September 29 – October 12, 2022 Writing Prompt “Lonely Room”

Theme: Lonely Room

Write about a character who’s woken up in a strange room. The room looks like an everyday apartment, except it has no windows, doors, and seems to have no exit of any kind.

But sometimes, nothing is as it seems.

Required Elements:

  • an exit or way to escape discovered unexpectedly

Word Count: 1200

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122 thoughts on “September 29 – October 12, 2022 Writing Prompt “Lonely Room”

  • September 29, 2022 at 7:06 pm
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    Wow, what a great prompt. Unlocks a lot of creative thoughts, processes and themes. I cannot wait to see what we all do with this one.

  • September 29, 2022 at 11:38 pm
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    Yes great prompt…maybe I can actually manage to write again. Been missing the stories.

  • September 30, 2022 at 6:40 am
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    Let’s see if I can get out of my mediocre writing state with this prompt. And, receive emails this time.

    • October 3, 2022 at 1:21 pm
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      Hurrah, I’m receiving emails.

  • September 30, 2022 at 7:58 am
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    WITHIN

    “I wake up in this strange room. It looks like an everyday apartment, except it has no windows or doors, and seems to have no exit of any kind. So I panic. I’m not in bed – I’m in an armchair, much like this one. I jump up and touch the wall and it’s warm, soft, sticky. I recoil and try to return to the armchair, but it’s gone. And so have all the other things that made it look like an apartment – the table, the television, the rugs. It’s a round-ish space, glowing red. There’s a smell … kind of familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it. I go back to the wall and follow it with my fingers, feeling for some knob or handle – anything. It seems like an eternity, going round and round, and I lose track of which bits I’ve inspected. So I take off my tie – I’m wearing a suit for some reason – and prod it into the wall as a sort of marker. I leave it hanging there and start to move round the space again. Another eternity. I never find the tie again. I’m getting tired. An idea comes to me: what if I try to charge through the wall? It’s soft. It might give. I try it, shoulder first. I plunge into the wall and it envelopes me, covering my face. I can’t breathe. I grapple my way back into the space, gasping for air. The ceiling is too high for me to reach. The floor – that’s soft and sticky, too. I try slamming my foot down – to see if I can break through to whatever there is below – but the same thing happens: the floor swallows my leg up to the knee and I have to fight to extricate it. That’s when I start screaming for help, over and over and over. I stop when I realise something: there’s no echo here. The walls, floor and ceiling are just soaking up the sound. I might as well be screaming into a hurricane. No one will hear me. No one will help me. I’m on my own. Then a strange calm comes over me. I lie down on the floor – soothing in its warmth and softness. And do you know what? I feel safe, protected and … yes, happy! I don’t know how long I lie there but after some time I sense a change. I’ve had my eyes closed, and when I open them, I see that the space is lighter – the ceiling a paler shade of red. I sit up and look around. There, to one side, an opening of brilliant light, in a kind of oval shape. A way out. I get to my feet and start towards it but I stop. I’m afraid. What’s beyond the walls? After the moments of panic earlier, I’ve discovered that I’m happy here. Should I sacrifice that certainty of happiness for the unknown? And that’s when I actually wake up and I’m in my apartment, in bed, staring wide-eyed at the ceiling and wondering what it was all about. So what do you think it was all about?”

    “Well, dreams are very subjective, you know. I could give you my interpretation, but that would be me imposing meaning on your sub-conscious. Better if we take the path to meaning together. I can guide you a little, but you have to find your own way in the end.”

    “So I’m paying you but I have to do all the work?”

    “That’s about the measure of it. Otherwise it’s my sub-conscious we’d be delving into, not yours.”

    “Ok, I get it. So where do we start?”

    “We could start with the armchair. Why an armchair and not, say, a bed? You said you were sleeping and woke up?”

    “Maybe … maybe it was an echo of our sessions. I do feel relaxed here. There was that time, a couple of weeks a go, when I did actually drop off, remember?”

    “I’m glad that you feel like that. That’s what we want – to beat the storm with calm.”

    “Yes, I think that helped me in my dream. I was really panicking initially, then this … this great sense of peace came over me.”

    “All right. Let’s move on to the suit. You never wear a suit to these sessions, so where did that come from, do you think?”

    “I don’t know. I don’t even own one! Except my birthday suit, of course! Ha ha!”

    “Hmmm. So then the room disappears and you’re left in this … ‘space’, you called it?”

    “That’s right. You couldn’t describe it as a room. It was … well, a space, as I said.”

    “With glowing walls.”

    “Yes. Red, or orangey red.”

    “And what else is red?”

    “In the world? Buses. Roses. My nose! Ha ha!”

    “Indeed. What else?”

    “Er … blood?”

    “Hmmm. And let’s think about the texture of the walls, the floor. Warm and sticky?”

    “Yes. I was disgusted at first, then they became like a contributing factor to the calm I felt.”

    “Good. And there was a smell? People don’t often dream smells.”

    “They don’t do they? But I remember smelling … something. Indistinct. But familiar.”

    “‘Familiar’ could mean many things. And the fact that you can’t describe it could point to the fact that it was something … primeval.”

    “I’m not sure what that means.”

    “Ancient. Instinctive.”

    “I see. That sounds … a little pretentious, but okay.”

    “And finally, the opening. Tell me again how you felt about that.”

    “Relieved at first. It was my escape route, after all. But then I began to weigh up the pros and cons. I’d come to terms with where I was. I was safe and happy. The opening – the light – offered a way out, but I didn’t know what would be … ‘out there’. So I had a quandary. As the Clash sang: ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ Ha ha!”

    “I don’t know what that is.”

    “Sorry. Never mind. So, the opening …”

    “Let’s try something. Close your eyes. That’s it. Now, try to visualise the opening in you mind’s eye. Got it?”

    “Yes, there it is.”

    “All right. Now, I want you to start walking towards it – only in your mind. Can you do that?”

    “Yes, I’m walking. Walking.”

    “And that’s when I woke up.”

    “So you were describing to me a dream you had, and I asked you to walk towards a light in your dream, is that it?”

    “Yes.”

    “And then you woke up?”

    “Yes.”

    “All right, so perhaps we should go back to the beginning.”

    “Okay. So … I wake up in this strange room. It looks like an everyday apartment, except it has no windows or doors, and seems to have no exit of any kind.”

    .

    • October 3, 2022 at 1:55 pm
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      Phil, I’m (as you know) a big fan, and I love how you transitioned the apartment from everyday to what you needed to fit your story for the prompt. Something I have trouble with doing and never as seamlessly as you did. Nice.

      I’m an everyday realist when it comes to the prompts and I need to fix that and be more creative. We’ll see how my story unfolds in the next few days. I’m an everyday realist when it comes to the prompts and I need to fix that and be more creative. We’ll see how my story unfolds in the next few days.

      I don’t have any quibbles with your story but I don’t get a sense of drama, just a nice little chat with your therapist — or whatever. After I reread it, I often wonder if a lot of people spend a lot of time with therapists who (as you say, let the patient do all the work) and keep them on a string as long as possible, or as long as their Porsche payment are still due. I get that sense from this story.

      Anyway, a well told tale but needing a pick me up of some sort. A shot of caffeine somewhere to spice it up. The dialogue is totally believable.

      Roy

      • October 10, 2022 at 6:39 pm
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        Thanks as always for your positive words, Roy. Seems this one didn’t really grab ya. Hopefully next time!

      • October 10, 2022 at 6:43 pm
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        “I’m an everyday realist when it comes to the prompts and I need to fix that and be more creative.”

        Don’t see why, Roy. Your stories are always very relatable because of their realism – and that’s a good thing, surely?

    • October 6, 2022 at 12:40 am
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      Very clever Philip, well done. A circular story with no exit. It’s so good it’s kind of annoying, but I like it, a very creative response to the prompt.

      • October 10, 2022 at 6:40 pm
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        Cheers, KenC!

    • October 6, 2022 at 9:08 pm
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      Fantastic! You made me feel younger with this one. Real young.

      ;}

      • October 10, 2022 at 6:40 pm
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        Thanks … and thanks for being discreet!

    • October 11, 2022 at 2:06 pm
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      Very, very clever Phil! I had to read this a couple of times to understand it and then it clicked! I won’t give it away, but you did this very well and it is the most unique take on the prompt. Kudos to you my friend! I wonder how many will recognize it? Well done!

      • October 11, 2022 at 9:22 pm
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        Thank you, Adi. I think you probaby got the idea… 😉

    • October 12, 2022 at 9:06 am
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      Hi Phil,

      Another great piece of writing that meets the requirements of the prompt.

      This prompt didn’t stimulate me when I first saw it then I was away at the seaside and now there’s no time to get into writing mode.

      I really liked the cyclical nature of this story and the absurdity of the situation. It’s a win win for the psychiatrist who can run the sequence again and again and get paid every time.

      The soft sticky room was a nightmare, literally the kind of happening from a dream. There’s no way that whilst awake one would ever consider staying put as it seems safe but in dreams and nightmares, anything goes.

      A good, neatly worked story, one again.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      • October 13, 2022 at 1:02 pm
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        Thanks as always, KenF!

    • October 12, 2022 at 9:56 pm
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      Dear Phil,
      For the first time, the very first time… I didn’t get your story!
      Neither did I figure out the psychoanalysis nor armchair therapy. And finally whose subconscious is it?
      It must be me. But I did read it twice.
      It’s a room in your dream in a room in your dream. Yup! Gotcha! 🙂

      • October 13, 2022 at 1:05 pm
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        Thanks for putting in the work to try to understand it, Marien (you read it twice!). Probably too obscure for my own good this time. 😉

        (I won’t explain what I was trying for because that’s like trying to explain a joke that no one gets – you keep digging and the hole just gets bigger!) 😉

  • September 30, 2022 at 2:06 pm
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    Lonely room? That is just about every room that I enter, except for the living room of my house (which is also my bedroom). That place is crawling with cats and dogs and people who resent my presence but put up with me!

    But that is okay, because I am many. Call me “Legion”. As long as I stay away from herds of swine, we will survive.

    Good luck everyone!

    • October 6, 2022 at 11:12 am
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      Hey Legion,
      You sound like a virus. Cut it out. But stay away from the herds of swine anyway, you know, just to be on the safe side.

  • October 1, 2022 at 6:37 pm
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    THE DUNGEON OF FAITH (1200 words)

    He heard stories about a dungeon-like room that existed in the minds of the townsfolk. Stories of people gone missing for days, and even weeks, who returned different from who they were before they left. No one could quite put their finger on these disappearances, not even those who went missing could explain what they experienced. Those who shared their experiences all said they weren’t harmed, but all had one similar message: We will not stop until our resting place is returned. Jake brushed these off as simple folklore.

    Jake Tungsten thought of himself as just your atypical spirit bound together with others in a familial, interwoven, quilt-like unit where terms such as brother or sister were almost frowned upon. They simply called one another by their given names and not much else. As a bachelor, he often wondered who he would meet to maybe, spend their lives together. The bar scene didn’t satisfy his silent search, so he decided a change of scenery might motivate desired change.

    The view from the uppermost seating area in the gymnasium gave Jake an opportunity to scan the people milling about below his perch. He was close enough to feel a part of the gathering, yet, far enough away to avoid any attempt by others to talk. The basket social sponsored by the Live Without Boundaries society, a group of locals who, like Jake, sought companionship without any sort of formality or resemblance of a legal wedding. Their motto: Free to Roam was generally understood to mean a union of two like-minded people who would cohabitate without the promises and challenges associated with wedding vows and a ring. As the evening progressed, Jake decided to go to the washroom, and almost immediately was met on the floor by Cathy, an average girl with a slightly muscular build but who had soft, delicate features.

    “Hi there,” she began, her eyes drawn to his. “I noticed you sitting by yourself. I wanted to join you but didn’t want to seem like I was intruding on you.”

    “Aahh, n-no,” he stuttered, shuffling his feet nervously. “This is my first time here. I don’t know anyone here.”

    “Well, now you know me,” extending her hand to his. “I’m Cathy.”

    “Aah, I’m Jake. I’m pleased to meet you.”

    After a few pleasantries, Cathy invited Jake to a nearby table where their conversation touched upon their loneliness, their familiar journey and a desire for intimacy and companionship. Their eyes met and just as they were about to hold hands, the auditorium speakers cackled to life:

    “We’ve got fourteen baskets for auction here tonight. Allrighty, you gentlemen, now’s your time to impress your lady friend,” shouted the emcee. After a mini bidding war with another couple, Jake bought the 7th basket filled with fruit, sandwiches and a bouquet of fragrances with sweet aromas of perfume in ornamentally designed flasks, and gave it to Cathy.

    “Oh Jake,” she flushed. A look of innocent tenderness lay underneath a brilliant smile. “This is so lovely of you.”

    It must have been a sight to see; both Jake and Cathy, sitting there in a blush of blissfulness. After the baskets were gone, the emcee called upon those who purchased a basket to dance with their partners. Jake and Cathy looked like they had lived together forever. For song after song, they remained on the dance floor, separated once when another couple cut in to dance. The woman Jake danced with lead them to the edge of the dance floor and into a dark hallway. Jake, who had been dancing with his eyes closed, not wanting to lose the image of Cathy, opened them just as he was shoved into a small, dark room.

    Cathy waited patiently at their table. It seemed odd that she had never before seen the couple they danced with, and it was even more strange they were nowhere in sight. Thinking back, she brushed off their attire as playful. She wondered where Jake went. After checking other places in the auditorium, and asking the janitor if he could check if he was in the washroom, Cathy panicked. The emcee stopped the music and the people began to search in and outside the building — to no avail. Talk of the dungeon resurfaced.

    Meanwhile, Jake managed to switch on a dimly lit lightbulb situated in the centre of the ceiling. There were no windows or even a doorknob, just a bed with musky smelling blankets, a flattened pillow and a night table. He opened the drawer and found a bible. Jake realized he could hear people calling his name just beyond the knobless door, and screaming as loud as he could he knew his yelling was fruitless. In frustration, he lay on the bed, closed his eyes, and slept.

    A month passed without Cathy even hearing a whisper of Jake’s voice. The local newspaper sent out reminders and after each passing week, were slowly delegated to the back-pages. Even the gossip in the establishments and coffee shops murmured into a low hum. Then silence.

    Out of sheer boredom, Jake decided to read the bible. His recollection of long ago verses and meanings began to seep into his consciousness. His great-grandfather was a preacher of a congregation deep in the mountainous area were he was raised, but it was father who chose to uproot his family to live his life without fear or retribution. He taught his family to believe in nothing.

    Sitting on the bed, one of the stories that fascinated Jake was Jonah and the Whale. He began to repent, thinking he had been punished to reside in this lonely room until he allowed himself to believe in the higher power. He began to pray for forgiveness.

    Cathy, believing she was rejected, however, ventured to the gymnasium. She heard the building was going to be demolished to make room for a larger facility. She walked into one of the hallways, hoping, praying to know the whereabouts of her friend. She leaned casually on a door and fell backward as it opened. She landed awkwardly on Jake’s lap.

    “Oh, excuse me,” she begged, thinking that she fell accidentally onto the janitor’s laps. Then, realizing she was sitting on Jake, she gushed, “Where have you been? Everyone has been looking for you.”

    “What day is it?” he asked innocently.

    “It’s been a month since you’ve gone missing.”

    “A month?” He responded incredulously. “I’ve been gone that long?”

    “Yes you have. What happened? Where did you go?”

    “When I danced with that woman, I closed my eyes. I wanted to think I was dancing with you. All I remember was being shoved into this room.”

    “I found you. You’re safe. They were going to demolish this building and build over it.”

    “They can’t build on this site. It’s an old burial ground. The spirits are hurt. They take people to the dungeon, where time stands still, to try and make us understand.”

    Together they walked, into the sunlight. A bible tucked tenderly under his arm. They would eventually build the multipurpose facility elsewhere.

    Jake, a changed man, proposed to Cathy. His faith was renewed.

    • October 3, 2022 at 1:08 pm
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      Tom,

      Tell me this is the Tom Russell from back in 2013/14 or so that used to write fairly frequently and then had to drop out because of the lack of internet access. If I remember, you’re part (or all) Indian and were writing from a part of the Southwest that didn’t have a lot of tech going on. Hope I’m right, because I always enjoyed the plain homespun honesty in your stories. Your characters are usually romantic in nature and if I remember correctly, written in a style more suited to a Zane Grey novel and yearn toward a more old west time. If so, welcome back.

      Roy

      • October 3, 2022 at 2:10 pm
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        Tom,

        Let me fix my comment above (and apologize) to reflect where I said — part (or all) Indian — and make that Native American. That was careless and thoughtless on my part and I ask you to forgive me. Just an old dog who has trouble learning new tricks. A good many of my relatives are part Native American to some degree (half in many cases) and I grew up leaning they were part Indian and not part Native American. They don’t mind and use the sobriquet themselves when we are together, but I forget in our new modern day awareness that Native American is the proper term to use. (I actually like it better than Indian anyway). It’s just that I’m 80 and I didn’t grow up playing Cowboys and Native Americans. In this case, I just wasn’t thinking.

        Roy

    • October 7, 2022 at 2:45 pm
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      Great job! I was reminded of stories from Europe where people are led astray by fairies or elves, and also those stories from Japan where the powers of evil spirits are weakened by holy symbols (Hoichi the Earless is the only concrete example I can think of, and that is just because I saw the film “Kwaidan” a few years ago lol). Because the Bible and the prayers that they were saying at the same time were the things that saved him, and in more ways than one!

      😉

    • October 10, 2022 at 2:08 pm
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      Welcome back, Tom! (I read Roy’s comments.) There’s a lot of imaginative stuff going on in your story, and I like the intertwining of finding love and the spiritual. I also like the happy ending – we do need some happiness in these dark times. One thing I wondered about: if the spirits wanted people to know and understand about the burial ground, they’re going about it in a pretty inefficent way! One person per month? And then when that person gets out, he or she has to spread the word? It does the job for Jake, who regains his faith, but the job of protecting the site … well, as I said, I thought the spirits could have had a different strategy … but then this is me being overly demanding of the spirits I suppose, because the job (preventing the site being built on) eventually gets done. Enjoyed the multi-thread story.

    • October 11, 2022 at 2:21 pm
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      Welcome back Tom! I enjoyed the story of young love and the dancing – but was lost when Jake entered the dark room, found the Bible, prayed for forgiveness – and then came out talking about an old burial ground and hurt spirits. I would love to see a longer story where Jake found himself in this forgotten room, perhaps with some of the remains of the earthly belongings of the hurt spirits, guiding him to their lost history and untold story. So that when he was found and emerged from the darkness, he had the knowledge and proof of the lost people and he could stand up to protect their sacred burial ground and respect their heritage and legacy. You have the potential for so much more to this story! Adi

      • October 11, 2022 at 3:53 pm
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        Thank you Adi and yes, I could have written more about the contact and perhaps some spiritual guidance…I need to sharpen my pencil, or cut my fingernails; next time…

    • October 12, 2022 at 9:30 am
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      Hi Tom,

      It’s nice to meet another writer. I wasn’t a part of this group back in 2013/14 so I haven’t read any of your work before but I am looking forward to doing so in the future.

      I really liked this story. I’m not sure if any of the elements are biographical but the way you weave the spirits and the Bible in is very believeable.

      I guess the setting in the gymnasium is typically North American ( Don MacLean I saw you dancing in the gym….) whereas in the UK we have different venues for dances and parties. That’s not really all that relevant but I did like the way you had created a society, Live Without Boundaries and Free To Roam. Great for singles. How did that affect couples who stayed together with no formal ties? Children? It’s an interesting concept.

      The notion of the spirits capturing people and making them understand was a central part of this story and that really tied everything together, for me, at least.

      Really enjoyed this Tom.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      • October 12, 2022 at 11:40 am
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        Thank you kindly Ken…yes, I participated with the group earlier and needed to focus much of my time with other commitments…it’s great to be back andI do need to tighten up my stories in greater detail…thanks for your comments…

    • October 12, 2022 at 11:07 pm
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      A neat love story. Good dialogue too. How soon he encounters his soulmate!
      I like the Bible being referenced and yes it does work miracles on complicated humans who read it.
      The need for repentance is vital for this world.
      Can’t agree with the concept of spirits being hurt tho’. But then it’s your tale, not tail 🙂

  • October 3, 2022 at 2:43 pm
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    Hi Roy. How have you been. And, no worries okay. It’s great to be back and my tech concerns have been taken care of. As a ‘new’ writer, do I have a vote or do I need to post an additional story (next month). I will offer my humble thoughts on each of the contributions each month. Have a groovy day, Roy…

    • October 3, 2022 at 9:12 pm
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      Tom, You have to vote to have your story count. And your humble thoughts will be welcome. Glad to see you back and writing. I mean that. All my days are groovy, Tom.

  • October 4, 2022 at 8:19 am
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    Signing in

  • October 5, 2022 at 10:01 am
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    I got half of one. No werewolves! 100 percent responsibly sourced and werewolf-free! But I still have 600 words left, so maybe I spoke too soon?

    • October 5, 2022 at 10:55 pm
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      Maybe I can bring a werewolf into my story? Something I do not write about, ever, the supernatural, I tried it last month with All Hallow’s Eve, the spiritual rather than the supernatural or sci-fi.

      • October 6, 2022 at 1:44 pm
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        I loved that one from last month, and that is the great thing about werewolves: they can be sci-fi, fantasy, horror, comedy, or a deep look into the human psyche. Look up the history of werewolves, you will see that a lot of witches that were killed in the Inquisition and such were “werewolves”, which is kind of a cool connection to your last story. And the relationship to serial killers and abnormal psychology is there to be explored. You can do so much and go in any direction you choose, even space lol.

        It takes a darn good plot to entertain me without sci-fi or fantasy, honestly. Some one needs to get shot or stabbed, or the romance or mystery or whatever better be spicy, or I will lose interest or get depressed. You know how stories always mess with you to make you question whether it is supernatural or something mundane? I always get sad at the reveal where it was a guy in a costume or some clever illusion the whole time. The world needs more magic, more fun.

        But then again, I am always in some fantasy land in my head, so writing “normal” stuff is hard for me. It is difficult to pretend to not be such a weirdo. And I recently discovered that I am pretentious and snobby. Lol. So take my opinion with a grain of salt, but the werewolf stuff could be fun for you!

  • October 5, 2022 at 12:02 pm
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    Finding Freedom
    By: Adrienne “Adi” Riggs (1,195 w)

    Tori rolled over in the bed, smiling drowsily as she felt the downy softness of a thick comforter and the crisp smell of clean sheets. The mattress was the perfect support for her, not too soft, but not too firm either. In the darkness, she turned onto her side, snuggled into a fluffy pillow, and burrowing under the blanket and comforter she drifted back to sleep.

    The sound of birds awoke her, and the dim light of dawn began to creep through the room. Stretching, she sat up yawning. But when she saw the room, she was suddenly wide awake. This wasn’t her room! This wasn’t her bed or her apartment! Panic and fear gripped her, erasing the effects of the restful night she’d had. Carefully, she slid off the bed to look around. Finding a light switch, she turned on the light. She donned the robe she found lying at the foot of the bed. It fit perfectly.

    She was in a spacious apartment. There was a moderate but well stocked kitchen, a comfortable sitting area with large screen TV and remote, an alcove filled with books, and a writing desk complete with any tool a writer could wish for – ink and quill, typewriter, computer, dictionary, and thesaurus. She moved toward the books, mostly classics, leather bound, and she couldn’t resist picking one up to breathe in the scent of the leather and the pages. The bathroom held all the necessities, and the bedroom was perfect. Her clothes were even in the closet. She found art supplies in a cupboard off the kitchen in the small dining area. There were canvases, paint, brushes, sketch pads, colored pencils, and more. She was so bemused at the quality of her surroundings; it took her some time to notice what was missing.

    “Where is the door?” the sound of her own voice startled her. She looked around her, turning in circles.

    “It is not visible,” said a pleasant voice.

    “Alexa?” Tori ventured, looking around her.

    “Yes. How may I assist you?”

    “Why is it not visible?”

    “I do not know. Is there something I can assist you with?”

    “Show me the door!”

    “All in good time. When you need it, it will appear.”

    “Why am I here?”

    “Because you wished it.”

    “Because I wished it? I don’t understand.”

    “Would you like coffee?”

    “I don’t drink coffee” Tori muttered.

    “Would you like tea? Green tea? Chai tea? Pekoe Tea?”

    “No, thank you.”

    “Would you like hot chocolate? With marshmallows?”

    Tori was dumfounded. “Why not? Yes, please.”

    She jumped when a machine on the kitchen counter came to life and within minutes steaming hot chocolate was streaming into a mug. A bag of marshmallows sat nearby. She dropped marshmallows into the chocolate and stirred absentmindedly as she studied the space. She burned her tongue on the first sip.

    “Ouch! Is there a window? I heard birds.”

    “Yes.”

    Tori searched and saw light coming from behind pale curtains over the kitchen sink. She ran toward it and pulled them back.

    “Alexa! What is this?” She was incredulous as she felt around the edges of the ‘window’ attached to the wall, displaying a tree with leaves fluttering in a light wind and birds flying around the branches under a bright blue sky.

    “A simulated window. It can be programmed for whatever you wish to see or whatever time of day you wish it to be. As you can see, it has been programmed to ‘Morning Birdsong’. Did you not find it most enjoyable as you woke?”

    “A simulated window? That’s crazy!”

    “I assure you that it is the top of its line. It is designed to provide the correct amount of sunshine and vitamin D for human growth and development and to ensure positive energy for the brain.”

    “I want a real window! I want to feel real breezes!” Tori’s panic was returning.

    “That can be arranged through a specialized air system.”

    Leaving the hot chocolate to cool, Tori sank to the couch.
    “Alexa, why am I here?”

    “Because you asked.”

    “I did? When?”

    “You would know better than I.”

    “How exactly did I ask?”

    “Your Alexa unit reported that you requested a ‘safe place’. Is this not true?”

    Tori was silent.

    She had requested a safe place. She was stressed and overwhelmed by life, her job, the cost of living, and so much more. She had prayed out loud and cried for some relief. She had just wanted some time alone, somewhere to be safe, some place where she could find herself again. A place where she could read, finish writing her novel, or create a new painting. Truthfully, she hadn’t known what she wanted but a wise friend had told her to stop and rest. To take time to just sit for a minute and let the calm wash over her, to just let her mind wander wherever it wanted to go, to have a Zen moment. It had sounded wonderful.

    “Alexa, it is true. Is that all?”

    “No”

    “Well?”

    “Your Alexa unit reported your likes, hobbies, and favorite pastimes based on your shopping habits related to crafts, art supplies, books, and music.”

    Tori felt her privacy slightly violated. “For what purpose?

    “For the creation of this space.”

    “Alexa, am I a prisoner?”

    “Of course not.”

    “I may leave?”

    “Do you wish to leave?”

    “Um …” Tori paused. Did she really want to leave?

    “Do you wish to leave?”

    “I’m thinking.” Not for the first time, Tori wondered why she was conversing with a machine, albeit an intelligent machine.

    She looked around the apartment once more. The leather-bound classics begging to be read, the writing desk calling to her to write, the empty canvases tantalizing her with the visions of beautiful ideas for paintings, and the wide bed with the downy coverlets that had given her the first restful sleep she’d had in weeks and the promise of absolutely no distractions.

    “Alexa. Where does my family think I am?”

    “Your Alexa unit reports that you requested vacation from work, and you are ‘out of town’.”

    “That is impossible.”

    “It is best not to question what I cannot answer.”

    “Ha! I got you!”

    “Are you satisfied?”

    “Alexa, when I am ready to leave, you will tell me how to do so?”

    “Of course.”
    “There is a way out?”

    “Of course. There is a door.”

    Tori laughed. “A real door or a simulated door?”

    “That was humorous. Ha, Ha. A real door.”

    “Don’t tell me where it is yet! I don’t want to be tempted to leave until I’m ready.”

    “Does this mean you wish to stay?”

    “Yes, Alexa, I wish to stay.”

    “Very good. What would you like to do first?”

    There was no doubt in Tori’s mind.

    “Alexa. Please program the window to a moderate rain shower and dim the lights. Since I have nowhere to be, I believe I will go back to bed for a while!”

    She ran across the room and dove into the middle of the bed. She burrowed under the blankets and within minutes, was sound asleep with a look of peace on her face.

    • October 7, 2022 at 7:26 am
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      Excellent! I was going to try a digital window, but you did such a great job that I am glad I didn’t. This is like, my dream vacation from reality, honestly. A rainy day that ends when I want it to, and no responsibility for awhile (I’m allergic).

    • October 10, 2022 at 10:44 am
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      This is a really cool and clever story too, Adi. Your writing is absolutely gorgeous. I love the opening, I was hooked by the middle of the second paragraph. The tech angle (no spoilers) is done really well, and the ending is what I suspected, dreaded even. I thought it would be depressing, you know? (Again, no spoilers–but that warm comfy bed?) And of course, she (the character) did exactly as I feared she might.

      But, the way that you did it left me feeling all warm and fuzzy too, nothing dreadful at all. (Am I putting too much between the lines? Maybe I’ll just put ‘caution spoiler alert’ at the top of this post.) The difference was that your character didn’t just go back to bed, (as I feared.) She changed the mood by changing the digital window, then she didn’t just go back to bed, ‘she ran across the room and dove into the middle of the bed.’

      This is a self-actualized character all the way. We think she’s a victim at the beginning, and you give us no clues, (bless you.) But the reveal is her strength of character.

      I like the subtle title too.

      If writing were like a house, your house would have cornices, beautiful, solid and working shutters, Spanish tile roof… You know what I’m saying? There are trailers, sheds, lean-to’s, crackerjack boxes, starter homes; and then there are houses. Of the houses, most houses are well-made and comfortable, totally livable, but some houses have the stamp of individuality left by the person who lovingly lives there, and/or built it. That’s the kind of house your writing reminds me of.

      However, in chapter two, she realizes it’s the year 2041, and she’s in a modern, state-of-the-art retirement home, and she just experienced a moment of clarity after months of demented catatonia. (?) Kim calls me a real ‘Debbie Downer.’ You can see why.

      But seriously, a thoroughly enjoyable read.

      ps I have a mind to draw parallels between each of our writers, and what kind of train their stories could be likened to. Forget houses, I think the train analogy would be just as intriguing without coming across as offensive in any way. (Hey. Some stories are freight trains. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. They just have a lot of cargo.)

      Well, that’s my opinion, hope you find something useful in it. (a flower in the debris, as it were, something like that.)

      • October 10, 2022 at 4:21 pm
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        Thanks Ken for the comments and I loved the house comparison! I am SO happy you made it through the hurricane! I was born and raised in Florida and lived through more than my share of hurricanes including Andrew which tore Miami apart but I was a little further up the eastern coast. My father worked for Fla. Power and Light and worked weeks in Miami restoring power to the millions without electricity. My brother works for the State and is Director of Emergency Management in Florida so he gets to work 24/7 for each and every storm. When I spoke with him last week, he’d worked 18 days straight.

        I loved Phil’s comments too. (I want that bed as well!) I’m so glad you liked the story!

        For you and Phil, whose comments were somewhat similar in worrying about a dark past and depression.

        When I finished writing this story, I realized I had created my dream space (without the simulated window). I pictured Tori as an overworked, overstressed woman who never takes time for herself. She just needed a quiet space to rest, find herself, do what SHE wanted to do, when she wanted to do it with no one to bother her, distract her, etc.

        I had written she had just had the first really restful night’s sleep she’d had in a long time but the initial fright of finding herself in the strange apartment took some of that away. Her running back to take a nap is a luxury busy women don’t get enough of and when we do, we feel guilty for “wasting” time. She’s on her own time now (no husband, no kids, no boss). So, a nap first and then she can do all of those other wonderful things like reading, writing, painting, etc., (and sleeping during a rainfall is absolutely wonderful (and second best to sleeping next to the sound of ocean waves.)

        I have made myself jealous with this story. I made it so real in my mind, that I want it in reality (with real windows and a door.) LOL! Thanks for the comments! I may expand this story in the future. Adi

    • October 10, 2022 at 2:31 pm
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      (Spoiler alert … but people should perhaps read stories before reading the comments anyway?)

      Really like this, Adi. The Tori/Alexa conceit is a great idea … and we don’t even question how this has all come about (well, perhaps I did as I was reading, just a bit!). The dialogue is very well done – the ‘real door or simulated door?’ line is Tori thinking on her feet. That bed … I want it! As always, I’ll make some observations/have some doubts, but they won’t take much away from a thoroughly enjoyable tale. One thing: Tori is speaking to Alexa, but then Alexa refers to Tori’s Alexa, as if they’re two separate entities? I kind of disagree with KenC – it’s not all rosy here. For one (maybe I’m being cynical), I don’t trust Alexa. She’s shifty, and I’m not 100% sure there’s going to be a door! Also, Tori’s returning to bed … depression? Sure, it’s her decision, but the room has provided so many things she could be doing? As I said, just some doubts. Other than that … a really well-put-together story.

    • October 12, 2022 at 9:57 am
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      Hi Adi,

      I read your story then the comments so no spoiler issues here. I think Phil is right and we should read the stories first. Wouldn’t do it any other way.

      It’s a really cool notion to take a modern gadget ( Alexa) and use her / it in such a creative way, using Tori’s preferences and likes to create her ultimate safe space. It is so believable too, we are almost there. Perhaps it’s a virtual room or one only existing in her imagination or is she dreaming? Such great possibilities.

      Others have commented on the bed. The importance of the bed simply cannot be underestimated. At its most basic level, it is a place of warmth, safety and relaxation, truly a place of safety. It can also be a creative space where people write, imagine, procreate, eat, drink, watch TV etc.

      Few of us can create time for the journey Tori embarks upon. I think she is entirely justified in diving back in and saying, “later” to all the other low hanging fruit.

      Love it. I haven’t read all of the other stories yet but you have a great idea, well written, good dialogue and an excellent character. This will be hard to beat, I predict. I’ m (almost) glad I haven’t been able to write one myself as the competition is fierce.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

    • October 13, 2022 at 11:10 am
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      O my gosh! This is the best! Really love how you made it a digital story. I read your story first.
      Don’t need spoiler alerts. Need them only if I don’t get the thread 🙂
      The dialogue is terrific. It’s a nightmare world if we are eventually caught up in this virtual room! Who knows the future, really!
      Those leather bound books can’t be for real. What if they disappeared as she touched them? Eeerie!
      Loved it 🙂

    • October 14, 2022 at 7:46 am
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      Hi Adi,

      See, I told you this story looked like a winner. Very well deserved win.

      Your, in admiration,

      Ken Frape

  • October 6, 2022 at 8:43 am
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    INSIDE
    by Ken Miles

    I’ve been trapped since I can first remember, inside this strange room, comfy and familiar really – the only place I’ve ever known, cosy I’d say, but at times rather oppressive. And here I wake up in it again today. It’s boat-shaped, more-or-less, oval. There are lights on the ceiling. I often stare at them. But touch them not, because the ceiling is too high. They’re lovely, can’t deny that, they flicker and dance, change positions, then give them time and they’d get back to where they’d been before. But it’s a hard life when you’re locked up, down here, with not much else than unreachable ceiling lights to yearn for, trapped inside a bony egg-shaped container, with no way of escape. For there are no windows, certainly no doors. Well, if we come to it, there are popes, and mullahs and a Jesus-man at the communal multistory car-park, sitting half-upright against a wall that must have seen its last quick white-wash while Kurt Cobain was still alive, most of the time sleeping under a pile of drab blankets that must remember the Great War, in his filthy corner between Elevator Number 3 and the concrete pillar next to the stairwell, who when awake yells incessantly, that the near is nigh. But nigh, how nigh? He’s been saying that same thing for his eighty years or so, people were born and died hearing him announce the impending end of this charade, he sleeps there at the car-park, like I just told you: tucked in the the tight space between Elevator 3 and the concrete pillar next to the stairwell, that’s his home, if you ever parked there you know who I’m talking about, he urinates and does the rest of his business there too, bet he never washed or shaved in his life, his beard now Guinness material, if only he cared about that. Well, you push them against the wall, in a tight corner, all of ’em, popes, mullahs and the Jesus tramp at the multistorey and, well, you’ll hit just that. A wall. They’ve got no real answers. No meaning to work with. The escape windows they talk about are just pictures on the wall, fake. They beat around the bush, a lot of talk, nicely coined words sometimes too, or threatening barks in urine-drenched air, but no escape window emerges in the end, only walls and more walls. Then this one bastard Yuri did get out, he followed the path of a bitch and a monkey, and got out for real! He said ‘give me no destination, just give me wings’. Then he came back and said he saw nothing. Nothing special, that is. Just ordinary space. Others followed, Neil and company, this time with wings and a destination. They did kick up some dust up there, where no lunatic had previously gone, I grant them that. But they then came back with nothing much to say, and bags filled with some of that dust. Dust! Who needs dust? How are we any better with some more dust? I need an escape route. Those ceiling lights, forever winking at me, teasing me, are beginning to annoy me. Me, trapped in my oval-shaped room, the headquarters of my unexplainable existence, my oval office, with nowhere to escape to.

    Then it occurred to me. After I heard something Homer Simpson said. He didn’t mean it that way, I’m sure he didn’t. But sometimes things come from where you least expect them.

    So, what is it?

    Elementary, Dr. Watson!

    What, son?

    I’ve been all the way looking the wrong way! We’ve all been. Ignore the ceiling lights, the popes, the mullahs, the old insane Jesus-boy who sleeps and urinates in his pants between Elevator Number 3 and the concrete pillar next to the stairwell of the multistorey, the bitch, the monkey, Yuri and Neil. Just sit down, close your eyes, shut out your thoughts, silence the chatter, part with the noise, and ignore even that wish to jump out a window and escape your bony bowl.

    The escape route is not to the outside.

    It’s to the inside!

    • October 6, 2022 at 11:02 am
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      Cool story, Ken. Hopefully Carrie can fix that little hiccup in the ‘near is nigh’ line without you having to re-post it. This is a great combination of creative flair, your flirtatious relationship with philosophy and your on-point, dynamic writing style. This is a great, short, punchy story, Ken. Well done.

    • October 7, 2022 at 7:21 am
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      Gagarin!

      This seemed good last night but I felt dumb for not getting it more. I thought the moving ceiling lights might be stars and that maybe the homeless guy was supposed to be an actual Jesus and the dust made me think of moon dust (and then later pixie dust). The bitch and the monkey … well, that was embarrassing, but it reminded me of a cryptic image of a dog and a monkey on a medieval tapestry or something that I saw when I was going through my tarot card phase. Something about the end of the world and the beasts that will be released from Hell? But I think the two critters were doodled in the margins of a Judgement card? Who knows, but the point is it resonated with me for all the wrong reasons and distracted me from the pursuit.

      So, this morning I read it again. In the middle of reading, I started thinking about the play that I never saw or read (Waiting for Godot) and that movie that I saw half of (Mother) and I noticed the guy Neil and really listened to what you were talking about.

      Awesome work! It may sound like an R.E.M. song if you read it too fast (like I did), but you did a very clever thing there!

    • October 10, 2022 at 2:49 pm
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      Beautifully rendered … rant (I suppose) KenM. I don’t understand it all (‘the bitch and the monkey’?), but that just leaves little wisps of ideas I can play with with post-reading, which is a nice thing. I like the conclusion very much; if we looked inwards more, surely some of the horrors we’ve seen in the world (and are still seeing) could be avoided? The use of the word ‘charade’ here chilled my blood a bit: “the impending end of this charade”. Is it all a charade? And if not, what is it? Hmmm … Very thought-provoking and quite beautiful.

      • October 11, 2022 at 4:11 am
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        William Shatner has a book out. He reflects on his short trip into space last year: “But a year after touching down back to Earth, Shatner wrote in the excerpt: ‘I discovered that the beauty isn’t out there, it’s down here, with all of us. Leaving that behind made my connection to our tiny planet even more profound.’ ”

        • October 11, 2022 at 7:11 am
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          He is literally one of my favorite celebrities, and he is so right, people are always looking for the next best thing, when a lot of times come up most beautiful things are right in front of your face!

    • October 11, 2022 at 3:32 pm
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      Ken, I found your story interesting. I’ll admit I was totally lost and had to read it over again trying to make sense of the varied characters and their unique qualities – much of which was lost on me, living in rural Tennessee among the farms and hills and fields of corn, cotton, soybeans and cows. I was very young when we left the big city so I have little experience to relate to other than what I’ve seen on TV. I was lost – until the very end and then you tied your story together with a nice, neat bow. You are correct. It is not what is on the outside that counts. It is what is inside. It was then that I understood. Thank you. Adi

    • October 12, 2022 at 10:15 am
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      Hi Ken,

      So nice to see your name again. It used to be a regular thing that all three of us Kens were here most times. I’ve spoilt the trilogy this time by not getting a story in but, hey, I’m reading and posting comments so we are all here.

      Like some of the others, parts of this story baffled me. I’d like to say that I understood it all but that would be a lie. By reading it over again and reading the comments, it is a little clearer.

      I have decided that I should read this story really fast, with little punctuation, like a stream of consciousness. The room you are trapped in and always have been, is inside your head and everything you say comes from there, that room in your head.

      It makes more sense now and then the final sentences are the light bulbs going on in MY head.

      So nice to see your story.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

  • October 6, 2022 at 10:46 am
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    Well, I survived another hurricane. No, no, please, don’t everyone get all choked up at once. (You’ll scare the cat.)

    Hurricanes are a tragic reminder of how fucking tragic life is. (Oh yeah, and fragile, and tenuous, and wet. But I digress.)

    What I was wondering, was, (I want to put this as delicately as possible, what with all the goddamned wrath I’ve already witnessed) what I wondered was, how I came in third in the last contest when I didn’t even vote? (Not to mention how crappy my story was.) My story should have been disqualified, because I didn’t vote. These are the contest rules. Why have rules if you don’t follow them?

    Was I given special consideration because of the power outage, the destruction? (My longstanding and here-to-for secret friendship with Tarzan?) Or is it some danged old newfangled hurricane voting mulligan? Because if that was the case, then that should have been stated, somewhere. Near the title, italicized, (as if that were possible) in bold print. (I didn’t even get a foreboding e-mail.) We all should have been notified, somehow… telegraph, psychic tarot card, Carrier weather balloon. Whatever.

    The method is not important, or the message, come to think of it, it’s all about the thought and the effort. Thought, T; multiplied by Effort, E; divided by who gives a shit, W; over and over, O times itself; minus the leftovers and take away the remainders, and what do you have? Nothing. See? See how simple math and Engle-talk is? When you apply the proper algae-based functions?

    This leaves us with this formula: (TxE/W) O2 {O, squared to infinity, of course} -8, {minus more infinity} = (equals) ( to a greater or lesser extent) 0. Or nothing. Or possibly even less than nothing. The numbers don’t lie.

    The point is, if you apply this formula to the voting results, you’ll see that everyone under Andy moves up one space, while my story drops to the bottom or goes on a picnic to Centerville, Pa.

    Either way, if nothing else, I think this message offers substantial evidence that math, in the proper hands, can be as useless as words. I hope I have made myself as clear as is humanely possible on this matter and we should all now put it behind us and get on with the business of … what were we doing again?

    Oh yeah, that’s right—making shit up. I’m not sure it’s even necessary anymore.

    • October 6, 2022 at 11:17 am
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      Yes, there was a discussion thread about it. We’re gave you a pass because of the hurricane.

      As many know, I’m a stickler for rules. But we do occasion bend them for exceptional circumstances…such as acts of weather.

    • October 6, 2022 at 11:23 am
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      I’ll take your suggestion so that next time we allow an exception due to a hurricane disaster I’ll be sure to note next to the story that they did not vote but are forgoing the disqualification.

      • October 9, 2022 at 9:34 am
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        Carrie,

        After reading your comments for the fifth time, I’m not sure that we are in any kind of understanding or agreement on the issue of voting. Nor can I tell if your comments are intended to be comical. At the risk of starting a dialogue that isn’t necessary, I was not opposed to allowing the story to be disqualified, because I didn’t vote. We can’t let minor inconveniences like hurricanes and earthquakes to affect the voting. Tsunamis are another matter, but hurricanes and earthquakes? No way.

        The important thing is, you probably thought you were doing me a favor, so I appreciate that, and I thank you. And normally I would be grateful, but in this case, doing me a favor required doing harm to the other writers.

        I thought the story needed a drastic re-write, as the ending fizzled and failed, but it’s encouraging to think that the dialogue was enough to carry it up into the top three, but it isn’t fair to everyone else who wrote—and voted. My vote would have boosted both Vicki’s and Mr. Frape’s stories and may well have boosted their stories to finish ahead of mine, or to compete with the top two.

        It simply isn’t fair to post and not vote, under any circumstances.

        • October 9, 2022 at 1:17 pm
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          Per your request I have updated the voting tally’s.

          • October 9, 2022 at 1:28 pm
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            Going forward I’ll be a stickler for the rules and disallow any leeway. 👍

            • October 10, 2022 at 6:10 pm
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              Hi Carrie, since I am unfamiliar with the voting format, when do we vote? On Wednesday, Oct. 12? I have my votes and the three other requirements ready to go, thanks…

              • October 10, 2022 at 8:38 pm
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                Hi Tom,
                Yes I’ll post the voting link on Wednesday, October 12 (my birthday!). And you’ll need to vote within 24 hours.
                I’ll post the results on Thursday, October 13 (my younger sisters birthday hahaha).

                • October 11, 2022 at 8:17 pm
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                  Hi Carrie,
                  I tried to submit a story a few days ago and again today (Australian time). I am not sure if I missed the deadline with the time zone thing. Hope I am not too late. Cheers.

                  • October 11, 2022 at 9:23 pm
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                    Hi John, I don’t see it.
                    You have another 12 hours or so.

                  • October 11, 2022 at 9:23 pm
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                    Can you try pasting and saving it again? I don’t see it anywhere.

                • October 12, 2022 at 11:11 pm
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                  Happy birthday, Carrie! Be blessed. It’s my brother’s as well.

    • October 6, 2022 at 3:04 pm
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      The problem Ken is the odd numbers. if they were all even it would make sense. However I totally support and endorse your hypothesis.

      • October 10, 2022 at 10:50 am
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        Liz, well, I wasn’t trying to get even, and the math is hypothetical, so if any of it made sense, that would be the oddest thing. But I appreciate your endorsement.

  • October 6, 2022 at 1:37 pm
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    Rainbow Room – Liz Fisher
    1096

    I rolled over starting my early morning stretch…waiting to feel Henry’s light pat on my face before opening my eyes… he always likes it when his gentle touch make my eyes open.

    I waited a few seconds but there was no paw tap. I called “Henry”…nothing so I did the never fail “Meeooww” that brings both Henry and Spike running and nothing. Concerned I sat up quickly and looked at the door. There was no door.

    Looking around the room the windows were gone and ..uh.. this isn’t my room…our room …where is Larry and what’s going on? I jumped up and ran to the door well the room was like a 10×10 closet so there was no running and there was no door just a wall. I spun around and that’s what it must be a closet I got locked in a closet… but how could I be locked in when there’s no door.

    Sitting slowly I calmed, realizing it was a tiny studio apartment, an armchair, desk and chair, a daybed I had been sleeping in, it seemed weird and strangely familiar. The colors were my favorites, blue, green yellow, pink. Warm friendly happy, the whole apt was warm and comforting.

    I awoke with a start, Henry was on my chest…he placed his paw on my chin and purred… He wants his morning Fancy Feast.. I threw back the covers to go to the kitchen and stopped. I was still locked in the closet.
    “How did you get in here”? I muttered to Henry…surely if he can get in here I can get out and “where is Larry, he must have let you in.”

    “I’m right here” said Larry. I spun around and there he was with his mischievous grin. I ran to him (running again) and we bear hugged.

    “Where have you been and what happened to the door?” I asked.
    “What door?” asked Larry.
    “Yes, exactly where is the door?” I asked.
    “You’ll figure it out,” he responded.

    I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, Larry loved to play pranks and silly games.

    “Honey, just show me the door” and I smiled and opened my eyes and there was no Larry, he had just disappeared. Henry was still there and as I sank down on the daybed, he jumped in my lap and went to sleep.

    I guess I must have too… I opened my eyes and Henry was gone…Ok this is weird, how long have I been here I wondered, it seems like three days but that can’t be. I wonder how long I sleep, is it night or day, I don’t know. The lights are always on… except… there are no lights…hmmm..no lights no darkness and food….I haven’t eaten …how come I’m not hungry…as soon as I put those thoughts together I got hungry.

    I walked toward an alcove that must be a small kitchenette, I don’t know why I thought that, nothing else made sense why do I still have expectations.

    Yep, I sat down and closed my eyes and when I opened them I could smell the aroma of Humpty Dumpty’s multi-grain pancakes with whipped butter and maple syrup sitting on a TV tray next to me. Not too bad.

    I decided not to sit down and close my eyes, instead focus on what was happening and figure out how to get out of here… wherever here is and why aren’t I scared.

    Being out of control is the worse thing for me, obviously I have no control whatever this is about but I feel perfectly secure….yep so weird. I would like to have a book or magazine to read…I’ve always been a magazine junky. People, Readers Digest, Smithsonian, The Atlantic, The Week.The two I can’t live without are The Week and Atlantic. Actually there are three People Magazine is important to me. I’ve been a Subscriber since it’s very first year 1974. And now just recently it was sold again a new owner Dotdash’s CEO Neil Vogel likes People as a cash and subscription cow but is looking to a digital future. Makes me quake in my shoes thinking about no more paper print “People”.

    Why am I thinking about magazines? I should be figuring out something about my situation. But I don’t even know what is my situation. Okay, close your eyes and think about it tomorrow.

    Okay it’s tomorrow… I didn’t stretch or turn over or open my eyes, or call Henry…as soon as I said that – I mean thought it – Henry jumped on my lap. And I understood what was happening. All I have to do is think it and it happens.

    That was big mistake. I immediately went into the worse panic attack ever…what if I thought about something bad like….no no no no don’t think it.. don’t think it…..rainbows and lollipops and ice cream sodas… the sweet smell of Lilacs …ok ok just close your eyes… think about Larry, Larry my love..

    I opened my eyes and Larry was sitting next to me with a bouquet of Lilacs… “look what I found along the way” he said as he handed me the bouquet.

    “Where have you been?” I asked and he responded..”that’s not the question, it’s what’s taking you so long?”

    And he’s gone again…What kind of purgatory is this? Purgatory? I’m not Catholic… I’m Jewish, yesterday was Yom Kippur …high Holy Day…Day for Atonement…I think..was that yesterday?

    Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away….maybe this is because I confused the Day of Atonement and started a day early, but I don’t know that seems pretty farfetched. Of course who really knows what G-d wants.
    I mean most of what we know about G-d came from the minds of humans. Normally the term would be in the “minds of men” and almost everything we know comes from men sitting around a fire passing knowledge or beliefs. Not much about women. Humans are fairly fallible.

    I stood up and walked around the room pondering the meaning of life, I was alone. The daybed had disappeared… I leaned back against the wall and slowly floated down through the wall to the sound of laughter and cheers…I heard Larry’s voice chortling, “she’s here..she made it..”

    I relaxed into his loving bear hug, happy and warm and filled with love and contentment as I wondered, “am I going to wake up again?”

    -end-

    • October 7, 2022 at 2:39 pm
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      Nice work! I thought that it was a dream and part of her mind took the form of her husband and pets to comfort her. Then, at the end (when you mentioned Purgatory and the Day of Atonement), I got the impression that she is dead and about to go to the next place, but she is still getting her sea legs, so to speak. And her husband and pets got their first, so they are just hanging out and waiting for her to get it together so they can all chill together. But that might be a real morbid interpretation, because they would have to have all died in their sleep or something for that to work. Sorry if I am making it too dark!

      But you left it open, and she obviously just wants to enjoy whatever it is before it is dashed away by waking up (that is exactly what I would do).

      I used an armchair too, and so did Phil I see, and I had similar colors in my apartment (those are the colors that I would like, so I put them there, which is your motivation too, right?). Plus I also used the word ponder at the end and mentioned Hell (sort of close to Purgatory). Cool how similar some of the stuff turns out, even when they are also so different!

    • October 10, 2022 at 6:11 pm
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      This is very clever, Liz, in that the confusion the narrator’s feeling is also felt by the reader – in a very pleasurable way. It’s like trying to catch mist: you think you’ve got it, then it swirls away. As Rumplefinkles says, it’s all open to different interpretations (you’ve probably got one in your mind, but you’ve given us so many threads that subjective interpretation is natural). I’ve got several … and once again, that’s because of the trippiness of the story. A couple of observations. The phrase “Ok this is weird” kinda took me out of the story – a bit too on-the-nose for me and unnecessary. And I don’t know if it was intentional (to give more wobbliness to the scenes), but there’s an inconsistency with tenses. But I liked the story – trippy, as I said.

    • October 12, 2022 at 10:37 am
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      Hi Liz,

      There definitely is something “trippy” about this story and it really helped me to get into it. So, I didn’t look for rational explanations to what was going on, I just went with it.
      Not sure if my interpretation would agree with Rumples but he could be right, you could have been in the great waiting room in the sky. Who knows? I certainly don’t!

      This is a good story.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

    • October 12, 2022 at 12:20 pm
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      Interesting story Liz! This story reminds me of the times I have been under the effects of anesthesia and trying to decide if I really wanted to wake up or stay in the warm and fuzzy softness of oblivion. I’ll echo the thoughts of the others before me, definitely trippy in a good way. I loved the happy ending! Great story. Adi

    • October 13, 2022 at 1:58 am
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      Liz,
      The story comes across as very warm and fuzzy, not at all morbid. I really enjoyed reading it.

      I could be wrong, but it strikes me as a very pleasant version of the afterlife, in which purgatory is a place that you can’t escape from until you stop trying.

      The last line is intriguing, “Am I going to wake up again?” because in the first four paragraphs she’s awake, and then she wakes up again in the fifth paragraph. So, she’s either caught in some diabolical fuzzy loop hell, or caught in the event horizon of a black hole (with her little cat spike), or, she’s a contestant on a game show in the eleventh dimension. Or, and this is my favorite, she’s just a prop in Henry and Spike’s heaven. I don’t really care, I just like the way she fell through the wall.

    • October 13, 2022 at 11:37 am
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      Just over at the Rainbow bridge is what I’m imagining happens in this story, Liz.
      The lilac bouquet is a giveaway. Well done!

  • October 6, 2022 at 4:04 pm
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    Kleptoplasty
    1,200 Words
    By Rumplefinkies

    The word hung in my mind long after I awoke, though I couldn’t remember what it meant. Something about sea slugs? Or was it kelp? I had abandoned the fanciful notion that dreams were trying to impart meaningful information years ago, so I moved on and started inspecting the new apartment.
    I also couldn’t remember how I got in the cramped room, but that was less of a mystery. An empty bottle of tequila, a saltshaker, and rinds from a sliced lemon were all scattered on the floor. This trinity was a familiar sight, and one often accompanied by missing expanses of time. Thankfully, there was only a slight hangover. But where was my phone?
    It was a tacky little apartment with no windows, but that suited me well. I hate heights, skylines, and that feeling of being watched that is so pervasive in big cities. The bedsheets, sofa, armchair, and end tables were all different shades of neon greens and blues. My walls were painted in the loudest shade of pink and the ceiling was a brilliant orange, like the afterimage of a sunset. A large monitor was mounted to the wall opposite my bed. Fake palms sprouted from six different pots in an overzealous attempt to bring some life into the place.
    That was all fine and dandy, but I was more concerned with the drinking amenities. A fully stocked bar greeted me, and I didn’t even care to look in the pantry after that! My agent really hooked me up this time. Who cared if the claustrophobic interior was only marginally larger than the bathroom? With this much alcohol, the guy could sequester me in an outhouse!
    Sequester. That word bothered me too. It rang a rather tiny and unpleasant bell. What was it with me and these words today? Had I fallen asleep while drinking and watching Jeopardy? Wheel of Fortune? What gives?
    But that is writers for you. We are always playing with words, even in our sleep.
    Sometimes puns will come to me when I wake, as if my brain was up all-night processing the possible combinations of words that could lead to an awful punchline. My audience is always appreciative of puns, so this is a dark gift of a sort. You wouldn’t think that anyone truly enjoys dad jokes of the caliber that I pump out, but those people are out there. Go figure.
    A scrolling message on the monitor, presumably from my agent, read:
    “I scratched your back, Mr. Paperback Writer, now justify your existence and turn lead into gold.”
    Lead? As in pencil lead? I prefer ink. And besides, pencils are made with graphite. But I knew what he meant, and the little Beatles reference was an inside joke of ours that always made me smile.
    My notepad, pen, and pocket dictionary were still stuffed into my trench coat. So, I wasted no time and began to work on yet another short story.
    The first glass of whiskey brought out some good writing, but I really got into the groove after the third. Some of the best writing of my life, in fact. I suppose it was my agoraphobic tendencies and creature comforts being completely satisfied that was doing the trick.
    But I passed out at some point and was beset by a horrendous daymare. I was clawing my way out of some sort of chrysalis. When I broke free like a mummy from a sarcophagus, I found myself in an earthen chamber filled with massive ants. These things were the size of freaking lions! But they paid me no mind, and to my horror, I started moving around like some mindless meat puppet. No control of my body at all.
    My hands reached out and my knees sank to the dirt as I began scooping up an armload of their excrement. Then I hauled the whole mess down a tunnel to another chamber that was clearly the latrine. I returned to my starting point and stooped once more. This repeated until the whole ant Cinderella thing became too much for me, and I awoke in the armchair. My trench coat was drenched in sweat.
    A strange motif indeed, but I recognized it. My dream depicted a species of so-called “slave-making ants”. Ants that steal the pupae of other species of ants, drag them back to their own nest, then let them hatch and live under the lie that they are all one big happy family. The blissfully ignorant captives work industriously, while the captors sort of lounge around and groom themselves until it is time to go raid another colony.
    It is more common in nature than you would think, and racist people love to cite the phenomenon as justification for human slavery. Entomologist sometimes use the less offensive name: “dulosis”. Yet another obscure word and concept that my mind was clearly dwelling on, for some reason.
    Hmm. Was it telling me that I was being taken advantage of or shanghaied? And by whom? My agent? Society in general?
    I tried real hard, but I couldn’t see how I was being victimized. My life was just drinking, laying around, scribbling, typing it all up, and collecting my check. There was plenty of travel and stimulation, and the only person holding me back from anything was … well, me.
    This wasn’t right. My dreams are whimsical, not deep and disturbing. And this fixation on biology factoids was driving me batty. I pulled out the pocket dictionary to look up “dulosis” and “kleptoplasty”.
    Dulcet. Dulcimer. Dull. Dullard. Duly. Dumb.
    No dice. So, I moved on.
    Kleenex. Kleptomania. Klutz.
    No luck there either. But it did seem as if my handy consultant was insulting me.
    I rose from my seat in great frustration and anxiety, filled with a sense of urgency and determined to grab a cigar from somewhere to mull this all over. But I failed to grab the doorknob properly and just walked into the door on the way out.
    Upon closer inspection, the door turned out to be a huge sticker. Like the ones that cover the walls of dollhouses and the dashboards of toy cars. It was sad that I hadn’t noticed such a lazy ruse. The damn thing was peeling off on the edges and it didn’t even look half-convincing, once I really took a good gander.
    I got the impression that someone wanted to hold me here for as long as they could without me realizing my peculiar imprisonment, but they didn’t want to waste too much time or effort in the process. On the other hand, they had certainly gone the extra mile to make me feel comfortable, so maybe I shouldn’t bite the hand that whiskeys me, as it were? And what is more, my captors seemed like fans of my work.
    I felt kind of flattered, underneath the fear, and I pondered my predicament, the identity of my captors, and my true position in the Universe. Was I aboard a flying saucer? Buried deep in some bunker? Or was this Hell?
    No to that last one, for sure.
    I poured a tall glass and told myself that there was always one way out.

    • October 6, 2022 at 5:32 pm
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      Well, after reading previous stories and feeling inadequate in my writing skills and imagination because all the stories excel my feeble attempt, I posted Rainbow Room anyway…what the hay… and then I read Rumples ode to ants and wished I’d crumpled my pages to make a basket… Ants are the be all and end all… my grandmother taught us to never kill an ant… anyhow good job well done…except for the alcohol of course, I can’t approve excess alcohol….

      • October 7, 2022 at 2:48 pm
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        Nonsense! Your story was great, and it is even better seeing you again. I won’t drive you away again with endless rambling, not intentionally anyway! And my guy will find his way out sooner than he thinks, if he can’t take it easy on the drinks.

        😉

    • October 10, 2022 at 6:27 pm
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      A carefully built picture of … a kind of hell (my interpretation). The absolute lack of freedom here feels sinister (the captors aliens or … capitalists? “The blissfully ignorant captives work industriously, while the captors sort of lounge around and groom themselves until it is time to go raid another colony.”) That sticker is very spooky. Or the captive could be like James Caan in ‘Misery’ (from the Stephen King story). A doubt: Where did the monitor come from? (The narrator couldn’t find the phone at the beginning). Some lovely turns of phrase. I like the word ‘gander’! Nice one!

    • October 12, 2022 at 12:33 pm
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      I always love the way you play with words, winding, twisting, climbing, falling, and making the journey interesting no matter which way the story goes. The ant metaphor was fun (except for excrement), I’ve always thought of them moving dirt and such. I’m not a fan of alcohol (I don’t drink it at all) but to each his own I guess. Over all, it was a good representation for a Halloween tale. Spooky.

    • October 13, 2022 at 11:24 am
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      That’s one boozy story! I like your turn of expression- wonder how you were at school. Did your creative genius shine those days? Don’t tell me it’s that liquid courage. It only brings pain. Go ahead, bite that horrid hand!
      Enjoyed this too…

  • October 7, 2022 at 2:56 pm
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    I will catch up next week. I am in ceremony until late Sunday evening and I’m anxious to read and offer a few comments…Happy Thanksgiving everyone…

  • October 10, 2022 at 11:06 am
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    I have an idea, but it involves a fly, Cleopatra, and a pancake. The only thing that will glue them together is a quark. But where does one find spare quarks? Do not, I repeat, do not tell me about protons. I’m thinking of rewriting one of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories, and substituting the brick walls, cops and crows, with quarks, dark matter, and effing string theory. It would blow people’s minds. Meh, whatever. Two days, I may have to throw in some were-chariots.

    • October 10, 2022 at 1:49 pm
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      The Tell-Tale Quark.
      Weriots.
      Glad you survived, again!

  • October 10, 2022 at 5:46 pm
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    So sorry for the rather short comments, but each of the stories were wonderful imaged and laid out. I hope I haven’t left anyone out. I am submitting just before siting down for a turkey dinner…happy thanksgiving to you all…And thanks Phil. I need to tighten my style up a bit and answer these parts that seem unclear. Thanks for the comments….

    Phil:
    I like the dialogue in your story and the change of feeling from panic to calm. Your story has a fluidity to it without a break in the action, so to speak, from the recollection to the interaction between the client and the therapist. The ‘strange calm’ is the kicker early in your story that breathes a hint into the images described.

    Adi:
    If only we could have those digital getaways once upon those times when your personal hideaways are only ponder away. Your dialogue was believable, from a tech-minimalist like me; but I would like to think and believe in a computer-generated Fantasy Island of course, and you brought it to life so seamlessly. I believe I would take the offer of a getaway once in a while.

    Ken:
    That thought going inward from the oval room into the mind, seeing the popes, mullahs and the Jesus-man and into the ‘ordinary space’ is quite the journey. Some of the references were a bit hard to incorporate into my interpretations such as the bitch and the monkey, but overall, it was fleshed out quite imaginatively.

    Liz:
    Is this a story of going under the rainbow and into the other world? A place where transitions occur without doors, only mental or spiritual projections of mind over matter. The section describing the books threw me off a bit, but after thinking about it, it just seemed to capture everyday thought and of those likes and dislikes. The ending drew me into believing of an afterlife setting of your story.

    Rumplefinkies:
    A writer of puns had me thinking about the style of writing and which genre it would fit into. I almost thought he was a comedian with his own particular audience and of a person stuck in his own booze attuned imagination. The references of dulosis and of the intent to be captive to one’s audiences was done wonderfully. It is that ‘one way out’ that tied your piece together.

  • October 11, 2022 at 8:47 am
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    Sorry guys, I wasn’t trying to be annoying.

    I was making a vague reference to solar sea slugs that steal chloroplasts from the plants they eat. The chloroplasts keep turning sunlight into energy and survive for a long time inside the body of the sea slug, where they are placed into special holding cells (and not digested). It is like the chloroplasts don’t know that they are no longer inside of a plant, so they keep on doing what they do until they die.

    My narrator has been abducted by someone or something and is sequestered inside a cell that only superficially resembles a “real” human chamber. It could be part of a larger menagerie somewhere. But the captors are not making the narrator produce sunlight, they are taking his crappy stories instead. So he is like a trick pony.

    Sea slugs are animals that can’t photosynthesize (without kleptoplasty), and the captors are aliens or demons or walruses from another dimension that can’t write short stories, not punny ones with werewolves anyway. Perhaps they enjoy the unique glimpse at the literature of humans, even if it is a bad representation? The writer was supposed to be like Spider Robinson or one of those other authors with the sci-fi/fantasy puns, like Piers Anthony, or like a successful version of me. But don’t worry, they probably also abducted a bunch of better writers too.

    The tv set on the wall was supposed to have a message scrolling across it (like a screen saver), as if the person paying for his room had set it up that way in a flashy and lame attempt to impress him with that little personalization or whatever.

    The dreams were supposed to be warnings. Comparisons to the natural world that will help him understand that he is being bamboozled. I have messed up dreams like this all the time.

    You could also take it that the narrator is really scooping up ant poop in a trance, and the fake world is actually the room that he is trapped in. The stories that he keeps writing would really be ant poop, in that case.

    But I guess I was doing some weird stuff there, bringing up slave-making ants (what do you even say to that?) and embedding a secret message about sea slugs … I need help.

    Maybe this was educational in a way, like a bad episode of Mr. Wizard?

    https://solarslug.info/popular-articles/elysia-anatomy/

    • October 11, 2022 at 9:26 pm
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      This comment got stuck. The site blocks certain words and holds any comment with a link for approval.
      This site gets hit with brute force attacks every day.
      Too many spam bots trying to get you to click through so security has been pretty tight lately.

      Literally no one’s censoring you.

  • October 11, 2022 at 10:05 am
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    Damn, another comment sucked into the void. Maybe it will show up in an hour or so? That is what happened before when I said that I was being censored. But it is probably for the best!

  • October 11, 2022 at 10:18 am
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    My other comment died because it was too long (I took too much time typing and it probably timed out or something). But basically, kleptoplasty actually means something in my story, but only if you go for my bait and google that word. Then you have to sit there and try to figure out what the hell I am talking about, and that still won’t get you a cigar.

    Phil and Ken M. did it better.

    And sorry about the curse on me that makes my font look like that.

  • October 11, 2022 at 10:22 am
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    The lesson is to make my clues more enticing, because no one will go for a windfall apple that rolled that far from the path. Too much hassle, and not rewarding enough.

    • October 11, 2022 at 11:37 am
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      Huh??

      • October 11, 2022 at 1:58 pm
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        Don’t pay any attention to me, I am rambling lol.

        • October 11, 2022 at 2:44 pm
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          I tend to overthink things and was worried… stay calm, carry on, never forget you want to see what happens tomorrow…

  • October 11, 2022 at 9:26 pm
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    The last time I howled at the moon. (word count – 1,016)

    It is the last day of October and very late into the evening. I know it sounds cliché but that is what it has become for me. Every full moon I feel the changes, I am affected by the lunar patterns. No, I don’t turn into a werewolf and howl at the moon but believe me it does feel like I could sometimes, it would be easier.
    I am woken from a dozing sleep and the room is not as it seems. The interior feels the same, looks the same, but the windows and doors are not there, or not as they usually appear. If there are no windows or doors then how did I get inside? This is my house, I think, but the doors and windows are framed like pictures, but I cannot see through them or out of them. How strange?
    I try to ground to my surroundings, I have just awoken from a dream or something, I use all five senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Other ones that may indeed help, sense of self, perception of time, space and it continues.
    The space around me has changed and I feel I must change alongside it, although not physically. These days I prefer to stay home, not venturing out. I would not be the best company to anyone, as it has been said in the past social interactions. I cannot remember the last time I was outside, is that just a dream or memory lapse with brain fog?
    I feel the large canine approaching me as dusk begins, and the sun settles behind the hill, not that I can see out the window. The sun must rest to once again rise in a dozen or so hours, this is just how it is, or at least as I remember it should be.
    The dog is lurking in the shadows, I know he is, I hear the growling and grunting as he hunts for the next victim. I know how to avoid him by staying close to home, indoors, but this wild creature can be everywhere at once. He can be invisible, but even so, his presence is truly felt.
    I sit wide awake but semi-alert, on a constant vigil to protect my sanctity, my home, and my sanity too.
    The only noises I can hear or sense, are my rampant respirations, the chest rising and falling, and my extremely noticeable and raucously audible heart rate racing, thumping in my chest. The volume of the television turned to mute with the only movements being the flickering of images dancing across the screen, sending Morse coded messages to the darkness outside from this, my imprisoned shell.
    Does all this attract the beast that lurks in the shadows outside? I have attempted to keep him outside, avoiding open spaces, but being indoors seems to be the only way to keep him at bay. He is not merely nocturnal, but is obviously more vicious in the blackness.
    I have not seen the large dog, but I know he is close, I can sense him. His presence is all encompassing, and is smothering me.
    I wince with every external noise, I can feel him, the wind in the branches, the creaking of the veranda boards, I am aware he is here.
    Am I safe inside my seemingly impenetrable cocoon? I want to believe that I am safe, if I am awake, or if I don’t sleep or dream. These lapses in my awareness and consciousness are when the creature takes advantage and moves in for the kill, then my throat is severed, and left to die. I have not slept for days. I can feel the stress of my insomnia rising and falling, like the waves ebbing on the shore, but in rapidity.
    The moon is large, bright and full, I know this although I cannot see it, I can feel it, the full moon is due tonight. This is the time when the beast is most active, I just need to get through tonight. At dawn its roundness and luminosity will fade, and the sun will shine once more.
    The beast is less active in daylight, I don’t know why this is the case and do not know where he goes. I will try to sleep in the brightness of the sun, but just need to get through these next ten hours.
    My eyes want to close, but I don’t allow them, this is when the beast will pounce and strike, when you are at your most vulnerable.
    The large canine approaches the front porch. I cannot mistake the calls of his nature, for his calls for me. I hear the tempest rallying away, even stronger, and it appears to be calling my name. I sense that the wind is much swifter through the upper boughs. I can hear then as the clawed, wretched branches scrape and scratch the roof of the house. He is above me now, I feel his padded feet walking on the tiles above, that should protect me.
    My fear and my panic increase, I try to concentrate on my immediate surroundings and my physical needs. Distraction is not working, he is coming for me.
    My entire focus is the canine approaching me, hungry to devour me. I am alone and I am his easy prey, a lone victim. I have no one to guard or protect me, I feel useless, helpless, hopeless and isolated.
A panic attack ensues me, and I am stunned into motionless, I am unable to move any part of my body; I am frozen in fear.
    My eyes being the only moveable and functioning part of me, dart from side to side. I hope to catch sight of him before he find me, I want to scream but I cannot, I was hoping my screams may scare the beast away.
    I realise my fate inevitable, I close my eyes to accept the total surrender to this beast. I cannot fight any longer, this is the only way out.
    The Black Dog is victorious.

    • October 12, 2022 at 11:29 am
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      I like the way you keep the reader in suspense, giving little breathers along the way, before returning us into the moment. That transformation at the end was unexpected for me. very well-written, John…

      • October 12, 2022 at 10:24 pm
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        Thank you Tom, I am trying different genres and writing styles. i was getting a bit stuck before and was not writing at all, well nothing of note. Thanks again.

    • October 12, 2022 at 2:31 pm
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      Awesome! And a killer last line. You did great justice to the internal fight that so often rages inside the lycanthropic. The black dog padding around and dragging claws across the roof perfectly symbolized the latent wolf form that could erupt at any moment, kind of like Mr. Hyde, or how Tyler Durden is always hanging around in the adjacent room, or in the doorway even, and his presence at the edge of thought is a constant threat. But there was little room to question the sanity of the narrator, because I was too busy believing him.

      I actually had a dream very similar to this just recently (because I was working on a werewolf story), with my wolf lurking in the back of my yard while I cowered next to the back door and made a special point to stay inside the circle of light from my house. It was hanging from a tree branch like Michael Myers, and it seemed to have opossum traits (the fur was whitish and the shape of the head was less-wolf and more-opossum). I felt like a dog that was left out in the rain, and I kept waiting for someone to let me back in the house before it realized how scared I was (it seemed equally upset, remaining motionless except for a quiver here or there).

      Then I woke up and found out that my wife and mother-in-law had trouble getting the dogs back in the night before – our lone opossum was standing on the back fence and the hounds wouldn’t stop yapping until they were forced in. I tried to write some of the strong dream emotions and stuff down, but it wasn’t that good. You nailed it though! We didn’t see the transformation or the aftermath of the carnage, but that was perfect, because it felt very satisfying coming from this perspective and ending on that note!

      • October 12, 2022 at 10:26 pm
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        Thank you Rumplefinkies, I am happy that the reader could see the meaning and message of te story. I am trying to get out of the habit of giving it all away too quickly. I am glad you enjoyed it, and it was a bit werewolf-themed, well sort of.

    • October 12, 2022 at 10:59 pm
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      A good story, well written. Panic moments are well expressed and finally does the guy become the black dog’s meal?

      • October 12, 2022 at 11:15 pm
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        Thank you for your comments. I tried to write a different genre and hope it worked. Thanks again.

  • October 11, 2022 at 9:29 pm
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    It’s My Life
    Marien Oommen (1195 words)

    “Come here, right now,” rang his loud voice through the hallway.

    “Twalkin’ to me, I ain’t gonna randomly follow anyone! You can yell as loud as you can, Mister. I’ll listen only to one voice.” Yup… that vision over there in the kitchen, who walks in beauty, like a porky chop, with smells and bells each starry night.
    “It’s her voice alone that tickles me to an ecstasy.”
    I definitely have a mind of my own.
    Or as you say, my personality runs ahead of me and I cannot stop its meanderings.
    If there’s anything I can be terribly proud of is my undying affection for Mishka. She knows without doubt that she has ALL of me. Never mind that I was her second in the run for loving.
    It doesn’t make me feel any less.
    Her first love left her distraught, crying miserable tears, when he went on to that bridge over the river, beyond the sky.
    Not Kwai, dumbo!
    At least she doesn’t mourn his going away, marking it on the calendar and walking around the home like a zombie the entire week…. like some awful wives do, I read somewhere.

    I mean when I’m around why should she mourn the one who’s gone? Somewhere between hullloooo and goobyeee, YeSSS, there was so much love. There still will be.
    And as that Queen said to Alice, Off with their … uhhm .. the old, and on with the new, I say. I’m ready to replace everything her first love stood for and even offer better. Mishka’s so worth it.

    There were awful days when we were forced to live apart. Those were absolutely nightmare days for me.

    “How can you do this to me?” I’d ask her with my soulful eyes. But of course she had no answer to that one.

    Broken families, being the order of the day, with many losing their jobs, their earnings falling like ninepins. Compelled to return to their homes after years of serving in some foreign land, things could never be the same as the good ol’ days. Or it was some other requirement that needed a woman to take care of stuff as only women can do. When Mishka left on such trips, she took my heart with her.

    You’d say, I was existing like a broken chord that David sang about. Don’t ask me who David is.
    But you get my gist.

    “What about me?” I’d be bold to ask each time. “You’ve left me much too much, Mishka! I can’t bear living alone. You’re the air that I breathe.”

    Do you reckon anybody cared to respond? As if they were deemed to answer my queries. Life had to go on and on.
    Then it was our time…
    “Hey, sweetheart, come here.”
    “Yea what?” I was just fishing.
    “Sit by my side.” In her sweetest of voices.
    “You shoor ya need me? Or will you drop me like a hot potato?”
    “Let’s cuddle.” She tells me she’s at a place in life where peace is of utmost priority.
    “Yeh, piece of me!” I snort kindly, and snuggle up real close.
    “If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here. Right next to her.”

    One day, she left me alone. All of them. I was busy doing important stuff in the garden and my feet were covered in red mud.
    “Hey, wipe them before you enter.” I heard the booming voice again.
    And then they just bundled off in the car. I can’t believe Mishka would do this again. So here I am stuck in this large room with supposedly huge bay windows, thick curtains fully drawn so I won’t be distracted by outside movement.
    What do they think I am? A recluse? Far from it.
    I know I am a terribly good looking dude. People stop and stare which I’ve kinda got used to. I’m such a people person. I need people, guys.
    I walk around the large room to discover if there’s an escape.
    Cheats! These are no windows. Just pretend frames with Van Goghy doodles so I don’t even get to gaze outside to study the stars.

    “Wicked! All day long do I have to sit and stare at the magazines?Blechhhh!
    Never liked that loud telly too.”

    I’ve come of age where I know that nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. We mess up, we fall, we get up, we grow, we move on and live as God above ordains it.
    My mistake was that I did play naughty in my heyday chasing after two pretty pussycats. Both blonde! Both at the same time. But I left them real quick too when I knew they had nothing upstairs.

    I am forever grateful that my Mishka gave me a second chance. When I consider how my life has been all these years, you may not believe it, but it’s my nose that gets all drippy wet. I start sweating. It’s just love. Might sound strange if you’ve never known this fascination.
    We’ve all been given that second chance which I say is as wholesome as a second cup of coffee around about ten, in the morning hours.

    “Ahhh those coffee moments!”
    My policy is let’s just make each other happy without a reason, how cool is that?
    And I doggedly hold on to this life mantra.
    But back to my present sad state. Reality check. Boom! Here in this huge palatial room, it looks like I’m trapped.

    I must have been asleep when they returned for me. Was cruelly shoved into a cavernous room. Gosh! It was cage-like! I couldn’t say anything because they had probably put something in my coffee. I couldn’t open my eyes.

    What indignity is this? I just shower my love on her and she does this to me??
    Can I report her to the authorities?
    After what seemed like interminable hours, I opened my eyes. I’m not a corpse yet.
    Help! Where are they taking me? I hear voices.

    “Here, throw him the blanket.”
    I’m blanketed and made cozy… but it’s not the same.
    After many hours of torture- ground shaking torture, I couldn’t feel my legs. The noise was at times comforting and at times very bothersome.

    13 hours in confinement. My belly said so.

    I felt a huge thud. And then total silence. Till the voices reverberated round me once more. I slipped out of my cell, after cleverly dismantling the flimsy lock.
    I was free to walk away forever.
    Broke into a slow run really!
    What reason is there for me to return to Mishka? I’m going to walk away…
    And so I did.

    Voices behind me gained momentum. It wasn’t Mishka but somebody else.
    They were talking about her. She was looking for me, they said.

    “Flight landed on time,” I heard somebody say.

    “Stop, Charlie, come here, boy. Here’s a treat for you.”

    I was hooked. Turned back like a mutt. A buckle snapped. They had put the clinger on me.

    Down the cargo hallway, at the door, stood my vision of delight.
    I couldn’t stop wagging that appendage stuck on my back.

    • October 12, 2022 at 3:13 pm
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      You got me again! I should have known from “soulful eyes”, but you drew me back into thinking that it was a man (the part about chasing the two blondes was a clue, but I took it to mean he was a womanizer with a penchant for yellow hair).

      So, even after your last story, you tricked me good.

      And I think that I heard a dog barking from the hold on my last air voyage, it seems like quite the ordeal to go through down there.

      Excellent work!

      • October 14, 2022 at 8:44 pm
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        Thanks so much for reading. I had fun and it’s true account.

  • October 12, 2022 at 11:06 am
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    Marien, that’s quite the tail. I had to read it again to see if I had missed something along the way. Very imaginative and a clue was the word doggedly, ha, which was perfect. I suppose you couldn’t write about a dog without including cats; I like your descriptions without giving away the premise of your story.

    • October 12, 2022 at 11:40 am
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      Thank you my friend!!!!

  • October 12, 2022 at 11:58 am
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    Ok writer’s, time is up.
    Ken M was kind enough to let me know that he won’t be able to vote, so his story will not be included.

    Here is the link to vote.

    Remember, you have 24 hours from the timestamp of this comment to vote.

    https://fictionwritersgroup.com/lonely-room-voting-2022/

  • October 12, 2022 at 2:39 pm
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    Okay, I voted. Thank you Carrie and Happy Birthday and well-wishes to all the writers…

  • October 12, 2022 at 3:17 pm
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    I read an interesting article about human kleptoplasty – putting plant cells in human skin so we can skip lunch and go for a tan instead. Thing is, you would need way more plant cells than our skin could fit just to get a single meal from all day of sunning! It would be easier just to put a human brain into a tree lol.

  • October 12, 2022 at 10:27 pm
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    Thank you, I have voted. The competition was strong and it was very difficult to rate the stories. Happy Birthday Carrie, to both you and your sister.

  • October 13, 2022 at 8:23 am
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    Happy Birthday Carrie! I hope you and your sister both have wonderful days!!

  • October 13, 2022 at 11:12 am
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    Happy Birthday to your sister Carrie…can you let me know if my votes were in….I voted yesterday, thanks…

    • October 13, 2022 at 12:07 pm
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      Thanks Tom! Yes I got them 🙂

  • October 13, 2022 at 12:09 pm
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    Ok!
    The resuts are in!

    1st Place: Finding Freedom by Adrienne Riggs
    2nd Place: It’s My Life by Marien Oommen
    3rd Place: The last time I howled at the moon by ozjohn66
    4th Place: The Dungeon of Faith by Tom Russell
    5th Place: Within by Phil Town
    6th Place: Kleptoplasty by Rumplefinkies
    7th Place: Rainbow Room by Liz Fisher

    Favorite character was Jake from Tom’s “The Dungeon of Faith”
    Story with the best dialogue was Finding Freedom by Adrienne Riggs

    Congrats to all!

  • October 13, 2022 at 12:16 pm
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    Wow, congratulations Adi and to all the writers…Jake says thank you…thank you Carrie and it’s great to be back…

  • October 13, 2022 at 12:41 pm
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    Congratulations Adi and others. We are flooded out and no time to do anything except essentials. Possible to do next prompt after report writing is done.

  • October 13, 2022 at 12:42 pm
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    Happy birthday Carrie. Hope you have had a lovely day with family. Blessings.

  • October 13, 2022 at 12:59 pm
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    Congratulations, Adi … and All!
    Congratulations, Carrie!

  • October 13, 2022 at 1:55 pm
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    Congratulations on the win, Adi.

    I regret that I didn’t get a chance to vote in time, (what with Carrie’s overly strict adherence to the rules) so I cannot be blamed for your win, or anyone else’s loss, but it was well-deserved anyway, and a very fine story. Hope I get a chance to compete on the next prompt. A hotel room with no key, but you must figure out a way to get in, so you can rest up before your flight in the morning. (Try waving that card in front of the lock. Yes, that card.)

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