April 1 – April 14, 2021 Writing Prompt “Silence”

Theme: Silence

Required Elements:

  • none

Word Count: 1,200

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The writing prompt for April 15, 2021, will be chosen by Victoria Chvatal.

68 thoughts on “April 1 – April 14, 2021 Writing Prompt “Silence”

  • April 1, 2021 at 1:45 pm
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    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked in this comment within a day or two, feel free to use the contact form to let Carrie know she somehow missed it.

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

    Reply
  • April 1, 2021 at 4:48 pm
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    Just breaking the silence to sign in!

    Reply
  • April 1, 2021 at 7:35 pm
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    Right behind John, I’m in.

    Reply
  • April 2, 2021 at 5:41 am
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    Well I loved the last prompt but my story languishes half finished. I ALMOST felt like putting it up just for the fun of it. But…. hopefully the silence will be done by the end of next week. 🙂

    Reply
  • April 2, 2021 at 11:02 am
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    Still haven’t been able to write anything but I really enjoy reading everyone’s stories. Now I’ve just gotta get to writing comments so all you great writers hear more good feedback…

    Reply
  • April 2, 2021 at 12:38 pm
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    Signing in because I made the mistake of not doing so last time, maybe this time I’ll read all the stories as they appear, instead of on the day of voting…

    Reply
  • April 3, 2021 at 7:08 am
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    Happy April everyone…

    The Importance of Being Silent

    Silent. That’s what he’d been told, to be completely silent. Not a word. Otherwise it would be all over.
    Jeff had known this was coming, had known for a couple of weeks in fact, but that didn’t make it any easier. He’d wondered if he should train for it, his aching joints screaming at him at this precise moment. He was too old for this, his bent arthritic knees testament to how he was no longer designed for being in this position.
    He had found a spot where he knew he could stay hidden, a place they wouldn’t see him when they come through the door. And he knew they’d come. They always came. He just hoped he wouldn’t give them away. He’d seen it happen once before, when they’d been spotted, and the hatred, confusion and vitriol directed at the guilty party was, well, shameful to say the least. There was no way he would be responsible for that. There was too much hurt afterwards, too many disappointed people. He would stay quiet. For as long as he could.
    There was no way of seeing anyone else, their hiding places like his shrouded in darkness and shadows. The room had recently been lit up and the contrast between the two states had been stark to say the least. From light to darkness, from clarity to confusion. He had never liked the dark, not since his elder brother had pinned him under the bedsheets when they were kids, a torture which may have seemed like harmless japes at the time, but which stayed with him throughout his whole life. And he was back in the dark now, a sense of foreboding washing over him.
    He controlled his breathing, making sure to take long, deep inhalations that were easy to silence. Shallower breaths usually emitted a sharp sound that would be clearly audible to anyone in the room, and he needed to remain incognito. He gripped the bottom of the table leg, squeezing tightly in another vain attempt to ease his fear. God, how he hated the dark, a dark that was made even worse by this deathly silence.
    His ears twitched, hearing a sound from outside. Passing bus? Approaching car? He couldn’t quite make it out but knew that the end was nearing, that it would be all over soon. He was tempted to get his phone out to check the time but didn’t want the light from the screen to give him away. To give them all away. He couldn’t even conceive what the consequences of that would be.
    A faint cough. Not from him, but from someone else in the room, someone else in the same position as him. QUIET, he mentally shouted at them, hoping that by some chance he had become gifted in ESP and mind-control and could actually make a difference by his thoughts. He strained again, listening for any other sounds. He could hear a dog in the distance and another vehicle passing but apart from that it was silent. Silent and dark.
    His knees and back were killing him, crouched as he was in this position. Cowered might be a better word, the upper half of his body almost folded over in half, hiding his legs and feet. He was trying to make himself as small as possible, a feat that was almost impossible to achieve with his aging bones. He desperately wanted to straighten up, to move a bit to relieve the pain that was coursing throughout his whole body but being stubborn he knew there was no way he would do anything to give up his hiding place.
    Footsteps. Voices. Two of them coming from the other side of the door. He held his breath one final time wondering if this was it. He heard a quick burst of laughter, almost sadistic he felt by this point, and then the tell-tale sound of a key entering a lock. The handle slowly turned, the pre-cursor he knew to the two of them entering the room.
    Quick as a flash, the room was illuminated by the visitors, the man having flicked on the light switch. This was it…
    “SURPRISE!!!” they all shouted as one, many of them leaping to their feet to see her stunned face. Jeff was a little slower to rise but was delighted to see how pleased his daughter was that his son-in-law had organised this surprise party for her fortieth birthday.

    Reply
    • April 3, 2021 at 9:15 am
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      For me your piece rippled with tension. I was scared throughout – loved the end. Well done.

      Reply
    • April 6, 2021 at 2:58 am
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      Clever story Mirk,

      I’ll spare details from my comment to avoid spoilers (if possible) but the reveal is sudden, unexpected and … well, like I said, no spoilers. Damn fine story.

      Reply
    • April 10, 2021 at 2:45 pm
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      I felt the tension build throughout, but I think you should have left out the last sentence. I think the reader can deduce what’s happening. A few changes of tense which distracted me, but nothing that can’t be fixed

      Reply
  • April 3, 2021 at 8:22 am
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    TOTAL SILENCE
    by Ken Miles
    (0 words)

    Reply
    • April 3, 2021 at 8:28 am
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      Ken M.,

      I managed to miss the entire plot and story you’re telling here. I’ll give it a shot later and see if it makes any sense. Not a lot of show or tell in this one.

      Sorry man. Gotta call ’em as I see ’em.

      Roy

      Reply
      • April 3, 2021 at 11:35 am
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        Well, there’s usually more intrigue in what is left unsaid than in what is said…

        For one thing I beat Hemingway at his own game, here. THIS is the shortest story ever (not) written. Ernest’s six-word story now seems epic long, compared to this one. I was going to say six times longer, but one can’t even multiply properly by zero!

        Now I hold the historical world record…

        (but then there’s Juergen, who might still somehow think of something even shorter!)

        Reply
    • April 3, 2021 at 1:53 pm
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      You beat me to it, Ken! LOL Except I thought of submitting a story consisting of a lot of blank spaces. Now I actually have to think of something … 🙂

      Reply
    • April 3, 2021 at 5:05 pm
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      Enthralling. (Though the grammar could do with some polishing.)

      Reply
    • April 6, 2021 at 2:55 am
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      Ken,
      the title is way over the top. Too wordy. You might want to go with something like, ‘Shh.’ Or, ‘Tinggggg.’ Just a suggestion. The flashback threw me off for a moment but the good news is that there’s room for a sequel. Lots of room.

      Reply
  • April 3, 2021 at 9:11 am
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    Too funny Ken Miles. Wish I thoughtta that.

    Reply
  • April 3, 2021 at 7:36 pm
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    BLOWN AWAY

    The screaming is the baby’s. Since day one. It feels like there hasn’t been a minute in the last year when he hasn’t been screaming. She’s tried everything: when he rejected her breast, formula. He took that better, but it didn’t stop the screaming. He seems hungry all the time. And tired. But he sleeps little, because he’s so hungry. The doctor said it was a phase. She changed doctors. The current one agrees. Be patient, he says. He doesn’t have to live with the little bag of screams, though.

    The baby’s still screaming when her husband gets home.

    “Can’t you stop that bloody racket!” he says.

    “Don’t you think I’ve tried?!” she says.

    He starts shouting.

    “Well you haven’t tried hard enough, have you? Do your bloody job, woman!”

    “You try! You’ll see!”

    “I’m not its mother!”

    “You’re not anything!”

    He hits her. A punch. She staggers, mouth agape and bleeding. He doesn’t say sorry. He doesn’t curl his arm around her to comfort her. He stomps over to the sound system and puts on one of his heavy metal albums. Loud. To drown out the screaming.

    The lead guitar shrieks, the bass throbs, the drums crash. The singer roars his unintelligible message. The baby opens his lungs to compete.

    A new noise. A rhythmic pounding. On the wall. The neighbours. Pounding. Pounding.

    The screaming. The music. The pounding.

    She puts her hands over her ears. It shuts it all out a little, but not enough.

    Her husband slumps into his armchair, foot tapping, but not in time to the music. She stands in front of him. Yells.

    “Turn it off! Turn it off!”

    He glares at her, eyes cold. No love there. Not anymore.

    “Please!” she begs.

    He gets up, goes over to the system. Turns the volume up. The predominant sound now, the screaming second, the pounding a close third.

    She flees to the kitchen, slams the door behind her. The noise is muffled slightly. She puts her arms out to support herself against the counter, her head drooping, staring at the floor. No solace in the tiles. Without thinking, she turns on the coffee grinder. The whirring-screech of the machine adds a new feature to the soundscape. She switches it off immediately.

    And laughs. But there’s no mirth in her laughter. She knows what to do, and not for the first time. She takes her coat, hanging on a chair, dons it and leaves.

    Out in the chill evening, the bedlam seems far away, but there’s a new din: their house is under the flightpath from the airport. A large jet rumbles over and up, its engines seemingly straining to lift its massive weight. She hurries away, seeking to escape from the house and the plane; she succeeds with one, the noise from the house receding with each hurried step. But the plane’s rumble stays with her, even though it’s now high in the sky and blinking away towards its destination.

    Now she feels the pain in her mouth; the cold air tells her a tooth is broken. A sharp intake of breath only makes matters worse as the air flows over the cracked molar. She quickens her step with suddenly renewed resolve.

    Her road joins the High Street. Early evening pandemonium. Traffic backed up. Horns honking. The air-brakes of buses and trucks hissing malevolently.

    There’s a match tonight. A group of fans bustle past her, jostling, chanting their imbecilic encouragement to their team; the game hasn’t even started yet. They march away, happy in their ugly discordance.

    She reaches where she wants to be and walks down the concrete ramp, past the barrier.

    The lift smells of urine and vomit. It creaks and groans as it rises, slowly, inevitably. The number 5 lights up on the display and the doors shudder open.

    Up here, the commotion of the street is distant but there. The plane’s rumble is still with her, joined by the whine of a smaller plane, soaring into the evening sky. A car, moving much too fast, sweeps past her, rubber squealing as it turns at the end of the row.

    Now there’s also a banging inside her head. Accompaniment to the sharp click-clack of her shoes on concrete, and the other dreadful cacophony. The banging impels her forward.

    No drama here. No ‘should I?’ and lengthy hesitation. She clambers onto the parapet and steps off.

    And for two or three precious seconds, the air, rushing past her ears, blows all the chaos away.

    .

    Reply
    • April 4, 2021 at 8:38 am
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      Well done Phil Town. I could easily envision the cacophony thanks to your smooth writing. I thought the ending was perfect. Thanks for a great read. One quick Q- what is compound in reference to feeding a baby? Is it what we call formula — essentially manufactured food for babies — here in the U.S.?

      Reply
      • April 4, 2021 at 9:34 am
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        Thanks, Trish! (I don’t know where I got ‘compound’ from! I’ve changed it.)

        Reply
        • April 4, 2021 at 7:27 pm
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          Eerily good Phil. Well done and I could visualise the characters. Wondered what happened to the poor baby though with parents like that.

          Reply
    • April 10, 2021 at 11:41 am
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      Blown away (in a different meaning from title 😜), by your ability to transport me, as a reader, into the scene in a way that I felt the need to escape too from the scene!
      👏

      Reply
  • April 5, 2021 at 11:49 am
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    Signing in.

    Reply
  • April 7, 2021 at 12:43 pm
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    CLAPTRAP
    by Ken Miles
    (1,200 words)

    “It’s that one nasty little word in English, that’s the cause of all of our problems! It’s the shortest, tiniest, thinnest, most hatefully disgusting word in our language…”

    Anone Y. Mous, Jr. rants on, in his typical monotone, his austere face peeking out of every television screen in the country.

    No-one else these days has attained such a firm presence in everyone’s living-room than Mr. Mous, longtime champion of Do-Gooders International and now presidential candidate on behalf of the Party of Absolute Gentleness and Correctness, a serious contender to both the Democrats and Republicans for the top job in the country.

    “If we eliminate that one heinous word, take out from our alphabet that very one letter that constitutes it, we’ll become the Nation we’ve always wanted to be.”

    He clears his throat and then goes on: “Let’s remove the word “I” from our language, the letter “i” from our alphabet! ‘I’ is the word of egoism, egocentrism. We even capitalize it! That’s the kind of importance each one of us gives to oneself! We are perilously in love with ourselves!”

    He takes out a white handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his foaming mouth, and then continues, only now raising his voice a little.

    “Let’s kill it! Let’s uproot the very notion of selfishness right there where it all starts, in the words we use. Let’s become better people, the people we really ought to be!”

    The crowd at the Convention cheers and claps.

    “No more ‘I’! No more ‘I’!” they chant as they hug one another, in an orgy of communal ardor. They all take selfie upon selfie to make sure that they will be remembered for being there on this historical day on which the self has been declared dead and a new era of communal correctness is born.

    At first, it’s all voluntary – the party zealots are first to speak and write without ever using the letter ‘i’ anymore. The Correctworld Dictionary takes out the word ‘I’, and then the letter ‘i’ altogether. It rides on the popular sentiment and its sales soar. Other dictionaries follow suit soon. There is no word or letter anymore to refer to one’s own self.

    People who never cared about these things soon drop their ‘i’s too. Nobody wants to sound weird. To use that vicious letter has become taboo. Only vulgar oddballs still utter ‘i’ after ‘i’. Well-meaning people don’t want to sound like them. Some punks use ‘i’s deliberately, just to annoy, to rebel. Graffiteros now spray ‘i’s in every form and color on walls in cities across the nation. The taboo clearly isn’t enough.

    With President Mous now in power, the ‘i’ becomes outrightly illegal. Anyone found guilty of using ‘i’s could now face harsh pr_son sentences. We’re not tak_ng any chances, you see. The r_sks are too ser_ous.

    Next to go are the exclamat_on mark, wh_ch the Party of Absolute Gentleness and Correctness des_gnated as the most outrageous symbol of anger. Then the quest_on mark goes too, for _t’s a sign of people not _n the know, an affront to conf_dence.

    Fresh from all th_s success and popular_ty, the Party of Absolute Gentleness and Correctness proposes to remove another yet gr_evous word: the word that’s used when f_ngers are po_nted, the word of accusat_ons, the word at the roots of hatred. The word ‘you’ has to go.

    This word def_nes master and slave – ‘you do th_s, you do that’ – and has no place _ n our c_v_l_zed gentle nat_on. For good measure, the letters “y”, “o” and “u” w_ll go too, so that no-one w_ll ever have the means to utter that hatef_l w_rd aga_n,. There’ll n_w be no viable term that separates the pers_n talk_ng from the pers_n l_sten_ng. Wh _ needs th_se three letters an_wa_ (exclamat_ _n mark rem_ved).

    Next in line are ‘us’ and ‘them’ the su_rces _ f s _ m_ch tr_ _ ble and d_v_s_on _ n th _ s w _ rld. There were pr _ tests, and _ t was dec _ ded to keep ‘them’ – _ t’s an altru _ st _ c term, after all. _ t can sta _. But “us” has t_ g _.

    ‘He’ and ‘she’? ‘Eqalt Warrrs’ (f_rmerl_ ‘Equality Warriors’ ) want these two w _ rds that spell gender d _ scr _ m _ na t_ _ n g _ne _ nce and f _ r all.

    ‘He’ and ‘she’, ‘s’, ‘h’ and ‘e’ ar_ n_w unlawful and an _ on _ _ _ _ u _ _ _ th _ _ _ _ _ g _ n _ t _. All _ h _ r _ ma_n_ng l_tt_r _ _ f th _ alphab _ t w _ ll van _ _ h _ n du _ t _ m _. Mark m _ w _ rd _.

    At l _ ng la _ t w _’ r _ ab _ _ l _t _ l _ p _ l _ t _ call _ c _ rr _ ct.

    _ _ c _ n _ ardl _ talk an _ m _ r_.

    And t _ _r _ n _ b _ _ nd _. N _ xt t _ b _ f _ rb _ dden _ s alm _ _ t _ v _ r _ _ t _ _ r l _ tt _ r. B _ a _

    _ _ _ _ _ _ ll _ a _ _ a _ d _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ l n _ _ _ c _ _ _.

    _ p _ _ _ _ _ d_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ v r_ _ _ , _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. A_ _ _ t_ _ _ k _n _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ l _ : _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .

    _ _ n_ x_ _ _ p_ _ pl _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , _ _ _ _ v _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ; _ _

    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ pp _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .

    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ( _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ). _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    _ _ _ v _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .

    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ “_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _” _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ( _ _ ) .

    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    _ _ _ _ .

    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.

    _ _ _, _ _ _ _ _ , _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .

    Reply
    • April 7, 2021 at 12:49 pm
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      Brilliant Ken Miles. Simply brilliant. Elegant commentary on current events…

      Reply
    • April 10, 2021 at 1:18 am
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      G– K-n
      Th-t’s gr–t. W- r–ll- -nj—d th-t st-r-. — h-v- m- v-t- f-r th- m-st cr–t-v- -ppr–ch. — sh–ld wr-t- – l-ng n-v-l -b–t th- m–n-ng -f l-f-. -k!

      Reply
    • April 10, 2021 at 10:01 am
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      👏
      Taking selfie upon selfie to celebrate the abolishment the “self”…gotta be my favourite part! 😜

      Reply
  • April 7, 2021 at 11:53 pm
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    The Sound Of?

    “Where am I? What has happened?” I thought to myself.

    “Darkness, soundless, senseless. And, painless.”

    “It feels as if I’m floating in the black.”

    “Black what?” I wonder.

    How much later? There was no way of telling, but grey emerged from the centre of black. The grey circle grew slowly, but it got bigger. I could not stop it.

    “Do I want it to stop?”

    It grew, becoming less grey as if light broke the morning. I could see! A white ceiling stared down at me, motionless, shadowless. But something.

    I could not speak. My mouth did not open. A shadow moved across the ceiling, then another. My head moved sideways. Everything was pristine white, a gurney, a cabinet, clean and shiny, empty shelves and a white wall. My head, once again staring ahead at the ceiling. But what is that? A white-coated armpit stretched across my vision. Then a talking head appeared in front of me. His lips were moving, opening and closing, not chewing, speaking.

    He was talking to me, asking something. His clear perspex facial shield moved aside to be replaced with another. This time a female. She was talking too.

    She signalled with her fingers, one, two, three. I tried to nod. Maybe my eyes glinted, I don’t know. As a reward, they turned me to the right.

    “What is that?”

    A headless body, motionless, lay relaxed.

    “Where is his head,” I wondered.

    Blackness swamped me.

    “What happened? Was it something I did?”

    The grey reappeared, spreading quicker this time. I could see again. And I could blink, not slowly and soft one eye as in a wink, but more mechanically, up and down, both eyes at once. At least I could see.

    “What is that feeling?”

    A mouse silently moving in my head, I have moved again. This time I could see a desk. On the wall was a clock, eleven-fifty-five, I noticed and a date. Twenty-first of the fourth month, of the two thousand and seventy-second year.

    “Christ, where have I been?”

    Once more they lost me in black. As if awakening, I looked at legs and a lithe body, not mine.

    The two faces were mouthing at me again. Mouthing and pointing.

    I nodded, Christ, I can nod?

    They smiled. The female grabbed an iPad and scrawled a question.

    “Can’t you hear?”

    I shook my head.

    The two heads bobbing in deep conversation. They helped me to a sitting position.

    I had arms, legs, they moved, my fingers waggled, under my control. I smiled. Then I felt my face. It wasn’t me. Soft, rubbery, and hairless.

    They were talking again, excited children on Christmas morning.

    The iPad thrust in my face.

    “Welcome back to the world!”

    “What about my ears?” I typed.

    “A hitch, we are working on it,” hastily typed.

    “I thought I would be hungry or thirsty after an operation?” I typed.

    “No need for food or water,” she typed.

    “What?”

    “Look in the mirror, over there,” she pointed.

    Unsteadily I wobbled from the slab, one leg in front of the other, I made my way across the room.

    “No drink? No food? No sex? Can I go back to sleep?”

    “No need for sleep,” she mouthed.

    The END

    Reply
    • April 8, 2021 at 8:54 am
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      Perfectly Twilight Zone- ish Colin D. Very creepy and well done. I wanted to read more of your very creative story…

      Reply
    • April 8, 2021 at 10:34 am
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      Good job – I liked the story and it did have that Rod Serling feeling that I crave in fiction.

      Reply
    • April 10, 2021 at 1:21 am
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      You have the dialogue prize from me. I just wanted to see something in the mirror though.

      Reply
    • April 10, 2021 at 3:09 pm
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      Sorry, I don’t really get it. I’ve read it a few times, and I think I understand the concept but it jumps about a little bit too much for me, which detracts from the story. Just my opinion though.

      Reply
  • April 8, 2021 at 12:43 pm
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    Permission to speak?

    by Ken Frape.

    The Abbey’s one and only pet, Aldric the black cat, glides along the polished stone floor of the cloisters, his padded feet soundless in the late afternoon gloom. In the silence that blankets St. Barnabus Abbey the monk who walks beside Aldric also makes no sound, his feet on the cold floor cushioned by soft woolen socks, his one and only luxury. The monk, Brother Absolom, is deep in contemplation, his hands thrust inside the folds of his cloak and his face, inside his cowl, hidden in shadow. His brow is furrowed in concentration, or perhaps concern.

    Brother Absolom is wrestling with a problem that has been on his mind for months. The Abbey of St. Barnabus is a silent order. Voices are only raised towards Heaven in the singing of hymns in the chapel. It is Lent, a time for sacrifice when the remnants of food in the larder must be used up before a period of abstinence. At this time, any monk but only one monk, may request to speak to the gathered brothers regarding any matter of concern. Brother Absolom has made it known to The Abbott that he wishes to speak. That decision is making him sick with worry. His prayers have not helped so he has placed himself in God’s hands.

    In the refectory, there is very little of the clink and clatter associated with cutlery and crockery being used. A single cough echoes around the cavernous, rising in the high ceilinged hall, like a bird seeking escape. The silence of no spoken words seems to permeate every aspect of the brothers’ lives. Except that this day is special and every robed brother in the refectory is aware that Brother Absolom has been granted the opportunity to speak. No monk has asked for this for the past seven years and whilst the brothers are both surprised and puzzled not one of them is even thinking of leaving until he has heard the words.

    Brother Absolom has taken his usual seat and Aldric has taken his, curled up around his warmly-socked feet. Once the midday meal has been eaten the dishes and plates and cutlery are washed and stacked for the next meal. It is a smooth and practiced process, as ingrained as Matins or Compline. The brothers have returned to their seats once more, their hands resting in their laps, their eyes looking down but their ears are focused upon Brother Absolom. Even Aldric joins in, springing lightly onto the window sill, watching the kind and gentle brother who adopted him as a stray kitten three years ago.

    Abbott Anselm looks towards Absolom and gives him a brief nod. Absolom swallows quickly, sweat beading his brow. His voice cracks at first as he starts to say the words he has rehearsed so many times in his cell. He clears his throat and starts again, his voice thin and reedy,

    “Abbott Anselm, fellow brothers, it pains me to have to speak even one word but in all conscience, I have to tell you that Brother Michael has not been sharing out the porridge portions evenly and without favour.”

    As Absolom sits, hands in his lap, Aldric scurries off to the kitchen, suddenly more interested in his own lunch. If it is possible, the silence deepens and several pairs of eyes even turn towards the rotund figure of Brother Michael, the server, his tonsure gleaming as always like a polished bowling ball. He remains seated, head down, still, until, at a signal from the Abbott, all the brothers leave, one by one, to afternoon work. It is as if a stone has been dropped into a pool and now the ripples have disappeared. But still waters run deep. As the monks file out Aldric scurries out to take his place once more by Brother Absolom’s side.

    Brother Absolom’s words remain imprinted in the minds of the monks as the year rolls on, their daily routine unchanged, unchallenged, never faltering. They know that such an accusation, as indeed that was what it was, will almost certainly provoke a response. As Lent approaches once again, the silent Chinese whisper tells all that Brother Michael has asked to speak. Thus, exactly one year later Brother Michael stands in the presence of the assembled brothers. He runs a hand over his shiny pate and the other around his ample stomach, his eyes wide and anxious.

    “That is not true,” he says in the deep baritone voice that others have only heard in choir. “I always give everyone the same, equal and fair share.”

    Abbott Anselm recognizes that he now has a problem that will require much prayer and contemplation. Each of the two brothers will want to speak again, as is their right unless another brother asks first but as the year progresses, no one does. Thus, a year later, Brother Absolom repeats his accusation and a year later, Brother Michael repeats his plea of innocence as Eldric sits and listens with the brothers.

    Times passes slowly as the seasons turn and turnabout and the monks’ lives follow the same patterns as they always have but they can all count and they all know that fifteen years have passed since Brother Absolom first stood to speak. Thus, the sense of excitement is palpable as the news circulates that it will not be Brother Michael repeating his defence but another brother has asked to speak.

    No one has ever heard Brother Celestus speak. Even in choir his voice does not ascend the heights of the other voices and those who choose to look closely might even determine that he was miming. But he does have a voice.

    “Abbott Anselm, fellow brothers, it saddens me to tell you that I have decided that I must give up Holy Orders and leave this monastery.” He sits.

    This is a rare and shocking announcement. Monks very rarely leave The Abbey unless in a wooden box. If this was anything other than a silent order, there would be a ripple of conversation in the refectory but in this Abbey, their response must be silence.

    The following year, Abbott Anselm takes the most unusual, nay, unprecedented step of letting it be known that he, The Abbott, intends to speak.

    “Brother Celestus, your words sadden me,” the Abbott begins. “ Your presence here for the past thirty years has become part of the fabric of our community. Your writings in the scriptorium with the illustrated texts are indeed works of art, praise God. Can you tell us, your fellow brothers, the reason why you must leave us?”

    One more year passes and Brother Celestus rises wearily to his feet once more, his ancient knees creaking with age. Aldric remains curled up at Brother Absolom’s warm feet. He feels the cold more and his eyesight has dimmed so that he rarely catches any mice these days. He opens one eye briefly as Brother Celestus’ voice is heard as he says,

    “Abbott Anselm, I ask for your blessing and permission to leave. The reason I must leave is that I cannot stand this constant bickering.”

    Reply
    • April 8, 2021 at 12:56 pm
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      Loved it Ken Frape. Well done.

      Reply
      • April 9, 2021 at 12:33 pm
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        Hi Trish,
        Thanks for your comment upon my tongue-in-cheek story.

        Ken Frape.

        Reply
    • April 10, 2021 at 3:17 pm
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      Great. Kept me guessing right until the end. Love the punch line

      Reply
  • April 8, 2021 at 4:04 pm
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    Sweet Revenge
    An awkward silence unfolded between them. Polly hadn’t meant to drop the bombshell this early on in their meeting, but her resolve snapped the moment she saw Dexter enter the restaurant. She recognised him instantly. That same self-assured swagger. The same smarmy smile at the waitress showing him to his table.
    His eyes lit up as he approached her. ‘You must be Polly. Hi, I’m Dexter.’ He held his hand out to shake hers.
    ‘Hi,’ she said, hoping her nerves didn’t show.
    She studied him as he took his jacket off, shook out the creases and placed it on the back of his chair before sitting down. His hair was greying around the temples, there were a few wrinkles around his eyes, and he was bulging out of his shirt in a way he hadn’t done thirty years ago, but otherwise he had changed very little.
    He poured himself a glass of red wine without asking if she minded. She found his confidence galling.
    ‘So, Polly. I guess this is where we tell each other something interesting about ourselves and see if the computer was right. Ladies first.’
    She took a large gulp of wine. ‘We’ve met before.’
    ‘Oh? Have we? Well, you definitely have the advantage over me there. I don’t want to seem rude, but you might need to give me a clue. Don’t take it personally, I’m just useless at putting faces to names.’
    ‘We knew each other at school.’
    ‘Really? God, that’s going back a bit. Are you sure?’
    ‘Yes. How many Dexter Zolinskis are there?’
    ‘True. I still don’t…’
    Polly gripped her wine glass and fixed him with her steely blue eyes ‘Roly Poly Polly. How’s that for a clue? I think you were the creative genius who came up with that highly original nickname. Hats off to you though, it stuck. Remember me now?’
    Dexter shifted in his seat. Polly enjoyed watching him squirm as the silence settled between them. She was an introvert and comfortable with silence. Dexter on the other hand, was nowhere as near comfortable with it. He looked away, fiddled with his shirt sleeves, loosened his tie, and ran his hand through his hair, but to his credit, he blushed.
    ‘I didn’t recognise you. I mean…Sorry. That wasn’t the best thing to say. I’ve never been known for my tact.’ He paused and took a large gulp of wine. ‘Jeez Polly, what can I say? I’m sorry, truly I am, but that was so long ago. I was a cocky teenager and probably said lots of things to lots of people, not just you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing it, but I was a different person back then. We all were.’
    ‘Don’t worry about it. You probably did me a favour.’
    He frowned.
    ‘If it hadn’t been for you bringing my fatness to everyone’s attention and humiliating me so publicly, I might never have done anything about it. So, cheers for that.’ She raised her glass to him.
    Her cheeks burned and her insides churned at the memory of the taunting. The jeering. The cutting remarks. As a child she had developed a coping mechanism of staying in the background and had managed to go virtually unnoticed amongst her peers, until year five, when Dexter Zolinski, the most popular boy at school had noticed her. Most girls would have been flattered.
    ‘Well, that’s one way of looking at it I suppose. You look fantastic by the way. I really wouldn’t have recognised you.’
    She hated these back-handed compliments. You look so much better. You always had such a bonny face. Even her own father had said I always knew there was a thin lass waiting to get out. Ironically, she was also addicted to them. Where once she was addicted to food, she now thrived on expressions of admiration on her fantastic achievement and appearance. She felt disappointment when none where forthcoming and resolved to try harder. Eat less. Do more exercise. Make people notice.
    ‘So. What now?’ Dexter broke the silence. ‘I’m guessing this date isn’t just a good computer match? Is it some sort of revenge thing?’
    ‘No! It was pure co-incidence that your name popped up. Obviously, I knew it was you and I was curious, that’s all. It’s no big deal,’ she lied. This wasn’t about revenge. This was about looking her tormentor in the eye and making her own peace. She’d read about it somewhere, although right now, inner peace felt a long way off.
    ‘Let’s order some food. I’m starving.’ She changed the subject.
    Dexter relaxed and signalled for the waitress. ‘Sounds good to me.’
    ‘I’ll have the fish and chips, mushy peas and bread and butter, with sticky toffee pudding and ice-cream to follow,’ Polly told the waitress.
    Dexter started to say something but stopped himself mid-sentence. ‘I’ll have the same thanks.’ He refilled their wine glasses.
    Polly ate quietly, focussing on the mechanical process of eating. She cut her food into small chunks and chewed each mouthful ten times before swallowing. Her stomach heaved as the heavy, greasy food mixed with the wine. The first few mouthfuls were always the most difficult, but she knew, if she took her time, she could force more down. She would deal with it later.
    Dexter didn’t seem to notice. He droned on about himself, his work, his hobbies, occasionally pausing to check if she was listening. Polly had a mastered the art of zoning out of a conversation whilst appearing to listen.
    ‘Polly?’ She looked up to see Dexter staring at her. ‘If you don’t mind me asking, how did you err…?’
    ‘Lose all the weight?’ She knew what he was getting at. Where she had once eaten in secret, she now took great pleasure in eating copious amounts of food in public. She enjoyed remarks such as Where do you put it all? A tiny thing like you. You’re one of those lucky people who can eat whatever they like.
    ‘Ate less, moved more.’ She drained her glass.
    ‘Right. Err…Another wine? Or how about a coffee?’
    She shook her head. ‘I have an early meeting at work tomorrow. I need to get back.’
    ‘Okay. Well maybe we can do this again?’
    She stood up and gathered her jacket and handbag from her chair. ‘I’m not sure Dexter. Maybe. I need go.’ She left him to pay the bill as she headed out to hail a taxi.
    The voices started as soon as she stepped into the cool, stillness of her flat. You’re pathetic. A failure. You’ll get fat. You can’t even diet properly.
    She reached the bathroom just in time. The saliva rushed into her mouth and she felt relief wash over her as she vomited every last morsel of food she had consumed earlier.
    She washed her mouth out with water and set the timer on her phone for thirty minutes, when she could safely brush her teeth. She noticed the message on her phone.
    Well, that was different. Fancy meeting up next week? D
    She blocked the number, deleted it from her contacts and lay down on top of her bed. The voices silenced for the moment.

    Reply
    • April 8, 2021 at 4:52 pm
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      Kirstennairn- I was rooting for Polly and I cared what happened to her. Great character study.

      Reply
      • April 11, 2021 at 1:28 am
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        I feel incredibly sad for Polly. She’s a very lonely person. She needs a good therapist. Very bad for you to gorge and then vomit. Also socially isolating.

        Reply
  • April 10, 2021 at 1:12 am
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    Once upon a time (1198 words)

    At first, I wanted to scream out but did not. I wanted to tell someone what had happened. For some reason, I never did. Now I do not regret.

    The painful secret was hidden deep. It ate at my soul. Despite trying to stifle the ache and to push the pain into some hidden recess of my mind, it tended to burst into my consciousness. A putrid pus that poured from my soul – a lanced boil that spoilt the flesh on which it spilled. I cleansed my body daily. Frequently.

    This is my story.

    I was five years old when he first came into my room. A little girl. Mummy was sick, so I had to go to my Uncle John and Aunty Jillian’s house. Daddy was busy working. Uncle John and Aunty Jillian did not have any little boys and girls. They had no children. So, it was natural that Aunty Jillian who was Mummy’s sister would take me and my baby brother Tom in to care for us. It helped Daddy who was working very hard in the mines up at Mount Isa to support us all and pay for all Mummy’s treatment.

    After Tom was born, Mummy was crying a lot. She was not the happy Mummy we used to have. She was very angry all the time. She never hurt me or Tom. But she did smack her head on the wall so much that it bled. I used to think that must hurt a lot. Why is Mummy doing that? I sometimes tried to stop her. I would grab her hand and say to her “Don’t Mummy, stop. Please, hit me Mummy, your head is bleeding. It’s hurt. Don’t hit you any more.” Sometimes she would stop and just stare at me for a long time. Other times she just pushed me away. Then she would bang, bang her head on the wall again. I would go and cuddle Tom till she stopped. She would then go to sleep and wake up ok sometimes.

    The last time I saw her she was covered in blood. She had cut herself. Yes, it was with a big knife that daddy used to cut the roast leg of lamb at dinner. Daddy said it was an accident. I don’t know. All that blood -it was scary though.

    The first time.

    I remember the door creaked as he entered. I was not quite asleep. He did not switch the light on.

    “Sally, sweetheart, I just came in to see if you were alright.” He sat on the bed near my pillow. His hand went over my back. I was sleeping on my stomach. He caressed my back first on top of my pajamas. Then he slipped his hand under my PJs and started to stroke my skin gently. I did not feel uncomfortable, but then he slipped his hand under my body and started to circle his hands around my chest and move them down to my tummy. Then further down…

    “Don’t. Don’t.” He put the finger of his free hand to his lips.

    “Shhh, Sally. Uncle John’s just helping you sleep. You’ll feel better in a moment.”

    His finger was hard. It hurt me in my wee wee place. I put my hands down and I tried to push it away. But he swiftly turned me over on my stomach and put his hand over my mouth.

    “Shush sweet little girl, be a good little girl. You will feel better in a minute. This is our secret.”
    As he said “This is our secret.” He moved his face closer to mine until his nose was nearly touching mine. “Our secret. Tell no one. Or…YOU will die. Mummy and Daddy will die. Your little brother will die.” Then his hand moved down again. And it hurt. God, it hurt me. Pain like a fire in between my legs. Tears spilled over my cheeks.

    “Shhhhh, hush baby all over in a minute.” Then he undid his pajama pants and placed the towel he had over his shoulder on his lap.
    He leaned in and whispered in my ear.

    “I’m going to let you touch something special.” He took my hand and placed it on something hard. Soft skin. It began to pulse. I began to sob more.

    “Don’t. Please don’t.” I cried a sobbing whisper. “NO!”

    “Shush, shhshshhhhhh.” He began to pant and suddenly there was wetness and he groaned. He used the towel to wipe up the wetness and then stood up to close his pajamas.

    Then he gently leaned down to kiss me.

    “Thank you, little Sally. You are a good, good little girl. Our secret. Remember.”

    I wanted to claw his face. Kick his nose. Spit in his face. He hurt me. He disgusted me. I felt dirty like rubbish. Instead, I lay like a dead thing. Silence began to soak into my soul. Silence leaked into my mind. I wanted to scream. Instead, I lay in shocked and inconsolable silence.

    The next morning.

    I was sore. I did not sleep well. I went downstairs to breakfast.

    “Sally, are you ok?” Aunt Jillian looked at me, concern etched over her face. She put up her hand to feel my forehead. “You have dark rings under your eyes. Didn’t you sleep well my pet?”

    I nodded glumly.
    “Well, let’s get you some breakfast. Then, you’ll go back to bed. Maybe you’re coming down with something?”

    Uncle John came in dressed for his day at the office.

    “Well, how’s our favourite girl this morning?” He came up to the table and tweaked my ear playfully. I wanted to slap his hand away and scream “Don’t touch me. NEVER EVER AGAIN!”

    Instead, I put my head down avoiding his eyes. Those knowing, mocking eyes. I hated him. Shame and disgust burned within, eating me up inside. I was a kangaroo caught in a hunter’s spotlight. Blinded and helpless. Silent prey.

    Then it did not finish. He came often into my room, after all were asleep. Aunty Jillian, I found out, often took sleeping pills. I am sure Uncle John slipped her extra on the nights he entered my room. She never woke.

    It ended…

    When I was nine and a half years old. I took a sharp boning knife from the kitchen into my room and slipped it under my pillow. I waited for when I knew he would come.
    I waited until he was sitting on the bed having undone his pajama pants, his erection already visible such was his anticipation. Then as he was busy his hands already between my legs, I pulled the knife out and stuck it into his penis. He shot back off the bed, his penis already flaccid and bleeding. He was gasping in pain and shock. His eyes wild he looked at me.
    “Sally, put the knife down.”
    “No, I said, half out of the bed. “Touch me again. I will cut it off.” But I smiled sweetly, my eyes cold. “Our secret. Never touch me again. EVER!”
    So now there is silence between us. He knows and I know. I will keep the knife under my pillow forever.

    Reply
    • April 10, 2021 at 8:59 am
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      Ilana- great writing for a story about a devastating experience. I liked how you empowered your main character in the end.

      Reply
    • April 10, 2021 at 3:23 pm
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      Great writing. Although it is a really tense and uncomfortable read, it’s very well told

      Reply
    • April 13, 2021 at 4:44 pm
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      This one took me a long time to read once I realized where it was going – I am sensitive to things in a selective way and this is one of those things, you know?

      This story is very realistic in a lot of ways and it isn’t really designed for escapism because it shows you an ugly part of the universe that no one wants to face – but I must admit that I enjoyed the small revenge she managed.

      That movie “Hard Candy” can eat its heart out…

      I have a larval form of a story that is a little bit like this and it has been floating in my head for the past few years because it addresses a real issue but using sci fi…. but I am too scared to release it from my mind.

      Reply
  • April 10, 2021 at 3:29 am
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    Hamsters – Peter Holmes (627 – I’ve read the other stories, and it’s abundantly obvious that I won’t get anywhere near the podium, but I wrote this after having done nothing all week, and it feels weird to not submit something if you’ve written it, so I hope I can at least put a smile on your face) (P.S. I’ll settle for a just about noticeable grin?)

    Nothingness, that’s how- nothingness is a funny word, isn’t it, wait, don’t answer that, I have to stop distracting myself, I’m going off on tangents like it’s nobody’s business, tangents is a funny- stop, get back on track, my mind is empty, searching for an idea to break the silence, yet day after day I find myself without words, I suppose that’s why my attention is stolen so easily, I’m so desperate that I’ll happily follow any mental tumbleweed that rolls past, I fruitlessly have a staring contest with my screen, the word “silence” glaring at me in bold font, for some reason, I still believe that just staring at the word will incite an idea, it may work for others, but my ideas are never forced like that, it’s always spontaneous, and it’s terrific, you know, it usually works, but not this time, the prompt is intent on beating me, sometimes it plays out in my head like an orchestra, an improvised symphony that refuses to stop, lest it lose the very thing that makes it a story, creativity, now, truth be told, my thoughts aren’t ever hushed, or muted, there’s constantly cogs whirring and tiny hamsters spinning in their wheels, unfortunately, the cogs and hamsters in no way assist the thought process, since the focus craves anything except a story, so it feels silent, alone, almost, I need a story, at least a half-formed plot, or a character to branch off from, while the blank Word Document mocks me, my hamsters are using Google Maps to see how long it would take me if I were to walk to the capital city of Azerbaijan, it’s called Baku, and if you’re curious, it’s just above nine hundred hours, although unsurprisingly I’d need some form of water travel, does it still count as walking if I take a ferry, not the point, where was I, ah, my hamsters, I fight for control of my mind, only wanting to enter a story for this prompt, personally, it doesn’t seem like too much of an ask; the hamsters are not a huge fan of it, I’ve overdone the hamster analogy, haven’t I, and I lost the cogs about ten sentences ago, perhaps taking a break would help, a few minutes of silence to refresh the mind, a slow stroll around the house, might pick up an orange or two for fuel, take a quick trip to the toilet, say hello to my brother, hello brother, alright, that’s definitely enough, I reckon it’s time to have another crack at this, let’s get back to the computer, why did I open a Word Document, I’m not doing my essays until tomorrow, so it can’t have been that, oh well, it’ll come to me sooner or later, for now I’ll just log off- the story, but I’ve got nothing to write about, I asked my friend, to no avail, as they said I should just write about college or something, clearly not an experienced writer, though I can’t judge if I’m being honest, it’s just gone silent, there’s not a single darned idea floating around this head of mine, actually, floating would be generous, floating suggests existence above water, most of them merely swim, like an endless breaststroke or butterfly, they may seriously be the only two swimming styles I know, that’s embarrassing, give me a second, I’ll get one eventually, backstroke, truthfully, there’s a lot more strokes than I expected, anyway, the story, I’m thinking something along the lines of… damn, I really thought that maybe starting that sentence would produce an idea, but never mind, how do I describe it, it’s like a void, no sign of life, pure hollowness, nothingness, that’s how- nothingness is a funny word isn’t it…

    Reply
    • April 10, 2021 at 8:56 am
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      Peter Holmes- great summary of writer’s block- although for me I get nothing when I’m blocked. Sigh.

      Reply
      • April 10, 2021 at 12:02 pm
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        I thought a few people might relate 🙂

        Reply
    • April 13, 2021 at 4:30 pm
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      I have this problem every time, except there are lots of really bad ideas mixed in with the nothingness!

      My friends would always get mad when we worked on creative projects together – I once tried to get them to make a demo of a game with a werewolf who was a pilot in a spaceship… it made no sense because there is no lunar cycle in space and it would get really confusing….plus there is no advantage to being a rampaging monster when you are trying to dock with a space station or something….my point being that I have fantastically awful ideas all the time, I can write them down, but it will only be good for bad comedy and kindling!

      Reply
  • April 11, 2021 at 1:21 am
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    Very stream of consciousness writing.

    Reply
  • April 12, 2021 at 1:21 pm
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    Hi Carrie
    Just wondering why my name isn’t next to my story? Is there a message inherent in that?

    Reply
    • April 12, 2021 at 1:24 pm
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      Ahh whoops!
      No message other than bad html when I copied and pasted!!
      Fixed now. 🙂

      Reply
  • April 12, 2021 at 4:51 pm
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    Silence is Deaf by Liz Fisher -1054

    “So here’s the thing John”, Kathy was rehearsing what she would say finally, “I saw you last night, you didn’t know I was there, but I was.”

    Kathy lay there for a little longer thinking, and decided that was too harsh. John did know she was there he just didn’t know she heard him. She thought it had been a very long time since they had an actual conversation. Oh sure, he talked a lot but was always talking at her, not interested in what she had to say.

    She awoke with a start, it was dark, she had fallen asleep and wasn’t sure what she had done all day. There was a vague memory of her friend Marsha stopping in, but she was on her way to work and didn’t stay long. She wondered about dinner but realized she didn’t have any hunger so why bother.

    In the morning John came into her room already dressed for his shift at the Station. He was the second in charge at Oakley Fire and had 48 hour shifts. Although it seemed he was working more lately as their time together was limited.

    “Babe”, I’m being deployed to a wildfire up north, probably at least 2 weeks, I’ve talked to Marsha and she knows and will help take care of things.” As he walked to the door he turned and said, “I just wish you could tell me what’s on your mind, this silence is so frustrating.”

    Kathy didn’t react, she tried to contain her anger and counted all the times she wanted to tell him exactly what she was thinking and he would just leave before she got the words out. The anger was at how unfair it was that he just walked away and never gave her a chance to respond.

    There was a rap on the door, and Marsha opened the door and said. “hey kiddo, how’s it going? The Lilacs are blooming and I know how much you love them so brought you a bunch for you to enjoy.” Marsha talked really fast and it was difficult to get a word in edgewise. Not that it mattered to Marsha she never had paid attention to anyone else’s views on anything so why bother.

    “I’ve got to go my kids are waiting for me to pick them up, I’ll come by tomorrow.” Marsha blew a kiss as she walked away.

    It’s funny how time passes when you’re not really paying attention. Most of my life my time was precious, always having too much to do and not enough time to get it done. But now it just seems to here and then gone..time is so fleeting, I barely remember what I did yesterday.

    With a start, Kathy wondered, “what did I do yesterday? I can’t even remember the day flew by so fast.” Her thoughts continued and she realized she couldn’t remember what grade Penny or Buster were in, possibly 5th or 6th. She and John hadn’t really talked in a long time and he hasn’t mentioned the kids … probably a good thing as they so often argued about their activities.

    Buster wanted to play Football and she was opposed to it. Maybe Soccer but even that wasn’t good for head injuries. All the news recently about the damage to football players brain was very disturbing and she would never understand why that was still a sport kids were allowed to play.

    As for Penny she was just a tomboy, never interested in being ‘pretty in pink’ and really spent more time with John than Kathy … “Daddy’s little girl”. She wondered why she didn’t have a clearer picture of what they were doing everyday. It seemed really strange, she felt so out of touch with things because one rule they all pretty much abided by was dinner. They had family dinner at least 4 nights a week where they all ate at the dining table, no phones or distractions and talked to each other.

    The last meal she remembered was not the best, Buster was upset cause he’s approaching Junior high and Cub Football starts for those who aspired and the same old “why not”? the school says its okay…what’s wrong with you Mom?” from Buster … and then Penny burst into tears… stands up from the table and cry, “everyone is so obsessed about protecting Buster… but what about me … you don’t care what happens to me!” and runs out the front door, John went after her and Buster and I just looked at each other mouths agape.

    I did know what to do, I told Buster to get his coat and I got the car keys, John and Penny were on the front lawn still arguing, “Come on guys get in the car we’re going down to Smoothieville for some ice cream and shakes with lots of whipped cream”. The old family fixit, always worked whatever the problem, everyone getting ice cream usually ended up with laughter and the end of the tension. But this time John said, “you go, I need a break.”

    I remember the ride to Smoothieville, quiet no on talking and then Penny said, “Mom I need to tell you something about Dad.”

    My heart stopped I knew what it was going to be… Daddy’s Little Girl wasn’t so little anymore, my worst fears were coming to fruition. My hands tightened on the steering wheel… I looked at Penny in the rear view mirror, her eyes met mine and I knew … I looked back at the road as the gas tanker truck crossed through the intersection looming in our windshield before our car slammed into the middle of the tank.

    John opened the door and walked in, “hey babe how you doing today? I worked an extra shift and didn’t get by yesterday”.

    Kathy knew he wasn’t really interested as he turned his attention to Marsha who came into the room.

    “How’s she doing today?” he asked Marsha.

    “The usual a few groans and restless legs, but no move to consciousness” replied Marsha.

    John said with a sigh, “I almost hope she doesn’t come around, it’s been four years, she may never have to know the kids were killed instantly in the crash”.

    There was only silence in Kathy’s mind.

    Reply
    • April 12, 2021 at 4:54 pm
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      Sorry it’s late, I’ve been working on it but it’s one of those stories I didn’t know where it was going…but I didn’t want to not write something… I really enjoy this group and like to read the stories and comments… so have to do my part too.

      Reply
    • April 12, 2021 at 5:29 pm
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      Very well written Liz. I was curious, as I read it, and your reveals were satisfying. Well done!

      Reply
  • April 13, 2021 at 1:21 pm
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    Sorry!

    Reply
  • April 13, 2021 at 2:02 pm
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    Rumplefinkies- what a great story! You had me hanging on the narrator’s every word. It ended too soon for me, I wanted to read more…

    Reply
    • April 13, 2021 at 2:04 pm
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      THANK YOU!!!!
      It hurt, but I managed to cast this demon out!

      Reply
  • April 13, 2021 at 4:17 pm
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    I think I accidentally ate my story…

    Reply
  • April 13, 2021 at 4:44 pm
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    The Tale of Two Couples (1198)

    Harri ploughed deep into the frigidaire, digging his wiry, hairy hand inside, well past the leftover moussaka and halloumi, almost knocking down the bowl of pasta.

    Then got the scare of his life.

    Sitting at the very rear end of the frigidaire was none other than a Stevie Wonder mini lookalike. He heard the familiar drone:

    ‘Hellooo, is it me you’re looking for?
    ‘Cause I wonder where you are and I wonder what you do
    Are you somewhere feeling lonely or is someone loving you?’

    Into his dark hand, Stevie thrust a bottle of beer. Harri’s face broke into a smile as he kissed it with a passion known only to the bootle. The fifth one, this evening. Sallie had had enough of him for the day and retired early to bed. With her book. She needed no bottles to keep her chirpy.
    There was always a dignified distancing ‘tween them for peace sake.

    Caressing his bootle, Harri lay spreadeagled on the ol’ wooden chair, in the wide open patio, looking at the stars, wondering why each one was so distant from the other, alone in its aura.

    It’s the year 2025
    The tsunami that hit along with a hurricane, got the entire city close to being wiped out. Divine retribution?
    Some were picking up from the trash, while others were throwing out trash.

    The internet had removed any remaining trace of feeling or apathy from humans and each one lived for himself.

    You could get a gun wound just for looking different. Get ignored. Get sidelined. Strangely enough the human body had adapted itself to not getting bloodied by these wounds. A stronger leathery skin had woven itself around each person who had the luxury to massage himself with extra virgin coconut oil from Tuticorin.

    Evolution of sorts, you could call it.

    Tender loving care as in the times of GrandPere gen had completely disappeared.

    When little kids dined with their parents, both dada-mama were no longer sneaking peeks into their silly mobiles. Bejewelled phones were strapped right onto their eyes. So they’d stick an ipad in front of the little ‘brat’. They use this term a lot more for the babies they brought into the world, that’s if they ever vocalised.
    The restaurants were filled with people talking without speaking.
    People hearing without listening
    People writing songs that voices never share
    And no one dared
    Disturb the sound of silence.
    (Simon, did you foresee? Garfunkel, did you know?)

    Everybody lived a life devoid of emotion, motion, gumption, or attraction but made sure to massage with lotion each night. There was turtle collagen for tighter skin. Pumpkin mousse for curves. The lips pouted real big, and everything else on the body took on an added curve.
    Even the ears.

    Crafty ol’ Harri knew it was going to get worse and he sniffed money.
    That’s how he chanced upon a brilliant idea to give the world what it needed most.
    LOVE POTIONS.
    The desperate need of the day.
    A super juice to raise the heart’s temperature to get folks more aware of one another.
    It involved the mixing and mashing together of beets, ashwagandha, lemon, turmeric, ginger and pavakka. The last had a bitter twist and mixed together created a very special drink.
    Honey made by special alpine bees was added to give a sweet kickass kinda feeling.

    Upon drinking a quarter cup, eyebrows would naturally go up with immediate effect causing the perfect curve on either side of their eyeballs. A feeling of extreme satisfaction better than any glass of whiskey or beer.

    However there was a statutory warning:
    Couples must drink this together, being of one mind.
    Risky if taken separately.

    A solo drinker was likely to go off on a fiery tangent leaving the non-drinking spouse in the most blasé of moods where the things of the world would go strangely dim. Into a mind numbing silence.

    Each time Harri thought of quitting the race, he drank a dollop of juice all BY HIMSELF!

    It made him dance.

    “I know, I know, I know,”…he’d start singing.
    “What do you know that I don’t?” asked Sallie
    “You CAN’T know because you listen to crap. You can never be like me, I am scientific. I read Saaiyeence.”
    ‘O yes, for sure’ screamed Sallie’s silent undertone.

    Harri was getting used to being mean in his old age. His wife was getting closer to the Heavenly Father instead of him. Since he couldn’t quite get her gist, it got his goat.

    The reality wasn’t unusual. It was happening in many homes. You’d see one spouse clinging to the Lord, leaving the other all knotted up at the unholy end. An eerie harsh silence therefore ensued from both. The thoughts that criss crossed the minds could be turned into a voluminous saga. Some wives knitted, some crocheted, some painted, or talked to their scarves or their dogs.
    Even to their plants.

    An Egyptian fly had found its way into the pantry. Sallie smashed it into silence. If there was a lockdown all over the city, why not kill the flies and moths too? Why should they be allowed to wander free?
    When was the scenario going to change? It was five years since that lousy covid had struck the globe and nobody really cared for the 25th variant.

    Across the road, at the Tomaz household, it was time for Myla to go to the beach to meditate. Her class was to start in an hour. It was called Maun hour- The Hour of Silence.

    Silence? What is that word again?
    What is a noisy, roaring, rumbling, tumbling, bustling, turbulent city to do with silence? That’s how her class got filled up with fancy women doing the mountain pose on the beach. Different, but serene.

    Myla had retired from active counselling service. Free at last from the clatter, the incessant anguish of PTSD tales, and excessive documentation of inane details. The time when she took off to the beach became the precious hour for ol’ Tomaz who could find no more hiding places in the home where he wouldn’t hear her stentorious laughter.

    His idea of profound repose and relaxation came from the vortex of the great money whirlpool, having been a financier all his life. Therein he found his mantra.

    Whenever she talked, Tom Tomaz crossed his palms over his lips like an X. How well he knew the verse in Ecclesiastes: The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.

    “Ever since she is home, retired, my hands are over my lips. It makes sense not to speak. A fool lets fly with his temper, but a wise man keeps it back.” Nearing 77, peace was all he desired.

    Myla didn’t mind his words. He still loved her, needed her. For her, love covered a multitude of sins.

    Which wise guy said this? Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.
    I don’t want to belong to the second half.
    I should stop.

    Reply
    • April 13, 2021 at 5:28 pm
      Permalink

      Marien you have such a way with words. Your story reminded me of dreaming….

      Reply
  • April 13, 2021 at 7:27 pm
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    To everything there is a season
    by Robt. Emmett

    There comes a time for all things to fall silent. She was a significant influence on me all during my eight years in elementary school. I’ll let her tell her story.
    ~*~

    “Hello. I’m one of the hidden streams of Duluth’s Hillside. People call me Grey’s Creek, although I really don’t know why. I suppose some family named Grey lived close to me for a while, but I don’t remember them. Instead, I’d really rather be named for something that reflects my personality … perhaps I could be called the Little Water. I’m a lot smaller than my neighbors, Chester and Brewery Creeks. I only have about sixty acres of land from which to collect my water. I flow through the East Hillside neighborhood, carrying rainwater from the Summit School hilltop, past the Peace Church and Grant School, and down the hill between eighth and ninth Avenues East all the way to Lake Superior.
    “Like all the streams in the Hillside, I flowed free until about 140 years ago, when people built a city right here. It wasn’t long before they started to hide parts of me away in underground culverts from my mouth at Lake Superior all the way to 4th Street. I didn’t complain. The buildings that were put on top of me were mostly houses and apartments for the city’s working folks. Those folks were a lot like me … hard-working, minded their own business, and just wanted to make Duluth a beautiful place to live.
    “Because I don’t have any waterfalls or high rocky cliffs, no one ever built any big fancy parks along my banks. However, for the same reasons, short stretches of me were left open here and there. It was just a few years ago, in 2002, that one of my most beautiful open sections, right below East 6th Street, was put into a culvert and disappeared. But I still flow free in several places. My eastern branch flows along Kenwood Avenue from Partridge Street to Skyline Parkway and then down a steep hill to the Grant Recreation Area. My western branch can be seen in a few spots near 9th Avenue East from Skyline Parkway to the Recreation Area. These two branches join to flow through a beautiful half-block stretch right across the street from Grant School. Then it’s underground to the alley below 10th Street, where I get another half-block of freedom. I cross under East 9th Street near Foreign Affairs, flow free to 8th Street, and catch my last glimpse of daylight near 7th Street and 8th Avenue East. After that, it’s dark, cold culverts the rest of the way to the lake.
    “A few of the folks who live near me enjoy having me for a neighbor, and they’ve built decks and porches so they can sit outside and listen to the sound of my water flowing gently down the hill. In other places, I’m taken for granted and used as a dumping ground for grass clippings, branches, and trash.
    “But now and then, people in the neighborhood rediscover me and clean up the trash. This happened on a sunny day in May, twenty-eight years ago, when some lovely young neighborhood kids organized a cleanup along my free-flowing section near Grant School. About a dozen people showed up and hauled away lots of stuff that otherwise might have ended up in Lake Superior.
    “It’s great when people come to visit me and help take care of me. After all, that’s what neighbors are for. I like the neighborhoods that grew up around me, and I tried to do my part by carrying water down the hill to Lake Superior. So next time you’re in the East Hillside, be sure to stop by and see what I’m doing. But you must hurry. I will see the autumn colors for the last time this fall. The final 180 feet of my ‘open to the stars run’ will be encased in a culvert before the snowfalls.
    “Remember me as Little Water instead of Grey’s Creek!”
    — ℜ —

    Reply
    • April 13, 2021 at 7:55 pm
      Permalink

      Robert- what a lovely ode to environmentalism-

      Reply
  • April 13, 2021 at 7:28 pm
    Permalink

    Silent Treatment
    By roy York
    1043 words

    The last remaining tendrils of his dream were slowly dissolving. Desperately, he tried to cling to them – grasping at them with his mind. Elusively, as all dreams do, they slid away. Awareness began to envelop him as he felt the ceiling fan’s gentle breeze on his forehead.

    It was still dark and he had no idea what time it was. Gordon Booth slowly opened one eye and saw the illuminated numbers on the clock by his bedside – 5:17. ‘Damn,’ he thought, ‘too early to get up, and probably too late to get back to sleep.’

    He lay without moving, sensing something was going on, something he couldn’t quite put together in his mind, and wondered why he felt so strange. Perhaps his dream had been unsettling. The fogginess of sleep was still clouding his thought processes.

    He was aware of his wife, Shirley, laying next to him, warming his left side. He loved the feeling and sense of security her presence brought to him each morning. He noticed she wasn’t moving and he couldn’t hear her breathe.

    He reached over with his right hand and pressed his hand gently on her rib cage where he felt the slow and gentle fall of her breathing. Satisfied everything was as it should be, he slid his hand over farther and pulled himself closer to her satisfying his need to hold her close, breathing in the smell of her which he loved.

    Everything is right with the world. Or, is it? A nagging thought nibbled in the corner of his mind. Something was gently but urgently, telling him something was different this morning. Warm satisfaction grew as he realized his tinnitus, that constant and persistent roar, whistling in his ears – sometimes so severe he could barely stand it – was gone.

    The thought startled him. Then, he also realized he couldn’t hear the gentle, but ever present whirr of the fan blades he could see turning.

    He raised himself to a sitting position on the side of the bed. Sticking his index fingers into each ear he twisted them back and forth and pulled them out. He felt them, but heard no sound. He stood up and walked into the bathroom and flipped the light switch. The light came on, but there was no accompanying click.

    Impulsively, he reached over and flushed the toilet. He watched the water swirl around in the bowl without hearing sound. He looked into the mirror and saw the look of disbelief on his face. He cleared his throat, again without hearing a single sound. Looking deep into his own reflection, Gordon Booth realized he was deaf. Not just deaf, but profoundly deaf, suddenly, as if he’d been disconnected from the universe.

    He called out to his wife, Shirley, and in his reflection he could see his lips move, but heard absolutely nothing. The absence of sound was almost overwhelming. He called out his wife’s name again, louder – he thought – and turned toward the door.

    He could see her getting out of bed, as she rushed toward him, her lips moving. He could tell by the look of concern on her face she knew something was wrong. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

    “I can’t hear you,” he said. “I can’t hear any sounds. I am totally and completely deaf.”

    “Gordon,” she said, “are you sure? You’re telling me you’re deaf?” He looked at her helplessly and shrugged his shoulders.

    “I have no idea what you just said to me,” he said. “Wait a minute. I’ll be right back.” He quickly walked into their office and grabbed a pen and pad from the desk. When he returned he handed it to her and said, “Here. Write down what you are saying. I can’t hear any thing.”

    She wrote, DO YOU WANT ME TO CALL 911?

    He looked at her in disbelief. “No,” he said, knowing she could hear him.

    DON’T TALK SO LOUD, she wrote.

    He almost smiled. He took the urgency out of his voice and said, “Is this better?”

    She nodded her head. LET ME MAKE SOME COFFEE. WE NEED TO GET YOU TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM. YOU GET DRESSED.

    He grabbed her hand. “Make the coffee,” he said, “but first, before any emergency room, I’m going to do some research. Then we’ll decide.”

    A few minutes later, with his coffee in hand, he sat down at the dining room table with Shirley. “It’s called SSHL. Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss. It may be temporary but, there’s a greater chance it could be permanent, according to what I’ve read. So, I think I should make an appointment with Dr. Davison first, and then get his recommendation as to how to proceed.”

    * * * * *

    Gordon was sitting on the couch watching the golf match when Shirley walked into the room and sat next to him. She held out a glass of wine in front of him getting his attention.

    “Thanks,” he said.

    She sat down next to him and picked up her pad. IT’S BEEN 3 MONTHS. HAVE YOU NOTICED ANYTHING?

    “Other than the fact you’re more beautiful now than when I married you, no,” he said.

    She laughed and playfully hit him on the shoulder. She wrote DO WE HAVE TO WATCH GOLF? I CAN THINK OF OTHER THINGS WE CAN DO.

    “Like what?” he asked. From the moment he had been afflicted with his sudden deafness, Shirley had been far more attentive than she had ever been. He was truly enjoying it, perhaps more than he should.

    She wrote, YOU CAN HELP ME MAKE THE BED.

    “I made it a little while ago.”

    She stood up and tossed her head in the direction of the bedroom as if saying, “come on”. THEN YOU CAN HELP ME MESS IT UP, she wrote. She tossed the pad on the coffee table. She started to unbutton her blouse.

    “Can I bring the wine?” he said as he stood up and, using the remote, clicked off the TV..

    She grabbed her glass and, gently pulling him toward her, kissed him
    sensuously on the lips. He kissed back with a bit more passion.

    With her leading the way as they walked toward the bedroom, he thought to himself, “How and when am I going to tell her I can hear again?”

    Reply
    • April 13, 2021 at 7:59 pm
      Permalink

      Roy- I was riding along with your story, really hanging on the poor narrator’s dilemma, and I absolutely did not envision the end. Loved it!

      Reply

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