Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “Quarantine”

Theme: Quarantine. Use it however you like, but someone, or something, must have been, is, or will be in quarantine.

Word Count: 1,200

1. a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed.

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Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must stay within the word limit set for each contest.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

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***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Robt Emmett per the Writing Prompt Roster.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

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161 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Quarantine”

  • Just checking in to get replies. Sounds like a great prompt.
    • Ilana Leeds
      Can I ask exactly when we have to get our story in by if we live in Australia? Is it by 4am Thursday morning? I might just make it. I have it written out long hand at the moment as I am working so many hours taxi driving to cover my rent and my child’s and my needs for food etc that we cannot afford home internet and I will have an hour to type it out tomorrow night after six at the library.
      If not I will simply read and vote on the other stories.
      • Ilana, you have to have your story in before 3am Friday in Australia. 🙂
        • Isn’t that the deadline for voting, not story submissions, Alice? Isn’t Ilana correct in her interpretation?

          (I’m having to go up to the wire with a story, too … )

          • Charles Lilburn
            I read it the same way, Andy, 4:00AM AEDT for Sydney Time Zone, as the story must be in before the voting starts. But, maybe it’s different because they have to have the voting page done by 4:00AM AEDT and need the hour from 3:00 to 4:00 to compile everything. I think it really might need to be on the page itself as to story deadline, and I didn’t see it if it is. This is a lovely job to run this, but it is demanding to try and herd these author cats who generally think outside the litter box
          • Yes Andy you are correct it is 3am Thursday. I am so sorry for causing such confusion.

            Ilana I am terribly sorry for giving you the wrong deadline.

        • Alice, “How did it get so late so soon?” ― Dr. Seuss
          Instead of adding and subtracting times zones, accounting for day light saving time [idiotic government idea] and other unaccountables, why not KISS * the problem and use Zulu time [ie Greenwich Mean Time] It’s easy to use a computer and Google it.
          * KISS means, Keep It Simple, Stupid
          Such a 23:59Z 13/06/2018 [one minute before midnight June 13, 2018]
  • Dear Carrie, this’s been the problem with me over the years. Once I get a topic, I simply can’t resist the temptation. I have to go to school in 30 minutes and I’m still typing out the last few worlds. I didn’t even bother to look the word up in the dictionary, remembering the poem of the same name by the Irish poet, Evan Boland.
    The Genius, Insane?:
    “And then what happened grandpa? Did Neil start living alone, far away from home, away from his own people, away from everything?’
    “Yes, dear. Neil started living all by himself, away from everything that he had grown up with looking as his own.”
    “Granna, did he take his clothes and cell phone? “asked Rena, the youngest of the grandchildren. “What did he eat when he was hungry? He must have been lonely!”
    It was difficult for the children to imagine a life without the clothes, the eatables and the basic necessities which are an integral part of the 21st century children. So, Grandpa, cornered as he was around the fireplace, bombarded with the questions of his grandchildren, on a cold, wintry evening, continued with the story:
    “Neil was smart. He realized that as things had come to pass, over the last couple of years, everyone was against him. Everyone supported Rhima. Everyone thought that he was demented; I mean, they thought he was mentally sick. That Friday afternoon was the worst in his life. He was just on his way back home, when he noticed the swirls of smokes going up the roof of his quarter and out the windows. He ran up the stairs and knocked on the door….
    “Rhima, open the door. Open the door, Rhima.” But the door was latched from inside. Neil realized that he had to do something immediately before things got out of control. He started looking for something around to break open the door with. There was a wooden plank lying on the barren area on the ground floor. He dashed down and came back up with the mossy plank, panting. He took a few steps back holding it with both hands and then, then with all his might, he forced the plank against the door. It easily gave away. He stepped inside, covering his nose with the back of his hand. He stepped over the plank ready for all eventualities.
    His guess proved correct. Lying on the bed in the living room meant for the guests was Rhima, playacting as usual. Her eyes closed, she was lying still, while the fire from the pile of curtains, clothes, papers was flaring and flaming amidst the thick, black smoke in the middle of the room. The smoke had brought some of the neighbours out by then. Rhima effortlessly put the blame on Neil again. Rhima was supposedly saved due to Neil’s speedy actions that day. But that was the day when he decided to go separate ways. He had a brief talk with Rhima when she was all right. He told her that he would do as she pleased and go consult the psychiatrist. The meeting with the pshchiatrist went off exactly as he thought it would. The female doctor asked him a few questions which were mostly answered by Rhima. The ground was already created. In a separate sitting with the psychiatrist, he repeated what Rhima had told the doctor earlier. Yes, he had grabbed his wife by the neck. He had called her people the most cunning in the world. He had threatened to kill their only child by throwing her off the cliff.
    Later, the doctor asked Rhima for another sitting. When they were back home. He showed his last act of defiance. He wouldn’t go to the doctor any more. Rhima was right, he realized. He would go away to be cured of his sickness someplace. Neil felt sorry for his aged mother but there was very little he could do by then. It was proved beyond the slightest doubt that he was mentally sick. So, for a healthy mind and healthier society, Neil decided to quarantine himself far from every single thing that he held dear to him till then. Rhima took the lead role again. Neil, went to a place containing two other people like him, but then he was the only one occupying the first floor of that house manned by a couple of domestics and the occasional visits of the doctor.”
    “Grandpa, what does quantine mean?’
    “It’s quarantine, not quantine, Rebecca. It means Neil decided to live far away from others so that he wouldn’t be affecting the people around, especially their daughter, R…”
    “Then, then what happened? Did he try to kill somebody there?’
    “No, dear. There was no one to be killed. He lived like a recluse devoting his time to writing. Something he loved doing in his college days. He wrote innumerable stories and novels numbering over fifty. All this made him a household name in our country. But then he wrote under the pen name of SWTI. He was said to be the greatest writer ever. The Prophet who showed mankind the way to Happiness. All his books and writings, said the critics, contained the most valuable messages of hope and optimism.
    “Good for him. Now, grandpa, how could a crazy man come out with such books?” asked Raunak, the eldest of the lot.
    “That’s what you have to find out for yourself, Ron. Some things in this world are better left unsaid. So to the rest of the world SWTI came to be known as the Messiah, the writer who used his works as a balm for the tortured, tremorous souls..”
    “What happened to Neil finally, Granna? Did he take his own life or get arrested for the way he tortured Rhima mentally, day after day. Poor Rhima, I am so angry with this lunatic Neil..
    “What, what was that, Rebecca? Did you call me….Sorry? Now it’s getting late and your mom will come soon railing at me. So get up and get lost before hell breaks loose…” and with that Grandpa wrapped the overcoat tightly around him and turning back stated putting the small pieces of wood into the fireplace.
    The End

    (Word Count 973)

    • Hi Rathin.
      i agree with Andy, that there is far more to you than you think. I know our self esteem is formed in childhood, but there comes a time when we, as individuals, must take a look at where we are now – at what we have achieved, and celebrate it.I particularly liked the line where Grandpa was ‘ cornered and bombarded by the kids’ , and I was left wondering who was insane, Rhima or Neil..
      • Dear Harris,
        Let me tell you something else about myself. I am an extremely emotional person. Whenever people are nice to me, I feel like hiding my head under the pillow, no, under the bed. The tears are left best unsheed.
        Since I joined F2C, you all have been so nice to me. I thought I was entering into forbidden territories. I thought people would be criticising my English ( you have already said something nice about it, my friend), and above all, I had that creepy feeling of being ridiculed by one and all for daring!
        You have treated me with love, consideration and respect, Harris, my friend. You have shown me that you all are good human beings, trying to make a difference in the lives of many like me.
        God bless you all. The world is better, richer and more promising for people like you all ( please forgive me if I seem to sound a bit flattery ).
        LOVE YOU ALL.
    • Me too, Maud! In the beginning it seemed like Neil was sane and agreed to those things for Rhima’s sake. By the end of the story it seemed like he *was* actually insane, agreeing to lock himself away. Then at the very end it was the little girl’s father who was Neil or perhaps the Grandfather? There is always an interesting human connection in your stories.
    • Phil Town
      Hi, Rathin
      I really like how you start this – right in the middle of the story. Immediately we know that something has happened to cause Neil to ‘quarantine’ himself, and then we find out what. This works well. I was a little confused about why it should be Neil doing this, though – it sees that Rhima is the one that really needs help … although perhaps her treatment of Neil causes him to flip. I really like the ending, too – very neat, and a nice image.
      • Thanks, Phil. Coming from you as it is, it means a lot to me. It also keeps me charged up not to give up on whatever writing aspirations I may have had so far.
        I’d also like you to know, Phil, that I read your story entitled ‘Old Cyclists Never Die’ recently and found it unbelievably well-crafted and impressive. Unfortunately, despite having tried for nearly half an hour to have my say regarding the story posted in the Comments Section, every time I was greeted with the same response: You have already said this….. or something like that. It was very frustrating. I am sorry to be taking advantage of the site here but I just want you know how much I love going through any writing of yours. I don’t know your email address, otherwise I would have sent you an email.
        Love you for your wonderful stories, Phil. Great stories only come from great minds, don’t they?
    • Amy Meyer
      This was a fun, intriguing story, with a nice twist at the end. I had to re-read a few sentences to understand them, and I wondered whether you could have made the different characters a little clearer? Anyway, a lovely story. I really liked the way you told a story within a story.
  • Brass Zippo
    by Robt. Emmett ©2018

    I roll my shoulders and flex my arms. It feels good to be walking down the hall and out of that thing. I enter his office. He’s sitting behind his empty, immaculate desk. Settling into the chair in front of feels good. He motions to them that it is okay. They leave us.

    He adjusts his silk tie and opens the manila file folder, “Let me see. Ah yes, last time we were we discussing,” looking over his tinted half glasses…, “what?”

    “Hell, doctor,” I say.

    “Oh yes, now I remember.”

    “A real, live, burning hell on earth.”

    “Ah, Mister Benôit, I believe you are being as vague now as you were last time. I don’t quite know what you are referring to.” He plucks a nonexistent something from the sleeve of his dark Armani suit. “Please, let’s be a little less ambiguous, yes?”

    Nodding my head, I gather my thoughts. “You don’t understand, is that it? Okay, I’ll give it to you clear. The place I’m referring to is a hot, stinking, valueless, hunk of jungle, a million miles from anywhere. It’s a shitbox country. It’s full of people you don’t know and don’t give two hoots about. For some reason, they’re trying to kill you and your best friend.”

    Long forgotten memories of the things Dan and I had been through flood back. The good times, the bad times, the fun times, all flashed through my brain. The recollections incited me. My mouth sours. A bitter bile taste this stupid bastard’s never tasted. Yet he’s acting as though he understands me. He doesn’t, he can’t. He’s never seen war up close and touched it as I have. He has no clue what it’s like. The noise, the smells, and the overpowering fear gripping your soul to the point you want to puke your guts out. But you can’t, you’re that damn scared.

    I shoot him a look of disgusted. His unaffected attitude infuriates me. “Picture this,” I say. “Imagine you’re there. You’re with the best guy God ever placed on this earth. Someone you have known since the second grade. He’s the one person who has been there with you and for you forever. The one person you could count on to always be watching your back. A guy who helped you even when you didn’t ask him to. He’s the guy who’s happily married to your cousin. A cousin who’s more than a cousin, she’s the little sister you never had. The two of you grew up together. You lived next-door to each other all through your school years and beyond. He’s the brother you never had. You were the best man at their wedding. You’re as proud as you can be of their two little redheaded kids, a girl, and a boy. You treat them as though they’re your own, even though they are your niece and nephew.” The thought of those kids chocks me up. I paused. I wipe my eyes.

    I have to continue. I have to make him see the reality of the situation.

    “The smell of cordite claws at your nostrils. The heavy fog of gun smoke hangs in the still air and clouds your vision. As you cradle his head in your lap, he asks, ‘I’ll be okay, right?’”

    “‘Yeah, sure,’ you say to your best friend. ‘I hear the evac choppers comin’. It’s a lie. You’ve never lied to each other, never. But now you have to. You’d need to keep his hopes up. There’s no chopper sounds, all you’re hearing is sporadic gunfire in the distance and out-going 60mm mortar rounds. You stare at the ragged, blood-soaked holes in his shirt. He asks you for a smoke. You take the brass cigarette lighter from one of his shirt pockets and the ragged pack Pall Mall’s from the other. You spill them on the ground, pick out the least bloody, and light it for him. Your hand shakes as you put his brass Zippo into your shirt, knowing he won’t need it again. With your dirty fingers, you take the lighted cigarette from your mouth and place it between his dry, cracked lips. You reassure him again that help is coming. Tears he can’t see flow free down your grimy, soot-stained cheeks. You pray. You plead to God, all to no avail.

    “Then … then you take the half-burned cigarette from his lips and flick it away. Slowly, you run your hand over his face and close his eyes. Close them forever.”

    Emotionally spent, I paused. A lump forms in my throat. I try to swallow. I can’t. I squeeze my eyelids tight together and tell myself, I won’t I can’t let this unknowing, uncaring bastard see me cry. I get myself back under control and continue.

    “You hug him one last time. Your bitter tears pour onto his dirt-streaked face and you don’t care … you don’t care about anything. You’re sobbing, uncontrollably. Your world has ended as surely as his life. You’re baring your very soul to the world. Your tears are not only for your loss but for your failure.”

    Glaring at him, I shout, “You got the Gawd damn picture, Mister Head Doctor?”

    He swallows. Fear is in his eyes.

    I need to calm myself. I can’t let my voice reflect the turmoil tearing at my insides. I will my emotions back under control.

    Softly, “What’s more, I now have to tell a good woman, his wife, my cousin, she’s now a widow. I’d have to tell two adorable little kids their daddy would never be coming home. They will never feel his loving arms around them. How do you explain this to two innocent little kids so they’ll understand?” Softening my tone, “How, how do I do that?”

    His fingers, steepled at his lips, he sits motionless, saying nothing. He looks as if he is listening. He isn’t.

    The anger inside me returns to my voice. “Yet you sit there and tell me these feelings will go away? You don’t know jack-shit, mister. Your books are lies. Your words are lies. You, you go and be where I was. Then and only then, will you understand. I mean truly understand.” I yelled at him. “Maybe then you will know for damn certain the feelings I have bottled up inside me will never … ever … go … away!”

    “It wasn’t your fault,” he said smoothly, as his hand moved to the button I knew was under the edge of his desk.

    He has no clue, I thought. His total lack of understanding enraged me.

    My inner voice screamed, don’t. They’ll use drugs this time.

    I don’t care. I’m beyond caring. I have nothing to care about. Bolting out of my chair, I scrambled over the top of his desk. I grabbed his tie. I wrapped my fingers around his throat.

    They’re grabbing me from behind and are trying to pull me off him.

    My fingers slowly slip from his throat. A velvety warm swirls around me. It’s comforting. A calming darkness surrounds and …

    (Word Count 1179)

    • A gripping tale of war and firing and loss of lives, or I should say the life of a dear one, Mr. Robt. The tale moves as smoothly as the language is lucid.
      I grabbed his tie..They’re grabbing me from behind… You hold the sentiment and sympathy of the reader to good use throughout. I was getting so livid with the Head Doctor’s lacadaisical response that had the protagonist not bolted out of his chair to grab his ( the doc’s)throat, I would have mentally reached out for him to castrate him!
      I have a question though. Were the protagonist and Dan quarantined in the distant land, or after his death, the protagonist was so devastated that he had to be quarantined in ‘that thing’ we find him coming out of at the start?
      By the way, did you take part in any war, Mr. Robt? The descriptions seem so vivid and realistic? Thanks for yet another wonderful story. Keep churning out more and more of such masterpieces.
      Good luck with your story.
      • Back story:
        Robin’s handler had sent him to get information. Dan was between deployments and tagged along. Returning home, Robin attempted to kill his handler because she’d OK’d Dan going along.

        I served with a Fighter Interceptor Squadron.
        I wasn’t going to trudge through miles of swamp and insects to get dead; I was going to fly there in air-conditioned comfort.

    • A well described story of PTSD. You painted a vivid picture of the mood and frustration that soldiers feel too ashamed to talk about. Gripping.
    • I like this story Robert. The descriptions of what he went through are truly heartbreaking. My only question is, how does quarantine come into it?
      • He was confined, which is the verb form of ‘quarantine.’
        • A-ha! Everyone is going deep on this word. It’s a great story though even if I can’t read the dictionary on my own prompt ;^P
          • I tend to use the more esoteric meanings of the prompts. This is the second one I’ve men challenged on. I’m glad you other writers are keeping me on my toes.

            Spoiler Alert was cleverly tailored to allow the reader to know how the story would end but written in a way that dragged the reader along anyway. Good show.
            I’m glad the story didn’t end with the butler killing Col. Mustard in the billiard room with the candlestick.

    • Phil Town
      Hi, Robert
      This is terrific stuff. The anger and passion of the narrator are extremely well evoked, as is the incomprehension/coldness of the doctor, so that when the climax comes, we fully understand why … then there’s a great little coda – a wind-down from the passion on the ‘page’ which is reflected in the action itself. It starts really well, too – you keep the setting vague at first so that the reader has to work to get to what’s going on (“He motions to them that it is okay. They leave us.” – no overt mention of attendants.) The first person present tense works well, but you slip into the past occasionally (e.g. “Emotionally spent, I paused. A lump forms in my throat.”) The narrator’s dialogue is excellent, but there are just a couple of points where it’s a little TOO good, I think (e.g. “Your bitter tears pour onto his dirt-streaked face…” A little too literary for dialogue?)
      Really effective story, though.
    • Very powerful, effective writing, Robert. You did slip a few tenses back and forth, but I really like the way you allude to things like attendants and straight-jackets without actually mentioning them.
    • Amy Meyer
      What a fantastic story! I found it exciting and emotional. I thought you melded the two timeframes very skilfully.
  • Do Not Approach
    by Joseph Spence

    “He’s dangerous. He is not to be approached.”

    The men in suits scribbled something incoherent on notepads, lights flashing in the faces of the police officer who stood there, interrogated. Women with children poked their heads through the throng of the press, faces ashen with fear, not even heavy foundation could disguise it.

    “He’s been arrested and put into quarantine on several occasions. This time it has gone too far.”

    “But what about the other – ?“

    A young nervous reporter spoke up over the hubbub. The room, shrouded in chaos, hushed for the response. The police officer took over his hat, mopped his brow for sweat, and continued.

    “There is, indeed, another.”

    Horrified mutters darted from person to person, the conference room turned from one of examination to doubt. The condensation of the windows no longer trickled, slowly freezing, the room becoming cold. Cameramen snuck in, ducking beneath the glare of lurid light, still filling the officer’s face.

    “I can assure you that he is in the process of capture –“

    “You mean he’s roaming the streets?” One of the women shouted out from the back of the room; a face, horrified at what it had just heard. She pressed her arms tightly around her child, a young girl, who seemed frightened beyond belief, almost as if she had been told bedtime stories of the terror these men possess to society.

    “We must not fear them!” This wasn’t a shout from the women this time, nor the officer, but a liberal reporter nearest the front of the conference room. “There is nothing to fear!” The radical, extreme views he possessed poured his newspaper into immediately scrutiny, the moderates could already be heard calling for their head.

    “They are a threat to our children –“

    “They are no threat to anyone. You should just hear them out –“

    “Hear them out? Hear them out?” The police officer began to look uncomfortable as the woman from the back of the room spoke out of turn once more. “They’re monsters – “

    “No…” the man paused. He threw his pen and notepad down, throwing away, it seemed, the sins that media had cast since the beginning of time.

    “No…’cos… I’m like them.”

    The throng cleared, police officers from all sides placed themselves between the crowd and the man who had surrendered to his fate. He placed his hands behind his back and waited for the arrest to unfold.

    He was taken away, slowly, in another act of wrongful arrest in the undemocratic, illiberal and hateful world we live him. The last mutters of his speech, incoherent words muffled through the air could just be heard, by those who listened… “It’s okay to be gay…”

    The End

    (Word Count 450)

    • ‘Do Not Approach’ deals with a very sensitive issue and is a timely reminder of the existence of the gays in all socities and just like the other people, they need to be treated with consideration and respect as well.
      The last line takes a special significance, in this context. There’s no point big mouthing an issue about which I have very little knowledge, but wouldn’t putting them behind the bar be like taking things too far? This is the second story I’ve read in as many number of days and I am surprised at no names being used for the characters in these stories. I learnt that a story without the title, conflict or even dialogue is a kind of non-existent story. Is it a new trend then or you have done it deliberately to convey the message that the subject matter being dealt with here, is far more important than the characters?
      Whatever it may be, the fact is that it is an intriguing story. The stigma attached to the gay people, is depicted expertly through the reactions of the people. All in all, a thought-provoking story. The word length is also commendable. Hwere’s wishing you Luck and Success.
    • A sad reflection of the attitudes still prevailing in much of society. Well described.
    • Joe, this is a seemingly overblown tale, but knowing that homosexuality was a crime into the seventies, does make it plausible (unfortunately.) With people still out there thinking that it is a disease to be cured and that you can catch it from overexposure makes this too realistic. Good for your writing, but not so much for society.
    • *made (not mad)
      I hate it when I make a spelling error/type-o. Ooops.
    • Hi Joe, just an FYI your story does not technically meet the requirements of the prompt. Being gay is not an infectious disease.

      It’s a story of persecution not being quarantined for an infectious disease.

      1. a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed.

      You could however include some sort of a gay community similar to a leper colony that has been quarantined or something like that.
      Just stating He’d been arrested and quarantined does not meet the requirements.
      Maybe if he’d been arrested and quarantined so doctors could experiment on him to try and cure his propensity for being gay?
      I don’t know but a few minor tweaks would meet the prompts requirements.

    • Joseph, I have to say I agree with Carrie, that the story doesn’t really fit the prompt. But as she said, with a few tweaks, it most certainly can. So I hope you make the changes so that this story can be voted on, it is an interesting take on a very topical issue.

      You could have a story where gays are quarantined and take it from the point of view of one of the people who is quarantined, or from the point of view of a guard at a location where gays are being held.

    • Phil Town
      Hi, Joe
      A well structured story, in which we get a great sense of the panic caused by … something, and eventually find out what. I’m old enough to remember when the first cases of AIDS came to light in the 80s, and there was so much fear; people even thought you could catch it by shaking hands (This fear, and the persecution it led to, is well illustrated in the film ‘Philadelphia’ with Tom Hanks, and in your story. And, as others have mentioned, the irrational fear and persecution has not totally disappeared). I think the theme of ‘quarantine’ is touched on in that the crowd want the ‘contaminated’ people be removed from the public space – either because of the perceived health threat (AIDS, etc.) or moral threat … or just because of their ‘otherness’. For the purposes of the competition, I don’t see why the idea of ‘quarantine’ can’t be treated in a figurative way; at least, that’s what I tried to do in my story.
      (Having said that, I’m not an admin, so that’s just my opinion.)
      Anyway, a thought-provoking story.
    • Hey Joe,
      I tend to agree with Phil, that the prompt is sufficiently implied in your story, on the other hand, conceptually, this story would drive home the point you’re making so much more intensely if the ‘culprits’ were meant to be sent to the ‘camp’ after their processing. (For instance.) To put it another way, this story is too realistic to be believable, and not far-out enough to be truly ‘science-fictional.’ If you get my meaning.

    “Are they not like a disease?” asked the King. “Their ideas, their religion, their obscene practices?”

    His advisers, that is six of them, nodded energetically. The seventh, younger than the rest, studied the floor. The King noticed.

    “What say you, Benjamin?”

    Benjamin raised his head and regarded the other advisers before bowing and addressing the King.

    “Begging forgiveness, your majesty … I would ask you some questions.”

    The King waved his hand, heavy with gold and jewelled rings.

    “Go ahead.”

    Benjamin took a step forward.

    “Of which species are we?”

    The King frowned.

    “What mean you?”

    “Would your majesty say that we are of the animal species?”

    The King thought about the question and then burst into laughter; the other advisers followed suit.

    “Why, of course not, Benjamin. We are of the human species.”

    “And of which species are our families?”

    “Human, naturally.”

    “And our neighbours?”

    “Where goest thou with this thread, young man?” There was a touch of irritation in the King’s voice now.

    “We are all human, your majesty, I think we agree.”

    The King nodded, the other advisers too.

    “And would you, your majesty, take a stick to your neighbour? To your brother? To your mother?”

    “Careful!” The King’s face had gone a bright shade of red.

    “I ask the question rhetorically, your majesty. Of course you would not because your neighbour, your brother and your mother are not dogs. They are human.”

    “Go on.” The King, calmer, gestured with his hand again.

    “Now, I would ask you the same questions about the people who are the subject of our meeting.”

    “Ah, but …” The oldest of the advisers, Samuel by name, spat out his intervention. “… they ARE dogs!”

    “But are they? Do they not walk on two legs? Do they not have language and thought? Do they not have emotions?”

    The King rubbed his chin.

    “They walk on two legs, with that I can agree. But as to their thoughts: they are treacherous. As to their emotions: they want us dead.”

    “May I suggest, your majesty, that wanting a thing and being able to achieve it are not necessarily the same.”

    “There you are wrong, young man. They have killed several of my subjects near the frontier.”

    “I think it was three, your majesty, and it was almost by accident.”

    “They killed them and that was enough.”

    Benjamin paused. His was a delicate position and he needed to tread with care.

    “I do not think, with all due respect, that they can be blamed for resisting. We have extended our frontier year after year; their lands are a fraction of what once they were. They have little to eat but roots and leaves. We have diverted streams and dammed the river, so that their supply of water is very limited. Sea-borne trade into what remains of their country is almost completely stemmed by patrols from our fleet.”

    “I know all of this!” The King’s face was red again. “Make your point!”

    “My point is that they are as human as us. They are NOT dogs,” here Benjamin turned to Samuel, “and should not be treated as such.”

    Samuel took up the challenge: “I would say that they are just that, with their heretical beliefs and dirty, sickening practices; imagine if our country-folk were to catch their rabid ideas. They could spread throughout the kingdom in a trice. No, I think exclusion and containment is the best strategy.”

    Benjamin took another step forward, standing in front of the group now and practically confronting the King.

    “Your majesty, do we not remember our own history, handed down by our sages? The story of The Great Decimation, and how it almost obliterated our kind from the face of the Earth. We were human but treated like animals. Can we, with our hands on our hearts, copy the evil of those times and commit it against a weak, suffering and virtually defenceless people?”

    Samuel joined Benjamin at the front of the group, addressing the King.

    “And I say exclusion and containment is the only way to deal with these … yes … animals!”

    Benjamin shook his head sorrowfully.

    “Your majesty, if this policy of persecution is to be seen through to its logical conclusion, then I want no part of it.”

    There were gasps of surprise from the five advisers in the background, while a cruel smile passed across Samuel’s face; he sensed that Benjamin’s perceived arrogance would be decisive.

    The King stood, and the advisers knelt.

    “I have listened and considered your positions. Benjamin …”

    He looked at the young adviser with a hint of sadness in his eyes; he liked him, but could not, as Samuel had predicted, countenance such arrogance. The advisers were there to advise but then to do his bidding, not to climb onto a high horse.

    “This is my decision,” he said, and raised his sceptre.

    Samuel and the five advisers held their breath, while Benjamin’s shoulders slumped; he knew that he had not done enough.

    “Go,” the King boomed, pointing the sceptre at Samuel. “Give the order to my generals … to drive them into the sea.”

    Samuel stood and left the court, always facing the King and bowing at each step.

    Benjamin put his head in his hands, mourning already for the fate of humanity.

    (Word Count 884)

    • Most probably it doesn’t matter to you, Phil, who comments what on your post. I won’t even be surprised if you don’t go through them. But let me tell you this that Into The Sea is one more feather to your already distinguished career.
      How do you do this, Phil, churning out one gem after another? I had barely had time to gasp at the enormity of Artificial Intelligence when you come out with another explosive.
      Keep writing, my dear friend, for the progress and betterment of humanity, for your unique creation, Benjamin, reminds me of my duty ( to my students). Love you for the for being such a master Story-Teller.
      • Phil Town
        It matters to me a lot, Rathin. Like all of us, I like to hear good things, but I also like to hear constructive criticism … otherwise how else are we to grow as writers?
        Thanks for the good things you’ve said about my story!
    • PHil. you have shed light on some human truths.The little guy doesn’t always win (though he shouldn’t stop trying) and despite the lessons of history, things don’t change.
      • Phil Town
        You’re right, Maud … we should all keep trying to effect change … even though the small voices have to face up to big guns these days.
    • Hi Phil,

      What a powerful story! An excellent example of someone without the power to change something that is wrong into something that is right. Kudos to Benjamin for doing his best.

      The truth behind your story in society is all too real, unfortunately.

      I enjoyed the dialogue you used throughout. And I thought your last line summed things up brilliantly.

      Best of luck in the contest and thank you for such a thought-provoking story.


      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Jen!
    • Jesus Phil, (no offense) This story is so well written, I hardly know what to say. The King, the group of advisors, the lone dissenter, the stilted dialect, the concise dialogue. ‘The King waved his hand, heavy with gold and jeweled rings.’ This sentence is a picture constructed out of eleven words. A very vivid picture. (Who needs a thousand words when you can write like this?) Brilliant story, superb writing, Phil.
      • Sorry, Ken. I came to know about Patient Paul-Zero at the time of voting only. Once I thought of keeping myself from voting but then I thought to myself : Whadda hell! Who cares about my comments anyway?
        I’ll read the story though, once I’m back home from school. Anything from you has to be special. Good luck with your story. Have a great day.
    • Amy Meyer
      I liked the tension in your story and I found it well structured and paced. I wasn’t sure about the Benjamin character and the set up though — it felt a little anachronistic to be putting a character with modern views into your set up. This is nitpicking however, it was a great story.
  • I want to preface by saying this is a satirical take on how I truly feel. Please no spoilers and all the “spoilers I included were ones I made up.

    Spoiler Alert by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin [831 word count]

    Lindsey was sick of everyone and their spoilers. She loved the unfolding of a story; the sudden reveals, the slow realizations, getting to love or hate a character. No one else seemed to feel the same way anymore.

    TV shows were the worst. She knew the end of Breaking Bad before she ever started watching it and forget about Dexter. She heard the ending was so dumb she never even started it. Twitter feeds, Facebook, even Instagram all let key plot points out before she ever got to learn them organically.

    But she wasn’t going to let that happen with A Song of Ice & Fire. She started reading the series way back in 2001. So much time had been invested in all the intricacies of Martin’s characters, each plot twist leading her down a different road of conjecture. Damn though, was he a slow writer. The wait for each installment of the series was excruciating. Then came HBO.

    At first she thought, ‘no one will watch it; it’s complicated fantasy. People will get confused and stop watching.’ Then she saw the sheer volume of nudity and realized people would stay just for that. Then there was the idea that it would force George to write faster, but it actually took him longer in between books now.

    Then came Doomsday. The HBO series was going to move past the plot line in the published books. Lindsey knew there was some deviation between the show and the books, but HBO had made Martin divulge the major plot points of the entire series in case “something happened to him.” She had to find a way to avoid spoilers. She unsubscribed from blogs and social media streams that talked about TV. But then she realized the morning programs, newspapers, even Jon Stewart were all talking about it. Her favorite books had become a part of pop culture.

    She’d spent too much of her life on these books, she wasn’t going to let the world ruin it all for her. She wrote to Martin’s agent explaining her plan. Somehow she was able to convince them to mail her the last books in the series as they were published. Now she needed to barricade herself in from the rest of the world.

    Lindsey’s family had an old cabin in the woods upstate. No one else in her family went there anymore because there was no cable, no cell phone coverage, and the trees were too thick to get anything but a spotty satellite signal. She sold her house and moved to the cabin- taking her completely off the grid. The only people who knew she was there were the mail carrier, who she avoided any face to face contact with, and Martin’s agent. It was the only way to stay completely free from spoilers.

    After five years of self-imposed quarantine, Lindsey received a package in the mail. George had finally completed The Winds of Winter. She was overjoyed! It was better than A Dance with Dragons, thank the Seven, but it still left her with so many questions. Why did Jamie do that? That thing with Melisandre – holy shit. And what the hell was Tyrion thinking going there? There was still one more book to go though.

    Lindsey was determined to tough it out. It was just so hard being completely isolated like this. She was going to get through this. She would survive.

    * * *
    Nine long, lonely years passed. Lindsey was rereading the series for the 50th time. It would be the last. She couldn’t take it anymore. The isolation had driven her to the brink of madness. No one could possibly still be talking about it anymore. For all she knew, George may have dropped dead without even finishing the series.

    She packed her bag and locked up the cabin. Lindsey walked down the gravely path to the mailbox. She got there just in time to catch the mail carrier as he pulled up to her box.

    “Are you the one that’s been sequestered up in that cabin?”

    “Ye-es.” Lindsey’s voice was dry with disuse.

    “I actually have a package for you today.” Lindsey’s eyes got wide and her heart began beating fast and fluttery in her chest. The box was from Martin’s publishing house. She couldn’t believe it, she was going to be able to finish the series spoiler free.

    “Do you know how long I’ve waited for A Dream of Spring to come out? I thought George R. R. Martin would die before finishing it.” She held the package reverentially in front of her.

    “Oh you mean that Game of Thrones thing where the lady with the dragons marries the dead guy and they save Westeros from the evil in the North? I loved that show!”

    Lindsey stood there staring at the driver, stunned. She dropped her package in the dirt, turned down the road and headed toward the closest town, her eyes as cold and dead as a Whitewalker.

    • Rathin Bhattacharjee
      Dear Wendy,
      I am beginning to understand my limitations and how dim-witted I am compared to all our friends. Lindsay was frustrated so she cut herself off from the rest of the world by retiring to the primitive cabin.That was easy to understand.
      Now the twist of the story comes at the end when she encounters the mail- carrier or driver. There is something in their encounter that is just beyond me! My understanding of the story goes no further! Whatever it is, there is no denying your talent. Breaking Bad, A Song of Ice & Fire, The Winds of Enter, The Dance with Dragons – if the titles are all your creation, they have to hint at your awesome creative mind!
      Just one thing, Wendy. Would I be right in assuming that you don’t really ever think of the true spoilers like me while writing your story?
      Fortunately, there aren’t many low-achievers like me in the world or aren’t there?
      Here’s wishing you loads of Success with the story.
      • Hi Rathin – having read your stories I’m afraid I don’t buy into your ‘dim-witted’, ‘low achiever’ or ‘reader of average intelligence’ self-deprecation (as you’ve put it before), You’re not any of these.

        And I don’t really think that writers should always tailor their writing to people are any of the above. They do that in tabloid newspapers, i.e. assume a reading age of 10 years old and little experience of the world, so dumb everything down as much as possible. That’s one kind of writing, but not a kind I aspire to. (Or maybe it’s the opposite of ‘aspire’ – what’s the word for that?)

        And just as writers we need to stretch ourselves, so we should hope our readers want to do a bit of stretching themselves.

        i haven’t read the books in question, but a quick check on the titles Wendy mentions in Google confirmed my suspicion. I like it when stories and films contain something unfamiliar and I go look it up. I learn something.
        My kids used to call me ‘dictionary man’ because I always checked everything, and say ‘Dad! We don’t need to know!’ But of course I did. And they liked it, really … It’s how we (and they) grow.

        All the best, and good luck with your story!

        • Here ya go Andy,
          the opposite of ‘aspire’ – what’s the word for that? Antonyms
          Antonyms of aspire are; decline, descend, dip, drop, fall (off), plunge
        • What One Considerate Email Can Do !!!
          Dear Andy,
          I was thinking of putting the shutters down, having already completed my household chores (I am a forced bachelor), entered the CA marks of the students ( our Mid-Year Exam starts on the 18th of this month) and taken care of my correspondence, when I was directed to your email. The story that I had begun reading in bed, a story called “The Love of the Prince of Glottenburg” by Anthony Hope lay forgotten as I knew that I had to reply to yours. My net pack having been run out, I realized that there was no way I could show my appreciation to you for your very refined and considerate Email. So off I went to the market to have my account recharged.
          You know, Andy, I was never a bright one. Failure chased me everywhere like I was singled out for punishment by it(Just the day before yesterday I posted a story on The Writers Association of Bhutan on this topic). My poor performance coupled with the presence of some outstanding people in the family, has impacted me badly. I never could give people the impression that I was a fairly competent communicator. I could never live upto their expectations. When you go on worrying about an impending doom, your thinking gets manifested in reality, doesn’t it? Same has been the case with me. Though deep down, I know that I ain’t all that bad but people in this world judge others by their outer shine and glitter. Unfortunately, I have nothing to show for myself.
          That’s why your email means so much. The fact that there are some people who don’t judge me by my academic credentials, who look at me from a different perspective altogether – is a huge confidence booster. Thank you for being a good friend.
          Now to come to the rest of your email, I cannot but agree with you that writers shouldn’t tailor their writing assuming the reading age of the reader to be not more than 10 years. But in today’s world, you cannot ignore the mass either. If one is bent on making writing one’s passion and profession, one has to cater to the taste of the mass. That’s what I meant and tried to convey to Ms. Wendy. Regarding the ‘stretching’ bit, you are spot on.
          Just like you, I love to watch and read about unfamiliar things and am delighted when things do not turn out as per my assumptions (I am talking about books and movies here).
          Why have you stopped contributing? I enjoy going through your stories. I get to learn so much from all of you. You all are an enviable bunch of talented writers. God bless you all. Happy Weekend.
          • Charles Lilburn

            It might just be me, but I notice a different level of writing in your answers to people, especially in this one to Andy. I had to look back to see if it was actually rnb writing it.

            This may be the best piece of advice I can give you: Write your stories like you write your replies to people. In that same style. I notice a big difference in your stories, than your replies. Because, I think, your replies are from your heart and your stories are from your mind. When giving a speech, I always read them out loud after writing it, and find they are usually stilted and clumsy, not what I want to say at all. So, I rewrite them to flow from the heart. What am I trying to convey without sounding like Jane Eyre wrote it?

            It might be my imagination, but I think you are writing your stories like an author trying to structure everything based on what you ‘think’ it should be, as if you are emulating writers you have read and want to have a voice like they have. I was doing the same sort of thing when I started out. Now, i write completely differently than when I first started, because i think I have found the ‘voice’ I want to use. Try it and see if it might make a difference. Just trying to help you become the author you would like to be, but feel free to reject any advice given. As always, write, write, write. Roy

            • Dear Roy,
              Reading your emails even time and again doesn’t quench my thirst, it makes me thirsty for more of your advice and guidance.
              I don’t know how you find my replies different from my stories. I write both in the same manner. I read your email just before school. The thought of having to write back to you has been at the back of my mind since then. Now I am back, I am doing what is top priority for me.
              When I write my stories, I don’t adopt any different attitude. I get the topic in mind and without any planning, thinking anything else, I start writing. I consider myself lucky that all four stories I have written for F2C so far, have been stories written at a go. You know what I mean, right? I started writing and finished when I felt the story shouldn’t go any further. But you are right that the stories seem to come rather from my head than my heart.
              I also agree with what you have to say about finding ‘the voice’. I am happy that you have finally found your voice. I think Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maughan, Edgar Elland Poetry, O’ Henry or closer home, an Indian story teller, Ruskin Bond, are some of my most favourite writers because of their own individual ‘voice’. But while writing, I don’t remember them or their stories for the matter. I just give my imagination a free flow like I am doing now. It is surprising therefore, that people like my comments more than my stories.
              I am not sure if I could make myself clear to you, Roy. But I have been like this all my life. Once while writing to you, I felt like checking if I could write O Henry’s name correctly but then I gave up the thought. When I am writing the stories, I am doing nothing different. Get set (on getting the prompt)—–Start writing (non-stop)——Get hold of the finishing rope. It doesn’t matter to me if I am the first one or the last to finish the race. The sheer joy of achieving something in an hour’s endeavour, is reward enough for me.
              I will never dream of rejecting anything coming from you. Your good intentions, desire to help me be a better writer, show palpably through each one of yours. My only worry is that due to my poor, inadequate knowledge of the language, I may write something sometimes, to hurt you.
              Forgive me every time I do that by taking account of my limitations and knowing that this man loves and respects you a lot.
              Stay blessed always, Roy.
    • I believe that’s a true story, Wendy! Well-written and amusing.

      I hope Lindsey used the time wisely and wrote a novel/series of novels while she was there 🙂

      BTW – I haven’t read the books or seen the dramatisations. Now I can’t …. ever …

    • Wow Wendy! What an ending. I loved every word.
    • Hi Wendy,

      I loved your story and your clever use of the theme. With the Internet and video on demand and social networking, it is pretty hard to stay away from spoilers these days.

      Poor Lindsey! She went above and beyond to keep away from spoilers about her favorite books in order to avoid ruining her enjoyment of reading, but then the dumbass postal guy at the end did it anyway. I think I’d want to smack him!

      Awesome story! Best of luck in the contest. 🙂


    • Phil Town
      Hi, Wendy
      Very relatable predicament, very well rendered, and as Ken says, you don’t really need to know too much about the books/series to see the problem Lindsey has. This was a nice line (of many): “Then she saw the sheer volume of nudity and realized people would stay just for that.” (Funnily enough, I’m a great fan of nudity myself 😉 , but the episodes I’ve seen still haven’t made me stay … although I know I’m probably in a minority.) The last line is terrific.
      (If you have a spare half-hour one day, find on the Internet somewhere an episode of the 1970s British sitcom called ‘The Likely Lads’. The episode is called ‘No Hiding Place’, and revolves around the eponymous friends trying to avoid hearing the result of a football match that’s going to be on television later. It’s a classic of British comedy – a little dated but still brilliant, imho.)
      • I’ve had this problem with football games. I record them to watch them later, then spend the entire day avoiding people and places where someone is likely to blurt out the results before I can stop them.
    • Amy Meyer
      This story was absolutely hilarious. I’ve heard short stories compared to comedy sketches and thats what this story felt like. Brilliant!
    • Forgetting to click the THING, will cost you 10 demerits, and you’ll have to stay after and clean the blackboards or the whiteboards – whatever!
      A spoiler
    • Ha, ha, ha. Very funny story Wendy. Predictable, but funny. (Good thing I read your story before reading Jen’s comments. Talk about ‘spoiler alerts.’ Hoo-hah.) I’m familiar with the different books and series you refer to, but haven’t read or watched any of them, and your story doesn’t require that familiarity. Just knowledge of their existence, which, as far as I know, (inexplicably so) seems to be damned near universal. (Geographically speaking.)
      You’ve fired off another interesting take on the prompt.
        • Jen,
          I wouldn’t worry. If someone reads the comments before reading the stories, as I was doing, that’s their problem. Why on earth was I reading the comments before the stories? One may ask. (Do me a favor. Don’t ask.)
  • Yiti:
    Punma brought a puppy though I was not in opinion to keep any dog and so was her mum. After long request and with some force ultimately she brought a puppy from neighbor paying 150$. It was very white. It was named YiTi representing white tiger. It grew very fast. In some days it learned to go up stair in the home. One day there was no body and I came from outside. As I went up stair WiTi also climbed up. When I was going down after changing dress it crawled near down steps. I thought that it would like to remain up or wanted to do something there. Then I went up to up stair to roof it also climbed up. When I wanted to go down it again crawled seeing down stairs to me. I thought he wanted to go to roof. I went around roof and it also moved around. When I went down it remained in upper stair. I failed to understand it. WiTi remained there and I provided some food there. Later Punma told me that WiTi has learned to go up but not coming down. I became little sad for not understanding that WiTi was requesting me to carry down with me.
    One of the main jobs of WiTi is to bark when new persons come at home. It does not bark to everyone. If he feels that person is regular comer of home he does not bark. For some people he barks if he thinks that even he or she are regularly coming does not belongs to home by heart. Those persons who like YiTi treat specially by shaking whole body and tails and wants to leaks feet and jumps over legs. It barks with big noise when outside dogs or cats passes though his area and want to jump if he was free. If he is released he barks to dogs and chase to some extent. Outside dogs also get afraid even they are stronger this puppy.
    One day there was some kind of ceremony in the next to our home. It is my brother’s home but it has been rented to others and have become our good neighbor. Many people were coming and going. YiTi was barking from our side every time people going from home but not barking when they were coming. It seemed to us that it was barking thinking that they were taking something from home.
    There one women come to our home in the morning for collecting cow milk. That time YiTi will be in side home kneeled in the post of staircase in front of gate. That woman plays some time with YiTi and then got to kitchen for taking milk bottle. While going back again she spends some time. YiTi become so happy with her. I do not know what exactly she does but I can hear from my room her talking to YiTi. I do not think that YiTi understanding what she is talking but action and affiliation that she express must be understandable to YiTi.
    Once my friend Japanese came to my home. He became quickly affiliated to YiTi. He also has got dog in him home in Japan. He played with YiTi as if he understands him well. He allowed YiTi to chew his hand thinking that it helps YiTi to satisfy itching teeth. Once I had to visit foreign for a long time. I wanted to take Yiti with me. But I was not sure whether quarantine will allow me to take Yiti or not.

    (word count: 595)

    • Dear Nam Raj,
      Welcome to F2C. I went through your story as soon as it was posted. Refrained myself from commenting on it. I know what it feels like to be contributing to such a prestigious site for the first time ( I take it that you are a first-timer here). Till we get the much-awaited, much-desired feedback, we feel as if all our efforts, creativity have ended up in thick smoke.
      I am being honest, my friend, in saying that initially, Yiti promised much. But as the story progressed it somehow, faded into mediocrity, something very mundane. I am just trying to recollect how people reacted to my first story. They were all very helpful with their positive and constructive feedback. I am sure, you will have your moments to cherish as well. Please forgive me if I have crossed the boundaries.
      All the best and good luck.
    • Welcome to the group, Nam Raj.You described a puppy’s behavior well, especially where he was afraid to climb down the stairs.
    • Hi Nam Raj,

      Welcome to the group!!

      I liked your description of the antics and actions of the puppy and the way he reacted to the people around him. Thanks so much for sharing your story.


    • Phil Town
      Hi, Nam
      YiTi sounds like quite a handful! Is he yours? You have a lot of different situations here – all of them of interest. You’re a good observer! It seems that you set out to describe the dog and EVERYTHING he gets up to. I think it might have been a good idea perhaps to isolate just one of the situations (for example, the day of the party) and concentrate on that. You might say: “But then I wouldn’t have enough to write about!” But you could actually begin to invent things for the party guests and YiTi to do. I don’t know … maybe one of the party guests IS taking things from the house, and YiTi is the only one who notices … something like that?
      Welcome to the group!
    • Nam,
      It would be easy to tease you, but I applaud you for your courage and ambition. Keep writing. You will improve.

      The first (or maybe the second) time I took my boat out, I rammed it bow first into a concrete seawall. Lesson learned? Keep sailing, but avoid concrete seawalls. I haven’t hit one since. (Fingers crossed.)

      Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
      Welcome to the group.

  • Plague ship.
    London England 1665.
    As far as the eye can see a pall hangs over my beautiful city. The smell of disease and death is ever in my nostrils; the stinking mist rises from the river, carrying with it putrid humours. The river rats congregate, growing bolder as they approach the empty dwellings.
    Is it three days or three weeks now, since my dear child succumbed to this vicious and unholy plague? Clara, my beloved wife nursed her day and night, sponged her tiny brow and fed her morsels of food which the child immediately vomited up until, sick with sorrow and worn down, Clara, too allowed the fever to consume her.
    I hear the trundling of the funeral cart over the cobbled streets; the harsh cries of the coffin men, ‘Bring out your dead’ – rough men, assigned to this grim job in return for immunity from the hangmans’ noose.
    As I gaze out of the small opening in the wall of my hovel. I see ramshackle doors, all painted with red crosses to indicate another house of death. I think of my four sons, all strapping healthy lads. Just one of them left now. He lies listless on the straw couch, no light in his eyes, the cough racking his poor body as he struggles to breathe.
    What God allows this? Why should I be the only one that this evil plague has passed by? A month ago I had a wife and five fine healthy children. Now there is just me and my remaining son. I sit and cradle him as he gasps his life away. Bitter grief consumes me as I paint yet another red cross on my door.
    Now I am alone.
    The dust motes dance in a single beam of light that forces its way through the musty curtain. There is no one left to share this sight with, no one to remark on it. The kindly neighbours who leave food outside my door no longer come, Have they also been consumed by this pestilence?
    I must leave.
    The open road holds no fears for me now. It matters little if I am robbed, I have lost everything most dear to me. My life is as nothing. I will find whatever fortune awaits me in another country, maybe a country where the air is clean, where there are green fields; such places exist, so I have been told.
    The long road to Dover stretches ahead for miles, I join other broken and helpless souls, some pulling carts, one or two bring horses, most have few possessions left, having burnt every remembrance of the plague.
    The city of Dover hoves into view, the salt laden air a welcome relief from smells and sounds left behind. White capped waves break on the shore and small boats bob in their wake. Hardy fishermen load their nets, their skin tanned a deep brown from a lifetime in the open air. They sing as they work, their movements echoing the rhythm of the sea song.
    Two large masted ships lie at anchor in the harbour. From my vantage point on the shore I can see the deck hands and sailors moving like a colony of ants. Some are holding coils of rope, some climbing the rigging, some hauling cargo, but all urgently preparing for the voyage. The First Mate ushers us aboard from an overcrowded boat. Those who have coin to pay for the voyage are herded to a confined space below decks where we are allocated a small narrow bunk and a single grey blanket. The other travelers, unable to pay for the voyage are to work their passage as deck hands. Though we complain about the cramped living space and the lack of privacy, these men fare much worse.
    I will draw a veil over the voyage, suffice it to say that I am not a good sailor, indeed, there were moments when I thought that succumbing to the plague would have been preferable.
    The sails billow as the massive ship starts to move. From the port-hole I watch as the white cliffs of Dover recede into the distance. Will I ever see them again? The enormity of it all overwhelms me and tears fill my eyes. A week into the voyage the sky darkens, the air is charged with electricity as the storm hits. Along with my co travelers, I cower, terrified in the space below deck as the ship bucks and heaves. The wind shrieks with an almost human sound. One of the old sea dogs points to a speck in the distance. “Yonder is an albatross, if he stays clear of us we’ll be safe.” Old sailors superstitions do nothing to allay our fears.
    The fresh food lasts for the first week, then we eke out the hard ships’ biscuits which we soften with beer.
    Another week passes, will we ever see Calais? Unshaven, disheveled, we loiter in the crowded cabin or venture up on deck to stare at the ocean which stretches on interminably.
    “Land ahoy!”
    Away in the distance the coast of France looms out of the mist.
    “Drop achor” The Captain shouts.
    A pilot boat rows ashore with details of passengers and cargo. A day passes as we wait impatiently for the order to sail. Another tense day as tempers fray until two of us venture up on deck and seek out the First Mate.
    “This vessel is now a quarantine ship. We will remain at anchor for forty days, which is the recognised time before we can disembark.”
    Surely the Gods are laughing! This can’t be happening, after all the hardship we have endured. Two of our number, crazed beyond all reason, jump overboard and attempt to swim to shore.
    Sadly we watch them drown.
    Two weeks into our enforced captivity, one of the crew sickens. As he thrashes in delirium, the ships doctor becomes another plague victim.
    “There is no other solution,” the First Mate announces. “We will have to return to Dover where we can wait until this dreadful thing runs its course.”
    Our hearts are heavy as the ship turns around, our hopes of escape and freedom from sickness dashed. Some of the passengers decide to make the long journey back to London, some will stay in Dover and try to make a new life there. Most of us will wait out the quarantine period, and when the plague passes, we will try again.
    We are a sorry band as six months later we set sail for Calais and once again begin the forty day quarantine. First the cabin boy yields to the disease, quickly followed by the First Mate. One by one the crew fall until only the Captain and I remain.
    “Take the boat, young man, and may God go with you.”
    The Captain takes a torch as, from the lifeboat I watch the flames consume the gigantic sails. The glow lights up the night sky over Calais. He stands to attention on deck as the great vessel lists, then slowly disappears below the dark waters of the English Channel.
    1187 words
    • Rathin Bhattacharjee
      BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN, HARRIS. Normally, I would have liked to read it once more before commenting but the urge to write something is proving too overpowering.
      First of all, you have hit the bull’s eye (the jackpot?) – BANG -with your story , so far as the prompt is concerned. As far as I understand it, the true meaning of Quarantine gets marvellously depicted in your story. After the bleak, introductory paragraphs through which we learn about the narrator’s immense loss and the calamitous situation, there is hope as the ship sails towards France. Your portrayal of Dover reminds me time and again of Matthew Arnold’s immortal “Dover Beach”.
      But scarcely have we heaved a sigh of relief expecting the last two survivors of the plague to make a new beginning, when the ship goes down the waters of the Channel, shattering the last bit of hope. And we are left with the grim realization that when something as dreaded as depicted in yours, strikes on a massive scale, there is no escape.
      I like the way you have made use of history in your story. Your description, language are exemplary, though surprisingly, the only character of some merit is that of the unnamed narrator. I’ll rate your story even above Phil’s “Into The Sea”. Great job done. Keep it up. Good luck with Plague Ship.
    • Hi Maud,

      What a wonderful, sad, deep, awful (in a good way) story! Your descriptions were wonderful, I was right there on the ship with your MC with hope just slightly out of reach. I could feel the despair, frustration and loss encountered by your MC throughout.

      The story rang true to me, it wouldn’t surprise me if this very situation took place at some point during that awful time in our history when the plague terrorized that part of the world.

      I loved the ending and I hope your MC made it to shore. Good luck in the contest and thanks for sharing your story!


    • Amy Meyer
      Very vivid language and a wonderful historic setting! You answer the prompt very well. I thought the language you use was beautiful.
  • It took me until I was ten sentences from the end before the WHO hit me. Great.
    • Excellent, RobT! That was my intent! I hope you enjoyed my story.


  • God! Another masterpiece!
    It’s so beautifully written, Jen, I don’t know how to describe it! In its beauty, it’s more like a poem or a song. I like the way you have started each segment of the story with : There is a dead body beside me…..till the last one. You are trying out something completely new here. I haven’t read a story written so poetically.
    There is something ghastly, smelly and gory about your story at the same time , especially when Ben uses the blood or the tooth for the matter. It has taken me some time to realize that the inmates of the built-in room were not the two-legged ones.
    The way you conclude the story with the song about rats – is sheer masterclass. How does it go? Oh, yes…’Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of rats/ Cheeky and……ravenous rats.
    I am going to stop here, Jen, but Trapped with the song will keep on ringing in my mind endlessly.
    Thanks for the fourth gem in a row, Jen. Good Luck.
    • Hi Rathin,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m happy you enjoyed my story! It was a fun one to write.


  • Hi Jen,
    Great story. I anticipated the ending because of the names. (And other reasons that I won’t divulge.) But the delivery of the story is excellent. Wonderful suspense and horror with a gratifying ending. (You’re killin’ us over here. What the hey?) Just kidding. Wonderful writing Jen.
    • Thanks Ken!

      Yes, the names and a few other tidbits, including the title, were fun little red herrings that I thought I’d sneak in.

      So glad you enjoyed it!


  • Amy Meyer
    The Bird Watcher
    by Amy Meyer (800 words)

    Martinez was pissed off she’d been put in the Vulture squad. No glory in collecting bodies; no tear of gratitude from the rescued.
    She drove in silence, her lips pressed together in a thin line. We bumped along that rough dirt track through the desert and I tried to concentrate on the video feeds. Far above me my best vulture, Carrie, was cruising on the air currents, raw nose flared wide open like a sniffer dog, testing each flow of air for the scent of human carrion. I watched the dot on the tracker circle around, mirroring Carrie’s movements overhead, and tried to zone out the bickering in the truck.
    “Damn stupid waste of time, thats what I say,” Martinez said.
    “No one asked your opinion,” snapped Johnson.
    “What do you know,” muttered Martinez.
    “How did you end up on Vulture patrol anyway, if you’re so against it,” said Johnson.
    Martinez turned away.
    Johnson laughed. “Oh, I get it. Ha! You’re being punished.”
    “It’s not like that,” said Martinez, turning red.
    Like the tug of a kite, I spotted a tension in the way that Carrie was flying.
    “This might be it,” I said to the Officers, and they shut up.
    I watched the feeds from her cameras, as Carrie soared over the desert cacti of the undulating scrubby landscape. She flew lower and the blur of scrub separated out into the cacti plants dotting the sandy ground. I saw a yellow blur on the ground, the flash of a yellow t-shirt.
    “I think it’s him,” I said.
    I checked the thermal imaging cameras and my heart sunk: the body was as cold as the rocks that surrounded it. Carrie dived down fast, the colours and images on the feeds blurred together. My video feeds went black. I stared at them in disbelief for a moment, and tried to shake the screens back into action. Nothing.
    Not great. I’d never had something like that happen before and I couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. But I still had the location of the GPS tracker attached to Carrie.
    I gave Martinez the co-ordinates and she drove the van off the dirt track and onto the rough scrubby terrain, charting a slow route between the cacti. The van juddered and rocked and my equipment rattled.
    “This truck wasn’t built for off-roading,” said Martinez.
    “It’s not too far, look, just over the ridge,” said Johnson.
    We drove along in silence as the truck lumbered its way slowly up the ridge. With a sickening lurch the truck veered off its path and stopped.
    “What the heck was that,” said Martinez.
    “Stupid woman, what did you go drive over that rock for,”
    “It’s not my fault, the truck must have hit something,”
    Martinez turned over the engines again which sputtered under her hands.
    “Nothing, she said spitting on the floor.
    Johnson and Martinez looked at each other.
    “Still got a body to collect,” said Johnson.
    “What about Carrie,” I said.
    “We’re not to supposed to leave the armoured vehicle. We need to call for back up. After Washington— “ said Martinez
    “Idiot, Washington has been quarantined. Nothings getting out of there,” said Jeff
    “We aren’t supposed to leave the truck,” said Martinez rigidly.
    “I need to get Carrie,” I said.
    “And we need to get that body,” said Jeff. “Fuck it, were going over the hill and damn the consequences.“
    “Martinez, you stay with the truck. Me and Bird woman have a body and a bird to collect.”
    He pumped his gun and jumped out of the truck. I followed, less hung-ho.
    “This is stupid,” said Martinez. But she got out of the van to inspect the truck. We left her checking the tires.
    The desert was baking hot. We weaved between the cacti, trying to avoid their flurry looking prickles. I remembered touching one to see how it felt. Sharp and spiky, tiny needles in such a benign dressing.
    We crested the hill and saw a man silhouetted against the setting sun on the ground below. He stumbled towards us. He was wearing a yellow t-shirt.
    “Jeff, it’s him. But I’m sure….I don’t understand….he was dead,” I said.
    “Holy shit,” he said and cocked his gun nervously. “Looks like that quarantine wasn’t as tight as we’d hoped.”
    “Where’s Carrie?” I said, searching the ground and sky desperately. I whistled to her again but heard no answering caw. Then the man stumbled closed to us and out of the glare of the setting sun. I saw three black feathers hanging out of his mouth.

    • Nice one, Amy. A good interpretation of the theme. ‘the body was as cold as the rocks that surrounded it’ What an elegant bit of prose. I felt sorry for poor Carrie.
    • Hi Amy,

      You have written a very interesting story and used the theme in a fun way. I felt like I was right there in the truck with the three of them. I can just imagine their surprise when the dead guy wasn’t dead and their horror when they discovered what happened to the vulture!

      I didn’t see that ending coming and it was awesome.

      Thanks so much for sharing. Best of luck in the contest!


    • Amy,
      Your writing is exquisite. I felt like a connoisseur gently slicing into a perfectly prepared filet mignon. The story practically sizzles. This is the way Alice writes, only better. (You’re not related to Alice, are ya?) One small thing. In addition to the First person MC, you’ve got ‘Johnson,’ ‘Martinez’ and ‘Jeff.’ If Jeff is not Johnson, (although I suspect he is,) then he should go by his last name too. It’s a minor error. (Just like Alice does.) But it doesn’t detract from the story’s overall excellence. Like Phil’s story, and Maud’s, this a clinic on how to write a story. Great plot, composition, dialogue, tension and overall polish. (Please tell me you don’t always write like this! On second thought, please tell me that you do.) I almost feel embarrassed gushing like this over a story. I hope no one else reads this. Wonderful writing, Amy.
  • mark orourke
    loved your story did not realize what was going on till all most at the end awesome writing wording was everything in this story for me you kept me guessing keep up the good work
    love you xox
  • LydiaMarie
    By Lydia Marie (902 words)

    “What do you want?” the woman demanded, glaring down at Reyna. The woman, Timmy’s mother, was so skinny and pale, like a skeleton. Like death.

    Anybody living in the city of Lindbourne knew of somebody who had died or was dying from the plague. Despite their efforts, the plague had come, like a snake, slithering around the city, slowly squeezing the life from every corner, every crevice, until there was nothing left but darkness and death.

    Reyna was no different; she’d lost her family to the plague months ago. Then her boss died, and she was unemployed and she could no longer afford her house. She owned nothing but the clothes on her back.

    Which forced her to do things she didn’t like, things she’d sworn she would never do when she still had a family and a job and a house. But times had changes, and so had Reyna.

    Timmy’s mother stood in the doorway of their house. The siding was falling off, paint chipping, windows rotting. It was a miracle the house was still standing at all, but the whole neighborhood, the whole city was like that. It was a miracle anything existed anymore.

    Reyna lifted the small plate of cookies she’d managed to snitch when nobody was looking at the market this morning. “Is Timmy home? I’ve noticed he’s been sick the past week.”

    Alarm spread across the woman’s features and she pulled the door closer, squeezing herself in the doorframe. “No. He’s not here.”

    “Ah,” Reyna said, jiggling the tray of cookies. “I thought these might cheer –“

    “Mama?” A small voice rasped. Timmy’s mother turned, revealing a child clinging to her worn skirts. Ugly purple and red rashes, dry and cracked and bleeding, coated his face and arms, and his eyes were glassy and hazed. Reyna’s heart pounded as she recognized a victim of the plague.

    “Timmy!” the mother cried, glancing at Reyna in horror before slamming the door in her face.

    The plate of cookies fell from her hands, clattering to the ground as she raced down the steps and to the road that led to the palace.

    This was the fifth time Reyna had reported a plague victim to the crown.

    Reyna stood on the opposite side of the street, watching as soldiers nailed board after board to the window, wincing at each thump of hammer against nail.

    Timmy’s mother stood on the porch, crying, shouting, begging them to stop. But the soldiers didn’t stop, didn’t even hesitate as they nailed every window and door shut. She made to move from the porch, but another soldier aimed his bow at her, barking at her to get back inside. She kept her place on the porch, arms wrapped around herself.

    Earlier that day, soldiers had swarmed the house, carefully hauling Timmy away to the outskirts of the town, or wherever they hauled plague victims to die in isolation, in hopes of keeping the plague isolated. Reyna hadn’t been there to witness it, she couldn’t stand to watch that, but she’d heard the news from the neighbors.

    Timmy’s mother looked up, meeting Reyna’s gaze. Her face contorted in anger and she started shouting obscenities, but Reyna dropped her head and walked away, blocking out the angry shouts and words.

    Forty days. That’s how long Timmy’s family would live in quarantine. Given enough food and water for that long, they would not step outside their house or have any human contact until the forty days passed and they showed no signs of the plague.

    A small bag of coins jingled at Reyna’s side, the reward for turning in a plague victim. Guilt clung to her heart, and she tried not to think about it – what it must be like to live for forty days, locked within your own house alone, to not be able to –

    “Miss, miss,” a voice called, and Henry, one of the many orphaned children, ran up to Reyna with a large grin.

    “Hello, Henry,” she greeted, reaching for her bag of reward money and handing him a coin, watching as he gleefully ran away. This was the fifth time she’d handed out money, and the street children now easily recognized her. She was soon swarmed by a small crowd of children, patting her dress, calling her name, begging for a coin.

    She handed out coin after coin, until all the children had at least one coin in their pockets and they had all run off. She settled into a park bench, absently scratching her arm, wondering how she’d spend the last few coins.

    Perhaps she’d buy a new pair of shoes. The ones she had now were worn and had multiple holes along the heel. With winter coming they would provide no warmth or protection against the harsh cold and snow. She would also need a winter jacket, and hopefully new gloves…

    With a sigh, she leaned back on the bench, rubbing her arm as the itching grew insistent. She rolled up her sleeve and her heart plummeted. A red and purple rash was forming, spreading along her forearm like spidery veins. Reyna knew it was only a matter of days before the plague took her life.

    She loosed a bitter laugh. Fitting, she thought, peeling from the bench to search for Henry and the children, careful not to touch anyone or anything.

    At least the children would benefit from her death.

    • A realistic and chilling story, Lydia, I liked the nod to the forty day quarantine rule – the origin of the term quarantine. Well researched..
      • Lydia Marie
        Thanks, Maud!
    • Dear Lydia,
      I read your story a couple of times and tried commenting earlier but something went wrong with my device. The comment box didn’t appear when I pressed the Reply button.
      Anyway, I want you to know I enjoyed going through your story. Reyna is just like us with her faults and frailties. To survive she even had to work as a spy, but there is something noble about the way she prepares to die. She had the thought of benefitting the children at the back of her mind at the time. The last line depicts the sublimity of her cgaracter and takes the story to a different level altogether.
      Keep sharing, my friend and good luck with your story.
      • Lydia Marie
        Hi rnb, thanks for reading and the comment!
    • Hi Lydia,

      I enjoyed your story and the way you used the theme. It made me wonder if there were people who had to report those who had symptoms of illness during the plague, and now I feel like I need to do some research. If so, how awful. If not, how creative! Either way, I felt for Reyna because she clearly didn’t want to do what she was doing, but had to.

      The ending was perfectly ironic with Reyna herself getting sick. Great story, thanks for sharing! Best of luck in the contest!


    • Lydia, this is beautiful. Wish to know more. Could be a historical fiction one day. I like your language and word choices. One thing, you started a sentence with Which..( Which forced her to do things ) not sure if it is grammatically acceptable. Maybe stylistic.. I’m not sure but I had to pause there. Wish to read more from you. I am new. Excited to find this group.
    • Lydia,
      Wow, another fabulously written story. (Okay, it’s official. I’m going to get depressed now.) You have somehow managed to describe an apocalyptic landscape in a totally fresh way, and developed and delivered a set of complex characters and dispensed with them in the span of 900 words. Great story, fabulous writing.
      (And I owe Maud a word of thanks, I didn’t do any research and was unaware of the origins of ‘quarantine.’ Cool.)
  • David Ferguson
    The last confusion.
    ‘Residents of the Wallarra apartment block today were stunned by the apparent suicide of one its residents. The man’s name has not yet been released but he is believed to have been a resident of the thirteenth floor.
    The open window from where he jumped can still be plainly seen, its curtains still flapping in the breeze.
    Police are baffled by the suicide and even more so by an impromptu hand written death note which has been found in the suspected apartment.
    At this stage, no more is known about the note or the resident.
    Details at eleven.’

    I have a problem. This lett is my psychitris idea. He thougt it woud be benefiil if I wa abl to writ about it.
    It has long bee an inflicion of min. Its not tha I’m illiterte or anythig. I can read as wel as anyon. My problm is tht if I don’t quicly writ down wht I wan to say, I’l forgt. I know wha I want to say but it feels lik I will run of tim to sy it. Its hard to explan.
    I remembr once in shool tht we wer askd to write out our favoute nursry ryme. I choos Jack and Jil. In my rush to get the whol story out, I fel deepr int the mess I now find mysef in. I quote it now as par of my story.
    ‘Jack and Jil wen up th hil to fetc a pal of watr,
    Jack fel dow and brok his cron and Jll came tumblg after.’
    The othe chilrn laghd at me whe they rea it.
    Its like if I do’t quiky write what I wan to say, I’ll not be able to think abot it again and that frighns me. Its funny to hea isn’t it?
    My fater used to hit me whe he rea wht I had writn. Mum used to cry but thn she woul hit me too. I don’t liv wih them anymre. I movd awa. I used to writ them leters but they nevr wrote bac.
    I don’t care. I hav my aprtmt now. Its on the 13t flor but tha does’t boher me. It has a good viw.
    I havn’t realy been out of my apartmet for suc a long tim. Pople wer so crel and teribl everwhre to me. I lockd mysef awy. I quarantned me. It was easir this way. I suppos one day I’l get over my problem. I’ve even tried to writ slowly but it doen’t hel much. My brain stil goes at ful sped even with th blocks. It doen’t matr much anymre, I nevr write. I cry at nigh whn I think of what I’m lik. I askd th doctr when I’d be abl to write an think normal. But they don knw.
    I’m sory docor, but I can no longr trust yo.
    I tried to get a job at the post office once but they only laghd at me. I trie to explan that I coud stil read okay but thy didn’ lisen. I’m not stupid or anytin, I can read. But they al lauged, jus the same. Al of them. I can’t even sign my ow nam and its funy.
    So docto, wher do I go frm here? I can’t contine lik this, I am sur of tht. Anyting would be beter thn whre I am at the momnt. Mayb evn death. I thought all quarantins were only for a whil.
    You askd me to writ a lettr and so here it is.
    I sing a song and evn with its own hidn meanigs I can find mor of my own. I even kind of sing lik I writ. Its frighenin becas the meanig is quit cler mos of th time. Except to thos that ar listning.
    So nigh after nigt I listn to my records an searh for the hiddn meanings to my own probles. But even whe I do find soemthig, I can’t tel anyon so what’s the poit? Even when I talk, it al souds th sme. Like brokn Englsh. I woud be betr of dead, I kno I would.
    Doctor, I thougt you said writig thi leter would help me. I thik I’m getting wors. Any you nevr gav me yor numbr eithr, did you? You wit your elecric sofa and great ideas.
    You murdering bastrd you’v killed me. My eyes fel funy. I can’t se very wel anymre. Ther’s someting hapenig to me. I don’t feel so good.
    I’ve opend a windo, it feels muc bettr. I can hear a record playng outsid somewhr. It sounds quit strang. It also has the messags in it, words whic mean a lot. Telling me sometmes to do thigs. Things tht are terrble but also somhw nice.
    The last confusin is gone, they say tht. And I suppse it has. The windo is opn and blowng a breeze whic is nice. The recrd is stll playg but I can’ hear the words anymre. The musc is light and carries me to the windw, dancing as it goes. It lulls me with it and I follw gladly. It looks real fin.
    Pleas excus my writing agan as I am walkng aroud now wih the notpad in my hand.
    I breathe out the widow, it smels cold and so very difrent. The lighs of th city look so beautfl from here, so close and catching. Evn thoug I kno wht lies beneat thm. I coul walk on ther carpt spred out befre me.
    It dosn’ mattr from here if I can writ or not. They’r not lik you.
    Pages from a book all writn by me fly past. The story is incomplet.
    The music fom the room has stoped. Its gone outsde the windw and I can see it ther, swirling in the lighs glow. I thin I have to go.
    It’s a wanting pull tht has me now. The music and ligts are all and are waitng for me at the window.
    Thank you doctr at least for yor trying. But its been too hard.
    Good by.
    (word count – 1018.)

    • David Ferguson
      Hello everyone. My name is David Ferguson and I have just joined your very interesting writers group. And what’s more posted something of my own. This was quite an ordeal as I am an Australian (no, that’s not the difficulty) living in China, (that is). I will now take some time in responding to some of you entries as I have not as yet. Thank you for having me and look forward to many discussions in the future. David.
      • Welcome David!
        Welcome to the madness!!! 🙂
        • Thank you Carrie. Am looking forward to some interesting discussions.
      • Welcome Aboard David! I hope you become a regular part of our little group.
        • This is a good place for me to interject something that has been on my mind about this place since day one or there about. And that is – where do the writers on this site reside.
          No, I’m not interested in your street address and apartment number, but rather an approximate location.
          For example:
          Robt. Emmett, south central, Wisconsin USA. [ie. Around the corner and down the street from Carrie]
          • Carrie Zylka

            Robt I never realized you were in my neck of the woods!!! Hiydeeho neighbor!

            SE Wisconsin, USA here!!

          • Hey Robert I live in Southern Idaho, about 20 miles west of Boise.
            • Charles Lilburn
              China, Spain, Canada, England, Australia, India (?) and the US. Hope I didn’t miss anyone. If I did, chime in as to where you are. Pretty much a global thing going on here. Nice. Welcome to all the new writers.

              Wish i had time to write a quarantine story and comment on the excellent stories that have been submitted so far. Alas, I do not have time to do justice to the story I tried to put on paper and make worthy for this group. So, I’ll just spend the rest of today enjoying the day, relaxing, reading a good book, spending time with my family, sipping an occasional Scotch, and enjoying the 76th anniversary of my birth. Roy

        • Thank you Alice. I am hoping to spend some more time with you all. I am in China at the moment and the internet is a bit hit and miss. But fingers crossed…
    • Hi David,

      An interesting story. I felt so bad for your protagonist! He endured so much suffering, both from within and from those he encountered from the time he was a child, including his own doctor. A sad, story about a guy left with nowhere to turn.

      Welcome to the group!! I look forward to reading more of your stories!


      • Thank you Jen. And thank you for reading my first ever entry. It’s nice for me to have some time at the moment to get involved in forums like this.
    • Hi David,
      That’s quite an intriguing story. Daring even. Unfortunately, at the end, I’m no more enlightened than the authorities in the story as to the main character’s condition. But I suppose it’s sufficient to know that whatever it was, it made his life unlivable. I suppose the real message here is the difficulty faced by all of those (should I say us?) who are plainly, and irreversibly different, whatever the reason.
      • Hello Ken. Thank you for reading my story and for your eloquent appraisal. (wish I was able to summarise like that.)
        I suppose I have taken some inspiration from recent events, and especially from Anthony Bourdain’s tragic passing. Mental health only seems to be in the spotlight if you are a celebrity. As always, these short pieces are like a snapshot of the lives they contain and we can but try to catch that glimpse.
  • Ilana Leeds
    Some great stories, but this had me. Beautifully paced. Loved the dialogue in Phil’s story and also Maud’s but this had me riveted. Great writing this week.
    • Hi Ilana, thank you so much for your kind words! I’m so pleased my story had you riveted. It was so much fun to write!


  • Charles Lilburn
    Across the lake in Michigan, Grand Rapids, although the previous 40 years or so were in Las Vegas, NV Roy York. Don’t know why this is showing up as Charles Lilburn. May have to delete that whole thing.
    • Lincoln, UK. Come and see our castle and cathedral, and historic High Street – apparently the steepest in Europe. Bring oxygen.

      David – where in China are you? It’s quite a big country …

      • Hey Andy. Mate, I am in a little joint called Nansha. It is southern China, about an hour south of the old Canton. It is also about an hour (by ferry) to Hong Kong in the one direction and Macau in the other. They seem to have very big plans for the area as the development is at a blistering level.
        • David, I hope you are having fun there. You’re working there?
          I’ve been to Guangzhou/Canton a couple of times, and Hong Kong. And down around the coast a bit to Hainan too, where my other half lived for quite a while.
          It is extraordinary around there, with all the development as you say.

          And Happy Birthday to Roy. Enjoy that Scotch!

          • Andy, I am on a career break for the rest of this year. My wife is working at one the schools and I am re-writing some old books of mine that I haven’t had the time to do before now. (Know any good publishers?)

            Sounds like you know the area pretty well. We moved from Wollongong Australia (just south of Sydney).

          • Charles Lilburn
            Couldn’t find what I was looking for, so ended up with Irish Whiskey instead. It worked out well. Mr Jameson and I have a nice relationship. Not too often, but we have a great time when we are together.
            • Belated Birthday Greetings and Wishes,Dear Roy. Thank God for sending you into my life and making you a part of it. I know it for a fact that my life will not be the same again because of your presence.
              Stay blessed to make a difference in the lives of many like me. Love you loads.
    • Charles, thank you for the welcome and happy birthday. Do tell me what the good book is.
      • Charles Lilburn
        Thanks for the birthday thing. The book was Lee Child’s THE MIDNIGHT LINE. Wasn’t as satisfying as most of his stories because he softened him up a little and there was hardly any mayhem, which was discouraging, because I read his books because of his kick ass character, Jack Reacher, and the usual resulting mayhem. But, the Irish Whiskey was good and my daughter and family were here for dinner (It’s her birthday, too, a perk), so it was great.
      • Charles Lilburn
        It was a great birthday. As the years mount up, 76 and counting, they tend to get a little more, ummm, I dunno, important? At least on my end they are. Thanks. Loved your story.
      • Charles Lilburn
        Thanks Maude, your recent story was better than your last, which I thought then was one of your best. I loved you putting me in Plague county and living (dying) with the people. Well done.
  • The library is closing and I have no internet at home because we can no longer afford it. Sorry this is the start of it.

    She looked out. The ice blanket had receded from the frosty lips of the lawn. It had melted on the basketball court, but a white patch remained ever shrinking back from the sharp green blades that sparkled in the dawn light.

    The days were the worst. The coldness combined with the inactivity. At night she dreamt of things of comfort. Her grandmother, her mother, her father and an uncle or aunt or two who had been kind to her in her wretched state. For she had been hideously ugly as a child and time had not softened the edges of her features. However they were all gone and now she was at the mercy of strangers.

    She dreamt horse dreams and dreams of birds flying above the earth. Mythical creatures also came with her dreaming. She dreamt of tall ghostly gums, waterholes hidden in the bush, spinifex plains and sandalwood gorses. She hid among her dreams distant from all.

    She wanted to speak of many things, but she could not. Her voice was closed off.

    • Ilana, how strangely ironic that the last line mimics your own difficulties in life with and without the internet…
    • Oh Ilana! I want to hear more! Maybe there will be a theme coming up that you can incorporate your story into so we can discover what happens next!


  • Great imagery, IIana. I want to hear more.
  • What a great loss to humanity!
    The lass so full of promise and beauty,
    In the prime of her life, and a rarity,
    Was nipped in the bud – what a pity!
    Ruing what’d have been, a story mighty,
    From the mystic land, is one RNB.
  • Patient-Paul-Zero. (1113 Words.)

    by ken cartisano (6-12-18)

    Each of them had been accosted by armed guards in hazmat suits; then detained, transported, and held incommunicado. After confiscating their possessions they were confined in a windowless underground bunker with concrete walls and tile floors. Denied all phone privileges, access to the outside world or any form of media, they had no chance to call a lawyer, a friend or a loved one. Despite these deprivations, collectively they were able to surmise that they were some of the first Americans exposed to the modern plague. The CDC was looking for patient Zero, Paul and the others were like so-many forensic bread crumbs leading authorities to that initial carrier.

    Paul tapped Elaine on the shoulder.

    She stirred. “What is it?”

    “Where’s Kevin?”

    “I don’t know.”

    A third voice joined the conversation. “They took him away early this morning,” Robin whispered.

    “How do you know that”

    “I was awake. I saw them.”

    “Wearing hazmat suits?”

    “Of course. What do you think? They told him to come quietly.”

    “And he DID, I suppose.”

    Another voice, edgy and irritable, chimed in: It was Zack. “Why wouldn’t he, Paul? If they offered to take you out of here, I’m sure you’d go quietly too.”

    “You BET I would,” Paul replied. “In a heart beat.”

    “That’s the only thing you’d do quietly,” Zack muttered.

    “So, you still haven’t had symptoms of any kind?” Her whisper contrasted sharply with Paul’s booming answer.

    “NO Robin, I haven’t. I feel FINE.” His icy gaze challenged anyone else to question him. The lights were harsh and most of them were sitting or reclining on barrack style bunk beds that lined both walls of the bunker. “This is completely unconstitutional!” He groused.

    Becky, a young, self-effacing former waitress responded quietly. “We’re all gonna die in here, you know. None of us is getting out.”

    “They let Kevin out.” They all pondered that fact for awhile until Elaine added, “Maybe his tests were negative after all. He swore he never had any symptoms.”

    “He LIED,” Paul spat. “He was full of shit.”

    “He said he was getting out.” Elaine said.

    “He said a lot of things. None of them turned out to be true.”

    “Except one,” Elaine persisted. “He got out.”

    Paul sighed. “He didn’t escape, they removed him.”

    “Still,” Elaine said, “he’s out.”

    Paul seethed with exasperation.

    “He told us he was gonna do it, Paul. He said…”

    “I KNOW what he said, Elaine. I was HERE. I heard all the same shit you did.”

    Elaine glared at him. If she was a man, this might’ve gone in an uglier direction. His ill-temper was wearing through everyone’s patience, including hers.

    Zak cleared his throat. “That was his plan, to fake the symptoms,” he said. “We know that.”

    “Fake the symptoms?” Paul sneered. “If I ever see that prick again, I’m gonna rearrange his ass with my boot. We need to get some answers. I’m sick of this—this being-in-the-dark shit.”

    “Put a sock in it, Paul.” Robin suggested. After a thoughtful silence, she continued. “Honestly? I didn’t think he was looking too well these last few days. And I’m not sure it was all an act.”

    There was a clunk at the door: The portent of a visitation from the men in white suits.

    But it was Kevin, dressed in a lab coat. Greeted warmly at first, the group grew increasingly curious. Paul summed up the general feeling with, “What’s going on here? I think we deserve an explanation.”

    “Well—yes. You do.” Kevin waited for their full attention and began: “I work for the investigative arm of the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control.” He paused. “My full name is Dr. Kevin Hunter. Would you folks like to sit down?” No one did. “All right. You’ve all been infected with the virus causing the current plague.”

    “Because you gave it to us,” Paul snarled. This was followed by a small amount of mumbling.

    “Actually, my job was to act as observer. Though the room is rigged with microphones and cameras, it was necessary to insert something more sensitive than an electronic device. Me. A kind of canary in the coal mine. Prior to my repeated insertions into this little group, I was plague free, which, I’m sorry to say, is no longer the case.”

    Robin and Elaine gasped in unison.

    “That’s right—I have the plague. As you might’ve guessed, you were all detained and quarantined because you’ve all been infected too, yet you all continue to remain in good health.”

    “That’s why you kept drawing blood from us.” Zack guessed.

    “That’s right. What we found out early on was that despite being infected, none of you were suffering the effects, and more importantly, none of you were contagious. It was as if you were immune. Or so we thought.”

    There was another round of mumbling. Dr. Hunter waited for them to settle down. “The bad news is: It turns out that one of you is contagious, and we know who it is. That’s the reason we kept you here: To make that determination.”

    “Who is it?” Somebody asked.

    “Well, I’d prefer to keep that information to myself for the moment.”

    This statement resulted in a lot of grumbling. When it subsided, Dr. Hunter said, “The good news is, we discovered the mechanism behind the plague. The virus is airborne and waterborne too, sooner or later, everyone ingests it, one way or another. But not everyone gets sick. That was the mystery. What we discovered is unlike any virus we’ve every seen. The virus manufactures a toxin in the bloodstream that remains inert—if not for one substance excreted by certain glands, it would remain harmless. Unfortunately, the catalytic substance is adrenaline. So anything that causes fear or excitement can trigger the catalyst, adrenaline, to activate the toxin, which is what triggered the virus in all of you.”

    “So we’ve all got it now.” Zack concluded.

    The group was glum and silent.

    “How many people have already died?” Robin asked.


    “There’s no cure?”

    “No.” He shook his head. “Only prevention and self-control. Once you’ve got it, there’s no way to get rid of it.”

    “And we all have it?” Paul asked.

    “Everyone but you, Paul.” Two dozen dark and desperate eyes turned to Paul.

    “I don’t have it?” He was incredulous.

    “No.” Dr. Hunter shook his head, sadly. “You’re the carrier, the perfect carrier. Your body delivers the bomb, then your personality triggers the timer.”

    “But I’m immune?” Paul looked around. He wanted to hug everyone in the room, but no one seemed that receptive. “I’m gonna live?”

    “Well, I didn’t say that, Paul. But the virus certainly won’t kill you.”

    • Charles Lilburn
      Sometimes, the best line in the story is the last line. Not because it’s over, but because it completes the story with a flourish that no one sees coming. At least I didn’t. Well done, Mr. Cartisano, Well done. Nothing but praise for this story.
    • Hi Ken,

      What a great story! I had a feeling throughout that Paul was somehow to blame for something but I wasn’t sure what. I enjoyed the back story and the surprise of finding out who Kevin actually was. Paul was certainly the best ‘carrier’ of this modern plague with his temper and distasteful behavior – he was the perfect one to encourage adrenaline bursts from those around him.

      I thought the ending was brilliant. I sure wouldn’t want to be Paul! Sounds like he’s going to end up with a worse fate than the plague!

      Thanks so much for sharing your story, Ken. Best of luck in the contest!!


      • absolutely fabulous plot, it leaves us all guessing until the end. Great story.
    • Loved reading your story. It held my interest throughout. Great pacing and dialogue. Keep up the good work.
      • Sorry, Ken, ( ken cartisano) I just left a comment after reading your story, but forgot to address you. I am Anindita, a new member of this group. This is my first time. Keep up your good work. Want to read more.
  • Alice Nelson

    All Righty Folks! This story thread is now closed and it is time to vote. A gentle reminder from the admins: You must vote in order for your story to count, and you can NOT vote for yourself. Please anyone voting, read all the stories and decide your favorites. Good luck Writers!

    • Amy Meyer
      Hi Alice,
      What time will the voting close? I don’t want to miss it, but there’s so many wonderful stories to read!
      • Alice Nelson

        Hi Amy, I just saw this. Well you got your votes in on time but you have a writer in two positions. Email me and I’ll tell you who so you can chose what position you’d like them in. I tried emailing you yesterday, but it came back undelivered. 🙂

  • Ah well. I didn’t make it in the end … Too much editing to do, too little time – day not quite as planned. Will tuck it into a drawer for later, perhaps. It was medieval, French, involving crusaders, courtly love, bravery, disappointment, a pope not as Innocent as his name, and too many words without quite finishing. Perhaps you can work out the storyline from that.

    Good luck to everyone who was more organised than me!

    • Woudn’t it be funny if they found out that ‘Writer’s Block’ was a kind of temporary virus? Like a cold, or the flu? Or procrastination? Or disorganization?
      “Come Andy. It’s time for your procrastination booster.”
      “I’m kind of busy right now, Mom. Can’t we do it tomorrow?”
  • Great story. I love the way you set up the twist ending. You don’t see it coming until it’s too late. Loved it!
    • Thanks Edmund! I’m so glad you enjoyed my story and thanks for stopping by. 🙂 I checked out your website – it looks great!


  • Sibling

    “ I’m going to kill you if you tell on me.”  I gritted my teeth.  

    My brother, six-year-old then,  did not listen, rather started to bounce around the room. 

    “ I will. I’ll tell Ma that you kissed Kitty again on her nose. And Ma will kill you for that.  You better make up your mind,  Didi.  Ma will kill you. I’m going to te..ll. You kissed Kitty on her n..ose.”   He danced and pranced and with a sing-song tone kept teasing me. 

    I knew that. Ma would listen and believe everything her little munchkin said. To her, he was like a child god, who was innocent, incapable of any wrong doing, ever. The fault was always mine, because I was the older one. I should have known better as a role model. “See he is learning all those naughty tricks from you.” She scolded me the other day when Auntie had commented defending me, ‘She is only two and a half years older. She is a child too.”

    We were like most siblings.  Our mischievous projects always took its peak when mother was not around.  We had known that day that Ma was going to auntie’s house and the afternoon would be all ours.

    Our secret plan was to cook some omelet in her kitchen.  No make belief thing, we wanted real omelet cooked with real fire.  When Ma said that she trusted us to be good kids and especially to me that I was a responsible big sister capable of taking care of my brother for an afternoon,  my brother and I had exchanged glances, plotting when to start the fire. 

    The eggs were already there, stolen from our neighbor’s chicken coop and there was a keen urgency in him.   But I couldn’t find the same gusto. 

    I curled up with a blanket and held Kitty tighter in my bosom.  Her soft fur brushing against my warm cheeks, her dainty bones under my fingertips felt cozy. She looked at me.  But her eyes, oh those sunflower pupils that I was so fond of,  looked mellow and tired that day. She meowed but it sounded like a moaning groan, not from the frisky, spunky, bubbly kitty I knew. I bowed down and kissed her nose. She rose and got off me, arched her back and quietly left. Very unusual. Is Kitty okay?

    I felt my head was throbbing with a headache. My throat ached when I swallowed. My neck felt funny and when I looked down the whole floor started to spin. 

    “I am not feeling well, Bhaiya.”  I passed out.

    When I opened my eyes I found the room was full of people. Doctor Sur, our house physician’s face was hovering on me. The year was 1960, place – Calcutta, India.  Those days doctors did pay house visits and people did believe that if you went to the hospital you would not come back. 

    Checking my throat with a funny flashlight Dr. Sur made a formidable jump, all that his paunchy physique could muster  and then clicked his attache case  summoning,

    “ The child needs to be in quarantine or sent to a hospital.  I suspect diphtheria.”  He nodded with many folds on his forehead.  With a concerned pout rubbing his bald head he left. 

    Quarantine?  What the heck is that?  I came to learn it meant ‘time out’. Total isolation.  No friends, no playmates, no visitors and especially pathetic was,  no kitty allowed. 

    “I knew it!”  Ma admonished, “when that stray kitten was all over her, all the time.…  These nuisance creatures bring diseases, especially diphtheria…I told so many times..” Kitty meowed from the other side of the screened door.  ‘Shooo, shoo..’ someone chased her away.  My brother looked straight into my eyes and then there was a long absence. 

    My room filled with smells of medicines. Curtains were drawn to make it dark. Scary needles were poked every other day on my thighs to detoxify me. My father’s meager bank balance depleted fast, I overheard that when they thought I was sleeping. My cheeks felt hot, my throat miserably painful.  Swallowing anything was out of the question, breathing was hard. Ma kept changing the cool poultice on my forehead and grandma continued muttering something counting her rosary. 

    Several weeks later, one day I felt it was all over and I was fine, good enough to sit up.  The sun rays filtering through the window slats created a design of hopscotch on the floor. I tiptoed to the window to open the window panes and found my little brother was wondering aimlessly in the garden.  He looked so lost that I felt pity. Did he become thinner or may be he grew taller. A strange feeling filled my heart that I had never experienced before, and for the first time I felt I missed him. I wanted to hold him and touch those thin wrists of his.

    “Bhaiya” I called. He rushed, ‘You all well?”  his eyes twinkled. 

    He ran to fetch something and came back with a bouquet of crimson lantana flowers. Then he took out something from his pocket and handed me. A  green guava.  How so unlike him.  How many times did we fight for this stuff? It was an almost ripe guava, but not quite. Just perfect. I took a bite. What heavenly smell.   

    “Your qua, qua..that thing over?   Gone? Can I come in now?” 

    I can still remember that face, that dirt with green guava smell, my little brother in a sky blue striped cotton shirt, his eager voice, all of that, after all these years.  Vividly. 

    And I came to learn that cats never gave diphtheria to people.  It was rather the other way around.  I killed Kitty with my kisses.

      964 words.

    • Hi, Anindita,
      Thanks for sharing such a heart-warming, heart-touching story. I am doing something I may be feeling guilty of afterwards – I am writing to accord a warm welcome to you, during school hours. During school hours! Do you know what that means?
      Your story has so much of Bengaliness about it, you know what I mean, right? Your story or you have made me nostalgic as a result. Those days of growing up in The City of Joy in the early seventies, the mind-blowing fragrance of the sheuli flowers just before the Pujas, Durga Puja at our ancestral home in Central Calcutta…why can’t we retain those days for ever?
      Now Ma is gone. So are most of my elder siblings. Durga Puja at my home has lost much of its sheen, shine and beauty. Sorry for deviating from your story. The Didi of the story and her brother, reminded me so much of my sibling rivalry with my sister, who is just two years older than me. Dr. Sur, even Kitty rang a bell somewhere.
      Thank you for bringing back those memories. Proud of you. Keep writing to enrich others’ lives. All the very best wishes…
      • Thank you rnb for your kind words. It felt nice that my story touched your heart. Yes, nostalgia!
        Looking forward to reading more of your pieces too. This time I did not have a chance to go through all the stories I wished to read. Thank you for your warm welcome.

        I am in the process of writing a Young Adult historical fiction about a lilltle girl’s journey during the partition of India. My mother’s story as a seed you can say, but fictionalized. You may find it nostalgic too. Visit my blog at if you have time and interest after your school work.:))

  • A lovely story, Anindita. very well described, and with a happy ending. Welcome to the group, and stay with us,
    • You would certainly have got one of my votes if your story had been included within the time scale.
      • Thank you Maud. Thank you for the warm welcome and your kind comments. I will stay with the group and grow with you all.
  • Anindita,

    Welcome to the group. A very enjoyable story that also provoked my curiosity about Diptheria and the transmission of infectious diseases between humans and animals.

    I realize your story appears to be more about siblings than cats, but in reality, it’s really about the ignorance and superstitions that prevailed upon society as well as related institutions and authorities in the not-to-distant past: A a rich repository of fictional material. A fact that I frequently forget, much to my regret and detriment.

    On a lighter note, I have been known to tell my various cats, in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS, upon witnessing the various disgusting things that they lick, eat, sniff and chew. “I’m not kissing YOU on the lips anymore.”

    But we still bump heads, rub our faces and noses together and engage in all kinds of intimate affection. I’m a sucker for a pretty, furry face. (What can I say?)

    Yours is a very engaging, entertaining and informative story.

  • Alice Nelson

    Thank you Anindita for posting your story, unfortunately it was after the deadline. I will post right here on this page either, later today or tomorrow the link to the new prompt, so check back and hopefully you’ll have a story for that prompt. Welcome to the group!

  • Alice Nelson

    Okay waiting on votes from Robert, Nam Raj, and Lydia. I’ll give them a few more hours around 5pm MST before posting the results.

  • Thank you everybody for your warm welcome and kind comments on my story. I quite didnot get the rules and deadlines staightened this time. I was also expecting some kind of acknowledgement regarding joining the group but didn’t get any notification in my e mail box though I had submitted the form earlier. Maybe that is how this group works. Each group has its own rules. Anyway, now I know. There are so many good pieces, so many good writers here that it is very encouraging. Next week I’d be able to devote more time reading the stories. THANK YOU>
  • Where is J.H.O’Rourke’s story? I saw she was one of the winners and wanted to read her story. But I couldn’t find it.
    • Mike she requested all her stories be removed from this site.

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