Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “Urgency”

The LinkedIn Comment Thread can be found here.

This post is for STORIES related to the writing prompt: “Urgency – your story must convey the sense of urgency in some way”, required items: a body of water. Critiques, comments and feedback are encouraged on the LinkedIn Comment Thread; non story comments here will be deleted.

The point of these friendly contests is to hone our craft and create successful stories within a predefined set of limitations. There is no monetary compensation.

Please Note: comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:

  1. One story per author. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  2. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be under 1000 words.
  3. Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PST and ends at 9:00am PST on Thursday via email LIFlashFiction (at) Winner will be announced in the Comment and Story thread. You may vote only once and cannot vote for yourself.
  4. The winner shall name the next week’s writing prompt.
  5. In case of ties, co-winners may be announced and the moderator shall select a winner to name the theme.
  6. The winner has three days after the announcement to contact either Alice Nelson or Carrie Zylka via LIFlashFiction(at) with the next theme/items of their choosing.
  7. See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

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17 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Urgency”

  • Show and Tell

    © Don Greywolf Ford 10/29/2015

    John reminded me join him at first light the next morning. The night before was pitch black, but the full moon was shining in my window, and I had no choice but to pull the blinds. When the first rays of the sun hit my window, they just bounced off of it, and I stayed asleep an extra hour past daybreak. It was probably too late for me to meet up with John, since he was already down at the bank of the river.

    I quickly got dressed, grabbed a cookie, and ran as fast as I could for the water. I called out John’s name, and he shouted back, “Be quiet, for Pete’s sake.” We both knew the best way to scare fish, so they wouldn’t bite, was to be noisy near the water’s edge. They sometime see us before we ever see them. Even a shadow cast upon the water on a sunlit day would seemingly spook them.

    “What took you so long to get here?”

    John had already caught two small fish before I arrived. “Look, John, I’m usually a light sleeper, but my blinds were closed on my windows this morning.”

    “That would do it. What woke you up then.”

    “Our cat was scratching on my door for his breakfast. Joey eats constantly.”

    “You call your cat Joey, like he’s another kid living with you?”

    “Sure, he’s a member of our family, and sometimes is a very good friend. Once our fire alarm failed to work, and Joey meowed until someone got up to see what was wrong. A log in our fireplace had rolled out onto the floor, and started a small rug on fire. Joey saved the day!”

    “That’s awesome. Maybe you should call him Sir Joey; he should have been knighted. LOL”

    “I think you have a point; now to the fishing. I have to be home in two hours, according to my mom. What are you using for bait?”

    “Worms, of course. What should I be using?”

    “Did you check to see what your fish you caught was eating before?”

    “I guess I could ask the fish what he had been eating earlier, but he’s not talking.”

    “So many really good comedians out of work, and I get stuck with you. Open his stomach, and see what he ate; my uncle taught me this, and he was a trophy fisherman.”

    After examining the stomach area, we found baby pink crayfish. We gathered up a few of them, since the crayfish were spawning. Little pink crabs were found under their curled up tails. Now it was time to apply the real food as our bait to catch the giant bass we were told lived in the river.

    John threw in his line before I did, and he immediately got a big hit. LIke a torpedo in water, his lined fired straight out. According to my uncle, that is when to pull your line tight, and set the hook in his mouth. This giant of a fish wasn’t playing around.

    “Don’t pull so hard, John, you’ll break your line. Let him run a little with it, and then pull back, but allow him to keep running with the line and this will tire him out.”

    The darn fish took his line into the thick duckweeds along the shore, and it got tangled there. Soon the fish was free. If looks could kill, that fish would be dead right now.

    “Relax, John, now let me have a go at it.” I saw where the fish was last, and I tossed my line just this side of the weeds, hoping to draw him out. It worked! Now he was on my line.

    John grabbed the net, and made it ready, in the event I got the fish close enough to shore to nab him. There he was as big as could be. In the water he looked like a small canoe as he kept jutting away from us. Soon, he was exhausted, and we were able to move him toward shore and into the net. Our eyes popped out of our heads; he was almost too big for the net.

    “Paulie, throw him back.” No one called me Paulie but friends and family. I’m Paul, named after my Uncle who died early in the war.

    “What’s wrong, John, you look like you saw a ghost.”

    “That fish is not a he as we supposed; it appears we have landed a female about to have her babies. Look at the protruding stomach.” John was right on the money. We quickly removed the hook and slowly slid our trophy fish back into the water. My heart, that was firmly planted in my throat from catching this fish earlier, was now headed ever so slowly back into my chest where it started out. We both knew we did the right thing that day, plus we took a couple of selfies with our fish to not only tell a whopper of a story, when we got home, but to also show it to everyone.

  • Robt. Emmett
    The Bell tolled ©
    Robt. Emmett 10-30-2015

    We had known each other since elementary school, but never biblically. I kissed her goodbye at the high school graduation dance and left town the next morning to become a clerk.

    At night, I would write fiction stories. Luckless at first, but soon I started to make a little money. It was not enough to live on, but encouraging. Then one afternoon my publisher called; financial freedom was mine. Resigning my job, I went back to my hometown and signed on the dotted line. My agent held a small office party. I celebrated a little more than I should have.

    Leaving the party, I drove to my old neighborhood. Night began to descend, but the twilight lingered. Small children were roaming the streets in their trick or treat costumes; it was All Hallows’ Eve. As I drove past my former church, long closed, I noticed a ‘For Sale’ sign planted in the weeds near the front door of the parsonage. Curious, I stopped and peeked in the window of ©study, we reminisced about the dance. My hand brushed hers, she took it and offered refreshments and a kiss. She apologized for not showing me the rest of the parsonage. As we moved towards the living room, I noticed time has been most kind to her charms. She still had her cheerleader’s figure. We started in where we left off. The simple lip kissing turned sensuous. I kissed her neck, the gold heart-shaped locket in the hollow of her throat, her soft shoulders, and more. She stood and beckoned me to follow.

    In the moonlight bathing the bedroom, her chiffon robe dropped to her feet. We fell onto the large bed and cavorted as ravenous insatiable teenagers, consumed with each other.

    Later, we shared sweet whispered words. Tenderly we embraced, caressed, explored and more, not impetuously as before, rather with care and love.

    The brilliant sunlight woke me. She was not beside me. The light coming from under the bathroom door seemed to indicate she was in there. Suddenly, I realized it was All Saints day and I had an early morning appointment with the publisher. The last and most important document needed signing. I could not afford to miss the appointment. Rushing around the room, I gathered and donned my scattered clothes. I shouted to the closed bathroom door that I needed to go out, but would be back quickly. An important question needed an answer. I knew in my soul that I wanted her, not for a few moments of pleasure, but rather a lifetime together. Elly was what I longed for all these years. She would make me the complete person I longed to be. We would be together for eternity.

    My business complete, I raced back to the parsonage and was out of the car almost before it stopped. While pressing the doorbell, I noticed her small gold heart-shaped locket lying on the threshold. As I picked it up, a young woman in a maid’s uniform opened the door and asked what I wanted.

    I told her, “The woman of the house.”

    She looked at me strangely. Her eyes widened; a look of fear flashed across her face. “She …” A single tolling of the bell in the church tower interrupted her. She crossed herself, “Miss Thomas is dead. She died … a year ago … today.”

  • Proximity

    Peters blocked Cole’s way down the corridor.

    “Give it to me – I’ll take it up.”

    Cole swayed on his feet, expertly riding the motion of the ship as it ploughed through the winter sea. The tray he was holding, with three mugs of cocoa on it, remained relatively stable.

    “No can do, Peters. The Skipper’s ordered me up there, and it’s me what’s going up there.”

    Cole tried to push past him, but Peters wouldn’t budge.

    “Come on, man. It’s getting cold – the Skipper’ll have my guts for garters.”

    Peters locked his eyes on Cole’s. There was an intensity there, a flame that made Cole take a step back. He weighed up his options: continue with this stalemate and definitely get into trouble with the Captain because of the cold cocoa; or give in to Peters and chance that no one would notice that it was a different Rating delivering the drinks.

    “Bloody hell, Peters. You really are a mad bastard. Okay – here you are. But don’t go getting me into trouble up there.”

    He handed the tray to Peters, who turned and hurried off with it, swaying to compensate for the motion of the ship just as expertly as Cole had done.

    On the bridge, the Captain, the Lieutenant and the Chief Petty Officer were leaning over the map table.

    “If we make good headway, we can get there by dawn.”

    “We should take the east side of the island. The western route’s quicker, but with this weather …”

    “I agree – it’s much more exposed. Better to play safe. There’s not much we can do once we get there anyway, is there? They’ll all–”

    The Captain interrupted himself when he saw Peters. The Rating was standing close by with the tray of cocoa, apparently listening in.

    “Thank you, Rating. You can leave the tray over there.”

    Peters placed the tray on a metal surface next to the map table and returned to where he’d been standing moments before.

    “That will be all, Rating.”

    Peters didn’t move.

    “I said–“, the Captain began.

    “Take the western route.”

    “What was that?!”

    The captain spluttered out his question; he was a reasonable man, but insubordination was something he could never tolerate. The Lieutenant and Chief Petty Officer turned from the map to see what the fuss was about. A look of recognition passed across the CPO’s face and he touched the Captain on the arm.

    “Sir, can I have a word?”

    The two moved to the other side of the bridge. Peters was left standing in the middle, face to face with the Lieutenant, who eyed him sternly.

    The Captain and the CPO returned to the middle of the bridge.

    “The CPO tells me your brother’s down there … Peters, isn’t it?”

    The Rating nodded.

    “I’m very sorry, Peters. We’ll get there as quickly as we can. By dawn, the Lieutenant tells me.”

    “It’ll be too late, Sir.”

    “Look, Peters–“

    “Take the western route, Sir. Please.”

    The Captain weighed his words.

    “Peters, we’ve had notification from the admiralty. I’m afraid there’s no hope for them. A rescue is out of the question. Whether we get there in four hours or six hours, the outcome will be the same. Sub crews know what they’re signing up for, so your brother–“

    “My twin brother, Sir.”

    The three officers exchanged surprised glances.

    “I just need to be close when he goes. I NEED to, Sir.”

    Peters cut a forlorn figure, swaying but rooted in the middle of the bridge, his body sagging. The wind and rain continued to crash against the windows, but time inside the space stood still.

    The Captain turned to the Lieutenant.

    “You know what, Doug? I do believe the weather’s changing for the better. If we go by the western route, I think we can probably make up some time.”

    The Lieutenant smiled and called over to the navigator.

    “Jones, set a course for the west of the island. Full steam ahead.”


  • The Lake House
    By Alice Nelson ©2015

    Dad said I was born with a sadness that lingered just under the surface. I think he spent his whole life trying to help me overcome it. But like the cancer that eventually took him, the malignancy within me just grew until it was so much stronger than I was.

    It was the lake house that came to mind when I woke up…and Dad of course. That place always reminded me of him. I was in the hospital —again, hooked up to machines and IVs. I almost did it this time. I just wanted to be with Dad again.

    My sister Trish was in the room, the usual disappointed look on her face. I had seen that look many times; it always made me feel so small. Mom stood by the window with her back to me, I know she wished Dad were here to help; she never really understood me the way he did.

    “Mom, Trish?” I said, but they ignored me. Maybe this time I lost them for good.

    The doctor arrived. He, Trish, and Mom huddled in the corner. No doubt deciding if I needed to be committed.

    “Mom, Trish, please listen. This isn’t like last time. I promise I’ll stay on my meds and keep seeing Dr. Gable. Just get me out of here, please!

    They ignored me. Guess they already decided what to do.

    I thought about the lake house again. Those memories always calmed me. In those days, when the sadness hit, Dad would take me into the water; he’d hold me there and whisper “It’s okay honey, I’m here, and I won’t let you go.”

    I must’ve fallen asleep, because when I came to, the room was empty. The only noise was that infernal ventilator beeping at me, reminding me of my mortality.

    Trish came in and sat in a chair next to my bed. I wanted a cigarette so bad. I chuckled and confessed to her that I started smoking again. “Yeah I know, don’t look at me that way. It’s one of the few things that seem to help me. Just don’t tell Ma, please don’t tell her. You know how she feels about cigarettes —especially after Dad died. If she could, I’m sure Mom would ban the damn things.”

    Trish said nothing, she was still angry, I suppose. Maybe she wouldn’t forgive me this time. She stood up to go.

    “Trish, don’t leave, not like this!”

    Just then, Mom walked in, looking every bit as worried as she did when we visited Dad in the hospital, after he had gotten so sick. She didn’t say so much as one word to me. Maybe Dr. Gable had convinced her that she couldn’t help me anymore. I tried pleading with her.

    “Mom I was thinking about the time at the lake house, when Dad taught me and Trish how to swim, remember? I miss him so much. I know you and Trish do too, Dad just had a way with me that always relaxed me. I’m not blaming you for anything, I know how hard you both tried. Mom, please talk to me, don’t ignore me. I’m sorry, I didn’t really want to hurt myself, I just wanted the sadness go away.

    She looked right through me. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking, but there were tears in her eyes. “Mom?” All I could manage was a whisper, then they were gone again, and I was alone with my thoughts. When I was feeling this way, it was the worse time for me to be alone.

    Maybe I should’ve returned Trish’s calls when she phoned me a few weeks before. It was a terrible time for me though; curled up in a ball on my couch, unable to get up enough strength to clean myself, let alone answer the phone. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, especially my overly judgmental sister. That would’ve crushed me.

    Mom, Trish, and the doctor walked back in, they all stood over my bed discussing things.

    “Is there any hope doctor?” My mother asked while holding my hand. Hers were so warm.

    The doctor said, “By the time paramedics arrived, her brain had been without oxygen for far too long. We can keep her on life support, but there isn’t any brain function.”

    What is he talking about Mom?! What does he mean no brain function?

    Trish looked down at me crying, and said, “I wish I could tell her I’m sorry, and that I love her.”

    “I love you too Trish. Can’t you hear me?! Mom, I’m alive, talk to me!”

    “All right.” Mom said softly. “It’s time to let her go.”

    “No, please don’t.” But no one heard me.

    Mom and Trish stood in the back of the room, holding each other and crying. I had caused their pain this time, and so soon after the pain of Dad’s death —I felt horrible. “I’m so sorry.” I said, knowing they would never hear me again.

    The doctor and a nurse gently removed the IV tubes, and turned off the ventilator. Their faces began to fade when the beeping sound of the ventilator, was replaced by the sustained high pitched squeal that signified death —then there was nothing.

    I woke up at the lake house. Dad was swimming and he waved for me to come into the water —it was so warm.

    Dad took me in his arms, but this time when he held me, it wasn’t to remove the sadness that was normally there, it was to welcome me home. And in that soft and gentle voice of his, Dad said, “It’s okay Belle, I’ve got you, and I’ll never let go.”

  • Chitra Adjoodah

    Marie stood out in the crowd of black African prisoners and slaves to be sold by their African King to Captain Kirt because she was the tallest with shiny ivory skin and a full figure. Captain Kirt could not tear his eyes off her.

    “This one is coming into my cabin.” Captain Kirk blinked an eye towards Marie as he made his wishes known to the crew members of his boat.

    “Yes Sir,” They answered as they fitted chains to the ankles and handcuffed the black prisoners’ and slaves’ wrists behind their backs. They shoved and packed them into the small boats that took them into the big boat waiting on the sea. The prisoners and slaves were powerless under the pointed guns that the pirates were holding to their heads and the threatening ones protruding from the holes of the boat’s belly.
    Eventually, the boat set its sails after the prisoners and slaves were laid flat, head to tail with the chains bolted on the wooden floor on the lower deck.

    They sobbed as the boat slid over the waves onto the ocean. They had no clue
    as to where they were heading and why they were being shipped.

    After knocking at Captain Kirt’s door and waiting for him to answer, the crew members removed Marie’s chains and handcuffs. “Pity the captain has taken a shine on you. We wanted you too…” They leered at her and shoved her through the tiny door.

    Marie fell on the floor. Raising her eyes and rubbing her wrists where the chain cut her, she shuddered at the sight of Captain Kirt who was no longer in his uniform. He was as naked as she was. He bent down to pick her hand and lifted her up. She recoiled at his touch but knew better not to upset her foe.
    “Sweet black animal, with human features” He observed as he molested her and forced her to perform some degrading sexual acts.

    Despite being scared and revolted, Marie tried not to resist. To her the White people were a species of animal, like the tigers and lions, that attacked her tribe and her people.

    The black slaves spat at her when the crew left after bolting her chain to the floor. At night they were confined in the lower deck but their hands were free during the day when there was work to be done. Marie was afraid in case they threw her overboard.
    “Witch! We’ll kill you when we get on land!” They threatened as they chanted for freedom. “We’ll fry your brains, your heart and your liver. You’ll never ensnare any one again.” They no longer consider her as one of them.

    As the days went by, the boat with its cargo drew on the shore of the British colony. There, the slaves and prisoners were sold to the White land owners and sugarcane growers. They became slaves to the Europeans.
    “You’re staying with me as my concubine,”Capain Kirt kept Marie. She followed him mostly on the boat, under the supervision of members of the crew.
    On the rare occasion that she went on land, two men from the crew were shot down when they offered to help Marie escape into the fields of the islands.

    Most of Marie’s time were spent on board where Captain Kirt and his followers conducted the slaves’ trading business to the other British Colonies. Marie started feeling comfortable with living on the boat amongst the pirates who called themselves explorers and traders. Captain Kirt gave her small favours such as she was no longer chained on the floorboards, she was free to chat to the prisoners and slaves.

    Months later, Marie realised she was pregnant. She kept it to herself because she was worried in case the Captain thought she was sick with some kind of contagious disease and would throw her over board. The big surge of waves turned her stomach.
    “You must tell him,” a female slave advised her when she confided in her. “It won’t be long before he would guess. He might not like it and trust you for keeping this secret from him. It’s his child too. He will be very happy. He treats you well and is very fond of you.” The slave convinced Marie and her hopes rose.

    “I’m with child.” She told Captain Kirt as her fingers trembled whilst she buttoned his waistcoat.
    “What?” He pushed her hands out of the way and turned his back to her. “How could this happen? We’re not of the same creed. What would the child be like – half of its side black and the other side white, in spots of black and white, an abnormal species. I dread thinking of the outcome.”

    “I don’t know. I’ve never come across a cross bred child.”

    “Why could I allow this monster into this World? What would the British say when they discover that the white people are breeding with the black people.” He turned to face her. “I want to be remembered as a great man, a rich explorer. I want my children and grandchildren in Britain to speak proudly of me. I don’t want to bring shame on the White people with this abnormal, mystical creature.”He rang the bell to summon the crew members.

    When they came in, he ordered in his sharp voice, “Throw Marie over board. I’m done with her. Let the sharks have her.”

  • Ken Cartisano

    Ken Cartisano © 2015

    It was a cloudless night on the Indian River as he sat in the cabin of his 20-foot boat, patiently waiting for the tide to turn. The setting sun had given way to a full moon that rose over the mangroves, its huge golden face a harbinger of swift tides and bountiful shrimping.

    Glancing out his cabin window, he noticed a searchlight panning back and forth in the distance, perhaps as much as two miles away, partially obscured by treetops. The light went out, but his experience informed him it was likely a large tugboat, heading towards him down the river.

    Large tugs are dangerous in the narrow confines of the river and, one by one, the other shrimp boats raised their anchors and headed smartly for the protection of nearby canals.

    When the tug rounded a bend about a mile away, it came into sight and flashed its searchlight across his stern before turning it off.

    It was time to vacate the river, so he extinguished his cigarette, started the engine, then went to the bow and pulled up his anchor, but when he returned to the helm and put the engine in gear, the motor conked out: A strange occurrence, but no reason for alarm. He put the gear back in neutral, restarted the engine, and pushed the lever forward. Once again, the engine stalled.

    He looked around, and noticed that the wind was pushing him out into the channel. So he ran to the bow, coiled the anchor line, and tossed the anchor back into the river. He secured the line, returned to the helm, and tried starting the engine several more times, but was unable to keep it running.

    He assessed his situation as the light from the tugboat flashed across his decks again. He quickly realized that since raising the anchor, the wind had pushed him well into the channel, and he was now in the path of the oncoming tug. He stopped and stared into the distance and could see its outline: A massive barge, 30 feet wide, being pushed by a huge sea-going tug.

    He ran to the stern and checked the fuel line, furiously pumping the bulb to feed gas to the engine, but there was no pressure in the bulb. He grabbed the fuel tank by its handles and picked it up. It was so light he inadvertently raised it above his head. He shook it frantically and a few pitiful drops of fuel sloshed around in the tank. It confirmed what he already knew. He was completely out of gas. He threw the tank to the deck in disgust and looked up at the approaching tug.

    He was definitely in its path and it loomed larger and closer with breathtaking speed.

    The wind ruffled his hair as he stood there trying to quell his panic. Due to its size and weight, there was no room or time for the tug to take evasive action. As he watched it approach, he weighed his options, and there were really only two: Release the anchor and pray that the wind pushed him across the channel before the tug and the barge crushed him, or…

    He ran to the bow, got down on one knee and began to slowly pull on the anchor line. The channel was deep, and the bottom was sandy, so the anchor came loose much quicker than he’d hoped. As soon as it did, he hauled it in as fast as he could as the wind pushed him further from shore.

    Trying to stay calm, he coiled the anchor line, making sure it wouldn’t get snagged, and threw the anchor as far toward the shore as he could. It was too dark to see it, and time seemed to slow down as he waited for it to hit the water. He heard it splash, and then waited another precious second or two for it to sink to the bottom and then slowly but firmly began to pull the boat towards the anchor. When the anchor came free of the bottom, he hauled it back in, hand over hand, like a man possessed, and yanked the anchor on deck.

    His boat had some momentum and continued drifting forward as he re-coiled the line, hefted the anchor, and heaved it with all his might. He waited for the splash and let it sink, and now kneeling on the deck, he kept pulling the boat toward the anchor. When it broke free again he hauled it back in, and coiled the line for one final throw.

    All he could hear was the sound of the tug as he picked up the anchor and flung it for all he was worth. Down on his knees he hauled on the line as soon as the anchor hit the water. He pulled the boat as close to the anchor as possible, and only then did he dare to look behind him.

    The barge towered above his tiny boat and cleared his stern by just a few feet. On top of the barge sat a hundred tons of concrete slabs, and above the slabs sat a loading crane. As big as it was, the barge slid by in eerie silence. It was so quiet he could hear the sound of little waves splashing against its bow.

    When the tug went by, she was five-stories high; her huge engines roared and whined as the water churned behind her. Giant pistons and props made repetitive thumping sounds like huge fists pounding the earth. An open door in her port side showed banks of green and red lights, but above her main deck, all her interior lights were doused: All of her windows were dark.

    Kneeling on the deck, holding his anchor line firm, he gaped at the colossus as she lumbered past him. Not a single soul appeared to bear witness as the tug moved off into the night.

  • B. L. Bowden
    By B. L. Bowden 11/2/2015

    The breeze had strengthened and changed direction, seemingly creating a vacuum effect back out into the ocean. People were frantically running and shouting, leaving anything and everything behind in the sand (with the exception of assorted cellular devices, of course).

    I was totally mesmerized by the wall of water that rose from the ocean floor and upward to the clouds. It had virtually blocked out the sun that moments before baked the sand beneath our feet.
    “We have to run, now!” I believe the source of the scream came from Sam? Dan? I had met him at the bar earlier that morning.
    I continued to stare straight ahead at the oncoming mass.
    “Breathtaking.” I shouted over the din.
    “It’s gonna be if you don’t move!” Sam-Dan yelled from over his shoulder as he disappeared into the retreating horde.
    “I doubt running will do much good at this point,” I accepted softly.

    My mind wandered back two days as I prepared for the impact.

    “You need to get away for a few days. Go someplace where you can relax and forget this place. We will survive.”
    I answered without turning from the window. I loved looking out over the city skyline from 62 floors up.
    “One monkey don’t stop no show, is that it?”
    “Pretty much, yeah. Go to a beach somewhere, drink fruity concoctions laced with rum, dance, parasail, whatever. Leave the rest of the world behind and recharge your life battery.”
    “Hard to leave the rest of the world behind nowadays.”
    I headed toward the door. A trip to some exotic beach somewhere for a few days just might do me good.

  • Realisation

    It was a busy market place with winding roads where cycle rickshaws jostled for space with people… small, hole-in-the-wall shops selling a range of items to worship The Mother with. We opted to travel down in the bus instead of taking the ferry down the river. Passing by all this we finally reached the entrance of temple of Goddess Kali at Kali Ghat in Kolkata.

    I began the trip without focusing too much on what we will witness… because the fear within me was just below the surface that we will somehow see unwanted violence. Taking a deep breath, I put aside all thoughts and followed my two friends when suddenly a tall, thin young man dressed in faded cream coloured kurta-pyjama broke into our path and tried – almost violently – to put a beaded rosary over the head of my friend walking in front of me. Since he had good reflexes, he warded off the garlanding blindly and scolded the chap for it. Not that the man was affected by it at all, he tried arguing the benefits of wearing the rosary. We shoved past him and with every step, my heart pounded even more vigorously.

    We stepped across the threshold and onto the white marble – which looked heavily muddied – and to my horror there were multiple long tracks of blood. I was horrified and if not for my brave-hearted friends, I would not have hesitated for even a moment to run away. I did not want to be there.

    Men and women in traditional attire, children and old people – some of whom walked with the help of walking sticks – the place was bursting at seams with people. Something on my left caught my attention and saw that that particular area was empty with only two tiny lambs tethered to a post. Their coats were crystalline white with a couple of black patches near their faces. The two looked lost amidst the chaos and the bloody tracks trailing past them. I could not bear the pain of the realisation that the two were sacrificial lambs… I had to run away… but my friends were already trying to go inside the sanctum… I felt hassled, anguished and pained… the two tiny lives were dumbfounded enough I realised to even bleat… I felt as if someone had their hands tight around my throat… I could not breathe… I felt helpless to stop the gory act and more than that I was afraid that I will have to watch the slaughter of the two babies… It was too much for me. I looked around for a place to hide… and saw one spot not very far – the most peaceful, most serene spot amidst the violence and confusion.

    It was a small structure, open on all sides, a concrete umbrella on top and couple of steps to reach out to Lord Shiva. HE sat perfectly still, totally detached from the dynamics of rituals, sins and piety… I climbed as near to HIM as possible… I could not control my sobs… for the next so many minutes I cried but there was no response and there was still no escape for me. I realised I had to face the situation. The realisation happened over a brief conversation with someone I could turn to in such a situation… He gently pointed out to me with a kind chuckle – if you could call it that – the difference in matter and energy… the chaos and peace, the drama and silence… It could not have been clearer to me. I realised that HE in HIS nature was dormant but HIS dynamism thrived on the action. I also realised that this particular equation – over a very long period of time – has got corrupted and has got mired in human greed, manipulation and barter system – I give you a lamb if you fulfill my wish!

    Looking at my tearful state, my friends cut short their visit and we all quickly exited the place and only then I could breathe easy.

  • Persistance
    © 2015 Sami A.F

    The bubbles were marvelous. The sun rays peeked through the surface of the water and gave the swimming bubbles a captivating glow. As she sunk deeper, the bubbles diminished. They were fading, as if it was a symbol of her ending life. As the bubbles diled down, so did her lifespan.

    Olivia was not a woman to cause problems. She kept to herself and loved it that way. People were a nuisance, but she couldn’t avoid them forever. Especially that one person that she couldn’t shake away. People were persistant. That one person that would never leave.

    Down the street, Olivia strolled with her hands in her jacket pocket. She would, nonchalantly, turn her head back. There the person was. A woman, the same age as Olivia, slowly followed. The woman’s face was gloomy, lifeless, and definitely seeking something. But what?

    A splash. The water gathered around her as her entire body finally submerged into the unknown threat. The bubbles began. Millions of small bubbles emerged from her mouth as she swung her arms in panic. It has started. The end has begun.

    Passing the corner, Olivia began to pick up the pace. Her breathing has hastened, her eyes were wary, and her mentality was in panic. That person had been lifelessly showing up wherever Olivia went for quite a while. She didn’t know the reason, but she didn’t want to stop to find out. Olivia hated confrontation. However, it seemed too dangerous to confront the problem at hand. Who was that person? That wasn’t the question that frightened Olivia. All she could ask herself was how much pain would she feel when the person catches up to her?

    The blue aura of the water used to be beautiful. It was filled with life, yet it was sucking life at this moment. A murderer in disguise. That was water. Marvelous to look at, yet threatening. The pressure of the water increased as she sunk deeper into the water. She opened her mouth but no scream came out. Only bubbles.

    Shutting the door quickly, Olivia was finally home. Away from that person. She pulled off her jacket and moved to the bathroom. Flipping the tap of the bathtub, she watched as water filled the white tub. A bath. That was what she needed. Exiting the bathroom, Olivia moved to the bedroom as she began to strip. Lifting her blouse, she heard a sudden thud. She turned at the sound to see the woman standing a few feet from her. The front door had been breached? No. It had never been opened.

    The bubbles increased as she sunk into darkness. She gripped her throat as if someone was strangling her. But a person wasn’t strangling her, it was the water. And no action could stop it at this moment. As the bubbles emerged from her mouth and floated to the surface, so did her time.

    The woman in front of Olivia growled, and darted towards her. The stranger lashed out and grabbed Olivia by the hair. “Stop!” Olivia cried out. The woman was persistant, and dragged her across the floor. Olivia struggled and pulled the woman’s leg, causing the attacker to fall to the floor. Olivia picked herself up, and dashed to the front door. The woman was quick. She sprung into action and tackled her target to the floor, causing Olivia to hit her head against the wall and lose control of her body.

    Olivia was now being dragged. The woman had picked her up, moved her to the bathroom, and aggressively dumped her into the, almost filled, bathtub. Olivia was now submerged in water. She was partly conscious so she could tell where she was, yet she couldn’t move. Olivia slowly opened her eyes and saw the woman. The woman had her face. It was as if she was staring into a mirror. Olivia closed her eyes and opened them to find the woman’s hands on her throat and pushing her down. Olivia thrashed, and struggled as the woman kept her grip. The woman, who looked like Olivia, growled and said, “Die!”

    Everything went silent.

    The bubbles diminished. Olivia was deep in an unknown body of water. It was dark, she was alone, and the bubbles were gone. No more air. Olivia, lifelessly, floated in the water.

    Olivia was in the bathroom, all alone. The woman, who resembled her, was not there. The front door hadn’t been opened. Olivia lay motionless in the bathtub. The water was now overflowing off the side. A bottle of pills floated on the surface. She was alone, except for those pills. Those damn persistant pills.

    Bubbles are marvelous aren’t they?

  • maud harris
    Old lags.

    It was one if those arguments that flared up out of nowhere. Sam and Bill, best mates and full of bonhomie ten minutes ago, now at each other’s throats.
    Outside the pub an old lady is on the ground; a crowd is gathering and someone has phoned for the police.

    Bill, belligerent as always.

    “Now if I say it’s urgent I expect the police to be there within three minutes.”

    “Don’t be daft! What if they’re a mile away?”

    “Makes no difference, they have patrol cars, don’t they?”

    Bill takes a long pull at his pint, and sits back on the wooden bench, not willing to forego the chance of a good argument.

    Sam snorts in disgust.

    “There’s no arguing with some people; you always were a stubborn cuss. Remember in ’63? You were glad of their slow arrival then.”

    “That was different.”

    “I don’t see how; the argument was just the same then. As I recall the cops didn’t come for an hour, and by then we were long gone.”

    Sam grinned.

    “Ah! The good old days, we sure ’ad the upper ’and.”

    Sam gazed into the distance, remembering…

    “We may ’ave been villains, but there were no pensioners robbed in those days, and old ladies were safe in their beds. The only crime was between our own kind. If one outfit tried to muscle in on our patch, they’d soon find themselves minus a couple of fingers or even floating in the River Thames.”

    Bill nods in agreement.

    “ Yeah, or wearing a concrete overcoat. It’s these young bucks, see; they want it all ’anded to them on a plate. Where’s the honour among thieves? At least we ’ad a code, it may have been a code of fear, but we all respected it.”

    “And this ‘ere cyber crime, what’s that all about then?” Where’s the excitement in sitting on your backside with a computer? OK, so you may make millions, but there’s no fun any more.”

    “Yeah, I guess you’re right, but it’s all water under the bridge now.”

    Bill nods again, chewing on his pipe.

    A man in the crowd helps the old lady up from the pavement. Someone brings a chair from a shop, and places a jacket round her shoulders.

    “My handbag, my week’s pension money gone. Now what will I do?”

    The tears roll down her cheeks.
    After twenty minutes a police car rolls up with a screech of breaks, its siren blaring.

    “All right, folks, move along please, there’s nothing to see.”

    The young policewoman stoops down by the old lady as her colleague marshals the crowd.

    “My name is Janice, can you tell me exactly what happened?”

    “It was all so quick, Constable; I had just come out of the post office after collecting my pension when this motor bike screeched past. It knocked me to the ground and a man in a bike helmet grabbed my bag, then they drove off.”

    Janices’ colleague addresses the crowd, as the old lady wrings her hands.

    “Can anyone describe the motorbike or the riders?” Anything at all, no matter how small.”

    “It was a Suzuki; black and yellow. The two men were wearing helmets with the visors pulled down, I’m sorry, I didn’t get the number; they were too quick.”

    The speaker, a young man of twenty or so, looked shaken.

    Turning back to the old lady, whose name was Mrs Edmunds, the Constable continues.

    “We’ll take you to the station for a statement, then Janice will drive you home.”

    “You don’t need to, my grandson will pick me up from the station if you will phone him for me.”

    The constable picks up the phone.

    “Thames Valley police here, Mr Edmunds?”

    Ricky Edmunds answers, immediately suspicious.

    “What’s it about?

    “We have your grandmother here, I’m afraid she has been mugged.”

    He hands the phone to Mrs Edmunds who is still in shock.

    “Ricky, I’ve been mugged, they took my handbag and my pension money.”

    Her voice shakes as she continues.

    “Can you pick me up from the police station?

    “Of course, Gran, are you hurt?”

    She starts to cry.
    “No, but I want to go home.”

    As they leave, the elderly desk sergeant remarks.

    “I’ve had dealings with that guy before, I never forget a face.”

    Later, back in Gran’s cosy living room, with the kettle boiling.

    “Now, Gran, that motorbike was black and yellow, right? There can’t be many of that colour on the roads. I’ll phone around the boys and make a few enquiries. If we leave it to the cops, It’ll go to the bottom of their ‘urgent’ list, and some bleeding heart lawyer will plead their case.”

    “Oh Edmund, be careful you know what happened to your father.”

    “Don’t worry, Gran. I don’t intend to have an ‘accident’ while in police custody.”

    Three weeks later, a Suzuki motorbike is found abandoned on a building site, and two young men are brought into ‘casualty’ with severe injuries to their kneecaps. A bloodstained hammer was found at the scene.

  • Carrie Zylka

    “River Bluff”
    © Carrie Zylka 2015 (986 words)

    “And now we can have some fun.” He said grinning at her with hooded eyes.

    Sarah’s heart was beating furiously, she was unsure of how to handle the situation. She’d gone camping alone many times before without incident, never dreaming she’d encounter someone with the intent to do her harm.

    She’d been camping for three days now, her primitive campsite was everything she loved about being in the woods. She was completely isolated, alone with her thoughts and the woodland creatures, and away from humans; just the way she liked it.

    Until now. She had just finished lacing up her sneakers when the man materialized out of thin air. He’d stepped into her clearing as if he owned the place and told her in great detail how he’d been watching her all day.

    As they stared at each other from across the campsite, Sarah could feel the droplets from her hair streaking down her back, she’d just come back from a swim in the river nearby and her hair was still wet. She rued the fact that because she was alone, she wasn’t wearing a bra beneath her white tank top. Right about now she was wishing she wore a bulky sweatshirt.

    “Please leave.” She stated, trying to calm her voice.

    “Mayhap you didn’t hear me. I said now we can have some fun.” He said softly, menace clear in his voice.

    She weighed her options. Mentally kicking herself, she thought of the loaded handgun she always brought with her for protection.

    In her car.

    Under the seat.

    The car parked about eight feet from where he was standing. She sighed realizing she would have to run.

    Almost as if he read her mind, he was moving towards her as she turned. She was only able to manage two steps before he was on her. Knocking her to the ground, she tasted dirt in her mouth. She was twisted awkwardly, half on her side with her chest and face in the dirt, he had one wrist gripped in his hand and was trying to grab the other one. She kicked out with her legs furiously trying to dislodge him, but he outweighed her by at least sixty pounds. He got a hold of her other arm and yanked them back, she cried out as her shoulders protested.

    She was in full-blown panic mode. This was her worst nightmare and she was angry she’d been so careless. She tried to take a deep breath knowing panic would kill her faster than this guy would.

    He pulled her into a kneeling position and began securing her wrists with some sort of rope. Instinct kicked in and she wasted no time assessing where he was. She leaned her head forward and grunted, causing him to raise his head. She chose just the right moment to tense her shoulders and whip her head backwards as hard as she could, the back of her skull smashed into his face and she heard the satisfying crunch of nose cartilage.

    He screamed in pain and his hands left her wrists to cradle his face. She launched forward and shook off the bindings, running as fast as she could into the woods.

    She heard him shout in anger behind her and another surge of adrenaline raced through her veins.

    She was breaking a trail through the scrub brush and it was slowing her down, she knew that while it slowed her, it would provide an easy trail for him to follow. She saw a game trail and veered towards it.

    Where to go? She could hear him crashing through the woods behind her and she willed back the tears. Thorns and sticks scratched at her bare arms and legs and she brushed furiously at her face as she ran through a spider web.


    Her chest heaving, her breathing ragged she was on the verge of hyperventilating. She had to think. The nearest town was too far away to run to, and while she knew there was a ranger station somewhere around here, she had no idea where it was.

    She didn’t think she’d be able to circle back and get out her gun before he caught up to her. And she couldn’t remember seeing any caves or depressions big enough to hide in. The Mississippi river was up ahead and she knew she was heading straight for the bluffs. The deep river was wide but the sheer rock faces were made of sharp dolomite, and climbing down them would be suicide.

    Realizing she had slowed down, she glanced back over her shoulder and nearly screamed as his face loomed not far behind, blood still streaming down his chin and murder in his eyes.

    She faced forward, lowered her head, and forced her legs to push that much harder. She had made up her mind; it might kill her but death would be more agreeable than what this animal had in mind.

    She saw the edge of the woodlands ahead, the bright blue sky opened up and she dug deep into her reserves. Fueled by sheer terror, her muscles responded as her sneakers hit the rocky surface. She bent her knees and pushed off as she sailed out into the open air. Gravity took hold and she plummeted towards the water below, praying she was far enough away from the shore to find deep water.

    Tucking her arms close to her side and crossing her ankles, her toes split the rivers’ surface and she plunged deep into the murky water before swimming to the surface.

    Gasping for air she looked back up towards the bluff and saw him standing there, visibly enraged. She gave him the finger before she began swimming, allowing the current to carry her downstream. She hoped she would find a boat or house soon.

  • Anika Madison
    The Last Swim
    © Anika Madison 11/3/2015 (547 words)

    John: “I can’t see her!”

    Lanie: “Are you sure we are looking in the right place?”

    Jake: “Shine the light over here!”

    Rachel: “This is a lost cause. Wait for search and rescue.”


    It is a hot summer evening and the sun will not set for another two hours. Rachel and Alice decide to go for a swim in the river behind Lanie’s new cabin located in a remote area. John purchased the cabin for his wife Lanie who is a best-selling author, so she can write her novels in seclusion.

    During their swim, Rachel encourages Alice to swim out farther than intended. As time elapses, the sun is beginning to set. Alice suggests they swim back but Rachel encourages her to continue.

    As the sun continues its descent, Alice can see the bright red and orange ball slowly turn the river waters into red-orange ripples that create a calming sound. The scene is so serene that Alice doesn’t realize that Rachel is no longer behind her. She calls out for her friend but there is no response. Alice tries to swim back in the same direction in which they came. Since she blindly followed Rachel’s instructions, she has no idea which way to go. The windy river only provides a difficult maze rather than a familiar route. Alice has no choice but to try and find her way out of this watery nightmare.


    Darkness has begun to fall and the already complex path Alice has been forced to navigate has gone from difficult to impossible. Her arms are beginning to tire and her voice is now just a raspy whisper from yelling for Rachel and for help. She cannot go on, so she uses her last bit of energy to climb onto a grassy area along the river.

    Alice hears a deep guttural sound coming up behind her. She doesn’t need to turn around to know it is the deep-throated sound of a bear. Without hesitation, Alice jumps back into the water and her weary arms begin lifesaving strokes in the dark waters. The surrounding area begins to come alive with sounds of wildlife coming from every direction. Alice changes course when she sees the black waters swell and move towards her. In a panic, Alice’s smooth strokes turn into wild splashes.

    Suddenly the swell is replaced by a spinning vortex created by a helicopter. Relief has replaced Alice’s fear as she turns around and awaits her rescuers. Instead of sending down a rescue basket, the cyclonic waters keep coming towards her and Alice vigorously waves her arms thinking they don’t see her. Suddenly a rescue worker and basket come down and pull Alice to safety. As Alice’s exhausted limp body is pulled up into the helicopter, Rachel’s lifeless limp body passes her in the air, splashes in the water and descends into the darkness.

    Now in a hospital, Lanie told Alice of Rachel’s evil plan to replace her as Jake’s fiancée. Rachel and Jake had a one night stand, but Rachel wanted more. Lanie went on to tell Alice that she won’t have to worry about Rachel ever again. A policeman enters her room to take her statement. Alice nervously looks at Lanie as she finds herself trying to navigate a new nightmare.

  • Photographer’s Lament
    Ann White

    This morning I was woken by the sound of Beethoven’s 6th, the Pastoral Symphony, stealing through the window blind. The morning light was full of tangerine oranges and wispy blues all singing softly, tempting me to dress and climb the stairs. I peeked through the blind, the light stealing my heart leaving me breathless. Shoes, I needed those and pants. I pulled things from the dresser and my suitcase manically. Black leather to top the list, black cap on my head and my mother rolling over in bed in protest.

    “You’re nuts.”

    “Mom, it’s Beethoven. Wake up! Your camera is calling you.”

    “It can call me after breakfast.” She closed her eyes and refused to be part of the morning.

    The Danube was a dark brown, streaked with white highlights showing the rocks below. Mini-rapids, the place where small fish lose sight of their direction and rise to the surface. Duck weed seems to be more precious that rubies, flocks settle their wings and puff their feathers to keep out the cold. Ducks, swans, geese and cormorants called huskily to each other,”It’s come, fall has come. Look, the ship has stirred the bottom of the river. It’s time to fish.”

    Small houses lined the shore, but the water level was four feet lower than it should be. The cormorants squawked and protested the riverboats passing. I was transfixed. The sun had just hinted of its arrival. “Wait for me,” it called. “I won’t be long now.”

    Yellow trees stood holding their leaves in protest of the chill. Their stylish coats alternated with the brown of duck blinds and cottages. Fog wound itself out of the ground. The teasing of an orderly morning to come was just the beginning, for the clouds overhead had decided to dress in short swirls and gaudy whites stood out from the early blue sky.

    I stalked the elusive photograph, looking for that special moment of perfection. Swans descended from the sky calling the morning hours. Church bells rang the hour in the distance. I could feel Beethoven, see Beethoven, and touch Beethoven. The symphony rose in my heart with the sun. “Believe in me,” the sun sang. “I haven’t forgotten you.”

    I pass the pilot house where the Captain is at the helm. He is good man, knowledgable of the river, with a crew who seem more a family than employees. I remove my hat and salute him. He waves and smiles at me. The morning is rising, the fog lifts and the reflections on the water are colorful: yellows, greens, browns, and blues. I am overwhelmed. I can see the dreams of those who walked while composing. The music is in my head, I am the only one waltzing to Strauss. The music broadcasts itself through my bones, echoes in my toes, and leads me from port to starboard.

    My camera clicks on its own. The sun is over the woods and the deck of the ship promises coffee. The crew of the ship have finished their morning cup together and head to the galley to feed all of the guests.

    I lower the camera and bow to the sun. Tomorrow I will flirt with the clouds, winds, rain, and cold again.

  • Damsel in distress (revised)
    © Emmanuel Malho 2015

    “Your hands are cold”. The softest, most appealing voice he has ever heard resonated in his ears. For a fraction of a second, it seemed his brain would split time and absorb each soundwave of his lover’s voice. The soft-spoken words reaching his cochlea always seemed to reach his heart before his brain. Her firm well-rounded and swollen left breast felt pleasant under his rugged hand, below her flannel shirt. However, not as pleasant as the touch of her enthralling lips. He kissed her goodbye, taking his time, and got dressed. “I’ll see you later” John smiled, and Abigail went back to sleep.

    John Callahan headed to his office. He will leave his lake house, go to Bishop’s Port and get to Middletown Square. He would spend the day working on his reports and leave the office by 5:00 pm. At lunchtime, he called Abigail as he usually does every Friday, arranging details for dinner. This time he wanted to surprise her. He only told her where and what time they would meet, saying that the rest would be a surprise from him. Abigail giggled at the idea, and said she would be ready. She teased him saying she would take that red dress he offered her recently. The one he offered her because it accentuates his favorite parts of her body. The discreet mole on her right breast slightly shown through the dress’s cleavage. Her curvy hips, that knew so well how to provoke him. Her slender thighs covered by the dress a little more than enough to keep the interest swaying. The dress was bright red with a loop just above her right hip. It was a perfect match with her ginger hair and pretty green eyes. John had something else in mind. They had been living together in his lake house for two years now, and they knew each other for eight years. “If it is not now, when will be?” he thought, holding the engagement ring in his fingers.

    The hour they agreed on was approaching, and Abigail was getting ready. As she always did these days, she was thinking about their relationship. Work life was good – not great, but good enough for both. He was about to be promoted and she was about to move to a business closer from his place with a better pay. It seemed everything was lining up. “We might be a good match,” she thought while putting on her makeup. They met eight years ago at his brother Michael’s birthday party. John was the quiet type. He knew everyone around him but he was always on his own. John “Concealed” Callahan, some called him. She felt empathy and hate at the same time. How could a man that attractive not notice her? That messed her thinking until she took the matter into her own hands and “unintentionally” dropped her glass in his shirt. He never looked past her again until present day. They were apart for a couple of years but they have always kept contact. Fate took them to work in the same town and they started to date. Next thing she knows, she has moved into his lake house. Everything seemed magic with John-not-so-“Concealed”-Callahan. She was now wearing a sweet tangerine and jasmine perfume. Suddenly, her left arm and left leg became strangely numb. An intense headache came. Then all went black.

    They were supposed to meet at home and head to town. John called her when he arrived at Bishop’s Port. No answer. Abigail never did not pick up (or at least reject) a call. “I have got to get there fast!” John rushed to his car, stepped on the gas pedal, and kept trying to call her, to no avail. When he reached his place, the front door was still unlocked. He quickly searched for Abigail and found her in their bedroom. Lying on the ground. She was dressed up for the dinner. Her head was bruised. It looked like she had hit her head in the bedside table. John checked her pulse – it was weak but there. Her breathing was very shallow. He called the 911 and in a few precious minutes, a helicopter landed right next to his house and took her to the city’s hospital. Only when the helicopter was back up in the skies John fell to his knees and cried. In the same second, he was hitting his head with his right hand, still holding the engagement ring. “Get up, you stupid fool. What are you doing here while she is at the hospital?” He picked himself up and went to the hospital.

    Minutes later, John arrived at the hospital, and asked for Abigail. He was allowed to stay next to her. She was still unconscious. The doctor who examined her went there to talk to him. “We did an angiography and an MRI scan. It was an ischemic stroke.” John held his forehead with both his hands. “I have a few questions about her medical history if you could help me out.” “Sure”, John said. They went in and John gave the doctor the details needed. “While we don’t know what exactly caused this pathology, the exams revealed that none of her functions seem altered. We will keep her here for the next 24 hours after she recovers consciousness”. John nodded, still devastated. “You can go and sit next to her if you want to” the doctor put his hand on John’s shoulder. “The chairs aren’t that great but I know they’re better than the waiting room’s”. John looked up at him and went.

    John put the engagement ring on Abigail’s ring finger, crying. “You know… I was going to ask you to marry me tonight… Down at Matterazzi’s… The restaurant where we first had dinner, remember?” He planted his head down to his arm, never releasing Abigail’s hand. A teardrop fell from her eye. She held his hand tight.

  • Mountain man

    This is what the mountain man told me about how he came about how he came to be called the mountain man.
    I was returning from the Dhanbad coal mines. I had run away at 12, and worked in the cold, dark mines, to harvest coal. I was finally returning to my village, and as I walked towards my home, the trees sprinkled a red carpet for me. It was then I saw her. A beautiful girl with the longest hair tied into two plaits. She had thick silver anklets and ivory bangles from above her elbow to her forearm.

    She was with her friends and looked so gorgeous. She turned and stopped as if astonished to see me, and then she did a strange thing, she smiled at me. I was surprised and bemused, for our village girls didn’t talk or smile at strangers. But I felt special.

    I reached my home and my family was happy to see me. My mother cried as she hadn’t seen me for so many years, but had hoped that I would return. I had a luxurious meal that only a mother can make, and lay down to rest. The girl’s face haunted my dreams, and I sat up suddenly, wondering who she was. Tomorrow, I would find out and went off to sleep.
    The next day, I went into the village fair that was held on the banks of the Ganges and I spotted her there. In the backdrop was a mid-size mountain.

    Actually I had a feeling I would find her there. She was playing the game where you ring the bear. I decided to gather courage to speak with her, and since she was playing the game I decided to try for the teddy bear. I won the bear and offered it to her. She smiled and ran off.

    “Listen.” I said, “I got this for you what will I do with it.”

    “So you’re back Dashrath,” she said taking the bear

    “Yes, I’m back, but how do you know me?”

    “Uh I do, everybody knows your family.”

    “But you smiled at me yesterday too. Wasn’t I a stranger to you?”

    “I, uh, you looked like a friend I had, when I was small.”

    Her friends laughed and they went off to another stall in the fair. I asked her to meet me the next day at the river bank. And many weeks later, I decided to ask her to marry me. I saw an English movie and knelt down and said, “Will you marry me?”

    “You’re mad, Dashrath Manjhi, you don’t need to do this. We don’t need to marry.”

    “Why Falguni?”

    “I don’t know, ask your parents. She laughed and giggled, but wouldn’t tell me why. despite all my efforts. She chuckled all the way till we reached her home. I was angry and she chortled even more.”

    “Now stop laughing and tell me.”

    “You will know very soon.”

    When I told my mother, she also laughed and everybody joined her.

    Then she said, “She is your child bride, don’t you remember?”

    “No, we were so young and then I went away. No wonder she was laughing. Isn’t it amazing? She is already my wife, but I want to marry her again as an adult.”

    But Falguni’s dad refused to let me take her home as is the custom when the girl matures, because I wasn’t working at the time. She would have been sent with fanfare to my house. She cried but her father slapped her. She daren’t disobey her father.

    The next day she would go to fill water with steel vessels with a narrow mouth balanced on top of each other. I called her to the side and told her, “Meet me here at 8o clock, and we will run away to another place.”

    “Oh Manjhi, but our parents…”

    “They will never let us meet. Don’t you want to marry me?” We got married in the village temple and lived as husband and wife.

    Soon the family forgot their differences and were united. I started working in the fields and both of us would meet when she brought my food. She trekked the mountain so she could reach the fields and had become an expert in doing so in minimum time. But it was a treacherous route Going across the mountain to the fields, caused many accidents.

    Later when she became pregnant, I said, “From now on, you don’t bring me the food.”

    “Then who will bring it. Anyways, I love to doing it. She continued even when she became heavily pregnant with me warning her not to.. But she crossed the mountain without fear.

    One day as she brought my lunch up, she slipped and fell. I wasn’t aware of the accident and when I was told, I ran as fast as my legs could carry me and took my wife to the hospital which was 70 kms away. It was so frustrating. We reached it finally, where she gave birth to a baby girl. But my Falguni died. She was no more.

    If only we had reached the hospital in time. We had to go round the bloody mountain to reach the clinic. I pulled at my hair; hit the walls in desperation.

    For days and days, I roamed around the mountains crazed and wounded by what I felt was the mountains fault. I cursed it aloud, and said, “YOU’RE MADE OF STONE, WHY WOULD YOU CARE IF MY FALGUNI DIED? WHY WOULD YOU CARE?” I LOST HER. THE LOVE OF MY LIFE IS GONE,.” I cried bitterly. For days I poured my angst to that stone of a mountain.


    The task seemed impossible and everybody called me mad and laughed at me, but I wasn’t affected by them. One day, I bought a sledge hammer, chisel and crowbar, selling off three of the family’s goats.

    I thundered at the mountain, “YOU STAND MIGHTY NOW, BUT WATCH OUT, I WILL REDUCE YOU TO RUBBLE!” After a few failed attempts I decided to try something new.

    So I burned firewood on the rocks of the mountain, and then sprinkled water that I collected in buckets and threw it on the heated surface. Then I lifted the chisel and with sweat pouring down my neck, back and arms; with a force that shook me to the core, I ‘HIT the MOUNTAIN’ with a hefty heave ho chanting, “HAAISSHA.” The heated surface made the boulders crack. And then I cried a cry that any man or woman or child would understand.

    I shouted, “YAAY!”, “YAAY!”, “YAAY!” It was victory –the mountain had it now. I was on the warpath!
    30th Oct,1972

    1960-1982.Dashrath Manjhi worked for 22 long years; ploughed fields in the morning and then in evening and throughout the nights with very little sleep worked on creating the road. He didn’t want to see what happened to his wife happen to any other person.

    Finally, the road with sides 25 feet high, 30 feet wide and 360 feet in length was built and reduced distance from 70km to just one.
    Jon. A

  • Daphne Thompson
    The Giant Clam

    Wali has never experienced greater desperation in all of his eighteen years of life.
    His entire body feels as though it is being compressed into a smaller size of him.
    Worst of all his lungs are being tortured and the intense pain is all consuming; a fiery furnace its flames reaching and searing every bronchial, greedily consuming every last molecule of oxygen.

    Desperately wanting to gulp in air, he has no choice but to keep holding his breath. Precious minutes are ticking by.
    A memory of ridicule and laughter comes ringing in his ears driving him on to collect the elusive Giant Clam shell.
    It is better to die trying than to return defeated without the shell.
    His hands touch sand, grazing against rough hard coral, entangling in slimy sea weed. Reef fish are gliding around and over him in eerie silence.

    Groping the sand around him brings Wali into contact with the shell. He needs both hands to heave it up and off the sea bed.
    Bracing for the lift he is taking hold of his precious trophy, gripping its fluted thick surface.

    Excruciating pain comes shooting across his forehead blinding him. He is staggering backward now, a new sensation overtaking the need to breathe.
    Numbness! Wali cannot feel his arms and legs.
    A blissful sleepiness is beginning to anaesthetise him. As he is drifting into nothingness an ethereal vision of beauty is floating before his face, hovering very close.
    A heart shaped face; large brown eyes framed in thick black lashes, full soft lips parted slightly as if about to kiss him. His foggy mind is struggling between nothingness and awareness, trying to remember where he has seen that face before.


    Startled, Wali is trying to reach his hands out towards her but nothing is happening. He cannot feel his hands or move them.
    Helplessly he is seeing the vision of his exquisite lover leaving him and fading and rippling away into watery darkness.

    Another vision is coming before him now. Trying to focus… Horrifyingly he is seeing his own lifeless body lying in these shadowy depths of the seabed gently rolling on water currents and snagging among the coral.
    Such a death is achieving nothing other than to give the permanent inhabitants of the reef an alternative to their usual organic feasting.

    ‘I don’t want to die!’

    Sleep is pervading his body and nothing more than blackness fills his mind. Hawk fish and Sand Perch are swimming close feeding on delicacies found attached to coral ledges, totally disregarding Wali’s inert body.

    For years the Giant Clam shell has been the centre of discussion and speculation among the local spear fisherman of this pristine island paradise. Free diving among the coral reefs is common place for them and many have attempted to dive for the shell but failed.
    In the clear water it looks deceptively close but in reality it is agreed that it sits at a depth of about thirty metres. The idea of free diving for the shell is more like entertainment than a serious challenge. The experienced men know that it is a great risk to dive deep without any breathing aids. Inevitably around many a campfire the size and weight of the shell is discussed, ranging anywhere from sixty centimetres to one hundred centimetres across and perhaps as much as a hundred kilograms in weight.
    On this balmy evening the men are grouped on the sand drinking and discussing their day’s fishing catches. As usual, the talk comes round to the Giant Clam shell.

    ‘I will dive and bring up the shell.’

    Momentarily everyone stopped dead in their tracks and stared at this brash young man sitting among them before collapsing into howls of mocking laughter at what they have just heard.
    Wali’s face reddened into crimson and he slunk back into the shadows making himself as inconspicuous as possible.

    To regain a sense of honour he felt he had no recourse now but to dive and retrieve the shell.
    Perlita, his beautiful girl Perlita! He did not want to lose her respect.

    Perlita, a serene girl of breathtaking beauty is standing tall and still, anchored by her bare brown feet planted slightly apart indenting the firm white sand. She has come to watch Wali dive. Her face partially hidden as she lifts her right hand shading her eyes against the glare of the morning sun that is dappling the smooth surface of the blue ocean. Her stillness belies the turmoil within her breast. Wali is her lover and she is fearful of what may be happening to him as he free dives to such dangerous depths. With trepidation she watched him dive into the sea and now she is willing her mind to reach into his mind and guide him into returning safely.

    Manuel, Wali’s older brother, has agreed to lend his support. There is great risk but Wali is feeling confident with his brother close by to help.

    Now Manuel is sitting on the narrow wooden plank seat of his dinghy, eyes transfixed to the spot where Wali dived beneath the surface, watching intently for bubbles, rippling water, any signs indicating that Wali is resurfacing.

    Manuel is a well experienced free diver. The moment Wali’s dive sent him below the surface of the clear water he set his stop watch to begin the countdown.
    Within twenty seconds the water’s surface showed no sign that anyone had broken its mirror surface and was descending into the dark depths below.

    Manuel knows Wali has only three minutes without oxygen to safely complete his mission.
    He is sitting, watching, counting and waiting; anxiously watching the minutes adding up.

    The critical three minutes has just passed;

    three minutes and fifteen seconds…

    three minutes and thirty seconds.

    Another twenty seconds passes.

    The water is clear for the first ten metres revealing ledges of coral reef and the passageway through which Wali has descended.
    This is tough on Manuel, his lips part and his breath is coming unevenly, his eyes round with a growing fear…

    Four minutes clicks over on the watch and Manuel knows he can delay no longer.
    He slips overboard to free dive after his brother in the hope of locating him and heaving him back up to air and safety.

    Seemingly the Giant Clam has outclassed another contender.

  • Alice Nelson

    Thank you all for participating, and good luck!

    Now it’s Voting Time!!
    Please submit your 1st – 5th place vote for this week’s Writers Hangout Short Story Contest to no later than 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT on Thursday/ 4:00am AEDT (Friday).
    Results will be posted later that day.
    Placing “Urgency” in the subject line is helpful but not necessary.


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