Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “The End of the World”

Theme: The End of the World.

As in apocalypse; NOT a teenager’s lament such as, “If I can’t go to the dance with Roger, it will be the End of the World.”

Word Count: 1,200

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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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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).

  • You may vote only once.
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***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Carrie Zylka 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.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

76 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “The End of the World”

  • Carrie Zylka

    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked here within 24 hours after your posted it, please let us know as we may have missed the comment.)

  • Oh. Well this should be easy. Are we lookin’ for a blackened cinder, completely devoid of life? Or should it be completely blown to smithereens? Nothing left but huge chunks.
    • Carrie Zylka

      maybe it’s those precious few moments right before the apocalypse happens, where the two lovers embrace for the very last time……

      Or perhaps it’s the doctor Who spills the contaminated sample…..

      Or maybe it’s the world laid to waste but there’s a few last people fighting for survival against the evil minion who would wipe out the last traces of humanity…

  • Yeah missed out on two good prompts because I was too busy busting my ass to pay rent, energy bills and food etc, to write. Have to settle for this in the school holidays… looking forward to doing some writing for sheer pleasure again. 😊
  • 3250 B.C: The End of The Indus

    Dear Bhumi,
    Can we meet at our favourite spot on the bank of the Zlus this evening? My heart is aching for thee and I want thee to be sworn to the proclamation of your love for me with the River Goddess as our only witness. Disappoint me not, please.
    The one who pines for thee.

    Dear Bhumi,
    I don’t really know what is wrong with me. Since the moonlit night before last, I can’t think of anything but thee. Thy genuine declaration of love and our first heart-to-heart embrace in front of the River Goddess, has left me more thirsty for thee than thou can ever imagine.
    I’ve the premonition of some impending doom. Today when we meet there at the Great Bath for the ritualistic bathing, I know thou will be there before me, in one of the rooms up there with your people, watching me intently in the bath. I see thee with thine upraised face asking me how I know, right? Easy, I caught thee looking down at me last time with that look of desire on thine face. Not that I minded. I can’t wait for the day we will be together. As the leader of my clan, I have grown up in the area. But after our marriage, I want to move near the watery spread.There a little away from the sandy bank, we will live in our palace. Let me also tell thee that the construction is nearing completion. Just like thee, I have no control over my desire for you. I want thee by my side right now, if that is possible. With all those buildings, there is a new city coming up. I’ve dreams, Cheri, big ones. For you, for us. I want the first city in human history, properly planned. I want it to have the first sewerage and drainage system. Art and architecture with an Assembly Hall to boot. But more than all this, I want you by my side.
    I am sending this note along with some bangles, bone-made, for thee. When thou come to the Great Bath, come with them on your persona.
    Patiently waiting for our radezvous of the afternoon.
    Thine for ever,

    I got your note. I am dying to meet thee too. The past couple of days without thy sight, have been torturous. I am worried about our Indus. Should the thriving Indus come to an end one day, let that day be so far away that our great, great, grandchildren will not get to see it in their lifetime.
    I have put on the bone bangles and the gold amulets. I hope thou like it. I’ve got a gift for thee too, a chest wrapper made of bear hide.
    Dying to meet thee for..thou know what. I love thee with my soul and heart.
    Thy soulmate,

    Dear Bhumi,
    Yesterday at the Great Bath was fun. If thine people hadn’t been there, I would have grabbed thee for a whoosh in the clear, cool water. I guess, some dreams take patience to be fulfilled.
    Anyway, I asked some artisans to come and have our story written. I personally supervised one being engraved on a seal. The story you told me where thou as a bird, have a piece of meat in thine beak, with me as the sly fox under the tree. So that thou can share the fish with me, from beak to mouth. That’s our first remembrance of love for posterity.
    Yesterday, while I was walking along the street on my way back, I’d this feeling again. Feeling of someone prying over me from behind one of those high-raised secretively. If anything ever happens to me, the seals of terracotta will tell our story, and about my dreams for my people.
    I have made arrangements to formally send a messenger to thine father to claim thee as family. Our open air marriage seven moons away from now, will be history. Get ready, my bride.
    Thine till the end of Life,

    Prithbi Dearest,
    Last night I was on a stroll across the city park. It was a beautiful moonlit night. I was missing thee and decided to walk over to thine dream site. I watched from the hill top. It was a spectacular sight with the people residing in those mansions and houses. I tried to see if the light was on in thine room. Other than the street lamps, I couldn’t see anything else. Most of the people were either asleep or in bed. As I was coming back, I am sure. I saw something behind the oak tree. The silhouette of something against the backdrop of the monlit sky gave me the creeps. I don’t know who or what it was but the very thought of an alien on the prowl out here, frightened me.
    Later, I’d a horrible dream of thou being chased by the shiny metal and lying lifeless on the staircase. And everything in the city was dead silent. The silence of Death then spread to other parts. Soon, someone was trying to enter in my room too through the window. I screamed and woke up with beads of sweat on my forehead.
    I am scared, scared beyond belief. Should anything happen to thee, how can I live? I prayed to Pashupati Shiva for the rest of the night for thine health and happiness.
    In case thou don’t get to hear from me anymore before our wedding two days from hence, I want you to know that my love for you is immeasurable, unimaginable and timeless. I know we are meant for one another and will be reborn as lovers till the apocalypse.
    Waiting breathlessly for the day, two moons away,
    Thine and thine alone,

    (NOTICE put up from on a trunk:
    The members of the Western Clan are hereby informed that the sudden, planned attack on the inhabitants of the city of Hind on the bank of the river Zlus takes place in seven clinking sounds from now.The metal weapons are to be collected from the foliage of the oak tree. Though we do not expect any resistance from the pacifist people,no mercy is to shown either. No lives spared. Residents in the bathroom, in the kitchen, on the streets, everywhere, are to be massacred. Victory to the people of the Western clan. Hail Hailstorm.)

    The water of the Zlus is rising at an alarming rate. After the sudden and horrendous attack and the river of bloodshed and ruthless killings, the city of Hind lies silent and still. But the water of Zlus keeps rising, unbeknownst to the victors. Let them relish their plunder and looting for sometime more. Not a single soul will escape the wrath of the River Goddess. She loved the lovers like her own.The dark clouds and the thunder overhead can only hear the water of the river breaking barriers, on ravage. The blood of the innocent will have to be soaked by the bodies of the intruders. It is time for the Apocalypse for at least the next ten thousand years.
    The End

    • Rathin,
      I don’t really think this fit the end of the world prompt, but in a different way it demonstrated that the end of the world has actually happened and been experienced at many times by many different peoples around the world and throughout history. So, in that sense, it didn’t fit into the prompt, it stretched and expanded the prompt. You should be given credit for that.
  • Alice or Carrie,
    Raff’s story is duplicated in his post. Perhaps you could delete one of them for him.
    • Thanks, Ken. I don’t know how it happened. I just copy-pasted in the box. Feeling very low, buddy, with my performance going down by the day. People don’t seem to like my stories at all. Should I take a voluntary sabbatical?
      Will be eagerly awaiting your story. Keep going. All the best.
      • Raffin,

        ‘Should you take a Sabbatical? Hell no. Don’t give the bastards the satisfaction. (Whoever they are. Everyone who beat you last time, I guess—me included.)
        I came in last once, not too long ago. I was so pissed off I hired James Patterson to write my next story and he charged me 900 bucks and only came in eighth. Fortunately the check bounced. (I don’t like him anyway. His eyes are too watery. I don’t like watery eyes, I don’t care how many people he can kill in one chapter.)
        That’s not the point. **Okay—so I made that up. So what?**

        Do you feel creative? If so, keep writing.

        As you can see, I write better when I’m angry, or upset. Oh, you didn’t know I was angry? That’s right, I forgot, you guys can’t see me. You only see my words. You can’t see my white knuckles or gritted teeth; or the veins in my forehead pulsating with pressurized blood. You can’t see that. (Well, maybe now you can.) Anyway—trust me. I’m pissed off, and it has nothing to do with writing or politics or money or food. (Although, I still haven’t had a cigarette since August 13th and I’ve pretty much been irritable ever since.) I even have irritable dreams. I dreamt I was getting shocked the other night, every time I fell asleep I dreamed I would get shocked. Can you believe that shit? I was like,,,, WTF? (Where’s The Flavor?) There was no one around. (No republicans, anyway.) So I thought, ‘Man, I must be going nuts.’ Although, it only happened once, so, don’t have me committed yet, all right? Good.

        Anyhow, (this is not supposed to be about me,) I thought your story was much better than where it placed. I don’t want to name names, (unless there’s money involved) but I didn’t think yours deserved to be in last place. (And I have very, very, very good taste in literature.) I had a couple of last placed stories in mind? And yours wasn’t one of them, so, don’t let it get you down. It’s okay to be bothered, but don’t let it get you down. That’s my advice to you, Raff. For what little it’s worth.

        Keep writin’ bro.

        • Thanks, Ken. You don’t know how much your words mean to me. It’s 5.25 (IST). I’ve to get up for another day but today it’s not going to be like the day when the “Winners” of the last Contest were announced. I didn’t feel like getting out of the bed that time. Agreed, I don’t spend a lot of time on the stories like I should but I love writing. So, the last place was just a big blow to my confidence. I know there were mistakes in my story. I came to know when I asked a colleague ( a pretty one) to read my story after the result. Instead of ‘aisle’, I used ‘isle’; ‘crisps’ were meant to be ‘creases’ and so on. But to be outright rejected, relegated to the bottom, to the last place, was no fun, Jen. It put paid to whatever writing aspirations I might have nurtured till now. Luckily, I was reading a book called “Nights in Rodanthe” by Sparks, especially the part of the story where Paul, the plastic surgery doctor, met the husband of just one of those diseased patients for him, and came to know from the man’s painful account what she had meant to her.
          Anyway, there is something awesome, something enviable about your writing, man, that motivates me. Even when you are commenting or giving a piece ( should I write ‘pieces’ instead?), your mastery of the language shows through, but what is more important is, the mind of a good human behind the writing becomes evident, and makes me realize that I have miles to go.
          I can hear the early birds chirping. Soon the sun will be spreading out its silvery spreads all around from behind the grave, gorgeous mountain peaks. I know it is going to be a beautiful day for me, partner. I’ll have Ken Cartisano’s comforting words in my mind. What do I care the rest of the world for?
          THANK YOU, God bless you. Love you, Ken.
      • robtemmett
        Write for you own entertainment and not the unwashed, non-enlightened heathens.
        In your mind, compare the next story with the last – is it better? Are you happy with it? Did it say what you wanted to say? If your answer is NO, then redo it.
        If you like it and are happy with your results, then the unwashed, non-enlightened heathens can go pack sand!
        • Thanks, Ken, once again. The same message was conveyed to me once by Roy. The moment I see a prompt, something clicks somewhere and without thinking too much, I start writing. I may have to change a word here and there while writing, but mostly, I write on through the middle till the end. Like I told someone on the site sometime back, by the time I am done with the story, all my energy is lost. So, I don’t feel like going through it once again. Surprising as it may sound, I have no problem whatsoever going through others’ stories twice or even thrice, specially if I want to show my appreciation through the comments.
          By the way, Ken, I am in love with most of the stories I write and have this feeling that each one is different from the other. I don’t know if all of us feel the same way. If I hadn’t liked one of my stories, I wouldn’t have posted it here, right?
          Thanks for all your considerate suggestions and opinions. I really appreciate your concern and the time you spent helping me to get back on my feet again.
          With love and best wishes.
      • Ilana L
        Raffi it is only in the doing that we get better mate! If at first you do not succeed in your endeavours keep trying with a different approach.
        Think about why you write. What is the purpose of your story? What do you want to say to your reader? You write from a love of the written word? You write from a love of communicating something important to your readers and you want to involve them in the world you have created for them.
        Writing is an act of betrayal of selfhood. You tear your heart out and lay it all down arteries bleeding out, pulsating before the readership like some ancient Aztec priest in an act of supreme sacrifice of personal self and some treasure your precious gift to them and others treat it with contempt and others will tromp on it; but like the Phoenix you rise out from the ashes and shake out your brilliant plumage in all its glory and take off in to the skies aiming for the moon and the stars. G-D bless.
        • My God! Madam Ilana, I am left speechless, wordless, spellbound! This is one of the best emails I have received in all of my 57 years. Even God seems to be siding with me as I try to recollect your exact words.(I could copy-paste something from a fellow writer’s write-ups for the first time since I joined the site.) Forgive me for reproducing your words without your prior permission first.
          Writing is an act of betrayal of selfhood. You tear your heart out and lay it all down arteries bleeding out, pulsating before the readership like some ancient Aztec priest in an act of supreme sacrifice of personal self and some treasure your precious gift to them and others treat it with contempt and others will tromp on it; but like the Phoenix you rise out from the ashes and shake out your brilliant plumage in all its glory and take off in to the skies aiming for the moon and the stars. G-D bless.
          Magnificent, Majestic, Magical piece of writing. I don’t know how to express my feelings.
          You know, Ilna, I’ll tell you how I am feeling right now. It doesn’t matter if I find myself at the bottom every time there are people writing in this manner. This is just divine, man. The kind of powerful language you have used here is something out of the world. I need blessings from people like you so that one day, one fine day, I will rise up from the ruins and make my voice heard.
          Thank you once again. I got so very inspired by your writing that I wanted to imitate your style and tone. Unfortunately, a crow can’t become a peacock by putting on some of its feathers, can it?
          Take care and keep writing your stories using such powerful imagery and language. God bless you too, for ever. With regards and good wishes.
    • Dear Alice/Carrie,
      I’ll be much obliged if one of you’d kindly delete the part of the story beginning with the line: I don’t really know….., after The End. Sorry to have caused any inconvenience whatsoever. Keep smiling and love you two.
      • Carrie Zylka

        No problem at all…it is done!

  • Roy York
    Just signing up for all the fun. I’ll probably be posting later in the day, I hope. working on several stories at once. Surprisingly, one of them is for the Write Michigan Writer’s contest whose ad is right below that Apocalyptic Goddess in the photo at teh top of this page. I did well and placed in the top five last year, and am looking forward to finishing higher this year.
    • See? That’s just another reason for me to be pissed off. The ad I see up there is for Best Buy! and LG. No writers contest. I’m calling Michigan right now and lodging a complaint against their tourism bureau. Christ! I used to vacation there all the time—dont’ they remember me? I was the guy in the rental car, chain-smoking cigarettes while hanging out the window.

      There’s just, you know, there’s just no loyalty anymore these days. As hard as I tried to keep the smoke out of that rental car, you’d think Michigan would remember me, and be grateful. (Maybe they wanted me to keep the smoke in the car…. I never thought about that.) Well I couldn’t, I’m sorry Michigan, but it would’ve cost me too much money. Being broke yourself I’m sure you understand. Did you ever get that water problem in Flint straightened out? No. I didn’t think so. Well, don’t feel bad Michigan, Florida’s got dead fish all over her beaches. And fish don’t smell that good when they’re alive, so you can just imagine what Florida smells like now, smothered in dead, rotting fish. Not pretty. Not pretty at all.

      But that’s okay. The important thing is that incredibly rich people don’t have to pay too much money in taxes. It makes them so sad. And there’s nothing more pitiful than sad rich people. Like, if they’re golf cart gets a flat tire and there are no Mexican’s around to fix it for them. They get sad. It’s pathetic. It’s heart-wrenching. But enough of that. I digress, and I don’t mean to.

      • Michigan responded to my complaint and informed me that you have to be a citizen of Michigan to enter in the contest. Nice try Michigan, but I’m staying put.
        • Roy York
          I knew that you couldn’t enter the contest, but I was having too much fun watching your meltdown to interfere. Actually, when I saw the ad, I wondered how many Michigan residents did they think they were going to reach? I also thought, what if somehow our two clever tech gifted moderators, Ms Alice and Ms Carrie have this set up so local ads only reach local computers. I wonder if that’s even possible. Probably, would be my guess.

          Funny, I never got cranky about giving up cigarettes. Not once. I do, however get cranky and sometimes a little difficult to deal with – if you can believe that – when my wife tells me that I’ve tipped the bottle once or twice to many. She told me that I become a different person. Well, I said, in my best,non-slurring voice, “Isn’t that the point? Otherwise, why do it all?” I can’t remember much of her argument after that, I was probably sleeping on the couch.

        • Ilana L
    • Ilana L
      Good luck with it Roy. I’m in your cheer squad.
  • robtemmett
    by Robt. Emmett ©2018

    You work hard, save for your golden years, and what happens? You get to age sixty-five and find poop in your punch bowl. The part that sucks is I predicted it. Unfortunately, no one else took me seriously.

    It started all those years ago when I was in kindergarten. No, it wasn’t me back then, it was those darn Russians. They launched their Sputnik and started the space race. At the time, there was a TV show (in black and white) hosted by Art Linkletter called, Kids Say the Darndest Things! It’s true, listening to kids and making life-defining decisions on what they say is not a good idea, but I did. I said I wanted to be a rocket scientist.

    In high school, I was great at math, and did outstanding in physics. Chemistry was my downfall, especially organic chemistry. I just couldn’t make sense of it at all.

    My college counselor saved the day for me. Because of the skills I did have, he suggested that I become an engineer. With his usual dry humor, he said, “Who do ya think designs all the junk that’s thrown out inta space – engineers, of course.”

    Again, I followed what turned out to be less than the best advice, and became a mechanical engineer. To compound my error, I studied some more and earned a masters degree. At graduation, Dad turned his pant’s pockets inside out and strongly suggested I get a job. He seldom gave me direct orders. Actually, what he said was, “The free ride is over!”

    Since I had a good education, I knew exactly what he meant. A week later, I had a job at Taylor Design, a new 1975 Pontiac Catalina two-door hardtop, an efficiency apartment with a Murphy bed and best of all – an aerospace design assignment. Okay, it wasn’t really a go out beyond the solar system project and into the far reaches of outer space. It was a fixture to drill and tap the holes for the hinges on parachute doors of the space shuttle. I’d found my space nitch; creating D & T fixtures, which is short for Drill and Tap.

    Back in the early 70s, 1972 and 73 to be exact, NASA had launched Pioneer 10 and 11. Both satellites carried a plaque. The Pioneer plaques were gold-anodized aluminum plates featuring a pictorial message in case either Pioneer 10 or 11 contacted extraterrestrial life. The plaques showed nude figures of a human male and female, along with symbols designed to provide information about the origin of the spacecraft and full directions to guide the aliens to earth. The plaques attached to the spacecraft’s antenna support struts that shielded them from erosion due to interstellar dust.

    When I first heard of the plaques, I thought of them as British Petrolatum road maps of intergalactic importance. Later, I changed my mind. They were a damn dumb idea!

    In 1974, NASA’s Ames Research Center developed a plan to analyze Venus and called it the Pioneer Venus project. The program consisted of sending two spacecraft to the planet Venus, Pioneer 12 and 13,
    Now don’t get me wrong, I’m defiantly not a fan of numerology, nor am I superstitious (knock on wood), but look at what happened to Apollo 13. Thirteen is not a good number to use. Mayo Clinic agrees with me. Even though the main building is eighteen stories tall, there is no 13th floor listed in their elevators. (They hid it between the 11th and 12th floors.)

    As NASA’s only D & T fixture expert, I designed the new drill and tap fixture to mount the new gold-anodized aluminum plaque. The reason given for the need for a new fixture was there wasn’t enough space to mount the old style plaque.

    As is the usual way government agencies use our money, they spent two hundred eighty-seven thousand dollars and nineteen cents to design the new plaque. The old ones were 9 inches by 6 inches; a nice size. The new sign was 8.5 inches by 5.5 inches and it saved lots of weight.

    The Pioneer 12 Venus Orbiter entered an orbit around Venus on December 4, 1978, and performed observations to characterize the atmosphere. It was a tremendous success. The following year, Pioneer 13 Venus Orbiter’s job was two-fold; first, analyze the surface of Venus and transmit the data to earth. Then, using the angular momentum gained on its approach to Venus, slingshot itself into intergalactic space at four times the speed of Pioneer 11.

    At the time, I asked, “What if these extraterrestrials we are inviting here are meat-eaters?” I had serious misgivings about advertising the location of four and a half gozillion tons of fresh meat marked grade A-HUMAN. I was laughed at. The brilliant minds of the time told me, “Look at how we’ve nearly exhausted the oceans of eatable fish. We grow our meat in controlled environments. Thousands of people daily are becoming vegans. Their civilization can safely be assumed to be millions and millions of years old and had long ago exhausted their supply of meat. So, without a doubt, they are vegans. There is nothing to worry about.”

    That was forty years ago and now the chickens have come home to roost.

    Two weeks ago they landed. They promised to show us cures for every ailment known to man. At a state dinner in the White House, they didn’t touch the wine, the young variegated lettuce, the tomato jam on biscuit crumbles, the burnt cipollini soubise, nor the gold rice jambalaya. The nectarine tart with crème fraîche ice cream for dessert went untouched. The same couldn’t be said of the Woodcock and Snipe on Toast, the Chicken breast, or the Lamb Cutlets. By the end of the dinner, it was obvious to all that the guests from outer space had over-enjoyed the meal.

    After the aliens had left the White House, the secret service reported the president’s two dog were missing.

    In a rare stroke of luck, the CIA had somehow managed to intercept and decoded one of their messages concerning the transportation of the fresh meat to their home planet. The Alien War I was a short run event. In reality, there was no conflict at all. They all developed a terminal case of the 24-hour flu, which was the good news.

    The bad news is what they’d left for the human race. The illness was never given a name, people just call it “IT.” So far, “IT” has proven to be one hundred percent fatal to all life forms from the simplest single-cell creature up to and including man. In humans, it starts with a sneeze, followed by a runny nose, then nothing. Ten days later, Ebola-like pustules erupt inside the mouth and nasal cavity. Every exhalation spreads the disease.

    Pardon me; I think I’m about to … to A … A-A-A-CHEEEEEW.


    • robtemmett
      Questions, is there bonus points for killing the most ling creatures? If so, I should get it for eliminating all animal life on planet Earth – that’s about thirty-six point five seven six gozillion critters, plus or minus a couple. That’s 36.576 with a lotta zeros behind it.

      One last thing; please close quote after, … is nothing to worry about. So it reads thusly, … is nothing to worry about.”
      thank you.

      • Carrie Zylka

        Definitely get bonus points for being the overlord of destruction!!
        And I fixed the end quote. 🙂

        • Carrie, I don’t have the money to pay you for adding the quote mark, but if you can wait ’til the end of the month, I’ll pay you double.
          • Carrie Zylka

            Will work for hamburgers…..

    • RM York
      Good job again, Robert. I think you could have a little more show, or at least less of a clinical final few paragraphs with more descriptive elements than a fact filled conclusion that only summed things up. And, I think something more interesting than “It” would be a better name for your final solution. Otherwise, I liked how you killed everyone off on both sides. Good job. I killed everything off, but you left an opening for some thing other than human to elevate it’s earthly status to the top of the food chain. Enjoyed your story.
    • IT.
      Robert, this was a nicely done lighthearted treatment of the prompt. You set the tone with the first sentence. Perhaps the tone is more sardonic than lighthearted, but it was an extremely enjoyable story, especially when considering how complete the devastation was–for all living things.

      It should be noted however, that Dean destroyed everything, all life, the planet, everything.

      • Roy York
        Yes, Dean did, and really took my prompt to heart. Not everyone did, but I think that will show up in the voting. I only killed off every living thing. But, total apocalypse has something to be said for it.
    • I have to be brief , Rob, as time is running out for me. Been keeping busy.
      I enjoyed the story, especially the ending. It is more like a science fiction with all those scientific and technological terms, not to mention the aliens.
      Good luck and all the best.
      • Roy York

        Well, we all hope it’s nothing serious. The time running out on you thing. Since this is about the end of the world, you don’t know something we don’t know do you?

  • Roy York

    “Sandra, come watch this. Something big is going on. They didn’t even break for their usual bullshit ‘BREAKING NEWS’ banner.”

    “What in the world are you talking about?”

    “This newscaster. They gave him a piece of paper and he looks down at it and says, “This just in”. and then sits there and reads it to himself. Look how nervous he looks.”

    Sandra tried to unclasp her necklace as she was standing there, “Here,” she said bending down, “undo my clasp.”

    “In a minute. Sit down by me and watch.”

    “You watch. I’ll listen. I need to take my top off.”

    “Goddammit, Sandra, can you sit still for just a minute? This could be important.”

    The newscaster spoke. “We have an urgent statement from the White House. Ladies and Gentlemen, Lesley Jannison, President of the United States.”

    The camera shot of the newscaster was interrupted by a view of the Oval Office, but the President was not in the picture. The cameraman was obviously unprepared to go on the air as the camera jerked and showed nothing but a blur, then was quickly brought under control and in focus The flags hung silently on each side of the desk. Obviously harried and with unsteady steps, the President walked to her desk and sat down. Nervously, she looked directly into the camera.

    “My fellow Americans. As your president, it is my unfortunate duty to inform you of an event that has taken place in the far reaches of our galaxy. Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories have informed the governments of every nation on Earth that one of their deep space probes detected a burst of gamma rays of monumental proportions.

    “This burst of gamma rays was a near miss. There was, however, a second burst. The president paused, looked over to her left and motioned to someone nearby.

    “Jesus Christ!” Ray Jaworsky looked at Sandra, his face pale, “I told you it was important. You know what this means … “

    Sandra cut him off. “Shhh, she’s talking again.”

    The president continued, “I’d like to introduce Dr. George Tanaka, current COO of JPL to explain … Dr. Tanaka”

    A thin Asian man holding a microphone lifted it to speak. “The seriousness of what I am about to say cannot be understated. At this point, we have reason to believe Earth could be directly in the path of the second gamma ray burst. In a direct hit, the effects will be devastating. It will take the life of every living thing on earth and will mean the end of civilization.

    “While we have yet to determine the exact size and speed, the world needs to be prepared. In the event of a near miss, the severity varies depending on several factors which we are still working on.” Tanaka paused and the camera scene shifted back to the President.

    “I will not wait until the last minute to begin to protect the citizens of this country. As President of the United States, I am declaring a National State of Emergency.

    “I have directed the governor’s of our 50 states and territories to mobilize the National Guard. Travel will be by permit only. All adult citizens will report to their local governments to be issued identification cards, for themselves and members of their family. If necessary, I will authorize a curfew be enacted. Only military personnel, the National Guard, and commissioned police officers will be allowed to carry weapons. I have also suspended the sale of all ammunition and firearms.

    “The steps I am taking are to prevent unnecessary loss of life and property by those willing to take advantage of those weaker than themselves. If there is a direct hit, then all is lost. In the event of a near miss, it will take the cooperation of every single person on earth to help the world recover.

    “I call on every American to stay calm and follow the instructions of your local governments.

    “Thank you, good night and God Bless.”

    The television picture snapped back to the original news broadcast as Ray and Sandra sat quietly, stunned by the news they had just heard. For the next few minutes the talking heads pointed to various graphs, explained in detail the effects of gamma rays and then displayed a short video simulating what would happen.

    In the video there was a scene of a brilliant flash of light, people falling down, jerking for a few seconds and then lying still. The scene panned away to a long shot of an intersection filled with accidents, traffic at a complete stop, fire hydrants bursting and bodies lying everywhere. There were no movements of life.

    Ray looked at Sandra. “Damn … they don’t pull any punches.”

    “Sandy, put on your shoes, we’re going to Walmart to stock up. If we wait any longer there won’t be anything left.”

    “Ray, are you sure? So far this looks like a guess on their part. If they’re wrong, we’ve spent money we don’t have. If they’re right, we’re crispy critters anyway.”

    “Don’t you want to be prepared?”

    “Prepared for what, Ray? What if nothing happens? What we need to do is go down tomorrow and get our ID cards so we can go on with our lives. We can be the people who are reasonable and law abiding. We can get through this. We can stay calm.

    “If everybody runs around like Chicken Little, yelling it’s ‘The End of the World’, well then, it very well might be. I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you make us a couple of vodka gimlets, heavy on the vodka? Then we can play a game of photography.”


    “Yeah,” she said smiling. ”We get naked in a dark room and see what develops.”

    Ray smiled, “Maybe I should run out for a pack of cigarettes. I always wanted to lay there just once afterwards and light up like they do in the movies.”

    “Oh God, no, I don’t need cancer. Just make the drinks while I change into something more comfortable.”

    Ray’s pulse quickened. It had been awhile, and if the truth were known, he wasn’t sure if things were working out. Now, forced to face impending doom, and Sandra’s reaction, he guessed their marriage was doing better than he thought. The thought pleased him.


    Ray padded across the rug to pour a second cocktail for the two of them. The first had done its job admirably, and Ray was thinking a second drink might portend a second round of passion.

    He had finished shaking the cocktail mixer and turned around to see the naked Sandra staring transfixed at the TV. He smiled, his thoughts getting lost in a haze of lust. “Look,” she said, “the screen just went all fuzzy … “

    The shaker hit the ground and spilled over the rug, as Ray’s body followed it jerking slightly. Neither of them saw the flash of light.

    • Brilliant, by Roy,
      This story displayed all of your usual skills, but what I liked especially was the positive spin you put on the events. The calm acceptance, the making the most of the time left. Your story reveals your characteristic sense of optimism toward life in general, I think. (This can be very annoying to pessimists, or so I’ve been told.)
      • Roy York
        In the first draft Ray is getting the vodka gimlets together BEFORE he gets lucky and sees Sandra in his haze of lust. Upon reflection, knowing full well Ray wasn’t going to see nightfall, I took pity and saw that he had at least one trip into the land of ecstasy. That’s one of the nice things about writing. The writer gets to call the shots.

        I was once at a book signing for a very famous author in the SciFi/Fantasy world. Stephen R. Donaldson, of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant fame, and a disgruntled fan was discussing a character that Donaldson had killed off and let the author know how pissed he was about it. Donaldson listened and then replied, “Tell you what. Write your own story with your own characters and you can let them live or die as you see fit. Your choice. But, don’t tell me what to do with mine.” the guy thought it was a flippant answer and ended up getting up and walking out. Donaldson just shrugged and the discussion continued without Mr. Cranky. I wasn’t writing in those days, (well, I was, but nothing serious) and just filed that little tidbit away for future use. It’s come in handy when someone gripes about what happens in one of my stories.

        I heard this morning that people who have a positive and happy outlook on life tend to live much longer than those that don’t, and also avoid the pitfalls of Alzheimer’s in many, many cases. Good to know, because, like our soon to be nominated Supreme Court Justice, I’m a full keg kind of guy. At least I think our wonderful, totally dysfunctional congress is going to go full speed ahead, damn the consequences, in their rush to change the judicial landscape of our country.

        I know, I know, to the victor, the spoils.

        Don’t care which side of the fence anyone is on, but I think there are some serious problems in how our government functions (or doesn’t function).

    • Sorry, Roy. There is so much to be said about your story but so little time. I was under the impression that voting would start by the 4th.
      Anyway, Sandra looks like a dear and Ray is impressively portrayed too. The dialogue between the couple is as interesting as it can get.
      You get my vote for the top three. Good luck.
  • Ilana L
    Liked that story Rob well crafted
  • Roy York
    I’m sure you meant me, Roy, instead of Rob. But, even if you meant Rob, then that’s fine too, because he did write a good story. Like me, he killed everything. That’s what apocalypse is all about. Everything. At least Ray got lucky before he got zapped.
  • Ilana Leeds
    Yes Roy it was meant to be Roy and auto correct has a field day. My story is a lot more about what humans are doing in this world and the foolishness of them in power spreading around toxins that they should not. No plot spoilers though. Look up 1080 and see a video of an animal dying of it. If you are game, it is not for the weak stomached. A vet had the absolute indecency to call this revolting vile stuff and its impact “humane”. Hers and my idea of humane are poles apart. It is an excruciating death. I would not even feed it to my American SIL who I cannot stand and who is an obnoxious pest of the worst proportions. I think I could even feel sorry for her if she ingested it. There is no known antidote and they are still aerial baiting in NZ and also in states of Australia. Totally barbaric stuff.
    Liked your story as it had a happy ending of sorts despite the dreariness of total destruction. I do like hope and the struggle for survival. I think we all need hope and the desire to survive. Blessings
  • You know, this is actually a pretty gruesome prompt. I mean, there’s no way out. It’s awfully fatalistic. I read a story like this years ago. A short sci-fi story about an alien invasion of small fist sized robots. But millions of them. And the main character knows he’s going down, but he grabs a baseball bat and is determined to go down swinging. To take out as many as possible before he dies. It was a great story. Can’t remember the author.

    I like Robert’s story of the maps we sent out on space probes being intercepted by aliens. I always thought that was a dumb idea too. Call me close-minded if you like, but please don’t invite the alien space creatures over for dinner. Please, that’s all I ask. You what? You just invited them over for dinner? God damn it. You never listen to me!

    • RM York

      Just trying to stretch your author chops and see how people deal with all life as we know it crumbles into nothingness. Should be fairly simple to come up with something in 1200 words or less. Dontcha think?

      There was a famous story years back of aliens visiting earth and giving Earth all benefit of their ancient wisdom by providing things like constant free energy, and so on. They also gave them a book written in their language for them to use except scholars varied on their translations of what the book really said.

      In the meantime, they talked millions and millions of people to join them in a trip back to their home planet to see the wonders their ancient civilization had wrought and inviting them to dinner.

      Right after all the giant alien ships lifted off to return to their planet a famous linguist tried to stop everyone from going, but soon realized he was too late. He had discovered the book they left had been improperly translated. It wasn’t a book to save the Earth from itself, it was a Cookbook. All those Earthling visitors weren’t being taken to the new planet for dinner, they were dinner. Lovely story.

      • Roy,
        I wasn’t protesting in my comment, I was merely whining. The difference is slight, but significant.

        The story you’re referring to was originally written by Damon Knight and was entitled, ‘To Serve Man.’ (Hahahahaha. Good one, Damon.) It was adapted to T.V. by Rod Serling for ‘The Twilight Zone.’ That was a good one too.

        I fell for Sci-Fi short stories at an early age and have loved them ever since. There’s something incredibly entertaining about scientifically oriented fiction, presented in short bursts, that surprises you at the end with a clever twist or pop. I had several ideas for this story, but after thoughtful consideration I realized I had read all of my ideas somewhere or other but couldn’t remember where or when. One story I read a long time ago had aliens coming to earth to rescue us from the imminent supernova of our sun. When they arrive they find the planet deserted, as we were aware of the impending disaster and furthermore, we had set up cameras and transmitters to record the destruction, and beam it to our fleet of ships rapidly executing a planet wide mass exodus. (Now, I’m sure, that someone (speed-readers no doubt) will read this and conclude that the story I wrote is copied from somewhere else. No, all of my OTHER ideas were from somewhere else, which left me with this one, the one I submitted.)

        I think it’s my first foray into second person point of view. (A real pain in the ass way to write.) But I wanted to make the readers the culprits and the victims–not me.

  • Family Planning (Second Version)

    This was the end of the world created in the Sera Park of California four years back by Meena and Manish. Now there is only darkness around them. All expectation dissolved and life became silent. Life is still there to feel deep pain at heart. Flashback started inside of both mind with perfect synchronization.
    In one fine morning, Meena walked to the Sera Park near her home. She was moving around a tree with other few people in a circle. As she was going around the tree practicing ‘energy bagua’, Manish also came and joined the exercise. Manish and Meena were facing each other in the circle. Both of them were Nepali and others were unknown faces. They noticed each other. After a few rounds of walking, the movement stopped. Team leader instructed to do another kind of exercise to release negative energy and then to collect positive energy from the sky. Then there was some other exercise to produce energy by rubbing palm and apply on the body from the head to toe. It was an interesting exercise.
    After the exercise, both of them naturally came together as if they know each other. It is natural that two like-minded or like cultured persons feel togetherness in a wider group. They talked openly about them their experience in the US.
    Next day they met in the same park as anticipated. They walked around the park together.
    Manish asked Meena, “What is your status here in the USA?”
    “I am in visiting visa. It is the multi-entry visa for five years but this time I can stay for six months only. I need to leave next month. I came here to take care of the children of my sister.”
    “I also have similar status. I came here to observe the graduation of my sister. I need to leave in two months.”
    “Are you thinking to come back again?”
    “Not sure, what about you”
    Meena opened up “Actually I am interested in growing my children here. I am impressed with the right of the child here and the environment for development. ”
    “Why do you think so?”
    “They live caring and lovely child life. When they are young, they can stand in their own way irrespective of the position of parents. They can join any college they want if they are capable. The college charges the same fee within the capacity of parents. They can make use of all the facilities they need in the beginning and repay when they earn gradually. The main thing is that everything is transparent. They do not need to waste the time of life for understanding the system. In our country, people never understand how the system works even they are working there for many years.”
    “How old is your child now?” Manish thought that Meena is married.
    “No, no I am not married. I am talking about the future. I am imagining that if I am married hare and have a child. Unfortunately, I do not have a green card here”
    Manish added to her imagination. “You can have a child here even you do not have any status. As per the rule of US child born here will be a citizen of USA automatically. ”
    Next day Meena came to the park on time. She glanced for Manish but he did not appear. She had some thought to express with Manish.
    For next few days, either of them did not come for some reason. Both of them had cooked a lot of thing in mind. One day they met again.
    Manish started. “How is your plan going on about giving birth of American child?”
    “I am searching a boy to marry with me. But, who will marry me here? I will be illegal next month”
    Manish spontaneously replied. “You can look at me”
    The response came directly and so quickly. Therefore, she was embarrassed.
    “Are you serious or just joking at me?”
    “Yes, I really think so,” Manish said.
    Both Manish and Meena informed to their sister about their plan. They were married informally and started to live together. Meena got the job of taking care of a baby. Manish worked in a GAS station. They got a room in rent. Meena conceived a baby. Now their mission was to give birth to a healthy baby as an American citizen. One day they together visited the Sera Park. They saw a squirrel, jumping to a tree. Manish said, “Our child would see it with excitement. You will take care and I will take a clip from this position.” They imagined a possible event in the various location of the park with their child.
    One weekend they got chance to visit Yosemite Valley located in four hours’ drive. It was a small valley covered with tall trees and surrounded by very high hills. Hills were covered with snow and water falling at several places because of melting snow. Meena located several points where their future child is likely to do some acting and Manish imagined how he would observe and take clips.
    They purchased many kinds of toys for a child whenever they got it at the sale price.
    The day actually came and Meena gave birth to a baby girl safely. Manish did not go to work for one month.
    Meena and Manish engaged in growing child with a high level of dedication. In meantime, Meena completed beautician training and joined a company. The child started preschool. Meena prepared baby for school and went to the office. Manish handed over to school and went to the office. Meena picked up the baby at 3:00 PM when she returned after five hours of work. Meena cooked meal and Manish maintained households. They routinely visited the park with the baby. Meena took care of baby and Manish captured an important moment in his mobile.
    Their status is still illegal but the child is a citizen of US. One day they were visiting in the park with a child. Two police came across. After some formalities police said
    “Can we check your document?”
    Meena said spontaneously, “We do not have any document our visa expired”
    “Do you know we need to deport you as per the rule?” Police said
    Meena became sad with this unexpected statement of Police.
    Manish said, ” How can you deport us, our child is a citizen of US and we need to take care of her”
    “Yes your child is a citizen of USA, Government will take care of its citizen,” Police said.
    With this, they felt that the police are really deporting them. Meena said how the government could take care of our child. Who knows what her needs and what makes her happy. Who will take care of her future development?”
    Police said, we are Sorry, the rule is the rule, we understand your sentiment. You have done a mistake. You need to go with us.
    Police took three of them to the office and made formalities. Then they handed over the child to the representative of the childcare center. They took Manish and Meena to the airport and placed them on a plane going to Nepal. Flashbacks topped here.

    • Nam,

      I would like to state unequivocally that your stories are invariably creative and imaginative, but your limited grasp of conversational English unfortunately diminishes the effectiveness of your stories. Surely there must be some way, some person or software that can help modify your creations into something a bit more grammatically coherent.

      Your latest submission addresses an issue that many Americans find abhorrently cruel and immensely troubling. (I know I do.) Unfortunately, I don’t think your story quite did the subject justice, and I didn’t feel like this was the appropriate prompt to address the topic myself, but I’m itching for the chance to do so.

      Never-the-less, I commend you for your creativity and your willingness to address contentious social and humanitarian issues. (It’s hard to understand why separating mothers from children at our borders is a contentious issue, but it is. Because it continues.)

    • Dear Nam,
      I ain’t sure if things were happening too fast in your story or my mind was racing ahead. Meena and Manish met, married, had a baby and got deported within months. The government was to care for their baby, that couldn’t have taken more than a couple of months to be conceived and born, but the world of Meena and Manish came tumbling down.
      Good story, man. You got solid imagination. God bless.
  • RM York
    Not exactly an apocalypse type story, although I guess you’re saying it is the end of the world for the two who were deported and having their child snatched. A couple of years ago I would have said such a proposition was impossible; our government doesn’t do such a thing. Can’t say that anymore.

    Anyway, Nam, I think you need to revisit what apocalypse means: as in total destruction or heading toward it in some doomsday manner. It’s why we do the prompts with some detail. While I like your story, I don’t think it fits the prompt. Fairly well written as to story line. There are a few things I would correct, but mostly sentence, paragraph and word structure because of the second language barrier.

  • Dean Hardage
    If The World Ends and There’s No One to Hear It

    Dean Hardage

    “How in hell’s name did this happen?”

    “The containment system failed.”


    “Ok, it was sabotaged. Our investigation turned up one of the techs was a member of radical anti-science group. Sons of Ludd or something like that. He had just enough access to get into the power system and kill not only the primaries but the backups as well. The integral batteries couldn’t hold the fields long enough and they both failed.”

    “So now what do we have? A blob of dark matter and ten grams of antimatter following it while it swings back and forth through the Earth’s core. How long before something horrible happens?”

    “No way to know. Its proximity to the dark matter seems to kept the antimatter from interacting with normal matter thus far but it’s a statistical certainty that won’t last. Let’s not forget the potential of that total conversion energy release when that happens.”

    “Do you have a plan to catch them.”


    “No? NO? What the hell do you mean no?”

    “As far as we can tell the highest point of their internal orbits is nearly a mile underground and we can’t get to it even if we could track it that accurately.”

    “What can we do?”

    “Nothing. Well, pray if you believe in that kind of thing.”

    “Unacceptable. Get back to the lab and get started on it.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    And so he did, getting every research lab and university involved that he could and retain control of the information. They worked furiously for months to refine their instrumentation and track the errant oddities and to find ways to recapture them before the inevitable occurred. Progress was made and attempts to grapple with the tiny hazards failed, so they kept working. Months ran into two years and everyone began to lose their sense of urgency, lulled by an absence of anything catastrophic. The research slowed, funding was cut until it became a token effort at best.

    He sat in his office reviewing the latest results of a new detector that showed great promise. He looked up at the sound. It was more felt than heard, a nearly infrasonic rumble that rose up through the planet’s surface, shaking the foundations of the world, crumbling every structure. Tectonic plates shifted and mile high tsunamis followed titanic earthquakes. No one was alive to hear cataclysmic crack when the planet broke in half.

    • RM York
      Short and sweet. A little more tell than show, but all in all, an enjoyable read and a nice little science lesson in the meantime. Got nothing I would really tell you to change, except make it a little less tell. Nice story, Dean.
    • Dean,
      **Spoiler Alert** Don’t read this if you haven’t read Dean’s story yet.

      Sorry to gush but, I really liked this story. You have a real flair for authentic science fiction. The kind that’s based on real and/or theoretical science. You could have offered a little more detail on the science end, perhaps with the aim of clarifying how this form of energy works or could go wrong, but then again, that probably would have bored most readers, and ultimately, as your story demonstrates, it’s unnecessary.

      There were a couple of omitted words, which was disappointing. But the last two paragraphs are absolute gems, Dean. Fantastic writing, and a beautifully set up and delivered reveal. ‘…a nearly infrasonic rumble that rose up through the planet’s surface…’

      ‘No one was alive to hear (the) cataclysmic crack…’

      Great stuff. Even with the mistakes.

  • Phil Town
    THE PICKET FENCE (710 words)

    I know I’m dreaming because I’m flying. It’s cold where I am, and there’s a freezing black sleet falling. Below me, the sleet crashes into floodwater, touching the roofs of the houses and making tall pines look like floating Christmas trees.

    There are people huddled on the roofs, shivering with cold, fear and doubt. Others row aimlessly in their weekend boats, going nowhere because there’s nowhere to go. There are bloated bodies drifting face-down in the filthy water.

    The people in the boats row past them; there’s nothing they can do, and anyway, now it’s every man for himself. There’s nothing I can do, either. I could try to dream the scene into a happier one – that sometimes works. I try. The scene changes.

    Now I’m hovering above a small village. Heat haze shimmers up into the stifling air. A tied goat, its ribs almost poking through its parchment skin, grins a deathly smile, bleats weakly and drops to its side, raising a cloud of dust. A young girl, her ribs almost poking through her parchment skin, looks on impassively from a straw hut.

    A wizened old man – the young girl’s grandfather perhaps – scrapes at the soil around the hut. He finds a meagre root and extracts it, shaking the sandy dirt off and placing it in the cloth bag hanging limply at his side. The young girl switches her gaze from the goat to the man, swatting at the insects that want something from her eyes.

    Through the doorway of the hut, I can see a woman, lying on a poor wooden bed, sweating, moaning, blood seeping from her nose. Her arm is draped over the side of the bed, her hand grasping at something but catching only air; perhaps she’s dreaming, too.

    I float up and take in the surrounding vastness of baking sand, scattered with dead and dying and desiccated animals and people. In the distance, the BOOM of an explosion.

    I’m there now, in a city of rubble, with young boys scavenging in the rubble and on rubbish tips, but there’s nothing to find. Another explosion. An indiscriminate mortar. It hits a small procession of people carrying their dead to be buried … somewhere. And the people that carry the people who have just died will be hit by explosions, and the people who carry them will …

    And away I fly, up and up, and up here it’s peaceful, and the nightmare recedes. The air is clear, the beauty of distant layered clouds make me forget the horror, I’m at peace, until another cloud, a larger cloud, an immense cloud, a terrifyingly beautiful cloud grows on the horizon, dark black, and brilliant white, and scorching red, and I admire it until I feel the blistering heat of its evil wind, and I flee to the mountains.

    On the mountainside, as if pressed there by a giant thumb, a massive metal door, solid, confident. In front of the door are men in uniform. They part, stand to attention and salute, and now I see the convoy of SUVs, shiny, black, approaching at speed. A flag flutters on the front wing of one of them.

    The door grinds open to reveal a narrow, fluorescent-lit tunnel, dipping downwards into the heart of the mountain. The convoy slides through the opening and disappears. The sentries hurry inside before the door grinds shut. Moments later, the searing wind catches up with me and assails the door, but it’s met its match; the metal stands firm.

    In my dream I put these pieces together and see a truth, but my dull reasoning begins to fade and disintegrate as I feel myself leaving this subliminal world and returning to the real one. As I come out I hear a sound, like ball-bearings dropped on a factory floor, but continual, relentless.

    And now I’m back in my room, staring at the paint peeling from the ceiling. But the sound hasn’t stopped. It’s here. In the room? No, outside. I scramble to the window and once out of bed begin shivering. I stand at the window and watch the freezing black sleet, crashing into the water that laps around the painted white tips of my picket fence.


    • Philip
      Wow. Great story Philip. Grim and artfully vague, like a literary watercolor. The first sentence sets the stage. Informing the reader just how this viewpoint makes sense. A grand and terrible vision inspired by reality but tempered (slightly) by the imperfection of the dreamers perception. Which takes us to various locations, disasters and even points-in-time, and finishes with an appropriate ending. Quite an excellent story.
      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Ken – you’re very kind.
    • Nice one, Phil. You reminded me for a while of a story by Oscar Wild. Is it some kind of Interior Monologue or what? The thought cane to me when I was wondering about the total absence of dialogue in the story. I’d have like to read it with some more time at my disposal.
      Take care and all the best.
      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Rathin! Yes – it’s a kind of stream of consciousness, I suppose, or observations while dreaming (based on real-life images and fears that ultimately prove well-founded …)
  • RM York
    Phil, my man, poetry in motion. Loved the jumping from one catastrophic event to another and I don’t have a bone to pick with you except one little thing. Just me I guess. I found the lines – It’s here. In the room? No, outside. I scramble to the window and once out of bed begin shivering. – a little jarring.

    It’s here. I scramble to the window and once out of bed begin shivering.

    This works just fine for me. I don’t need the ‘In the room? and No outside.’ lines at all.

    Otherwise, I want to print this story and refer to it as a teaching lesson to learn how to paint the type of picture each of your succinct and descriptive paragraphs convey.

    Nice job, my friend, very nice job.

    BTW I have been meaning to ask. Do you still write for Short Fiction Break? I know that Alice still does. Just wondering.

    • Phil Town
      Thanks for your encouraging comments, Roy. I can see what you mean about that line – I wanted to reflect the narrator’s confusion as he comes out of sleep, but maybe it disrupts the flow a bit.

      Yep, still plugging away on SFB (thanks again for the ‘in’!) – enjoying it!

  • It Started in the Valleys

    “Shaaiit, bloody noisy mongrels, ain’t they Bella?” Jim spoke to himself as much to the brown stockhorse with the crooked white blaze running down from between her eyes to her warm hairy lips. She leant into him as he scratched and rubbed his hands around the eyes.

    Jim watched the helicopters hovering in the distance, their whirling blades slicing through the air. Their toxic payload swung in the big grey containers suspended below the belly of the copters. He could see the pilots manoeuvring their whirly birds down through the twisting valley and hills. Every so often one of the birds would move down to hover mid-air. Then a stream of pellets would be released. He swore.

    “They’d better keep that shit away from our boundaries.” He grimaced and pulled out his phone. The reception wasn’t fantastic but he dialled home anyway.

    “G’day Jules. Yeah, they’ve started. I’m up in the Blowback paddock. Highest point. Yep, keeping an eye on ém. Bastards. Ring Rodney and also the Thomases. They’ll want to know. The other property bordering the state forest is owned by a big corporation. They won’t care. Yeah unless some of the pellets are released over their country and their Angus steers get a gutful. Then it will be dealt with. Yeah. I’ll wait till they’ve gone. Seeýa.”

    From his vantage point he watched the copters seeding the country bordering his property and others privately owned on the edge of the state forest, for two hours. Back and forth they went, sometimes closer and then the thrumming copters would move over the horizon and the sound would fade a barely audible hum.

    Finally he swung his leg over Bella’s broad rump and rode at a fast trot to the homestead nestled halfway down a hill near the south western edge of their 160 hectare farm.

    Julia was hanging out the washing with their ten year old daughter Sonia. Their five year twin boys Harry and Jarman were in the tree house just north of from the verandah of their house. Jim had decided not to close in the verandah on the south eastern aspect, as it was from this direction the winds and rain came in the cold winter months straight off the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. They had built the house of hay bales and rendered the walls to make a house that was warm in winter and cold in the summer. Jim had built a dairy and stables that you could reach from the house through a covered walkway from the south-east. All the animals could be stabled in inclement weather and the court yard was a safe playground for their children.

    He dismounted easily letting the reins drop as both Harry and Jarman trotted over to take Bella to the stables.
    “Did ya lock the dogs up?”

    Julia nodded, a mouth full of pegs making a spoken reply impossible.
    “Dad, why are they doing it again? Didn’t we tell them? We took all those pictures; don’t they understand what they’re doing?”

    Sonia had tears in her eyes. Jim put a hand on her shoulder and pulled her towards him in a consolatory hug. Julia finished pegging and came to stand by her husband.

    “It’s disgusting. Not only inhumane, it is not as effective as they make out. Bloody stuff! Where are they baiting mainly?”
    “Over to the north. On the mountain and in the valley.”

    “Well, then we’d better move the stock for the next week. The goats are already penned? I’ll take the boys on the quad and get the cattle in. We shall have to hand feed ‘em hay for the next week.”

    “Make it two to be sure. Unless it rains of course. But, we do not want a repeat of last time.” Julia’s mouth was set in a grim line.

    Later that night the kids were in bed, then they talked. The stock had been locked into the stables or camped out in the big acre courtyard surrounded by the stables and work sheds.

    “I don’t like it Jim. What do they think they are doing? We’ve given them proof of the devastation of the last drop. 1080 is not nice. That government vet getting up and spouting on about how humane this stuff is for pest control – she and the rest of us have completely different versions of what the word “humane” means.”

    “I know Jules. We’re going to get a few landowners together and we need to petition for the drops to be stopped.” Jim sighed. “But maybe it all goes far higher than we’d like to think?”

    “All this 1080 baiting is not as effective as they say it is. Why’re they continuing?”

    Jim grimaced, thinking of what they would find out in the paddocks in the coming days.

    Two days later he had made Sonia and the boys stay behind with Jules in the house. Rodney Jones, Alan Thomas and his son Brian came with him as they rode through the hills viewing the devastation on the 1080 drop.

    Does twisted in unnatural poses. They had counted so far over one hundred deer scattered over the valley, with nearly as many fawns that had ingested the poison through feeding off dead or dying mothers. The pink mucus of their lungs blown out and visible spouted like fleshy flowers from the animal’s nostrils; the ground near their hooves churned by their dying threshing was a testimony to the ‘humanity’ of their demise.

    The stags used their spreading antlers to rip and disembowel themselves in their efforts to escape the excruciating pain that tore at their entrails. Native possums used sharp claws. The birds simply curled up and died, their heads bent and their songs silenced.

    After one day’s trek the men returned with a mass of photographic evidence to build their case to the Government Departments that oversaw this devastation. They sent off petitions and held vigils outside offices for several years. The drops continued. The concentrations of 1080 rose and sometimes the helicopters went off course. Waterways were contaminated and so were the food sources for herbivores, carnivores and omnivores alike.


    Thirty-five years later, Sonia remembered her father. By this time, she had married and had had three children who had died young. Many children had died young in the beginning or were born with a disability that crippled them.

    She remembered her father talking to her mother.

    “They really don’t know what they’re doing Jules, do they? They say it’s a natural poison and it breaks down, but to what? What about the build-up in the environment. Something’s got to give.”

    And it did. In the last ten years so many cancers, and so many illnesses they could not control. Millions died before they started to understand.
    She and some friends left the dying city and journeyed back to the silent farm. No birds sang. No wildlife ran through the overgrown bushland. Man’s poison had done its work in ridding the world of animal pests, except for the greatest threat to all animal life. Sonia and her friends waited and wasted away, their food sources blighted in the final days.

    • Roy York
      Ilana, you had me in the first paragraph, and I followed the story eagerly wondering when you were going to kill everyone off. You are such a very good writer, I was surprised that the ending fell so flat for me. I think with a little rework, you might have the best story of the bunch. Now, I have to make some decisions as to who makes the cut.

      Heres your last paragraph.

      And it did. In the last ten years so many cancers, and so many illnesses they could not control. Millions died before they started to understand.

      She and some friends left the dying city and journeyed back to the silent farm. No birds sang. No wildlife ran through the overgrown bushland. Man’s poison had done its work in ridding the world of animal pests, except for the greatest threat to all animal life. Sonia and her friends waited and wasted away, their food sources blighted in the final days.

      And here’s one way to fix it, I think.

      Her parents were right. The last ten years brought so much illness that millions died; only then did the authorities realize there may be no return from the damage of 1080.

      Sonia and her friends made their way back to the farm for one last look. They saw no wildlife running carefree through the overgrown bushland. One of Sonia’s friends remarked, “Remember when you couldn’t walk ten feet without hearing the birds whistling warnings to each other? Now, you can’t hear a damn thing.”

      Sonia’s voice was weak, and harsh. “Drink your coffee, it’s the last of it. There’s no more to eat, either and no place to get any that isn’t blighted. You can go on, but I’m making my last stand here. This is the place I was born, and it’ll be the place I die.”

      There was no one left to look for them, so there was no one to find the bodies that lay decomposing in the gathering darkness.

      Not trying to write for you, but I was really bummed with your final narration when the rest of the story was so damn vibrant I could feel it. I’m sure you could do a much better job than I in giving the ending some completion or a final kick. Otherwise, i friggin’ loved it.

      • Ilana L
        Yes Roy you are right. I wrote in a hurry and in the rereading the ending is flat. It needs dialogue and show not tell. You are so right. I may do a bit of a rewrite and put it in my deep editing drawer. LOL You have given me some ideas which is why I love the honest appraisals that we all get here. It may not be always what we would like to hear, but it is honest constructive criticism. Thanks mate. 🙂
        • Roy York
          I remember when I first started writing and I would give my work to friends and family. Occasionally I would get something from someone that said, “How do I tell you this, because I don’t want to hurt your feelings. Your story didn’t do anything for me. Here’s why. Then, they would proceed to detail why. I loved it because I learned so much. I leaned how to be a better writer.

          Being critical without being constructive is no help. So, I have stopped giving my stories to people who simply hand it back and say, “Wow, that’s really good.” And I say, “Thanks, what did you like about it? or Who is your favorite character?” and they can’t answer you.

          I was being totally honest with you, as you are with me when I write, and I think that’s what makes this site endure. We have a couple of writers who need to listen more and accept what they hear, but, it’s their choice. Until they learn that, they will stay in stasis. I don’t pretend to be Ernest Hemingway, but I can be RM York, and maybe one day, that will be good enough if I keep writing and keep learning to write better.

    • How I wish I could give your story another reading, Ilana. Voting will be over by the time I’ve some free time tomorrow, otherwise, I’ll have kept it for a second reading. The characterization of Jim and Julia makes the story even more intriguing.
      Sorry, it will be improper for me to try comment anything more. Stay blessed, always.
    • Ilana,

      I thought I posted this earlier today but I don’t see it. So if it shows up twice, you’ll know what happened.

      Your story was one of my favorites this week. The writing was excellent. (In spite of all of those ‘Australian Outback Farm Country Terms’ you used. Very well written, the steady and increasing flow of increasingly bad news builds so gradually that I couldn’t see where you were going with it. (This despite knowing the prompt.) I guess it’d be more accurate to say I didn’t see how you were going to get there. But you did, and you did it with such brevity that it definitely comes across as the reveal.

      I also felt a bit of a let down at the end, as Roy mentioned, but felt that it was appropriate. After all, it’s the end of the world. Almost like an illusion that goes up in smoke. It’s a really good, very engaging story.

      BTW, I googled 1080 in various different ways but was unable to get a hit on anything referring to anything other than video resolution. I’ll have to try it again using more intelligent or specific search terms.

  • The Football.
    By Ken Cartisano
    (1194 words.)

    You’re a bartender, working the day shift in Washington D.C. and it’s a pretty classy establishment not too far from the beltway. You see a few characters from time to time, and that’s what this guy looks like as he shuffles in from the steamy afternoon heat, a character, a guy with a story. He plops himself down on the second barstool and orders a double shot of whisky. Downs it in one swift motion and demands another.

    You give him the stink-eye, cause you don’t like assholes at any time of day. He swivels around and looks at the entrance, and that’s when you notice there’s a couple of suits hanging out by the front door. They look like, hell, they ‘smell’ like Secret Service.

    Your only customer turns and grunts. “I’m surprised they don’t want to have a drink with me,” he says, and drops a c-note, a hundred-dollar bill on the bar. A c-note in the nation’s capital is about as interesting as a pig at a barbeque.

    “Another?” You say.

    “Yeah.” He says.

    You pour him another, but try to keep your distance. You pretend like you have to clean and dry every glass behind the bar, otherwise, you’ll be a captive audience to yet another drunken asshole in a town full of assholes. It doesn’t work. He wants to get chummy. When you deliver his change he pushes it back at you. “Keep it,” he says, and “Good luck spending it.”

    His cryptic remark piques your curiosity but you keep polishing glasses. There’s a T.V. behind the bar. The volume is kept low. An attractive blonde weather person appears to be warning of an impending heat wave, in high heels.

    He catches you looking at him and shakes his head, as if he feels sorry for you. “You ever hear of ‘the football?” He says.

    You shrug.

    “It’s slang,” he says, “a euphemism for the briefcase that carries the nuclear launch codes.”

    The two Secret Service agents seem oblivious to you and your customer, but they still make you nervous.

    “That’s my job.” He says, “The guy that carries the briefcase. You ever see it?”

    Now that you think about it, you remember seeing a guy, with the President, every now and then, the guy attached to the briefcase with handcuffs. Sure. You remember that now. And he can see the recollection on your face as it dawns on you.

    “Yeah,” he says. “I’m that guy.” He downs the rest of his drink. “Well, one of ‘em, anyway. I can’t say how many of us there are, but suffice it to say, I’m not the only one.”

    He wants another drink and peels another c-note off a roll of cash and slaps it on the bar.

    You select a fresh glass and pour him another double. Instead of picking up his drink, he invites you to come closer. You’re not sure you want to. Maybe he’s crazy. But you’re a bartender, so you lean on the bar and feign interest.

    He says, “The other day, completely out of the blue, the President says to me, ‘Open the briefcase. I want to see the button.”

    And I say, “The button Mr. President?”

    “Yeah. I wanna see the button,’ he says. ‘Go ahead, open the briefcase.”

    “With all due respect sir, there’s no button in the briefcase,’ I say. ‘It’s just numbers.”

    “So he says, ‘Okay, even better. Let’s see the numbers.”

    “The numbers Mr. President?”

    And he does that thing he does, that little tantrum. “Yeah, the numbers, the numbers. I wanna see the numbers.”

    “You mean the authentication codes?”

    At this point, the man reaches for his drink, and you notice he’s sweating, but the A/C is set at a comfy 70 degrees. He takes a sip and continues his story. “So that’s what he wants, you know? He wants to see the nuclear authentication codes, except that he keeps calling them the nuclear authorization codes. Like he’s stupid or his brain is stuck. Something, maybe he’s got Alzheimer’s, I don’t know.” He mimics the President’s voice. “The authorization codes, the authorization codes. I just want to see the authorization codes. Is that too much to ask?”

    “So there I am, trying to discourage him. I’m trying to talk him out of it. The President of the fucking United fucking States! I’m trying to explain that you don’t look at the codes unless you’re going to use them. ‘They’re secret,’ I say, ‘unless and until someone wants to launch a nuclear strike.’ I tell him they don’t mean anything, they’re just numbers that have to match someone else’s numbers but I can tell that he doesn’t get it. He thinks of them as if they’re baseball cards, or a deck of playing cards with naked women on them.

    “I tried reasoning with him,” he continues. “I said, ‘Mr. President, think of the nuclear arsenal as a beautifully restored 1957 Chevy on a trailer.’ ‘I’m a Ford man,’ he says. Can you believe it? I’m trying to explain to this moron, The President, how not to accidentally start world war three, and he interrupts me to make sure I know what kind of fuckin’ car he likes.”

    At this point, you reach under the bar, locate a glass and pour yourself a shot of the good stuff. You tip it a little further and make it a double. And your solitary customer says, “Yeah, you’re gettin’ the picture now, ain’t ya? But let me continue.”

    “So I say, that’s nice Mr. President. So you have a 1957 FORD on the trailer. Before you can use the car you have to get it off the trailer. To prove that you’re entitled to use the car, or, in this case, the nation’s nuclear missiles, you read the numbers in this brief case, and they’ll match the VIN numbers on the car. You see what I’m saying, Mr. President?”

    At this point, the guy frowns and looks at you suspiciously, as if he’s wondering if maybe you’re an alien, or a Russian spy.

    But you’re not, you’re a true-blue American, and you’re sympathetic, you raise your glass, he raises his, and you clink them together. You both finish your drinks and you retrieve the bottle and slowly, carefully, refill both of your glasses while he continues his story. “So finally I say, ‘Look, Mr. President, I’m not going to show you the codes…’ I paused, okay? And I spoke very slowly so he’d understand me, and I said, ‘I’m not going to show you the codes Mr. President, if you’re not going to launch the missiles.’ And he gets this idiotic grin on his face. He uses it a lot, whenever he thinks he’s being cute, or clever. And he says, ‘I might. You never know, I might.’

    “The President’s an idiot,” he says.

    You stare at your customer, who’s staring at his drink as if it’s a band-aid and he’s just had brain surgery. (It won’t help but it’s better than nothing.) You open your mouth to explain why he’s wrong, and that’s when you hear the wail of the air-raid sirens.

    • Roy York
      Ken, loved the second person, you did it well. I actually like writing with it from time to time, and it can do wonders in descriptive phrases and dialogue. Both of which you did very well.

      Your use of using a current time line, with a current administration situation was well done, no matter which side of the fence the readers may sit on. Well, there may be a few members of a certain base who might object to calling the President in any time line an idiot, but those people feel that the rest of the world’s population are idiots except them. They are wrong, of course, but trying to use logic to explain something doesn’t apply. I get myself all twisted up trying to understand, so I quit trying.

      Loved the story, because I feel it’s plausible, and certainly possible, and not a stretch at all, which, of course, scares the bejesus out of me. I haven’t had to worry about sitting at my desk and when I see the flash put my head between my legs and wait for the end to come since 5th grade, and that was in 1953. I may have to start thinking about it again.

      You had a very good ending, and I enjoyed the read very much. Didn’t know they called the briefcase ‘the football’, so I learned something, and I assume there’s a really good reason for it. Good story, man.

      • Alternative Wisdom.

        Hey, thanks for the comments Roy. There was a real dearth of feedback on this prompt’s stories.

        I doubt that this story will fair well in the competition. Some will love it, the rest will hate it. (I guess.) Maybe ‘love’ is a little too strong a word. I throw that one around a lot, maybe I should be a little more restrained.

        I don’t know if you got the Presidential warning message yesterday, but I was standing next to Kim when her phone started beeping obnoxiously, and when she read, “Presidential Alert?,” I nearly had a cow. I was like—‘Oh no, no, no, no, no. This life imitating art shit has gone too far. This is not happening.’ (Of course, thankfully it wasn’t happening. But what really is happening, is not much better. So…) No, I don’t expect this story will resonate well with certain otherwise perfectly intelligent and rational people. And that’s a shame because unlike some folks, I write to entertain people, not for my own benefit or satisfaction. (That, and to make butterfly’s cry.)

        I once knew a girl who told me that she formerly worked for an ad agency, whose director was so funny, that when the management staff took her to lunch one afternoon, she had ordered chicken noodle soup. And the director said something so funny while she was eating her soup that a noodle came out of her nose. And from that day forward, she was christened as, and always referred to as – ‘Old Noodle Nose.’

        She then proceeded to inform me that I was ALMOST as funny as that guy. (Women. They really know how to get to us, don’t they?) “ALMOST!” I thundered. “Almost?”

        Since that moment in non-fictional semi-historical time, her story, and that physical response to humor, though it represents a lofty goal, is my load-stone, my over-arching mission in life. The ambition, the impossible dream, to make as many people as possible eject harmless foodstuffs out of their noses (or mouths) at the most inopportune moments possible. (This is also why I often wear cheap, disposable clothes.)

        That’s my life’s work, Roy. To rise to that standard of comedy as often as possible. I know, I know, I often fall far short of that mark. But it’s all about the journey isn’t it. Or as my great Grandfather Gort would say… “Journey, Schmurney, I like BEING at the bar, not the trip there.” Okay, Gort’s philosophy doesn’t really apply, but I like to think of it as ‘alternative wisdom.’

    • Ken, this is the first time I have read a Second Person Narrative. I read about it during my college days but didn’t get to read anything related to what is believed to be the most difficult of the PoVs. So, thanks for this unique experience. I also like the characters of the bartender and the briefcase-carrier.
      The language as well as the dialogue is masterclass. I have this feeling that you don’t care two hoots about your own unique creation, the President. But he turns out to be a very realistic, believable character in the end. The way you conclude the story is also admirable.
      Take care. God bless.
  • One comments for all

    I was interested to know about the end of the world. Carrie asked writers to express their views. I listen to them all. They were not allowed to express their views in shortcut hence I went through whole story scanning how actually the world ended for them. My understanding:
    Rathin: I do not want to think about the end of the world. I just want to think about keeping love between Prithibi (earth) and Bhumi (Land) until the end of the world that happens with the end of the Indus.

    Robt: It is the “IT” that is capable of spreading a communicable disease to kill everyone and make the end of lives in the planet. In another side, vegan keep lives on.

    Roy: End of the world occurs by the burst of the gamma rays. It is not that gamma rays make the end of the world, before that common sense of people, mainly decision makers end that ends the world. But you can prevent yourself seeing the end of the world by the application of cocktail on your glass

    Nam: Everyone has his or her own world. For them, the world ends when the world they created on their mind ends. Like the world of Meena and Manish ended when they were deported.

    Dean: It is a matter of research. No research says exactly how and when it ends. If it has to end it ends and there will be no one to hear and say about it. Hence, we can just imagine and write imagination about the end of the world.

    Phil: There is no end of the world. You can just switch one from other. You can switch to dream to end the real world and come back to real one to end dreamy one. (World ends when the dream ends nobody knows which is real and which is real)

    Ilina: End of the world starts from parts. Like, it happened a valley due to the rise in the concentration of 1080 poison drops, which resulted, into the destruction of sources of foods.
    Ken: He started to answer with football in the hand. I did not notice when football fall and the world ended. I slept before the world ended.

    • Nam,
      Gee Nam. I’m sorry that my story affected you like a sedative. Does this mean you’re not a sports fan? I was hoping to create a little suspense and some tension, so it comes as a bit of a disappointment that I failed so completely that you fell asleep.

      Despite that disappointment, I wanted to tell you that I always enjoy your ‘all-for-one critiques’ and I encourage you to do them as often as possible. Nothing like a good, brief, humorous summation. I actually invented this a few years ago. I think I called them ‘Quicky Critiques.’ I suggest you call yours ‘Quirky Critiques.’ But it’s just a suggestion. It’s all good. No worries, mate.

      Perhaps in my next story I’ll sprinkle little subliminal ‘wake-up Nam’s’ throughout the narrative. (Although I can’t imagine how I would do that but… we’ll see.)

      • Dear Ken, Thank you for reading my summary. I think I did wrong by not reading your story seriously. You took it positively thanks for that. You inspired me to write summary and enjoy story in other way. I will continue it.
  • Alrighty folks, this story thread is now closed, and it is time to vote. Please make sure to read each story first.

    You must vote in order for your story to count, and you can not vote for yourself. Also, you may not vote for one person in more than one of the 1st through 5th place categories. Good luck writers, and thank you for participating!

  • Alice Nelson

    Waiting for Robert, Dean, and Rathin’s votes 🙂

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