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Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “The Shadows”

Theme: The Shadows

Story Requirements:

You must include the following in your story:
1. A Wall
2. An article of clothing
3. Blood
4. An ancient golden goblet


Word Count: 1,200

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 5:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here. According to the writing prompt roster, the next person to choose the theme/first line/dialogue prompt is Ken Miles.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

189 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “The Shadows”

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    • The Shadows
      by Neha Neil
      August 2019
      Word count=1,186

      The wind whined wildly as the bitter gale circulated Julie like a pack of wolves hunting down it’s piquant prey. Trees withered with despondency as the razor-sharp grass stuck out like virulent needles awaiting to sting her. Yet cold and desolate, Julie stumbled forward. She must never give up now!

      Her eyes shimmered like precious pearls of the deep, blue ocean as her hair scintillated like shimmering stars in the starry sky. She wore sullied clothes of the thinnest silk followed by a leather cloak of wool and fabric. On her head was a small bracelet of roses and violets with a small sapphire gem stuck in the middle, sparkling under the luminous moon. It was a precious present from her own mother, before she had died of deleterious fever. Julie sighed. She had come all so far just to seek the treasure that was rightfully her families’ in the first place, the ancient golden goblet!

      If she was to succeed on capturing what was rightfully hers, she would be able to restore her poverty with riches that once was owned by her great-great grandfather. If only she was to know the way! Suddenly Julie gave a spasmodic wriggle, as if a venomous snake biting her with its’ malignant% fangs. It was as if she could sense death lurking amongst the pernicious shadows of doom.
      “Hello, is anyone there?” she questioned, her heart pulsating faster and faster. No answer. Was it safe to continue her journey?

      Out of nowhere, a vague shadow appeared.
      “Hello, is anyone there?” Julie yelped with presentiment, blood trickling down her weary head. What now? Should she run? Should she stay and watch as fate grasps her behind locked doors?

      Cautiously, the shadow crept closer and closer, every step leading to Julie’s mystical nightmares. Motionlessly Julie stood, her neck throbbing with anguish. Disquietude surged up her weak spine as she silently took cautious steps back.

      BANG! Swiftly, Julie turned and gasped. Its calamitous scales tailed down to its mortified tail as slithery as a snake’s suicidal tail of doom. Its beady eyes stared down at her as if casting a spell of illusion that made Julie motionless and stuck to the very spot. Speechlessly she shivered, panting with consternation. Swet of anxiety dripped down Julie’s forehead, as a spark of presentiment trickled up her weak spine. Silently, Julie gulped with agitation…

      “AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!” she screamed helplessly. No hope, no one was there to save her now. Fearfully, she dodged the cannibalistic arm of the creature and swiftly rushed in and out of the many withered branches like Christopher Columbus escaping the very virulent jaws of a malignant serpent. She had to hide!

      Just as Julie was to dive into the thick, prickly bushes of the hidden forest, the baneful creature slashed her hand with its’ blood-stained claws making Julie’s injured arm bleed with dark, red blood. What was she do now? Was this to be her end?

      Julie yelped with anguish as she rushed in and out of the many trees around her. She had to escape somehow!
      “There!” she exclaimed diving into a little opened path that led to a vast, towering wall.
      “Oh, no!” she gasped, she was stuck! Just as she was to give up on her journey to find the golden goblet another shadow appeared. This time it was long and slim, unlike the bloodthirsty monster she had encountered.

      ROAR! Swiftly, the shadow edged closer and closer, so did the creature.
      “Help, help!” Julie gasped. No hope. Just as the lethal varmint reached towards her the aberrant shadow jumped in front and slashed the creature with his razor-sharp sword. Blood of extermination spurted out instantly, as the monster made his final roar of death. As her injured arm bled rapidly, Julie fell to the floor, unconscious.

      “Where am I?” she questioned as the cloaked figure entered the room. He wore a long, dark cloak made of the finest fabric as his leather belt shimmered, an emerald attached to the center. In his right pocket was a compass hanging off a string of gold as his dark cape hid his mysterious appearance.

      Silently, he sat down beside Julie and explained to her everything that he had heard and encountered. The hooded figure was an explorer (just like her) who was lost and had been camping around here for a few years now. He had been adventuring into the forest in search of more wood for his fireplace, when he had heard Julie’s cries and screams.

      “And the frightening monster?” she asked, aghast from all the nightmares she had got herself into. He explained to Julie that the monster was an abnormal monster who lurked amongst the shadows and only showed up at night to feast on its’ delectable prey. Well at least the monster is no more!

      “Anyways, why did you come here in the first place?” the explorer questioned as he quietly sipped his tea. Julie explained to him that she was here to retrieve a golden goblet that belonged to her family. He smirked.
      “I think I might know where this treasure you speak of is!”

      Swet of exhaust dripped from Julie’s weary forehead as she panted vigorously. Soon they came to as sudden stop at a tall wall covered in flowers and moss. It had been the same wall that Julie had come across whilst escaping from the grasp of the deadly monster. Cautiously, they crept around the marble stones on the floor and came to a stop close to where six levers stood.
      “This must be a strange puzzle!” the explorer exclaimed, uncovering a strange message on the wall. Cautiously, Julie crept around the four marbled stones and then gazed up into the starry night.

      “This must be a constellation puzzle!” she exclaimed with alleviation. At least her science lesson came in handy this time. Quietly, Julie looked down at the patterns and then at the stars. Every time the stars changed position; the marbled stones changed patterns too. Every time a new star! First it was Pegasus, Aquarius, Orion and then Geminin. That must be it!

      Swiftly, she and the explorer rushed to the levers. Each had a statue of the stars and some other figures.
      “That’s it, we just need to pull the levers of the stars in order of what we see on the marbled stones!” Rapidly Julie dashed around like a ravenous bat desperate to find food as she and the hooded man grasped two levers each.

      “3….2….1…GO!” We pulled the levers and suddenly, the wall opened to reveal a fiery light. Soon the light subsided to reveal a jeweled goblet of pure gold, surrounded by various goods of jewels.
      “We did it!” Julie gasped, turning to hug the explorer. But he was gone! Desperately, she looked around but all she could find of him was a trail of blood following down the winding paths we had followed. Disappointedly, Julie carefully edged towards the goblet.

      Its’ blistering light shined almost blinding me as she meticulously lifted the goblet towards the sun. Julie had done it! The goblet has been retrieved…
      <\font color>

      • unamoona
        A delightfully original story, Neha.
    • Neha,

      Well, I loved this story. Very colorful, very entertaining. The writing was over the top in a lot of ways, but a small price to pay for the over all experience. You have some phrases and word combinations that are, I don’t know, hilariously unusual? Whether you mean to or not, I don’t know or care. Some of them are admittedly awful, but some of them are brilliant.

      ‘she died of deleterious fever.’ I love this phrase. What a way to go.

      ‘…the pernicious shadows of doom.’ (Shadows of doom are always tricky to describe adequately. I haven’t even attempted it yet. So… Not bad. Is this your first attempt?)

      ‘…her heart pulsating? faster and faster?’ (This one doesn’t work. I’d go with beating, throbbing, thumping, pounding. Fluttering sometimes works. Or stopped, nearly.)

      ‘…she would be able to restore her poverty with riches…’ (a little confusing aspirations. Hey! I think I just made one: ‘confusing aspirations.’ )

      ‘…the suicidal tail of doom.’ (Great name for a pub or tavern. But not for a boat. Coincidentally, these four words are impossible to memorize. Three of them maybe, but not all four.)

      Wait a minute… Christopher Columbus knew this snake? Did they have a falling out?

      ‘…the lethal varmint….’ ‘…aberrant shadow…’ !!!! These are wonderfully creative word combinations. ‘…a ravenous bat…’

      This is a really great description of a character, great image. I rearranged a couple of phrases just for the heck of it. It’s very colorful and memorable.

      ‘He wore a long, dark cloak made of the finest fabric, (fastened with two cut emeralds, maybe) his leather belt gleamed with oil. In his right pocket was a compass hanging off a string of gold, (the hood of) his cape hid his mysterious appearance.’
      (pretty good stuff.)

      ‘Julie dashed around like a ravenous bat desperate to find food as she and some guy prepared to save the day….’ I thought, ‘This is no time to think about food, Julie. For Christ sake… the fate of the goblet rests on your shoulders and you’re searching for food?…’ And then it hit me. Oh …….. the BAT was ravenous and looking for food. The metaphorical bat. Of course. I get it. That makes sense. (A comma would fix that of course. There were a few grammatical errors, but pretty clean writing all around.)

      ‘virulent needles’ (Nope. Doesn’t work. IMO.)

      ‘piquant prey’ (Not too sure about that one. Wasn’t that the name of the ship in that story about the whale? The H.M.S. Piquant?

      It’s a fun read, you have a real knack for spinning a yarn.

  • Adrienne Riggs
    Looking forward to this prompt! Hope I can participate more this time.

    I just want to say that the stories for the last prompt were awesome! I’m jealous of the way so many are able to envision and write about places and worlds so far in the future and the use of AI, etc. My mind just doesn’t work that way. That’s why I love this group! Way to go!!


    • Dennis Wagers
      Congratulations Phil, and to everyone else who shared their stories.
  • Carrie Zylka
    Signing up for comments!
    • Carrie Zylka

      Annoyed that I did not receive Ilana’s comment email notification – I did a little more investigating and will be calling Godaddy to see if they have disabled PHP’s mail() function which the comment form uses. It’s the only thing I can think of.
      Hoping to have this resolved soon.

      • test comment
        • Carrie Zylka
          Second test comment.
  • Congratulations Phil and others.
  • Signing in! Hello, it’s me again.
    And congratulations to story-master Phil!
  • Congrats Phil 🙂 Got away with murder!

    And to all the rest for some remarkably varied stories there. The theme is really just an excuse!

  • I don’t see my psychic story on the list. Do I have to post it first? Or what?
    • Ken Miles
      This comment is a brilliant story in itself! Pity we have to include a golden goblet and all just for the sake of eligibility…
  • Signing up! Love this prompt! Don’t really know who Phil is but CONGRATULATIONS seem to be an order, so way to go Phil!! (I am assuming he won the last go round, I will have to check that out). So yeah this is my first time here, pretty pumped about this prompt, cannot wait to read some amazing stories and maybe wow you with one of my own!
    • Ken Miles
      Welcome, Kristin! I also joined not that long ago – and kept coming back ever since. I’m sure you will too – it’s a great place to roll out stories in a friendly atmosphere where we all learn from each other. There’s also lots to read under the past themes – loads of original stories as well as insightful (and often entertaining) comments. Enjoy! Also looking forward to read your story!
      • Ken Miles
        (PS I’m working on mine right now – got to get that goblet in somehow!)
        • I am finishing up a short story I have been working on the retelling of the Myth of Artemis and the hunter. After that I am going to pour a goblet of wine and let the shadow world suck me in!! I am really excited to work on this project! I cannot wait to read yours too!!
          • Ken Miles
            That’s one excellent way to bring the goblet into the picture… and then let the wine bring out the rest! I think the stories will soon start pouring in! I think it’s a rather slow start this week – the theme is quite challenging (which is a good thing, really, for the creative juices to flow)…
    • Alice Nelson

      Welcome Kristin, I’m Alice one of the moderators along with Carrie. So glad to have you participate in the writing group, and I look forward to reading your story!

  • Alice Nelson

    Test comment to receive notifications!

  • Adrienne Riggs
    Welcome Kristin! You’ll enjoy it here. (Watch out for the Kens! We have 3 of them and they can be confusing to tell apart – especially since they all are great writers.) LOL! You will definitely be entertained. Especially when Ken C. imparts his knowledge and wit. You will find a lot of talent in this group. Voting for the stories can be a very difficult task when there is so much quality and talent to choose from. We are looking forward to your contributions!


    • Woop, woop, woop, woop.
      That’s it, that’s it. Pull over right there. That’s good.

      May I see your license, registration, proof of insouciance?
      Okay. Thank you. Wait right here ma’am while I check these.

      (music playing in background.)

      (The sound of knee length Jackboots on gravel.)
      Uh, ma’am. Miss Riggs, is it? Your insouciance is expired. Uh-huh. See that right there? Mm-mmm. Well, I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on that. Clearly an oversight on your part, but…. my question is, do you know why I pulled you over?

      No? Did you not see that sign back there Miss Riggs?

      What sign? Mmmm. Just as I thought. Miss Riggs, I’m afraid you were way over the exaggeration limit.

      You mentioned wit, entertainment… knowledge. Three Ken’s. Ken C. The impartation of knowledge? (snort.) Are you okay, Miss Riggs? You seem confused. No? Well… maybe this is a straight up case of ‘careless writing.’ Or writing under the influence. Have you ever had a WUI? A WWI? Are you sure? A Hemingway? DWWWB (Drinking While Writing While Boating?) Well then tell me Miss Riggs, and be honest, because I swear I think I smell cool-aid on your breath. Have you been drinking anything stronger than milk?

      • Adrienne Riggs

        You are such a hoot! And I’ll have you know that I NEVER exaggerate. I just remember BIG. Ok, maybe you caught me, but I plead the 5th and have no further comment. LOL

  • Becoming a Shadow
    By Alexis Winter
    August 2019

    For most, death is an inevitable fate which we will all one day succumb to – that no one could truly avoid. But, like myself, some have been condemned to a much earlier grave, whether they like it or not. Yet, most die from something we already know about like Cancer or Pneumonia. I was dying from some unknown disease sweeping through the nation. And even if there was a cure, I had progressed too much… even in such a short amount of time.

    My blue eyes moved from my raggedy blue bandana to the cloudy old window of my hospital room. My fear of thunderstorms being drowned out by the almost daily thoughts of what would soon happen. Within three months I had already progressed farther than anyone else. I was so far gone that not even the doctors were sure how I was alive.

    A sigh left my lips as I closed my eyes for a moment, attempting to push down the wandering thoughts so I could get a few hours of sleep before the doctors came in. Though the relentless lightning flashing across my eyelids and the deafening boom of the thunder kept me away from sleep. But, it wasn’t just that either. A rustling drew me fully out of whatever small semblance of rest I was getting. Yet, nothing was there. Just me and the shadows.

    Be that as it may, I couldn’t bring myself to look away from the chipped brick wall across from my bed. My eyes faintly catching sight of something darting back and forth across the wall whenever another flash came. Almost as if something was attempting to subtly catch my attention for some reason.

    At first, I was inclined to think that the figure was just a figment of my imagination or perhaps a manifestation of my illness. Maybe even a symptom of my lack of sleep, but as long as it didn’t bother me I decided to ignore it. Just like I did every day. Just like that nurse had told me.

    I didn’t want to end up with the same fate as the fifteen others who had witnessed the Shadow Men. Almost all of them had turned up dead a few weeks after their sighting of the beings. The others had disappeared without a trace. Though, when I thought about it… which was worse; to die due to a strange illness or a shadow?

    A small groan left my lips as I rubbed at my tired eyes. My mind slowly drifting back into the endless bog of questions without any answer to them. For a moment I contemplated the idea of calling out, wondering if the shadow would stop or continue without care. The curiosity of it all beating away all the other thoughts until finally, I opened my mouth. “Hello, come out, shadow.”

    The shadow darted for the door as soon as another flash of lightning came. The now seemingly feminine figure not appearing again for a few moments before there was a creak at the door. I didn’t bother as the resident “service cat” was likely making his rounds through the building. But, once I felt a tap on my shoulder I turned to look at who… what was standing next to me. “Well, well, a fearless little human,” the shadow woman spoke as she looked down at me. “Why do you call out to me?”

    Even though she was in the form of a living breathing human being, she seemed different, like she wasn’t fully human. Something which was only emphasized by her shinning purple eyes, which held a striking resemblance to a cat in the night. While her smile was nearly as bright as her eyes.

    Slowly I pushed myself up from my resting spot. A sharp, white-hot pain shooting up and down my spine as if I had been electrocuted or something. Likely it was another one of my strange side effects showing up again. “Why are you here? Did you come to put me out of my misery as you did with the others.”

    The tan-skinned woman said nothing other than look down at my wrists, her hands moving over to pick up my right arm. “Your veins are glowing… this is unusual for even at this stage of your illness. Perhaps it’s because you’ve progressed much farther than the others,” the shadow woman spoke. Her voice grim as her lips twisted downward into a frown. “How is it that you’re still alive?”

    All that I could manage to do is shrug my shoulders. Pulling my arm away and wrapping my bandana around my wrist where the veins glowed the most predominately. I always hated when people said that. It made me feel like some freak of nature or something. Especially since at three months most people barely seemed different from any other person in the world. Yet, my symptoms were those of a patient who managed to survive past the one year mark. Maybe even into the two-year mark.

    “Do you know why I’m the only one to progress this far?” I questioned once more, she must have known something about all of this.


    Just like I figured. Nothing.

    She seemed to contemplate something for a moment before giving a small sigh. “But, if you’d like, I’ll still give you the same deal I gave the others. Join us and maybe… it will heal you.” Her words seemed like an empty promise, but then again life seemed like a horrid misery. I lived only to die.

    “Okay,” I spoke.

    I watched the dark-haired woman blink a few times before nodding her head. The shadow woman held out her hands, an ancient black goblet manifesting in her right palm, and a dagger in the other. “You are required to give a sacrifice for your new chance at life.”

    I looked down to the object on my wrist, my bandana. It was the only thing that I still had left from my brother. The last thing I had with any sentimental value at all. Unwrapping the garment from my arm, I placed it in the goblet. The garment instantly crumbling to ash as she placed the goblet onto my bedside table. The woman then sliced her palm, allowing the crimson blood to slow into the ashes. “Repeat.”

    “From these ashes, I leave behind the old. I walk the new path to protect the light from the shadows. I live by the shadow code and will obey.” I repeated each word. Every one of them causing a purplish-black mist to rise from the cup. The strange substance briefly taking the form of a feline before the mist lunged forward. Completely knocking the wind out of me. My vision blurred as I attempted to look towards the shadow-like woman, a smile playing across her features as the monitors at my side started to flatline… I was dying.

    “You’re doing well for someone so close to death…” The woman disconnected me from the machines as everything faded. My breathing becoming ragged with each passing second. “Don’t fear. You will be with us very soon, Danni. You will be a shadow.”

    • AlexisWinter19,

      What, in the world, is that thing in your profile picture? Is that what I think it is? Because…. I it looks like a Gold-plated, Martian Clown Chihuahua. Not that there’s anything specifically wrong with that. It doesn’t detract from your story, but it will give me nightmares. Does it bark?

      (This is how I do critiques. I start with your profile picture. If that withstands my initial brutal examination, then I move on to examine the title of your story—which I will probably re-name anyway at a later date, as I see fit.) (And I often do.) (Renaming stories keeps me pretty busy around here.) (Jesus, like I don’t have enough to do.)

      I should warn you that Ken C. is not my real name. And that is not my real picture. (Come on, nobody’s THAT good looking.) It’s a picture I got out of an Amazon picture framing site. (Is there such a thing? Who cares. It’s not like anyone will check.)
      What’s that?

      Hold that thought. I’ll be back in a few days. (After I’ve hardened this bunker against Clown Chihuahua’s.)

      • Ilana L
        Brilliant story Alexis and really like the way you wove in all aspects of the prompt. Well done.
        • Ilana L,

          Thank you so much, that really means a lot. And honestly, I’m happy you liked how I wove everything in the prompt together. I was mostly going off whatever popped into my mind, some old character/species ideas I came up with forever ago, and a piece of a old story idea from last year. Happy it turned out well.

      • Alexis,

        Very subtle, controlled, understated presentation of the plot Very nice writing, too, if you take the time to enjoy it. On my first read I was rushing to find the explanation, the reveal. The second time through, I took my time and was able to appreciate the contrast between the steady progression of events and the few but distinct odd occurrences that cast a strange light on the character’s fate. Very subtle writing. Very different from your profile picture, which is shocking, jarring and somewhat disturbing. Okay so I like that too. But back to the story.

        It seems that the character’s fate was sealed, but when?

        Are the events mystical or is this about the advent of madness?

        I think the key to this story is in the very beginning ‘I was dying from some unknown disease sweeping through the nation.’

        So subtle, you’re not really sure if you know what’s really happening. Phillip will like that. It’s not about madness, and I don’t think this story is about death, (it’s a crazy story about avoiding death. So Jurgen will like that part of it.) (specifically or metaphorically.) That’s Andy’s areas of expertise. I’m just a sign painter so I’ll leave that interpretation to him. I think it’s a very subtle science fiction story with a mystical looking slant.

        Now, since the number 19 is in your name, handle, label, I feel that this must be your age. (Brilliant huh?)

        So, in light of this assumption, I should add that, back in the day, when I was your age, (when we were chiseling our stories into sandstone until we were in our tens and elevens,) they didn’t used to let us get away with this mystical element in science fiction. Well, you could do it I suppose, but not without dragons. Whenever someone got mystical with their sci-fi there would always be at least one dragon. But you don’t want to hear any of that ancient small talk from an old geezer like me. Or as Dennis would say, ‘old geyser.’

        Seriously though, very nice smooth writing Alexis..

        • Ken C.,

          Thank you as well. I really wasn’t expecting that. Though, it’s nice to hear. And yeah, much like my favorite video game trilogy, the Final Fantasy 13 trilogy, you kind of have to go through my stories slowly to actually either understand the events in them or just to actually enjoy it, as you’ve said.

          Honestly, that proves a interesting question which I neglected to think about prior to finishing this.

          And while you can view the story either way, this is something I intended to have actually happened. Rather than an onset of madness due to her bleak fate. But, to tell you the truth, if I ever got sick, this would probably be what I’d see in my dying moments or something pretty darn close to it.

          Truely, I didn’t have much of an intended genre. Most of my stories tend to become like a chimera of genres like Mystery/Thriller + Paranormal and fantasy. I guess at first I thought of this in Fantasy or something… I’m not really sure. I’m probably a pretty strange writer in that way.

          You are very close. I’m a year younger. 2019 (so this year) was my graduation and the start of college for me. So this year was a pretty important year.

          Yeah, usually dragons are a mystical element added to stories in genres that normally don’t have fantasy/mystical stuff in it. Nah, I don’t mind. So don’t worry about it, most people I know/relatives of mine like to tell me those kinda stories. Even when some of them aren’t all that much older than me.

          Again thank you.

      • Ken C.,

        Nope, my profile pic isn’t a gold-plated Martian clown chihuahua. Though, I have to admit this did make me laugh a bit. I can actually see why that might be a bit creepy. But, this is a creature called Carbuncle from the Final Fantasy series, specifically the one that appears in Final Fantasy 13 during the Pompa Sancta Parade (Eidolon Parade as some call it). As a kid playing through the game I found him to be pretty adorable at first. And from what I remember he talked like a human (he’s actually one of the gods in the game I believe), I don’t know if that makes him creepier though. 😁

        Honestly, I went through this in one of the contests I was in on Wattpad, though rather than profile pic it was cover, but since all we have is a profile pic I guess it kinda similar… maybe. And like I said, it was actually very funny to see after not being on my blog in a couple days.

        And that’s kinda interesting to learn. It’s nice to meet you all the same.

        • Criminy,

          I feel like I just asked Mozart if he could read sheet music. Or Mohammed Ali if he knew anything about boxing.

          So, the Clown Dog is a carbuncle in a game called Final Fantasy and is also a God. (And no, that doesn’t make him any more or less creepier.)

          You almost lost me in the last paragraph, but maybe I figured it out. So you got weird feedback in another contest, although it was a cover, not a profile pic, on something called a Wattpad.

          I see you’re going to be very hard to tease, Alexis.

          • Ken C.,

            It’s fine, It was like the funniest thing that I had read in a while. And next time I play through that game Gold-plated Martian Clown Chihuahua will probably pop into my mind the next time I see the Carbuncle.

    • Hi Alexis, and nice to meet you!

      “I lived only to die”. This is powerful. Opposites that exist because of each other. Like there can only be shadow if there is light. And death because there is life.

      This is not only Danni’s story – but, alas, the story of all of us, even if (we hope) our time-frame is longer than hers. Having read loads of books and articles on NDEs, like Raymond Moody’s “Life After Life”, Victor Zammit’s Afterlife Reports, Thomas Shroder’s “Old Souls” and such, I’m quite well-versed in these theme. So your story resonated with me.

      Midway, I felt it was going in a different direction, that there was going to be a huge surprise that I thought I had sniffed. I’m not going to elaborate – since I was totally wrong, and I can therefore keep my false hunch for future a story of my own. So thank you for that! I will credit it you, if I ever use it here 🙂

      Ultimately, the story went very much the way we all have to go, with this purple-loving rather-gentle Grim Reaper having it her way. But I very much like the way you allow for death not being necessarily the end of life: there is still the possibility for Danni to become a shadow. I’m not sure what the perks of being a shadow are, but it would certainly fill me with hope to know that there is at least an alternative to total oblivion. I’d rather be a shadow than nothing.

      “Don’t fear” is a great message of hope from the one we all fear. Danni expresses doubt in the promise of survival in the form of a shadow, which makes the story all the more poignant, with a character that is vulnerable, even though possibly redeemable. That’s my reading of it (which may not be what you intended!).

      Keep ’em coming, Alexis. And good luck with college.

      (another) Ken

      • Damn Ken (M.)

        You’re pretty amazing. You just described my understanding of Alexis’s story better than I could explain it to myself. It had more potential than realized.

      • Ken M.,

        I have to say you described this is a oddly perfect way, like I have almost no words. Some of the bits were a bit unintentional, more so being something that came out of the idea I formulated after seeing the title of the contest and the objects/thing we had to include.

        For example, I’m not sure if the Shadow would be considered a true grim reaper or just something that serves a similar role. Like maybe it’s easier for people to become Shadows when they are closer to death. But, either way it does provide hope in some way. I suppose I’d rather come back as something else rather than have to fade from existence.

        And the “Don’t fear,” bit coming from the Shadow was probably a odd nod to Don’t Fear The Reaper (by Blue Oyster Cult), which has kinda been an inspiration for a couple of my stories at the moment.

        Seriously, between you and Ken C. you’ve both given me some thoughts as I continue to write these short stories. I’m thinking of making a group of short stories related to the Shadows.

        And thank you.


        • Ken Miles
          Hi again Alexis, it’s good to hear that my and Ken C.’s comments have continued to inspire you further.

          So interesting, isn’t it, that that some of the things I found in your story have come out, in your own words, unintentionally… stories do take a life of their own once unleashed.

          Oh – Don’t Fear The Reaper – we must be somehow on the same wavelength on that one! It’s certainly in my Top 20 all time faves.

          • Hey, Ken M. Yeah it’s pretty cool and interesting. That’s the one thing I love about when my friends or others read my stories. You never know what they’ll think or how they’ll interpret it. And sometimes they bring up such intresting things that give me ideas that I never would have thought about in the first place.

            Oddly enough, I only remember starting to like it or even hear it recently, like in the last few years. But, it feels like I’d heard it before when I was younger. Hmm… But, still, it’s one of my favorite songs.

    • Alexis,
      Wow, this story was a great read. From the jarring idea of inevitable fate to succumbing to the shadows. I enjoyed it very much. You walked a fine line between life and death. I look forward to reading more!
      • Kristina,

        Thank you so much. I really liked your story. It was strangely very realistic to me in the fact that many people often don’t look closer into what’s really happening. And it was just fantastic to me. I’m glad that you thought mine was good as well. And I look forward to reading more of your stories too!

    • This is a totally different take on the prompt than I was expecting! I like the subtleness of it and the slow burn. The thoughts of Danni seem like how I’d imagine they would be for someone dying of a mysterious long drawn out illness. Especially if she is doing it on her own (without her brother.) Good job!

      PS, Ken C. still ribs me about how intimidating my icon is with the blowtorch…

      • Yeah, I somehow always manage to make mine a bit unexpected compared to what most are expecting. Especially if I can go with any kind of genre. But, I’m really happy you’ve liked my strange little story. I really wasn’t expecting many to like it.
    • unamoona
      On ‘Becoming A Shadow.’
      They say ‘write what you know.’ But there are some subjects, such as the one you chose to explore, that are a mystery to us all. Your narration allows the reader much room for interpretation. And I think that is as it should be.
      • Una Poole,

        It’s nice to meet you and thanks for the comment. It is much appreciated (Much like all the comments I’ve received on this story). I’m really happy with how it turned out and that everyone can kinda have their own idea of what is happening.

  • Una Poole
    Shadow Dancer. WC-968
    By Una Poole (final draft – 8-13-19)

    I turned up my collar and pulled my coat as snug as I could around me. It was well past midnight and a fog had drifted in from the harbor.

    The muffled sound of voices signaled the passage of three young thugs at the end of the street. They were moving fast, and keeping their chatter down. I don’t think they felt any safer than I did. Not in this district.

    The solitary streetlamp was no match for the gloom. As dark as it was, it’s amber light flickered now and again, threatening to go out altogether.

    I jumped at the sound of something small and fast that thumped to the ground and scurried off down the alley.

    I heard her footsteps approaching before I saw her. She materialized out of the gloom and towered over me. A dark blue, full-length cape with a hood concealed most of her face, except for the bright red lips.

    She produced a polished cigarette case from out of nowhere, extracted a thin cigarette that, when placed between her lips, obediently flared into life. And when she inhaled, I felt myself being pulled toward her, along with so much litter and debris.

    The wind stilled. “You’ve come alone?” She asked?

    “Yes.” I said, truthfully.

    She exhaled, and an opposite but equally strong force tried to push me away, but I stood my ground.

    “You brought the item?”

    She knew I had. “Yes of course.”

    She leaned over me and whispered, “May I see it?” When she did, I had a vision of a pack of hungry wolves, covered in blood, fighting over a kill.

    Before I could produce the object she desired, (a sacred, gem-studded goblet), a police cruiser came around the corner at the end of the block. A direct strike from an asteroid would’ve been more likely, but there they were, slowly cruising up the street.

    I expected my ‘art’ collector to slink back into the shadows, but she instead seemed pleased at the prospect of meeting these men. As if she knew them. I was mortified. A quick search of my bulging pocket would reveal an ancient, priceless, stolen religious artifact.

    The woman in the cape showed no sign of concern as the car pulled to a stop in the street. Two surly middle-aged cops looked us over. The closest one, on the passenger side, looked like he needed a shave and a drink. His bloodshot eyes seemed to see right through her clothes.

    They offered no greeting, made no move to get out of the car and requested no identification. “What the fuck are you two doing here?” No mention was made of my clerical collar either.

    “Why officer,” she purred, “that’s no way to speak to a man of the cloth.”

    The two cops stayed ominously silent, weighing their options. None of which would be pleasant, I presumed.

    Before they decided on a course of action, the woman threw back her hood, revealing a marvelous mane of platinum-blonde hair, with streaks of black tresses. She strolled seductively toward the patrol car, and it was clear that she was as tall as she was breathtakingly beautiful. She stopped within arms reach of the car, took another slow, suggestive drag on her cigarette while the two cops watched with undisguised lust.

    She bent over at the waist resting her arms on the window frame as they watched, transfixed. She looked in the window with her beautiful face just inches from the cop, and exhaled. Try as I might, I can’t forget what happened next.

    They appeared to burn from the inside out. Their tortured curses became gurgling screams—and then they were dust and bones. It was over in an instant. She stood to her full height as the car engine died, and inhaled deeply. Without turning around she said, “Mmmm. There’s nothing quite like the smell of roast pork on a summer’s eve.” Her white hair glowed with an inner luminescence before she pulled the hood back up over her head.

    I had retreated until I found myself with my back against a warehouse wall. Her sinuous approach did not arouse my libido, quite the opposite. One can hardly overestimate my lack of desire at this point.

    With eyes averted, I held the sacred goblet up in one trembling hand. “Here. Take it. It’s yours.”

    But she raised my chin with one of her long, bony fingers and studied my face. “I’m impressed,” she said. When she blew smoke in my face I was relieved to find myself un-braised; un-smoked; scarcely even warmed.

    “To think,” she said, “that a mild-mannered papal clerk could be induced into a betrayal so profound is… I don’t think the word ‘gratifying’ will do. I think the word that really fits is, ‘hopeful.”

    She stepped back, goblet unaccepted.

    “But what about our deal?” I whined. “What about Sister…”

    She struck the golden goblet from my hand and it clattered to the ground, rolling across the sidewalk and into the gutter. Despite my faith, or will, I was unable to move a muscle to stop it.

    “That…” she said, “felt really, really GOOD.”

    And that, I realized, was the real purpose for her presence here: A chance to defile a relic.

    Her satisfaction must have been great, because she offered an annealing tip. “Suffering is not my thing, you know, I deal in souls. You’re appealing to the wrong patron.”

    She gestured at the smoldering police car and I knew that she had just collected their souls. “Two for one,” she said with a beatific smile. “I like that. Perhaps we can do business in the future, Father. Give my regards to the Monsignor.”

    She turned on her heal and was gone, leaving me to fish around in the gutter for the priceless goblet.

    • Ilana L
      Very good story Una and one where the development of suspense is well done. Great read.
      • unamoona
        Thanks, Miss Ilana.
    • Very atmospheric, Una. This piece invades the senses (the cold, the gloom, the flickering, the sound of footsteps, etc. etc.) before meanings reach the reader, which is always a beautiful way to approach fiction (and why the physics book was boring). And when meanings do come, they are not clear (at least not to this reader), which left me very much alone in dark with my shaky conclusions. Very much like the Reverend in the night, after She left.

      I am not sure if I was to read more into the Sister bit – I think that’s an important hint underpinning the premise of the story. But I’m a bit lost there, i.e. as to what the Reverend really wanted and why She would convoke him for the simple act of striking the goblet he brought her. I mean, we are told that defiling the holy relic gave her some untold satisfaction, but I would have gone further having her defiling it in more vicious ways than simply striking it. I remember true tales, from my childhood in a Catholic area, of satanists stealing chalices containing the Eucharist from churches and doing much wilder things with them than She did with the goblet. Some of the more lurid details may be urban legends, but the crimes were really committed and documented. But, perhaps you wanted to keep the story within the bounds of decency, as I’m talking about some really nasty stuff.

      About the Sister, I thought she died or was about to, and the priest would have traded the precious goblet to bring her back. But I don’t think so, because She says she deals in souls, but still couldn’t help him. Perhaps the Sister broke her vows of chastity, perhaps the Rev was very much involved in that, and She could help do something about it… ok, I’m running off with my imagination. Your story left me yearning for some more in that regard!

      Perhaps She organised this rendez-vous as a sort of practical job-interview with the priest, as she indeed proposes the possibility of future business, which is, IMO a brilliant addition to the story. Also the mentioning of the Monsignor, already a business-partner of hers, apparently…

      I think you can potentially grow your story into a novella or novel: priests trading material holy relics for soul redemption and other favors with the creatures of the underworld. Until the whole scheme breaks like a badly-built dam. Not unlike the noir tales of politicians dealing with the mafia world for honorable and less-than-honorable favors, taken to the level of mystics and spirits.

      Keep this discussion going, please, I want to know more!


    • I loved the death scene!

      “They appeared to burn from the inside out. Their tortured curses became gurgling screams—and then they were dust and bones. It was over in an instant. She stood to her full height as the car engine died, and inhaled deeply. Without turning around she said, “Mmmm. There’s nothing quite like the smell of roast pork on a summer’s eve.” Her white hair glowed with an inner luminescence before she pulled the hood back up over her head.”

      This entire paragraph made the story amazing for me. You had already built this back alley of mystery and doom and I was getting a real vampy feel that I loved, then BAM, this paragraph slayed me. BRAVO!

      • unamoona
        Thank you Kristin, for your feedback
        • unamoona
          Kristin, What I meant was, thank you for your wonderful and kind words;’
    • What a story! Love it! Great descriptions. “There’s nothing quite like the smell of roast pork on a summer’s eve.” Reminds me of napalm in the morning. A winner.
    • Good Story, I really like the atmospheric feel of this story. It makes you feel like anything could happen.
  • Una,

    Your profile picture sends a clear message… to apples everywhere. Bad apple. Bad, bad, bad, apple. Bad sinful apple. (You know, Una, I have an alternate theory of religion and original sin that puts the blame of sin on a worm – a very sinful worm – a sex-crazed, malicious, apple coveting worm, at the core (yes the core) of the original sin story.)

    Now, it’s possible, (barely) that there are worms out there who will disagree with my theory, and I have offered to debate any worm who is worm enough to challenge me. But as yet, Una, no worms have stepped up to the plate. I think that says something about worms, (and a little something about plates, too) don’t you? I think it says something about the spinelessness of worms, their refusal to stand on their own two feet, pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Their weak-kneed refusal to take on the bigger issues and the tough questions plaguing our society today. Original worm sin. It has got to stop. I know, the whole thing is a little disturbing.

    Other than what your picture says about apples, worms, religion and sex, it’s a nice picture Una. I like it.

    • Una Poole
      Are you trying to worm your way into my heart, Ken?
      • Una,

        Did you just call me a worm? (Are we talking sacred worm? Or just ordinary worm? Or silkworm?) Just kidding. I’m just here for the apple, Una. Step away from the apple. But you are correct, I was definitely worming. I’ve never been called out for worming, while in the act of worming. (All units… worming in progress.) That’s a pretty bold, brash move, Una. It gives me pause.

        Maybe you should hang on to that apple for awhile, Una. While I think this through. While I figure out who I’m dealing with. There’s an old saying, “The wise intact worm avoids the early bird, and grows old and fat.” That’s a real saying, and true. .

  • Ilana L
    I am not sure why my comments are not appearing and hopefully it is fixed now.
    • Ilana,

      I’m making all the comments here. I need help. I can’t keep this up all by myself. You’ve got to make your comments appear, and I know how to do it. You have to get to the room Ilana, the room with the desk, find the flap, and the key, with the button. You’ve got to get to the desk, flip the switch, turn the key, and hit the button. BUT NOT IN THAT ORDER.

      Ilana come back. I’m not finished yet. Illllanaaaaaaaaa, nooooooooooooooo.

      Crap, she’ll never get those comments to appear now.

      As for your profile pic, those are some pretty cute goats, Ilana. Of course, they could be savage killer goats, I don’t know anything about goats. But I suspect that because they’re your goats, they’re pretty happy and well-fed.

  • Just signing up for comments and stories. I followed the advice on fixing everything, so here’s hoping. Looking forward to getting a story in this time.

    “I’m telling you I am still a virgin!” Mantee’s eyes blazed at her mother’s as she shouted. “I have not gone all the way with any of my boyfriends.” She snatched her handbag from the settee and made her way to the door.
    She heard her mother say, “That boy is spreading lies on you. He is telling everyone you’re a slut, who has gone out with all the lads in the village.”
    “He can say whatever he likes. I can’t stop anyone’s tongue wagging. I know who I am.” Mantee turned around to answer. She stamped her feet on the floor.
    “Yesterday, his mother came over here to offer a proposition.” She paused for Mantee’s reaction. “She asked for your hand for his son.” Her mother spoke quickly.
    “Really!” Mantee jutted her head out and opened her eyes as wide as she could.
    “Yes. She asked for a huge dowry because of your unsavoury reputation.” She continued. “Her eyes were all over the place, as if looking for things that she could put her hands on. I didn’t like it when her eyes settled on my 22 carat golden goblet.” She pointed to the goblet which took prized position on her mantel shelf. “This goblet is one legacy that remains of your royal ancestors. It was passed down from son to son over a few generations. Your father and his brothers received one of them each. Anyhow, whatever I have will belong to you one day. It felt uncomfortable when she asked for our properties”
    “You didn’t accept the proposition, did you?” Mantee’s eyes grew wider. She turned back on her heels to address her mother.
    “Not yet. I am not that old fashioned. “I told her I will discuss it with you. She did like my answer, blaming me for your behaviour because I allow you too much freedom.” She walked nearer to her daughter and asked, “Do you want to marry him?”
    “No way, not after he slags me as a whore. What else will he do once we’re married. I’m an acceptable bride because I will bring a fortune to him and his family.” Mantee reflected as she spoke. Her face became calmer. “It’s not me that he wants, it’s my money, the benefits that I will bring to them.”
    “They’re all the same. Money talks to our people. Men! They label you a slut if you’re sexy or a frigid if you’re not or pretend not to be. You can never satisfy them. Always blaming us women as not good enough for their extra marital affairs.”
    “I rather marry that dude from Europe who is out here, looking for a rich bride.” Mantee rushed to add.
    “Hum. At least this one will not throw my past at me, I hope. I will be away from this backward land and its people.” Mantee argued.
    “So, you accept his offer of marriage. I’ll get the ball rolling.” Mantee’s mother’s face spread into a smile. “I want you to settle and have a family, a big family.”

    A month later, Mantee, her mother and some of her relatives travelled to Belgium for the wedding ceremony and celebrations. They brought money, gold jewelries, including the golden goblet, expensive gold weaved silk saris, designers dresses for themselves and as gifts to the groom and his family.
    They hired the whole 5th floor with its 26 bedrooms, huge hall and kitchen area for themselves and the groom’s guests. The hotel staff were on call for all their demands.

    The ceremony went as planned. Guests ate, drank champagne, wine, spirits and beer. They danced before some of them retreated to their allocated rooms.

    Mantee went fairly early into the bridal suite as she wanted to rest, to look fresh when she faced her husband on their own. Her nerves played up. She was sweaty with worries although she had nothing to worry about.
    She watched as the summer moon dipped down into the orange horizon and cast shadows around the landscape. She drew the curtains, then crawled on the bed still in her heavily laden bridal gown. She sat with her legs up to her chest and her arms around her knees. She looked at her reflection on the mirrored wall that faced her. She waited.
    She ran her hands over her 12 golden and I red glass bangles on each arms. The glass bangles were worn for luck, Her fingers rested on them as she silently prayed for everything to end well. she stretched down and drifted to sleep.

    She woke up at the sound of the door creaking. The shadow of her husband appeared as he stepped into the room, peered at himself in the mirror before he peeled his wedding garments and laid them on the floor. He then climbed into bed, next to her. With his help and apart from the bangles Mantee removed her jewelries and dropped them into the golden goblet. Her heavy gown came off afterwards.

    Mantee became as excited as her as she discovered her husband was as enthusiastic as she was in bed. She let herself overcome with the glow of happiness and squirmed as she experienced that unforgettabe night.

    Soon it was all over. Her husband left to rejoin the party in the lounge where drinking, music and dancing were still going on. Mantee banged her glass bracelets together to break them, then gathered the broken pieces into a tissue and threw them into the rubbish basket. She wiped the seeping blood from her wrists over the sheet, then settled back to sleep. A sweet smile spread over her face as she slept.

    She woke up with the sound of banging on the door. She half rose up in bed and screwing her face, wiped her smudged makeup with her hands. An army of her old and new relatives barged into the room. They were crying and talking at the same time. Her mother went to open the curtains. The sun streamed bright into the room and made the goblet covered with Mantee’s jewelries sparkled.
    “We’ve been burgled. All our money, jewelries and clothes are gone.” They screamed.
    Mantee then noticed her husband, dressed in a normal suit, standing besides his mother with his hands clasped in front of him and his head hung down on his chest.
    “This idiot and the others drank to oblivion, collapsed in a heap on the sofas in the lounge. They had no idea what was happening. The thieves came, took everything and went. They knew nothing.”
    “This is surreal.” Mantee pulled the bed covers over her.
    “Look.” Her mother-in-law put her hands over her mouth as she spotted the jewelries and goblet. “Her jewelries are still with her. You see.” She knocked her son with some punches. “She did not drink like we did, as if there was no tomorrow. She kept herself sober. The burglars did not come here. All her jewelries are still here. My daughter-in-law is the best. She’s so wise. She looked after her jewels.”

    • Chitra,

      I love the first two-thirds of this story, love the writing in that first part too. But that last part, after the break needs less. It seems too overt. Instead of having the mother exclaim, for the benefit of her son-in-law (and the reader), you could just have the narrator explain it to the reader. Or you could tell or show us from the son-in-law’s point of view. I don’t know, it’s a nice reveal, dramatic without being fantastic, but the delivery is nowhere near as good as the entire rest of the story. That’s my opinion. That last section needs a re-write, maybe from a completely different perspective, (or not) but for sure a re-write.

      The first part is fabulous, top-notch writing, you have a very natural, earthy writing style. I’m serious. Like, your writing is not like intricate marble mansions or shimmering but vague Emerald Cities. Your writing evokes the colors of the desert, cactus and red rock, adobe structures, terra cotta clay, turquoise jewelry and colorful scarves. Vast vistas, rich with earth tones. Does that make any sense? How about this? I really enjoyed the story. partly because of the writing, feel you should re-work the ending some

      • Hi Ken C
        Thanks for taking time to read, and comment on my story. I am pleased that you enjoyed my story.
        I am flattered at the compliments you made about my writing. It gives me the confidence to carry on with my story building and expressing myself in the English language. You feel you are doing the right thing.

        I will look at the part that is not appealing to you and try to work it out as you suggested. Perhaps I will also wait to find out what others have to say too.

        Perhaps I am not clear enough in what I wanted to bring out at the end of the story. I tried to let the reader make out the twist in the story e.g Who are the burglars, who could have such access to such a big hotel which would have a good security system and a good knowledge of how the security works. Who was the shadow/husband who spent part of the night with Mantee. The last sentence has a double meaning. I let the reader make their own conclusion.

        • Ahhh Chitra,

          There more there than what meets the eye, eh? I’ll have to take a second look at your story and see if I can see the puzzle you’ve left for me. Sorry for selling you short. It could be a language thing. We’ll see.

    • unamoona

      I’m afraid the hidden meaning eludes me as well, Chitra. Other than the humour in the last line. Perhaps someone else will enlighten me. But your writing is, as Ken said, explicitly rich and colorful.

      • Hi Una,
        Thanks for reading and commenting on my story.
        It seems that my story requires some more work on it. I will look into it.
  • Wonderful story Dennis.

    In my opinion, you have an excellent sense of how much descriptive exposition to offer, and you always make the most of what you use. I realize this is only your second posting on the site, but… (For instance: ‘There was an urgent rap on the wooden door.’ This is an excellent and compact means of injecting atmosphere, (wooden door) description of events, (the arrival of a visitor with news) tension and emotion (an urgent rap) all in one short sentence. Amazing. I wish I KNEW how to write like that.

    Your next sentence is equally good. ‘The visitor’s grave look prompts her to close the door from Phillip’s view.’

    You’re not just explaining or divulging things. (You don’t say the messenger was wrought with grief, nor do you explicitly say that the mother was protective or devoted to her son. But the information is there between the lines. The actual lines describe the look on his face, and her response to that.)

    You seem to have an innate sense or ability to imply and convey quite a lot of information with just a few well chosen words. (I learn a lot about how to write from reading your stories.)

    Seems to me that last night there were a dozen odd extra question marks strewn about.

    They’re gone, but there were still a few mistakes.

    Her eye widen.

    …the sleeve of his bed rob.

    “I (How) dare you deny him this.”

    …his face twist into a mask of hatred.

    she scuttles from the room like a mouse. (scurries.)

    “Like Samual.” Phillip interjected.” (remove quote mark..)

    Great writing though, Dennis. And, this story is not at all far-fetched, from what I’ve read about medieval times and peoples. Very enjoyable. You really have the dialect down, the style of speaking, it seems authentic, (and it’s readable) without actually being accurate. and your dialogue is fabulous too.

    This is a really great story (or Chapter) it definitely deserves a continuation. I want to know Dennis, who killed the King?

    • Dennis Wagers
      Thanks Ken for your kind remarks. I appreciate you pointing out the errors as well. As for who killed the King, I’m surprised you didn’t pick up on the clues, maybe I hid them too well, but I was afraid of it being obvious. I don’t want to tell you straight out who did it; it might spoil it for anyone else that might care to read the story. Let’s wait until the contest is over.
      • You’re right Dennis,
        I picked up on the clues, and I’m pretty sure I know who did the deed, but you didn’t actually say, so there’s still room for speculation. Which is great. Still, I want to know for sure. After the contest.
  • Shadow Acres
    by Ken Miles


    Meg had nearly dozed off. She no longer stayed up till late waiting for her husband to finally return from the office in the evenings.

    ‘Rachel can’t find him that attractive’, Meg would reason. Young and pretty, why would she? Joe lost his radiance, gained a lot of weight. He could even be her father! He wasn’t Rachel material.

    Only if Rachel didn’t need, now and again, a spurt of his ink on her contract-renewal papers.

    This was Meg’s tragedy. Joe and her quietly passed the quarter-of-a-century mark together. Physical attraction ought to give way to a more subtle connection between them. Instead, he bargained everything they had for the first young female crossing his path.

    The noise from the kitchen persisted. Meg wished she feigned sleep so she wouldn’t have to speak to Joe.

    “Joe? Everything ok?” She hated herself for sucking up to him. But she couldn’t understand what all that clinking and clanging was for. She left him his carrot soup by the microwave, warmed it three times before she finally tucked in.

    Her slumberous eyes made out the silhouette of a stranger inside the kitchen. She attempted to tiptoe back to her cellphone on the bedside-table. But he spotted her.

    “Who are you? What are you doing in my house?” she demanded to know, terrified.

    “I prepared you dinner,” the stranger said, calmly. His firm facial muscles hardly contracted as he spoke, his eyes carnivorous. She couldn’t guess his age: easily twenty or even forty, a man who gave away none of his secrets. He wore her cooking-apron, a souvenir her mum got her from Minnesota. It looked ridiculous, like it had shrunk, on his expansive torso.

    “I… I don’t want dinner,” Meg stammered. She was at once scared and excited. Even hopeful. Many a time she envisaged some stranger descending upon her and taking her away from it all.

    The man put down the pan and with one swipe drew the curtain separating dining-room from kitchen. The dinner-table could have been from a banquet in a medieval castle. The fine china dishes, a wedding gift, never used, sparkled in the flickering candlelight. There was just meat, lots of it – large chunks of thick, luscious stakes. One solitary golden goblet stood in the middle.

    “I don’t eat meat. I’m vegan,” she announced, her voice frail.

    “Vegan and keto and gluten-free and lactose-free and sugar-free,” he added. How did he know all that? “But are you happy?”

    “Yes, I’m… very happy,” she lied.

    He held his eyes on hers, waiting for the truth.

    She faked a meek smile, then looked away from his insistent gaze. Before long, she crumbled. “No… no… I’m not happy. Not at all. I haven’t been happy in a long time,” she confessed, tears moistening her face.

    He put an arm around her. She wasn’t wearing anything under her gown, which frightened her.

    “Let’s eat, Meg!” He knew her name! Has he been stalking her? But she hardly left home. He leaned over and bit into a large chunk of meat.

    She was twenty-eight when a magazine article sold her to veganism. The bloody stake in the plate stared at Meg, deriding her absurd life of self-flagellation. Meg finally smiled back at it. The rare taste exploded in her mouth, and she wanted more.
    And then yet more.

    The man poured wine into the goblet, until it overflowed. She laughed at his wasteful recklessness. Joe ardently hoarded those unused wine bottles from their wedding, intending to sell them for a little fortune half-a-century later. Meg wished he’d suggested they celebrated their 50th anniversary instead. She’d since become a teetotaler, but that thought still saddened her.

    Meg gagged on her first sip. Then laughed heartily, and drank more. She realized she had lived her life all wrong.

    When the man carried her to bed, Meg didn’t protest. She wouldn’t let caution kill her again. Only her belly stood in the way. No-one was allowed to see those stretchmarks from Warren’s birth, not even Joe. She wouldn’t wear bikinis. She wouldn’t even cheat on Joe: she felt unpresentable to men. If she was actually dreaming that was when she nearly wanted to wake up. But the stranger’s fingers were already dancing on her stretchmarks.

    “The furrows of love, the markings of a real woman,” he remarked. She’d never seen it that way. The stretchmarks were, for her, a scourge. But he was right. She loved Warren with all her heart. He was long gone, to the MIT. The stretchmarks were the one thing of him she still possessed.

    The moonlight played with the trees outside casting myriads of shadows inside the bedroom: a mysterious alphabet of strange forms no-one will ever decipher. Meg spent countless sleepless nights trying to read those shadows. Trying in vain to understand her sadness.

    The endless woodlands behind the house were aptly named Shadow Acres. That place scared Meg. She insisted she heard wolves howling, interspersing Joe’s snores. Joe said she imagined things. He checked with the Forestry Department, just to quieten her. They ridiculed him. There were no wolves. Not there, not anywhere in the entire State. But when Warren was little, Joe conceded to having a wall built, which was only recently taken down.

    The stranger’s body-hair felt coarse on top of Meg. Her heart was pounding, she soon realized she was out of breath, moaning. She felt desired, owned. Vulnerable, but finally happy.

    The early sunlight woke her up. Shadow Acres glistened in a glorious sprinkle of morning dew. Was that him, the stranger, heading into the woods?

    “Be careful! There are wolves in there!” Meg warned him.

    He vanished in the thick foliage.

    “Do come back, please…” her lips quivered, the words melted into sobs. That sense of lonely abandonment gripped her again.

    She rubbed her eyes, to clear away the drowsiness, ignoring the biting pain on one side of her neck. The bed on Joe’s side was still made – he never came home that night. She’d call the police. No, she wouldn’t make a fool of herself. She’d call the divorce lawyer instead. She got up to get some milk from the kitchen to fix her throat.

    Everything was in order, no vestiges of last night’s excesses.

    Only the golden goblet they drank from still stood on the table. She reached for it. It was the soccer tournament cup Warren had won when he was eight. She put it back in the showcase where it usually stayed.

    She opened the fridge.

    It was packed with meat. Chunks of all sizes filled every bit of space. Blood trickled from shelf to shelf, ticktocking rhythmically, like a bizarre orchestra. She frantically opened the drinks-compartment: meat too, from top to bottom. Then the freezer, nothing but meat and more meat.

    The chilling sight wrapped Meg in warmth: ‘He will return! The stranger will return!’

    Meg spotted Joe’s briefcase on the floor. So he had come home, after all. He carried that briefcase everywhere, like an extension to his body. On top of it were his woolen gloves, the way he usually put them. On closer inspection, Meg could see that his hands were inside them too.

    1200 words (excluding title and this line)

    • Chitra,

      I love the first two-thirds of this story, love the writing in that first part too. But that last part, after the break needs less. It seems too overt. Instead of having the mother exclaim, for the benefit of her son-in-law (and the reader), you could just have the narrator explain it to the reader. Or you could tell or show us from the son-in-law’s point of view. I don’t know, it’s a nice reveal, dramatic without being fantastic, but the delivery is nowhere near as good as the entire rest of the story. That’s my opinion. That last section needs a re-write, maybe from a completely different perspective, (or not) but for sure a re-write.

      The first part is fabulous, top-notch writing, you have a very natural, earthy writing style. I’m serious. Like, your writing is not like intricate marble mansions or shimmering but vague Emerald Cities. Your writing evokes the colors of the desert, cactus and red rock, adobe structures, terra cotta clay, turquoise jewelry and colorful scarves. Vast vistas, rich with earth tones. Does that make any sense? How about this? I really enjoyed the story. partly because of the writing, feel you should re-work the ending some

      • unamoona
        This comment is an accidental duplicate. It should be deleted.
        • Una,

          I think you’re going to have to be a little more specific. Exactly which comment do you want deleted?

    • Ken M.

      This is a fabulous story Ken. Wonderful sense of latent violence and lust. Hope and fear, uncertainty, satisfaction and regret; a lot of emotional layers. And the ending. Quite an incredible psychological – suspense-thriller. It’s so strange, but compelling, the narration is riveting. You feel for the main character right away, and then you’re with her no matter what.

      A really fantastic story, Ken, wonderful writing. You had me hanging on every word. The delivery is just fantastic. And you don’t completely solve the mystery in the end, because the ending is a mystery too. Really well done, Ken. Very enjoyable read.

      • Hi Ken C.!

        It’s good to hear that you loved reading the story. And especially so knowing that the praise is coming from an avid reader and an exceptional writer. It all puts me in a buoyant mood, as there is always that damning sense of doubt that persists after clicking on “submit”. Did I write a grabbing piece or a piece of the other thing? In either case it’s essential to know, that’s one good reason why we’re here.

        About “Shadow Acres.” I think that a story should first and foremost belong to the readers and not the writer. Each reader can democratically (to use a bombastic word!) make out of the story what s/he perceives in it, which may as well be different from what the writer had in mind, from what the characters seem to understand, or from what other readers find for themselves. Especially so for mystery stories. (And this fortnight’s “shadow” theme lends itself very well to this belief). So I tried to leave a great deal of ambiguity in my story, and impart a strange dreamy feel to it. The readers can fill in the blanks (or not) as they deem fitting. That’s why the ending, in particular, may remain a partial mystery to some, as you also noted.

        But for those who want to know what I personally think actually happened to Meg, I dropped quite a few clues here and there that can actually solve the mystery to some degree. But that’s what I think, and the hints I give are not set in stone – the readers may have their own (different) suspicions too. I don’t want to go deeper into this at this stage by giving examples, so as not to spoil anything for anyone. It would be nice to get some other reactions first, before I say too much myself. That would be very useful to me, as always.

        Btw, Ken, I wanted to thank you for the detailed insight into your writing techniques of a couple of themes ago (“Traveling Through The Night”), in response to the questions I had asked you. I wanted to reply, but I haven’t as yet (I was on holiday, then holiday-recovery time, then at work serving punishment-for-having-been-on-holiday…). I still haven’t forgiven you for pulling out your story, which was my favorite. But you sort of partially redeemed it by the detailed comment I’ve just mentioned. But only partially…

        Do you get the feeling it’s a slow week this week? The stories are rolling in, and that’s great, especially since there are newcomers. But the comments? Where are some of our regulars? Andy, Phil, Adi, Ken F., Amy, Wendy, Jürgen and the rest?

        And a story from you?


        • Ken M.,

          I had a similar sense of gratitude when I read your story. After receiving such high praise from you a few weeks ago, it’s gratifying to read a story written with such obvious skill. You have elevated the value of your previous praise.

          This is a story that I could spend much more time discussing than is probably reasonable in this format. Without going into too much detail here and now, I want to be clear that your story doesn’t leave any loose ends or accidentally unanswered questions. That’s one of the marvelous aspects of your story. The unsolved mysteries are deliberate.

          I wanted to highlight one outstanding paragraph for extra praise.
          This one:
          ‘The moonlight played with the trees outside casting myriads of shadows inside the bedroom: a mysterious alphabet of strange forms no-one will ever decipher. Meg spent countless sleepless nights trying to read those shadows. Trying in vain to understand her sadness.’

          It’s visual, empathetic, psychologically revealing, and universally understood, if not experienced. It adds nothing to the plot, but everything to the story and the main character.

          I pulled that story a few weeks ago; ‘A Mother’s Love’ because I felt certain it would win. Or should have, easily. It was a really good story and I didn’t need a win, I needed feedback. You and a few other writers gave me that. Plus, I wanted to make room for other worthwhile stories..

          It’s great to win, for sure, but if you mistakenly bring a flamethrower to a paint-ball competition, you put your flame-thrower away and become a spectator. That’s how I felt. I’ve had plenty of wins here and I hope to have many more. Didn’t need that one.

          • Ken Miles
            Hi again Ken C.

            That paragraph you quoted is also one of my favorites. It took me some considerable word juggling to finally get it right. For Meg, the writing was quite literally on the wall. But what is writin for if it has no meaning? Her life was stuck in very much the same way: she read the signs but afforded them no actionable meaning. That is, until “the stranger” intervened.

            I am curious to know if you made any conclusions about the stranger. I have another comment (the one with the Spoiler Alert tag for those still to read the story) with more details on this, if you can take a moment to look at it.

            Perhaps my original title (see the said comment) could have helped readers build up the picture I had in my mind of who/what the stranger may be.

            Not that I mind if they build their own personal pictures – that’s what stories are for! I think the writer is there to take the readers to the amusement park, but then it’s them, the readers, who chose and do the rides, it’s their experience, not anymore his.

            Having said that (since we’re in a sort of workshop context here), I’m just curious to get some friendly reactions from readers on what they experienced/understood and match what they read in my stories with what I wrote. It’s kinda fun too 🙂 That’s what I also try to give in some my feedback, when I have my own (possibly divergent) experiences in what I read.

            Back to the story: Joe’s hands in the end – at the surface level they are there to explain where all the meat came from and what exactly happened, but at a figurative level I wanted to say that all that happened to him and Meg was after all of his own making (“in his own hands”). Did it come across to you like that in some way?

            As for “A Mother’s Love”, I understand your humanitarian explanation why you pulled the story out of the competition. But I don’t agree. I would have preferred a very honorable second place behind your brilliant story, than a win without your story in the game. (Not that I personally came first, second or anything, but for the sake of the argument). I think it’s more helpful to elevate expectations than deliberately keep the bar low. Don’t take away the stars, just because not all of us are or can be stars. At least we’ll have the stars there to aspire to! But it’s my opinion, you certainly saw it from a totally different angle.

            And, btw, you could have just pulled out of the competition – didn’t need to remove the story altogether from our eyes! I felt like I’d lost my wallet that day…lol

            But really where are some of our regulars this time round: Ken F, Adi, Andy, Roy, Phil, Amy…? Everyone on holiday? Or recovering from their holiday?


        • Hello Ken Miles!

          Here comes another comment, as requested. I’m not very good at comments. And sometimes I worry that I missed something in a story, after all it’s a foreign language. That’s why I keep my comments short and focus on a highlight, if I can.

          What have I seen in your story? A dream. A fantasy. An animal fantasy in which a wolf comes to her and brings her meat (meat and flesh) and lets the wine overflow. A dream that may be more than a dream, who knows that?

          Why do I post my stuff so late sometimes? Because writing a story in English takes a lot of time, writing, reading the other stories and commenting takes more time. Sometimes I just don’t have that time. Or I don’t have an idea that I can make into story until it’s nearly too late.

          I really enjoy writing here with you people. Even though my comments are short and, I love your comments!

          • Hello Ken, now I read your last (revealing) comment. Yes, I understood the werewolf theme. And I would ask you not to change the title. Let the theme rest in the shadows. Keep the dreamy quality of the story. And by the way a guy called Ginsberg already did something about madness and called it Howl. 🙂
    • So, I relate to Meg. It is kind of uncanny and maybe fairly sad.. You drew me right in. As I was reading I had a little nudge of mystery, but I latched onto the romantic side of it too. As someone who thrives on twisty things that go bump in the night, I found the ending satisfying to my carnivorous nature. Great tale sir!
      • Ken Miles
        You picked up on Una’s “smell of roast pork”. You like the meat in my fridge. Ok, carnivorous, I see! What about a barbecue for your birthday? I was going to keep it a surprise, but then reckoned better not, you know what I mean.

        I’m glad you enjoyed reading “Shadow Acres”. Romantic? Maybe more anti-Romantic to me. But then it all depends on which angle one looks at it. Did it feel to you, at least at times, like it’s not clear if Meg is just dreaming or if it’s all happening for real? I tried to convey that dreamy feel, while at the same time keeping the reality door open, but not without difficulty and I’m not sure to what extent I succeeded. If at all.

        • Ha! I see you Ken! Yes the dreamy feel of this “Mystery man” which is does come off as reality, but then if this was happening it would feel quite surreal wouldn’t it?
          • Ken Miles
            SPOILER ALERT please do not read this comment before the story.

            Yes, surreal, even absurd. But Meg’s very “regular” life is also absurd in its own way and I think it’s fun to see the two types of absurdities clash.

            I had originally called the story “Howl” and started off from a werewolf theme. But then changed the title to keep the werewolf bit under wraps. Although the new title “Shadow Acres”, which is the name of the woodlands, may suggest that something critical to the story emerges from those woods.

            Instead I threw in various clues, namely: the whole meat business including the killing and portioning of Joe’s body, the stranger’s “carnivorous eyes” and his firm wolfish facial musculature, Meg hearing howls in spite of the forestry department claiming that there are no (regular) wolves in Shadow Acres, the biting pain on one side of Meg’s neck, this “man” apparently having been observing/stalking her most likely from the woods where he lives given that she hardly left home and the garden wall had been recently removed and finally him disappearing in the woods once the moonlight gave way to day.

            I’m not sure if readers would join all these dots to form a werewolf image, real or dreamt, as the case may be.

            If the feedback suggests that this is not happening, perhaps I’ll switch the title back to “Howl”, should I use this story elsewhere.

            I’ll wait for some more comments 😉

    • unamoona
      Ken Miles.

      On ‘Shadow Acres.’

      I like this guy. Where can I meet men like this? Cooks me supper, urges me to eat the fat, get drunk, have great sex, then he cleans the kitchen and dining room, and leaves at sunrise without even telling me his name. If that wasn’t enough, he murders my unfaithful husband for me too! And shoves his carcass into the Frigidaire. What a guy. Okay so he’s a werewolf. Nobody’s perfect.

      This story is quite fabulous Ken. Your stories, the few I’ve read, are very absorbing and render very clear images, to me at least. I can visualize the characters, the apartment, the kitchen, the neighboring woods, all quite definitively. The wall with the shadows on it? Excellent. This is a story with a lot of complexity. And I can see from your comments about my story that you’ve a very facile mind and fertile imagination.

      • I mean… yes, why waste the body of a slain overweight unfaithful husband? All that meat will come in handy for several romantic candle-lit dinners with a well mannered good-looking werewolf for days to come. I don’t know what Meg made out of it at that point, after she discovered Joe’s hands. So I stopped the story there. (also, another word would have been the 1,201st).

        Thanks Una for your nice words about this story and my other past ones. I struggle to keep the balance between clear imagery and a sense of mystery. If a story comes across as too clear and obvious, it’s boring. If it’s too mysterious and shady, it may be difficult to grasp, which in the end, again, means… it’s boring. So there must be some thin line somewhere in between. It doesn’t come that naturally to me to do this balancing act, or even, to know if I got somewhat close. So the feedback I get here is quite precious in this regard.

        As to finding a guy like that, well, I don’t know – he’s only a figment of my fertile imagination. Perhaps you relocate near some shadowy woodlands, refrain from having a wall built at the back of the house. But I can’t guarantee anything.

        Cheers! (somehow)

    • Great story, great writing! My favorite sentence was “The moonlight played with the trees outside ….” Apart from the last one. I more or less knew how it would end. But that sentence came as a surprise nevertheless.
      • Thanks Jürgen and I’m pleased you liked the story. There seems to be quite a general consensus on the “moonlight casting a mysterious alphabet on the wall” sentence being one of the strong points of my story. Perhaps it’s because we are all writers in here and the moonlight joined our ranks, writing, like us, not in ink or in pixels but in shadows on a wall 🙂

        You said you knew more or less how the story would end. At what exact point did that occur to you? I might have a second look at that very point and tweak some clue that I may have given in order to keep the surprise going till the end. So it would be very useful to me if you let me know where exactly I let the cat out the bag.

        So since the werewolf thingy seems evident enough, fine, I’ll keep the title as it is and won’t change it back to “Howl”. Especially since you said someone else has already used that name in the past. Mine would be a howl too many!

        About commenting, I wouldn’t worry, if I were you, about English not being your first language. I think it’s the language of the world (to some extent) by now, and I suppose that most of us here would like to reach an audience well beyond the few strictly English-speaking countries in existence and hit a more international audience. So your understanding of the stories and comments about them are just as valid, if not more! There are many more non-native English potential readers our there than native ones and the internet is the one bowl we’re all living in…

        Thanks again… now I’ll read the remaining stories and get voting before time flies!

  • The Tower

    By Kristin Record

    Charlotte came here to commit suicide, not murder. Or at least that is what she told herself walking among the rows of exotic flowers and bushes in her husband’s majestic garden. She hefted her awkward leather case. The death bag. That’s what she’s been calling it. Death bag. What did one pack for the great eternal trip? Tools to kill yourself with she thought grimly. Navigating the living labyrinth by the moonlight was not an issue, she’d been making this walk for years she knew what hid in the shadows, what lurked behind every lush green corner. Doing it with the death bag, however, was more of a struggle.

    She could see the tower in the distance, a pale flicker of light in the window at the center of the elaborate landscape. The stone walls looming. Pushing past a large hibiscus Charlotte quickened her pace, pushing aside her fear. There is no turning back she told herself; there is no one left. Tears pooled in her eyes at this reminder.

    The whole matter started 2 weeks prior. In the past, rumors floated around the castle of his infidelity. The whispers sent Charlotte into a jealous ridden panic attack. Each rumor her husband extinguished with haste. Jeremy had his way of wooing her back to sensibility. He’d never be untrue to her; she was his queen.

    Her love for Jeremy was a twisted gnarl of passion and jealousy. The notion of him in the arms of another made her chest to ache, forced her heart to smash in her chest and set loose the ocean of red behind her eyes. The only person she loved of equal measure to Jeremy was her twin sister Olivia.

    Olivia, with her pleasant disposition, was the daylight to Charlotte’s twilight. She was constantly by her side, a faithful adviser. Imagine Charlotte’s horror when the first rumor of Olivia and Jeremy took flight.

    Little birds gossiping around the castle. A secret meeting the birds chirped Hushed conversations in corners together they conspired.

    Charlotte was aghast at the prospect and flew headfirst into a rage. Anger boiling inside her, hot and molten. Storming into Jeremy’s study she slammed her fists on his desk and demanded to know what he had been doing with her sister.

    He assured her it was nothing, not to worry “Take a hot bath and neglect the gossip Charlotte, you are stronger than this.” He kissed her temple and resolved back into his work.

    Charlotte struggled to relax; she did her best to think logically but her imagination whirred. She could see them in her mind’s eye making love, laughing and moaning.

    It overwhelmed her thoughts for the next few days; she began to watch Olivia, spying on her. Nothing was out of the ordinary. In fact, she hadn’t seen or spoken to Jeremy. Charlotte started to relax, she even chuckled at herself for believing the wicked rumors.

    One evening she awakened with a start. She could hear murmurs from the study. Slipping out of bed she knotted her bathrobe around her waist and tiptoed to the door. She couldn’t see them but could hear them now, Olivia and Jeremy; KNOODLING!

    “She will die when she finds out!” Olivia was whispering. Charlotte’s heart halted. She pressed her ear to the door and strained to hear better, A few more unintelligible whispers and then Jeremy “The tower next Thursday night”. Olivia’s school girl giggles chimed in her ears.

    Charlotte flung the door wide, expecting to see them undressed and embraced. They weren’t. Olivia was standing over his desk her jaw dropped at the sight of Charlotte.

    “Oh, you are awake!” Jeremy exclaimed standing from his chair and making his way towards his wife, “Are you OK? You look pale.”

    “Wha-” she started and shook her head. “What is going on?” She looked from Olivia to Jeremy they both wore guilty expressions.

    “Nothing my love, we were just talking. Here let me get you back to bed.” Jeremy reached for her arm. Drawing away from him she pulled her robe tighter.

    “No” Charlotte hissed “NO!” she stormed from the room. She had heard enough, her heart shattered.

    Halfway to the tower, she set down the death bag. Hot tears rolled down her face. She sat in a heap and opened the bag. Examining the contents, she paused. Just do it quick, stick to the plan. She withdrew an ancient goblet. It was gold and emblazoned with a roaring dragon, rubies formed the eyes glinting fed as fire. She turned it over in her hands. Jeremy had given it to her as a birthday gift the year prior. She found this ironic, as her birthday was only days away. This is the birthday last gift I will ever receive. She thought. Next, she retrieved a thin amber vial. Rolling it between her fingers she squeezed her eyes shut. This is it. Pulling the cork stopper, she poured the thick liquid into the goblet, gave it a fancy swirl and then drank it down.

    She wanted to murder them at first. Find them in the tower, confront them and kill them both. This left her cold and heavy, if she followed through with that plan, she will live in misery, or worse be apprehended and imprisoned. Suicide by poison. This idea came to her when a chambermaid had come to her room. Flustered and breathless she had said “My lady, I have heard a rumor,” Charlotte shot to her feet, “Tell me instantly!” she ordered. The young woman shifted her eyes to the floor. “You should go to the tower on Thursday night.” The girl quickly fled the room and Charlotte sighed with dismay for this was information she had already known. Then the idea hit, like lightening. She would poison herself, then go to the tower and confront them. They would see how they destroyed her as she died before them, forever to live in the shame of what they had done.

    Getting to her feet she placed the items back in the death bag. She was close to the tower now and her head was spinning. She thought she could hear music and laughter. She quickened her pace as her legs became heavier.

    Finally reaching the stone door of the tower she found it difficult to breathe. It was silent. Wasn’t there just music? Struggling, she pushed the heavy door open, darkness. But the light was on. she thought confused.

    She stepped inside, “Hello?” she called.

    The room illuminated and sounds of “SURPRISE” and “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” rang through the air. In front of her stood Olivia and Jeremy who was holding a big cake.

    Charlotte coughed and blood shot from her mouth, splattering onto the floor.

    “Charlotte, my god what’s wrong?” Olivia rushed to her as she fell to her knees. Her vision swam and the poison took over. The last thing she saw before she died was the cake hit the floor.

    • unamoona
      A wonderfully conceived moral warning to us all.
    • ****SPOILER ALERT: Other readers, please don’t read this comment before you’ve read Kristin’s story!****

      Loved it, Kristin, kept me reading on very much believing the adultrous tale till the tragic end (except for one little suspicion I wasn’t 100% sure of, but which crept in my mind a bit too soon – I’ll be pointing it out to you in a moment). Bad enough poor Charlotte killing herself for what she thought they had done to her, even worse finding out it was a huge mistake. I’ve got to watch it, from now on, when secretely organising surprise parties and such!

      “She will die when she finds out!” – this is the wicked sentence that makes the story: it could have gone either way, really.

      The story is very believable, and a lot of it is thanks to your ability in creating its non-chronological structure. You first throw us straight inside Charlotte’s mind and walk us with her on her path to self-destruction. Then you sow her doubts about her husband in us, very much like they were sown in her, as you take us back in time with some excellent back-story. You call them “rumors”, nevertheless I believed them – and I did not believe Jeremy and Olivia were innocent. But when in the end I had to accept their innocence, this doesn’t come across as illogical in any way.

      When everything is said and done, you let Charlotte reach her birthday party and realize her mistake at a point when there is no turning back, thus adding to the drama and the immense remorse.

      You give us a hint that her birthday was coming up soon. To tell you the truth, I did get a hunch there, of what may be coming. I wasn’t sure, but I thought of it as a possibility. Perhaps the important fact that her birthday was imminent could be brought in slightly less pointedly. What do I know, maybe, the birthday date is inscribed on the goblet and she sheds a tear as she remarks that Jeremy printed her death certificate in gold (which would have some metaphorical value too: figuratively killing her by betraying her in an affair with the only other important person in her life, Olivia).

      I’m just thinking off the cuff, but toning down in some way the clue of the upcoming birthday could keep the surprise ending of the story till the very end, where it belongs. Some misdirection is needed in conjunction with this all-important birthday clue. For one thing, though, IMO, there has to be some mention of the birthday. It shouldn’t be left out altogether, in order to eliminate the possibility of guessing the ending. Otherwise, it would seem contrived if the birthday party is bought in sort of conveniently at the end, totally out of the blue. It’s a dilemma, I know: got to mention it, but got to disguise it!

      I think some sentences can be made clearer by simply putting in commas. I spotted these examples:
      “Tools to kill yourself with she thought grimly.” comma after “with”
      “Pushing past a large hibiscus Charlotte quickened her pace, pushing aside her fear.” comma after “hibiscus”
      “She looked from Olivia to Jeremy they both wore guilty expressions.” comma after “Jeremy”.

      I think this part is missing a full-stop after “chirped”:
      “A secret meeting the birds chirped Hushed conversations in corners together they conspired.”

      And here, it seems to me that there is a word inversion:
      “This is the birthday last gift I will ever receive.” (last birthday gift?).

      I prefer to spell out single-digit numbers. They seem sort of jarring in numerical form, but maybe it’s just me:
      “The whole matter started 2 weeks prior” (two)

      I hope this was helpful in some way! Most of all, well-done again for a very well imagined story delivered in beautiful language and a structure that works in its favor.

      Keep the stories coming, Kristin! It is already a very good start 🙂

      Next week it’s my turn to choose the prompt. I am not allowed to say what it is, of course – but it will be out on Wednesday/Thursday (depending on where you are in the world, which, I was told is actually spherical – who knew!). So please make sure you’re back!!


      • Ken. Wow, thank you for such excellent feedback. It is interesting about the birthday becuase I struggled for a while on how to fit it in. I knew I need to but like you said did not want to stand out too obvious. I love the idea of it engraved on the goblet. Thank You for the editing tips as well, in my draft the thoughts were in italics which don’t appear in the comments and my online editor did not seem to pick it up. I will be sure to keep that in mind next week! Thanks for the great feed back!
        • Ken Miles
          I see, in italics those sentences would make perfect sense. It’s been something I meant to ask about – if it’s possible to use italics in WordPress. Anyone reading knows anything about this? I would have liked to use italics in past contributions but didn’t figure out how. Maybe it’s not possible as I don’t recall anyone using them. Pity, if that’s the case, as italics are quite a useful visual and communicative tool.

          I always have a good look at my story texts after I paste them in and before clicking the submit button. Some things (line spacing, etc.) may get messed up; WordPress sometimes has a mind of its own…

      • unamoona
        You’re very observant Ken (Miles.) I may not comment very much, but I wanted to express the fact that your comments about the other stories are very helpful, and interesting even if they’re not, and I hope you’ll continue to do what you’re doing.
    • Kristin,

      I love your profile pic.

      Your story employs misdirection with masterful skill and brevity in the very first line. The plot’s construction and gradual parsing draws us in with the ruthless disregard of quicksand, or the incoming tide. You present us with a well-balanced mix of exposition and dialogue too. (The dialogue is excellent as well.)

      A couple of words and phrases gave me pause. (No more than that.)

      ‘…he resolved back into his work.’

      ‘…made her chest to ache, forced her heart to smash in her chest…’

      These are pretty small and highly subjective objections which shouldn’t trouble you very much, as I liked the story, the writing, the dialogue, the moral, the misdirection, the reveal and the ending. A very enjoyable read, Kristin.

      • ‘…made her chest to ache, forced her heart to smash in her chest…’ — Yeah this is definitly something I should have caught during editing!! Thank you Ken for your thoughts on my little tale! I am proud to have entertained you!

  • Shadow Queen
    3rd draft (1196)

    “It simply isn’t fair mother! Sir Robert says Samuel was training on the East Wall a full year younger than I am now.”
    “You are not like Samuel. He was born to be a soldier.
    “He’s bigger, stronger, is that what you mean?” Her son’s face grew red from frustration. “Father ignores me when I mention it.”
    That last remark gives her pause, but she smiles and touches his shoulder. “Phillip, you have a brilliant mind, you will plan conquest, not fight in them. Your time will come.” Even with her attempt at optimism, the words rang flat to her ears. Thing’s were not good at the palace; rumors spread of the King’s infidelities. Her shoulders slump, and her brow creases at the thought of it. Then there is an urgent rap on the wooden door.
    The visitor’s grave look prompts her to close the door from Phillip’s view. “Sir Robert! What’s the matter?”
    “Samuel’s dead,” he said in a dreadful tone.”
    Sarina gasp, clinging tightly to the door handle. “How?”
    “He was found at the foot of the wall at daybreak.”
    “The King?”
    “Inconsolable, the physicians are with him.” She notices her old friend’s lips quivering ever so slightly. “There’s something else.”
    He regards her with wide eyes. “It’s just that, Samuel grew up on that wall, My Queen, knew every inch of it, I don’t think it was a fall.”
    “Why would you say that?”
    “I found this.” He brought forth a rough piece of lumber, the edge darkened by dried blood.
    She stares at it with frightened eyes, as if he had presented her with a serpent. “You shouldn’t tell the King, not yet.”
    He nodded.

    The King lay in the large wooden bed, propped up with silken pillows, surrounded by his physicians, his face set as if made of stone.
    She pauses at the door. Her thoughts go back to the last time they spoke. It had been an argument involving Samuel. “You act as if he’s your only son.” She had accused. “You never give Phillip the time of day.”
    “Samuel is my first son!” He yelled. You are not his mother and cannot love him as I do, but he shall be King!” His angry words rang in her ears even now.
    Now, at the sight of her, he waves everyone from the room, his eyes on her face. Once they are alone, she approaches him and makes as if to lay a hand on his. His voice comes broken and cruel, “Don’t come to me pretending to mourn, fake tears in your eyes, acting as if you cared for him.”
    Her eyes widen. “But I did care for Samuel. He was your son.”
    “I can’t bear your false remorse.” His voice came ragged, breath heavy. “Inside you are joyful I know it.”
    “No…I swear!”
    “I can see it in your eyes. Damn you for it!” He sobs. “You felt nothing for him but jealousy.”
    Her chest is full and hot; tears fill her eyes and roll down her face. “No, no, you’re wrong.”
    “All you ever wanted was to see your precious Phillip on the throne. He’s no King. He’s as weak as you!”
    She burst into sobs, to know he felt so about Phillip was too much. “He is your son, your blood.”
    The King wipes his face with the sleeve of his bed robe. “He’s not Samuel!” he moans, his face red from anguish.
    She turns away from him, gripping the bedpost. “You’re not well; you wouldn’t…”
    “Oh, I’m well!” He interrupts. The physicians have confirmed it. I’ll be around to decide who takes the throne, and it sure as hell will not be Phillip.”
    “How dare you deny him this. He is the rightful heir.”
    His eyes went cold. “I don’t know if he’s my son?”
    A familiar chill envelopes her. “So, this is how it will go. I will be declared unfaithful, and Phillip a bastard, cast out of the palace, your son, your blood?”
    He never spoke, but his cold eyes were enough.
    Desperation floods her chest. “Phillip can be strong,” She insists. “He’s still a boy.”
    “He’s more a girl than a boy! You two creep around the palace like rats in a pantry.”
    “He has a bright mind, unlike Samuel, who was nothing but a brute.
    She watches in horror as his face twists into a mask of hatred. ” I want you to know.” He growled in a bitter voice. “Samuel was the only reason I kept you around. He cared for Phillip, wouldn’t think of me turning you out. Now leave me witch; I’m sick of looking at you.”
    Living up to his accusations of weakness, she scurries from the room like a mouse.

    Upon hearing the news of Samuel’s death, Phillips’s eyes fill with tears, his body trembles. He becomes quiet, not speaking for hours.
    Queen Samira sits by his bed in an overstuffed chair looking out into the rain, her mouth dry, and her mind racing. It’s too late for begging and remission. She has gone too far, said too much. She must do something, make a plan, but who will help her. She is a recluse in this castle, speaking only to her maids and Sir Robert on occasion. Robert is devoted to the King, she can’t ask him. No, she must face her plight alone.

    As darkness falls, she goes to her son’s bed with the King’s goblet in hand. She presses it to his lips. “This will help you sleep and take away the hurt.”
    “What is it?” he asks, taking a sip.
    “It’s a bit of wilt weed in wine. The right amount brings on restful sleep; too much is deadly.” She watches his eyes widen, but he doesn’t speak. She continues in a low faraway voice. “I’d like to share something that has proven valuable to me.” She pauses, listening to the rain it seems. “There are people in the world who live in the light. They are loud and talk much and often, always get noticed.”
    “Like Samuel,” Philip interjected.
    “Yes,” she agrees. “Other people, such as you and I, live in the shadows. We stay in the background, seldom noticed. We are the quiet ones. We keep our tongues to ourselves, and our thoughts are secret. People are like animals you see, in that sense. The big, bold, blundering animals are dangerous, but it’s the quiet ones who are most deadly.” He watches her refill the goblet with the tainted wine.

    Queen Sarina is sitting by Phillip’s bed when he awakes the next morning as if she had been there all night. She smiles slightly and lifts her right arm, placing a hand to her mouth as she yawns.
    “What’s that spot on your sleeve mother? It looks like old blood?”
    She examined the sleeve and then looked to the floor as if remembering something unpleasant. “I wonder how that got there,” her eyes glinting. Phillip notices the King’s goblet on the side table empty of last night’s content. That’s when they hear the palace bells ringing an alarm and realize it could only mean one thing. The King is dead.

    • Dennis,
      This is an excellent story, that you then improved, and I hope it doesn’t get lost and forgotten in all the conversation about other stories this round.
    • Hi Dennis,

      I went straight for the 3rd draft – it`s a very complete story, and it kept me reading wanting to know more (even though it was almost lunch time here… and I nearly missed it!).

      It`s fun to see the `quiet ones` emerge victorious over the outwardly loud and powerful. Even though I wouldn`t condone murder, it`s a story of re-establishing overall justice. I must admit I saw it coming the moment you mention the wine concoction being potentially fatal. Perhaps that bit should be disguised a little bit better. Although we also need to know about it, or it would otherwise seem like coming out of the blue. Not easy. I can`t propose you an effective solution off the cuff right now, but one can think about it.

      The dialogue is very believable and flows neatly. Well done!


      PS Better line-spacing would help. This needs to be done in WordPress after the comment is copied here and before it`s posted. My stories always get their line-spacing messed up on copying, it`s frustrating – I have to redo the spacing manually every time.

  • Writer2019

    Shadow Of Insanity

    Written by Writer2019

    It was 10:30 in the morning. Killian sat in front of the tv, his eyes glued to the screen. A news broadcast was playing, a scraggly looking man reporting the news. It was all the same these days. A unique case of rabies swept across the country, turning people mentally insane. Scarring them forever. The newsman talked about how the disease was reaching mid Arizona. Killian felt a trickle of fear. Mid Arizona was where he lived. “Killian!” A small tiny voice called out. Footsteps pattered up to him and a small face gazed at him lovingly. “Hey pal!” Killian exclaimed, picking up his younger brother Karl. Karl smiled and laid his head against Killian’s chest. “Whatcha watching?” He asked, spotting the tv. Killian quickly flicked the tv off, hurriedly glancing around. “Nothing bud” he said, ruffling Karl’s hair. Giggling, Karl hopped off his lap and darted over to another room, his laughter fading. After making sure Karl was gone, Killian quickly switched back on the tv, watching the news. A soft hand dropped onto his shoulder and Killian stiffened up. “Killian” a voice sighed, full of disappointment. His mothers face came into view, her brow furrowed. “You know you’re not supposed to be watching the news” she scolded. Casting his eyes to the ground Killian avoided his mother’s penetrating gaze. “Sorry” he mumbled. “Come here” his mother said, her voice softening. Glancing up, Killian saw her staring at him with a slight smile. Getting to his feet, Killian embraced her fiercely, pressing his face into her shoulder. “Love you mom” he mumbled, choking up. Pushing him away, his mother looked him up and down. “You okay?” She asked. Confused, Killian nodded quickly, his eyes going wide. Suddenly his mother stiffened. Her eyes filled with fear and she stared intently at his eyes. “Oh gosh, your eyes” she murmured, grabbing Killian’s face and bringing it close. Killian didn’t respond, a dreading feeling rising up. She’d found out. For several weeks Killian had hid the fact that he had the rabies disease. But finally his mom had found out. His eyes were bright yellow. One of the key signs that you were infected. That had given him away. “Danial! Get over here!” His mom yelled out, her voice fearful. There was a pounding of footsteps before his dad Danial rounded the corner. “What is it Karen?” He asked. “He has it” his mom said, her voice soft and quiet. His dad froze, stumbling slightly. “You’re kidding” he murmured, coming over. His mom shook her head tearfully. “Dad, mom, I’m sorry, I was afraid to tell you” Killian whimpered, fighting back the tears. “I was afraid that you wouldn’t love me anymore.” His mom let out a strangled cry at that, hugging him tightly. “Killian, I love you no matter what” she whispered. His dad nodded and joined in on the hug, wrapping his big arms around them. “Will I have to be taken away?” Killian asked quietly. His mom and dad exchanged a look between them, and then slowly nodded, anguish. Killian let out a strangled whimpered at that, his heart pounding in fear. Holding him close, his mother whispered soothing words to him. “It’s gonna be alright Killian” she murmured. Backing away, his dad went over to the phone, dialing a number. Killian knew he was calling the disease control center. They’d come to their house and escort him to one of their asylums. Gripping his hand tightly, his mother led him to his room. She gave him a black hoodie, trying to stop herself from crying. Then, with trembling hands she slowly pulled a box down from the uttermost top shelf of his closet. Taking off the lid, she pulled out a small cross. “For you” She sniffled, handing the necklace over to him. Stifling a moan, Killian clutched the necklace to his chest. “Thanks” He croaked. Then following his mother out, Killian sat down next to her, his heart pounding. His mom cradled Killian tightly. Eventually his dad joined them and the three of them laid there. Killian’s eyes started to close, and he felt a drowsiness come over him. “Love you” he mumbled, before Killian fell into a deep sleep.

    Killian’s eyes flew open with a gasp. He surged upwards, only to find himself chained to a huge wall. He sighed. Still captured. Two days ago he’d passed out and found himself here, no sign of human life. The wall towered above him, stretching to the sky. A ruined building also surrounded him, patches of the sky showing through the broken ceiling. Killian slumped down, his dream still fresh in his mind. That was two years ago. When he’d first been infected by the rabies disease. And when he’d done that awful deed.. he’d killed his whole family. The rabies rage had taken over and driven him insane. Insane enough to kill his whole family. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to block out the memories. “Hey” a voice suddenly said. Killian jumped almost a foot in the air. A boy sat to his side, his dark eyes observing Killian curiously. “You’re finally awake” he murmured, getting to his feet with a groan. Killian stayed silent, his mind in turmoil. One side wanted to ask rational questions, the other part wanted to rip the boy to pieces, watching his blood stain onto the stones. Killian knew that the vicious side was his disease acting up. Giving him a wild streak. The boy, still eyeing him warily, slowly picked up a small golden goblet. Jewels lined its side and runes were carved into it. Liquid sloshed in it as the boy slowly approached him. “Here” he said, “Drink this.” Killian stared at the goblet doubtfully, shaking his head. The boy sighed, rubbing his forehead. “Fine” he muttered, “We’ll do it the hard way.” Then the boy walked around a corner, disappearing. When he came back, another boy, this time smaller, was following him. “Thanks Wyatt” the other boy murmured. Wyatt nodded and sat down. The other boy approached Killian slowly, the goblet clutched in his hands. “Hey Killian” he murmured. Killian cocked his head confused. The boy smiled at his confused look. “Have I grown that much?” He asked cracking a smile. When Killian didn’t reply, he frowned. “It’s me Killian” he said, “It’s me Karl.” Killian stared at him, his jaw dropping. “Karl” he whispered, his voice breaking. Karl nodded sadly, sitting down next to Killian. “Oh gosh” Killian mumbled, burying his face in his chest. “I thought you were dead.” Karl laughed bitterly at that. “Too bad for you” he said. Killian stared at him. “Karl, how did you survive?” He asked. Karl hesitated, his eyes flicking down. “You forgot about me” he finally whispered, “You didn’t even notice me, you just went for everyone else.” Killian choked on a sob at that part, his eyes filled with anguish. “What’s in the goblet” he murmured. “Poison” Karl answered flatly. Killian swallowed nervously, repelling the raging inferno in his mind. “Am I that bad?” He asked quietly. Karl nodded, his eyes brimming with tears. “Fraid so brother” he said. Killian laughed at his feeble attempt at a joke. “I deserve it” he growled, gazing into Karl’s dark brown eyes. “No you don’t” Karl said, his voice fierce. “You never deserved this.” Killian stared at him sadly. sidling up closer to Karl, Killian slowly lifted up the goblet, his hands trembling. “I’m insane” Killian said, his yellow eyes flaring. Karl smiled at that. Then without a seconds hesitation, Killian gulped down the drink. letting the goblet clatter to the floor. A burning agony spread over him, and he clutched at Karl, moaning. But then it gradually faded away, leaving a warm feeling behind. “I’m sorry Karl” Killian murmured, dropping his head onto Karl’s shoulder. Karl didn’t say anything but just laid his head onto Killian’s. “I killed them, killed them all” Killian mumbled, his raw with anguish. ““You didn’t kill me” Karl murmured. Killian mumbled incoherently and slowly took off his necklace. “Keep this Karl” he mumbled, his voice slurred. “Remember me by it.” Karl nodded, “Of course I will.” His vision fading, Killian felt his body shut down. “Keep the hoodie too” he murmured, before falling unconscious. his head dropped onto Karl’s lap and his heart finally stopping beating all together.
    Karl looked at him sadly. “You were the best brother” he murmured, before closing Killian’s eyes, letting him rest.

    Killian, plagued with horrors since he was thirteen, driven mad by the rabies disease, was insane. Letting his primal instincts take over. The past two years he was a monster. But on that day he died, a fifteen year old boy, wrapped in the loving arms of his brother Karl. Killian for the first time in forever, was free.

  • Hiccup779102

    Sinister, and Shadowed In Blood

    Written by hiccup779102,

    August 18, 2019, 5:42PM

    Cassidy stared at the wall before her, unblinking. Her pale blue eyes were bloodshot, and had dark circles under them. Her once long, brown hair, had been shaved right up to the scalp. She was wearing a hospital gown, that hung of her thin frame. She refused to eat.
    She sat on the floor, of a barren room, the only items in it being a twin bed, a sink, and a toilet. The walls were cushioned, white, and sterile. She didn’t know how long she had been there, in that dreaded room. Weeks, was it? Months? Sometimes she pondered if she had been in here her whole life, and she really was insane. No, no, what she saw was real. She remembered…


    Cassidy sat at the end of the long, wooden table, nervously twisting her hands in her lap, as her boyfriend, Jared, introduced her to his parents. His father was a business man, very smart, and very, very rich. He sat next to his wife, stroking his trim beard thoughtfully. He had piercing gray eyes, and dark hair, traits his son inherited. Jared’s mother, on the other hand, had a white-blonde hair, and green eyes. She was watching Cassidy with a soft smile, her eyes reflecting sympathy. Cassidy was slightly comforted.
    “Mom, Dad, this is my girlfriend, Cassidy. Isn’t she the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen?” Jared asked, absolutely beaming at Cassidy. She now realised that he had his mothers smile, soft and welcoming.
    “She is very beautiful, Jared. It’s nice to finally meet you, Cassidy. My name is Elizabeth, but you can just call me Liz.” Jared’s mother said, her smile widening. Cassidy flashed her a smile in return.
    “I hope my son has been treating you well, Cassidy.” Jared’s father said, his posture stiff, but he offered Cassidy a small smile, to show he was joking. “You can call me Steven.” He said bluntly.
    “It’s very nice to meet you, I’ve been eager to get to know Jared’s parents. He talks a lot about you two.” Cassidy said, smiling at Elizabeth, who laughed lightly.
    “I hope he’s saying all good things about us.” Elizabeth said, her eyes crinkling at the edges as she chuckled. Cassidy opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off by the sound of the oven beeping, signaling that the food was ready.
    “That would be dinner, I’ll be right back.” Elizabeth said, before getting to her feet and heading towards the kitchen. Cassidy tried to ignore the pit she felt in her stomach. She had been feeling this strange sense of dread all day, and assumed that it was just because she was nervous to meet Jared’s parents. However, after meeting the two, it still lingered.
    “Isn’t she just perfect Dad?” Jared asked suddenly, his voice causing Cassidy to flinch slightly. Jared was buzzing with excitement. Steven turned his cold eyes away from his son, to focus on Cassidy, who felt her pulse quicken, fear worming its way into her heart as he stared at her.
    “She is very suitable. Well done, Jared.” Steven said, his gaze unnerving. Cassidy came to the sudden realization that the man hadn’t blinked. She tried to push the thought away, but the more she thought about it, she realised she hadn’t seen the man blink once, since she had met him. ‘That’s… weird.’ She thought, trying to push her panicked thoughts away.
    “Here we go, dinner is served.” Elizabeth said, coming back into the dining room and setting plates down in front of each of them. Cassidy noticed Steven and Elizabeth share a glance, but chose to ignore it. After all the plates were set down, Elizabeth set glasses in front of each of them, but for Cassidy, she gave a strange golden goblet, filled with a crimson liquid.
    “Oh, don’t look so affronted, dear. We give always give guests the goblet. It’s tradition.” Elizabeth said, her voice dripping with sweetness, which Cassidy was coming to believe was false. She shook the suspicious thoughts off, thinking she was just being paranoid.
    “Let’s have a toast! To Cassidy! The perfect girlfriend.” Jared said, raising his glass so quickly, the liquid sloshed over the rim slightly. Cassidy looked at him, slightly startled. His smile was nearly splitting his face, his eyes wide. Cassidy shivered. ‘He looks… sadistic…’ Before Cassidy could think about the subject anymore, she raised her goblet, before taking a sip. The liquid inside was warm, and vile tasting. It had a metallic flavour, and it was thick as it coated her tongue. Cassidy was compelled to gag, but she didn’t want to be rude. Silence filled the room, all eyes on Cassidy. She felt her skin crawl, as the urge to run out of the house became nearly overwhelming.
    “What do you think, dear?” Elizabeth asked, her gaze intense. Cassidy smiled weakly, about to answer, when Jared suddenly spoke up.
    “Was that enough? I she ready?” He said, his voice raised in excitement. Steven cast his son a withering glare.
    “We can’t tell yet, obviously. So shut up, Jared.” Steven spat, causing Cassidy to shrink into herself, fear settling in her chest. The sudden change in demeanor unnerved her.
    “I’m sick of waiting!” Jared said suddenly, surging up from his seat, and reaching across the table to grab Cassidy. She yanked herself just out of his way, horror melting over her expression. Jareds eyes had taken a sudden sadistic look, his expression crazed. Cassidy was mortified to see her beloved boyfriend take such a sudden turn.
    “Jared what-” Cassidy was cut off by a scream erupting from her throat as she saw blood begin to flow from Jared’s nose and mouth. It started slow, before quickening, into a steady flow. It began welling from his eyes, and streaming out of his ears. She was on her feet in a moment, her chair knocked down in her haste to put space between the two. She turned to look at Jared’s parents, only to see the same thing happening to them.
    “Cassidy, why are you leaving? We haven’t even eaten yet! Drink your blood, it’ll prepare you for the ceremony.” Jared said, a frantic edge to his voice. Cassidy’s gaze snapped back to him, bile rising in the back of her throat at the realisation. ‘It was blood. I drank blood, from that goblet.’ Cassidy panicked, backpedaling to the door, staring in horror at the family before her. Blood was flowing from their eyes, nose, mouth, and ears in steady streams. Their teeth had changed, sharpened into fangs, as they grinned at her.
    Blood pooled on the floor, and Cassidy realised that more of the crimson liquid had begin flowing from the edges of the ceiling, dripping steadily down the walls. A scream tore past Cassidy’s lips as she turned and ran as fast as she could from the dining room. She heard chairs scrape back as Jared got to his feet, running after her. Cassidy’s breath rasped out of her throat as tears streamed down her face, fear clutching her heart in icy claws. Her blood pounded in her ears as she slammed into the front door, frantically fumbling with the doorknob. She opened the door just in time, Jared’s fingers barely brushing her arm as she sprinted from the house.
    Only after she was halfway down the street did she dare to look back, and what she saw haunted her. Jared stood, his clothes soaked in blood, smiling at her, blood staining his teeth. Behind him, blood was seeping through the cracks of the front door, pooling down the front steps.
    Cassidy called the police, who ordered a search warrant of Jared’s house, and found nothing. Everything was completely normal. No blood. No golden goblet. No nothing. Shortly after, Cassidy was sent to a mental hospital, and was quickly diagnosed as clinically insane. Cassidy had recurring dreams of Jared and his parents, blood seeping from their faces. She feared that they would find her, and finish whatever they had started that one day. She was put in an asylum shortly after she attempted suicide.
    Most people think the poor girl had been slowly going insane, and the nerves from meeting her dear boyfriend’s parents just pushed her over the edge. Cassidy, however, Cassidy knew. She knew, that something happened that night. Something wrong. Something… sinister…

    • Bloody well written, so many terrifiying images. Reminded me of Rosemary’s baby.
    • Honestly, Hiccup, I think this is a bit overdone, (the last four words, for instance) because its a good story, The only aspect that struck me as wrong was the blood coming out of every orifice of the b.f. and his parents. At this point, I’m having doubts about Cassidy’s sanity too. Blood streaming down the walls, leaking out from under the front door. If this were really happening, how could there be no evidence?
      The upstanding family may have been sinister, but she still seems crazy.
  • Phil Town


    Thomas was very fond of his hemp jacket, for several reasons. First, he had been given it by his beloved grandfather, who had died at the ripe old age of 55. Second, he was not a vain boy, but he liked his neighbour Mildred, and she had told him that she thought it very becoming. Finally, it had three splendid, heavy buttons, fashioned from local granite by his grandfather, who was a stonemason. They finished off the jacket perfectly, but Thomas had no idea how important those buttons would later prove to be.

    The young boy lived with his parents in a village near the Land of the Sun – a land that no one had ever seen, protected as it was by the highest wall in the world, a wall built from the same granite as his buttons. The wall was as high as the sky – on grey days it disappeared behind the passing clouds – and stretched across the country from sea to sea. No one knew for certain who had built this massive structure; some said the gods, although holy texts did not mention it. It was smooth, without visible doors or gates, and glittered with trillions of points of light when the sun shone upon it.

    The Land of the Sun itself was just as mysterious, its secrets suggested only in the holy texts and the whispered, heretical tales of old wives.

    The holy texts told of a paradisiacal destination for the souls of the dead, or at least those that had led good, moral, humble lives. The old wives, on the other hand, described a kind of heaven on Earth, but for mortals – a land with rivers of milk and trees of honey, where love reigned and hearts could drink their fill of happiness. The holy version held sway, however, and no one dare suggest that the wall could or should ever be scaled to discover what lay beyond.

    Life in the village was good and peaceful … until The Shadows came. They were not features of light, these shadows, nor supernatural phenomena, but rather the accumulation of ills created or assisted by Humankind: war, disease, a poisoning of the air and water, and hatred and suspicion. Thomas’s village was remote enough to escape The Shadows until it could no longer; the young boy’s grandfather was the first of many to succumb to an ailment deriving from the filthy water of the river that flowed through the village.

    Fearing that it was only a matter of time before all the elements of The Shadows struck them, the village folk began to consider courses of action. It was Thomas’s father who suggested that they should try to enter the Land of the Sun. At first he was criticised for his heresy, but the old wives took up his idea and as more villagers fell victim to disease, so the idea gained traction. Until one day, Thomas, his parents and the rest of the villagers, including Mildred, made their way to the wall, equipped with axes, hammers, chisels …

    Thomas and Mildred – the youngest, least reverential and boldest of the group – approached the wall and moved along it, slapping it with the palms of their hands to test for any weakness that might be exploited. Upon the seventh blow, the entire wall began to shudder, causing all but the two brave youngsters to back away in awe.

    But even Thomas and Mildred took a step back when from the wall emerged, with a deafening, grinding sound, the figure of a huge giant of a man, as if peeled away from the wall itself.

    “Who strikes the Wall of the Sun?” he boomed, his size and craggy features striking fear into the hearts of all who beheld him.

    Thomas took a tentative step forward, protecting Mildred, who was about to do the same.

    “It … it was I”, he said in a tremulous voice that betrayed his true spirit at that moment.

    “And what is it that you seek?” the giant demanded.

    “Entrance to the Land of the Sun, sir”, was Thomas’s slightly firmer response.

    “Then you must first drink the Tears of the Gone!”

    With that the giant produced from beneath his cape a gleaming golden goblet, filled to the brim with a liquid from which emanated muffled, ethereal cries.

    “Give me your jacket,” ordered the giant.

    Thomas slipped off the jacket that his grandfather had given him. The giant took it and waved it over the goblet, chanting as he did:

    “And then the gods proclaimed as one
    That a garment be brought near the Goblet of the Sun
    So the souls whose tears are there contained
    Shall know who ‘tis that makes a claim.”

    Mildred came close to Thomas.

    “Do not drink, Tom, for surely only evil can come of it.”

    Thomas, emboldened by Mildred’s concern, kissed her on the cheek – their first kiss.

    “Fear not, dear Mildred, for I sense that the gods are on our side.”

    He took the goblet from the giant and raised it to his lips.

    Little did he, or the giant, or indeed anyone present know, but when the jacket had been waved over the goblet, one of the granite buttons had nicked the rim and raised a tiny, rough edge. As Thomas went to drink from it, the edge cut his lip and a drop of his blood fell into the tears.

    The legend that would later be recounted did not explain exactly how this – the mixing of Thomas’s innocent blood with the tears of the tortured souls – came to influence subsequent events, but it did describe the events themselves.

    The granite giant shook where he stood and crumbled to dust; the wall shuddered again and a great arched opening appeared in it; from the goblet came not cries now but heavenly song; and Thomas, his parents, Mildred and all the villagers passed through the archway and into a wonderful land that was full of so much more than the old wives had foreseen, leaving behind them forever the poisonous, insidious threat of The Shadows.

    • Really great story Phil. Love the writing. Hemp. Is that British for tweed? I feel like you took the prompt to heart, and added many more elements than you had to. You know, like you got carried away. The stone buttons. The giant. The thousands of glittering stones. The punch bowl full of purple pomegranate juice. Not that I’m complaining. You’d know if I was complaining, I curse more frequently.

      Seriously though, I really enjoyed this story more for the beautiful writing than anything else.

      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Ken!

        Hemp – used for recreational purposes … but can be made into clothes.

        (I should have put a ‘punch bowl full of purple pomegranate juice’ in there somewhere. Next time.)

    • So here is the cup-holder! I was wondering where you were…

      The story has a tangible fairytale feel which I like. As with all good fairytales, we can draw some parallels with real life and the challenges, fancies and false promises it brings along with it. It’s unfortunate, in a way, that these days we live in a fully-explored world with no more of those walls that give rise to our fancies and hopes as to what lies beyond them. We can look at the stars at night, and wonder, of course. But they’re too out of reach. Even for NASA engineers.

      As a child brought up on an island and living within sight of the big blue, the sea was that sort of wall for me. Crossable, somehow, but not so easily (at least not for a child). The continental mainland beyond was a source of many fancies and desires. Not anymore now.

      Those on the east side of the Berlin Wall must have had similar feelings; also, earlier on, anyone looking out at the Atlantic from the majestic cliffs of Portugal’s Cabo da Roca.

      The granite button bit and the part in which the blood accidentally mixes with the tears of the gone are the strongest points of the story, in my opinion. You prepare us well about the granite button and its maker, the grandpa (whose tears are supposedly also in the goblet and has a vested interested in what is about to happen). Perhaps there could also be some preparation for the reader, a clue or something, about the mixing of blood and tears earlier on in the story. Some old wives’ myth, perhaps, that the gods are keeping this blood-and-tears recipe away from the mortals, as that would give the latter undue powers, or something of that sort. A myth which was reviled and never observed out of fear of consequence. Like the absurd but real fear of going too close to the edges of the Atlantic and falling off the earth in days of old, not that long ago really. Or else, maybe some seemingly insignificant incident of little Thomas’s blood mixing with the tears of his dying grandpa. He remembers a rumble coming from the great wall at that very moment, but nobody ever had an explanation for it. The blood-tears bit comes in very nicely, when it does, but a little bit out of the blue.

      “No one knew for certain who had built this massive [wall]; some said the gods, although holy texts did not mention it. It was smooth, without visible doors or gates.” I have an idea who it may be. Is the Land of the Sun, New Mexico by any chance?

      I have been hearing that you’ve got a reputation of relative infallibility in anything to do with the English language, so what I’m going to say next I’m going to say it not without some degree of trepidation. It seems to me there is something strange with the following sentence. Either the “and” or the “so” has to go. Or me.

      “At first he was criticised for his heresy, but the old wives took up his idea and as more villagers fell victim to disease, so the idea gained traction.”


      • Phil Town
        Thanks for your very detailed critique, Ken! (I’ve been on holiday and just got back, so didn’t have the time for any comments myself.)

        I agree that there might have been a bit of foreshadowing of the blood/tears thing.

        As to location … open to interpretation!

        That ‘infallibility’ thing – that’s Ken C’s doing. Take no notice! Having said that, I’ve had a look at the part you mention and it’s actually ok, I think.

        Cheers again.

        • Ken to Ken,

          ‘Relative’ infallibility? I like that. That’s like ‘relative’ immortality. ‘Relative’ intelligence. A ‘relative’ death sentence. A person could have a lot of fun with this.

          I examined that sentence you mentioned with a scanning pronuncion micro-spell-checker. (I recently had mine upgraded.) And I’m sorry to have to admit Ken, that if found nothing wrong with Phil’s sentence other than the fact that it had an extra word. ‘So.’ But that extra word does not (Dammit, dammit, dammit.) make the sentence grammatically incorrect.

          I appreciate your help on this, Ken. It’s a thankless job, but someone’s got to do it. Keep your eyes peeled when reading Phil’s stories. It’s unlikely you’ll ever find an error, but if you do, they’re so rare, they’re said to be priceless. So if we find just one, we’ll be zillionaires. (Unless I misinterpreted the phrase ‘without value.’)

    • What a strange story. It sounds like a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. It reminds me of the fairy tale of the land of plenty (Schlaraffenland). But there is evidence that it is also a description of the modern world … and it is a tale of hope and courage. I like it.
      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Jürgen! ‘Schlaraffenland’ is one helluva name for a land. Sounds like it should be followed by a ‘Gesundheit!’

  • The serial killer.

    Midnight on the waterfront. The cobblestones in the narrow streets and passageways glisten with rain. A stormy wind howls. Noises come from the dark corners; the screams of the rats sound like warnings from electronic devices. A shadow emerges from the darkness of the night into the light of a streetlamp. A shadow with a human outline, a gaunt man in a long black coat. The hem of his coat touches the glistening ground. The man stands immobile, like an animal that absorbs the scent of predators or victims. Everyone here in the harbor district knows this man. It’s Hans, the serial killer.

    Hans loves killing. He adores the power that his killings give him. He knows that many tremble when they see him, not only here, but also in the well-lit offices in the city center with their conference rooms, mineral water bottles and biscuits on the tables. A smile moves slowly across his face. It arises in the area of ​​the left eye, then moves across the narrow lips to the right eye, a sad smile that turns into a wicked grin. Hans walks down the narrow streets towards the river. A few girls with short skirts are standing next to a wall near one of the few streetlamps. He greets them kindly, they look at him, shuddering. They feel hate raging in him. His black coat is wet with rain, the heels of his boots popping like gunshots on the pavement.

    So very close! The thought flips through the serial killer’s brain. Not long, then he can finally kill again. The anticipation fills him like the light of hundreds of flickering candles. He already knows when he will hit. The next victim will be the innocent girl. He sees the girl in front of him, the two tight blond braids. The mixture of innocence and seduction is something he hates. A innocent blond girl, nothing is new or original about that, nothing is worth living on. He thinks he hears the knife whisper in his pocket. Kill the innocent girl, whispers the knife. You must kill. Because you are the serial killer. You have the right to kill whatever has to be killed.

    Now he gets to the river. A few seagulls clamor and fight for a piece of raw fish. They throw themselves through the air to the ground, trying to hurt each other and push their opponents out of the way. What a beautiful sight for the serial killer! Everyone of the white beasts wants a piece of dead fish, but only one seagull will win. As in business, Hans thinks, the more ruthless one will prevail. Winner takes all. That’s capitalism, that’s good, in this world he feels welcome. There are predators everywhere in nature, they watch over the natural balance, they kill the weak which don’t deserve to be kept alive. When they make the weak disappear, they help the strong to become even stronger. Yes, these gulls are his friends as well as the eagle, the lion, the wolf, the tiger and the fox. Humans would call each of these animals a murderer. Just as they call him the serial killer because they don’t understand the meaning of his role in the big circle of life.

    In a corner of the large square is a small restaurant, a tiny friendly spot in the dark of the harbor district. Only a few guests are here, they talk quietly. The host stands behind the counter drying glasses and staring into the night, his face completely motionless. Right now he has a large ancient golden goblet in his hands, or something that looks like one. When he sees the serial killer coming to the small restaurant, not one muscle moves in his face. He has already seen far too much. Fear is a feeling that died in him long ago.

    Hans shakes the water off his coat. He opens the door and enters. He nods to the innkeeper who returns the greeting with a nod. “Do you need the menu?” asks the landlord. Hans shakes his head. “Bring me a goblet of blood.” The landlord takes the order with another nod. The serial killer sits down at a table by the rear wall where he can keep an eye on the door all the time.

    The goblet of blood is his favorite drink. It is an invention of the host and lures more and more tourists to the dark waterfront. The tourists usually look for a table near the door, smiling uncertainly when they order the goblet. The “blood” is a heavy sweet red wine into which the host has stirred some tomato paste. Hardly anyone orders this drink a second time, but everyone takes a selfie with the heavy goblet in their hands.

    Hans does not take a selfie, after all he is a serial killer and not a tourist. He holds the goblet in both hands, raises it and mumbles something. Then he takes a long drink. As he sets down the goblet, he sees two women at the table by the window. One of them is young, blond and has tightly-braided hair. She smiles at him. Then she gets up and walks towards him.

    “Do you want to sit down with us, Mr. Stavenhagen?” The serial killer is confused for a moment. “You know me?” The woman with the blond braids smiles. “Everyone in our trade knows you, Mr. Stavenhagen. By the way, I’m Britta Moritz, the actress. Come on! We don’t bite!”

    Hans takes the impressive goblet, which is still half full of the bloody drink, and sits down with the women at the table. Britta introduces the other woman: “This is Bettina Schwarz, the leading actress of ‘A Funny Family’. It’s an HBO production as you may know.“ And to her friend she explains: “This gentleman, if you haven’t recognized him yet, is Hans Stavenhagen. He is the head of concept development and production at Chillflix. He alone decides which TV series get a chance on the market and which ones are killed before the first day of shooting. His position earned Mr. Stavenhagen his famous nickname. Everyone in the industry calls him the ‘serial killer’.“

    Now Hans can’t avoid a grin appearing on his face. He looks the blond woman straight in the eye. “Now I know who you are. The new star and lead in “The Innocent Girl,” the upcoming major series from our company. That is, if I don’t kill that series before the first day of shooting. I don’t bear my nickname without reason!“ Silence. “And? Will you kill the innocent girl?” Asks Britta. She holds one of her tight braids between her fingers and looks straight at Hans, seemingly mocking him. “No of course not. That series has great potential. I wouldn’t be surprised if we shoot three seasons.” He bows to the beautiful blond woman. Sometimes even a serial killer has to reconsider his priorities.

    • You flinched. You FLINCHED Jurgen. You’ve got to pull the trigger. She must be fired. The show must be terminated. The Innocent Girl, indeeeeeeeeeee-dah.
      Cool story Jurgen. (I’m sure I wouldn’t have fired her either.)
      • As I said, in the media world priorities are often reconsidered within seconds.
        • Jurgen,

          The Darwinian philosophy that works pretty well in nature doesn’t work in a commercial framework

          The neat thing about a story like yours, is that you can opine freely about completely unrelated subjects during the misdirection, and once you present the reveal, no one mentions the critical anti-establishment message at the beginning. No one dares to be so impolite, but you’ve gotten your message across just the same.

          I’m still not certain about this story’s ending. (I know it’s your story and I have no say in the matter, but as a point of interest) I feel like he should have terminated her show. Or something.

          You say, ‘priorities are often reconsidered within seconds.’ Sure, but why? What reason did he have to stay his hand? That’s what’s missing. (I think.) Either he realizes at the last moment that she really is innocent, or she didn’t know how sexy she was, or, an opposite kind of realization that trips his kill switch. Something is missing. The trigger.

          One other thing Jurgen, I noticed that your dialogue was presented in clumps of paragraphs. I suppose it was an accident. I could read it because your writing is very clear, but I think you should take care to use a normal format for your dialogue.

          • Hi Ken C.
            1. You’re right. I was explaining. Usually I don’t like to explain my stuff.
            2. Ok, one more explanation. I don’t know why he reconsidered. But I think it was because he didn’t want to tell the actress he was going to kill her show. Not while looking into her eyes.
            3. Next time I will structure the dialogue better.
            4. Your comment on profile pic: right, right, right. You seem to be a person who is always right. You should get elected.
      • You didn’t comment my profile pic. Please do.
        • Jurgen,

          You look like a cereal killer. A guy who eats cheerios with a fork. Four tines, four cheerios per tine. Sixteen cheerios per bite. No more, and no less. In addition, you are a very hairy guy, At war with your hair for decades, you cut it but it keeps growing back. Which is bad because, as with your cheerios, every hair on your head has to be the exact same length, which you measure with a laser sighted, stainless steel caliper.

          Setting aside your obvious possible insanity, Your profile pic is pretty dramatic. Powerful. Graphically interesting. ‘In Cold Blood-esque. The glasses tie it all together. All the different shades of gray. You’ve taken an ordinary picture, candidly captured after twelve hours of power chugging three cases of Old Schnitzelbaum’s, and by converting it to black and white, you look like a genius!

    • Ken Miles
      Hey Jürgen, you’re going to earn the title of Mr Misdirection – the other day you left us yearning for that car crash that never happened, and this time you did again: instead of blood you gave us wine with tomato!

      The descriptions leading up to the “faux-finale” (Does this term exist? Anyone into literary theory or theatre here? If it doesn’t exist, credit it to me!) are magnificent: cold as ice, bravely descriptive (that smile traveling across his face – I’ve got to plagiarize it when I need it!), evocatively worded.

      There is a paragraph in the middle that almost justifies serial killing to the cold objective mind: it follows the way nature works to eliminate the weak and therefore push forward the idea of progress by evolution. Killers are often considered insane (and I suppose most are) and there is no further investigation into why they do what they do. Insanity covers everything.

      Your explanation is a fresh approach to the subject. I like it when even the weirdest of things can be somehow explained away. So he feels he’s doing good to the world by killing the weak and undesired. Nature does it. Some countries made it national policy at some point or another. Of course we then find out that you’re talking about something totally different, but that doesn’t rob that paragraph its significance to me.

      I like this sentence too: “The mixture of innocence and seduction is something he hates.” I mean in terms of what it states, I sort of see what you (or he) means. As for its construction I would reduce it to “He hates the mixture of innocence and seduction” or even further to “He hates innocence mixed with seduction”, for more impact.

      Way to go! I like it.

      Ken M.

      • It’s about nature, but also about capitalism, where the stronger eat the weaker until only Amazon and Walmart remain. 🙂
    • You must kill. Because you are the serial killer. You have the right to kill whatever has to be killed. — This line slayed me. It made me chuckle but also gave me pause. My first thought was ” People who are insane don’t know they are insane, right?” but even then I was still shocked at the ending..I love the Goblet of blood, something I would totally order and take a selfie with! In all seriousness though, this was a fun read and I enjoyed it! Great job!
      • “You have the right to kill whatever has to be killed.” Yes, that’s sarcastic, but it’s the logic of Ernst & Young, Arthur Andersen, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers too, I’m afraid. So many killers among their staff. 🙂
    • Haha, I knew there would be a twist! At first, I thought maybe he was an exterminator. Then he specifically said he was going to kill the Innocent Girl. Then I was confused. That’s so straightforward! I was disappointed. But then you brought me back when he turned out to be a “serial” killer.
  • Midnight Climb by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin [word count 566]

    The stone wall loomed above her, taunting in its silent judgement. Jai-ri had been hired to do one job – steal the documents proving King Fahroom had hired pirates to raid the coast, giving the villagers there a reason to invite his soldiers to “protect” their towns. Why did she have to look in the secret room she accidentally found when she pulled at the book case that had wear marks on the stones in front of it? Why did she take the time to sift through the treasure she found there, pilfered from untold numbers of villagers, foreign kingdoms, and missing (presumed dead) caravaneers?

    Sure, her satchel was now bursting with gems, jewelry, statuettes, and even an ancient looking gold goblet with strange inscriptions on it. But that detour had added too much time to her schedule. She had planned this heist down to the minute to ensure success and a clean escape. And here she was standing in front of this judgey wall, having run to the back of the King’s summer palace instead of to the east side the way she had planned. It was the sleeping aid she had given the guard dogs. It was planned to last just as long as she needed it to with no wiggle room. She didn’t want the guards to notice the dogs asleep at their posts. Unfortunately, she hadn’t planned for the treasure room.

    Jai-ri looked left and right, searching for a way over this monstrosity blocking her path to freedom. The date trees were too hard to climb without a belt and they were too far away besides. There were no ladders accidentally left by groundskeepers lying around either. Apparently King Fahroom required a good clean work ethic for his palace staff. More’s the pity, though the garden did look quite lovely in the moonlight. She’d just have to try and climb it free-handed.

    She dragged what barrels and crates she could find up to the wall to give her a bit of a height boost. Then digging her fingers and boot toes into what cracks she could find, Jai-ri began to climb. Her progress was slow, but steady and she purposely didn’t look back to see how close the torches were getting to this dark shadowy corner of the garden. After what seemed like an eternity, she was able to reach the top of the wall.

    As Jai-ri reached up and grabbed onto the top to haul herself over, an intensely sharp pain caused her to almost cry out. She couldn’t stop now so she pulled through the pain and swung her leather booted feet onto the wall, which she now knew to be coated in sharply broken pieces of glass. Thankfully, the torches were still moving around the main structure of the palace. The guards probably thought this wall insurmountable and a waste of their searching efforts.

    Blood was dripping down her arm from the injured hand, so Jai-ri was forced to remove the scarf she had wrapped around her head to hide her identity. She mopped up the couple of drops she saw on the glass and then wrapped her hand to staunch the bleeding. She looked back once more at the summer palace of the cruel king. Then with a pleasant, but muffled jangle from her full satchel as she jumped down to the ground, Jai-ri slipped off into the night.

    • Wendy,

      I can think of a better name. ‘Sleeping Dogs.’ Or, ‘The Glass Is Half-Bloody.’ Or….. This Story Meets The Requirements Of The Prompt In The Shortest Number Of Words.’

      This was not your usual stellar writing, but at least you posted a story. Unlike me.

      There was one sentence in there that seemed awkward. Right up there at the beginning.

      • Sleeping Dogs would’ve been perfect! I admit, I wrote this up quickly just before posting it. I really loved the prompt but was swamped with work this week. I had a couple of awkward sentences and had hoped I’d fixed them all… I’ll have to look back over it later.
    • Sounds like another adventure for your gaming circle. (or what was it?) Glad she made it into the night.
      • It’s my video game guild, and it’s only partially inspired this time.
    • Ken Miles
      Hi Wendy,

      The story starts off nicely – I like the idea of cleverly outdoing the one who thought was cleverly outdoing us, kind of thing. Brilliant, really.

      There are some rather long sentences that lost me (including the questions), necessitating me to re-read them. It’s clear the information within them is quite essential, but it would be a more pleasant read if they were chopped down to bite-size portions. I saw your comment citing lack of time to refine the technical aspect of the story, so it must be that.

      Given the very intriguing start, I was expecting a more dramatic ending. It feels like it’s the end of Part One, a cliffhanger, rather than a final definitive ending.

      So she slips off into the night. Little does she realize that she leaves a trail of drops of blood behind her. The guard dogs soon pick up on that. Soon after the palace guards too. A chase follows. Jai-ri must make it to the ship… You have more words available. Perhaps not the time! I know the feeling…


      • Yeah, it was definitely a time thing. I had such high hopes for getting a good story done. I totally get the part about the super long sentences. That is something that would plague my youth and that I work hard to correct. I just really threw up a first draft here to get something submitted. That is a good ending you have for me, and I even thought about there being something more with the goblet or with some sort of magic ward on the wall that her blood triggered, but just didn’t have the time to explore, kind of like my MC…
  • Adrienne Riggs
    I’m sorry folks, but it looks like I’m not going to get a story in this go around. Life has been crazy at work and home – even more so than usual. I’m trying to read the stories as they come up but not sure I’ll get to comment. This seemed like a tough prompt and some of you have gone to some brilliantly creepy and dark places. I’m impressed, as always. Adi
  • Top Ten Reasons Why I Didn’t Write A Story.

    #10. My baby hippopotamus escaped from his pen, and I’ve been tracking him around the neighborhood for the last five days. But he grows about three feet a week, and if I don’t find him soon, I’m going to stop looking and move to Iowa.

    #9. I’ve got the deleterious virus. Significant statistical analysis shows that it can be fatal.

    #8. Try as I might, I just couldn’t work a ‘golden goblin’ into my story.

    #7. There was a Tsunami in Tuscany and my spill chucker was brokered.

    #6. An EF3 Tomato tore through town last week. The Pow-wow was out for three days. (Still haven’t fixed my spill chucker.)

    #5. I like flash fiction, but I don’t understand the point of writing in the nude.

    #4. Because Hillary, created a plan, back in 1996, which, even though it didn’t work, is still one of the most diabolical schemes ever created. Keeping me from writing a story this week.

    #3. I invoke my 5th amendment right.

    #2. Read the contract. It’s not in the contract.

    The number 1, Top Ten reason why I didn’t write a story this week.
    #1. I was using that new totally organic paper and ink, and the story ate my dog.

    • I’m actually kind of crying right now. This was very funny. I especially loved the “spill chucker” part because that happens so much and it’s just because Grammarly is secretly out to get me.
    • Carrie Zylka


      • Ken Miles
        The baby hippo thingy must be true, though. Such things happen.
        • Ken M. Your comment perfectly matches your profile pic. LOL Perfectly. ‘Such things happen.’ You have a brilliant sense of humor.

          BTW, about your story. I knew that the guy was supernatural, but he bit her on the neck, so I thought maybe he was a vampire. There were clues, but, the moon references were brief and I didn’t notice them.

          But the real mysteries are: What are the police going to think?
          What meat did they eat last night? (What do werewolves eat?) Will she become a werewolf now too, since he bit her?

          How long has he been watching her? Will he come back?

          I’m seeing a multi-book series here Ken. A series of ‘The Werewolf’ meets ‘Desperate Housewives,’ a la ‘fifty Shades of Gray.’ But wolf oriented. The Canine Chronicles? No. “El Loco Lobos.” No.

          ‘Fifty Cuts Of Beef’? Yes? No.

          • Lol – More like “Fifty Cuts of Pork” 🙂

            In a first draft I had the local police deputy Sheriff paying a visit, but his experience with the werewolf was one he did not want to remember. Or even report to the Sheriff. But it was going to get too complicated and too wild and too long. And I don’t really like the police.

            I’m pretty sure what meat they ate last night. I don’t know why cannibalism keeps coming up in my stories (the first time here, I think, but often enough in other places where I write). I hardly even eat regular meat myself. Well, perhaps because I was brought up Catholic, with this idea of eating the body of… Or perhaps because I should really eat more (regular) meat.

            I’d actually checked about werewolves and biting, and they do bite on the neck sometimes. Believe me (and watch out). But, true, vampires come to most people’s mind. I wonder where else werewolves might bite where vampires won’t. I’m a bit out of my territory here. Perhaps the fact you associated the stranger with someone supernatural is already good enough for the story to function.

            Thanks again for the feedback – and yes, that Werewolf-Desperate Housewives series could be something to think about if more inspiration stems out of this story…

            Ken M.

    • Now if you included a goblet, some blood, the Wall, an article of clothing and something shadowy in your list, this could be counted as your contest entry, Ken.

      You know, something like #11: “When I was putting on my favourite writing tiara an ancient chalice came over the Wall with a shadowy Mexican priest, offering me the blood of life, but I accidentally spilled it all over my manuscript, which will now live forever and that’s too long for flash fiction.”

    • Adrienne Riggs
      Exactly!! Ken, how could you possibly know why I didn’t get to write a story this week?

      I hate to tell you, #10 is wrong. It was an overgrown pot-bellied pig creating havoc in the town. (True story believe it or not – from several years ago that my daughter will NEVER let me live down because it was her pig!)

      Thanks for coming to my rescue and putting all of these reasons for not writing out there! You are wonderful!

  • Ilana Leeds

    Shadow Walls Rising

    Serena drew back the hood on her voluminous indigo cape swirling in the rising wind. It flapped, gathering and slapping against her body in the gusts that were increasing with the falling darkness of dusk. She turned and silently beckoned her maidservant Hanna and her son Gil. The two donkeys packed with her worldly possessions plodded on dutifully behind them. Dinah the milk goat padded silently alongside the other animals cropping at the bushes and foliage with gusto. Siren had removed her bell days ago. Two enormous wolfhounds followed the small company of souls. She would let them hunt for their dinner, once they made camp.
    They had spent two days crossing the savannah lands and were now at the edge of the forest. Short bushes and stunted trees marked the border of the forest and grasslands. Birds of prey wheeled and soared above. The sight of the birds disturbed Siren, but she did not voice her concerns. There were villages hidden within the forest of the little people. Hahama the old sage, had warned them not to stay at any of them.
    “These people live by different rules to you and me.” She stated flatly. She handed Serena a box with instructions not to open it until they had found a clearing to camp in for the night. “Nothing too open.” She had warned her. “The right protection song will come to you. Open all your senses to the protecting spirit of the site. You will see.”
    When Serena saw the glade by the cave she knew she had found the right place. She also knew they would have to journey deep into the cave and not leave any sign of their passing.
    She beckoned to Gil and Hanna to take the animals swiftly over the flat rocks and avoid the sand and dirt. Not too quickly, mind. Too quickly and stones would be shifted and displaced. She went behind the little group muttering the hiding spells and blocking off their presence passing – even from the talented ones.
    They entered the cave without a word passing between them. Once they were deep in the cave, Serena sent the two wolfhounds back to hunt for their meal’s meat. It was good that these two would guard the entrance to the cave. It would make others consider twice before entering it for shelter.
    They had been walking for nearly a mile into the cave, when Hanna touched her on the arm.
    “Yes, Hanna, what?”
    “It’s not nice. I afeard somethin’. Inna tha shadows, Watchin’ we!” Her voice was a hoarse whisper. Her flat brown face twisted in a grimace and her coal black eyes glittered warily. She looked back at her son Gil who was skillfully leading the two pack animals and the goat through the winding labyrinths and over the scattered rocky floor of cave.
    Serena opened her senses wide searching. Nothing. But wait, there was something flittering in the background, just out of reach. The veins in her forehead pulsed with the effort, but she closed her eyes and scanned the cave tunnels around them.
    They came to three tunnels and Serena scanned and led the party down to the left. Several minutes later they rounded a bend and the cave opened out into a little in a rocky outcrop over a narrow stream. It was good, thought Serena. From their vantage point on the rocky outcrop, no one could surprise them. Also the stream may take them out of the cave another way. Serena liked water and its healing properties.
    Gil looked over at his mother. She shook her head. No fire. Fires left traces. She would use her skills as a sorceress of the twelfth order to create heat and cook their food. That sort of fire trace was easily erased except for the most senior of adepts.
    She took out the box Hahama had given her. Opening it, she gasped in wonder. An ancient goblet of the finest gold. It was shaped in the form of a youth and a maiden standing holding a ring of gold above their heads. That was the rim of the goblet. Their arms were outstretched over a blown glass globe and knees touching formed the foot of the goblet. It was as if the goblet was something precious they were protecting together through their unity of purpose. Serena touched her finger to her mouth and then lightly touched the rim of the goblet which began to sing to her as she traced her fingers around its perimeter.
    As if in a trance, she put the goblet on the ground. A mist began to swirl around the goblet. Tighter and tighter swirled the mist thickening to a dark blue, it encircled her and reached out to the others. She beckoned them to stand still. The mist clasped them and stilled the animals.
    Serena took the knife hanging on her belt and unsheathed it. She pricked one of her fingers quickly and let the droplets fall into the goblet. Then she waved Hanna and Gil forward doing the same to them. The blood settled in the goblet and began to seethe and smoke swirling up in an iridescent blue silver fog.
    “Krakawatha, goddess of storm and thunder, bring us protection. Krakawatha be our shield. Bring us safely through the forests and plains of our enemies. Krarawatha accept our allegiance to you.” Serena intoned and swept her arms and hands through the fog rising in a swirling mass from the goblet.
    Gil and his mother crouched down in fear. There was a roaring and crackling of the elders’ magic and as the fog swept up, it crackled in an ever increasing crescendo of sound that made both mother and son cry out in fear and cover themselves with their woolen capes.
    Serena stood impassive and majestic, her cape swelling and floating about her body, her arms wove the spell in a hidden rhythm. She chanted evenly through the fog that rose from the goblet.
    There was a crack of sound as if gigantic hands had clapped once. The smog cleared and there was before them a wall that blocked the entrance to the cavern. It was unique in that those behind the wall could see outside the cave, but as Serena later explained to her frightened retainers, those who came to the cave would only see two wolves in their lair and a wall of rock.
    “We are safe for now.” She undid her cape and stood clad in her sleeveless tunic. “We can even make a fire. No one can see us or hear us. The protection spell is that strong.” She pointed to the cave wall which showed them a hunting party of the little people. They had been tracked to the rocks near the cave. There tracks disappeared at the water’s edge much to the confusion of the hunting party.
    “For now, we are safe.” She unsheathed her knife. “The wall will hold for a day and a night.”
    “What happens then?” Gil found his voice.
    “The fabric of the spell will begin to tear and erode. We will move before then. Now let’s eat.”

    • Nice story, Ilana. Lovely writing and an intriguing world you’ve created. I love your wonderful description of the goblet. This was an opportunity that most writers failed to cash in on. Focusing on the descriptions of everything else. Offhand I can recall descriptions of walls, bangles, buttons, cloaks and blood.

      In many stories the ‘golden goblet’ would be the ‘McGuffin, or the key to the McGuffin, (I think) whereas, the stories offered this week relegated the goblet to a minor role, even though in most stories, it was stlll valuable. Except for Ken Miles, who uniquely described it as a soccer trophy. Neither Una nor Chitra’s goblet was described in any detail despite both being plainly valuable. I probably would have done the same thing, because I didn’t give this one moment of thought until I read your story with its fabulous description. Then I realized what an opportunity it was. How much it adds to the story.

      That’s one of those things that sets you apart.
      Get well soon. Unless you already have. In that case, stay well.

      I have a request. Pet a goat for me. Just for a half a minute. Tell him/her who it’s from. This could be the furthest, remotest, most long-distance transmitted goat-pet attempt in recorded (or non-recorded) history. Don’t forget to tell the goat who it’s from. I think he, or she will be surprised. (Why wouldn’t he/she be?); Realistically speaking, since the goat doesn’t know me, he probably won’t care at all. They’re just like people in some ways. Still, lets do it for the record books. (and the goat.)

      Thank you.

    • Hi Ilana, a very evocative story, an enjoyable read. I thought more would happen, in the sense of something more dramatic, but the search is on for safety and protection right from the start – and they get that. I would have thrown in some more difficulty in achieving it. I mean there are magical forces at play, and with that anything is possible, but still something can go wrong or gets misunderstood or messed up and the consequences are grave and urgent. Just to up the ante a little bit. It is somewhat too “comfy” as it is.

      Other than that, it’s a beautiful canvas in words. I very much felt the places and events you described with all the senses – the sights, the wind, the fear, the sounds…

      One little thing – I find it tiring to read without any line spacing. WordPress has the habit of removing line spacing when posting. It happens to me everytime too – I post and all the paragraphs are mashed into one big chunk and then I have to do the spaces manually again. I’m not sure if Alice or Carrie have any tips about this.


  • Ilana Leeds
    Oh yay got it posted in a very round about way on my phone. Sorry Alice for the long fb message. I’ve been sick with shingles and fuzzy headed. Please forgive me.
    • Well Ilana, your reasons are far more persuasive for not writing a story than Ken’s outrageous torrent of excuses – and you DID write one. Hope you soon feel better. And that you bask in putting the man with the expanding hippo and brokered spillchucker to shame.

      I have no excuse. I haven’t written one. That’s all 🙁
      Good luck to everyone else!

      • Andy

        ‘…to shame’? ‘…outrageous torrent of excuses’? Hashtag lies, even? (Okay, that wasn’t you.) Such vitriol. It’s almost as if you were allowing me to affect you. Helping you to grow, as it were, into a neurotic jangle of nervous twitches and threeps. That’s not true, that’s just a dream I have.

        But what do you hope to gain from this inept display of flattery, anyway? Mercy? A refund? Digital coupons for a gym membership? You have underestimated me Andy. Your flattery will not affect me at all. (Although I really, really, really, really, really really do appreciate it. But it won’t affect me—one bit..) Not even an iota. Not even one-fourth of an iota. Or less. Why stop there? A tenth of an iota. A millionth—–. Or less. That’s how much your flattery would affect me. So, feel free to continue using terms like ‘outrageous’ and ‘torrent.’ ‘Excuses’ is acceptable..if necessary.

        I’m curious as to WHY you didn’t write a story this week?

        You know……………………..I could come up with your reason for you. I could come up with your top ten reasons— for why you didn’t post a story this week.. You wouldn’t have to do anything. You could continue to act like you’re above telling us why ‘you no write story’, and I’ll just go into my chakra (I think its in my butt) and pull those reasons out of the cosmic consciousness for you, and everyone else to read.. (Did you really expect me, to let you get away with no excuses when I came up with ten? Did you? Did you really?)

        You’re getting reasons, Andy. No matter how deep I have to go into the cosmic void to get them.. (If I get around to it, that is. It’s hardly worth it. This is a tough crowd. A tough, remote, almost hostile crowd.) But if I get a chance. Chakra, butt, cosmic void, top ten reasons. It’s as simple as that. (I hope.) Ah whatever, I’m going sailing. Hope I don’t drown or capsize. I’ll probably get struck by lightning out of a clear blue sky.

        I like to think positive, or not at all.

        • Well, if truth be told, Ken, my no-story-shaming of you was a feeble attempt to deflect attention from my own now-show shame.

          But my reasons are good reasons. None of this “I was up a tree in the Everglades with no internet connection chased by hippos” malarky. As if that’s a reason.

          I blame the excess of requirements, too many for my little brain to weave together.

          A story was forming, one based on the pursuit of the Holy Grail in different periods of time. It included the Empress Helena (Mother of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, who set up many of the holy sites in Jerusalem), an Indiana Jonesish person, a lantern-jawed symbologist and antiques dealer, a cameo by Dan Brown (as himself) and a general air of delusional optimism versus cynical world-weariness (which is kind of the perpetual state I live in).

          That ought to have made a decent story, but I found I was falling asleep over my story as it emerged. Which is a bad sign for potential readers. And funnily enough, it didn’t quite hang together.
          And then I received an unexpected invitation to bid for a substantial piece of work which involved some round-the-clock working and, like, actually talking to people … and the moment was lost.

          That, and losing my right arm after disturbing a nest of anacondas in the lake behind the house, put paid to the writing this time around. Maybe next time. If the wounds heal.

          Meantime, keep polishing your chakra. Or tuning it, given its location 🙂

          • Andy,
            That’s a funny bit. I didn’t laugh, but I snorted and coughed, very nearly as good. You have an outstanding sense of humor Andy. Ken M. is very funny too. You should read is comments. You probably already do.
            I feel your pain on the Anaconda attack. Assuming of course, that an anaconda bite feels much like acid reflux. I hear they like to nest near sinkholes. One of our invasive species is the Burmese Python. Nice, huh?

            Well, thank god you confessed your motives on the missing story thing, because I was totally bluffing. I had nothing. I’m not writing, I’m expelling stale words. I’m like a DC-3, low on fuel and flying so low, I can smell the pine sap and hear the needles brushing the fuselage as I toss bales of mental junk mail out the door. (WWJT.) What would Jesus Toss?’
            have a different problem, I seem prone to writing shit and not knowing immediately realze that it is shit. I realize it soon enough (later that night, tomorrow morning) but for at least half a day, I ACTUALLY think it’s good. Even when I’ve decided, even when I’m sure about the quality of a story, I harbor serious doubts.

            Before I forget, one of the best stories I’ve written in at least six months, was exceptional partly because I followed your advise to drop the first paragraph. That is excellent advice. I pretty much do it with every story now. It works, it drops you in the story as the scene (as originally written) is already in progress.

          • Secondly, Ken, while generally good advice, it’s hard to use it with a first-line prompt.
    • Carrie Zylka

      Neha – once the time is up we’ll post a link to the voting page here in the comments. Then you have 24 hours to vote.
      There’s still about 5 hours left in the content sprint.

  • Carrie Zylka

    Hey writers!!

    You know the drill… It’s time to vote!

    Remember you MUST vote for your story to count, you can only vote once, and you may NOT vote for yourself.

    You officially have 24 HOURS from the timestamp of this comment to read through the stories vote.

    Good luck!

  • Sorry I haven’t had a chance to comment much lately. My job has been eating away at my free time lately.
      • Nothing glamorous, just work at JC Penney but it’s back to school time both for sales and for half our staff disappearing to go “better themselves” or something… lol
      • Ken Miles
        You’re going to see a hammer coming your way…
  • Neha Neil
    For some reason I had voted but then my vote changed and I ended up not having a favourite charater and for the last question it only came up as me
  • Neha Neil
    I had to do the voting about 5 times just to get my entry right because my entry keeps on changing to my name every time I send it. Whoever is judging please can they counto my last vote as that was the only vote that came out right. Can someone help me please!!!
  • Neha Neil
    I have sent the moderaters an email explaining about my huge issue in boting and that it keeps on glitching. The last vote I have made is correct. I hope I didn’t confuse the team but I am so worried that because of glitches I won’t be included in the competition. Someone please help!!!
    • Carrie Zylka

      I got your email and understood. No worries. 😊

      • Voted. Good luck everyone.

        Love all the stories. Very good writers on this site, therefore very difficult to grade the stories. Upon my read once again after the voting (especially the ones that arrive at almost the last minute) I feel I have not graded the stories as they deserve.

        For some reasons the ‘like’ star is not working in my iPad. I will have to investigate the problem.

  • Voted! Not easy… but had to somehow choose.
    I`m afraid I didn`t have time to comment about some of the stories yet, though I might still do.
    Good luck, everyone!
  • Carrie Zylka

    90 minutes left to vote.
    I’ve got everyone’s votes except Alexis, hiccup779102 and Una.
    I won’t be able to wait past the deadline so hopefully they’ll be able to vote!

      • My phone… oh, how I despise it some days. I thought the first message didn’t go through. Sorry for the spam.
  • Here are your winners!!!!
    Congrats to all!

    1st: Becoming a Shadow by Alexis Winter
    2nd: Shadow Acres by Ken Miles
    3rd: The Serial Killer by berlinermax
    4th: Shadow Dancer by Una Poole
    5th: Shadow Walls Rising by Ilana Leeds
    6th: Escaping the Shadows by Phil Town
    7th: Unforgettable by Chitra Adjoodah
    8th: The Tower by Kristin Record
    9th: Sinister and Shadowed In Blood by hiccup779102
    10th: Shadow Queen by Dennis Wagers
    11th: Midnight Climb by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
    12th: Shadow Of Insanity by Writer2019
    13th: The Shadows by Neha Neil

    • Ilana Leeds
      Congratulations Alexis
    • Okay, I just got done helping my cousin and grandmother babysit for my cousins sister. I meant to say this earlier but; thank you. Thank you all so very much. I honestly wasn’t expecting my story to be that good or to even rank so high. It was freaking awesome. Like for some reason half my family managed to stop by today and I told everyone. And we were all so happy.
      • Well done, a compelling story, Alexis
    • Well done, Alexis – congrats! You sure started with a bang in here. The grim reaper never fails to deliver, you see! Give us more, please…
  • Phil Town
    Congratulations, Alexis!
  • What? This is an outrage. A catastrophic miscarriage of literary justice. Where’s my story? It’s not eve…. oh that’s right, I just remembered. I submitted it psychically. It probably hasn’t gotten into anyone’s head yet. Thick skulls are the bane of telepathic communications. Ask any mind reader.
    • It’s slowly psychloading in here (I’ve been going for skull-thinning therapy but it’s slow, painful and expensive…) – I’m still missing your last paragraph… got stuck on 99% as usual… maybe it’s not just the skull, the RAM too…
  • Congratulations, Alexis

    Thanks , Everyone . For reading and voting for my story.

  • Congratulations Alexis. Your story must have resonated with a fair number of readers.
  • Congratulations to Alex! Greetings to all of you busy writers! It’s fun to be among you!
  • Neha Neil
    Congrats Alex and well done to all for such wonderful entries.
  • Ilana Leeds
    Congratulations Alexis great story!

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