had been no school to keep her busy—nothing so organized existed for a while. She spent most of her days down on the shore, swimming with her brother. The two of them had invented many games to play with each other, since they were the only children who had survived on that island. They played for hours while the adults tried to put the world back together. If her dad hadn’t been completely insane, they would never have had the bunker, and she would be dead too.
    This sample looked pretty good, dark green and definitely still alive. Ian would be thrilled.
    Jessie shivered a little at the thought of her boss. He wasn’t an option—he had been breeding with her bunkmate, Katherine, for a little over a year. But still, they hadn’t produced a child yet, and the law dictated that if a child was not produced after eighteen months of attempted procreation, partners had to switch. This was hard on relationships, but in a country where the population numbered in the hundreds of thousands, it was a necessity. She still had a chance. At eighteen, she hadn’t selected a partner yet, but she would have to soon. She’d only been able to put it off this long because her insane father had become temporary leader of the Florida/Georgia/Alabama cohort.
    She climbed out of the water, shaking her long, black hair out of her diving cap, and peeling off the skin suit. She carefully stored the samples in a collecting bag, put her gear away in the shed near the beach, and walked up to the lab. This was her other home. If she wasn’t in the water, she was here. There were rooms available for sleeping, and she and Katherine had appropriated one of them for the past three years. This was one of the only surviving research operations with the necessary equipment to monitor radiation levels, and she had been lucky to get on. If she hadn’t lived nearby, it would have been impossible.

  3. Andy

    “Unfortunately too many, acquired at considerable danger to the volunteers, were found apparently moribund in the metal or heavy plastic containers in which they had been contained.” p. 157 Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey

    Someone pulled her head back so she could watch. Some twenty-five feet away, the ground shifted by the trees. Bugs, crawling up from the ground, burrowing their way out, clung to the trunks of the trees. She knew they were drying their outer shells into a tough hide and that their hollow claws were sucking the life out of their arboreal hosts. This is why they had a green tinge. A man stood next to her.

    “Beautiful, aren’t they, Riley Mose? This is the 500th emergence we have witnessed for this brood.”

    “Calderas, why?” was all she managed to ask.

    He stood at arm’s length from her, unafraid.

    “That’s the wrong question, Riley.” He nodded at one of his assistants who promptly opened a control panel on his forearm. The assistant slid gloved fingers across a glowing screen that floated in front of him, and a drone whirred past Riley.

    It flew a direct path toward the brood. Two more drones whirred past. The brood shifted, but Calderas took a step closer to them. 
“We have the frequency of the drones repeating at a wave that prevents them from swarming. It’s not perfect, but we’re safe.”

    Suddenly, the closest drone was captured by one of the bugs. The attack was so fast. Its claws sank into the metal and the bug’s body glowed an electric blue as it sucked the life out of the drone. While it did that, however, another drone attached itself to the base of its head. A wire from the drone slipped between the thorax and the head of the bug.

    Riley looked over at Calderas, and he started to glow the same way the bug was glowing. When the drone was depleted of energy, the bug dropped it. Calderas held out an arm as if he was calling a hawk to perch and the bug came over and landed. The shell was still soft, meaning it was still hungry. Calderas turned to Riley and smiled triumphantly. She had a look of fear in her eyes. She had a look of disbelief, disgust, and raw horror.

    “Where did you get so many bugs?”

    “We dug them out. Unfortunately too many, acquired at considerable danger to the volunteers, were found apparently moribund in the metal or heavy plastic containers in which they had been contained. Nevertheless, we had enough.”

    Riley felt hands pick her up to her feet. More drones were being deployed into the brood. Calderas turned to walk away.

    “Come, we have much work to do.”

  4. RafTriesToWrite

    “Just take a look at this,” he said as we ambled with our bikes in the midmorning sun toward the edge of the piazzetta overlooking the rolling hills below.

    Call me by your name By Andre Aciman

    I couldn’t stop writing so I made it a two-parter, which is a first for me. Plus this is going in the book I mentioned in the last prompt.
    Part 1 – The Pond

    I invited Peter to go to swim at the pond, says he’d be happy to on one condition.

    He’ll indulge my request only if I sleep over at his house the next time, an extravagant and odd request as it may seem, I agreed to his terms nevertheless. It was most likely an exchange of courtesy between us two, or maybe he just turned this into a competition of whichever has the best bed and/or family wins.

    I prefer the former though. It’s less messy that way.

    But, what do we win if it were turned as such? I haven’t the slightest clue.

    We rode our bikes to this secluded pond, just a mile from my home. It was quiet, calm, soothing and private. That’s what I like about this pond right here, no fishes, no disturbances and the water is so good to swim in that you can carelessly swallow a glass of it and still wouldn’t get sick. I like it here, I like it a lot.

    This is my place, well, was. Now that he’s here too, I can’t technically say that it’s still my place.

    Only now it dawned on me that I had taken him to one of my most private places here in Trevallaño, it’s not my favorite, but it does the job very nicely. I come to here read several times, but not as much as the one in Sacraccina.

    I didn’t knew what compelled me to do this with him in the first place, I’m not the type of person who lashes out his own free will just for the sake of having to spend extra time after hours in a bedroom with some stranger you just met.

    I may have gone mad.

    Looking at him, he seems to be okay with it, but I’m still deciphering him and I don’t know why. He’s a bit hard to crack, unlike the people I know where we go back home to when summer and winter isn’t gracing my family with its charmless vigor every day.

    He was harder to crack, that I know.

    I took off everything other than my shorts, same did he. There’s a rope that you can cling onto that’s attached on a branch of which you can use to swing yourself into the pond. The pond is deep enough to do such a thing to it, but also shallow enough so as to not drown as easily. One of the few things I like about this pond is that it’s about the size of my room, multiplied by four. Almost like an Olympic sized swimming pool, which I bet his skin must’ve already met by now and have come to terms with it.

    Must be a nice feeling then.

    As he climbed up to the platform, I watched him grab a hold of the rope, his muscles were firm, he told me he didn’t worked out, yet his was bigger than mine, bulgy even. I laughed when he splashed down next to me, I can’t believe I’m having actual fun.

    The longest time I’ve spent with another guy was fifteen hours, including sleep time and excluding my dad. That person was my cousin Eric, from my mom’s sister, my Aunt Rosie. She never cared about the negativity in the world, which is why I loved going to Aunt Rosie’s plus she makes the best Lemon meringue pie.

    Sorry mom.

    Now, Peter here set a new record of twenty four hours and is still going strong. There’s somehow this feeling inside of me that I have to have his attention at all times, like a little kid wanting something a little kid would want like a balloon or a lollipop or whatever. He swims to the shore once more only to climb up to the rope and grace me with his acrobatic swan dive that he’s boasting about.

    I didn’t actually believe him at first, until he did it in front of my eyes. I was intimidated even more so.

    1. RafTriesToWrite

      I forgot to add, the line I took was from page 34 of the e-book (I hope it counts).

      I don’t know what triggered the feeling of wanting to have his attention at all times, wanting to be near him, wanting to be alongside him.

      I’ve never felt this way before towards a friend.

      Wait, is he? My friend? Should I consider him as a friend?

      “My friend”. The term, so foreign, so delirious to think about in my current state of interaction deprivation during vacation mode. “Friend”. I repeat the word again in my mind. I feel like a total loser.

      He shouldn’t have a friend like me, I don’t feel worthy.

      Maybe I should retreat when I still have the chance? Lessen the blow. Hide while there’re still places left to hide and then never return.


      Should I push him away? No. That would be rude.

      Should I make him push me away? Maybe that’ll work. Just, maybe.

      I hear him laugh then my thoughts disappear, I snap back to reality.

      Perhaps there’s something about him, other than being a person I just met. Maybe it’s just me being crushed by a game of who can splash more water in each other’s face, or maybe it was when we tried jumping from the rope together.

      The wind, without mercy, meeting our faces, our skin, our toes, our wet bodies, then taking a big splash as we decided to let go, at the exact same time. Our timing was spot on, our screams unheard from the exclusivity of the pond, our pond, in this little world that I’ve – we’ve created, together.

      Every smile, every laugh, every time our skins touched, I felt that, I was in trouble. Something was growing.

      Maybe it was then that I realized that, I was falling in the hole, a very deep hole made by Peter. What horrifies me is not the fall, but the fact that I don’t know if I even want to get out or just, stay there. Be there.

      He jumps one last time, in close proximity as to where I float, laughs with me and stares at me as we float through the willowy waters. His eyes, piercing through mine like the sun kissing my skin on a hot summer day, then quickly turned into as if I was falling onto a cactus, it hurt as his gaze turned cold when we both realized what was happening. That’s when it hit me, hit him – hit both of us.

      The stare was enough to tell me, there was something there indeed.

      But what? Pain? Hate? Ignorance? Intense hate?

      He may as well send me off to my grave by the way he looked at me. The cold gaze, still buried in my mind. Maybe I’m not such a good friend after all.

      “I gotta go home” He simply stated as he started swimming to where we set our clothes down. That was my cue to leave as well so I swam behind him, trying not to get too close in his personal space which is supposedly two feet in radial range, or as the cool kids call it “radius”.

      “Sure. Yeah.” My reply, so dumb, so… rushed. I could’ve asked to at least ride with him home, but, I was too taken aback with his sudden actions.

      I didn’t know if he picked up my quick change of mood, but I was anxious and mortified by the fact that he’d be gone for the rest of the day. It was my fault, I guess. That’s what I get for trying to make him push me away.

      “Yeah.” He says. His plain, blatant “yeah” has to be the final word. Why?

      I put up a forced smile, gave a hand unwavering and un-waving. He responds with a nod, then proceeds to stride onto his bike and straddled out of the vicinity as I took mine and made my walk of shame home, opposite to his path.

      His “yeah” was so blunt, so curt and so dismissive. I’ve never felt so defeated, so defenseless, so immature, so… torn. How can such a word be that hurtful? That, powerful?

      It boggles me that it has that kind of effect on me, I can’t help it.

      Why? I have no clue.

      It was me, I guess.


      Definitely me.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        That was certainly an emotional ride. If I guess. right, the boys are in their early teens . It is a hard time emotionally. The feeling are new and not understood there’s fear of rejection not only this way but any friendship between two boy or a girl and a boy or otherwise

        You captured this well with the inner thoughts
        I especially liked the description of the pond and how the MC felt bringing someone else to violate the space

      2. Reaper

        So, correct me if I’m wrong. These are two different boys than the last prompt, right? I could go check the names, but I’m being lazy and my computer is acting up until I restart it. This is powerful, powerful stuff. Damn you write well. Kind of want to pick your brain for some stuff I don’t understand on a personal level. You’re that good. Keep that up. Amazing is all I can say. Some strange wording in the first part. Fishes instead of fish, knew where it feels like know, but that could be a voice choice. Overall a piece I got lost in.

        1. RafTriesToWrite

          These are the same boys Reaper – Peter and Alex.
          I’ve been reading your comments, they’re highly appreciated.
          I know this is way overdue but thank you so much in the past few prompts. 🙂

          I was speeding through writing that I forgot to proofread, and by proofread I mean re-read the story 5-10 more times. The book I mentioned was my inspiration to be honest, Andre’s wordings are just unbelievably exceptionally intensely beautiful and I admire it to the moon and back.

  5. Jennifer Park

    [Follows “6. The Message”, under “Going Viral”]

    Tey, Josephine, _The Daughter of Time_, McMillan, New York, 1951, p. 56: “He took ill rest at nights, lay long waking and musing; sore wearied with care and watch, he slumbered rather than slept.”


    For days afterwards, Barbara had difficulty falling asleep. At first, it was out of elation. She was right. The students were being pre-sorted, and she had not been chosen.

    Then it was out of uncertainty. So, then, what? Was she to fight to be chosen? Was she to give up? Did it matter at all that she knew?

    Then a kind of weariness and paranoia began to set in.

    What had she done?

    What if Mikhail was right to worry—he had had a lot more trouble sleeping and concentrating and whatever—and they will be punished?

    Or, worse, soundly ignored?

    The knock on the door was unexpected.

    Barbara stayed quiet.

    The knock repeated. Louder.

    Barbara stayed quiet.

    “I know you’re awake,” said a message across her eyes.

    Sighing, Barbara creaked herself out of bed and let the visitor in. She was wearing a mask, but Barbara knew who it was. No one else had her spiky wisps of curly hair. “Hello, Sandi.”

    Once she was in the room, and the door was shut, Sandi took off her mask. “Barbarella… You’ve gotten us into quite a pickle.”

    Barbara made her most convincing ignorant-innocent face.

    “I’ll be honest. We don’t have any proof, but there is no one else we’d suspect. Not even close.”


    “Doesn’t matter. If you’re not the one who did it, then this won’t make any sense anyway. Just tell me what you want.”


    “Really. Just say it.”

    “You know… I want… you,” Barbara said sheepishly.

    Sandi was taken aback, although Barbara’s crush on Sandi was a very poorly kept secret, and, also poorly-kept-secretly mutual. “Besides… that,” she managed.

    “I want to belong with you,” Barbara declared ambiguously.

    Sandi sighed. Her answer referred to both entendres. “Barbara, as much as I… You… you are a… clanless mutt. No one even really knows who you are. The ex-Archambassador’s sponsorship got you into the Holly, but there is a limit… a firm limit… to.. what…” She suddenly noticed how much closer Barbara’s face had gotten to hers.

    “You would be my first,” Barbara whispered.

    “Barbara… Listen… We can’t…”

    Barbara closed her eyes with a shiver on her lips. This was not an act. Her breath was shallow. Hopeful. Even naïve. This was not an act.

    Sandi could not stand it. She kissed her.

    The kiss lasted a long time, but not a minute longer. In fact, Barbara was the one who pulled away.


    “I understand. I won’t tell anyone.” This, of course, depended on how well Sandi responded to blackmail. “You know what I want you to do.”

    Sandi sighed. She so wanted to…

    “I won’t make any trouble. I just wanted to know. And wanted you to know.”

    Sandi nodded once, and left without a word. She did glance back briefly as she closed the door.

    There, Barbara knew she had won.

    She slept soundly that night.

    1. Reaper

      Interesting. Disturbing in a strange way. I just started reading Brave New World, and I think that is making this take on depths and juxtapositions it wouldn’t normally, however, comparing the two makes this even more intense, and it was a ride to begin with. Nicely written.

  6. lduperval

    Unfortunately (or not, I guess) most of the books I have in my library are nonfiction. Most of the fiction I have is on a tablet, and, well, I didn’t think that would work. So here’s an attempt at humor, based on a non-fiction sentence.

    This is the original sentence: “After reading the research literature, debating among ourselves and talking with young game players, our team came up with 17 likely reasons for playing video games and included them in our middle school survey.” (Grand Theft Childhood by lawrence Kutner PhD and Cheryl K. Olson, ScD)

    In the 30 years since our original survey, times have changed considerably. The original uplifting reasons that younger kids used to provide have all but disappeared today.

    1. I can’t stand being around my parents
    2. These aren’t games, this is real life
    3. Thumbs are the most important digits in the hand. Right up there with the middle finger
    4. The embedded cranial chips are really cool
    5. The affordability of penetrable displays means I don’t have to live in this sorry world
    6. It is by far the best way to prepare for the zombie (or any other type of) apocalypse. I feel sorry for you old people
    7. Nature has too many dangers lurking (bugs, allergies, unfiltered air)
    8. Real life is for losers
    9. The noise drowns out my parents fighting, and my older brother doing whatever with his girlfriend
    10. Those vibrating controllers are really something when you don’t have a partner
    11. When it happens, and it’s gonna, I will be totally ready for the next mass shooting
    12. Since we’re already in discussions with them, I want to be chosen to board one of those alien ships hovering over the Earth
    13. There are too many people in the world and I won’t be able to land a job later, so I might as well try to be the first person to play every videogame available
    14. Those flashing lights really make my high kick up a notch, you should try it
    15. Those subliminal messages, man. Groovy.
    16. 50 bucks a game more than pays for itself when you don’t have to hire a babysitter
    17. Let me get this straight, you getting paid for this? Where can I get a gig like that?

    It was shortly after that two of our researchers committed suicide, while one disappeared leaving a note mentioning something about “communing with nature.” As for me, I decided to take up video games and indeed, those alien ships are looking pretty good.

  7. Christopher Allen

    Leather Bound

    I set out in earnest, as a serious writer should, to sequester myself from the world and exile the predictable stone walls to progress. Phone, not silenced, but turned off and docked for charging. Cable news’ latest breaking horror reel reverberates down every hall and around every corner. Someone of authority will report in seven minutes on a contaminated water supply in …..click. I sigh at the déjà vu of it all. When did we lose our sense of oneness, our childlike innocence, then I think it’s probably always been this way, two worlds existing in the same time and space, one ignorant of the other.

    It’s daylight as I casually flick off light switches on my path to the study, the sun through the half drawn curtains feels like early Sunday mornings as a child, when Mom would let us sleep in and she’d seize the opportunity to toil in her herb garden, alone peacefully with the dewy ground between her fingers. If it was Fall, like now, you could faintly smell the leaf piles smoldering in the back yard. We had a hammock that swung between two trees on the side of the house, my sister Jenny and I would curl up together and take turns reading every other chapter aloud. I took for granted our shaded two acre lot back then, for me living in the country meant I rarely got to go to the movie theater, or the ice skating rink.

    The offerings for me today are abundant, a quaint coffee stand within walking distance; wait, there’s two now. Construction ended on that monolith coffee, t-shirt, and bookstore a few weeks ago, the contractors taped off the sidewalk for what seemed an exorbitant amount of time to remove and replant an oak tree (I think it was an oak tree, Mom would know). I can grocery shop, buy a mattress, go bowling and test drive “the most well maintained fleet of pre-owned vehicles” all within a reasonable circumference.

    The study is atop a well-worn wooden staircase with no handrail that moans even when you tiptoe. I don’t read much these days, and it’s obvious given the dust collecting on the inset shelves. Intuitively I am drawn toward the upper left corner of the bookcase. I reach out, eyes closed but can’t bring myself to immediately pluck the first book I touch. Like a neglected lover aching for her partner’s touch, I allow myself to linger, explore, stroke the spine and reacquaint with the ritual in its entirety. Book drawn, eyes closed, I open the leather bound novel, feel the drawing up of the spine and cradle the spread covers in my palms. I press my face into the gilded pages and inhale heavily through my nostrils, the veins in my head throb in response to a familiar elixir.

    The process is intoxicating and in this moment I am content to be alone. I ease down into the deep seated Queen Anne and allow the cavernous architecture to envelope me. I recall my initial intentions for this afternoon, but feel completely unequipped to thwart the momentum of the direction I’ve turned. I wet my fingertips, flip to page one and begin again a forgotten love affair.

    1. Denise G. Monello

      In one short reading, your vivid wording launched me into about four different–but comfortable places. I enjoyed experiencing each one of them with the MC.

    2. writer_sk

      Nice work, Christopher. Poetic and descriptive word choices.

      I liked the moaning of the staircase and the look to childhood. I thought the explanation of the neighborhood was very well- done. Look forward to more from u

    3. Reaper

      The writing on this is definitely lovely. The words, the phrases. To so eloquently describe simplicity is no easy task. There is a yearning here, for something better because it is smaller, a world found mostly in pages. Nice work, I want to go live there.

  8. writer_sk

    “They were all so lucky and just too selfish to realize it.” ~ the sentence I pointed to from Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy

    They were all so lucky and just too selfish to realize it. I paused from my jog to look through the chain link fence at the college students. They lay in the green on the quad taking in the sun, textbooks open. Guys threw a frisbee nearby. I drank from my water while envy motivated my stare. I hadn’t gone to college. I went from high school to working at the bank. I wanted to go into journalism and work in the television industry but after my father died I had gained 200 pounds and had gone into a somewhat emotional crisis state. Mom wanted me home and when I found the college acceptance letters she’d hid, I just let it be.

    Now, five years after Dad’s death I felt stronger and had lost the weight but my lack of a higher education ate at me.

    I left the fence, powered to my apartment and then spent a few hours in my garden.

    The next time I went by the college I had a reason. I wasn’t going to let immaturity control my life.

    “Garritt.” Pleased to meet you. The school’s advisor was pleasant enough and when I left his office I was enrolled at the community college.

    Mom was chain smoking in the garden talking to the neighbor over the fence when I stopped by her house.

    “Ma?” I called.

    “I made sauce. Got any nice bread we could have with it? Some greens?” I rummaged in the frig.

    My mother set two plates on the island. We ate in silence.

    “You want to walk the dogs with me?”

    “Garr, always with the exercise,” she said, but her face showered me with a grateful glance of approval since I’d worked so hard to get in shape.

    Outside we headed up the old hiking path at the end of the dead end.

    “I was always glad you stayed with me after dad died.” She said, stopping to pick some goldenrod.

    I had wanted to tell her about my new undertaking in school but I just put an arm around her shoulder and said, “so was I.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Your MC HAS A LOT OF FORTITUDE ABOUT HER. I FELL IMMEDIATELY BY HER SIDE AND JOINED HER THROUGH YOUR STORY IT Is difficult TO COME BACK STRONG . Especially the weight loss and desire to pull herself up by the boot straps. In.a subtle way you lay out her problem.with her mom
      It is sad to see a child turned away from her goal in life. I am.proud of your MC

  9. Poetjo

    Mystery Healing

    You wake up and have no idea where you are. Everything smells different than your own bedroom, which always has a faint scent of lingering lavender from the sachets under your pillow, hoping to mask the smell of decay and your impending death. You open your eyes begrudgingly, not quite ready to wake up yet, still exhausted from trying to heal your own cancer. You try to move your hands but they’re in restraints and you pull against the padded ropes, but they refuse to budge. Your ankles are restrained as well and you have no idea why. The sheet that covers you isn’t nearly enough to keep you warm and you’ve found that since your alternative treatments or maybe the cancer itself, your body temperature is wildly inconsistent. Right now, you’re freezing and you want another blanket. Your throat is dry and your bladder is full. You ache for some water, or even ice chips, and have a strange craving for steak, even though you’re a vegan.
    Finally, someone in a blood red uniform comes to your bed, carrying a white clip-board. He looks at you and silently takes the restraints off your ankles and wrists and instinctively, you rub your hands over your wrists, even though they don’t really hurt.
    “Your cancer is gone,” the man in the blood red uniform says. You don’t know what to say. After a moment, you manage to croak out one word. “How?” The last thing you remember is picking out clothes for your own burial.
    Completely ignoring the question, he says, “I need you to write something in your own hand so I can put the document in your file before you can be released.”
    Gingerly sitting up, you see two raised, jagged scars, one on your left thigh and one on the inner forearm of your right arm. You put your hand to your face and discover a third thick scar running beside your right eye, all the way down to your chin. It itches, the stitches pull your skin tight.
    The man pushes the clipboard in your hand, a pen dangling from it with a orange cord. “Write these words,” he demands, holding up a piece of paper with the words you are to copy. You write: “Try as I may, I have no memory of actual cruelty.” You write the words and even though they are faint and crooked on the page, the man says with satisfaction, “You may leave now.”
    You go, healed.

    The sentence “You write: Try as I may, I have no memory of actual cruelty.” The sentence is from the book “Free From Lies” by Alice Miller, page 172.

    1. Reaper

      Whoa, that’s intense. For something so brief. My breath was coming short and fast by the end. This is another one that I could see turning into something longer. This could be an amazing novel or novella. I would say, keep going with it. Well done.

  10. E.C

    It was already 1 in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). I clasped the creature’s hand in an effort to offer some kind of solace. It opened its mouth, I foolishly thought to speak. A grunt escaped its throat as he turned his head to me. He coughed violently, his stitches bulging with each cough.

    “-a-ter.” He sputtered. In a small fit of disbelief I fell to the floor. His hand clutched onto my wrist.

    “WATER!” He made the beakers on my desk tremble. I scuttled toward the sink and seized a mug. My hand shook so harshly that I could just barely fill it up halfway without spilling it everywhere. I brought it to the creature’s thin lips. His face was a vision, the true depiction of beauty. Once blood began circulating through his body, the sickly gray skin turned a light pink. His dull yellow eyes had come to life, no longer glassy or milky. They shone a prickly topaz that shot daggers at me as I tipped water into his mouth. He was finally able to pick up his arm. He grasped my face. A moment of terror struck me and I dropped the mug.

    “What have you done?” He asked me. I wasn’t so sure what I had done either.

    “I got you struck by lightning,” I babbled, “and you came back to life.”

    “I was dead?” He let go of my face. “No no. Dear child.” His face contorted to one of horror. “Do you know who I am? Am I Charles Gottenger?” He began breathing heavily.

    “Whoa whoa, calm down. It’s okay.” I tried to calm him down.

    “No you don’t understand, I couldn’t have been dead. I was living in a cottage with my wife and kids just a few minutes ago.” He cupped his face in his hands.

    “No. Dude. You were dead. Like. I dug you out of a grave from ages. It’s 2018.” I flicked the lab lights on. “I wanted your skeleton simply for its structure.” I admit as I removed my goggles and fished a mirror out of my pocket.

    “This can’t be. I was living already.” He held his head in his hands as I draped a blanket over him and brought the mirror to his face. I could already tell, this was going to be a long night.

    1. Reaper

      Nice, E.C. I just finished reading Frankenstein, so this has a special place, and one of my current WIPs is inspired by it. This is very interesting. I like where you’re going with it, I think this could be expanded into something amazing.

    2. thatonewilson

      This is wonderful. Frankenstein will always be one of my favorites. You should seriously consider a full-length novel of this. I would buy it in a heartbeat.

  11. Reaper

    Still Trucking

    Puff, puff, chug, chug, went the little blue engine.

    “You can do it!” Screamed the children. “Don’t give up!” Chanted the onlookers. “We believe in you!” The parents chimed in.

    The tired little engine cast his anthropomorphic eyes to the slate gray sky, chuffing his unhappy chuffs. His powdery breaths adding to the sea of pollution above, the deep, sad sickness in his heart grew heavier with every exhalation. Everyone urged him on, but why? Why did he have to carry their hopes and dreams? Those expectations weighed almost as heavy on him as his conscience did.

    The hill before him was nothing but a small obstacle. Yes, he could do it. He had been doing it for over a century. He thought he could, and so he did; since nineteen and aught two. Back when he was so proud to bring hope to the minds and hearts of children, beginning in one country. Then around the world. Could they not see, it was time to move on from him?

    New times called for new heroes. There were so many to root for, he could show them so many, point the way, as he always had. Look! Look around you! He wanted to scream. They would not listen though.

    There, over there, if you want to see something in America first, there is Terry the Tesla, she is so sleek and so fast. Her curves are beautiful. She can climb a hill in seconds flat. Look a little farther afield and there were heroes everywhere. Selma the Solar Panel, ready to light the way. Gunther the Geothermal, able to empower and keep warm, if one wanted a masculine hero, who was a bit farther from the States. Heroes came in all genders, from all places, after all. There was Wadee the Windmill, calm and enduring. He stood on the plain, even Spanish knights could not knock him down. Thaina the Tidal, chaotic, unpredictable, stormy and oft times violent. Yet she brought greatness with her. Down south she brought hope and prosperity. If the people wanted to stick with an engine, there was Botan the Bullet Train, a blossom of electrical engineering.

    These were the heroes of the future. He was a relic of the past. Why was he the only one who realized it? If they kept counting on him, everyone was doomed. What would it take to show them the truth? He listened to their cheers, their encouragement.

    He heard their cacophony, they were like maniacal football fans, rooting on a team well past its glory days. Then he knew what he needed to do. He rolled to the bottom of the hill…

    And stopped for the final time.

    Years later, rusting in a forgotten pile in an abandoned lot, he did not regret his choice. As lonely in death as he was admired in life, he was a different kind of hero. The future, he mused, was like the past. Forged in blood and sacrifice. This time, it was his.

    1. Denise G. Monello

      Reaper, loved your descriptions of the heroes. Your details of the little engine reminded me of Tootles, a book I used to read to my kids. Sometimes letting go of the past is difficult. Your story is a touching tribute to moving forward.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Oh what a tale thou weaves
        I am very familiar with the little train and would have been glad to give it a home in a steam engine museum
        There is one you know in Mexico City
        They bought probably every steam engine from the Pennsylvania and Ohio Railroad. We were in the city with a friend John Murphy his grandfather had owned the railroad and John wanted to see the engines
        We couldn’t get through the gates so John pulled his business card out, told the guard his grandfather had owned the engines and he wouldn’ t leave till he did. They took us on a personal tour to an old roundhouse where monster engines with wheels six feet tall were kept. They were museum condition it was a fascinating day.

        1. Reaper

          Ah Kerry. I wanted to put the engine in a museum, but I thought it needed to be a sacrifice. The engine has always been a hero, and pushed forward for progress. If the only way forward was to be forgotten, I think he would be willing, don’t you? Sad as that might be.
          I didn’t know there was such a museum. It doesn’t surprise me though. It sounds like a fascinating place, and you know the most interesting people.

    2. Pete

      I’m so glad you picked up this book because this was a thrill to read. i love the names of the new heroes, the endearing fans. The “Everyone was doomed” I recommend you take on Mike Mulligan next!

      1. Reaper

        Thank you, Pete. I’m glad you liked the names. Everything you said touched me. I had to go look up Mike Mulligan, but I do vaguely remember the story. For you, I might just have to. I have a couple of children’s stories in mind recently. It makes me feel a bit like a sell out with what I normally sell, but I’m contemplating them.

    3. Poetjo

      This was wonderful! I especially liked your last line – “As lonely in death as he was admired in life, he was a different kind of hero.” Being a hero by knowing when to quit is such a wise thing to do!

  12. ShamelessHack

    Every Who down in Whoville
    Liked Christmas a lot…
    But the Grinch,
    Who lived just north of Whoville,
    Did NOT!

    (Do me a favor, keep your angels and spaniels.
    As I sit on this bench with my old friend Jack Daniels.)

    The Grinch hated Christmas!
    The whole Christmas season!
    Now, please don’t ask why.
    No one quite knows the reason.

    (Isn’t it obvious? Isn’t it clear?
    I don’t want think about Christmas this year.)

    It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
    It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
    But I think that the most likely reason of all,
    May have been that his heart was two sizes too small…

    (It’s the damn 24th, all I have is this cloak,
    And I’m out on the street, and it’s cold and I’m broke.
    Now it’s five mins to midnight; I’ve no home, I’ve no love.
    It’s just me and the cold, and one Star up above.)

    For tomorrow, he knew, all the Who girls and boys,
    Would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their toys!
    And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
    That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!

    (This damn bench I live on, is right near the train,
    and tomorrow’s hangover will leave me great pain.
    I’ll lie here in torment, no dignity, poise,
    Just that awful NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!

    Then the Whos, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
    And they’d feast! And they’d feast!
    And they’d FEAST! FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!
    They would feast on Who-pudding, and rare Who-roast beast.
    Which was something the Grinch couldn’t stand in the least!

    (The Bronx is no place to spend Christmas alone,
    And the last thing I ate was cold soup with a bone.
    I suspect that you know the result of my case,
    So how ‘bouts we just go and cut to the chase…)

    And he took every present! Pop guns! And bicycles!
    Roller skates! Drums! Checkerboards! Tricycles!
    And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Grinch, very nimbly,
    Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimney!

    (You know that wouldn’t really make me any better.
    That revenge won’t heal wounds, or the tears in my sweater.
    But what is that sound, that music so bright?
    Are those angels’ voices at almost midnight?)

    He stared down at Whoville! The Grinch popped his eyes!
    Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!
    Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
    Was singing! Without any presents at all!

    (I get up from my bench, to adjust my behavior.
    People out on the street sing songs of a Savior.
    They’re homeless like me, living hard, living wild,
    Not a one has a family, not one wife or child.)

    Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
    “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
    “Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

    (Maybe Christmas, I see now, means something much more.)

    And what happened then? Well…in Whoville they say,
    That the Grinch’s small heart
    Grew three sizes that day!
    And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
    He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light.
    And he brought back the toys!
    And the food for the feast!
    And he, HE HIMSELF!
    The Grinch carved the roast beast!

    (And now it’s past midnight, though its cold on the street,
    I stand here with my friends, and our songs bring us heat.
    And our words fly aloft where it’s frosty and blue,
    This fine Christmas will dawn with a hope overdue!
    And I know in my heart that all things will be right:
    It was promised to me by a Star in the night.)

    1. Kerry Charlton

      I am so humbled for reading this
      Your words cut into my heart and my dearest wish would be to remember each one, the Savior of course. The angels, always and the Holy ghost.

      Tho it be February I won’t let this go with s Merry Christmas to all, regardless should it be February and a fellow writer who call himself Hack. May there be no truth in that. Such a wonderful read, it makes the eyes mist and it’s not because of the Misty cold weather. My thanks Hack.

    2. JRSimmang

      Hack, delightful. The back and forth between the narrator and the Dr. play so well off each other, and there’s a delicious parallel of development between the Grinch and the MC that’s just savory. Fun, and thanks for keeping up with the rhyme scheme.

    3. Poetjo

      I really enjoyed the dichotomy of the two pieces – Whoville on the one hand and sitting on a bench with Jack Daniels on the other hand. I felt like I was popping in and out of two worlds when I read it and it was a lot of fun to read!

  13. creaturescry

    “The deserted village had sunk so into the natural landscape of the coast that i did not see it until i was upon it.” Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer.

    It lay nearly invisible underneath the sand until a dry gust of wind blew the sand away. Dome shaped huts made out of a smooth black stone, or at least what I assumed was stone. I leaped off my camel the instant I saw the pinprick of black amongst the tan and tumbled down the dunes to reach it. Before that moment I had never seen something like it, a village made out of black dome shaped huts. The black color seemed too illogical for a house out in the middle of a desert, let alone the architecture wasn’t anything like I had seen on my previous expeditions.

    “Lived here all my life,” My travel guide said, leading both of the camels down the dunes towards me,”never saw anything like that before.”

    “This could be the discovery of the century, the milina even!” I exclaimed, reaching into my knapsack for my tools.

    “I personally believe that some things in this world aren’t meant to be discovered or touched.”

    “Why would not want to know that?”

    “Ignorant bliss, I’d rather live happy than knowing and feeling miserable.”

    My hand dug around, feeling for the final tool I needed to scrape off a sample. Despite his unease about the huts, the guide was setting up his camp not too far off from me. His green eyes locked on me, observing my every movement. I could tell he was waiting for something, his eyes narrowed to a fine point. It was the kind of stare I could feel, even through the unbearable heat of the sun. Once I found the tool I attacked the surface of the supposed stone with a chisel and hammer, my sample jar balanced on my knee underneath to catch the debris. But after a half an hour of work nothing had come off the dome. Not even a speck. I hit harder and faster the next half an hour, my face twisted in frustration. Why wasn’t it coming off?

    “Hey,” I Shouted to my travel guide, “do you have any impenetrable black stone in this country?”

    “No,” he yelled back, “I don’t think we do.”

    “What is this then?”

    “If I knew wouldn’t I tell you?”

    I had to remind myself for a moment that he was the cheapest guide I could find, and that he probably didn’t know about geology for that price. So decided then to wait on the geology until I could come back here with help and turned to the architecture. It was smooth with very little details save for the hemispherical shaped door and the little spots that were the door handle. I maneuvered around the dome from the back where I was standing to the front where the odd door was. I was starting to wonder if I had mistakened a lost modern sculpture for a lost civilization. But there were quite a few of the huts arranged in a circular pattern, with all the doors facing inward. I could feel it in my gut that this had been lived in at some time or another. However, I wouldn’t know for sure until I actually entered the huts and inspected their interiors.

    I was already tugging on the door by the time this thought crossed my mind, pulling with all my might. It took a few good tugs to slide the door open, but I expected it to be worth it in the end. Behind the door was darkness, and what little light did enter revealed the floor to be of the same material as the dome. A cool breeze escaped the dome in a hurry, ruffling my hair. Cold air in a dark dome in the middle of the desert? I was an architect, not really a scientist, but I felt like from my experience with buildings it should have been hot inside. Then again it was buried under the sand, which might’ve shielded it from the blistering hot sun.

    I ducked down and stuck my head inside, it was definitely colder than it should be. I pulled the rest of my body in slowly, like a big cat stalking. I whipped out my flashlight and moved the thin beam of light across the surface. Most of it was spotless, just like the outside, except for one little trapdoor slightly sunken into the floor. I let my foot rest lightly on the top of the trapdoor, pressing down very carefully. It flung open even at the slightest pressure, and revealed a bright blue light and something I never expected. But before I could do anything I was falling down through the trapdoor, face up, and staring at the guide.

    1. Reaper

      The voice on this is fascinating. At first it seemed off, then it sucked me in, because it is so original, off beat. It is perfect for the setting. Kept me enthralled. the ending definitely leaves me wanting more.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A chiffhanger if I ever read one. The voice is different that is for sure, Alice in Wonderland perhaps but I ooubt it. Aliens? Probably. Definitely a trap set to gather species. It reminds me of childhood when we tried to catch rabbits with a tilted open box and a stick holding a box up that had a string sttached to a boy’s hand away a bit waiting for a rabbit to find the treat. It is a perfect place to leave it, good job..;

  14. Kerry Charlton




    “You don’t know Italians the way Italians know Italians” Luciano said.

    It didn’t help one damn bit with my Irish temper but Luciano’s brother gave me a signal that everything would cool down. Well it didn’t and we kept losing money building the restaurant. We wrote change orders until my thumb swelled up from holding a pen. Luci, my nickname I gave him, tore them up as fast as I wrote them.

    So we pulled our equipment out of the job, and spot welded an inch thick piece of steel across the front door jamb of the restaurant and at the same time we welded rebar at the rear door.

    ‘Gone fishing for a week, don’t bother to call because I won’t answer.’

    Port Aransas was beautiful at Easter and the beaches were crowded with thousands of walking bikinis as it was spring break. So we knocked off fishing and started walking. However we received one familiar greeting,

    “Hello gramps, aren’t you a little old for this?”

    The fish were more polite, they didn’t care how old we were. When we returned, a note was scotch taped to a front window of the restaurant.

    ‘Okay, we talk change orders.’

    We picked up a check and everything went smooth for a week. As the quiet continued, I started to worry and sure enough, a truck load of half-naked women showed up, stoned through and through. It’s not what you think, real marble.

    “How in hell’s blazes are we supposed to mount these women?”

    “On pedestals you idiot.”

    “Where are they?”

    “Look at the small print on page A3. You’re supposed to provide the pedestals to match and further more, you need to anchor them.”

    Twenty t wo thousand clams and twelve days later, eleven of the ladies had been mounted although not an expression had changed on their faces. I guess it was because none of the carpenters were Italian. We left one out on purpose and delivered an ultimatum to Lucifer, a name I elevated from Luci. Well, he tore the change order up in front of me. I checked an Irish response and we drove back to the restaurant.

    “Aren’t you hopping mad?” my foreman said.

    “John, can you paint over marble?”

    “With a gripper coat you can.”

    “Then listen carefully, the restaurant’s grand opening is tomorrow night.”

    Two days later when I opened, the front page, the headline screamed,

    ‘New restaurant owner arrested and placed in jail for display of public nudity.

    The paper displayed the marble temptress in the restaurant window but blacked out her personal charms. From the picture, I realized what an artist John was.

    ‘Gig ’em,’ I thought, ‘don’t mess with the Irish.’

    The next morning, Luciano called and asked me to meet him at the restaurant. He handed an envelope to me, inside of which was a check for twenty two thousand and a cash bonus of five thousand.

    “You know,” he said ‘the restaurant is jammed with people, what a great publicity stunt. My grandmother used to tell me, ‘Never mess with the Irish, they are devils in disguise.'”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Hanks, when I write about zany happenings in the building business, you can bet .Your last dollar there’s a good bit of truth here
        I guarantee it. Mostly though it residential rather than commercial.

      2. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Hack, these kind of stories always have a root of truth in.Them and it’s not the polite fish
        Thick skin.is a must in our business because some of our clients are Looney!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Hello Reatha, thanks for coming by. There is a restaurant on the northern part of San Antonio and I did build it. The change orders made Luciano so mad, when we finished he said
        “I never want to see your face again,,” all the while his brother was shaking his face sideways. Oh well there’s plenty of other Italians I can.pester.

    1. Reaper

      Not only was this funny, but it has a perfect voice. It screams of the Italian and Irish conflicts in the twenties and thirties, on a much politer scale. Very well done. An Irish response always makes me think of fire, but maybe that’s just the Irish solution. So well done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Reaper, I am happy you enjoyed it. when I think of Irish, my mind goes to Maureen O’ Hara and John Wayne in the Quiet Man
        A perfect Irish movie since I am Irish on three sides and the fourth is Scot..

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Pete, about half the story is true and probably that’s why it seems real
        Glad you enjoyed it. I did build the restaurant and it does have some art in it. But not a dozen half dressed girls.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Poetjo
        I had just finished commenting back to you when a Reese’s.bsr attacked me on the screen.and blew my answer into space. Keep your fingers crossed it doesn’t happen a second time
        I also had a chuckle or two.for I was writing on automatic and waited for the words to hit the screen. Glad you liked it. Kerry

    2. writer_sk

      Oh my gosh, this was so fast paced. I loved each situation.

      The builders were cool guys.

      I enjoyed the truck full of stoned people. Ha!

      Hope to hear more about these guys or/and Luci/ Lucifer.

      Great little gem.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Well thank you the builders are not really that cool since it was my company that built the store. We’re too old to be cool, now we’re kind of medium cool. I appreciate your thought and did get a chuckle my self from bring back memories from twenty years ago. I have to hand it to Italians, they’re kind of clever.

  15. Pete

    “I certainly don’t feel like I’m the same as everybody else.”

    “What are you, Charley Brown? Come on Garrett.”

    We were on the hill behind the school. A curling chain-link fence cordoning us from society, a blur of passing cars, trucks, and commerce. Molly lay back, oblivious to dirt or trash we were supposed to be picking up because neither of us dressed out for gym class. The wind flipped Molly’s hair over her face.

    “That’s something everyone feels, I think. I mean, I think most people think they’re different—even when they’re not.”

    A whistle pierced our thoughts. Somewhere behind us was football team lined up and smashed each other.

    I sighed. “So I’m no different than Marshall Chambers.”

    “Of course you are, Garrett. I mean, sure, Marshall’s hot, has the body of David, sculpted out of stone, and those—”

    “Make it stop…”

    “But that’s all he is. Stone. Dense. But okay, maybe you’re on to something. I mean, I doubt most people sit on trash strewn hills, stewing over how they’re just like everyone else. So there, you are different.”

    “Thanks. I think. But…”

    “I mean, you don’t watch much TV, but every commercial is about how we’re special. How we stand out, how we’re brave. Be a champion. Be the best. I’m sure Marshal puts on his football helmet and thinks he’s doing something great. Be extreme, buy this soap, drink, shirt, gun. Get what everyone else is buying. Of course, these brands wouldn’t be so rich if we really wanted to be unique. If we didn’t all want to wear the same shoes, right?”

    There was no stopping her when she got like this. So I lay back, beside her, our faces to the blue. Out of breath, my brain panting just listening to her.

    “…and look at us, this high school, only difference between this and prison is the school can’t afford the razor wires on the fences…and why are we picking up trash?”

    “We’re not, really—”

    “…because we wouldn’t conform, it’s the same flawed system, it’s designed….”

    When you first saw Molly, she didn’t blow you away. She was short, wore jeans and hooded sweatshirts. A mop of curls. Freckles. Hazel eyes. But when we lay on our backs, on the hill, talking like this, bouncing thoughts off the clouds, it felt like we were flying.

    I tried to reel her in. “So maybe that’s my curse, to know that I’m unique.”

    A woodpecker rattled overhead. A barren tree feeding the looters. I thought how if everyone was dense, at least they were filled with something. Was I just hollow? I wanted to say this to her but I didn’t know how. Besides, she was hung up on whether or not I was unique…

    “Well that’s the thing. They all think they’re unique, but the few who are unique are crucified, considered weirdos, outcasts, freaks. And even that is overdone these days.”

    I turned to her, ready to stir the pot. “Okay, so you have a crush on the high school quarterback. And it drives you crazy, right?”


    “So what would you do if he asked you out.”

    “Oh Gee, to the prom?”

    “Whatever. You’d say yes.”

    Molly slammed her head back. “Yes. Ugh. I would. I’m so weak…”

    “Just like I would hop on the chance to date Emma Riley. God, we really are predictable.”

    Molly lifted her head and turned to me. “Is it her boobs? I mean, she’s not that pretty. And her voice, I’ve heard city plows scrape with more finesse.”

    “She’s a cheerleader, she supposed to be forceful. And since we’re on the mountain of honesty, yes, the boobs help.”

    She looked at me and grinned. “I knew it.”

    “But I still don’t feel the same. When I walk down the hallways, I feel like I’m watching a sitcom. A werewolf or vampire show or something lame. Every single day.”

    “I feel ya.”

    The whistled sounded. We both stood and dusted ourselves off. Another detention well spent. I grabbed my empty bag and tossed a cup into it. “Good luck with Marshall.”

    Molly wiped her butt off. “Bite me.”

    (Of course I picked up a Tom Robbins book. First line from a random page in Still Life with Woodpecker)

    1. JRSimmang

      Delightful, Pete. You’ve such a knack for dialogue, and that talent rings so true in this piece. These two enjoy the tete a tete, and I can’t help but wonder if one day in the future they’re going to realize that Emily and Marshall are just societal constructs, and that they are perfect for each other. Nicely incorporated spirit of the sentence; it’s a question most people I interact with daily ask.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        An artist with dialogue Pete, I felt I was listening in mot reading this. Your words turn immediately to sound when you write. Even if it’s not dialogue. Enjoyed the trip immensely. Week after week and story after story. Little jewels on the web site. Congrads Pete.

    2. Reaper

      This is just a perfect moment frozen in time. It is more than just dialogue. You do that so well, yes. but it’s the character. You have this way with teenage angst without turning it into a cliche. You make me feel emotions on my skin, and it is a gift.

  16. KitKat747

    Chosen sentence: Cremins and Knoblock. You must have heard of us.

    “Cremins and Knoblock. You must have heard of us,” the first man states, his eyebrows knitting together, “Unless…”

    “Unless?” I repeat, ready for the accusation that is bound to come.

    Both men unsheath their swords. “Unless you aren’t who you say you are.”

    My hand flies to my hip where my dagger should be waiting. It isn’t there. The other man, Knoblock, smirks and reveals the silver blade held in his hand. “Looking for something?”

    I swear. Without a weapon, my options are limited. The two men stand between me and the door, the only exit from the room. They move forward and I take a step back, then another. Before I know it, I feel the rough bricks of the wall behind me. I am cornered, and they know it.

    “Who sent you? Lord Howard? The king?” Cremins asks.

    I stay silent. This little band of rebels has no idea who their true enemies are. The king is nothing compared to my master.

    “Let’s take her to Aden. Then she’ll talk,” Knoblock says.

    The corners of Cremins’ mouth turn up into a smile. “And talk she will.”

    Knoblock makes a grab for me, but I dodge out of the way. There is no way I’m letting them take me to Aden. Not this time. I kick Knoblock’s hand, forcing him to drop his sword, and pick up the weapon myself. I whirl around and stop Cremins’ thrust a split second before it would have found its way through my stomach. Our swords clash together in a fury of attacks. His skill rivals my own, and I take a moment to admire his technique. That’s when I notice his mistake. I’m about to attack again when a searing pain shoots through my back.

    Blood flows out of the wound almost immediately. Black spots appear in my vision. The last thing I see is the outline of Knoblock, my dagger in his hand. Then it is only darkness.

    I wake to the face of my master staring down on me. His skin glows slightly, but all the gods do.

    “You failed,” he states, “Again.”

    This was my third attempt at the mission. Spying isn’t my strong suit. My eyes meet my master’s, pleading for another chance.

    “No,” he says, his voice firm, but I know better.

    “Just once more?” I beg, “I promise I won’t mess up again.”

    He’s beginning to crack. I can see it.

    “Please. If I fail, then you would need to find another apprentice, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?”

    He sighs. “Alright, but let me give you one piece of advice,” he smiles and then continues, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

    Before I can reply, a bright flash of light blinds me. A second later I am standing alone in an alley, ready to begin the mission once again. Warping time is only one of the many talents of the gods. I intend to learn them all.

    1. JRSimmang

      Your last line really made the whole piece tidy for me, KitKat, the reveal of the mission. This is an interesting world you’ve created, and I’m curious as to whether you intend on extending this into a larger piece. Time warping can get tricky, and I’d like to see how the MC can get past the paradoxes.

      1. KitKat747

        Thanks guys 🙂 I just came across this site yesterday and came up with the story on the spot. I’m considering continuing it, but I have no idea how I would approach the time warp.

    2. Reaper

      Welcome to the site. Interesting story, interesting world. It definitely deserves expansion. Sucked me in, and fantasy isn’t my genre, so that’s impressive. There was one line that stuck out as needing a fix, but this was good enough that I forget it by the end and didn’t want to go back and find it, so that’s some amazing writing.

  17. Denise G. Monello


    The men huddled closer to each other–creating a man of one. The moonless sky made them unaware of their differences–fear kept them from caring. They were one man, in one skin, with one hope–survival. Each man needed the other. Both men had their ears honed to the unnerving sounds emanating from the thickly packed forest. From the mud-filled refuge, they perched themselves back to back, protecting the other from approaching annihilation.

    “How long do you think it’ll take for someone to find us,” asked one man.

    “I don’t even know if anyone knows we’re here,” said the other.

    “What time is it?”

    “I don’t know. I broke my watch diving into this stinkin’ hole.”

    “Stinkin’ is right. What is that stench,” questioned one man.

    “I ain’t never smelled anything like this–and I’ve smelled a lot of things.”

    “It’s probably me. I haven’t showered in a while.”

    “Me neither. You scared?”

    “Yeah, I’m scared. There’s a whole bunch of them in those woods,” one man said jutting his head up to the outside of their shelter. “And it’s just you and me in this God-forsaken hole.”

    “I heard it said that these guys are merciless. They don’t ask you questions. They see you’re not one of them and they torture you–break some bones, slice you up a bit, all for fun.”

    “I heard the same crap–scary stuff.”

    The men remained silent, pondering their fate should they get caught. One’s man’s lips quivered. The other man feverishly wiped his face with a dirty rag.

    “Do I sound sissy if I tell ya I miss my mother?”

    “Sissy? I was cryin’ for my ma an hour ago. I ain’t never been in this kinda situation without my buddies.”

    “Me neither. I guess we’re the only buddies we got now. I won’t let them get ya.”

    “I won’t let them get you neither.”

    Then they heard the faint sound of scrunching leaves–unknown movement from unknown sources inching closer to their shelter. They quickly snapped their heads and glared side-eyed at each other–they gave a heavy headshake–prepared to defend. Each man hunkered lower. Their eyes fiercely focused up at the darkened opening above them. They balanced their massive guns on their weary shoulders, barrels pointed up, making jerky, minuscule movements left and right. The men held their breath as footsteps surrounded the opening of their hole. Their ears captured words that were unfamiliar. They rapidly blinked to ease the sting from the sweat that rolled from their brows. Unexpectedly, in the distance, they heard gunshots. Bug-eyed and immobile, dread froze them in their mud-filled refuge. More strange chatter from the unknown sources that hovered above. The hidden feet began to retreat at a sluggish pace than a face trot–than silence. Neither man attempted to peek out from their sanctuary. They eased their stance and wiggled themselves around, facing each other–still one man, in one skin, with one hope–survival.

    1. Reaper

      Nicely written. I was transported into the hole with them. I was going to make a comment on the one man, until I realized it was always used to describe the same character. That was perfect. Added to a nice voice, and great dialogue. Only strange thing was their ears captured words that were unfamiliar seemed a little clunky. It is surrounded by poetry so it feels like it should be captured unfamiliar words. Not completely necessary, just a bit strange win the middle of that perfection you have there. Beautiful story, well written.

  18. jhowe

    The sentence I pointed to: from Killing Floor page 188 Lee Child
    We moved over and sat together on the bench under the barbershop window.

    I breathed through my mouth, trying in vain to minimize the sour odors that emitted from his unwashed body. What had I gotten myself into?

    “I ain’t taking no goddamn shower,” he said, his speech slurred.

    “Then you won’t get the hundred dollars.”

    He looked at me with narrowed eyes, scowling. “I need a drink.”

    “The deal is, you sober up, take a shower, shave, put on the new clothes I bought and come with me to the meeting.”

    “Then I get the hundred dollars?”

    “Yes. And you can keep the clothes.” I turned away and took a breath. “And if you do good, I’ll give you an extra fifty dollars.”

    “Two hundred.” He said, showing his blackened teeth. “Total.”

    I forced myself to look into his watery eyes. If we pulled this off, I’d use fifty dollar bills to light my cigarettes. “Fine. But you do what I say until the meeting’s over.”

    “I hate meetings.”

    “Yeah, we all do. Here’s your clothes. We’ll go to my apartment and get you cleaned up.”

    Mahoney stared at my accomplice as we entered the room. Two men stood behind him, hands in their suit jackets.

    “So, you’re alive.” Mahoney said.

    “Either that or robots are more advanced than I thought,” I said.

    “Shut up and let him talk.” I shifted from foot to foot.

    “I’m afraid I don’t remember too much,” the homeless man said, just as we’d rehearsed.

    Mahoney pulled a revolver from his jacket and pointed it at the homeless man’s head. I smelled urine, was pretty sure it wasn’t mine. I calculated my odds of making it to the door.

    “What’s our sister’s name?” Mahoney said. “The one that died at birth.”

    “Harriet,” he said, his voice cracking. Mahoney lowered the gun. How the hell had he known that? I didn’t even know about the sister. I’d chosen the guy because he resembled Mahoney’s brother. Could it be I’d actually found him?

    “You did good, Joe,” Mahoney said. “Charlie, pay the man.” One of the henchmen pulled a brief case from under the desk and handed it to me. I resisted opening it. I wasn’t sure if I should stay or go and didn’t want to ask.

    “You better not be f*cking with me, Joe.” I shook my head. Mahoney jerked his head toward the door. As I hurried down the stairs, a gunshot sounded. Outside, I walked with the crowd, contemplating, felt the heft of the briefcase. I bypassed the first bar I came to and went in the second. Six tequilas and four beers later I started to feel a little better. I stumbled off the stool and couldn’t find the brief case. I shouted and looked around frantically. The barkeep stared, shaking his head, shrugging.

    Outside, I saw one of the men from the bar sitting on a bench, fumbling with the latches on the briefcase. I ran, but before I got to him a deafening roar sounded and I was knocked backward by the explosion. I sat up, my ears ringing, blood dripping in one eye. People screamed and cars stopped in the street. A bloodied pulp lay on the pavement. I got shakily to my feet and walked away as one police car after another began to arrive.

    1. JRSimmang

      If we learn anything from history, fratricide always ends in disaster. I, like GL and Denise, thought the ending was picture-perfect. It would be great to read more, to find out motive, and to figure if the gunshot came from Mahoney or the phony.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You are approaching Mickey’s talent with this story. If you start undressing a woman with your words, I’ll know you’ve arrived. Great story John. How many Lucky Strike’s does it take to write in your style?

    2. Reaper

      I have to say. I like my gangsters and mugs with honor, but because of that, I love it when someone writes them well without it. This was well done. I had to reread your last paragraph to get it. It was so well written I though your MC was shot at first. That was just so insanely well done. Nice job, fascinating story.

  19. GrahamLewis


    The old man sat on a weathered park bench, under a gray sky and barren trees, midst brown grass and dirty snow. The brisk November breeze sometimes touched his hunched shoulders as it pushed dry leaves around and snagged them on unkempt hedges. The man too was unkempt, with two days’ growth of beard, gray hair sticking from beneath a black stocking cap, scuffed shoes, his dark woolen coat flecked with dandruff.

    He reached into a canvas bag and tossed bread crumbs. Pigeons swarmed around, squabbling and pecking, rising in sudden fluttering swirls, before settling back when he tossed more. Sometimes a squirrel tried to sneak a bite, but the old man chased him away. He’d choose who shared his bounty, and the squirrel was not welcome.

    The old man came often to this square block of trees and shrubs, with its cracked sidewalks and worn concrete fountain. The tiny park had existed as long as the city, perpetual open space, a miniature Central Park. It could be prime real estate, but history buffs made sure no city council ever sold it. So the city settled for neglect, hoping it would someday become such an eyesore that no one could argue to keep it.

    The old man liked how the park had come into its own because no one tried to tame it. As he had done after his wife died. He’d traded their suburban house for a small downtown apartment where he lived as he wanted, and only as he wanted.

    He didn’t miss his wife. He’d watched her move up the professional ladder, from which she’d looked down on him with something between scorn and disappointment. His love for her died years before she did. He’d rarely heard from his two adult kids in the two years since the funeral and that was okay. They were always closer to their mother.

    After 50 years of marriage, he could spend money as he wanted, but found nothing to buy. He’d read that a man satisfied with what he has, has everything, and he believed it. He had books, financial security, and time. His walks to the park were travel enough. The pigeons were all the family he needed.

    This November day a stranger suddenly sat beside him on the bench, a quiet and vaguely familiar presence. The old man began to rise, but the stranger held him back with a gentle but forceful grip.

    “When you leave,” the stranger said, “you leave with me.”

    The old man looked at him. “You’re Death.”

    “Yep. Any regrets? Final words?”

    The old man shook his head. “Nothing whatever, thanks. I’ve had enough.”

    That afternoon the pigeons realized the old man would throw no more breadcrumbs, and they swirled off. The squirrel crept onto the bench, climbed over him to the sack and ate until it, too, had enough.

    From Dorothy Sayers’ In the Teeth of the Evidence and Other Mysteries, “The Leopard Lady,” (HarperPerennial 1993), page 207: “‘Nothing whatever, thanks.’”

    (I know my bookshelves too well to grab a book randomly, so I had my son do it). BTW, the MC isn’t that much older than me, so I hated to call him “an old man” but it seemed to work. Oh well.

    1. JRSimmang

      It’s admirable you had taken such a short sentence and crafted a well-thought story from it. There’s a spark of inspiration here, and, if I must, I think a fitting end (hypothetically or otherwise) for RG. Though, this old man seems to have a life of his own, and part of me wants him to rediscover himself in death.

  20. JRSimmang


    Once every three-hundred forty-four years, Syrene is drenched in an all-encompassing darkness. For twenty-one days, the citizenry, all Syrenians, even the dukes and barons, princes, and king stay within their fortifications, collecting the rainwater in their collection barrels, and busying themselves with conversation and plans.

    The streets and alleyways, pubs and wayhouses were vacant. Vacant, all for the Vindicators.

    “To the castle?” asked Rathan.

    “The castle? At this time of night?” Hallad’s gravelly voice snuck from under his hood, cutting a swath of rain with it.

    “We’re in no place to be venturing into the castle. We haven’t made reservations,” emerged Thallasme from the alley between the bakery and the florist. “Plus, this king’s library is paltry.”

    “Then where, our illustrious leader?”

    Thallasme placed his hand on the pommel of his sword, turned slowly, and replied, “we go to Gerrick’s.”

    Rathan and Hallad laughed, each sound carried into the torrent above them, their footfalls drowned in their intent.

    Thallsme’s mind wandered as the three of them glided smooth as silk over the cobblestone. He loved the rains, full of sulphur and antischist. He was borne into them, much like other children are borne into the daylight, or into the grasses and mountain air. This world was cruel, and he was more a part of it than the vultures that fed on carrion flesh or the hands of the needy grasping at the empty buckets and bowls.

    He waved his hand in front of his body, touching his fingers together only once as they passed over his solar plexus. He tensed, and purple lightning snapped from his eyes, then from Rathan’s, then from Hallad’s. A silver sheen formed around them, and a candle was lit in Gerrick’s window.

    Thallasme looked to his right to Rathan, who lifted both of his hands.

    Gerrick’s door dissolved in hisses of smoke.

    Hallad stepped into the hallway as Gerrick crested the top of the stairs.

    “Who,” he stammered, “who goes there?”

    Thallasme crackled, then disappeared.

    Then reappeared in front of Gerrick’s bookshelf.

    “Hm,” he thought. “Great titles. Poor Man’s Underthings, Squidgy Pidge and Madam Finnery’s Pies, classics.” He moved his hand back and forth over each of the spines, cocked his ear to the sound of life being suspended, thanked his stars Rathan and Hallad were both Adepts, then paused over Could The World. He ran a finger along its spine, crackling energy spilling from it.

    “Got you,” he whispered as he thumbed the book open and read from the page. “The Vindicator’s Incantation.”

    Rathan and Hallad flanked him.

    “Gentlemen,” Thallasme whispered. “This is how we begin our absolution.”

    He pushed the book into his cloak, turned on his heels, and the three of them waltzed back into the storm.

    They had 20 days to get to Charoth, Thallasme thought. He did not have the patience to wait another three-hundred forty-four years to return.

    -JR Simmang

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      JR, I liked how your last paragraph related to the first, how while the citizens are gathering rainwater, this group is using the darkness for a greater purpose. Lovely write.

    2. Reaper

      Nice JR. Is this a Warhammer novel you pulled this from? I don’t know that world very well but it feels like that. This was very interesting and feels like it could be fleshed out very nicely.

    3. Poetjo

      The relentless rain and darkness, the three men, old Gerrick and the bookshelf are written so vividly that I felt I was right there with them. I really enjoyed reading this am intrigued by what might happen next.