September 30 – October 20, 2021 1st Line Writing Prompt “Ocean”

Theme: Ocean

The setting must be on or near the ocean. On a ship, in a high rise looking out at the ocean, sitting on the beach, a research submarine in the ocean etc.

Your story must start with the specific words: “But, but the water is ____”

Requirements:

  • A physical Ocean reference.

Word Count: 1,200

Note: this is a 3 week prompt.

  • This is the thread for stories as well as general comments. Say hello and be sure to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” box for email notifications.
  • To leave feedback/Comments directly relating to a particular story – click “reply” to the story comment.
  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback, do not post a story.
  • Keep feedback and critiques to a civil and constructive level, please. Please critique stories for construction, style, flow, grammar, punctuation, and so on. The moderator has the right to delete any comments that appear racist, inflammatory or bullying.

Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” with regard to other contest requirements.

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

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. 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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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.
  4. You may vote only once.
  5. You cannot vote for yourself.
  • Stories must be posted no later than Wednesday morning at 6:00am PDT / 8:00am CST / 9:00am EST / 8:30pm IST / 2:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00pm CET/1:00am AEDT (Thursday)
  • Voting starts Wednesday morning at 10:00am PDT / 12:00pm CST / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 8:00pm CET/5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and you have 24 hours to vote.

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 20, 2021, will be chosen by Marien Oommen.

182 thoughts on “September 30 – October 20, 2021 1st Line Writing Prompt “Ocean”

  • September 30, 2021 at 11:40 am
    Permalink

    Read the stories here:

    (Note I will be unavailable Oct 8 – Oct 18. Any stories submitted during those days will be updated on Oct 18.

    Meanwhile, please be patient, there is only one moderator, and she is not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)

    Reply
    • October 4, 2021 at 10:43 pm
      Permalink

      Ocean

      “But, but the water is rising!” the small child stammers, pulling at his mother’s arm as she hurries through the market, keen to get the baby fed, dinner on the go. She hushes him without a glance over her shoulder at the ocean, whose whispers and moans have been the backdrop to her life for as long as she can remember; singing the world clean each morning, a lullaby at night.

      The townspeople aren’t romantic. The sea is what feeds them, defends them from invaders. It menaces them in storms, breakers rising to smash angry fists on the fisherman’s cottages near the beach, sometimes even higher up the rough road into town. The fishing families huddle with neighbours until the ocean regains its calm, then shrug and rebuild. They live their lives to the rhythm of the tides.

      They are tough lives, too. Weaving seine-nets from willow is tough on the fingers, dropping them into the salt water and hauling the full nets out is tougher on the hands, on the muscles of the arms, on the back. Gutting fish to sell, in the hot sun of the marketplace, is a job for the strong of stomach, haggling one for the sharp of tongue and of mind. The men who go out on the water in their single-sailed boats to bring home fish from the deeper ocean are hardy, swarthy-skinned and fatalistic, knowing the future holds a watery grave for them, likely as not. Even the boy who stands at the clifftop each day watching for the shoals is sun-hardened, his eyes honed to scan to the horizon, his voice roughened to carry down the hill to the town, over the endless murmuring and shushing of the waves. So the woman pays her son no mind. The water is always rising or falling, coming or going, angry or calm. The ocean will do what it will.

      The boy scans the waves for his father’s sail. He thinks he can perhaps make out a small black dot in the middle distance, surrounded by a cloud of smaller white dots that might be gulls. Unlike his mother, he listens intently to the message the waves are muttering. His young ears catch something different in it, something new and dark, like the first rumours of war. He wishes his father would hurry up and come home.

      A little after midnight the boats draw up on the sand. The men climb out of them exhausted, stow the full nets just at the edge of the highest place the tide will lick, to keep the fish cool for the market next morning. The boy’s father shambles home on tired legs, his mind running in a daze upon bed, so that at first he doesn’t notice the shaking, or thinks it is only his fatigue that makes it difficult to place one foot before the other. Soon, though, the earth lurches so violently that he stumbles, falls, crawls upright again to see trees tilt and cracks open wide in the roadway.

      Fear wakes him up, surges through spent limbs like an elixir. He sprints for home like a hurdler, leaping the uneven, still moving ground. He finds the little cottage with its roof collapsed, one wall sagging like old skin, the window frames wild, skewed, eyes. He calls over the angry rumbling of the earth, panic in his voice as he fights across the rubble to the doorway. As he reaches it his wife limps out of their ruined home, the baby on one arm, the boy clutched tight to her thigh. They fall to their knees as the earth roils beneath them, crying tears of fear and relief. They don’t move for a long time, even after the earth is done with its convulsions, even after the first fingers of sunrise smooth over the ocean, as flat and calm as a millpond.

      The boys eyes are wide. He heard the sea whisper, he knew it had a secret to tell. His mother should have listened, he thinks, with the disgruntled pride of the young. Though what could she have done? He remembers the vast anger of the earth as it shrugged and lifted. He listens carefully to the ocean, in case it has other tales to tell. Something is wrong, he thinks. The voice of the ocean is quiet, quieter than he has ever heard it all his young life. He tugs at his mother’s arm again, but again she ignores him, nursing the baby, her eyes staring unfocused at the ruins of their home.

      He clasps his father’s hand, but his father is already looking out to sea, his brow furrowed. The boy turns to follow his gaze and sees the shoreline shrunk into the distance like a mirage. He can’t believe how far the sand stretches. The beach is pocked with irregular shaped dark marks that seem occasionally to twitch and stir. It takes him a moment to realise they are fish.

      His father understands at the same moment he does and shouts, runs toward the beach, where the nets were stowed. The quake must have dislodged them somehow, strewn their hard-won haul of fish about the shoreline like a spiteful child. Other men are running too, with the same goal. The boy watches, a strange dread growing in the pit of his stomach. “You are running the wrong way,” he thinks, but he is too small for anyone to listen, he knows. So he sits next to his mother on the hilltop by their tumbled down cottage and hugs his knees, rocking.

      His mother absentmindedly strokes his back. Her eyes follow a white robed procession winding higher up the hill, toward the temple. She notices the bundles each pilgrim carries: pots and woven bags filled with choice offerings for the island’s god. There will be first honey inside them, she thinks, new grain. Some of the women carry flowers. She nods to herself at the wisdom of this. Atlas must have been angered at them in some way. She makes up her mind to retrieve some worthy tribute from their ruined hut to appease him, as soon as the baby sleeps.

      The boy cries out and she turns to shush him, half angry as the baby stirs against her and begins to fuss, but the rebuke dies on her lips. The boy is staring in horror at the ocean. It gathers itself like a storm cloud, boiling and swelling, until it is all they can see on the horizon, then it advances like a monster chewing up the sand, swallowing the shoreline, its great jaw drawing nearer and nearer so fast they barely have time to shout “Come back! Come back!” to the men on the beach. The wind snatches the words from their lips, replacing them with the tang of salt and a grainy grit that stings.

      The great wave rises, the ocean sweeps without mercy over them all: father, mother, boy and baby, pilgrims and fishermen, rinsing the island clean. The sea does not recede.

      “Atlantisssss”, it hisses, but there is nobody left to hear.

      1192 words

      Reply
      • October 5, 2021 at 7:14 am
        Permalink

        Hi Fiona,
        This is a fabulous example of creative writing.
        Well done.
        I may comment further later on.
        Kind regards,
        Ken Frape

        Reply
        • October 5, 2021 at 11:17 am
          Permalink

          Thank you Ken. There are definitely some weakness though (I seem to have lost the ability to paragraph and there are two different boys in confusing proximity, for starters) – I’ll be grateful as ever for pointers to polish it up a bit!

          Reply
          • October 6, 2021 at 9:57 am
            Permalink

            For Fiona. (Contains spoilers.) Excellent story and wonderful writing, Fiona.
            For the proximity of the boys: Move the first three sentences of the confusing paragraph to the preceding paragraph. ‘So the woman pays the boy no mind. The water is always falling or rising, etc. The ocean will do what it will.’ (End of paragraph.)

            The next sentence and paragraph, you should merely establish that ‘the boy’ is ‘her son.’ Then continue with the boy this, and the boy that.

            Other than that, I don’t see any need for polishing. I didn’t feel it needed any. Didn’t see more than a typo or two, if that. (I wouldn’t have used the word ‘vouchsafe’, for instance, but that’s not an error, merely a choice of words.) In other respects the story starts and holds an ominous tone, the behavior of the characters is realistic and the myth itself (Atlantis) is the perfect foundation and reveal. In fact, the writing is colorful and descriptive at the same time. I enjoyed the story and your writing very much.

      • October 6, 2021 at 10:46 am
        Permalink

        Hi Fiona,

        I have to admit that on first reading ( and second ) I did not spot a potential issue with the two boys……..I simply saw them as two different people, one who is with his mother and the other, perhaps older, who has a task to perform to watch out for the returning boats.
        I can fully endorse Ken Cartisano’s solution to an issue that I didn’t even spot. This just goes to show that the writers on this site really do read the stories very carefully.

        There is so little else to detract from your lovely prose. In fact, nothing else in my eyes.

        Ken Frape

        Reply
        • October 6, 2021 at 2:29 pm
          Permalink

          Thank you so much, Ken and Ken – changes made and I’m much happier about the clarity and also very happy that it was already clear enough to you KF, and you explained the situation exactly as I wanted it to be understood!
          I totally agree about the calibre of writers and support on this site, it’s an amazing community.

          Reply
          • October 6, 2021 at 2:30 pm
            Permalink

            P.S. Yeah, I’m with you on vouchsafe but I’d overused tell and thesaurus.com wasn’t playing ball 😉

        • October 9, 2021 at 9:29 pm
          Permalink

          I actually thought it was the same boy. I didn’t think it was two boys.

          Reply
      • October 7, 2021 at 5:59 pm
        Permalink

        Fabulous, Fiona. Dripping with dread. It’s the young boy who senses disaster, with a kind of extrasensory intuition, and that introduces some great tension in the reader (“Listen to him, you stupid adults!”). Our relatively recent knowledge of the nature of tsunamis (Thailand 2004) helps us to know the boy is right to fear, and helps us to predict what will happen – a kind of ‘told you so’ moment. The descriptions are superb. I only had one note as I was reading, and it’s the same as KenC noticed: “…other tales to vouchsafe” feels a bit like showing off. “…other tales to tell” would have done the job and not caused (at least two) readers to hit the brakes at that point. But this is terrific writing.

        Reply
      • October 8, 2021 at 4:42 pm
        Permalink

        Fiona, another good story. Like the other comments, which I agree with, I’m still in the camp of less is more. As has been pointed out, vouschsafe is an example of that. Your writing is excellent, but … and I say this with caution, fearing you’ll take it the wrong way … I think it can be even better. You have a gift, but don’t rely on a thesaurus just to try and take it to a higher place when ordinary, easily understandable words will do the job even better.

        I love how you gave the sea ‘life’ with human emotions. Nice story, Fiona. Enjoyed it.

        Reply
        • October 9, 2021 at 11:57 am
          Permalink

          Thank you for this Roy – please don’t feel you have to be cautious. I come to this site because you guys give the best pointers for improvement. As KF says, the close reading and insightful comments that happen on here are absolutely top notch.
          On that note, I fixed the paragraph, the boy/son and the “vouchsafe” – I’d been hanging back because last time I made a change there was a glitch but I needn’t have worried! All good, and my goodness how much more satisfying it is now without those niggling at me! Thanks guys!

          Reply
      • October 9, 2021 at 9:26 pm
        Permalink

        Fiona
        Absolutely beautiful piece of writing. I loved your descriptions of the earthquake and the way you built up tension for the coming tsunami and the inevitable ending of all life on the island. You have captured the helplessness and the intuitive understanding of the boy well. Great writing.

        Reply
      • October 20, 2021 at 9:04 am
        Permalink

        Amazing writing Fiona, your story is one of my favourites this round.

        The final reveal is a clever twist.

        Of course, the sad thing is that even had the adults listened to the boy, there still would have been no escape from the tsunami.

        Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 5:46 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Carrie,
      When will voting be available? We will reach the deadline earlier in Australia and I do not wish to miss out… LOL. Can we vote earlier?
      Cheers, John.

      Reply
  • September 30, 2021 at 11:45 am
    Permalink

    Signing in

    Reply
  • September 30, 2021 at 2:18 pm
    Permalink

    Yes here.

    Reply
  • October 1, 2021 at 4:39 am
    Permalink

    “Ocean” also as in any “sea” around the world? Or does it strictly have to be one of the five (the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic or Antarctic Ocean)? I know that in places like Australia and elsewhere, the sea in general is often referred to as “the ocean”, since it’s all oceans there… But in other parts of the world, (like the Mediterranean, the Caribbean…), one can’t really talk of oceans as such…

    Reply
    • October 1, 2021 at 7:29 am
      Permalink

      When I go to the bahamas, I look out at the water and I say “the ocean is beautiful tonight”.
      But for this prompt it has to be an “ocean”.

      Reply
      • October 6, 2021 at 10:12 am
        Permalink

        CJ,

        You can’t see the ocean at night. It’s as black as the abyss, but you can see ‘the beach’. But the unseen water beyond the beach (in the Bahamas) is-the-ocean. So your ‘clarification’ of the prompt left me more confused than the prompt. In essence what you said was, “When I go to the Bahamas, I look out at the ocean and I say, ‘the ocean is beautiful tonight.’ But for this prompt it has to be an ocean.”

        What? No. I’m afraid I don’t see how that’s helpful at all.

        Are you saying it can’t be a figurative ocean? So even if the ocean being referred to is real, the prompt has to be an ocean that is both real and literal?

        See what I’m saying? No? Well, I don’t see what you’re saying either. So, whatever. I’ll just throw a bunch of different ‘oceans’ in there. Cover all my bases, as it were. (Like Phil did.)

        Reply
  • October 1, 2021 at 8:55 am
    Permalink

    I can do ocean.

    The Ancient Mariener can start rhyming once more…
    When the fair breeze blows,
    And the white foam froze.

    Yay!

    Reply
      • October 3, 2021 at 3:54 pm
        Permalink

        Ahoy ya scurvy pilfering dogs! I predict there will be water, lots and lots of water. Except in Philip’s story. The Warden let me go home a week early — for Halloween. So I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s pathetic attempts at fiction for the previous prompt. ‘Domino’ theory? In fact, I’m so skeptical, that I’ve already illegally downloaded the top two stories from last week for to read just before bedtime. (I can’t wait until — never mind. That’s all my pathetic computer would hold.)

        Reply
        • October 7, 2021 at 3:39 pm
          Permalink

          I wrote two stories for the last prompt, but the second one got completely overlooked (as it was deep in a thicket of my bored commentary). It didn’t have the required line either, but it still fits the theme.

          I apologize again for using your line in the chain smoking story, did you spot it?

          And I have some weeeeiirrdd and wild ideas for this prompt involving the fabled “Lubberland” and landlubbers (that might even be the title), but I get the feeling that the world ain’t ready lol.

          Trying to dial back the comments for this one, cross your fingers for me!

          Reply
          • October 11, 2021 at 12:58 pm
            Permalink

            Finklestein,

            (Did you know that there’s a town in North Carolina called ‘Rutherfordingtonville? No? Wait stop. Don’t waste your time looking it up, it doesn’t exist yet. But you might be interested to know that I’ve spent many, many hours of my life pouring over maps and the names of cities all over Amedicuh. This country’s got some of the weirdest named towns on the planet. We could do a prompt on that. Pick a town, a real town, with what you think is a ‘great’ name, and write a story about how the town got it’s name.) Although there is a town in Russia called, “Knumbskulloscow.’ No, no, I made that one up too. Sorry, I just like to keep everyone in the loop. The insult loop.) Okay so, none of that was what I opened this comment box for, I’m just mentally farting through my fingers right now. but once the fart passes, and drifts up into the ether, I will get down to responding to your silly question. Assuming, incorrectly, that that is what I originally felt compelled to write a comment on.. Are you with me so far? Good. Me either.

            Go ahead, look up weird named towns.

            Where you’ve been for three days? I’ve been sitting here, figuratively waiting for three effing days Fink. Waiting for you to stop with the name searching. (Yes, I know, I know, Titzup is exactly 100 miles from Turd Zole, Alaska.) You need to learn how to control this new knowledge, Rumples. City names is a way to amuse yourself no matter what is happening. Have you been pulled over by the Turkish Air force for speeding? Stop and think of city names. Like Tarshit, Iowa, and what it must be like to live there. Or downwind of it. It’ll make you smile, and one thing we know for sure, Turkish Air enforcement officers are much more lenient with smiling scofflaws than sad, belligerent ones. It’s up to you.

            (Paid for by America’s City Halls, and the Turkish Air National Guard.)

            Pardon the advertising, Rumples, but you know how it is these days. Advertising is just a natural part of life. You know what they say: Monetize, monetize, monetize. The three most important things to consider when considering things. So where was I? (God, even I can’t believe how much shit you have to go through just to read my response to your question. It makes you wonder if any of it, (which part? I said any of it.) is worth it.

            So here’s my answer to your comment.

            No. I only noticed because you pointed it out. And I’m not sure I can take credit for whatever the line was. So I won’t. But if you insist on giving me credit for something you wrote, then,,,,,, hold on, my lawyer wants to type something,,,, ””””WE Pwn U.””” \

            Whaaaa? What an idiot. That’s just my cat fuckin’ with you. Don’t take him seriously. Well yes, he IS my lawyer. but really, I don’t think you need to worry. Too much. Hold on a second.

            “Binky! Go sharpen your nails in the other room, for Christ’s sake. I can’ barely think with all that noise.”

            Okay where was i?
            Oh yeah, so you wrote two stories for ‘Dominoes?’ I don’t think I was aware of that. I only read your first story, and to tell the truth, I didn’t read any but the top two stories.

            And nobody cared!
            Back in the good old days, if I didn’t critique someone’s story, they’d accost me on a dark, (and smutty) internet chat room and say, “‘ey, why didn’t you critique my bleedin’ story mate? What’s a matter? It ain’t good enough for you’re bleedin’ ‘croteak’? Was my story beneath you?”

            And I’d respond, very politely, “Oh was that a story? Shit. my bad, I thought it was an advert for mouthwash. no , no, what am I saying? I thought it was a public service announcement extolling the benefits of electroshock therapy.”

            This would generate a response like, “What are you, some kind of one of them happy, pinko, snowflakey, demogic leotards?”

            And I’d be forced to say, “Well, you’re totally wrong about the leotard. I’m definitely not a leotard. So, what was your story about?”

            “Uhhh, I don’t remember.”

            But nowadays, nobody cares about my critiques, Rummy. It’s (I was going to say sad, but that’s so stereotypical) It’s actually pretty fantastic. It’s a huge responsibility sometimes. (This is what I tell my cat. My cat the lawyer. We don’t even speak the same language anymore.) It can take its toll. (Whether there’s a bell around or not.)

            But no, I didn’t know you posted a second story last month. Now that I know, and I have the Internet, I’m going to make a point of reading it, and I shall be glad to give you a critique on both of your last two stories. So, it better be good.

            I’ll let you know. (This is payment, in advance, in case it isn’t. Smart, huh?) I know, I know.

            Cheers,
            K

          • October 11, 2021 at 5:21 pm
            Permalink

            Okay John,
            I read your second story from last week and found myself pleasantly annoyed. (don’t worry about it, it’s a good thing.) I left my comments on the previous thread. (If I put it here, well, it doesn’t need to be here. So I put it over there.) Interesting little book you promote. Flatland Romance? And, now that I’ve seen the other stories in the group, and how few there are, I MUST read them.

            See Redrocks Canyon this Year! Or just by some rocks from American Hardware. It’s closer, and a lot cheaper. American Hardware. The hardest ware around.

            Again, sorry about the advertising. But you’ll see my critique right under your second story on the previous thread.

  • October 2, 2021 at 1:26 am
    Permalink

    VANISHING POINT

    “But, but the water is …” I didn’t finish, but I could have said “… bloody miles away!”

    I can actually see the ocean … if I kind of lean over the balcony and look west. That little patch of grey at the vanishing point of the avenue and the apartment blocks.

    That was my apartment’s big selling point, according to the estate agent. “View of the ocean,” she said. I’d still be laughing now if I wasn’t feeling what I’m actually feeling.

    My balcony. The scene of our first dinner. A hot evening, in every sense of the word. Too hot to be inside. I set up the table and brought a couple of chairs out from the living room. Not a breath of wind, so we were able to light candles when it got dark.

    I cooked lobster. We had fun eating it, cracking the shell, getting our hands messy. The wine was splendid – a vinho verde. Light and refreshing. It went to my head quite quickly, which made me looser than I normally am. Much looser.

    He was so funny. Not jokes but just witty comments, spontaneous. And not a deluge of them either – just a few placed appropriately during our conversation. A perfect number, and perfectly timed. Which was not surprising; he was perfect.

    He told me about himself – his childhood, how he’d come to be in the city, his studies, his work as an architect. But it wasn’t all one-way traffic; he wanted to know about me, too – my upbringing in the suburbs, my absent father, my crazy mother, my dead sister, my work. The law isn’t the most exciting thing for the layman, but he seemed interested.

    When we finished eating, I was about to wash my fingers in one of the finger bowls I’d put on the table, but he grabbed my hand. This is going to sound icky, but man … he took each of my fingers, put them in his mouth and sucked them clean. I didn’t resist. I didn’t want to.

    I had a hammock hanging on one side of the balcony – it’s still here, and I lie curled up in it sometimes, rocking gently back and forth, remembering. We ended up there and made love – awkwardly, so there was giggling involved, but it was magnificent. The balcony is overlooked by others on the opposite side of the avenue, though if anyone saw us, we didn’t care.

    I suppose I was a bit bold to invite him round on our first date, but I felt the chemistry from the moment we met – at my friend Connie’s birthday party – and I’m sure he did, too. That dinner was just the beginning. We were both wary of overkill, I think, and didn’t arrange to meet again for another week, but the second date – at his place this time, which actually does overlook the ocean – was just as exciting. And although we didn’t voice it, we knew that we were already a couple.

    I’d always been a pretty solitary person. Sure, I had friends and acquaintances, but I was more than happy to retreat to my apartment after a night out and sleep in my own bed, alone. With him, though, things were different. The nights when we didn’t stay together, my bed felt like a barren plain, and I was lost in the middle of it.

    So I tried to see him most evenings and made sure that we slept together as much as possible. Those early days, when we were discovering each other’s body, were scintillating. We were doing things I’d only seen on-line, weird stuff sometimes, but none of it seemed unnatural. I was more satisfied than I’d ever been, but always, paradoxically, wanted more. Which is addiction, when you come down to it. Only I didn’t realise it at the time.

    And it wasn’t just the physical side that I craved. I wanted to be with him more and more for his company, so that the nights and weekends when we didn’t see each other for some reason – either we had urgent deadlines, or he was away on a project – were like torture.

    “Away on a project”. That’s what he told me, and I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? He seemed as into me as I was into him. And maybe he was. But he was also into others.

    I found out from my friend Connie, who’d seen him with a blonde in a restaurant down by the ocean. Let’s just say that according to her, they weren’t having a professional meeting.

    I tried to be philosophical about it. After all, we weren’t married. What hold did I have over him? None. So I promised myself I wouldn’t challenge him on it, and we went a couple of weeks doing what we’d been doing. But the blonde was a nagging thought in the back of my mind and it was inevitable, I suppose, that I’d have to broach the subject.

    That happened on another evening on my balcony. It didn’t go well. In fact I was shocked by his reaction. He accused me of spying on him, of being possessive, of being – and this hurt – cloying. My head went and I threw all sorts of accusations back at him. I could see the edifice of our relationship crumbling before my very eyes, but I kept on with the barrage. My work should have taught me to be more reasonable, more measured, but all my training and experience went off the balcony.

    And I’m thinking of following them now. He hasn’t returned my calls for a week. I’ve tried getting in to see him at his offices, but his secretary says he’s either out or busy. I’ve even tried staking out the front of his building, but to no avail.

    Cold turkey – isn’t that what they call it? The pain when you try to kick hard drugs? I’ve got it. I’ve got it bad. And it’s not fading. In fact it feels like day by day it’s getting worse. I need a fix of him, but that’s not going to happen if my attempts simply to contact him have failed so miserably.

    So I look down from my balcony, at the street, five floors below. That would be a way to stop the pain. Or maybe later I’ll take the bus to the ocean. Stand on the beach and look up at his balcony to see if he might be there, watching. Then walk to the water’s edge and just keep going.

    Until I vanish.

    .

    Reply
    • October 2, 2021 at 7:33 am
      Permalink

      Phil- I thought this was a terrifically paced story. You seemed to capture very well the angst and drama of love given and withdrawn. I am curious if you pictured your main character as male or female. For some reason- maybe the factual vice emotional reminiscences- I wondered it your protagonist was a male? I really ended up 50-50 on the question.

      Reply
      • October 4, 2021 at 9:08 pm
        Permalink

        Agree, I loved the ambivalence, it enhanced the story for me and also went along with the ocean theme – the sort of openness of it.

        Reply
      • October 7, 2021 at 6:32 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks, Trish! I actually pictured a woman, so any ambiguity, however well that might work, is purely accidental.

        (When are we getting another story from you?) 😉

        Reply
        • October 7, 2021 at 7:07 pm
          Permalink

          Oh thanks for encouraging me Phil. Sadly my brain has been bereft of ideas lately… one day I’ll write again… one day

          Reply
    • October 4, 2021 at 1:28 am
      Permalink

      Phil,
      The head talk of the protagonist was cool. I think it gave the desired themes, love gone wrong, deception & lies, obsession, all hinted at but not distinctly defined. The reader along with the protagonist were left with unanswered questions, and wanting more. This is what we crave, leave them wanting more, but give them enough to feel sated, and to make their own conclusions.
      The gender of the protagonist is not important to know as the themes are human and not of gender alone. If I had to guess, I might lean towards a male, and the love interest may be a male bisexual. His blonde seemed to me described as female. Anyway, I may be way off and it does not matter at all to the story.
      I can relate to the ocean views selling point of Real Estate Agents, they seem to be able to sell anything as something it is not, and we fall for it.
      Wow, well done. First in.

      Reply
      • October 7, 2021 at 6:35 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks, John! As I said to Trish, I’d intended the narrator to be a woman, but I’m glad you think it doesn’t really matter either way. The patch of sea … I actually have a flat that has that kind of view of the ocean … though it wasn’t sold to me like that.

        Reply
    • October 4, 2021 at 11:29 am
      Permalink

      Hi Phil,

      Terrific piece of writing. You managed to convey that bitter-sweet sensation of wanting more and more from a relationship whilst recognising that there is a danger that it will overwhelm you..

      The developing romance is beautifully done. The exploration of each other’s bodies, the emptiness of time apart and the gnawing need to be together. You give your readers full rein to deploy their imagination without any salacious details.

      You also explain really well how people’s background, training or skills count for nought in such a situation when common sense flies out of the window.

      A sweet ending with room for the reader to decide what will actually happen.

      Lovely stuff, Phil. As always. I really take my hat off to you for the way you just keep hitting such a high note with your writing

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • October 7, 2021 at 6:37 pm
        Permalink

        Very kind once again, KenF – thanks as always for your positivity. One thing worried me a little, though: “A sweet ending…” I actually thought of the narrator flirting with the idea of suicide, so didn’t intend it to be as sweet as all that! 😉

        Reply
      • October 8, 2021 at 5:13 pm
        Permalink

        Phil,

        Very well done, and, for whatever reason, I figured a woman protagonist all along. The only thing I would change is near the end, if she was really going to do the walk into the ocean, is have her make sure he’s on the balcony to watch.

        Which brings to mind an old bad joke. A woman calls a guy and says, “You might remember me. This is Lorraine, we met at Chris’s New Year’s Eve party.” “Oh yeah,” he says, “We came back to my place and made love all night long. You were a good sport.” “Well, I’m six month’s pregnant and you are the father. I’m standing on the roof of my apartment building. If you don’t promise to marry me right now, I’m going to jump.” Wow,” the guy says, “you really are a good sport.”

        Your writing skills, as always, are truly on display here. Great job.

        Roy

        Reply
        • October 20, 2021 at 9:35 pm
          Permalink

          Thanks Roy!

          “…if she was really going to do the walk into the ocean…” Maybe not.

          (You’re right about the joke! 😉 )

          Reply
    • October 4, 2021 at 9:07 pm
      Permalink

      Wow! This was intense and absorbing. I was in it the whole way through. I’m also really, really glad he didn’t turn out to be a merman.

      Reply
      • October 7, 2021 at 3:54 pm
        Permalink

        Like a male “Splash” and not “The Shape of Water” dude?

        That could actually be fun, but oh yeah Disney just did that with “Luca”, didn’t they?

        BTW… the shape of water is just a-more-fish, isn’t it?

        (Sorry, my pun sponsor isn’t here to stop me and I am regressing.)

        Reply
        • October 7, 2021 at 6:40 pm
          Permalink

          Is this to me, Rumples? If so, and to be brutally honest … I really don’t have a clue what you’re on about! 😉

          Reply
      • October 7, 2021 at 6:39 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks, Fiona … yes … that would have made it a bit of a different story …

        Reply
    • October 6, 2021 at 11:25 am
      Permalink

      Phil, (More spoiler alerts.)

      While I found the story and the writing excellent, both me and Kim (Kim and I) had a mutual sense of disappointment at the ending. (So I know it wasn’t just me.) As far as I could tell there was no twist, and no reveal. (Of course, that could be you being sardonic. You know how you are. You twist withholder, you.)

      Having said that, you’ve done a marvelous job of depicting the pitfalls of love in the modern age. Your brilliant use of certain words and phrases convey an array of subtle but irresistible connotations. (Like, ‘a solitary person’; urgent deadline; barren plain; craved; torture; one-way traffic.)

      Words like hot; scintillating, chemistry as you describe the early stages of love, or infatuation are spot-on, ‘Perfect’, in fact, if not the ideal itself. As the story progresses, you continue to maximize the effect of your words as things go sour.

      This is writing elevated to a high art. (You should be getting paid for this. I don’t know who’s in charge of this fucked up planet, but clearly, in your case, there seems to have been an oversight. Then again, maybe you are getting paid.)

      I think the reveal is your tantalizing use of the word ‘balcony’ for everything but what we thought it would be used for…

      ‘… if I kind of lean over the balcony and look west.’

      Because that’s your second sentence.

      After all that, I still didn’t care for the story, mostly because of the ending, but as a demonstration on how to write? How to create a story and deliver it? Man, this is it. Nice job.

      Reply
      • October 7, 2021 at 6:45 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks as always, KenC for your judicious consideration of the story. What can I say? I welcome the compliments about the writing per se but am a little perplexed as to why you (and Kim, or Kim and you) don’t get the ending (or maybe you do and even so don’t think it’s particularly strong). Whatevers … all good!

        Reply
        • October 7, 2021 at 10:15 pm
          Permalink

          Phil,

          Hold on a second there, Doc. You used the word ‘balcony’ eight times in your story. Did you know that? And yet you did not comment on what I presume that says about your story. (That you were trying to misdirect the reader.)

          You used ‘balcony’ in your second sentence, and twice in your last paragraph. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just thought it was some kind of ‘tell’ or a tip off to the misdirection.

          In fact, I think a few writers referred to your main character as the protagonist. I wasn’t quite sure if this story had one. In my opinion a self-destructive stalker, even a female one, is no protagonist. Her lover may be a scoundrel and a rogue, but your main character is a nut job. (In my humble opinion.) Perhaps that’s a little harsh, she certainly sees herself as a victim, but in my opinion she’s not. But she’s human, vulnerable and fallible, even if she IS a lawyer.

          I want to be clear, we did not like your main character, (Kim and I) we thought she was melodramatic and manipulative. Though her loss is devastating personally, her reaction was not rational, nor did it garner much sympathy from either of us. Maybe we’re just cold, heartless, knuckle-dragging brutes. Like I said, the writing is excellent, it was the resolution of the plot that left us unmoved.

          P.s. I have a story that’s almost ready to post. So you’ll soon have a chance to shoot a few holes in my story.

          Also, Rumplie-finkly’s comment about ‘Splash’ is a reference to a movie with ‘Darryl Hannah? A Disney thing I think. Tom Hanks too? Can’t remember, but that’s the reference.

          Personally, there was no question about the sex of your characters. In fact, we wondered if switching the genders of the characters would make it a different story but we didn’t think so. Either way your main character, the so-called victim, is still unbalanced.

          (Imagine the American version of this story.) There’d be eight dead people on that balcony. Each time the word is mentioned, someone gets shot. That’s the American crime drama formula.

          Fuhgeddaboudit.

          Reply
          • October 20, 2021 at 2:26 pm
            Permalink

            I think it is funny that you said that about the balcony and the eight dead people because I just wrote that cigulation story and there were 7.5 dead people and a balcony and not much else going on. Or did I say it was a veranda first and then a balcony later? I didn’t realize that there was a difference, but you know what I mean.

        • October 9, 2021 at 3:39 pm
          Permalink

          Hey Phil,

          I don’t mean to sound like I’m being facetious or giving you a hard time. Or at least, I don’t mean to actually be giving you a hard time.

          After re-reading the story, I can see the connection between the opening lines, hence the title, ‘Vanishing Point,’ and the ending: a real-life tidal vanishing point.

          I believe my objection to the story (which, let’s be clear, is not an objection at all) is that the main character is not sympathetic. To me. Perhaps because I’ve had a few women try to pull similar stunts on my own self. To which my OUTWARD response, so far, has always been. ‘Go ahead. Suit yourself.’

          In fact, I’m much more sympathetic to the unknown and un-named man in this story, who may be defensive and unreasonable, but at least he’s honest.

          This is like one of those occasions where you see a movie in which the villain is so wonderfully portrayed that forever after, you just can’t bring yourself to like that actor anymore. This is excellent writing, describing with acute detail, a fundamentally and deeply flawed victim of love. I thoroughly enjoyed the story without liking the character at all.

          Despite my criticism, that seems like a significant testament to your skill as a writer.

          Reply
          • October 20, 2021 at 9:39 pm
            Permalink

            Thanks for your lengthy reasonings, KenC. Yes, maybe we don’t have to like protagonists, just recognise in them something that’s real. And ‘real’ doesn’t have to mean ‘the norm’.

    • October 9, 2021 at 9:48 pm
      Permalink

      Another great story Phil. I really liked the ambiguity of the narrator and it wasn’t until we got to the hammock bit that I thought ok, it’s a she. Having had a friend who did walk into the ocean at 100 mile beach in Victoria Australia this story holds a grim note for me,
      There are people who are particularly obsessive about partners and yes, suicide is their option to seek and hold the attention of their victim and to attempt to make a lasting impression. Most of us just go “Whatever, move on and don’t look back at the person who has cheated or betrayed them. Most suicides for the lovelorn I am not very respectful of, yet there are some in life who have been badly treated, cheated on and abused emotionally and physically these I do empathize with them.
      She would have been better to cut all contact with the cheater and move on. It is better to build life and success is your only revenge and the best revenge. Suicide is the loser’s way out, but I do understand people who do take their own lives when they have had a rough time and not much kindness or joy in their lives. They want the pain to stop. Your character is just fairly selfish I gather and wants him all to herself and will go to any lengths to make her mark.

      Reply
      • October 20, 2021 at 9:42 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks, Ilana. Yes, suicide may be the coward’s way out and selfish, but it does happen.

        Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 8:53 am
      Permalink

      Phil, at a risk of echoing all the other comments – your writing is gorgeous, poetic. The resolution leaves me dissatisfied. Someone killing themselves for love may be cool in fiction (although IMO it’s kind of an overused cliche) but is totally uncool in real life. I don’t necessarily think the protagonist is selfish (IMO she isn’t even really concerned whether the ex will find out about her suicide); she sounds more depressed than anything. Perhaps it’s a phase; perhaps it’s because of her solitary nature and not having had many past relationships; perhaps she hasn’t developed the emotional maturity to deal with a breakup. In any case, the way she’s dealing with it looks totally unhealthy to me. Not just the suicidal thoughts, but trying to contact the ex after the break up. It just doesn’t mesh with me: if a partner cheated on me or belittled my feelings (“possessive”? “cloying”? IMO a romantic partner fully deserves an honest answer to a question like “are you seeing other people?”), I’d get angry, go “this [insert favourite swear words] isn’t worth my time”, and make a point of NOT contacting him.

      … On second thoughts, it may be a testament to your writing skill that I get so worked up about a fictional character, to the point of wanting to slap some sense into her. 🙂

      Reply
      • October 20, 2021 at 9:47 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks, Vicki. I suppose I can be happy that you were engaged enough in the story to be so vehemently opposed to the protagonist’s behaviour. As for how unrealistic it might be … personally, I think there’s such a wide spectrum of possible outcomes in any given situation that any behaviour whatsoever can be on the table (however clichéd it might be, as here possibly).

        Reply
  • October 3, 2021 at 10:42 pm
    Permalink

    A Day At The Beach – The Wave.
    By John Filby.
    03-10-2021.

    But, but the water is…. mesmerising and inviting.
    I hear you outside, through the distant window of time.
    Your force awakens me, but does not frighten me.
    Your energy is ongoing and perpetual.
    I feel you there.
    I am safe.
    You lap the sand in rhythmic motion.
    You crash with booms of sounds so familiar, which I enjoy.
    You gently ease my woes as I fall in and out of sleep.
    I am relaxed knowing you are there.

    %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

    A day at the beach, I have not been to the ocean for many years, since my youth, now in my sixth decade.
    I have never been a strong swimmer, as I seldom have visited the seaside. I have fond, but distant memories of happier times, as a child. My mother and father each holding one my hands as I would jump with childish pleasure over each crinkle that the ocean sent to shore. My eyes would dart each and every direction, but always find their way to the enchanting waters before me. My feet are melded to the sinking sands, with my legs wobbling like jelly below me. I don’t feel them, but I am conscious of the shaking, arms by my side as if I am a soldier on parade, but my heart is thumping in my chest.
    This was so very long ago, when we were a family, but we are that no more.

    %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
    I tempt myself to venture further as the brisk lapping about my feet begins, then to surround my ankles and spraying up my legs. I am massaged into meditation, a slight shiver travels through my body. The water is calm and still at the edge of the waves, nothing to be frightened about. The cool blue is inviting me, wanting me to join. I tense and freeze except my eyes which open and close, and dart and dance, anything to avoid the water chill.

    I stand, steady my jelly legs, as always, from a child when I encounter this sensation. I look straight ahead avoiding distractions to proceed. Arms tensing and my hands make fists. My chest thumps as my heart pumps and my lungs inhale and exhale rapidly.

    I gingerly wade through the eddying froth, and soon, unknowingly, I am immersed to my navel. The cool, crystal-clear waters then have enveloped me, as I dive. I neither feel frozen, literally, or figuratively, my body and mind are in emotional unison.

    I wriggle and wiggle my toes and lift my feet to gain some movement and feeling. I jump with arms raised, feeling my parental grasping of hands in mine, as if by memory, gliding over each wave that comes to greet me. Fondness for this place has returned, I giggle with remembered glee.

    I am not alone in this reverie, as others are enjoying a similar experience. Lost in their own world, as I, they are unaware as I jump and sway in merriment, beside them, my feet losing touch with the sand below with help of each leap. I take vigilance, and heed, looking around me and behind, my fellow waders are enlightened with their own laughter and frivolity. I tense and relax all of my muscles as I prepare for the dive, the inevitable.

    But next, I am under, submerged by an unexpected, and unnoticed wave of a greater height than any others arriving before it. I flailed and fluttered in a contortionist’s dance of jerking and unnatural movements. The force within it draws me under to then lay supine on the seabed, the heaving weight holding me down.

    In hasty automation, I had held in my last breath, expanded my lungs to capacity, but fear it had not been deep enough. I don’t panic, although I cannot move under the strength and volume, covering me, restraining me. My visions become slowed and dreamlike, muted colours as if strained and diluted through a kaleidoscope. All sounds around and above me are dulled, but familiar, but I cannot differentiate any of them at all.

    I feel alive, wanting my lungs to take in further oxygen, I will hold my breath until I break the surface once more. I do not attempt to stand, as I am pinned to the sand-bed, which I sense below me. After a time, maybe seconds, minutes or maybe longer, I feel the wave retreat, as I drift to the surface once more. My face now above the surface taking a gasp of air to fill my lungs. Blinking my eyes repetitively, I then splutter through my mouth and nose, expelling the saltiness which had collected. This much needed expulsion to empty the fluid and replace with much needed oxygen.

    I am guided by the sea’s rhythmic motion to sitting. I then stagger to kneeling, then to my quavering feet, feeling dazed and disoriented.

    Looking around, the same faces I see, I wave symbolically in relief to my fellow revellers, advising them, if they were even aware, that I had survived the ordeal.

    It is not so long after that gesture, that I realise I had not.

    Reply
    • October 4, 2021 at 8:18 am
      Permalink

      Ozjohn- what a poetic description! I thought you described the moments beautifully and I thought your ending was perfect. What a terrifically done story! Can’t write more without spoilers but I thought this was great.

      Reply
    • October 4, 2021 at 11:36 am
      Permalink

      Hi Ozjon,

      A really lovely piece of writing. The descriptive nature of the writing is so well done.

      A human figure walking out into the sea, arms out, fists clenched as the water works its way up your legs and torso…..this is so real. I could picture myself doing it. So well observed.

      Well done, mate.

      A real contender.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
    • October 4, 2021 at 9:11 pm
      Permalink

      Oh I am so glad you went for that last line. So much more resonant than a simple “yay, I survived! Off for an ice-cream then!” It meant the lovely imagery of the build wasn’t squandered. Fab.

      Reply
    • October 7, 2021 at 6:14 pm
      Permalink

      Very good, John! As KenF says, you observe very well the wade into the water – it’s very evocative. I love the way the experience is connected to the narrator’s childhood: “I jump with arms raised, feeling the parental grasping of hands in mine, as if by memory […] I giggle with remembered glee.” And that last line is a real shocker, given the lines that come before. While beautiful, I’m not sure about the relevance of the opening (maybe I’m missing something). You rightly choose the present tense to describe events, but there are occasions when you lapse into the past. But these are details in what is a very effective (and affecting) piece of writing.

      Reply
    • October 7, 2021 at 10:29 pm
      Permalink

      Lovely writing and a fun story that whips everything around at the end. One word of caution, narrators who die never get paid for their stories. Well, never more than once at least, that’s for sure.

      Reply
    • October 8, 2021 at 5:18 pm
      Permalink

      Ozjohn,

      Gotta admit, you got me with the ending. Didn’t see it coming. Good job. I love it when that happens.

      Roy

      Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 9:10 am
      Permalink

      Ozjohn, beautiful story, poetic and evocative (a few confusing words and stray commas aside). Deceptive as well: it reads ike a gentle piece – right until the end, which makes it much more dramatic.

      Reply
  • October 5, 2021 at 10:51 am
    Permalink

    Signing in

    Reply
  • October 7, 2021 at 1:59 pm
    Permalink

    An Ocean Away
    by RM York
    1191 words

    December 26th

    “But, but the water is … gone, it’s all gone.” Kendra Watson looked at her husband perplexed. “I’ve heard of low tide, but this is ridiculous,” she said. “Look how far out that is.”

    “You got me. This is the first time I’ve seen an ocean and I have no idea of what to expect,” said Dennis. “Look around, though. Everyone seems OK with it. There are people out there almost a half a mile.”

    Kendra turned her attention to the shoreline and watched as the people were busy looking around in the shallow pools of saltwater that were everywhere. “Probably looking for shells. Maybe we can find some.”

    “Come on then, let’s get our suits on and get in on the fun.”

    They heard a knock at the door and an excited voice calling “Missy Kendra, Missy Kendra”
    Dennis looked at Kendra. “It looks like your boyfriend is earlier than expected.”

    December 21st

    Dennis paid the taxi driver and turned to Kendra, wide eyed in amazement. “Merry Christmas!”

    “We’re here. We’re finally here! I can’t believe it. This will be the best Christmas present ever.”

    They started toward the hotel when a young man suddenly appeared out of nowhere and grabbed Kendra’s purse, taking off down the street. Dennis started to run after him but stopped, quickly losing him in the crowded street. “Damn,” he said. “First day in Thailand and we get ripped off.”

    “Dennis, our passports are in that purse. This is terrible.” She burst into tears.

    “Missy, you no cry. I help you. Here.” They turned to see a young boy, about ten years old, holding Kendra’s purse. “I see boy take your purse and trip him. Take purse from him. He no good, that boy. Here, you have purse, now.”

    Kendra started to kneel down and thank the boy when Dennis roughly grabbed the purse from the young boy’s hand. “Give me that you little thief.”

    “Dennis, what’s wrong with you? He’s not a thief. He’s giving it back.”

    “I not thief. My Name Danai.”

    “Check it for money, you’ll see it’s all gone. This is just part of the game.”

    Kendra opened her purse and checked her wallet. All her money was intact. She held up their two passports. “You apologize to him right now.”

    “Watch, he’s going to ask for a big reward.”

    The little boy looked at Kendra. “I not thief. No want reward. I just give you purse back. I be your guide for rest of day. You two need my help. You probably be robbed again before you get to hotel.”

    “See, it’s a protection racket. I told you.”

    Dennis, will you just stop it.” She smiled at the young boy. “What did you say your name was? Danny?”

    “Danny work just fine. I real cheap. Work all day for you. Two dollars.”

    Kendra laughed. “That’s some protection racket you got going, Danny.”

    “Good. I hired, then. Here, follow me.” Danai grabbed their suitcases and headed for the hotel. Dennis just shook his head and followed the boy and Kendra.

    After checking in to the hotel, the three of them set off sightseeing. True to his word, ‘Danny’ took them around the area of their hotel introducing them to Thai street food, keeping them away from the tourist traps and showing them where they could find real bargains.

    That evening he took them to a small restaurant. “I know lady who runs place. She good cook. Make food all the time for Americans.”

    “What do you know about Americans?” asked Dennis, slowly warming up to his young guide.

    Danny went quiet for a moment, blinked back a couple tears, then smiled. “My mother American. She die one year ago.”

    Kendra’s face saddened as she looked at the young boy. “How terrible that must be for you. Do you live with your father?”

    “He get killed doing drug deal when I six. He like thief, he no good either. Live with Khun Pu, which mean grandfather. He very old. Look, I go now, tomorrow I take you to Buddhist temple.”

    “Wait, before you go, here.” Kendra handed him five dollars.

    Danny smiled, “You see, tomorrow I take you to best Buddhist temple in Thailand.”

    December 25th

    “Dennis, the past few days have been amazing. Thank you for such a wonderful trip.”

    “I just wanted it to be special … to umm … to try and make up for … you know.“

    Kendra grabbed his hand. “Dennis, it’s all right. It’s not your fault we can’t have children. There’s always adoption.”

    “Tomorrow is our last day here. Let’s make the most of it. I told Danny not to come until lunchtime,” said Dennis.

    “You have to admit, he’s been a great guide and he’s certainly not a thief.”

    December 26th

    Kendra opened the door finding Danny on the other side. He grabbed her hand pulling her. “Missy Kendra, you and Mister come with me. Hurry, no time to waste.”

    “Whoa, slow down. We’re not even dressed yet.”

    “You get dressed, come with me. Hurry, now, Water coming, Much water coming.”

    “What’s this all about Danny? Why are you here so early?”

    “Khun Pu tell me ocean is sick. Long time ago, when his grandfather little boy, water go out like now and then come back bigger and many people die. He tell me stay far away from ocean. I come to tell you get far from ocean.”

    “Why just us Danny?” asked Dennis. “Why not everybody?”

    “I tell other people, they laugh at me. I like you and Miss Kendra. You nice to me. I help you. Hurry, get dressed, come with me to my house.You safe there.”

    Reluctantly, but urged by Danny, they quickly dressed. Taking their money and passports they followed Danny from the hotel. Minutes after they climbed the steep sloped street leading away from the hotel they heard loud excited voices that quickly turned to screams and turned back to watch a wall of water sweep over the beach and find its way to the hotel they just left, taking water to the third floor – the floor above the room they just left.

    Sick with horror at what they saw, Kendra grabbed onto Dennis. “Oh my God, Dennis. That could have been us.” She started to cry. “What are we going to do now?”

    Danny said, “You safe now, Missy, you come with me.”

    “I don’t think we have a choice,” said Dennis. Stunned, they followed the young boy to his ‘home’, a one story dilapidated shack surrounded by others in similar condition.

    After entering and looking around at the single pallet on the floor, Dennis asked, “Where’s your grandfather?”

    Danny looked at the pallet and then looked up at Dennis, his brown eyes filling with tears. “I don’t have grandfather. I just tell you that.”

    Kendra knelt down and hugged Danny, who hugged her back. “Do you have any other secrets?” she asked as she released him. He slowly nodded his head.

    Danny spoke softly, and said “You come out now, Malee,” as a young girl, about five years old, emerged from behind a tattered dresser.

    To be continued …

    Reply
    • October 7, 2021 at 6:30 pm
      Permalink

      Great stuff, Roy. You take an event that we all know about (Thailand 2004) and put a human-story spin on it. It all works very well, mostly told through good dialogue (although the section beginning “Khun Pu tell me ocean is sick. Long time ago…” feels a bit drawn out, given the urgency of the situation). The little flash-forward at the beginning works nicely, too – establishing events in our mind almost before we start. The ‘To be continued’ suggests a second part that will have the couple adopting ‘Danny’ and Malee. Perhaps, for the purposes of this story, that result (if it is indeed the result you were thinking of) could have been suggested a little more firmly, and within this story. Good, smooth read.

      Reply
      • October 9, 2021 at 10:26 am
        Permalink

        Phil, thanks for your comments, I appreciate the time you take. I agree the story ending with ‘to be continued’ leaves it open for the couple adopting ‘Danny’ and Malee, however, I just ran out of words. I rewrote the story several times trying to fit a 1500 word story into a 1200 word limit. I was hoping I could sort of ‘cheat’ a bit with the ‘to be continued’ to allow the reader to make up their own minds, or if they wish, their own continuation story.

        Since the mother was American, legally the kids are American citizens. I was thinking in the aftermath of the Tsunami, they would have been able to whisk the kids out of the country, as originally, Dennis was taking Kendra back to her own mother’s country of origin, (Thailand) and they would have been able to get them out easily, or maybe not so easy, but I think they could have pulled some fast trickery to get the kids home if that’s the way the story went.

        But, sharp eyed Phil foiled my plot. Curses!

        I needed to establish the ability of the people who lived there to recognize the danger with the Khun Pu line, which I kind of liked, personally, and indeed, there is documented evidence that old timers were telling the locals to run for their lives but were ignored, in most instances as mutterings from old fools, and it cost many of those people their lives.

        I was surprised no one has mentioned that since Khun Pu didn’t really exist, how did Danny know what to do, and that would have taken more words to explain that he remembered all the things Khun Pu taught him while he was still alive, but then that would have been three people in Danny’s world that died leaving him alone with his sister, but I felt that was a stretch, too. Like I said, I had a 1500 word story and only 1200 words to use, and couldn’t leave anything on the cutting room floor. Probably a mistake.

        I discarded the idea of having them take their suitcases with them (having packed them that morning since they were leaving (Kendra was an A personality) that day, but felt it a bit too contrived.

        I just wish I had more words for this one, or could have come up with a different ending. I tried leaving Malee out of the picture, but she was the reason the story came to mind in the first place, as I wondered what happened to the street children when this all hit. They probably did well, since they knew how to live by their wits and those who lost everything not only had nothing, they didn’t know how to go about getting what they needed.

        Thanks again, Phil, this was a story I enjoyed writing and hope that Danny won some hearts over. My wife laughed over the line, ‘You two need my help. You probably be robbed again before you reach hotel.’ I laughed too, when Danny said it to me.

        Roy

        Reply
        • October 9, 2021 at 10:17 pm
          Permalink

          You got me drawn in from the word go Roy. This is one of your best stories and yes, I was going to ask how come he knew about the tsunami when his grandfather was obviously dead. Did he have a deal with the other kid to return the wallet/purse. Often they do.
          Great story and you have got the character prize from me at any rate.

          Reply
          • October 10, 2021 at 2:04 pm
            Permalink

            Ilana,

            As I told Phil, I had too much story. I needed extra words to throw in an explanatory line or two about Kuhn Pu passing on wisdom knowing he was dying and the boy would be left taking care of his sister.

            Nope, Danny knew his father was no good, and vowed to not grow up no good himself. He did stop the thief at great risk to himself, but he’s a tough kid, trying to take care of his sister.

            Thanks for your comments. I don’t know how other writers minds work when they write, but I see and hear my characters. Not all the time, but in my stories that I have success with, they almost always are visible in my mind and I can ‘hear’ their dialogue or follow their actions. That’s really handy. I wish it worked that way all the time.

            Hope you get a story in, there’s plenty of time.

            Roy

    • October 10, 2021 at 6:32 am
      Permalink

      Hi Roy,

      Another well put together story that links fact with fiction.

      I haven’t been to that part of the world but the dialogue rings true and I can see how clever some children can be when left to fend for themselves. I suppose it’s the survival instinct. I wouldn’t use Lord of the Flies as a perfect example but hopefully you can see what I mean.

      Interestingly, I think, perhaps as an ex teacher, we have a tendency to try to remove all risks from childrens’ lives when, in fact, a bit of carefully planned jeopardy can be instructive and character building. In the latter years of my teaching career, the teaching unions were advising all teachers NOT to go on activity holidays with school children as the risks of litigation were too high. No matter how much parents respected the work done by teachers, if their children were injured, or worse, they would resort to litigation in an instant. Someone always has to take the blame, to carry the can.

      I was impressed with the manner in which you managed to weave your story that the reader does not know, around that terrible real life event that we do all know. I liked the idea of using a local to root out the places where most tourists don’t go even though the guide, Danny chose them rather than the other way round. It was a wise choice all round, as things turned out.

      The notion of the child knowing stuff that the adults don’t seem to know and being ignored ( he’s just a kid, what does he know?) has echoes with tribal communities where the elders are held in such great respect that their knowledge is cherished and passed on. In your story we just have the parents’ generation missing but the knowledge is still there in Danny.

      I haven’t really engaged with the so called plot hole spotted by Phil ( he’s a sharp guy, isn’t he?) regarding the children and their future although I have found the comments from other writers very pertinent. I think I read stories for emotional connection and if I get that then I am more than happy. For me, it almost goes against the grain to study every word and look for holes. I do too much of that with my own writing before I post it, anywhere, not just on this site.

      I am finding that with my local writers’ group the knowledge that my work will be subjected to university masters’ degree level scrutiny, is cramping my ability to write anything. I am happy to give fellow writers the benefit of the doubt. Luckily, we are all different and you will get that closer scrutiny from others whose comments are amazingly astute.

      Great writing Roy,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • October 10, 2021 at 5:29 pm
        Permalink

        Ken F.,

        Thank you my friend, for your kind words. When we decided to start this thread back in 2013, one of the things we all agreed on was to critique. But, only constructively, and without malice. The main reason being is I wanted honest input. I felt I would get it with writers like myself, most of us with the dream of writing something that was worthy.

        I felt my family and friends would be ‘nice’ even if it was crap, and I wanted honest input. I can usually tell when my beta readers like something, as there are subtle differences in how and what they say, but it’s different when they don’t like something, and I can’t always tell.

        When my son was in sixth grade he had a project to do and worked very hard at it. One night at dinner, where we always ate together, (no tv – no phones – just dinner), he told us the teacher handed out grades for the projects. He told us the teacher gave back everyone’s project but his, with my son wondering what happened. The teacher walked to the front of the room announcing that there were some really good projects. Then he picked up my son’s and said, “But this, this is a project.” My son’s face as he told us was priceless. You could see the pride as he related the story. The teacher always kept the top project and it was always on display over the years as long as he taught. He kept my son’s.

        What I’m getting at is you can always tell honest praise, but maybe not when people are just being nice.

        A follow up with this story is my two daughters had this same teacher, two years and five years later. Both of them made the ‘Hall of Project’s Fame’ with their projects. And yes, I’m a proud dad, even after all these years.

        Ken it’s OK to add input and critiques, and, I’m betting you would be good at it.

        Roy

        Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 2:42 am
      Permalink

      Hey there Roy,

      Your story, despite having excellent dialogue, suffers from three shortcomings. Number one: It is unrealistic and poor plot mechanics to have your characters not dressed when the boy arrives to save them. First you create a crisis, an impending tsunami, and then we all wait around while your main characters get dressed, which defuses the tension you just created.

      For the sake of the story, there is no logical reason that your characters couldn’t already be dressed when Danny arrives. There is simply no time to get dressed, or pack their bags. They have to go.

      The second thing is the Phun Ku bit. You’re trying to explain to the reader how the boy knows that a tsunami is coming. We don’t need to know that. And if we do need to know? Then that boy needs a better explanation than, ‘my dead grandfather, Phung Wun Chu told me the story of the seasick ocean.’

      The other thing is something you do that is a bit like a tic in your writing that shows up on rare occasions but you did it three times in this story.

      You try to show us, in your dialogue, the circumstances of the plot when you could, and should simply tell us. It’s always clever to impart crucial information about the story or the characters through dialogue, but it certainly isn’t necessary. You’re telling a story, feel free to narrate it from time to time.

      Specifically, you open with your characters mentioning Christmas twice in the first two or three lines. Very unlikely. For example: when I was in Bar Harbor with Kim on the 4th of July, at no time did I say to Kim, ‘It sure is great to be in Bar Harbor on the 4th of July.’ People don’t state things that are that obvious, except for comic relief.

      Instead, you could simply let the narrator tell us that it’s a new experience for the couple to spend Christmas in the tropics since they are used to cold wind, snow and ice, ornaments and evergreens.

      Then you do it again. “It’s not your fault we can’t have children.”

      Nobody would say that, unless they were looking for an argument with their spouse. It’s not always clear whose fault it is, first of all, and that’s not the point. The point is that the reader knows that you’re using your character to narrate the story. It’s too blatant. Your dialogue is so good that you almost pull it off, but to me it’s like a stone in my shoe because it simply isn’t necessary to try and work that information into the dialogue. Just tell us. ‘Dennis is overcompensating for a failure that isn’t entirely his. All he knows, is that he feels like he’s failed as a husband.’ You can be as specific as you like, it’s not about sensibilities, it’s about not trying to force information into the dialogue.

      You could use the exposition to tell us even more about him, like that he just sold a multi-million dollar start-up firm for a small fortune. Money, or stress, might be a problem? But it was not one of their problems. (You have so much more leeway and creative license when you just tell it. That’s the beauty of using exposition.)

      Here, for the third time, you’re trying to divulge relevant information through dialogue when it really isn’t necessary to do it.
      Kendra was grief-stricken upon hearing the child’s confession.’ “Oh how awful. It must be hard on your father, too.” (Kendra has no reason to assume the child’s father is dead.)
      “He get killed doing drug deal when I six.”

      I don’t think, in reality, a ten-year-old child would provide that kind of detail. (How old he was when his father died or what he died of, nor would he think of his father as a villain. Kids don’t think that way about their parents until they’re a little older.) No, these details are for us, the readers.

      You could get away with much more tell in your stories and plenty less dialogue. It’s not a crime to narrate a story. Phil does it all the time. (Oh yes he does.) (Oh contraire, mi amigo. He do.) Lots of his stories ain’t got no dialogue at all and they’re brilliant. (Don’t tell him I said that.) (PLEASE.)

      Okay, so that’s it. It’s been nice knowing you. I’m sure I’ve just made another enemy. They’ll probably do to me what they did to what’s-his-name. (Martin Luther Flanagan? The Irish comic cleric?) I’m not ready for that. I’m too young. Whatever, shoe-horning plot points into your character’s dialogue is your Achilles writing heel. Stop doing that—for your own sake.

      Reply
      • October 21, 2021 at 9:13 am
        Permalink

        Ken,

        I originally intended to start this with “Ouch”. Then, I read and reread your comments. You are right.

        Your lengthy and well thought out response is well taken, and although I could take umbrage with a few things, you are right about most things. I could have left the second Christmas word out easily without affecting the story in the slightest. I am guilty of that and even though I glean my story for mistakes like that I invariably miss them.

        And, I have found that I do tend to drive stories with dialogue, as I have found that effective in many of my stories that are well received. So much more, that I started adding more dialogue. It’s something I truly need to work on.

        And, you are right, I need to figure out how to stop pinpointing plot markers with dialogue, although that’s the easiest, it isn’t necessarily the best way.

        I want to be a writer that shows without telling, and I fear that my descriptive work needs work, so I tend to write more dialogue. It also saves words, and this story desperately needed more words.

        Thanks for your comments,

        Roy

        Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 9:39 am
      Permalink

      A very touching story, Roy. Danai/”Danny” is a great character, he really jumps off the page; Kendra and Dennis (BTW, his name may be a bit too similar-sounding to Danny, IMO) appear as placeholders in comparison.

      One question in my mind about Danai’s English: if he’s 10 and had an American mother who only died the year before, shouldn’t he speak it better? I bloody well hope my 3yo will speak better English than this when he’s 10! (We also live in a non-English speaking country, Israel, and at times getting him to speak English feels like an uphill struggle, but still…)

      I’ll echo another comment (sorry, can’t recall whose) about the “to be continued” ending: if you intend to write a sequel, please share it with all of us here. Otherwise, Malee’s reveal is a good point to finish the story as it is.

      If the sequel will be about the kids’ adoption by Kendra and Dennis, why do I suspect that it won’t be as heartwarming as the first part? I can just picture the late mother’s American relatives trying to get custody, and the whole custody battle turning very nasty.

      Reply
      • October 21, 2021 at 9:05 am
        Permalink

        Vicki, thanks for your comments. I like Danny, too. The reason he spoke what I am calling street English is two fold. HIs mother in the original draft was American by birth in Thailand and was abandoned by her American father and raised by her Thai mother. Then, she obviously made bad choices in her husband, consequently, Danny was raised by an American mother, but she was really Thai, and demographically, a street child herself. The second is, he ran the streets, even though he had a place to come home to and picked up the language of his peers. He was probably, and I wish I had thought this, capable of reading his ‘marks’ and knew they would be startled by an ten year old speaking good English. Thanks for that idea, albeit late.

        I wish now I had made the story simpler, because while I liked it, it needed more words as I have lamented in answer to other well thought out critiques in addition to yours.

        I originally intended there to be a sequel, if a prompt ever pops up that will support it. Thanks for the kind comment, that you’d like to see more. Warms my heart.

        And, thank you for the idea for the sequel, although, as you said, my intent was to make it heartwarming and a family custody battle wasn’t in the picture. More along the lines of how Malee and Kendra work things out. My family tells me I tend to be a Hallmark writer, as many of my stories are ‘sappy’ as they put it and I try to bring a tear to the eye of the reader in some poignant way.

        Thanks again for your critique, it only helps me become a better writer, which I am striving to be.

        Roy

        Reply
        • October 22, 2021 at 2:13 am
          Permalink

          I see that I made incorrect assumptions about Danai’s mother’s back story based on a single word (and there wasn’t enough room for the back story). I also assumed that an American mother sets up the premise for a future conflict – also unfounded. I was partly influenced by an awful story that was on the Israeli news not long ago: a 5 yo boy was the sole survivor of a cable car accident that wiped out his entire family; and now there’s a nasty custody battle between the grandparents on the mother’s side and an aunt on the father’s – who also happen to live in different countries. As if the poor kid hasn’t suffered enough. This is just too heartbreaking … You know what, heartwarming will be a more pleasant read, even with tearjerking elements.

          Reply
  • October 8, 2021 at 8:17 pm
    Permalink

    Sunbright
    1200 words
    Copyright 2021 CJ Rosemeck

    “But, but the water is boiling…” the child said looking up at his mother.

    Maelic glanced towards the harbor. It did indeed look like the water was boiling where the hot sun met the cold water.

    He brushed past them, making his way through the marina traffic until he was standing on a brick pier high above the crowd.

    He stood in the sun, the heat reminded him of his home world. Hot, angry, uncomfortable and while he knew she was close, he took a precious moment that could be the difference of death and escape to revel in it.


    She made her way forward through the crowd; she’d caught his scent the minute she stepped through the cold Kellendiss Gate. An almost imperceptible scent of Sulphur and hatred. If hatred had a scent – it would be a candle called Maelic.

    Her winter cloak was hot, but the warmth felt good after the long month in the previous cold world.

    She knew he was here; she’d tracked him for the last two days but hadn’t been able to quite catch up to him. Until now. She could feel him close.


    Maelic took a quick step back into the shadows and cursed. His hands clenched into balls of anger. He looked out towards the water. The thought of diving into the deep water filled him with anxiety. Fire Demons and water don’t exactly get along well.

    He needed a distraction, something that would give him the time he needed to swim to the Gate below.

    He silently called to the demon tribe that inhabited this miserable world. He requested assistance against the one that would hound him.

    Hearing the call from a Higher Demon, a Prince…the demons responded.


    Heather could feel the demons on this world. When she’d stepped through the Kellendiss Gate she’d immediately felt their presence, miles away, and none near the water where she knew the next Gate would be. But she’d report back to the High council.

    But now she could feel them mobilizing, moving closer at an alarming speed. Devouring the distance as if it was nothing, they knew they were coming for her.

    Drawing a breath, Heather removed her cloak, the sudden sight of a Battle Angel sent many of the world’s inhabitants scurrying and it wasn’t long before the square was empty. Her glorious wings unfolded, and she drew her sword – Ver Wyness.

    The blade met the sunshine with a joyous greeting, the sunlight danced along its edge and the steel sang a song of welcome.

    The demons sped towards her – black shadows of long dead creatures, hungry to devour and maim.

    The blade met the first one in the center, it’s eagerness to rush in causing it to impale itself before it could stop.

    Heather began her ballet of death, and her sword sang in joyous ferocity, she moved like the wind and the creatures danced with her. They flew like angry hornets, darting in and out, streaks of madness and solid claws and teeth.

    In the distance she felt a hoard of demons crawling up from the depths of the surrounding oceans.

    Knowing she could be overtaken, and that Maelic would then get away she made a calculated decision.

    SunBright, the rather appropriate name for this world was one of her favorites. The air, the sun, even the water spoke to each other in their own language, words traveled on the backs of the elements. Sundrops of words, shouting waves, whispers of breezes, the gods of this world leant on each other to create perfect atmospheres and a sustainable ecosphere.

    The elemental powers had always been a friend to her and now she thought to harness them in some strange form of inspired desperation. Maelic was too close for her to fail now.

    She raised the blade high until it was engulfed in sunshine.

    She closed her eyes and called out. The elements responded with glee.

    Wings flaring out behind her, each feather shining bright with golden light, grim determination etched onto her marble face, her eyes flooded with gilded power. She threw her head back and grabbed the pommel of the sword in both hands, flipping it upside down she dropped to one knee and plunged the blade into the ground before her.

    The pavement exploded into a violent crater and blue lightening tendrils streaked out in all directions. The air filled with crackling noises, hissing waves of electrical current surrounded those hidden behind closed doors.

    Each tendril reached out and touched an intended target, ancient screams of anguish and pain filled the air as the demon tribe responding to Maelic’s call was systematically eliminated.

    A single thick tendril of electricity seemed to move forward, almost like a blind worm seeking sustenance. It moved towards Maelic’s hiding spot, seeking the final quarry that would complete this hybrid spell.


    Maelic blanched in fear, he’d never seen anyone harness the power of pure elemental gods. In fact, he’d never even heard of the fickle gods to provide assistance to any creature, much less a lessor angel.

    He’d deciphered the runes that would open the SunBright Gate and made his way towards the water’s edge. Snarling a curse, he dove forward and was quickly swallowed by the tumultuous waves.


    Heather’s heart felt as if it would explode. The elementals were using her as a conduit to ratify the demon tribe that’d taken up residence on their world. Nothing had worked yet so when the angel offered a conjoining of power to defeat them, the erratic gods jumped at the chance.

    But fickle gods know no bounds and they did not relish the idea of giving up this newfound augmentation of power. Even combined the three’s reservoir of power was at best, half of what they’d tapped into.

    Heather tried to reign back their access to her power, but they fought her.

    “Stop.” She croaked. “You’re killing me…”

    She felt the hesitation in the elements, and their grasp weakened and snatched it up, slamming the door and severing the connection between all of them.

    She felt their longing to reconnect, invisible fingers plucking at the doorway, but she gave them a firm mental “no”.

    Like a petulant child, they drew back, knowing full well it was the right move but not enjoying the feeling of being disciplined.

    “We’ll play again little ones.” She said softly, catching her breath. “Meanwhile, I have a demon to catch.”


    Maelic swam with the strength of a demon who didn’t need air. He was drawn to the power of the Gate, could feel it strumming against his bones. It was deep, deep in the darkness of the ocean, down inside a fissure a half mile deep. His black eyes saw the cave and he swam towards it.

    Breaking through a wall of water he suddenly found himself rolling onto the floor of a dry cavern.

    He wasted no time and began drawing the runes that would open the portal and allow him access to the next world.

    The blackness behind the Gate began to shimmer.

    Without looking back, he jumped through it.
    What he didn’t see was the angel right behind him.

    The End…..or is it 😉

    Reply
    • October 9, 2021 at 2:52 pm
      Permalink

      CJ,

      The prompt, annoying as it is, is: ‘But, but the water is…’ Not, ‘But, but the water looks…’ A minor, but distinct diffo. I loved the rest of the story though. Very exciting, visually stunning and graphic, (without any actual gore). This passage of your demon lore has the glint and polish of finely honed writing. Very good stuff.

      One error, ‘Maelic swam’ rather than ‘swan.’ (And why not, ‘swam with demonic determination without need of air.’ ?)

      I eagerly look forward to your response, in eight or nine days.

      Cheerio,
      K.

      Reply
      • October 10, 2021 at 8:47 am
        Permalink

        Crud and thank you…I fixed both!

        Reply
    • October 9, 2021 at 3:35 pm
      Permalink

      This was such a convincing slant on our world with a fantasy overlay, really vivid. The paragraph with the “ballet of death” is an absolute tour de force. I can’t write action scenes and I’m green with envy., awesome!

      Reply
    • October 10, 2021 at 7:01 am
      Permalink

      Hi Carrie,

      Enjoyable reading of a genre that I don’t think I have tried. You create a really vivid picture of a different world that frightens the life out of mere mortals. Like Roy, I loved the image of plunging the sword into the ground. The fight scene is great, so full of imagery and energy.

      I found that it took me the first two or three paragraphs to get into this story as I unraveled who was who and where. But that’s just me.

      I can see the typo KC noticed but I don’t understand his note about the words that the prompt had to include, “But, but the water is…” Clearly, you have used the exact words, as required even if the inference is that the water LOOKS as if it is boiling rather than the water IS boiling. If you read this comment Ken, please help me out here as you are a pretty astute guy and I seem to have missed something.

      I will post a story if I can but, in the meantime, until the 18th, if you are away, I hope you are having a good time and a rest.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
    • October 18, 2021 at 4:35 pm
      Permalink

      I really liked this story and the fantasy action – it reminded me of the Dragonlance and Darksun books that I used to read. It is funny, but I originally pictured this site as being filled with this kind of fantasy story. I guess my concept of fiction leaned towards high fantasy because of the paperback books and video games inspired by Dungeon and Dragons that I consumed growing up?

      Killing goblins with magic fireballs was so commonplace for me that I once dreamed that I had to cleanse the goblin scourge from my brother’s basement. Demons are similar in that it is fun to slay them with magical violence and you don’t feel bad for them (most of the time).

      Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 9:54 am
      Permalink

      Carrie, good to see you back as a participant with an exciting, fast-moving story that feels like a fragment of larger one. I would have liked at least a hint of the reason why Heather was chasing Maelic in the first place, though (other than her being an angel and his being a demon).

      A few minor quibbles:

      Maelic, a fire demon, is scared of the water – you establish it early on. However, in the last sequence he shows no sign of discomfort while swimming in the ocean depths.
      The word “ratify” in “The elementals were using her as a conduit to ratify the demon tribe” seems misplaced, unless it has an additional meaning I’m unaware of. I assume the elementals wanted to get rid of the demons, rather than approve or sanction them formally.
      “Like a petulant child, they drew back” – IMO “like petulant children” would sound better since there are multiple elementals.

      Reply
  • October 9, 2021 at 10:34 am
    Permalink

    Carrie,

    So, two of us used the old ‘to be continued’ gimmick this time around. I thoroughly enjoyed your story even though I abandoned ‘fantasy’ a long time ago. It’s nice to revisit it every now and again, and you did a good job with your descriptions, especially the ‘angel’ attributes you gave your female character.

    I also enjoyed the imagery when she plunged the sword into the ground, you did it concisely and did it without plunging us into a wordy explanation that would have detracted from your heroine’s depiction. Thanks for that. You use your 1200 words wisely.

    Good job, Carrie.

    BTW, can you blue my story in and put at the top so people know it’s there, it you haven’t left for vacation or business or where ever yet?

    Thanks,

    Roy

    Reply
    • October 9, 2021 at 12:17 pm
      Permalink

      Hahaha I didn’t even catch that!
      I blued it and added it to the list of stories. Thanks for the reminder!

      Reply
      • October 9, 2021 at 10:23 pm
        Permalink

        I really enjoy your stories when you contribute Carrie. Fabulous descriptions and great writing. gi

        Reply
  • October 9, 2021 at 2:12 pm
    Permalink

    The Devastator.
    (1199 Words.)
    10/09/21
    Ken Cartisano

    “But, but the water is so beautiful,” I remember thinking.

    We’d just finished a sortie over Southern France and were beating it back to base when my pilot abruptly pulled the plane up to 12,000 feet and leveled off. It didn’t take much knowledge of aerial warfare to know that this was a bad, if not fatal decision. We were low on fuel, out of ammo and riddled with holes. We were slow too, and needed to stay low, so I figured my pilot was either wounded, unconscious or dead.

    I should stop and point out that as the rear gunner in a two-man bomber, I was facing the tail-end of the airplane, but these old ‘Devastators’ don’t come with rear-view mirrors for pilots, and they’re not exactly nimble planes either.

    Our mission had been a full-blown disaster, out of a contingent of 16 bombers, only three remained. The GAF (Luftwaffe) had been expecting us and we had just enough time to drop our ordnance, pull up and make a run for the coast, but it was clear that we had busted open a hornet’s nest. I had 3 different Stuka’s in my gunsights, and each in turn, had me in theirs. We were close enough for me to see the expressions on their faces. But for all the ammo we fired, I don’t think any of us scored a single hit on anything. Each of them pulled away in succession and I expected to see a Spitfire or P-40 waving us off when instead, one of those yellow-nosed bastards rose ominously into position behind us.

    I couldn’t see the pilot and he didn’t fire immediately. ‘Perhaps he’s out of ammo,’ I thought. But he wasn’t. He was simply closing the gap, ensuring an easy kill. I screamed into my comm unit for my pilot, Captain Corey, to take evasive action. Perhaps he didn’t see the 109 in pursuit.
    At the last moment he pulled us hard to port and up, just as the 109’s guns lit up. They twinkle at you, that’s how you know they’re firing. For many, it’s the last thing they ever see. A twinkle.

    And when one of those rounds hits the plane, it plows all the way through and out the other side, if you’re lucky. The Wing Commander liked to tell us, with a bit of British mirth, ‘the only time you’re screwed is when a round hits something hard enough to stop it, like your engine, fuel tank, or your pilot’s thick skull.’

    But through some small miracle, Captain Corey managed to shake that 109 in all the smoke and confusion. He was a decent chap, with lots of confidence but little combat experience, much like the rest of us. Despite our good luck, I regret to admit that I said a quick prayer, asking the good Lord to assist my rookie Captain in any way possible to get me home safe and sound that day.

    I’d been keeping an eye on the other two bombers as we left the coast behind us, intent on recording their position should either of them have to ditch their planes. We were told the sea was full of merchant and Navy ships, and theoretically, we fly-boys could get plucked from the drink before we surrendered to the ocean’s icy depths, (but it rarely happened that way.)

    That was my status as my pilot suddenly took us to 12,000 feet. The maneuver broke my visual contact with the other two bombers. The intra-plane comm unit was still down, the radio was out, I couldn’t see him or turn around without risking injury, death or dismemberment, and a court-martial if I survived, but after several frustrating attempts to get a response from the pilot, I stopped struggling and looked out the window at the blue-gray expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean. What a marvelous thing to behold…

    It’s hard to imagine anything so vast and featureless until you’ve seen it. Especially at 12,000 feet, it’s like staring into the face of infinity.

    Up close, the ocean is a deep and beautiful blue, but as you focus your attention further out, things get duller and grayer. There’s no detail and no point of reference. You can’t find anything to get a fix on. At the horizon, the sea and sky merge into a featureless gray void.

    I spotted one tiny ship in the distance, or rather its wake, a singular speck of irrepressible humanity in all of that open water and found it hard to imagine the courage, or stupidity it takes to sail a ship into that indefinable void. I was not particularly religious, I think, but with not much else to do, I said a prayer for that ship and all of her occupants too.

    I felt sleepy. The harmonic drone of the engine rose and fell like the chanting of monks. The cold was numbing. I began to suspect that I was alone…

    … with very little time to live.

    A loud thump on the canopy turned out to be the pilot of my craft, or what was left of him. He must’ve been trying to bail out when a couple of 50 caliber rounds cut him in half, but the blood-spattered torso that remained had an intact and serviceable parachute strapped to it. My own chute had gotten snagged and tangled on some jagged pieces of fuselage. It too was a bloody mess, but completely useless, so his was like a gift from God.

    I don’t know what he was snagged on, but he and the chute were being buffeted madly in the plane’s airstream, and luckily, my canopy slid under his, so I was able to open the rear of the cockpit, disengage my frayed harness, and grab the pilot’s remains in a bear hug, parachute and all. The engine sputtered once and then ran out of fuel.

    While trying to get up and out of the pilotless plane, (no easy task) something, perhaps a broken flap, pushed the plane’s nose up high, then it stalled and rolled, gently spilling me and the corpse safely out of the cockpit. I had my hands around the pilot’s chest, and held him in a death grip as I pulled the ripcord. He was nearly torn from my grasp as the chute snapped open. It was a long way down but my grip was like iron and never faltered.

    The water was choppy, with bits of ice in it. I disentangled myself from the pilot and his chute, and watched them get towed away by some underwater beast of unknown size and appetite. I was so cold and weak, I tried to get its attention but my arms failed me. I merely wished for the creature to eat me too.

    I came to my senses in the warm, smelly confines of a hospital ship, steaming for port.

    I still send a card to Captain Corey’s family every Christmas, of course, as well as the submariners who found me, but I don’t ask God for favors anymore, and I’m not too fond of the ocean either.

    Reply
    • October 9, 2021 at 10:28 pm
      Permalink

      Excellent story Ken. Bit gory the images brought up of a pilot chopped in half by machine gun fire with a few nightmarish details. A nice piece.

      Reply
      • October 9, 2021 at 10:51 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks Ilana. I can think of a few things I would change already. But that part wasn’t one of them.

        Reply
    • October 10, 2021 at 7:59 am
      Permalink

      Hi Ken,

      Great story with lots of authentic “feel” to it.

      You give a sense of that devil may care attitude that seemed abound in USAF and RAF flyers during WW2. Bearing in mind the attrition rate these were very brave men indeed and, as you correctly point out, they were inexperienced and their plane was very vulnerable. I had to research the Devastator. This short life expectancy might explain some of the behaviour of fighter pilots when off duty, driving little sports cars or motor bikes recklessly around country lanes, excessive drinking, gambling and womanising ( is that still a word?). Live life whilst you can attitude.

      This story is very atmospheric and strangely nostalgic. Let me explain that. My father, born 1920 was a WW2 RAF crew member. He flew mainly Halifax bombers around the coast of Britain in what was known as Coastal Command. The crucial part though, is that he was a rear gunner and a wireless operator. From the few stories he told me in later life ( he lived to be 95) each sortie was a terrifying experience, especially when enemy fighters dogged their every move and they had to hide in clouds. All of his crew were killed on their next mission after Dad was given orders to fly out to The Azorres to bring back a Sunderland flying boat instead of flying with them.

      The so-called gory parts of your story are evocative and fit with the damage those aerial weapons could inflict upon the frail human body. Most bullets simply passed right through the flimsy aircraft. Also it seems accurate that whilst there were many ships in the seas and oceans, rescue was not guaranteed and time in the water before death from hypothermia, was short and even less if injured.

      The escape from the aircraft using the pilot’s chute was a master stroke, Ken. I looked up this aircraft and can see exactly how that would have been possible.

      We haven’t communicated for quite some time and I have missed that. Can’t get myself together lately to write but hopefully will be back in action soon.

      PS The school where I was Headteacher and the one where I was deputy headteacher, were both RAF schools. You might like to Google Leslie Manser VC. My school was The Leslie Manser Primary School, Lincoln, UK. Manser was 20 when he died during one of Bomber Harris’ Thousand Bomber raids.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • October 11, 2021 at 10:13 am
        Permalink

        Hi Ken,

        Incredible information you relate about your dad. (And not unusual at all.) When so many were getting killed, as they were in WW2, the accounts of narrow escapes with death are (were) not uncommon.

        I’ve been reading ‘Winged Victory: The Army Air Forces in WW2.’ (Geoffrey Perrett.) I wrote a half a story for this prompt, which was nice, but it didn’t go anywhere. Wrote a second complete story that seemed nice but pointless, and while sitting on the couch (minding my own business,) watching a football game, the question popped into my head — what would it be like to be one of those rear-seat gunners in WW2 and your pilot gets shot?

        The book, ‘Winged Victory’, is a comprehensive account of the fledgling field of aviation and how long it took for allied military leaders to recognize it’s worth and potential. Even while the enemy, (the Japs and Germans) were using exactly that same vehicle to over-run the European continent, and the Japs were using it to conquer Asia.

        Thus inspired by the book I was reading, I began to write the story. I got halfway through, about 500 words, and decided to stop and check to see how accurate my initial assumptions were. I’m a bit of a history buff at least where WW2 is concerned, and my ‘vision’ was pretty accurate. I found numerous inconsistencies as well, but found that they were not so relevant to the overall theme of the story. For instance, many of those old bombers had reversible seats and rudimentary controls for the rear cockpit, but they lacked controls for the flaps and landing gear, so they couldn’t actually land the plane from the back seat. But more importantly, my research found that most of those rear seat gunners had ‘no training at all’ not even on the guns they were shooting. Most had never even been in the seat of a plane, or had flunked out of flight school, so even if they had a complete set of controls, most of them didn’t even know how to fly! And despite how the plane was equipped, a few 50 caliber rounds could easily spare the gunner or pilot, and wreck the controls beyond any point of usefulness. (This is the assumption I went with, without actually stating it.)

        Also, most of those old bombers had a third member of the crew, in the middle, either sitting or laying down in the fuselage to man the bombsite. But I found evidence that many planes were built and sent to England, France, and Finland or Denmark that were essentially prototypes and therefore missing critical upgrades, like a reversible back seat, bomb site, and other essential items. Few planes had any armor, most soldiers as well as airmen were treated as an expendable resource.

        And this was part and parcel with the military approach to a marauding bunch of racist huns hell bent on conquering everything within reach. The allies didn’t waste training, let alone materiel, on men and missions that didn’t absolutely need it. (And sometimes they didn’t get it even when they really needed it.) As much as I thought I knew about the war, this book has left me speechless at the gross negligence, incompetence and stupidity of, not just our military leaders, but military leadership everywhere. The suffering and hardship inflicted on the common airman and infantry soldier by their own leaders is, unbelievable. (And we have kids today who complain when their fucking phone is out of minutes.)

        While on the subject, we loaned planes to China, India, Burma, and Russia, and nobody ever paid us back for them. And I’ve been treated to lectures from self-appointed ‘historical experts’ who claim that Russia really won World War 2. Hell, they couldn’t even beat Genghis Kahn and his horse-mounted marauding Mongol archers, 900 years earlier, despite the wealth and power of their Royal elites. The most telling fact of WW2, to me, Ken, was an account whose source currently escapes me, but when the French saw the Germans invade their country, they were pulling all of their heavy equipment with horses. When the allies re-took France five years later going the other way? No horses. They saw cars, trucks, tanks, armored vehicles. A fully mechanized force. And most of that advanced military might was built right here in the USA, by American women. That’s a fucking fact. Not men, women.

        But what made that fully mechanized advance possible, was the thousands and thousands of sorties flown overhead by British, American, Canadian and Aussie pilots flying mostly American planes. (The Spitfires, as well as English resolve, have earned their own special place in history because of the Battle of London,) but it’s hard to convey the relief the people of Europe must have felt when 900 bombers flew overhead, heading for Germany with 500 fighter escorts. Sometimes it would take over an hour for allied bombers to fly over a given point because of their incredible numbers. And even then, the outcome was not certain to anyone.

        Once I started researching, I also got some information from ‘The Naval Institute’ website, and another site that describes all the planes used in World War Two and includes individual accounts of some the most hair raising and horrendous personal stories you’d ever want to hear.

        My dad is 97 and still going, Ken. He was born in ’24 and served in an engineering brigade during WW2. I know that you and I are probably of the same generation, I miss your stories, and I wanted to tell you that I had you in mind when I wrote this story. I just thought, ‘Of all the people who associate with this group, Ken Frape will appreciate this story the most.’ I don’t know why I thought that, but I think I was right.

        Ken C.

        Reply
        • October 12, 2021 at 11:34 am
          Permalink

          Hi Ken,

          Thanks for your response and you were correct in your assumption that I would really appreciate your story. It was very real and surprisingly evocative. I say evocative as my father was a wireless operator / rear gunner during WW2. He flew mainly in Halifax planes in, I think, 58 Squadron RAF in 1940-45. His squadron were tasked with Coastal Command that meant checking what was in the water around the coast of the UK as well as spotting enemy fighters and bombers in the air. On one my Dad said that they were ambushed by four or five enemy planes and they had to go into a cloudbank to avoid being shot down and pop their heads out every now and then until the enemy planes went away, short of fuel. It would have been terrifying.

          You also mentioned the lack of training that many of the air crew experienced. Before his first “sortie” my Dad said he was offered the chance to go up in a smaller aircraft and he thought it was something he should do, having never before set foot in one. After several loops and a few dives and climbs my Dad was sick. He didn’t want to disgrace himself by being sick in the plane so he used the only thing he could….his hat. On landing, he stood there, literally cap in hand as a senior officer came towards him. He had to salute but in order to do so with due respect, he had to put on his cap!

          When I read your story I had to do some research as I know very little about the USAF planes. It made for an interesting read as the Devastator was one of the most advanced planes around when it first went into service but it was quickly was overtaken ( quite literally) by other planes and its planned torpedo duty was far less successful than it should have been due to faults in the torpedo design as it went too far down to hit the ships’ hulls.

          Every year from 1992 until 2005, in my school, the previously mentioned Leslie Manser Primary, Lincoln, we used to host the AGM of the 50/61 Squadron Association, whose airfield was on the site of the school. My parents attended the final AGM before I retired in 2006 and the men pulled my Dad’s leg as he was not in their squadron. It brings a tear to my eyes to see how proud my parents were to see their youngest son at work, hosting an event about which they cared for so deeply.

          Thanks for writing such a great story. I think you might be able to guess where my vote will go, this time round.

          Kind regards,

          Ken Frape

          Reply
    • October 12, 2021 at 8:31 am
      Permalink

      Ken C.,

      Your story held me captive the first time around, and even more so, the second. Nice descriptive job on explaining what it would be like to be a tailgunner during WWII. Good job. Outside of a couple of minor things, I don’t have much to quibble about. Your story did what it was designed to do. Keep the reader interested and wanting more.

      While I guess the ending could have been a little more than it was, I don’t have any ideas for how to make it better, although I did ask myself how submariners found him, then theorized they were on top of the water, not underneath it and saw him come down. That might have been a better ending, using the coincidence of a submarine coming up for air in time to save him. A talented writer such as yourself could stick that in there to spruce up the ending a bit. At least for me, it would.

      Nice to see you back.

      Roy

      Reply
      • October 12, 2021 at 10:40 am
        Permalink

        Thanks for your feedback Roy,

        Funny, I had no idea how the story would end. I never saw that torso coming, honest. And I thought he would get picked up by the ship he saw, it didn’t occur to me that he was rescued by a submarine until several drafts after he had landed in the water and the ‘chute’ had been dragged away from him. It was like, the next day when I thought, ‘Hey, that was no giant fish, that was a submarine.’

        This would be no great stretch for a sub because submarines have periscopes. In fact, I considered the fact that in the condition that he was in, he could easily mistake a surfacing sub for a sea monster. So I just left it for the astute reader to surmise that, and then at the last minute added the Christmas card that he sends to the Mariners. (For slow readers like me.)

        Like I said, I wrote half the story and felt it was going fine, then I did some research and realized that to be realistic, whatever happened next, I could spare the MC, and the reader no horror, no humiliation for it to be realistic. And i think I did that.

        This is probably why most veterans who saw action don’t want to talk about it. Too horrible. No one wants to be reminded of horrible memories. No matter how distant.

        In the book I’m reading now, I just passed another of the author’s brief and intermittent testimonials. After a brief description of events, the airman says, “As the frenzy of battle raged, my terror faded and I waited for my death.” (As it turned out, that guy lived to tell about it.) But the book is not about personal stories, they’re in there, but it’s about the development of the air force from clumsy duckling to soaring Condor in the span of five or ten years. It’s a great book and food for much historical thought.

        It’s good to be back. (I was only gone for two weeks. Next time? Three weeks. I promise.)

        cheers,
        Ken

        Reply
    • October 15, 2021 at 11:27 am
      Permalink

      (Wrong war I know, but I just happened to be listening to this right before I read your story and the comments surrounding it. Don’t ask.)

      Awesome and action-packed writing! And historically sound, which is the hard/intimidating part. Getting the jargon of the occupation and time done right is a challenge as well. Bravo!

      Reply
    • October 18, 2021 at 12:40 pm
      Permalink

      I absolutely loved this story, and found it very moving. It reminded me of Yeats’ poem ‘An Irish Airman Foresees his Death’, especially the lines:
      A lonely impulse of delight
      Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
      I balanced all, brought all to mind,
      The years to come seemed waste of breath,
      A waste of breath the years behind
      In balance with this life, this death.
      Because of the disconcerting balance of beauty and horror, I suppose. I think you got the tone just right – strangely detached in places where we might have expected melodramatics, unexpected reflectiveness in the midst of panic and horror. Really, really beautiful stuff.

      Reply
      • October 19, 2021 at 1:21 am
        Permalink

        Thank you Obi Wan,

        Your praise is like a welcome cloud that blocks the sun on a sweltering day.

        I’ve never read any Yeats. (I do everything alphabetically and haven’t gotten past the ‘T’s yet.) I’m kidding of course.
        Actually,
        I’ve never read any Yeats because I’m under-educated and, well, that should be sufficient. I mean, I’ve heard of him, but you could be pulling my leg. It seems hard to believe that Yeats wrote a poem about an Irish airman contemplating his own death.

        Well I’ll be damned. There it is. What a beautiful poem.

        No likely end could bring them loss
        Or leave them happier than before.
        Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
        Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
        A lonely impulse of delight
        Drove to this tumult in the clouds;

        This is the most meaningful section to me. ‘A lonely impulse of delight.’

        thanks again for your kind remarks. They are gratefully (if not graciously) received.

        Ken

        Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 8:08 am
      Permalink

      Ken, what an amazing story! Possibly my favourite this round, & the kind that makes me think “no way in hell I can match this“.

      A small question: why does the protagonist say “I regret to admit that I said a quick prayer”? Does he think he jinxed the pilot with the prayer?

      Just clean up a couple of stray commas if/when you send it off for publication.

      Reply
      • October 21, 2021 at 10:52 pm
        Permalink

        Vicki,
        1. Yes? Thank you. Oh I think you can match it, but it’s nice to know that you thought it would be difficult.
        2. Yes, he feels that he jinxed the pilot with his carelessly worded request.
        3. Stray commas? It has stray commas? I’ll look into that immediately.

        Reply
  • October 12, 2021 at 8:35 am
    Permalink

    Ken C., I wasn’t able to comment on your comments to Rumple under them (because you can’t if you check), but I truly enjoyed them. Just thought I would tell you that. You outdid yourself, if that’s possible.

    Roy

    Reply
    • October 12, 2021 at 11:11 am
      Permalink

      Roy,

      One of my ‘ads’ says: ‘…by your rocks here.’ ‘By’! As in near. ‘Near your rocks here, at American Hardware.’ And I’m making fun of Carrie’s mistakes? What a laugh.

      Oye vey.

      Course, I’m older though. Much older than Carrie. Older than everyone else here, except you, Roy. You’re reeeaaallly old. As in, ‘Shh, I think he’s finally sleeping,’ old.

      “What d’you mean ‘finally’? It’s only six-thirty.”

      “I’m talking about his after-dinner nap. I declare, you children don’t know anything. He’ll wake up in a couple of hours to talk about last weeks news. Would you two like some tea?”

      That old.

      (My naps come on without warning. like summer storms. I could be driving the car, mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, suddenly, I have to take a nap. When this happens, what I do is, I grab the first person that comes along and I start talking politics with them. This wakes me up almost instantly, but often makes me homicidal too. An unfortunate side-effect that I’ve managed to control so far.

      Reply
      • October 12, 2021 at 11:41 am
        Permalink

        Hi Ken C,

        I seem to have duplicated some of the info I have sent to you. The site crashed on me yesterday and I have no idea where everything went. So just read between the lines to get the full picture.

        Ken F

        Reply
  • October 12, 2021 at 12:13 pm
    Permalink

    FIGMENTS

    by Ken Frape

    “But, but the water is…..”

    The mermaid’s sentence remained unfinished and she almost dropped her mother of pearl mirror as a hand appeared above the briny surface and wrinkled, too-long-in-the water fingers stroked her tail fin. Her sisters, spooked, slipped off their perches upon the enormous rocks that guard the entrance to the harbour but hung around, intrigued, eyes just below the surface.

    She hadn’t noticed anything skulking beneath her as she basked in the early evening sun, chatting and idly rearranging her silky tresses to cover her breasts the way her mother had taught her for modesty’s sake. It’s a very effective ploy. That’s why no human eye has ever seen a mermaid’s breasts. The hand was clearly human, judging by its size and the dark hairs growing upon it. A moment later a head appeared to join the hand. A string of seaweed lay atop the head like a mariner’s wig, decorated with shiny black pearls.

    “Evening,” said the head from the ocean, cheerfully, shaking off the seaweed hairpiece. “You’re lovely, if you don’t mind me saying. Are you a mermaid?”

    She nodded, still struggling to find her voice.

    “Mind if I join you?” the human head enquired. Without waiting for confirmation, it popped up to reveal the rest of its body, incongruously attired in grey trousers, brown shoes with paisley socks, a brown shirt and a sleeveless pullover bearing a Blue Peter badge. The human figure clambered up onto the rock beside her.

    “I’m Henry,” said Henry, holding out his hand.

    She looked at him with an astonished look on her face. “I’m Daisy,” she replied, unsure what to do with the proffered hand. There’s no call for handshakes in mermaid territory.

    “Where have you come from? You’re wearing clothes. How can you breathe under…?” The questions tumbled from her mouth until they were ended abruptly, as a playful wave tried to dislodge her.

    “It’s a long story, Henry said. “How long have you got?”

    “Well, if it’s one of those two-weekly stories with a prompt then we’ve got about 1200 words, I reckon,“ Daisy responded. “No,” she quickly corrected herself, “make that 600 if we’re sharing. That’s 600 words each, by my reckoning. “

    “600! That’s not much is it?” Henry asked. “You know what, I think I must be a part of that writer bloke’s imagination. You know, whatshisname, thingummy jig, Ken F, or somebody? There’s three Kens by the way so I suppose one of them created us.”

    ”I think you’re probably right, sounds like the Kens. How else would we both be here now, together?” She looked closely at Henry.

    “ Aren’t you the one who fell into his own Victorian Puddle? “Daisy studied Henry with interest.

    “Yes, that’s me. Still not sure how it happened but swimming around with those fish was really good fun,” replied Henry.

    “You’d have enjoyed it too. Obviously.”

    He looked along the length of her fishy tail, past her anything but fishy curvaceous hips and then stopped at her waist length blond hair that skilfully covered what he assumed were beautiful breasts. He had never before, in his thirty nine years, been in the least bit interested in breasts but now he was a tad curious.

    One or all of the Kens were probably tittering about this.

    “You’re Daisy who found a card that allows you to have virtual reality adventures, aren’t you?” He asked, keen to keep the conversation rolling.

    “That’s me,” Daisy confirmed. “How did you know? “

    Henry said, “Well, my guess is, we’ve both come from the same mind. We’re figments of a Ken’s imagination. That’s all we are. Just figments.” He pointed at Daisy’s arm, wrapped in tape. “Is that your virtual adventure card?”

    “It is and as long as I keep it taped next to my skin, that was in the t and Cs small print, then I’m a mermaid.”

    “What if it comes off then? Henry asked.

    “Then I’ll become Daisy the human again.”

    She looked closely at Henry. “So how come you can live in water too, without drowning?”

    “I think it’s something called Magical Realism. In Ken’s imagination anything can happen. Otherwise we would have both drowned by now, wouldn’t we? I think he must have a plan for us or he wouldn’t have brought us together here on this slippery rock.”

    “A plan? What sort of plan?” Daisy was suspicious.

    Henry explained. “ I think Ken was too busy, or too lazy, more likely, to think up some new characters so he’s recycled us, put us both into this prompt, “ Ocean,” he said.

    “Saved him from thinking up any new characters.” Daisy agreed.

    “Right. I bet that’s it. Lazy,” Henry agreed. “Otherwise my character would have been much more interesting. More heroic. Not an orphan with no friends, falling into a giant puddle! So what else was in this prompt? “

    “Just some random words that have to be squeezed in somewhere,” said Daisy. “But I can’t remember what they are supposed to be. “

    Henry had been wracking his brains. “ Got it! Had to be right at the beginning and you’ve already said them.”

    Daisy laughed then. “So that means that we just need a bit of interesting dialogue, one half decent character, that’ll be me I expect, and Bob’s your uncle, we’ll win the competition this time round.”

    Daisy was aware that as she was speaking Henry was giving her a look that was a bit more than a figment of someone’s imagination.

    “No,” she said, with a very firm voice. “No! I know what you’re thinking. We can’t anyway. I’m a mermaid and you’re a human. We couldn’t actually manage it. It’s physically impossible.”

    Henry slid a bit closer. “Nothing’s impossible, Daisy. We said that earlier. We’re just figments, remember? It’s called Magical Realism. So why not, eh? Go on, you know you want to.” Henry tried using his most persuasive tone of voice. “If you take that virtual reality card off just for a minute or two, you’ll become human again, then we could, you know…..”

    “I’m not sure,” Daisy was uncertain but tempted.

    “Look, I’ll even look after the card for you. Then we can…..OK?” Henry held out his hand.

    Daisy slowly peeled the tape from around her arm and handed the card to Henry. In an instant Daisy the mermaid became Daisy the woman, in a T- shirt, jeans and trainers.

    And Henry became a Mermaid.

    All Henry’s naughty human thoughts disappeared then. Daisy’s adventure card in his hand, he slipped into the water and then he was gone. His fishy friends were calling out to him, waiting to play once more.

    If Henry had stayed a little longer (but he didn’t) he would have seen a group of mermaids pick the distraught Daisy up and carry her safely to shore. As they swum back to their rocks guarding the entrance to the harbour Daisy waved sadly to them until they gave one final flick of their tails and then they were gone.

    You didn’t really think Ken would have just left her there, did you?

    Even if she is just a figment.

    Where’s your imagination?

    Reply
    • October 12, 2021 at 1:25 pm
      Permalink

      Ken F- easily my favorite! Very creative and good fun too!

      Reply
    • October 18, 2021 at 12:52 am
      Permalink

      Ken of the Frape.

      ‘Where’s my imagination?’

      What kind of question is that to end a story with? What are you doing? This story is pretty fishy. It has mermaids and breasts though. Always a treat, although I never got even a brief description of those little devils. (I forgive you for that.) This is one of your more whimsical tales Ken, and I suspect that you got the idea for this story after falling asleep while reading the comments on this thread. (Trust me, it happens.) But all’s fair in love and war, as they say.

      I read Roy’s comments regarding the ‘Victorian Puddle,’ thank God, as I’d never have caught it myself. (Stick joke in here later.) Understanding the origin of your main character, however interesting, did not shed as much light on the fate of ‘the three Ken’s’ as I would have liked, a far more interesting avenue of fiction in my opinion. (A missed opportunity there Ken, clearly.)

      In fact, despite the fact that this story has (how shall I put this?) a gossamer plot, or because of it, it displays as well as anything, (except maybe a resume) your skills and innate talent.

      A seriously fun story, Ken.

      cheers pal.

      p.s. I gave up on trying to find any ‘stick’ jokes, dammit.

      p.p.s. I googled the school where you used to teach, Ken, expecting to find a Messerschmidt or a V-2 rocket sticking up out of the lawn, but it all looked rather ordinary. (But that didn’t fool me, Ken. That’s what you Brits do. And I’m NOT FOOLED.) Since the school was so mundane, (I should confess that I didn’t google myself onto the campus, I just stood across the street, you know, like an Internet pervert.) But it was just ‘Google Street View’, so you know, it got boring pretty quick, because it’s just ‘google street view’ and nobody has any faces. So I decided to ‘cruise’ the area. You know, punching the arrow on the street. And I found that that area has a lot of dead ends, black doors and an amazingly tidy look. Little brick townhouses and alcoves. No trees though. (Great name: Lincolnshire.)

      So what does this activity make me, Ken? Am I a ‘street view’ voyeur? Am I a ‘virtual cruiser’? Is it really even cruising if you’re looking for mermaids? You tell me.

      Does that answer your question?

      Reply
      • October 19, 2021 at 12:19 am
        Permalink

        I laughed all the way through this. It reminded me of Flann O’Brien. Really witty and inventive. I loved the twist in the tail / tale too!

        Reply
  • October 13, 2021 at 2:06 pm
    Permalink

    Kem F., I have written and rewritten a response to your story three times and all three times something from cyberspace has gobbled it up. I will write this short note to you telling you I enjoyed your story and will write more tomorrow when I have recovered from my exhaustive efforts that have been to know avail. Good job.

    Roy

    Reply
    • October 13, 2021 at 2:16 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Roy,
      The same thing happened to me when I prepared a long response to Ken C. As I finished and tried to post it, I got a message to say I was kind of timed out. I lost the whole message and had to start again.’Really frustrating, eh?

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • October 19, 2021 at 12:28 am
        Permalink

        I’ve got ‘Long Response Blocking’ turned on. I can’t remember how to turn it off. One of these little icons down here, or over there. Not sure. What’s this? This is weird. Invisible typ

        Reply
  • October 14, 2021 at 9:47 am
    Permalink

    Ken F.,

    Actually it was probably my fault, by thinking I could leave the site for a second and come back. Sometimes I can open a new window and sometimes not, I guess. Anyway, I’m in a better frame of mind this morning.

    First, I really and truly enjoyed your story, which surprised me, because I’m not a big fan of author intrusion, of which this story is chocked full of, (dangling prepositions be damned). At least I call it author intrusion, but there is probably some other clever name for it, when the characters refer to the author.

    Speaking of clever names, I thought Magical Realism was another new gambit from you until I looked it up to see if there was such a creature. Indeed there is. It’s a genre, although I’ve never seen it in any genre list I’ve looked at.

    So, I thought, let’s just check out Victorian Puddle (not that I didn’t think you invented it, but if someone else had also used the same term.) I once wrote a story about 3D in which the characters came alive and I called it Real 3D. Turns out there’s a jillion uses of Real 3D. So, I Googled Victorian Puddle. And, there, on the internet I found it. Victorian Puddle. Then, delving further, I discovered it was a Ken Frape fellow who had coined this phrase complete with a version of the story he wrote for this site a long time ago. (Anyone who wants to see what fellow author Ken F., looks like, just Google Victorian Puddle and up pops Victorian Puddle – Pennyshorts, a website devoted to writing along with a photo of said author.)

    I haven’t delved further into any of the other works from other authors, but the story listed is yours. I couldn’t find any others of yours, and that’s when my reply to you disappeared. Damn, I thought, retribution for delving into Mr. Frape’s affairs? Nah, not at all. This is the internet where things stay forever to either haunt you or redeem you. In this case it’s redemption. Years from now you’ll be a household name, at least in Victorian circles for that rather clever invention.

    I’m just glad you’re back and I hope this stirs your creative writing juices. Mine were on a downward spiral but recently (I think the iron infusion and some mindfulness on my part as to exercise and diet, has really helped) I find they are returning. I surely hope so. I’ve got lots to finish yet before I check out through that great cosmic exit store, although none of us really know when that time is coming if we leave it to chance.

    Now, on to your story. Two piddly things. First, this line: He had never before, in his thirty nine years, been in the least bit interested in breasts but now he was a tad curious. Seriously? This guy is male, isn’t he? Is that even possible? But, that could just be me. I mean, come on, later on in the story, he’s doing his best to get in her scales and deprive her of her honor, rascally fellow that he is.

    And then, this line: As they swum back to their rocks guarding the entrance to the harbour. I thought swam is better, but then, I’m dealing with a Head Teacher who may go tsk., tsk., that York fellow should really get into a writing class somewhere that will help him out. Then again, it may just be that swum is like whilst, a word we don’t use here in America, at least I don’t hear it, and very proper indeed.

    All in all, in any event, a clever story, and I hope Daisy finds her scales again.

    Roy

    Reply
    • October 14, 2021 at 11:14 am
      Permalink

      Hi Roy,

      What a wonderful world the Google world is. I had forgotten about Pennyshorts but I am so glad it is still there and the only reference to Victorian Puddle. By the way, I entered a modified version into our little group April 16-29 in 2020 until the title “Victorian Emporium” as that way I could meet the prompt which was The Curiosity Shop. Also, my family had secretly had a book of several of their favourite stories written by me, printed up for my 70th and my daughter had added a photo of a shop that looked exactly like the one Carrie published in the prompt. My effort came third and I think Ken c won it.

      I just looked up Ken Frape Short Stories on Google and there are a number of entries and if you really want to you can see the real me on U tube reading a short story. I think Fresh Meat was the first story I ever entered for anything and that’s around somewhere too. It’s very dark. It appears in the Spring Writing Comp in the Short Fiction Break in 2017.

      Author intrusion is a good description. Sometimes I have seen actors do it and I think it refers to “breaking the fourth wall” although I might have this wrong. It’s when the actor says something directly to the camera or makes a face. Miranda, British comedy actor does it a lot.

      I have been aware of Magical Realism since I started writing in or around 2015 when I formally retired. It might be used in art as well and my wife uses it in some of her images.

      I always have debates with myself over swim, swam swum, hang, hanged, hung etc. The English language is such a minefield for the unwary.

      By the way, the character Henry Wiggins was originally created as a man who is on the autistic spectrum. There are a few clues in the story but nothing too obvious. As my wife taught children with special educational needs, I was a teacher and my kids soaked all that up, they instantly recognised Henry’s situation. Thus,having lived such a cloistered life with his parents Henry must have missed that teenage acne and the boob phase. I have got rid of the acne but the boob phase? Not yet There’s no hurry..

      Henry’s sudden interest has everything to do with being a figment of my imagination. He wants to see what I want to see so I can blame him when things go…….tits up! Sorry.

      The mermaid Daisy appeared in my story “Chooseyouradventure.com from the prompt, Choose Your Adventure on 28th. November – 11th. December 2019. It originally appeared, by mistake as “Short Story.” Daisy appears at the end. That story is a bit muddled by comparison with the latest version that is much neater.

      Thanks for your comments and extended interest. This story was always a gamble as I break the rules but hey ho, why not? At 71 I think it’s time I broke a few.

      Reply
  • October 15, 2021 at 11:31 am
    Permalink

    I wrote one that is based on a dream that I had a long time ago, but it didn’t have the required line and it couldn’t be fixed to fit. I liked it so much because I have tried to transcribe the same story from my dream twice before and it went poorly, but I know that I will have to cook up something better for this prompt!

    Reply
    • October 15, 2021 at 6:46 pm
      Permalink

      The Book Club

      “But, but the water is dirty!” Cake complained in a nasally voice at the train car’s flooded floor, and we laughed at the rising sea.

      “Know where Ben is?” I asked.

      “Probably on his way.”

      “Yeah, he wouldn’t forget.”

      So we waited. Here on the fringe of civilization, things rare and precious were sometimes destroyed. I had a good reason.

      “Found a fishing rod,” said Cake.

      “That’s good. I see you fixed your boat.”

      We stood in the door and discussed the advantages of plastic bottles for flotation — ubiquity, durability, transparency. Then at each other. Then back outside.

      “Take cover!”

      I went fetal on an upholstered seat as we were bombarded by aerial drones. They strafed the length of the half-sunken train and came around again and again.

      I peeked through my fingers at Cake. He was sitting up straight, hands in his lap, wearing a Japanese Noh mask: a potato-cheeked lady, crescent-eyed, red-lipped, and mocking.

      “Smart,” I whispered when we thought they were gone. “Now will you take that thing off? Jesus!”

      Laughing, he laid it aside.

      I considered his reflection on the floor — grubby-gray, two-dimensional, man-shaped — and thought of intangibles.

      “What even is waiting?” I asked, thinking of Ben.

      “Delayed gratification.”

      “Can you be more explicit?”

      “Waiting is fucking delayed gratification.”

      “You should write a dictionary.”

      “Peek at your presents and spoil the surprise.”

      “You remember all those millions of people that used to race through Shinjuku station, like right over there?” I said, aiming my gaze through the rusted-open door. “And how there’d always be someone going slower than everyone else, and you’d come up behind them and have to wait for all the other people around you to move out of your way so you could go around them?”

      “That was waiting, too. I remember.”

      I remembered Ben’s horror at the end of our last meeting, when I did what I thought I had to do and tore our book in three. How else could we all read it at the same time? But he took it the wrong way. Maybe for him, the book stood for all the others like it in the outside world that were still being published and read. At least we held out hope this was so. Or maybe the simple arithmetic of the book’s pages added up to a larger algorithm.

      We waited until the shadows grew dark like lunar craters. On the moon, you could probably wait a million years for anything to happen. But here, things happened or they didn’t. We stood up.

      “Till next time, Sneezy D.”

      “Cake.”

      “Wait.”

      He held in his hand his third of the book. In silence, I replaced it with mine. I wished there was a way to catch Ben’s glasses before they fell in the water. Without them, he really couldn’t see.

      Reply
      • October 18, 2021 at 10:54 am
        Permalink

        This is really good and feels like a snapshot from a larger story, like the best of microfiction. It reminded me of that Twilight Zone episode “Perchance to Dream” mixed with a video game (Half-Life 2) mixed with the real world (hopefully not our future).

        Reply
        • October 19, 2021 at 6:18 pm
          Permalink

          Thanks. We never know what the future holds. I tried to make it a little “light” but perhaps it’s still on the dark side :-3

          Reply
      • October 18, 2021 at 12:00 pm
        Permalink

        Hi Daniel,

        There’s something about your dialogue that sits really well with me. Real dialogue is tough to replicate but I think you have got it. It’s the way it doesn’t necessarily follow along , he said, she said etc but goes off in random directions because that’s what the speakers have in their mind at that moment.

        I am not sure exactly what the story intends to tell me but I enjoyed the delayed gratification part, “peek at your presents and spoil the surprise.”

        I can visualise a Mangalike landscape, set in the future with the lack of people in the station, the rusted-open train doors, the menacing drones and the need to share a book between three.

        There something really good in this and it needs developing, in my humble opinion.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
        • October 19, 2021 at 6:22 pm
          Permalink

          Thanks, Ken. That’s exactly where I’m at (in Japan and a new writer). The story’s about Ben losing his glasses and therefore being unable to find his way back to the book club (humorous+ominous). I appreciate your thoughts and time!

          Reply
      • October 18, 2021 at 1:11 pm
        Permalink

        The dialogue’s great, very vivid and unique apocalyptic framing too, with the half-sunken train, the reference to the teaming crowds. Ending was a bit fuzzy to me.

        Reply
        • October 19, 2021 at 6:25 pm
          Permalink

          Thanks, Ken. Ben lost his glasses in the rising sea when I tore the book into thirds, so he can’t see to find his way back to the book club. I guess it’d be better if I didn’t need to explain that! I appreciate your thoughts and time.

          Reply
      • October 20, 2021 at 8:00 am
        Permalink

        Daniel, there’s a very surreal, dreamlike feel to your story, particularly with details like the Noh mask (why did Cake wear one?).

        I agree with the other comments about the ambiguity of what had happened with Ben’s glasses (in the final paragraph). If Ben lost the glasses at the last meeting – did he make a misstep, fall in the water and drown? If not, why didn’t one of his friends stay with him? (Not having glasses dramatically reduces his chances of survival in the post-apocalyptic environment, or finding his way back from the last meeting to wherever he normally lives, let alone coming to the next meeting.) Unless they are reading glasses and he’s fine without them – except for the inability to read his part of the book.

        Reply
    • October 18, 2021 at 1:53 pm
      Permalink

      Funny fish story, John.

      The resemblance between you and Michael Douglas is uncanny and it’s easy to see how your subcutaneous conscientiousness could get caught up in those kind of subconscious shenanigans.

      Being a shark is great until you have children, then, well, it’s hard to be a rampaging carnivore with a couple of lead weights strapped to your pectoral fins. Plus… you have to start eating kale, keeping track of the water temperature, no more deep-dives. you have a sudden aversion to baby seals. It’s awful. I’ll bet.

      In any case, I hope your story serves as a fictional warning to all souls foolish enough to seek psychiatric advice about their ‘inner shark.’

      Save your money and just go fishing.

      Reply
      • October 21, 2021 at 10:38 am
        Permalink

        It is funny that you put it that way (the bit about seeking psychiatric advice).

        I originally had a guy sharing his troubling and recurring nightmare with a therapist in my story.

        The therapist gets all excited and explains away the dream using Jungian concepts of archetypes and all that kind of stuff, but then the guy turns into a wereshark creature thingabob and devours him (showing that we don’t understand everything yet and some things really are what they appear to be on the surface).

        It was too similar to a thousand things just like it. I think Stephen King had one about the Boogey Man that was basically the same setup (but different dynamics) and “Dead of Night” explored the same thing at the end of the movie, though I am not sure what the point was (besides being creepy as Hell).

        I bet you would be too smart to fall for this kind of thing though. You would see the foreshadowing and just end the session early.

        😉

        Reply
  • October 18, 2021 at 10:51 am
    Permalink

    Dang, this is the second story for this prompt that I have written, and I still failed to put the required line in the right spot! At least I managed to remember to try this time!

    Reply
  • October 18, 2021 at 10:57 am
    Permalink

    I don’t know what to do about it this time. The first one I just tossed to the side because it couldn’t be saved, but should I bother with this one?

    Reply
    • October 19, 2021 at 12:25 am
      Permalink

      RF,

      It’s worth fixing it, and easy. Just ask Carrie to remove the first sentence of your story. Problem solved. (That first sentence is pure moonlight anyway. All theatrics, no real relevance to the story.) Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice sentence, lovely, and you might want to put it somewhere else in the story, but it doesn’t serve as a hook. Sharks with your face on them? That is positively your hook.

      What’s with the font changes? That’s very distracting, especially when I’m reading a story with the wrong first sentence. Other than that, I think the story is great. It’s polished, it’s funny, it’s philosophical… it’s a story with a universal message. ‘Am I the only one who doesn’t know what the hell I’m doing?’ (Or something like that.)

      It doesn’t seem at all contrived, the narrator’s fears engender my sympathy and empathy, and the flippant fishy conclusion is like a singular counterpoint to the story’s well defined ‘big pointlessness.’

      Yeah, this is a good story. I would get rid of that first sentence in any case.

      Reply
      • October 19, 2021 at 2:34 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks man – that means a lot!

        (The fonts do whatever they want once I paste them here, lol, it is actually really frustrating!)

        I am trying to get my act together and write a longer piece, like 5,000 words or more.

        A month or two ago, I tried to write one of those horror stories that has a subplot about something mushy/emotional and a main plot about a scary thing happening/monster… and it didn’t go too well. I just ended it abruptly because I fell out of love with it I guess. How am I going to market it if I don’t even like it?

        Also I am still toying with the idea of wrapping ten stories in a framing web and making a collection of short stories/novella hybrid, but the concept is messy and needs refinement (when do I do the twist (if at all), which stories do I put in, what order do the stories go in, how much does the whole thing make fun of itself, that kind of stuff).

        It is kind of dumb because the stories are all over the place and it would take a miracle to make more of a connection between them! If I had a ton of stories, I would just cherry pick the best of them and not worry about the interconnectivity so much, but I feel like the randomness and mixture of bad and slightly better stories is not optimal!

        But the worst part of all of this is that I have no one to blame but myself! I have lots of time to write, even if it is sort of riddled with distractions and the guilt of having actual stuff to do, so I can’t externalize the blame lol. That is why I started so late: I have been enjoying Life just dragging me along because it was easier than accepting that I don’t know what to write most of the time! I think Yoda said: “Easier than failing, not trying is.”

        But back to this story. Did you get an annoying and overwhelming feeling that he was going to transform into a wereshark (or that I wanted you to think that he was)?

        Reply
        • October 20, 2021 at 9:56 am
          Permalink

          Rumple – paste your story into a notepad and then paste it into the comment box.
          Whatever you’re using to write your stories in adds a TON of code behind the scenes.
          If that’s not your intent please strip it out by pasting it into a notepad type application. Or if you’re doing it from a computer right click and “paste as plain text”.

          I do agree the different fonts are rather distracting and I have to do some clean up when I change it to blue so your code doesn’t collide with my code and make everything on the page blue.

          Reply
          • October 20, 2021 at 12:39 pm
            Permalink

            Thank you and I am so sorry about that! Plain Jane from now on!

        • October 21, 2021 at 11:17 pm
          Permalink

          Rumples,

          I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you, but no. I did not. I thought it was going to be a story about zombie-Michael Douglas-shark-clones.

          Reply
  • October 18, 2021 at 11:46 am
    Permalink

    Hi Rumples,

    Two stories, eh? I have been struggling to get even one out of my brain so, respect man!

    Your question is, Should I bother with this one? In my view, you should spend some time getting those pesky words in at the beginning and then your work is not wasted if our Moderator-in-Chief gets all pernickety.

    “But, but this water is….is…full of sharks..and I am one of them and they’ve all got my face!” It’s all part of the dream. Just a minor rearrangement of the wording and Bob’s your uncle. Done.

    Crack on and get it in. Carrie’s not back yet!

    Kind regards,

    Ken Frape

    Reply
    • October 18, 2021 at 3:40 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks for the help!

      The story that I didn’t post is the actual dream that I referenced (but didn’t elaborate on).

      The story that I did post is just a fisherman version of myself blabbering to some poor soul who is about to have the worst fishing trip of his life (on account of the boring stories, why did you think?).

      On another note, I saw the latest film in the Halloween franchise this weekend. Well, I tried to watch it but I fell asleep about halfway through.

      It was just awful. It made me feel better about my writing, even the worst of it.

      And I was going to write something REALLY bad! One of my voices talked me out of it at the last second.

      Reply
  • October 18, 2021 at 2:13 pm
    Permalink

    “A True Fish Story”
    By Rumplefinkies
    Word Count: 806

    But, but the water is filled with sharks when I dream, and all of them have my face.

    I used to just dream about sharks attacking me. Then, when my first son was born, the nightmares shifted to focusing on sharks and alligators threatening my offspring. It varied, but some aquatic predator would always be lurking a short distance from my child, as if my paternal instincts had started directing the plot and micromanaging the setting of my dreamscapes, inserting a crocodilian chimera of scaly limbs in a stream, or spawning an entire Jaws replica in a swimming pool, that kind of thing.
    
    These nightmares were just little reminders that Death is creeping about, and constant vigilance is necessary to protect your little ones, or so I figured.
    
    But then I read some Jungian dribble about the oceans and rivers of my dreams representing the Unconscious and the sharks and gators representing my Shadow self. This cast a new light on my nocturnal voyages and made me interpret them in a new way, but I think it also caused my entire psyche to reconfigure like a cerebral version of Pangea: tectonic plates grinding and lurching into a new supercontinent of concepts and fears.
    
    I first noticed it at the finale of a nightmare that jolted me awake. My dream eyes saw a great white shark out in the breakers. It was at least twenty-five feet long and riding inside a very tall wave. The scary part was that it had my face, but, ineffably, my face looked like Michael Douglas, and this detracted from the abject terror of the moment.
    
    It was still enough to rouse me from slumber. I reflected on the vision and thought it was chilling and “trippy”, but I don’t think that I truly grasped the deeper structure of it all, you know? Dreams were just a fun thing to do. Even lucid dreams were just recreational for me then, and not the sacred spiritual journeys that they are now.
    
    A year went by without anything spectacular occurring in the dream world. I was well beyond the threshold of drinking age, but I still had nightmares about being late for band class (in middle school) and other mundane and typical topics. Nothing to write home about.
    
    But then the genius that hides somewhere deep inside of me directed a period piece with a really haunting, expressionist feel and gave me a private viewing in my very own theatre. 
    
    I can’t share it all with you, but it ended with me realizing that there was a shark within me. Under my skin. In my brain.
    
    I was a shark in human clothing. 
    
    Filled with the same hunger and predatory motives but swaddled in a meek and weak form to beguile and embolden my prey. All those around me would suffer because of what I was underneath, but I would thrive.
    
    Jolting back to the waking world again, I reflected inwardly and saw that my dreams had evolved to the point where I was still afraid of the shark, but I had put the damn thing inside me. Or had I realized that I really was the biggest threat to me and my loved ones? Perhaps I had always been the shark, and my perception was the only thing that had changed.
    
    It couldn’t be that I was really a monster. Who has even heard of a wereshark? No, it was symbolic.
    
    But I searched online the next day and found some Hawaiian folklore about the son of a sea god that could take the form of a shark. The story read a lot like a European werewolf story, just substituting sharks for wolves and whatnot. There was the same violence, suspicion, and whodunit trappings too.
    
    Had I subconsciously heard about this story and incorporated elements of it into my dream? Was I going crazy? Had I watched too much of “The X-Files”?
    
    And why was it so important to me? Lots of people have lots of weird dreams. You don’t have to do anything about it. I mean, when they say to “follow your dreams”, no one wants you to try to fly or wear your underwear to work, you know?
    
    So, I buried it deep and moved on with my life. I sleep pretty well now, but I still remember fragments, occasionally, and the sharks always have my face. Just my face. No Michael Douglas.
    
    I like it. It is like a constant reminder that danger is near and that no one is to be trusted. Not even yourself. It helps me remember to be good and to restrain myself too. To resist the urge to unleash my wrath when the rage surges, you know?
    
    But that is enough out of me! 
    
    Toss me a beer!
    
    Let’s get this fishing trip started!
    


    Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 7:47 am
      Permalink

      Masterfully done – I loved the psychological insight, creepiness, flashes of dry humour, and the mature & rational way the protagonist deals with the dreams.(And now I know where the wereshark comment comes from.) The last line is deliciously ambiguous. 🙂

      Reply
  • October 18, 2021 at 2:16 pm
    Permalink

    I am sorry Carrie!

    Please delete my first draft and forgive my transgression!

    Reply
    • October 18, 2021 at 2:53 pm
      Permalink

      Done!

      Reply
  • October 19, 2021 at 9:47 am
    Permalink

    SKY ABOVE, OCEAN BELOW

    By Victoria Chvatal

    “But, but the water is … endless … and flat …” Tillirlei struggled for words.

    “You landfolk always say that,” Artralla snorted. First flight over the ocean always sent landfolk in a tailspin, she reflected – or made them fall in love. She gave the lad a side glance; judging by the rapt look on his face, her latest apprentice might fall into the second category.

    “Make use of the thermals,” she reminded, “and conserve your energy. There’s nowhere to rest until we get to Sintrilla, you know, not like back home. And there’s no landmarks in the ocean either, so you gotta keep the magnetic pole clear in your head at all times.”

    Tillirlei shot her a mildly annoyed look that said “I know”, but wisely said nothing; so the veteran courier didn’t roll her eyes. Sure he knew – in theory. Yet in Artralla’s experience, a reminder never hurt rookies on their first transoceanic crossing.

    Artralla noted approvingly the steady glide, the economical movements, the properly secured mail pouch. The lad had promise.

    The two glided without speaking over glints of sunlight on the blue surface of the ocean, enjoying a steady breeze that carried them along.

    “Artralla,” the youngster said suddenly, “Do you think there’s any truth to those stories of the people who were hurled into the ocean when they angered God? Do you think they – well, their descendants, rather – still live somewhere underwater?”

    “Nah, they’re just stories. No-one could survive underwater, so if any such rebels really existed they would’ve drowned pretty quickly … What brought that about?”

    Tillirlei subtly adjusted the curve of his wings, descending gracefully closer to the water.

    “I thought I saw something,” he murmured, “those darker patches in the water – what are they?”

    “Could be anything – rock formations, coral reefs, large creatures that live on the bottom … Hey!” Artralla’s amusement gave way to alarm, “don’t get too close to the surface!”

    “Why? I’m using the air currents. I’m not wasting any energy,” the lad countered defensively.

    “No! There’s …” her warning shout was cut short as a gigantic undulating grey-green tentacle rose above the water and swatted Tillirlei out of the air.

    ###

    “Do you think some people really flew up into the sky long ago, to challenge the Allmother?” Bombrlum asked.

    “What, you still believe in children’s stories? Really? You’re way too old for that,” scoffed Purlumbar. “No-one can survive up there, ‘cos they’ll be burned to a crisp by the sun.”

    “Birds don’t get burned,” Bombrlum pointed out. Some of their friends and siblings, sprawled on the rocks in a semicircle, listened to the argument. Others, obviously bored, were looking around.

    “Hey, what’s that shadow up there?” piped up one of the little ones.

    Bombrlum looked up at the sunlight-infused blue of the water. Sure enough, there was a darker patch blocking out some of the light; it was moving.

    “Just a cloud,” Purlumbar waved a dismissive tentacle.

    “No, a bird,” Umblram contradicted, as usual.

    “No, that isn’t right,” Bombrlum mused, “it’s too large for a bird … and looks all wrong for a cloud – it’s too close …” An idea occurred to him. “I bet I could even touch it.”

    “As if you could touch a cloud,” Purlumbar did an expressive eye roll. “Really, you’re so childish for someone who’s already turned male.”

    “Just watch,” he grinned, extending a tentacle towards the mysterious shadow.

    He felt the impact as the tentacle hit something solid – definitely not a cloud, then. Curious, he swam upwards – and was momentarily blinded as his head broke the surface. As his eyes adjusted, Bombrlum saw something hurtling down through the air, larger than any bird he’d ever seen. The thing was flapping its wings frantically as it fell, without success.

    “ImsorryImsorryImsorry!” Bombrlum cried in a panic. That didn’t help matters any, so he thought desperately how to break the bird’s fall before it hit the water. Tentatively, he extended a tentacle a little below the creature, hoping it wouldn’t be injured by the impact.

    “Ouch!” he yelled as sharp claws sank into the tentacle. It shifted to get a purchase, and stared straight into Bombrlum’s eyes. The creature then proceeded to emit a string of high-pitched noise, right at the edge of Bombrlum’s hearing. He supposed it was angry with him for being so clumsy. He tried to speak soothingly to it; he wasn’t sure if the creature understood, but after a while it seemed to sound less furious. In fact, at times Bombrlum got the strangest feeling that the creature was talking to him; its gaze was certainly more intelligent than that of any bird he’d ever seen.

    After some time, the creature fell silent. Bombrlum made an upward motion with the tentacle on which it perched. It flapped its wings and soared into the air. Bombrlum felt its gaze as he sank under water, feeling very thoughtful.

    ###

    Tillirlei felt booming sounds reverberate through his hollow bones. This did nothing for his attempts to right himself. Suddenly, his fall was arrested by something solid, which turned out to be an enormous tentacle. Tillirlei clung to it for dear life. He traced the tentacle to a bulbous head that regarded him with five beady eyes. Underneath the eyes was a kind of short beak, from which the thundering sounds issued.

    The creature just stared, making no attempt to eat or otherwise harm him. Tillirlei looked into the five strangely intelligent eyes. Suddenly, words rose inside his head and spilled out – about his home colony in the Elleriel Mountains, his childhood dream of being a courier that was finally coming true … He was only dimly aware that he was babbling. He didn’t even wonder till later whether the creature had understood anything he said.

    When he stopped to draw breath, the young apprentice felt a slight nudge from his living perch, and took off into the air. He looked on as the creature disappeared under water.

    “Are you alright, kid?” asked Artralla with concern, drawing in her claws.

    “Yeah,” he replied somewhat vacantly.

    The boy looked as lightning-struck as she felt. Artralla still couldn’t believe he’d escaped unscathed. She’d been about to go for the monster’s eyes, half-expecting other tentacles to crush or draw her under the water along with the boy. Still, Tillirlei had enough presence of mind to settle into a smooth glide again. The kid was fine courier material, she thought.

    “Artralla,” Tillirlei said in a voice tinged with disbelief, “that creature … I don’t think it wanted to kill me … Do you … do you think it could understand me? … That it was … sentient?”

    “Don’t get too excited,” she answered uncomfortably, “most likely just an animal, acting on instinct.”

    Artralla’s mind flashed to gigantic tentacled creatures that deepfishers sometimes brought in. It was a rare occasion, and you had to know how to cook the things, but they made for damn good eating.

    “Well, get your mind back on the route,” she said briskly. “We still have a long way to go.”

    Reply
    • October 19, 2021 at 4:23 pm
      Permalink

      Loved the divergent evolution and this felt like a reimagining and extension of the Icarus myth. The magnetic pole bit was neat because birds really do have the ability to navigate by polarized light and the magnetic field of the Earth, but mixing that with the humanoid aspects was cool. Like if I turned into a wolf or a werewolf, would my color vision suffer and become dichromatic while my night vision and refresh rate improve so I could track moving objects better and see with more clarity in dim light? Would a wereshark be able to pick up bioelectric signals from surfers and hapless swimmers? What would that look like if it were me “seeing” it?

      Having “animal” senses is cool and everything, but I liked the way you casually referenced it most of all.

      Reply
      • October 20, 2021 at 7:37 am
        Permalink

        Thanks for your comment, Rumples!

        This story has a case of divergent evolution rather than werespecies, so all of the original species’ characteristics are preserved with the addition of intelligence; the only change may be atrophy of senses or skills due to industrialisation, eg mass-production of reliable compasses leads to modern bird-people being worse with navigating by the magnetic field than their ancestors …. Mmm, perhaps nonhuman intelligent species would have less humanoid characteristics, though.

        Werespecies are a whole different kettle of fish: there’s a lot of questions on how much of each species’ characteristics the person retains in each form, and what characteristics they have that none of the original species possesses (eg in most stories werewolves in wolf form are different from actual wolves).

        Reply
      • October 21, 2021 at 2:08 pm
        Permalink

        RUMPLE…

        A ‘were-shark’? A human that turns into a shark at high tide? Bio-electric signals would be a piece of cake, I think. When you stop and think about what attributes other deep-sea denizens possess, yew got yerself one wild-frickin-animal there, pardner. (a bio-luninescent, electromagnetic, voltage-inducing, poison-barbed, critter with its own lure dangling in front of its face.) Even a sane, rational, firmly grounded individual like myself can appreciate where your wild imagination might take us, but tell me, if you would, Mr. ‘were-aficionado’ where do these were-creatures put their clothes? You know Superman had a pocket in his cape for his suit, of course, (and just wore his underwear) but what about these were creatures? They never show the part of that lifestyle where they wake up naked in a pile of trash with blood all over their face. They never show that part of it, do they? (I don’t actually know anything about the were-genre, John, I’m just, this IS flatulating Friday, isn’t it? Oh hell. It’s Thursday. My bad. (Therapod Thursday. How could I forget that? But I’m just not into it now, dammit.)

        Reply
        • October 21, 2021 at 4:37 pm
          Permalink

          According to Terry Pratchett, “fashioning impromptu clothes out of anything to hand was a lesser-known werewolf skill”. Alternatively, they could stash spare clothes somewhere convenient and remember to get in the vicinity of the stash when ready to transform back. Or just get home before transforming back. Some authors go for super-stretchy clothes, though I’m not sure if it would work in practice – depends on the relative sizes of human and “animal”. What did the Hulk do when the anger was gone & he turned back into a normal-sized human? No way his clothes could survive the transformation.

          Reply
          • October 21, 2021 at 4:47 pm
            Permalink

            Drat! You beat me to it because I took way too long and had way too much fun with my answer!
            But you nailed it.
            And I think the Hulk had superscience shorts that were made out of miracle nanofibers or some crap?

            Yeah I just searched and they said it was made out of “unstable molecules”, but I am not sure if they ever explained that fully.

            Might as well be magic shorts.

        • October 21, 2021 at 4:44 pm
          Permalink

          Haha!
          I am a werehouse manager.
          That is how I know so much about this topic.
          I house various werecreatures in a safe place overnight during the full moon so they can get on with their lives the next day.

          Just kidding, that is the plot of another dream that I had years ago.
          Though lots of D&D nerds have messed around with characters that transform into houses during the full moon, and these miserable wretches have been called “werehouses”.
          (My badge just says “warehouse”, and this gave me the stupid pun idea, but I really did have that dream.)

          To answer your question: body paint.

          No werewolf rips their clothing after the first batch of destroyed laundry.

          They just get talented and discreet body paint artists to create realistic wardrobes. No clothing necessary.

          I guess waterproof paint for the wereshark dude?

          Thanks for the question though, because now I am realizing how much time I have actually spent thinking about this exact thing!

          I have heard explanations like really elastic unitards (ridiculous), a small drawstring backpack containing all of the necessary clothing (like no one is going to notice this, but then again the witnesses are probably dead), having a “Renfield” type that diligently stalks you from a distance until you have returned to human form and then provides you with a change of clothing, etc.

          My favorite explanation is the kind where they bury clothes in a spot ahead of time and then make sure that the rampage path takes them back to this position, like a really messed up and gory version of the travelling salesman problem! But this implies that there is still a Dr. Jekyll in there somewhere during the Hyde times, which is disturbing, because that means that they are still in control and orchestrating things that are supposed to be the fault of the “unthinking animal”.

          Like blaming your bad behavior on the alcohol when you are just the same person… but with fewer inhibitions.
          The beer didn’t make you a bad person, it just brought him or her out of their hiding spot.

          Me? I would just bury extra clothing all over town. Not nice clothes. Just something to wear that isn’t ripped or soaked in goat blood! Or maybe I would just move to a remote nudist colony full of heavily drugged hippy-types? Then me running around in the woods like that would seem like a normal Tuesday!

          Sorry in advance (not that sorry, sorry).

          Reply
          • October 22, 2021 at 2:02 am
            Permalink

            Wow, I’ve never heard of “werehouses” before! What are their superpowers when they are in house form? Do they eat any unweary travellers who wander in?

            As a werehouse (of the other kind) manager, how do you keep werewolves from eating weresheep? (Unless you manage several separate facilities.)

    • October 20, 2021 at 12:12 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Vikki,

      I really like this story and enjoyed reading it. It is very neatly ( not a very good word, sorry) put together with both sides of the story helping to put the two halves together.

      Good, brisk writing and clear, concise dialogue. We all know how hard it is to be successful with dialogue and this story nails it.

      Left me feeling that we should not be so dismissive about myths and legends. What do we know after all?

      Well done,

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • October 20, 2021 at 2:37 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks for your comment, Ken.

        I do picture in my mind that there was contact between the two species in the past – but it ended so long ago that they forgot about each other’s existence; and it probably ended with a conflict, hence they are portrayed negatively in each other’s mythology.

        Reply
    • October 21, 2021 at 2:17 pm
      Permalink

      Wonderfully imaginative story, Victoria. My take on this was not divergent evolution at all, but a far distant future evolution of various other species long after humanity has perished. Or left, or evolved into something else. Could be another planet altogether. This is a story that some would say is fantasy but I’m pretty sure it’s good old-fashioned hard science fiction. Great dialogue. Glad you’re back Hope you had a nice vacation.

      Reply
      • October 21, 2021 at 4:22 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks Kenneth :),

        I’d go for a different world, where multiple (well, at least two) intelligent species evolved in parallel. And then one day someone gets that horrible moment when they go “Shit, have I been eating another intelligent species all this time?!”

        I’ve no idea myself if this is fantasy or SF, since there’s neither technology nor magic; so how do you classify it?

        The vacation was mostly fun & occasionally excruciating, but that ended ages ago. Since then I’ve had a major Jewish holiday season (mostly fun but no time to write), and been struggling with routine and petty bureaucracy – two of the biggest soul-crushing, inspiration-draining nuisances I know. And boy, am I glad I finally managed to finish and submit a story before the deadline!

        Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 9:56 am
    Permalink

    LOVE DIVINE, LOVE EXCELLING (1200 words)

    “Here is Love,
    Vast as the ocean…”

    Looking sidewards at the vast blue waters, the beauty was indescribable. She hummed the hymn loud because singing always made her feel good. Something stirred within her like nothing else. Far better than chocolate.

    What can go wrong? Sonya loved these short cruises across the waters and this must be her 7th or 11th… she had lost count.

    Last year they were flitting across the waters to Macau- the gambling den of Asia. She had no desire to go to Gambledom but being the passive half of the home, it was beholden to her to accompany the man on all his trips. He was on a diminishing bucket list to be ticked off. It must be granted that wherever the two traipsed, willingly or not, the compounded memories were always precious.

    The neon lights were flashing as they neared the port.
    10,000 people, maybe even more.
    People talking, without listening,
    People moving, no one standing,
    People writing songs that no one ever sang.
    (I’m overstepping here…Sorry Simon n’Gar… they weren’t writing anything.
    Only I am)

    For Sonya, there was something nerve wracking about not having all the details of the trip up her sleeve or tucked away in her bosom, in her bag or in her pocket. It was a ‘woman thing’ to have control over the nitty gritty domestic doodahs. But in her case everything was a mystery and to follow blindly like a bat was required by the commander in chief- the man by her side.

    Anyway they agreed after a billion little arguments and settled for a day trip to the place and took the morning ferry across the ocean. There it was, the longest undersea tunnel, a 15 billionUS dollar worth bridge looming over their heads- the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

    Dolphins danced and they seemed happy. With not a care on earth, they could cavort in the longest ocean crossing in the world. Did they have power struggles? Nahhh!

    It could’ve been very fabulous but when the lady decided to ask for some directions at the counter, just before they embarked on their journey, the man cracked a vein, blew his top.

    “Just follow me, that’s enough. You don’t have to ask every Tom Dick.”

    “Uhhh? It’s Lou Chey, by the way.”

    “Follow me, ask no questions.”

    Just who did he think he was? Jesus?

    So this was how the chirpy-turned-grumpy couple set out on their Macau trip.

    Needless to say, the trip ended in disaster and she never again wanted to hear the word Macau ever again. She hated everything about the place. The stinkin’ crazy rich with fancy walking sticks, the casinos where everyone dressed to kill, smoking long pipes and playing roulette, blackjack.

    She didn’t belong… that much she knew.
    For that matter, neither did he.
    He was a good guy after all and was not going to play around with his hard earned dough.

    The next attraction was eating at a fancy schmancy restaurant, walking around a bit… then heading back to the ferry.

    She wanted to tell him to hurry back. But he wouldn’t listen. That was his moment to slip away to get some quick eats.
    “Shumai before travelling,” he said.
    Of course she followed. And slurped, then chewed.

    But time waits for no shumai and the ferry slipped away under their noses. Imagine being stranded in a far off gambling den.

    Don’t imagine. It happened.

    They were lucky to get on a bus across the longest bridge ever. So then the trip ended well- for the most part, with a sensible silence between the two.

    The less spoken the better was the conclusion to be drawn.

    On her way back, she started singing softly
    ”When the oceans rise and thunders roar,
    I will soar with you above the storm..”

    It was 2018. Many were wearing masks. Whatever for?
    They sure knew how NOT to inhale bad air.

    Today, three years later, there were on a cruise around romantic Italy.
    What can go wrong?
    Nothing.

    The food was great, the people were friendly and their hotel was a classic piece of renaissance period. A David pirrouted from the walls looking down into their beds.
    Left its seeds while she was sleeping,
    A vision that he planted in her brain….still remains.
    In restless dreams, she walked alone,
    Narrow streets of cobblestones,
    ‘Neath the halo of a street lamp,
    Of course you know he wasn’t clad.

    “Tomorrow, I’m booking the ferry. To Capri and the blue grotto.”

    “But… what about… there’s so much to see here.”

    “Don’t say anything, Sonya. Don’t spoil it.”

    Another song was burning in her brain.

    Yay… it was.. In the Isle of Capri that he found her…where’s that dumb walnut tree??
    Sadly ended tho’.

    “What kind of destination is Capri?”

    Neither he nor she understood that summertime was nearly over.
    All she wanted was a sweet word of love.

    Sonya couldn’t conform to his world. Had she changed her thinking she could be renewed.

    But as a man thinks, so is he. The power of his mind can transform ‘I can’t to I will.’

    Sorrow turns to joy. Doubt into faith. In the storm, he kept rowing.
    She looked at the waves. Are we gonna make it to the other side?

    Feel you are knocked down? Then get up.
    Don’t brood. Don’t let steam emerge from your ears.
    Attitude with gratitude.
    These light afflictions are not worthy to be compared to the joy in store.
    Your human mind has the mental capacity to know there’s a Keeper of the souls.

    Their main struggle was to fight the entanglement of this world. Like all couples.

    Press on. Persist. Have talent, press on. You can’t be an educated derelict.
    Whining won’t get anyone anywhere.

    A ship floats because of the resistance of the water. Humans gotta learn from the turtle. Look how it sticks its head out. Don’t cower in.

    Fear must never strangle the hope for tomorrow.
    Be victorious
    Like Victoria.

    He walked towards the helm of the boat.

    “Please sit down,” she whispered.

    “No way, I want to see the sights. Don’t order me. Why can’t I do what I want to do?”

    Suddenly the boat jerked real bad and he swayed real hard and fell headlong into a real chubby woman’s lap.

    Aaaaargggg!
    Her scream was louder than her nose. At that opportune moment her scream got entangled in an outrageously loud sneeze.

    And she sneezed right on to his upturned face.

    Yikes! Smell of garlic mingled with sesame and hoisin is not something you want to inhale.
    He got up and rubbed his face.
    Sonya looked deeply perturbed. She offered her sanitizer which he massaged generously all over his face.

    “If only you listen to me.”

    Why did God make the two one? This eternal equation, albeit imperfectly perfect, will always remain a mystery

    On docking safely in the harbour, he went home and scrubbed his face till it turned purple.

    The next day they queued at The Galleria for PCR.

    Results are awaited.

    Meanwhile he wanders off once again to the Nike shop to buy himself a pair of hiking shoes.

    Like nothing ever happened.

    Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 12:09 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Marien,
      Unfortunately your story does not qualify as it doesn’t include the first line.

      I can hold off two hours so you can edit it?

      I’d hate to not include your story as it’s a good one!

      Reply
      • October 20, 2021 at 9:37 pm
        Permalink

        O crumbs! I am in a different time zone,Carrie, and worked at the last minute! My bad. And I didn’t see the opening line requirement till after I posted the story. Did the first line requirement get added much later?
        And your warning went to my junk mail!
        It’s alright. I’ll survive! 😁
        Having been a teacher myself I know the pain of late submissions!
        Cheers,
        Marien

        Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 2:41 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Marien,

      Hope you work the required first line into the story before the deadline.

      I have to say that I’m puzzled by the title of your story: Sonya’s husband is such an extremely annoying character, I simply can’t picture Sonya feeling anything but resentment towards him – let alone love.

      Reply
      • October 21, 2021 at 12:08 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks, Vicki, for reading. You find him annoying…lol! That’s true. But she must be too.
        I guess it’s a matter of perspective and ‘the live and let live’ dynamics.
        I tried to bring out the true essence of the relationship, with forgiveness, patient endurance all thrown in good measure.
        Of course the word limit is limiting..

        Being happy!

        Reply
    • October 21, 2021 at 1:06 pm
      Permalink

      This story borders on poetic. (Which I hate…) but I think I see what you’re doing here. My first impulse was to paraphrase ‘Phenig’? in ‘The Princess Bride.” I don’t think this story means what you think it means.’ But, ‘love is in the eye of the beholder’, and you story is written from the ‘beholders’ point of view. So even though the rest of us are reading this and thinking, ‘how can she tolerate this tremendous bag of wind?’ The narrator has a more nuanced opinion of her husband. For better or for worse.

      I’d push him overboard for practically nothing.

      Reply
    • October 21, 2021 at 2:55 pm
      Permalink

      I think I am biased somehow but I really liked the narrator and not the husband.

      I enjoyed the song references and the beautiful descriptions of everything and the lyrical poetry (that we can always count on from you), but I sort of got the vibe that she is a little too nice to him and he is a little too domineering.

      I think all the positive sides of his character are hidden from view, but she can totally see them (or remember them if it has been awhile since he showed his loving side).

      But this is all just because you don’t have enough words to show some redeeming qualities on his side and part of the point was to have him get some kind of payback, right? If he was a major charmer and doting on her the whole story, it would be kind of weird to punish him with a face full of mucus!

      Still, I would have liked her to get that one word of love! Good job on the story and creating tension!

      Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 11:53 am
    Permalink

    Hi Marien,

    This is some rollercoaster of a story. On the ups, I am lost in cloud and unsure where I am, or where you are taking me. On the downs, you are clearer and more concise and I can see a story based upon the troubled relationship between the man and the woman. Some interesting takes as he is described as the one in charge but she keeps an eye on the details.

    However, before I go further I need to ask one question. Ok? Where are the opening words, “But, but the water is…?”

    I have struggled on a number of occasions to obey the instructions in the prompt where we are required to write certain words and I hate it. This is not intended as a criticism but I need to offer you the same advice as I (and Ken C) gave to our friend Rumples. That is, work out how to follow the prompt and put those key words in.

    Don’t know how Carrie will see things. Time will tell.

    Kind regards,

    Ken Frape

    Reply
    • October 21, 2021 at 12:03 pm
      Permalink

      Thank you, Ken F, for reading. I must confess I read that the story must contain something about an ocean whenever I got into the site. And I didn’t read all the notes going to and from Rumples and Ken. I could easily have turned that around had I been more focussed.
      Never mind. Things happen.
      Time zones matter… I was in slumber land when grace time was given unto me 🙂
      You got the gist of my tale. That makes me happy enough.

      Being grateful,
      Marien

      Reply
  • October 21, 2021 at 5:47 am
    Permalink

    Hi, All

    If anyone’s interested, this is a fun thing: write 30 ‘flash’ stories in 30 days. It’s not for 1,200-word stories, so not as daunting as it might sound.

    (@Carrie – please remove if you think it’s not appropriate.)

    https://nancystohlman.com/flashnano/

    Reply
    • October 21, 2021 at 11:49 am
      Permalink

      Phil,
      So, I looked up ‘daunting’ in the Funk & Wagnall’s. As an example for using it in a sentence, it gave the prospect of writing 30 stories in 30 days. Coincidence? Or me just being full of shit?

      Honestly though? I don’t think I could do it.

      Did I ever mention the time an employer offered me 100 dollars to show up to work, not on time, but by 10 a.m. for 30 days? All I had to do, was arrive no later than an hour after I was supposed to be there. (This was thirty years ago, when I had to work two days to make a hundred bucks.) I really tried. In fact, I thought it would be a piece of cake.

      How close did I get? I think I was late on the seventh or eighth day. I wasn’t even close.

      Reply
      • October 21, 2021 at 2:10 pm
        Permalink

        That’s an employer with a lot of patience … and you were obvs the star employee to be given such leeway.

        I did the challenge two years ago. Sometimes the prompts are for ten-word stories, stuff like that. Very doable in fact. And you get into a rhythm. Go for it, man! (even if you only last seven or eight days …).

        See you in the purpose-built Facebook group!

        Reply
  • October 21, 2021 at 8:15 am
    Permalink

    Now I am wishing that I had submitted the story about the dream and not the story about the guy talking about his dreams.
    It wasn’t going to be one of those “turns out it was a dream” stories, I just mean that it was based on a dream, like that song “Sleepwalk” by Santo & Johnny. I think that I glorify dreams and treat them like they are some kind of window to the spirit world, but they really do work as a muse sometimes.

    Reply
  • October 21, 2021 at 11:57 am
    Permalink

    I hope the torso in my story doesn’t win ‘favorite character’ this time around. If he (it) does though, I’ll finally have my proof. (That you people are weird.)

    Reply
  • October 21, 2021 at 12:15 pm
    Permalink

    I already know which are my favorite stories, but I’m like wracking my brain trying to think of a character in all of these stories that I liked, at all. Perhaps the tentacled squid creature in Vickie’s story. But he was awfully pompous. I reckon Danai, in Roy’s story is the most sympathetic. (I almost forgot about him.)

    One thing is for sure, Michael Douglas with a shark’s body ain’t gonna get my vote. (For favorite character.)
    The dead narrator seemed nice. But, he’s dead, so what’s the point of voting for him? (They’re all fictional, Ken.) Oh yeah, right. That was my muse bullying me again. Fuckin’ muse. GET OUT OF HERE. Pushy bastard. Where was I? Oh yeah, trying to pick my favorite character.
    Let’s see, what did Ken offer us? A figment. I’ve never cared much for figments. But someone else’s figment is a different matter. And which character was the figment?

    Might be time to take a second look at the characters in ‘The Book Club.’ They were decent chaps, trying to make the best of a bad situation. Seems the key to unlocking the mystery of that story was the title. But which character was which? I’m going to need to call for backup.

    Reply
    • October 21, 2021 at 1:50 pm
      Permalink

      Well I don’t need your vote for favorite character anyway!

      Because I am an awesome wereshark, I have a very strong fin base.

      Reply
      • October 21, 2021 at 1:57 pm
        Permalink

        I should have written and submitted “Squideo Games” just to mess with you guys. I don’t have a story idea, to be clear, just an awful pun that needs victims.

        Reply
      • October 24, 2021 at 2:34 pm
        Permalink

        Booo! Wonderfully appalling pun!

        Reply
  • October 21, 2021 at 3:15 pm
    Permalink

    We’re just waiting on Fiona and Daniel’s votes. I’ve emailed them and I’ll give them a few hours since it was a lot of stories this round and everyone’s in different time zones.

    Reply
    • October 24, 2021 at 2:35 pm
      Permalink

      Sorry! I didn’t realise you were waiting – not sure if I voted in time.

      Reply
  • October 24, 2021 at 1:02 pm
    Permalink

    My dear writers – so sorry for the delay. whoever coined the phrase “Oh I’ll just do it when I get back from vacation” should be shot.

    Although in my defense the last vote came in late last night! 😉

    I am caught up and without further ado here are your winners!!

    1st Place: The Devastator by Ken Cartisano
    2nd Place: Ocean by Fiona Kamal
    3rd Place: Vanishing Point by Phil Town
    4th Place: A Day At The Beach by John Filby
    5th Place: Sky Above, Ocean Below by Victoria Chvatal
    6th Place: The Book Club by Daniel L
    7th Place: A True Fish Story by Rumplefinkies
    8th Place: SunBright by CJ Rosemeck (Carrie)
    9th Place: Figments by Ken Frape
    10th Place: An Ocean Away by RM York

    The story with the favorite character was “The Narrator” in Ken Cartisano’s The “Devastator”
    The story with the favorite dialogue was: “The Book Club” by Daniel L!

    Congrats to all!

    Reply
    • October 24, 2021 at 2:37 pm
      Permalink

      Well done, Ken, very much deserved. Lovely, memorable and meaningful story. What a talented bunch you lot are! I’m very happy to have found you.

      Reply
    • October 24, 2021 at 4:31 pm
      Permalink

      Congratulations, KenC (well deserved – a unique story) and Fiona … et al. Chuffed to be on the podium.

      Reply
  • October 24, 2021 at 2:44 pm
    Permalink

    Congrats to Ken C., Fiona, Phil and Daniel – the worthy winners in an overall strong round.

    Reply
  • October 24, 2021 at 2:52 pm
    Permalink

    Hey, thanks everyone. Thanks for the votes. I feel ecstatic and gratified to pull off a win against this group, but especially coming in ahead of Vicki. (Who has been kicking everyone’s butt lately.) And Fiona, whose story was equally compelling. I think the singular nature of my story’s subject matter earned it a certain intensity and realism that would be difficult to manufacture in any other way. (Unless, like Vicki, you had the talent to place a lone woman in an alley with a dancing dragon. – I loved that story.) In fact, I’m surprised her current story didn’t fare better than a middling fifth, as I thought it was incredibly creative and original. (C’est la vie.) Again, thanks everyone.

    Reply
    • October 24, 2021 at 4:43 pm
      Permalink

      Well done Ken.
      I told you I was going to give you my vote and it was clearly the choice of others too.
      Kind regards,
      Ken F

      Reply
  • October 24, 2021 at 6:32 pm
    Permalink

    Hi All,

    Well done to all but especially you three podium toppers. A great collection of stories, so varied and with a different take on the prompt.

    I just did a quick check and found that most of the results, including best character and dialogue, were the same as my choices.

    Roy and I have swapped places but, just like the last time we were both in, we are the pillars holding up the whole building.

    There’s no need to thank us. It’s just our turn.

    Ken Frape

    Reply
  • October 24, 2021 at 6:56 pm
    Permalink

    Greaat Storieeess and I did not get a chance to read any so I will read at my leisure this week and write for the next prompt. Being a co-ordinator, being roared at by your Top Principal for going above the head and pointing out some faults in work being delivered to kids with learning difficulties and trying to get some teachers to understand the requirements of Universal Design is giving me a sore head and heaps of stress. Some people in the teaching profession are incredibly arrogant and not open to learning or understanding that learning does not come easy to every kid.
    My late brother had a learning difficulty which I believe was undiagnosed Dyslexia and it accounted for a lot of things. I am very passionate about helping these kiddos learn and I am the b*tch from hell for anyone who thinks these kiddos don’t count and are unteachable. So I have been told I am a stubborn cow and even called worst things to my face by a NSW principal who I then complained about and was upheld.
    Yes being stubborn is all about persevering in the face of unrelenting prejudice and discrimination. Woe betide anyone who thinks I have round heels. They realise too late, I am do or die in the attempt trying personality. 🙂 😀

    Reply

Post your story here:

%d bloggers like this: