Last Line Contest “Night Becomes Day””
Theme: Last Line Contest
Your story must end with the line, “As night became day, he started to understand the truth.”
Word Count: 1,200
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All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.
Story Submission Rules:
- One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
- Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
- Stories must fit into a single comment box and must stay within the word limit set for each contest.
Voting starts Wednesday morning at 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 5:00am AEDT and ends the same time on Thursday / 5:00am AEDT.
- You may vote only once.
- You cannot vote for yourself.
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.
The writing prompt for October 15, 2020, will be chosen by Robert Emmett.
86 thoughts on “Last Line Contest “Night Becomes Day”””
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I.e. “As night became day, he/she started to understand …”
959 words. 11/12/20
Despite a sudden influx of hungry patrons, the restaurant was eerily quiet. The waitress whisked herself over to their booth and topped off his cup with fresh coffee. She didn’t hang around to make conversation.
“I can’t imagine where they all went,” he said.
“Maybe it was something you said,” she offered with a hint of mirth. “Maybe they were murdered.” She added.
“No.” He scowled. “Be serious.”
“I am serious,” she said. “Is that impossible?”
“A bunch of writers? Who would murder a bunch of writers?”
“A disgruntled reader?”
He snorted. “They live in different states, different countries.”
“So, he’d have to be more than disgruntled.”
“Why? How so?”
“He’d have to be highly motivated, with unlimited resources, and more than just disgruntled.”
“Why assume it was a man?”
“I’m not assuming it was a man, it’s just a figure of speech.”
“So, you think it was a woman then.”
He sighed. “No. I don’t think they were murdered by a man or a woman.”
“So you think it was some kind of mysterious creature? Mythological maybe?”
Was she teasing him? “I don’t think they were murdered at all. Okay?”
“You seem highly averse to the concept of murder.”
“I’m not adverse to anything, but this is real life.”
“And you call yourself a fiction writer?” She practically scoffed.
He shook his head but said nothing, refusing to take the bait.
“Maybe it’s the work of some kind of international cabal, of…”
“Of amateur fiction writer haters.”
His gaze slowly swiveled from out the window, to her face. He studied her as she innocently sipped a cup of steaming hot coffee, oblivious to his glare.
“Amateur, fiction, writer, haters.” His tone conveyed cold, distilled skepticism.
She remained unaware, or unconcerned with his growing impatience. “Maybe they’re all suffering from the same thing you are?”
He slid back on his seat. “What am I suffering from?” He hated amateur psychologists.
“I don’t know. Doubt? Depression? Anxiety?”
He laughed. A short cynical bark. “I’m not suffering from—any of those things.”
“Mmm. Aren’t you though?”
He shook his head and looked back out the window. Another couple of hours with this woman, and he could see that starting to happen.
“Well?” She said.
“Suffering?” She was baiting him again. “Writer’s block maybe. What’s your name again?”
The waitress appeared at their table, offering them a refill. It was a busy truck stop and all they were having was coffee. He was impressed with the efficiency of the waitress, who looked vaguely familiar. He made a mental note to leave her a decent tip. But how would he go about ditching this overly friendly stranger who’d taken the seat across from him without making a scene? Or being rude?
He slid out of the booth. “Excuse me. Nature calls.” He took a roundabout path and almost ran into the waitress near the bathroom. He slipped her a twenty, “Does this cover our bill?”
“You in the booth by the window?”
“Sure. I’ll go get you your change.”
“No, no. That’s fine. Keep it.”
He took his sweet time in the bathroom, relieving himself, fully buckling his belt, washing his hands, splashing his face with water, combing his hair, drying his hands, regarding his image in the mirror. When he finally pushed open the lavatory door, his booth was empty. She was gone.
He smiled and whistled an innocuous tune under his breath as he traversed the parking lot to his truck. As he unlocked the door with his key fob, the woman appeared, rising from a squatting position near his front bumper.
“You weren’t planning on ditching me, were you?”
He was at a loss for words.
“Did I startle you?” She asked. “You’re a bit like a bird, aren’t you?” It was more of a statement than a question.
“Hey buddy, you comin’ or goin’?” The disembodied voice came from a work van pulling out from behind him, but the window was going back up as he turned. Black tinted windows reflected the sky.
“You need a ride?” He asked the woman.
“What do you think?”
Inside the truck’s cab, back on the road, she said, “So. Tell me more about these missing writers.”
“What’s to tell?” He grunted.
“Have you tried contacting any of them?”
“No, I… no I didn’t.”
“Don’t know. I’ve been busy.”
“Uh-huh. You’re a real man of action, ain’t ya?”
A mile of blacktop rolled by in silence.
“Maybe they ditched you the way you tried to ditch me?”
‘Yeah but you’re crazy,’ he thought. ‘So that would be understandable.’ Instead, he said, “Anything’s possible I suppose.”
“You say you’re a writer, but you’re driving a truck.”
He acknowledged her point with a shrug.
“Maybe you’re a writer, dreaming of driving a truck.”
“Or, you’re a truck driver who dreams of being a writer. In which case,” she went on, “all of those other writers are just a figment of your imagination.”
Each explanation sounded plausible. “But if I’m a writer having a dream, then you’re a figment of my dream,” he said.
She nodded, reaching for the radio. “Does this thing work?” She said.
He didn’t know.
When she turned the knob, the dashboard emitted a shrill beeping sound, like a clock radio, loud enough to wake the dead. He reached for the knob to turn it down as large blinking L.E.D.’s flashed 7:00 am. He felt like his head was on a pillow and when the beeping ceased, he rolled over to find light streaming through a gap in the curtains, ‘and as night became day, he started to understand the truth.’
Sorry not to have been more active on this site lately, especially in response to some of your comments. I haven’t been motivated to write for a little while but have been checking on the thread for this prompt. It’s a very thin thread at the moment. Hope it doesn’t break.
My family put together a small selection of my stories into a book that they had printed for me as a surprise for my 70th in late September and it has got me thinking about doing it again. This time though, I would choose the stories, after endless editing no doubt. Also, my daughter is putting a website together for me so I have been thinking about my existing writing but not actually doing anything new.
I am really pleased to read your story. We definitely have a shortage of good dialogue in our stories in general on this site and thus it is such a pleasure to see fast, crisp, real voices talking to each other. The woman in the story is like a toothache, nagging away and insistent, not letting up, provoking a response. The first part of the writing is particularly effective in this as she takes his comments and craftily twists them, making him respond.
It’s clever, thoughtful and, in true Cartisano style, written with a certain sharp look at a slice of life that I can recognise. It’s weird and mysterious but not beyond the realms of possibility.
As a result, I don’t question why she is sitting with him when they are strangers. Why choose him? Is she really a stranger? Perhaps she is just a character in his febrile imagination. Too much strong coffee.
I generally am not a fan of last line prompts as I feel the reader knows what’s coming ( assuming the readers are also us writers) but actually, the ending came across suddenly when I wasn’t expecting it. That’s a real achievement, Ken.
If i can muster the creative energy I will join you with a story. At the moment you have the best story, best dialogue and best character!!
What a lovely gift from the family! Wow!
What a cool gift. The mongrel horde that shares my genetic make-up? Well, there’s no horde and they’re not mongrels, so it’s a real problem for my brand. I can’t believe you’re seventy, you don’t sound a day over 59! Thanks for the kind critique. I’m not a fan of last line prompts either. It’s a bit formulaic, but I was able to treat it as more of an exercise than a story. And nobody died. So that was good.
“…it has got me thinking about doing it again.” TRAINS! TRAINS! We want TRAINS!
This is sheer genius. The conversation is smooth yet crisp as freshly baked bread on a beautiful Sunday morning. As for the missing writers, some are hidden here in this site doing their little stuff, waiting for that creative bud to reopen.
Some just died along the way with the rapid fire artillery of words. 🙂
How do you thunk up such stories?
And yes … where ARE those writers?!
It was supposed to say:
“With a sudden desperate influx of angry pastors, the restoration went really quick.’
I had various humorous and zany explanations for this, but all my medications are due for refills, and I don’t want to take any chances on being committed when I’m so close to being drugged.
Sorry you were dq’d. I wonder if I would have been in second place. I know your dialogue beat mine. Good story, even though dream endings are as bad as knowing the last line. It was very well written and an enjoyable read.
The party was still in full swing when Danny got there, the bass on the music thudding through the house. It was almost five o’clock, and he wondered how the police hadn’t already been called.
He wended his way in and out of the cacophonous, crowded rooms, making sure to take his time when he found himself squeezed up against any attractive girl. How could she complain? The house was packed; contact was unavoidable.
“All right?” Jason shouted as Danny forced his way through a particularly stubborn knot of people.
“It’s great, innit?” Danny took a swig from the beer bottle he held between his long, bony fingers.
“You seen Sophie?” Jason asked.
“Nah, but I’ve only just got here. What about her?”
“Off her head,” Jason grinned.
Danny grinned back. An opportunity! He cast his eyes about the room – which appeared to be some kind of study – on the look-out for more opportunities.
“Had any luck yourself?” he asked.
“What?!” said Jason, pointing at his ear.
Danny leaned in. “I said, have you had any luck?!”
“Got a quick snog from Jen, but she’s with Clarkey, so I didn’t want to risk any more.”
“Very wise,” said Danny.
“What?!” Jason bellowed.
Danny waved him away with his hand.
He left Jason and made for the corridor. He saw some people he knew on the way, but as with Jason, conversation was nigh on impossible as the bass kept thumping away.
The corridor was different. The flow of bodies was relatively fluid, and Danny made for the back of the house where the kitchen was, and the beer.
A short line of people were waiting for the toilet. As he passed the door it opened and a girl staggered out, bumping into him. He took advantage of the moment and touched her bum.
“Sophie!” he exclaimed.
“Is that you, Danny?” The girl squinted up into Danny’s face; he could smell the vomit on her breath.
“What, you blind?” Danny laughed.
“Blind drunk, more like,” a guy muttered as he pushed past them to enter the toilet.
Sophie leaned on Danny and grabbed his arm.
“Which way to the kitchen? I need water,” Sophie gasped.
Danny led her through to the kitchen and got her a glass of tap water. She finished it in one and he got her another.
The kitchen was brighter than the other parts of the house, and the bass was a distant thudding now.
“Do you know where I live, Danny?” Sophie mumbled.
Danny did, but he didn’t want to let on.
“Can you take me home?”
Danny was in two minds. On one hand he’d just arrived, and it was a very good party. On the other, there might be something in it for him if he did take her home.
“Come on, then,” he said. “But you’ll have to give me directions.”
Out in the street, the cool night air made Danny shiver. Sophie had only a thin top on, but she didn’t seem bothered. Against his better judgement, he took off his jacket and draped it over Sophie’s shoulders.
She managed a “Ta!”
Danny didn’t wait for Sophie to tell him where to go and led her in the direction of her street, which was only a couple of blocks away. She was very unsteady on her feet and leaned heavily into Danny. He could feel her breast against his side, noting how full and firm it was.
When they got to the end of the street, Sophie broke away and bent over a wall to retch. Danny could see up her short skirt, but now he felt something other than lust taking over.
When she was finished and stood up shakily, Danny hurried to support her and they continued on their way. He could feel her breast against him again, but this time he manoeuvred himself so that it wasn’t pressing so much.
As they entered Sophie’s street, they passed a house with a cherry tree in the front garden, some of the branches overhanging the pavement. Sophie reached up and plucked some blossom, handing it to Danny.
“For you,” she giggled.
Danny took the flowers and placed them carefully in the chest pocket of his shirt. They didn’t talk again until they reached Sophie’s house, a semi-detached with a neat garden in front. Danny helped Sophie to the front door and took her handbag from her to search for her key.
“Ta, Danny,” Sophie said, lifting her face to kiss him.
It wasn’t her breath that made him divert his lips to her cheek. Sophie laughed.
“You’re a good bloke, you are – not taking avants … avdanich … oh, you know.”
Danny opened the door for her and saw her through to the living room of the house, where she collapsed on the sofa. Her skirt had ridden up her thighs and now he could see that she was wearing black, lacy underwear. He pulled her skirt down and slipped his jacket from her shoulders to cover her. He kissed her on the forehead and let himself out quietly so as not to wake Sophie’s parents.
As he walked home, he wondered if he’d regret the missed opportunity, but he soon put that thought to the back of his mind. He remembered the blossom. He took it out of his pocket, lifting it to his nose to take in the scent. And as night became day, he started to understand the truth.
Another excellent short story. One of the things that stand out for me is the overriding notion that when it comes to respect for women and men’s desires, here is a good guy. He’s subject to all the same desires and temptations as every other average / typical male BUT he does not allow this to dictate his behaviour.
i am going to vote soon and hope to get my vote in on time even though I didn’t write a story this time round.
I think Danny does seem to be heading towards ‘good’, but he goes to the party with one thing on his mind (and it ain’t good), then has the beginnings of a transformation in the face of Sophie’s vulnerability. I think he’ll become good … he’s going to have to get his jacket back, they’ll have a conversation, they’ll end up going out and having a healthy relationship (I like to think!)
Such tales raise the queasy factor! Pour moi!
Got to put on my quease control.
(Sorry I queased you!)
I like to think that people are quite different from what they project. People sometimes overcompensate for their own perceived weaknesses. In this case, a fellow with low self-esteem may present himself as a lady’s man, when in reality, when life presents a test of his character, he’s really quite a gentleman.
The behavior of the female character in your story is realistic for its simplistic innocence and without which the story cannot work. She is as interesting as he is, maybe moreso.
Sophie is innocent and vulnerable because drunk. We’d have to see her in the cold light of day to decide on what kind of person she is really (I’d like her to be exactly as you say).
The Plane Valentine
There she was sitting by this dark hunk in the first row of the big plane. She gazed at his profile which she was loving more with each passing day.
35 years gives enough time to fall in love with a classic Roman nose.
His side view looked specially endearing when not contorted in some stupid argument. The innumerable times he insinuated she was Google, but not in a nice way. She breathed deep when tested, knowing full well she had to forgive. Forgiveness was mother’s milk to her.
Back to his nose then definitely worth penning down; one day she’d write, A Poem to His Nose.
It was 5 am. The plane was cruising on the runway for take off from Trivandrum, the land of her birth.
Was she Bored?? Nahhh! But crazy early to read or watch a movie.
She decided to have some fun.
Yesterday was February, the 14th after all.
Flying outta India, safe from the religious anti-valentine activists, she felt emboldened to flirt a wee bit in the air.
Leaning over to the man sitting next to her, in her huskiest voice, she asked,
“So where are you travelling today?”
Equally husky, he whispered into her ears, “To Abudhabi.”
“Oh,” she giggled, “Me too. I don’t see a ring on your finger. You married?” Fluttering those eyelashes, she made sure he saw her dimples.
He looked down at his hands, “Ahhh! You’re observant.”
He tactfully avoided a straight answer…that his finger had gotten chubby.
“And what about you? You have some gorgeous rings on yours. Are you engaged?”
Tia wasn’t upfront either.
“We could hang out together in Abudhabi,” she said, her eyes went blink, blink. And rounder.
As his nose twitched nervously, the hunk blushed a bit. Words didn’t come as easy to him as it did to her.
Since she was so darn friendly, he started to caress her hands, taking liberties with her. She smiled. Should she stop him?
She looked behind to see if anyone was watching.
A rather dull looking couple was sitting alongside. The guy snored loud while the woman gawked at the intricacies on the roof.
-The stuff most couples are made of-
“Excuse me, sir,” Tia said. (Oops! Why did she say ‘sir’?)
“You know you are holding my hand. I haven’t given you permission to do so.”
He caressed a little harder.
By now she had run out of flirty ideas; her first being stumped for conversation.
How long could she carry out this charade?
Off with the bubbles of romantic fancy.
Pulling her hands sharply away, looking him straight in the eye, forehead furrowed, she crescendoed,
“Yesterday just came and went. No flowers, no chocolates, NO NOTHANGGGG.”
“Why should I get you chocolates?” he asked in gobsmacked innocence.
“I’m your husband. Didn’t I just buy you date palms for the garden? Be happy.”
Darn right she was happy. Her valentine’s tender caress was better than all the flowers in the world.
Even if she had to be sneaky to get them.
Sometimes you gotta play quirky little games to keep the spark glowing.
Soon they’d land, and all romancing would be over. Kaput.
Back home, the next morning, Tia woke up awfully late.
Partly because most of the night, she spent composing poetry in iambic pentameter to the beat of the rumbles she heard from the human on bed, and dog on the floor.
Lordy me! She had errands to do. A doctor’s call. Gotta stack the fridge!!
The traffic light was taking too long. Sinfully unladylike, she swerved riskily right in front of a humongous truck which heaved and creaked to get moving at green. The driver, perched high up, frowned watching this curly haired driver in front.
O folly! She gave herself a virtual spank thanking the Lord He sent His angel cover.
Her visit with the doctor was always entertaining because he made her laugh. Tia believed laughter therapy made her sugars, pressure, heartbeats, and enzymes all behave themselves.
Quintessential humour built one’s immunity.
“D’ya make others laugh, doc?” She asked.
“Nahh, not everybody can take a joke,” he replied.
Next she rushed to get her veggies.
Gooseberries for the morning juice, ‘koombh’ or banana flower to clear toxins in the belly,
King Fish for red fish curry to create music in the heart. Every woman had to master the art of making Kerala fish curry to fully satisfy her partner.
Kerala men supposedly get macho when they eat spicy red fish curry. Each burp at the end of the meal, they conclude, is an indication of their rising testosterone.
She wheeled the half loaded trolley to the lower level of the parking lot, at a slope of 45 degrees, stalled it right next to the car’s boot, when she remembered!
“Goodness, where’s the parking ticket? Lost ticket fine would be 300 dirhams.”
Her simple Indian veggies just shot up in value.
A frantic search revealed the miscreant ticket lying silent on the seat. Saved by the ticket.
Again she thanked the Lord loudly this time, making sure nobody was around.
Flexing her muscles, she turned to unload the shopping cart.
It wasn’t there!
Heavens to Murgatroyd! Where did it go?
There it was running away from her as if it had a life of its own. The speed gathered in momentum, or vice versa, dunno what- some physics was happening right there in front of her eyes.
A black Toyota Prada drove up, honking furiously, foolishly assuming the missile runaway shopping cart could hear.
The ol’ sprint champ in her came back full force. As she charged down the parking lot, the trolley ran faster.
“Catch me if you can,” It seemed to sing like the black superman.
Two drivers were viewing her from afar and neither lifted a muscle to help. The man in the Prada was laughing too, once he realized the missile had escaped denting his car.
Tia prayed nobody was making a video of The Flying Woman in The Parking Lot.
Rejoice in all circumstances… she had to remind herself.
Thank God she had dressed light-she could run like the breeze.
Grateful she wasn’t wearing stilettos.
Grateful she had strong legs.
Grateful she could laugh at her own predicament.
At that moment Tia found so many things to be grateful for.
So then she drove home as happy as a butterfly.
They had their chirpy lunch together as always… and then POOF!
Instead of dessert, they got into a news related, post lunch argument.
TV always did this. Tempers seethed like the wildfires in California.
She couldn’t forgive his nastiness.
Later in bed, the image of the shopping cart, running wild and free, unflurried by the cares of life, made her giggle.
All’s well that trolleys well.
‘Twas a perfectly unusual day,’ Pooh bear woulda said.
“Tia, you must never let the sun go down on your wrath. Make peace, my love.” Whispered mama’s voice from the beyond.
The date palms were thriving in the garden as testimony of his love.
They should NEVERRRR watch the news together!
As night became day, she started to understand the truth.
Nice bouncy rhythm to this story, good snappy dialogue too, which, I believe, is actually what moves two stories welded together. The ‘shopping cart’ is one story, and ‘the nose,’ is the other. In my most humble, ignorant and insignificant opinion. Not that there’s anything wrong with welded stories. but it has to be a good solid weld. Is ‘unflurried’ a word? S’okay with me. It fits and flows with the style. (I couldn’t think of the right word either.)
Thanks for your reading and comment.
Surely you have a nose for the right answer. Yup! There are two different tales I wove together from my old collection.
Did the weld not weld enough for you?
Unflurried is not a word.. I coined it as i spun the second part in that magical moment.
I just googled… ahh yes, the word is showing up in Thesaurus! Shame I thought I could go down as the inventorr!
Another story in your unique style. Whilst I don’t always understand everything in your writing I salute your creativity and inventiveness.
I can see what Ken C is saying about two stories although I did not see that myself on first reading. He’s right though about it being two joined into one but I think it works.
I love a new word even though, on checking, you found unflurried was already in existence. Mind you, how about crescendoed? That’s a new one on me.
I haven’t had the time or creative energy to write this time round but well done to you and I intend to vote.
Sinfully unladylike…..just love these words together like this. Quintessential humour built one’s immunity….another great word blend.
Keep writing, Marien,
One thing I learned on a screeenwriting course I did was that every scene has to be relevant to the story and move it forwards. If it doesn’t, then in the bin it goes (or is kept for another story!). It’s what I try to do myself (sometimes sucessfully, I think, other times not so much) – have an idea what I want the story to say, and put down things that take my characters to that point. If I find myself writing bits I like but that don’t do the job I’ve just mentioned, then they have to be dropped.
(Just some musings!) 🙂
I agree with you entirely about the runaway focus or the weld as Ken C called it.
Age has given me a new sort of license. I used to teach all this in my heyday, telling students to stick to the rules!
Today my own freedom run makes me chuckle.
My daughter who is also a script writer tells me, “focus, ma, focus!” So I read your comment out to her.
She said, I told you so!!!
I’ll try harder for the next prompt and be more focussed.
Well done to all the writers. I enjoyed reading all the stories.. wished there were more.
I love this site. More so for the feedback.Thank you, Alice and Carrie!
You’re not needed any longer
by Rob Emmett ©2020
“Why is the climate changing?”
“Greta, we don’t know, for sure.” The spokeswoman said. “We suspect that greenhouse gases, most commonly, carbon dioxide produced by human activities are the cause. But point of fact, we don’t know and have no definitive proof as to the cause or causes.”
She looked around the large conference hall at the assemblage of scientists on the payroll of more than three dozen world governments. “With all of your research and experiments; With all the money that has been shoveled at your hundreds of tests, and … and pet projects, yet you … don’t … know?”
“Ah, that’s correct.”
“I want my question answered. Answered in six months.” The collective intake of gasps sucked the air from the room.
Greta left the building.
The select committee of twenty met in the early evening, just after dinner. They talked among themselves long into the wee hours of the next day.
Greta listened to the gibberish banter for as long as she could stand it. Nothing they said made any sense.
Hours later and having run out of patients, she flicked the microphone switch to on. “This evening, you have used an exorbitant amount of verbiage but have yet to define the exact cause of the problem or the steps needed to prevent it. If you will remember, six months ago, I asked, ‘Why is the climate changing?’ That was my question then. And now, have you an answer?”
“Well, ah, first, I would like to address the subject of prevention.” The chairwoman said.
Greta sipped at her water and thought, ‘Go ahead, you insufferable blowhard, let’s hear your hour-long explanation.’
“Not possible.” She sat.
The sip caught in her throat. “Not possible! What do you mean, ‘Not possible?’”
The spokeswoman stood. “There is no human way to prevent climate change. The consensus of all of the members of all of the committees is that it must run its course. History has shown that when Earth wants to change – Earth changes.”
“How do you mean?”
“In the beginning, the Earth grew from a cloud of dust and rocks surrounding the young Sun. Earth formed when some of these rocks collided. Eventually, they were massive enough to attract other rocks with the force of gravity and vacuumed up all the nearby junk, becoming the Earth. The Earth rotated on a tilt, but that was not enough; it added a moon. It did this about four point five billion years ago.” She smiled, “Give or take a few hundred million years.” Looking around at the unsmiling faces, she continued, “The Moon probably formed when a planet-sized chunk of rock smashed into the Earth and threw up a massive cloud of debris. This condensed into the Moon.
“Earth’s next major project, three billion years ago, was to divide the water and the land.”
A humorless Greta said, “‘God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas.’ I’ve read that book. Continue.”
“Over the next three billion years, Earth had numerous heat and thaws cycles. Each cycle added to the conditions necessary for the development of higher and higher life forms.”
“One of the reasons for the conditioning of the atmosphere, land, and ocean is for life to form. Only two million or so years ago, humans appeared. And …”
The sound of Greta’s gavel echoed off the wall. “Have you smart people come to a consensus?”
“Ah, yes … in a way … we ah, … have … sort of.” Madame chairwoman replied.
“You have – sort of.” Scarcely able to control her growing rage at these educated idiots’ ineptness, Greta forced a smile. “Go on. Explain.” Forcing herself, “Please.”
“Simply put, Earth needed humans to evolve to the point of being able to provide something Earth couldn’t make for itself.”
“Plastic?” Confused, she asked, “Are there any other opinions?”
“Mostly those climate scientists not on any government’s payroll.”
“They are of little significance. Trouble makers without a modicum of feeling for others. Explain about this plastic thing.”
“There now seems to be enough of it, and Earth, seemingly, no longer needs humans. And is allowing this increase in greenhouse gases.”
Earth, I guess, thinks it would be better off without humans. Let me quote a recent New York Times opinion piece by Todd March, which suggests the human race may lead to its own extinction and suggests it would not necessarily be a bad thing. March, a professor of philosophy at the University of Detroit, says humans are destroying the environment and are a ‘source of devastation of animals’ lives on a scale that is difficult to comprehend.’ He lists the following advantages: There won’t be environmental pollution, no more deforestation to meet insatiable demands, no more overuse of environmental resources, global warming stops, the earth becomes much cleaner, nature blossoms, no more weapons of mass destruction.”
“Is this the new beginning?”
“Would a world without humans be a new Eden? Yes. We are single-handedly destroying the planet and threatening all life on it. Through factory farming, we force millions of animals into existence only to live brutally short lives of misery and pain. Without humans mucking things up, the planet would enter an era of balancing, and it would flourish.”
The room went into an uproar. Greta shut out the noise and thought through, twice, all she’d heard. The reality was hard to visualize.
The tumult had slowed to the level of a loud buzz.
Greta needed an answer. She pounded with her gavel until its handle broke. ‘The hell with them, she thought.’ She dozed.
The sudden silence woke her. Everyone was staring at her. Blinking sleep from her eyes, she steepled her hands and asked, “Will humans go extinct?”
The chairwoman stood. “The short answer is yes. The fossil record shows everything goes extinct, eventually. Almost all species that ever lived, over 99.98%, are extinct. Humans will inevitably follow on the path of other living things. Truly, we are headed for extinction.”
As night became day, she started to understand the truth.
— Ԙ —
Another great story from you. It’s a really clever notion to suggest that The Earth is a living, breathing and ( frighteningly) thinking entity and it has decided that we, the humans, are no longer needed. Excellent hypothesis though about everything eventually becoming extinct. Probably right too.
Greta got my vote as my favourite character from all the stories.
Greta pounding her gavel and then falling asleep, seems a bit odd. ‘She dozed.’ (?)
When the uproar subsided, she found the majority of the citizens/audience was looking to her for a reaction. She steepled her hands and asked, ‘Are we–heading for extinction?’
In the future, will you do a pre-post edit?
I have had no sudden flash of inspiration this time round but I think the people who have posted a story should make the decision.
I’d be for closing this one and moving on.
Totally agree about not knowing the ending until you get there.
NIGHT AND FOG
By Victoria Chvatal
A short stretch of the highway illuminated by the semitrailer’s headlights never changed as the truck ate up the miles in twilight. Other traffic was scarce. Even worse, fog was thickening even faster than the dusk, obliterating the view. Bloody useless forecasts that never warned a man of important s**t! Truth be told, Greg didn’t expect a fog like that this far from the coast. This run was shorter than plenty of interstate drives he’d done, but he was zoning out. Even the music couldn’t hold his attention anymore. So when the lights of a truck stop appeared round the next bend, Greg figured it was time for a break and a coffee.
“Where you off to?” inquired a fellow truckie in a plaid shirt, before returning to his meat pie.
“That old power station near Rockburn,” Greg replied, eyeing the contents of the counter. “Got a load from the quarry in Deliverance Bay.”
“Thought they’d shut that dump down?” remarked someone behind him.
“Nah, a new outfit took over a few months ago,” said the middle-aged woman behind the counter. “Just as this s**tty fog started. Never lets up now,” she added with a roll of her eyes.
All the truckies present, as well as a few others who looked like locals with time to kill, had some choice words for the fog.
“Never heard of a coal mine in Deliverance Bay,“ the truckie in the plaid shirt eyed Greg with a frown.
“Dunno, the manifest just says “ore”, no more details,” responded Greg with a shrug, and paid for his coffee.
“Maybe they gone nucular?” butted in an old geezer in a knitted vest. “I heard you can’t eat fish from Deliverance Bay anymore. You do, you never know what shape you wake up in next day,” he added with a grin.
This was greeted by a few laughs and remarks like “Yeah right”, “Shame, they used ta have top bream,” and “Nah, never heard of a uranium mine there, either.”
“I tell you, they do black magick!” an agitated voice rose above the hubbub. Greg looked around and wondered how he could’ve missed a character dressed like a scruffy Harry Potter extra. The man ranted on, shaking his greying beard for emphasis. Greg caught a few phrases like “black magick” and “human sacrifice”, and tuned him out.
“Never mind Trev,” the old geezer fin the vest remarked, catching Greg’s eye. “He goes on about magic and stuff, but if you’re ever in trouble – he’s your man.”
“What, he waves his magic wand?” parried Greg with a smirk.
“Nah, for real,” snorted the geezer. “You have a fire, or your car breaks down, or just not enough cash to last till payday – ol’ Trev always comes through.”
“Fair enough,” Greg nodded back. “Tell ya what,” he addressed the room at large as he rose to leave, “I’ll drop in on the way back. If they off me and I don’t show up, call the cops on the bastards.”
That got a few laughs, to the annoyance of Trev the self-styled wizard who wanted to either stop Greg from going to the station, or accompany and protect him from the “black magick”.
The caffeine kept Greg alert on the drive through the heavy foggy blackness. Sometimes a gust of wind blew away the fog – not that there was much more to see, anyway. It was a relief when he finally rounded a bend, and the fog lifted to reveal the outline of the power station picked out in spot lights. The structure was butt-ugly in daylight, but at night the lights stuck all over it – who knows why, for warning planes, maybe? – made it look like a castle from a kids’ fairytale, or perhaps something from a sci-fi movie.
“Great, just in time!” A man waiting for Greg inside the gate sounded chuffed. There were a few other workers milling around despite the late hour, though they were hard to pick out in the dim light. The man directed a few barely-seen subordinates to unload the truck, and ignored Greg altogether.
“Hey, sign the manifest, will ya?”
“Oh, sure!” The man duly signed, but otherwise wasn’t inclined to chat. In fact, he seemed eager for Greg to leave as soon as possible. It sure didn’t look like they wanted him to stick around and become a sacrifice, Greg thought with a grin as he drove off.
The grin was gone soon enough. First, the engine stalled just outside the power station’s gate. A tyre blew a little down the road. Fixing stuff in the dark was a bitch. Greg never believed in jinxes, but soon he just wanted to get the hell out of there.
Suddenly, a blinding flash lit up the night, accompanied by a sound like a thunderclap. Greg hadn’t put enough distance between him and the power station as another flash of light came, this time magenta-coloured. After that, the light flashes came every now and again – sometimes in different colours, sometimes accompanied by noise, and always from the direction of the power station. The air felt charged, like before a thunderstorm. Once, Greg thought he spotted in his rearview mirror something large flying through the air. Nah, he must be seeing things… Greg drove as fast as he safely could, and wondered what the hell was going on.
Just his luck that he had to stop and take a leak. Of course, the bastards at the station were so keen to be rid of him, they didn’t even let him use the loo. Greg parked by the roadside, and found his way – by feel more than anything else – into a small copse at the edge of a field. He was just about done when a crazy gust of wind … picked up his semitrailer. Greg threw himself down, and watched in disbelief as the truck – with all his stuff, documents, everything – rose up into the air and disappeared in the night. Another flash – green this time – revealed a small human silhouette in a distance, standing on top of … something high … It appeared to be pointing some … thing… at a … large rock??? hovering in the air in front of it. What the …?! Greg couldn’t decide if he was lucky or not to not have been inside the semi. More than ever, he wanted out of there, fast. He set off in the direction of home, keeping off the road, hugging the ground, picking his way by touch between flashes of light.
Greg trudged through the night, rubbing his grainy eyes and keeping a look out for freaky gusts of wind. Adrenaline kept him going. He had way too much time to think. What the f**k was that? Did the mad geezer at the truck stop was onto something, about magic? Nah, that’s for kids. But what? And how? Was that the “ore” he’d delivered? But the power station was already running when he got there. They had more of that ore from before? As night became day, he started to understand the truth.
Really good story. Very inventive and some excellent interaction in the truck stop. Loved the old guy,Trev. There is a character that you could develop further in another story. The story really ran along nicely and followed a very clear and straightforward path.
For me, the only blot on the landscape was that final paragraphh where you lost me. It may be really obvious but I seem to have missed the point. Happy to be enlightened though.
Thanks for your comment!
Yeah, Trev might be fun to explore 🙂 – we’ll see if he crops up somewhere again.
In the last paragraph, Greg is trying to come to grips with the facts that (a) magic (or some equivalent) exists, (b) it’s generated from the “ore” he’d delivered, and (c) this probably isn’t the fist time it was used to power the station. I’ll see if I can reword the paragraph to make it clearer…
by Roy York
It was a long way down and Jerry Townsend checked his rope one more time. ‘I’ve got enough time to get down there and get back up before it turns dark,’ he thought. ‘I’m not gonna wait for Craig any longer. He’ll just have to miss out on all the fun.’
He gave a last yank, satisfied himself it was secure, then threw down the coil of rope and heard it hit bottom. He grabbed the rope in gloved hands and started letting himself down slowly, hand over hand. It was only fifteen feet or so. Even if he slipped and let go, he would land on his feet. Wouldn’t be the first time.
He laughed at that thought. ‘Just as long as it’s not the last time.’ His headlamp shined onto the walls of the cave. He took a long look at the cave floor making sure he would be the only current occupant. Nothing else there. The most he had ever encountered was a couple of bats, and once he encountered a snake that had probably fallen in. It had been dead for days. Probably starved to death he figured.
This time his plan was to extend the search further down the cave where it split off from the large cavern he was entering and see how far it went. He and Craig had decided to come back today for a quick look. Shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes once he reached bottom. Then a quick shinny up the rope and out. No problem.
Just about five feet to go he figured. Then, the line suddenly snapped and he dropped to the bottom. He looked back up at the opening. He couldn’t see the rope and realized the length that had been tied to the car bumper had joined him at the bottom of the cave, following him down.
‘No problem, I’ll just give Craig a call.’ He took his phone from his jacket pocket and dialed the number. Nothing. He looked at the top of the phone. ‘No service. No matter, Craig knew where he was and would be there shortly anyway. I’ll just go down and check out the shaft and come back and wait for Craig.’
Like all plans, there are always those little obstacles that spoil them. Breaking the number one rule of exploring caves … never go in alone … he wondered what else would go wrong, now that he had defied the cave gods.
He soon had his answer. He was about twenty feet into the right hand shaft when he suddenly pitched sideways. Thinking he had slipped he tried to right himself, but started falling the other direction. ‘No,’ he thought. ‘Earthquake.’ He turned to run. and was thrown to the ground. He picked himself back up and ran for the main cave. He had almost gotten there when the shaft entrance suddenly collapsed … caving partially in on him.
As he started to come to, Townsend realized he had lost consciousness. Remaining still he began to mentally assess the damage. He could not see any light, but he wasn’t sure if that was because he was on his back, or the mouth of the tunnel had been sealed.
He was trapped under a few large boulders, nothing he didn’t think he couldn’t handle, but his right leg felt strange. He started feeling around. His head lamp had gone out and he reached for it. The lens and bulb were broken. ‘No fear, I’ve got my phone, I’ll just use the light on that,’ he thought. He reached in his jacket pocket. No phone.
“Damn,” he exclaimed, the sound reverberating off the walls with a hollow sound. ‘Can’t be too sealed in,’ he thought. ‘The sound has too much echo.” He tried to call out. “Hallooo.” The echo bounced back.
He raised his head. He could just begin to see dim light. ‘Good,’ I’m not sealed in.’ A trickle of moisture dripped down from his eyebrow onto his cheek. He felt it with his hand. the moisture seemed thick, so he tasted it. ‘Metallic … must be blood. It isn’t too bad, though, I can’t have been unconscious that long. I can still see a bit of light. But, it’s fading fast.’
He began to extricate himself from the slabs of rock around him. It was slow going, especially in the dark. Some of the rock shards had fairly sharp edges and it took time to feel and test for the ability to pick them up. After several hours he managed to remove enough rock to free his legs.
Unable to put a lot of pressure on his right leg, he half limped and crawled over the pile of rock to the main entrance and made his way to the center of the cavern in which he had entered. He lay directly under the opening and saw stars. He was unaware how much time passed and woke with a start.
‘Umm … not good to sleep with a head injury,’ he thought. He stared straight up. It was completely dark, with no light at all. Absolute darkness is something that can easily be tested in a cave. You can see nothing. He would have to wait until morning. He didn’t have any idea how long that would be.
He felt raindrops spattering on his face. He crawled away from the rain. ‘Clouds, that’s a good sign of why it’s so dark and I can’t see the sky or any light.’ He lay there, conserving his strength. He would need it to climb out. ‘If help ever comes,’ he thought. Once again, he woke with a start. ‘Still dark.’
He heard a sound. The sound of tires crunching gravel. ‘Hallelujah. Craig was here.’
Moments later he heard a cry of “Jerry, are you there? Can you hear me? Are you OK?”
He laughed out loud. “I hear you loud and clear. Yes, I’ve got a bad leg, but I can still climb, I think. I just need a rope.”
“I saw the rope had snapped. Why did you start without me?”
‘We can talk about that later. Let’s just get me out. Throw a rope down here. Do me a favor. One that won’t break.”
Craig laughed. “Got it. I’ll be back in a second.”
Jerry heard the rope hit the ground and made his way to the sound. He couldn’t see the rope but he felt it and tugged on it. He heard Craig’s voice. “I can see you. Do you need me to come down there?”
Jerry looked up. He couldn’t see Craig. “Where are you?”
“Here, over the entrance. You’re looking right at me.”
“What time is it?”
“Is it light out?”
“The sun’s been up for 15 minutes. Are you OK?”
Jerry pulled himself together. “Lower a flashlight down here.”
A few minutes later he had the flashlight in his hands and turned it on. There was no light. He flicked the switch back and forth.
“Why are you turning the light off and on?”
Suddenly, Jerry realized he couldn’t see anything. Possibly ever again. As night became day, he started to understand the truth.
About two weeks ago I wrote a couple of rough drafts, of which only one made the cut, but my kids said, “Dad, go sit down for awhile and think about it.” I finally, in the past week was able to take an old story and completely rewrote it for a contest, and it was starting to come together.
Last night after starting I wrote about 700 words or so, and sat down at 11:05AM hoping to finish it this morning before the noon deadline. I had an eyeglass appt. at 12:00PM so I was under the gun to get done by 11:45. Made it and had it posted with minutes to spare, but didn’t have time to really go over it for errors, flow, etc., etc. Honestly, maybe that’s why it worked. I didn’t have time to write it wrong, because I didn’t have time to fix it. Whew.
I’m happy with it, and was pleased I could sit down and sort of let it write itself. It’s been awhile, but I have been feeling much better.
I know your life has been constant chaos, but you seem to have gotten over the worst of it. How are your dad and your son, doing? I know with Momma gone, it’s been really different, and with this Covid thing, life for everyone has been crazy.
Thanks again, Adi, hope to see something by you in here soon. it looks sparse only seeing a few stories at a time, when we were cracking 15 – 20 stories each prompt earlier this year.
Hang in there, write something soon.
Daddy is doing some better. He still wishes to be with Mama but is more positive now. His mobility is very poor and he won’t be able to live alone much longer. I’m scrambling to find ways to get him here with me. With all of the COVID and the things going on in nursing homes, it was a blessing that Mama left when she did. I’m still angry about the staff breaking her leg but at least she is free now.
I’m recovering from the worst asthma attack ever. Was out of work for a week (and i work from home!) I’m on the road to recovery now. I want to write, hopefully will get back in the swing of things soon. I hope the writers come back as well. I love this group. Glad you are doing better! Love, Adi
But why did Jerry go down into the caves? ahh you said it. ‘Exploring the caves.’
The slow momentum, the discovery of no possible help coming, the onset of blindness unknown to him is well worded.
I was beginning to think Craig was going to leave him there without help.. payback for some old revenge.
But sure glad you worked that out differently.
However that’s one agonizing truth to get one’s mind on. The loss of sight!
Great story. Welcome back to writing and this certainly has the Phil stamp on it. I can’t fault it and it hits the prompt in a really clever way.
As I have said in my previous comments on last line prompts, I hate knowing the ending or the last time before I get to the end. The secret is to lull the reader into forgetting the end then, suddenly, as we turn the last corner, bam, there it is.
That’s what you did for me and you did it better than anyone else.
I meant it has the Roy stamp not Phil’s. He has his own.
Ken C. – Loved your story and the dialogue was great! I liked the truck stop/trucker theme. I do a lot of thinking and creating of stories while I’m driving. The interaction between characters was wonderful!
Phil – Loved the dialogue (as always) and the premise of your story. I really like that Danny was a gentleman to the very end. When temptation was right in front of him, he resisted and did the right thing. Great portrayal of the thoughts and emotions he had throughout the story. Great work!
Marien – What a wonderful look into the intricate relationship of married couples. The flirting, the comfort, and the irritations that ebb and flow in a marriage. Well written and the emotions and thoughts flowed throughout. Loved it!
Robert – You always amaze me with your imagination. Your story was well written. I’m afraid that many of the concepts were beyond the comprehension of my tired brain but the overarching point – about becoming extinct was well made.
Vicki – Your story was very inventive. I loved the truck stop interactions and mystery around Trev. Being a Harry Potter fan, I liked the thought of something magical occurring. When your character left the power station and the mysterious flashes of light began, I tried to guess what was happening but had little info to go on. I was lost in the last paragraph. I would have liked to know more about what was happening and what the truth was that the character realized.
Roy – I’ve already told you how much I loved your story!
I enjoyed reading each story and can’t wait to see how the voting comes out! It was hard to choose!
First Place: Daybreak by Roy York
2nd Place: BLOSSOM by Phil Town
3rd Place: The Plane Valentine by Marien Oommen
4th Place NIGHT AND FOG by Victoria Chvatal
5th Place: You’re not needed any longer by Robt. Emmett
**Blockbreaker by Ken Cartisano did not qualify
Favorite Character: “Tia” from The Plane Valentine by Marien Oommen
Character Dialogue: : Daybreak by Roy York
And thank you all for participating.
For me, it was a medical issue, I think, that caused my absence recently. One that feels like it is resolved. A matter of blood pressure medication and timing of four different medicines. Although I can’t be sure.
Anyway, I’m pleased a quickly written story managed to contain enough of the good stuff to capture a win. My goal was to not telegraph the ending, in spite of the last line prompt. I think I succeeded.
Thought your story was absolutely brilliant, especially your characterizations, but would have liked a touch more drama and still had him turn out to be a good guy.
Well done, a well deserved victory. Close at the top but a nice bunch of stories to enjoy. Well done to all of you who contributed.
Sorry I couldn’t get my act together this time around.
My plastic story, I confess, is not original.
Here is the original version staring the comedian George Carlin.
Thank. I enjoyed your story anyway. And, I love Carlin. Saw him in person once. I lived in Vegas for over 40 years but went to very few shows. Glad I saw him. Glad you’re still writing.
Looking forward to you getting a story in on the next prompt. I enjoy going up against the best.
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