May 19 – June 1, 2022 Image Writing Prompt “Truth lies just beneath the surface”
Theme: Image Writing Prompt “truth lies just beneath the surface“
Many writers draw their inspiration from art or images. There are so many stories that could be told from one detailed picture.
Use this image as inspiration for your story, it can be the image as a whole, a single part of it, or several elements inside the image itself.
Word Count: 1,200
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62 thoughts on “May 19 – June 1, 2022 Image Writing Prompt “Truth lies just beneath the surface””
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That’s a fab picture. Hope I can do it justice.
Just searching for my thinking cap and stirring the pot of creativity.
He didn’t hear at first, hunched over the campfire. All those years of searching … It seemed as if the earth had swallowed his brothers whole. He was so, so tired.
The voice came from the direction of a small forest pool, which Dragan had dismissed as too brackish to drink from. He turned around – and found himself face to face with Nyssa.
She gazed from the pool, wet dark hair fanning out on the water’s surface. Nyssa looked barely older than the last time he’d seen her, a good decade ago. Dragan’s eyes were drawn to the bottomless dark eyes and sensuous red lips he’d first fallen in love with.
“N-n-nyssa … how? …” he stammered.
“Good to see you again,” the corners of her lips turned up.
He remembered her smiles, her infectious laugh, covert looks shot from under thick eyelashes. Another memory surfaced: the first time he’d seen the longing in his brother Zaffir’s eyes when he looked at Nyssa.
“Why are you here?”
When Nyssa had vanished, rumours flew: she’d been lured to her doom by forest spirits; run afoul of bandits; fallen into a bear trap; gone to the big city with a passing nobleman’s son … When months passed with no word of her fate, Zaffir left to search for her. Dragan recalled his middle brother’s feverish eyes, the anguish in his voice. Two years later, Branco, their baby brother, left to search for Zaffir, and all their parents’ pleas were in vain.
… And now Nyssa was alive and well, bathing in the middle of a godforsaken forest pool.
“I … eloped with your brother,” she replied after a brief pause.
“But why??? Didn’t he tell you?” exclaimed Dragan, baffled. “I agreed to step aside for him. You could marry whenever you wanted …”
“We didn’t want to wait through a year of betrothal,” Nyssa said coyly.
“Why didn’t you send word? Everyone was mad with worry!”
“Well … lots of things … happened … Come home with me,” she continued with excitement, “Zaffir and I will tell you everything.”
Dragan couldn’t believe it. He was going to see his brother again! … Something felt a little off, though he couldn’t say what.
“Have you seen Branco over the years?” he asked.
“No,” Nyssa frowned slightly, “he never came by. Is he well?”
Dragan stared back, at a loss how to respond, and their eyes met. Nyssa looked cool and inviting, like the water surrounding her. Her naked shoulders were white as the first snow. The murky water preserved her modesty. He wanted nothing more than to strip off and jump into the pool with her … What was wrong with him? She was his brother’s wife!
“Let’s get to your house,” he said awkwardly. “I can’t wait to see my brother, and to hear what happened to you.” Of course, he realised – she was embarrassed to get out in front of him. What a fool he was! “I’ll … pass you your dress,” he made for a flash of red nestled among the roots of an old oak close to the pool’s edge, “and … turn around for you to get dressed.”
The red cloth fell apart in Dragan’s hands. Apart from the one bright piece, the colour had faded on the rest of the scraps, making them blend with the undergrowth. As Dragan, uncomprehending, tried to put the pieces together, something pricked his finger: a tarnished cloak clasp shaped like a falcon. Zaffir had fallen in love with that ridiculous red cloak and its falcon clasp the moment he spotted it in the travelling peddler’s cart. He’d worn it every chance he got, not minding the villagers’ snickers that he looked like a popinjay.
“… Dragan, my leg got stuck underwater,” Nyssa’s voice reached his ears. “Will you help me free it?”
He whirled around, still clutching the scraps of red cloth – and Nyssa latched onto his forearms and pulled with inhuman strength.
By pure instinct, Dragan’s feet found purchase in the oak roots, and he pulled the other way with all his strength. His muscles screamed with strain as Nyssa pulled him harder towards the water. For an eternity, they struggled in a desperate tug of war. Dragan heaved with his last strength, and Nyssa came out of the water up to her waist. What should have been her waist: instead of the body he’d dreamed of as a lad, there were only bones covered with thick black ooze below the smooth white shoulders. The thing with Nyssa’s face strove to pull him in. Dragan heaved with a desperate effort born of terror, and the thing was finally out of the water completely. In the same instant, the beautiful face, shoulders and arms turned into ooze-covered bones. Dragan flung the thing away with revulsion. It hit the ground and flopped obscenely, like a gigantic fish, striving to get back to the water. Dragan backed off frantically, and almost stepped into the fire he’d lit. Shoving a long branch into the flames, he thrust it at the bones. The flame caught, and with an unearthly screech the bones jumped this way and that, as if attempting to escape a fire that consumed them like dry firewood.
Finally the screeching stopped, and only a pile of scorched bones lay unmoving on the ground. A movement in the water caught Dragan’s eye; he tensed, but only a large fat fish swam past, whiskers trailing and tail swishing lazily. The murk in the water dissipated momentarily, and Dragan saw bones gleaming underneath, too many for one man. He cast a glance back at the scorched bones to make sure they weren’t moving, and started thinking how to give his brother a proper burial.
“Come on big brother,” he heard a mirthful voice, “don’t leave just yet, jump in!”
Zaffir was waving to him from the water, narrow face sporting a huge grin. He hadn’t looked so carefree since before Nyssa had come between them.
Dragan had never run from a foe, be it marauding nomadic raiders or an enraged bear. Now, he reeled and stumbled blindly towards his horse.
“Hey big brother,” Branco’s excited voice called out, “Come and see what I found!”
Dragan spurred the horse on as it flew along the forest path, heart thundering in his ears. The voices followed him far into the darkening forest.
I loved your use of the prompt and I think there is a story to continue here. Loved your dialogue and descriptive imagery. I have an idea but not using the picture so much and hope I can get time to write it all out.
Good luck with the job application! Hope you get it and find a huge gold nugget in your spare time, which will leave you free to write as much as you like.
Great start! Your story matches the image perfectly and the imagery in your words was spot on! I wondered why the characters were so happy to be entombed in this murky lake. I’m still trying to flesh my story out, so to speak, since most of the creatures beneath the waters are bones. LOL You’ve set the bar for the rest of us!
This is a beautifully written and created story. You could not have followed the prompt more closely. You paint a great picture with your words and the story is full of mystery and legend. I can imagine that in some culture, somewhere in the world, this is the story told in whispers around a camp fire, down through the generations whilst little children cling to their mothers’ legs, fearful yet comforted by the presence of loved ones.
Some lovely creative sentences that ring true.
Nice writing Vikki.
Only part I didn’t get was about a decent burial of his brothers bones as, at that point in the story, the creature was Nyssa. I hope I didn’t miss something crucial.
I used to tell scary stories after lights-out in summer camps in my distant childhood – a sort of pre-technology “oral tradition” equivalent of “creepypasta”. 🙂
I mentioned in the story that there were too many bones in the pool to be one person, and Dragan found the remnants of one of his missing brothers’ cloak nearby. I tried to convey the idea that the monster/s in the pool can take the form of any past victim/s, although perhaps it isn’t entierly clear.
An excellent version or the whole “water temptress” archetype and a creepy fantasy/horror story!
The Ninth Wave by Kristin Record
“We’ve all heard the myth, some of us have chased the legend, the rare have felt the wrath of her ninth wave.”
This is how Ol’ Crazy Lou always begins this story. Chortles echo from various corners of the tavern, a few complaints of “Here we go again” and one loud cat call of, “Who are the rare ones, Lou?”
Lou gives a grim, toothless smile, his ruddy cheeks darkening with the attention of an audience.
“No one knows who the rare ones are exactly, as she leaves no survivors” Lou takes a long sip from a dark beer, “At least not usually.”
Groans and some nervous laughter, Lou knows he’s captured the room. He weaves his tale with the ease of a seasoned storyteller. In a shadowy corner someone plucks a lute, its gentle thrum enhancing the gravel in Lou’s voice.
“She was beyond beautiful, in the way only a true Goddess could be. Her hair the color of spun gold and her eyes,” Lou pauses, widens his eyes and bats his dirty lashes. “Her eyes were the color of a cruel ocean storm.”
“She belonged to the otherworld, hidden beyond the depth of the sea, a world where beautiful women are ageless and brightly painted birds can heal the sick.”
“Birds in the ocean? Under the water? You are really crazy Lou!”
Lou’s eyes narrow to find the heckler from the crowd, “I said beyond the sea, the otherworld, keep up here Charles. The fate of our excursion depends on it.”
“Aye!” a chant all at once, fast and sudden then the room silent again as Lou and the lute carried on.
“He was a sailor, an adventurer such as ourselves. The stars designated the meeting of this mortal man and immortal Goddess, and it was the proverbial love at first sight”
Some hoots and whistles from the crowd, Lou winks.
“Love, that was her first mistake. Choosing the live her life with the mortal man would be her fatal one.”
Lou’s chin dips in a moment of grief, he sips his beer and shakes his head.
“She chose him over immortality, she chose him over the magic of the otherworld, she chose him over her family.” Lous hands caressed the glass in his hand, his fingers tracing the condensation pooling at the rim.
“Oh, it was such a love! The two were inseparable on earth. Enjoying their moments of bliss while those in the underworld plotted against them.”
The door to the tavern opened with a hollow thud, the lute silenced and all eyes focused on the figure in the entrance.
‘We are almost ready lads! The moon is high and the waves are sure to be rolling in soon!” says a small man with frizzled hair and hooded eyes, he bounces on the balls of his feet.
Lou nods to him and then gives a grim smile as he returns his focus to the crowd.
“While he hunted, she gathered. She walked along the shoreline collecting shells and precious stones. She would wait for him to return with her toes in the water and watching the glittery waves dance with the sun.”
The lute began to play a slow tune that almost mimicked the incoming waves. A nervous energy began exploring the throngs of men. Lou refilled his glass.
“One evening, the Goddess was bathing in the sun when a melodic tune filled the void between her and the sea, she closed her eyes and swayed to the rhythmic beat. Waves began to crash around her. She danced deeper into the water, her body a full convulsion with the music. Five waves and then six, each getting larger and more ferocious than the next.”
The tavern was silent except for shallow breathing, no more jests or jeering. Each man was gripped by Lou’s tale.
“On the ninth wave, the world roared. A sound so loud that stars fell from the sky. The wave took the Goddess captive, tethering her to the sea forever. It is a cruel twist of fate to drown a Goddess of the sea and enough to break a heart eternally.”
The man in the doorway shifted his weight, “The third wave has crashed, it’s time to go.” he darted out the door and Lou drained his glass. Using a hand to wipe the froth from his lips, he stood from his seat.
“Yes, we all know the legend and why we tell this tale before every adventure. The Goddess will find and kill you, drag you to the depth with her. She will drown you before you reach the glory of your destination. She will take out a fleet and devour the bones of your men.”
From outside the door a voice cried, “Wave five, we need to go Lou!”
Lou shuffled his feet, from the table he pulled a handful of sticks and held them out to the men.
“Draw your sticks men, may the shortest stick shed light on our offering to her.”
The men gather around, each pulling a stick from Lou’s grasp. A tense pause, the men waiting to see who indeed had pulled the shortest one.
Lou’s face paled. In his hand was a small, stumpy twig.
“Wave seven, we have our offering, sorry Lou.”
Two larger men grabbed Lou and went to bind his hands.
“No,” Lou shook them off. “I do this willingly, I am prepared to offer myself to her, I am prepared to secure the safety of your voyage.”
Lou’s back bolted straight as an arrow as he walked out of the tavern and down the narrow path. He stood at the edge of the moonlit beach as wave seven hit his legs. He teetered then and reassured his footing.
“Goddess Cliodhna, I offer myself to you as payment that these men may cross your sea.” Lou bows his head as wave eight crashed into his waist dropping him to his knees. With a gut-wrenching sob, Lou screams into the sea, “Take me to the otherworld, take me with you into the sea, take m-”
The ninth wave bellows as it raises above Lou, the sky lights up with an electric blue hue and the deafening crack of either thunder or perhaps Lou’s bones.
The wind gives a satisfied sigh and the sea rolls back into a calm pool of black ink. The men stare in silence until one voice breaks through the moment.
“Crazy Ol Lou, now who is going to tell the story?”
“I will.” a voice as pure as glass. The men watch as the lute player removes her hooded cloak, before them a Goddess with hair the color of spun gold and eyes the color of a cruel ocean storm.
– This is the final recounts from the ships crew of the O’Gladys – The ship that never set sail
I really enjoyed this story. I especially liked the storytelling in the pub. It’s just how I imagined it would be. There’s a wonderful book I have read called “Once upon a river” by Diane Setterfield. It’s about the River Thames near its origins and all the pubs along its route, each famed for a different thing, but one is the storytelling pub. You created that same warm fug that you get in pubs and old time ale houses as men gathered round to hear a yarn.
Great writing, Kristin.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a prince. He was your standard fairy-tale prince really: tall, handsome, well-built. The only thing that wasn’t perhaps perfect about him was his prematurely greying hair. Though some liked it (“It gives him a distinguished air”, they would say), others thought it made him look much older than his 25 years. And there was the rub: princesses that were potential brides were scared off (“Urgh! He’s so old!” they would squeal). This in turn worried the poor prince, turning his hair – yes, you’ve guessed it – greyer still! It was a classic vicious circle.
And I’ll tell you what else was vicious: the way his mum and dad – sorry, the King and Queen – treated him. It was a poor kingdom and the royal couple were dead keen to get their hands on a dowry through their only son; this grey-hair business was putting the mockers on that. Of course, we today would have an easy solution: nip down the shops and buy some hair dye. But they had neither shops nor indeed hair dye in those days, so the prince was saddled with his burden. Thus he took much physical and verbal abuse from his … from the King and Queen, and for something that was really not his fault, after all.
Another problem he was facing was that his libido was off the charts. He did the normal thing any young, single man does in a situation like that, but after a while that became somewhat samey (as any young, single man will know). And so he cast his eye around and it (well, both of them, actually) alighted on one of his mother’s ladies-in-waiting. “Waiting for what?” you may ask. Well, the prince, obviously.
Gloria, for that was her name, was … well … glorious, with pearl-white skin and ebony hair – a veritable piano concerto of prettiness. After weeks of exchanging meaningful glances – meaning “I want you!” – they literally bumped into each other one morning in one of the palace’s winding corridors. The prince stuttered his apologies, the lady blushed, and before you could say ‘palace nooky’, they were at it in a convenient alcove.
Over the following days, weeks and months, the two lovestruck lovers found every excuse to be alone and sate their appetites. If the prince could have married Gloria, he would have – she was everything he’d always dreamed of in a woman, and then some. The problem remained of the dowry, though, which the lady-in-waiting could not command. The King and Queen continued to search for a suitable bride for their son, their efforts always banjaxed by the hair question.
Until one day when a princess from a distant kingdom was presented at court. Ederra was quite different from Gloria, with olive skin, fair hair and green eyes – in short: a beauty. The prince was smitten at first glance. But what, you may be wondering, of the grey-hair question? Well, those green eyes were not only exquisite but also entirely daltonic, so that Ederra saw not grey hair but blonde. And as all the prince’s other bits were elevens to her mind, she was well up for marriage and declared exactly that.
Once the King and Queen had picked themselves up off the floor, they immediately started chattering to each other about plans for the wedding, anxious to push it through sharpish before Ederra could change her mind. From the prince’s perspective, a problem remained, however: what to do about Gloria. The ethics of dumping his lover occupied his thinking for all of a minute while he sized up this new vision of loveliness standing in front of him, flashing her eyelashes seductively.
So we now see what kind of man this prince was: someone you couldn’t trust as far as you could throw him. He still had to deal with the Gloria issue, though, and discreetly: he imagined that she would go ballistic – or the ancient equivalent – at the news.
Gloria hadn’t been in court for the presentation of Ederra; since they’d been lovers, the prince had insisted she be absent from any such presentation to save her blushes. He sought her out in her quarters and invited her to go for a walk, which she did, of course, agree to; she knew what ‘a walk’ meant, and it had been days without.
They stole out through the back door of the castle, lest anyone see them, and down a path leading away into the countryside. It was much too exposed to do any dallying so Gloria was quite amenable to the prince’s suggestion of cutting off through the undergrowth to find a more secluded spot.
They stopped beside a picturesque lake and went at it – Gloria imagining it was just one more thrilling episode on their romantic journey, the prince knowing it was the last. Once they were done, they lay on the bank of the lake – Gloria in all her naked glory, the prince fully clothed, as was his habit – watching fluffy clouds scud past above. Gloria sighed with satisfaction, the prince with something else, saying:
“My darling, the King and Queen have found me a bride.”
Gloria almost choked at the news. When her coughing fit was over, the prince held her hand tightly.
“I cannot let this happen, my love,” he said. “How could I wed another with you in the world?”
“But what can we do?” asked Gloria, half a sob in her throat.
“I propose …” the prince began, pausing to give the appearance of care. “I propose that we make a pact.”
“What kind of pact?” Gloria asked innocently.
“A … a … (more pausing for effect) … a suicide pact.”
Gloria gasped and looked deep into her lover’s eyes. The prince was a great actor, and all she saw there was sincerity and sorrow.
“But … how can we–” she began.
“The lake!” said the prince, rather too enthusiastically. Gloria didn’t seem to notice.
“You mean drown ourselves?”
“No. Do you not know of this lake, my sweet? Its name is Lake Azidoa.”
With that he took a small stick and tossed it into the lake, where it fizzled until it was dissolved.
“Acid!” Gloria observed in wonderment.
The prince nodded.
“Shall we jump in together, my dearest?” Gloria whispered.
“No,” said the prince carefully. “I shall first lower you in, so that my eyes can assuage your pain. Then I shall follow.”
And so it was, Gloria smiling all the while, the love she read in the prince’s gaze making the intense pain of her final moments bearable. He certainly was a very good actor.
When Gloria had stopped fizzling and was nought but a set of bones sinking to the bottom of the lake, the prince turned and hurried back to the castle, wondering where Ederra stood on the question of pre-marital relations.
Great, just great!
I love the tongue in cheek style of this piece of writing. You hit the prompt head-on and I can see the prince holding Gloria as he lowers her into the acid. What a bastard, eh?
Lots of quips and comedy lines to make the reader laugh as you unravel the dastardly prince’s dirty deed.
Super stuff, Phil.
I have a story percolating….
I’m at about 600 words and had to step away before it took on too much life of it’s own!
So I’m just honestly surprised.
By Ken Cartisano
Mr. Scheer, a professor of archaeology, was waiting for them in his office: Three padded chairs, a cluttered desk, lots of books. He had a paper cup in front of him half-full of black coffee.
At first glance he seemed feeble, but it was fatigue and poor lighting more than anything. Detective Verano had already spoken to the professor twice before and introduced them. “This is my partner, Detective Jay Arkin, this is professor Martin Scheer, Director of Archaeology at New Mexico State.”
The two men shook hands.
“The mother of one of your graduate students called us. Then we spoke with the University President.”
“And now you wish to speak with me,” the professor said.
“If you don’t mind.” The detective said, and continued without waiting for a response. “Archaeology,” Arkin said, “is the study of?”
“People. Human history and pre-history.”
“And you do this by…”
“Digging in the dirt.”
“So, what happened, Mr. Scheer?”
The professor began by taking his glasses off and cleaning them. “It was just the three of us on the site. It’s been my practice to precede the main cohort of an archaeological dig by at least a few weeks, to secure certain areas of the site before they get trampled, or destroyed.”
Arkin interrupted. “Most of these things are bones, or stones, or fragments, how could they be destroyed? Especially if they’re already tens of thousands of years old?”
“The destruction I speak of happens to the site, not the bones or tools, detective.” The professor replied. “As much or more can be learned about an ancient culture by where the artifact is lying, what’s above it and below it, than the artifact itself. It’s true, a great deal can be learned from the artifacts, but much of what we learn is based on relating the object to its surroundings. If you will.”
“Okay,” Arkin said, “so there were just three of you on the site, then?”
The professor nodded.
“Is it a remote site?”
The professor nodded again. “Fairly.”
“Okay, so what was so special about the site itself?”
“I don’t know.” The professor admitted. “It’s a verified kill site. We’re not sure why they exist, or even what they were used for.”
“It sounds fairly obvious to me…”
“No, no.” The professor interjected. “Don’t jump to conclusions, Detective. ‘Kill Sites’ is a misnomer. There’s no certainty as to what was done at them, and killing isn’t likely since they rarely contain any bones.”
Arkin said, “Okay, let’s stick with your kill site then. Do you know what was being done at your site?”
“Right,” the professor cleared his throat. “This site is unusual in two ways. First, well first, as I said, most kill sites don’t contain bones. Most of them contain tools, weapons, stone points. No bones.”
“Is that right?” Arkin said.
“This site, however, has an abundance of bones, Detective. An abundance of bones.”
“Human bones, professor?”
The professor smiled. “Yes, and animal bones. That’s the second unusual feature of this site. Not just animal bones, as one would expect, but early human bones. Thousands of them, it’s incredible.”
“Why is that incredible?” The detective asked.
The professor chose his words with care. “Well, first of all, this was not a cemetery. Every living thing that died here was alive when it arrived. Second point, it’s unique. This is not like any other kill site we’ve ever discovered, but even more peculiar is the notion that something had to draw all these creatures here, you see. Something odd, or intriguing, to animals and humans alike. And then, whatever it was, it kept them there until they died.”
Detective Arkin frowned. “You mean it ate them.”
“No. Your quite perceptive, Detective. No. It didn’t eat them. I’m not sure it even killed them.”
“Why do you say that?”
“There are no marks on the bones, none of them, I mean, except for a few incidental marks from…”
Detective Arkin said, “…from being a million years old.”
“Is this something like the La Brea tar pits?”
“Well…” The professor tilted his head. “Yes, except there were no tar pits anywhere near here. Or the site, I mean.”
“Ever?” Detective Arkin rubbed his chin while the professor shook his head. “No tar pits. Well, —how, or what, what trapped all of these animals?”
“And early hominids?” The professor added. “I haven’t the faintest clue. And even more baffling, what attracted them in the first place?”
Detective Arkin sat up in his chair, asked his partner for the file, and said, “Where’s the homicide here?”
His partner gestured for the professor to continue.
“I arrived with two interns, detective. Two highly motivated, capable and outstanding graduate students that were virtually handpicked by me to help me pre-sort the site.”
“And?” The detective queried.
“And now I only have one. The other has gone missing.”
“This is a missing-persons report, not a murder.”
“Well—” Detective Verano said.
The professor opened his mouth and then closed it.
Neither man met his gaze. “What is it? Is there a body?”
“Well, more like remains,” the professor said, “which we put through a thorough forensic analysis.”
“The University did, I don’t do forensics myself, Detective.”
“Let me get this straight, you unearthed the remains of your graduate student,” he opened the folder and read the man’s name, “…thinking he was part of the site. His bones were in with all the other bones, so…”
“In situ,” the professor stipulated.
“In situ? How is that possible?”
His partner finally erupted. “It’s not, Arkin. It’s not possible, and what’s worse, they did a Carbon-14 test on John Doe’s bones. He’s a million years old. His bones are a million years old.”
“That’s not possible, if he died three weeks ago,” Arkin said. “How could you have a positive I.D. on a million-year-old…”
His partner pointed at the folder. “Dental. Teeth. His skull had modern teeth, cavities, and an intact filling.”
All three men were silent, until Arkin said, “So whatever it is that pulls things in, is still pulling things in. And keeping them.”
“I hate to say it” the professor added, “but it appears to be sending them back in time, as well.”
So, if you’re ever out on highway 343, heading north out of town, just past the second overpass, if you look to your left, up on a bushy, overgrown hill, you’ll see where they erected a 4-acre cage in the middle of nowhere. They never figured out what it was, or how it works, so they just keep everyone and everything out.
This is an intriguing story, almost like a lecture on modern archeology for the uninitiated with illuminating dialogue.
It works well as a story and the characters are pretty well drawn which is never easy with a short story.
You leave us all with an unsolved mystery to solve in any way we feel works.
I felt a little let down by the final paragraph. It was as if you couldn’t figure out what happened either.
One quibble that I don’t think will necessarily matter is that one of the requirements was “water.” although you did call the story “Dead Pool.” so perhaps that’s it.
No quibbles at all with the grammar and all that stuff. I didn’t see any issues on first reading and I am not going to go looking for any.( except for “your (you’re) quite perceptive, detective”) oops sorry, I found one!!
Good to see you back, my fellow Ken.
As to your other points, I was going to render an image of a wet, swampy environment. (One line.) And I forgot to stitch that in there.
As for the ending, well, it could easily lead to Chapter 2. Chapter 2 would start like this. After nearly a century of forced dormancy, the property had found its way into the hands of the county’s most ambitious developer. He takes down the cage, sends some heavy equipment in… and that’s when the fun begins.
I didn’t notice that water was even required, but your title signalled that water was present (at some point). I was imagining creatures and humans falling into a pool and getting sucked towards the same spot by a current or a magical force, but that was just from the title and the presence of an archaeological dig team (it changed once I started actually reading lol).
A very clear story with believable characters and dialogue. Be proud!
Charley suddenly woke up with a start and a sense of horror. He vividly remembered the fascinating scenes from the dream. How the young lad was avidly glancing at the graceful beauty on the lake surface with eyes full of tender love and longing. The lass seemed to be reciprocating the feelings in full measures.
Suddenly Charley’s glance had gone below the water surface. That was when he saw the gruesome image of the skeleton instead of flesh beneath. This had caused him to wake up trembling with fear and sweating profusely.
Since he was already late for work, he completed all his morning chores quickly, got ready and took off in his car to work. He was a dredger operator by profession and presently working in the lake to dredge up the Mustang that had sunk the previous day quite easily. Once the car was restored to the authorities, without a conscious thought, he took the dredger to the scene of his disturbing dream.
Next ten minutes of dredging operation was a real eye opener. Heaps of bones were brought up which on closer inspection seem to be human, some old and some new. After calling 911, he also alerted his girlfriend Ann, a news reporter and drinking buddy John, who was a detective in town’s police force.
The lake front exploded with chaotic action. Cops had arrived and cordoned off the scene. TV and news crews were vying with each other for better coverage. Charley’s girlfriend Ann, being first on the scene, and meticulously reporting on the mike accompanied by a TV crew.
Forensics determined that older bones belonged to 17th century girl. The ring in the finger of the newer bones identified the girl as Beth who had been declared missing couple of months back. Concerned parents were notified and arrived at the lake scene.
Parents followed up with forensics. It was determined that Beth had been murdered by strangling elsewhere and her body dumped in the lake. Fish and other creatures had cleaned up the fleshy portions so that only the bones remained.
The murder case was handed over to John for investigations. He had detailed discussions with parents and Beth’s college mates about boyfriends, enemies, social activities etc. Going through her Facebook and Instagram, departmental IT specialist briefed the detective about all her recent social interactions.
Forensics also determined that the older bones belonged to a young woman, twenty years aged. She was determined to have been drowned. No foul play was suspected. Local historian Joe took up her mystery. Based on town records and historical background, he determined that the mystery girl was Patricia Windham, a local girl who had taken a boat trip to meet with her fiancée Paul Brookhaven, living about a hundred miles down the river stream flowing from the lake. Weather reports referred to a huge storm about a couple of days after the start of her trip and it was deduced that the boat had capsized, and she had drowned in the tragedy. Going through the old records, Charley was amazed at the resemblance of Patricia and Paul to the dream figures he had witnessed in his dream.
As a part of his investigation into Beth’s murder, on a hunch, John started detailed examination of the nearby murders. He found several unsolved murder cases with similar MO which implied that a serial murderer was on the loose. Once these findings were presented to the superiors, they constituted a task force to solve the case and catch the perpetrator After getting permission from his superiors, John released details of the murder to be broadcast in TV and published in news media.
As expected, this resulted in several clues and crank calls. The task force started sorting the clues. There was a clear pattern about the periodicity of murders and locations. Strategies and tactics were discussed to catch the killer.
As expected, Ann saw all these as an opportunity to shine as a reporter and was in the thick of all actions so much so that Jo started worrying about her safety. Angry words were exchanged. Since the girl stood her ground, boyfriend was left with no option but to accompany his sweetheart to as many investigations as feasible.
Days passed with no tangible progress. Task force was alerted that as per the deduced timetable, another murder was in the cards within two days. They were provided with an approximate location which unfortunately covered a block containing thirteen thickly populated multi-storied apartments. Tempers were frayed and the task force was tense and on edge.
Out of sheer desperation, Charley and John started poring over all the silt and other materials collected from various dredging both prior to and after recovery of the bones. They started sieving the evidence when they came across a discolored and disfigured ring.
A jeweler helped in cleaning and identification. The ring belonged to Victor Solin, residing in one of the apartment buildings. He was an average non-descript individual who was considered harmless loner. Ann was able to dig out his past from newspaper archives and it outlined the fact that this was the third place of residence for Victor in the last four years. John consulted outstanding unsolved murders at each place of his previous residences and found out that they fitted the present pattern.
It was very clear to the task force that they have identified possible murderer but with absolutely no proof. It was back to the board to cull out the proof. With the expected strike within two days, it was decided to Shadow Victor 24/7. A team of six detectives were assigned on the case on three shift rotation.
Charley kept reiterating to Ann to stick close. However, in the heat of following up these exciting actions. she had got separated. Panicked Charley searched for her who had blithely assumed that she was well protected by her boyfriend and was discretely following the culprit. She was so intent on her story that she did not see him doubling back.
A sack was thrown over Ann and she was yanked violently inside an apartment building. Before she could cry out for help, the attacker closed her mouth violently and stuffed some cloth inside it. Before she could recover and fight back, Victor started strangling and choking her. While slipping into unconsciousness she remembered about the knife in her key chain. If she could only get it open.
With great difficulty she opened the knife and plunged it into choker’s hand. Victor threw her down with a snarl and tried attacking her with renewed gusto. But the commotion was enough for other pursuers to gather around. Charley and the detectives came up to Victor. They read him his rights and arrested him.
Charley breathed a huge sigh of relief. Not only Ann was safe but was able to describe first-hand the attack on her and bear witness against Victor.
Ann felt doubly happy as she was safe and had her story to broadcast to her beloved viewers.
Sorry I have not commented on your excellent story sooner.
I think your opening paragraphs outlining the dream do a good job in setting the scene and, furthermore, no one can say you haven’t followed the prompt.
It’s like a TV murder mystery where all the evidence is potentially available but the detectives have to find it and out it all together. It all comes to a neat conclusion with the girl safe and an arrest made.
However, and there is a however, I didn’t feel excited. I almost felt safe, that everything was going to turn out ok. I think it has to do with the way you tell the story like a series of events, one leading to another in sequence. It reduces the mystery in what is, for me, a really good piece of writing. There were no surprises, I think that is what I am trying to say.
None of which should be taken in any way to limit your ambition. Just keep writing and, of course, reading lots of short stories.
Finally, you are right in that I could have shown some of the redeeming features of the human race but, at this moment in time, I am not seeing much evidence to go on.
As you see, I am just fresh from my first writing course, and I welcome your detailed critique and suggestions. I am excited and hope to write more.
In addition to the issues covered in Ken Frape’s comment, I wonder about the connection of the 17th century couple (who also appeared in Charley’s dream) to the main plot. Are they merely a red herring?
Welcome, and hope to read more of your stories in the future.
I enjoyed your Nyssa and the way you got the underlying horror to suddenly erupt.
I went through all the stories before voting.
Since I had gone for a conventional present-day murder, I had to account for the image provided. The couple definitely are not of present century. Hence their introduction.
I thought you were showing us that the killer was an immortal monster that keeps returning to strike again, but now it feels like his vision was there to find peace for all the souls who ended up in the water, no matter how they died. Or was it the spirits of that couple who showed the truth to the mind of the narrator?
This was very good and had a nice feeling of mystery to it that I appreciated!
I am used to 500 words submissions in writing class and 1200 words takes a little while to get used to. I hope to participate as things go along.
A short story by Ken Frape
“I just love your skin,” said Brodark to his partner Zeldark, as he ran his hands appreciatively over her shoulder and on down to cup one perfectly formed buttock.
“Thank you, my dear,” she replied, raising her chin towards him. “Yours is pretty good too.”
She rose from her seat, her seven limbs clattering across the floor on hoof-like feet. Her bloated abdomen and thorax glistened with pink slime and a lance shaped proboscis waved and sniffed the air.
Within moments she reached Brodark who was standing by the closet where their human skin suits were hanging. Each suit was held in place by two hooks, one for each nostril.
“Really lovely to touch, aren’t they?” she asked as she too ran her hands over Brodark’s smooth skin. She slipped her hands around the groin area and chuckled.
“What’s funny, Zeld?” He looked at her closely, his third and fourth eyes locking onto hers.
“When humans touch this area, they get very excited, don’t they?” she replied.
“That’s true and when they do this,” he squeezed the breast on her suit, “they often seem to lose control and sometimes they do things they later regret.”
“Well, that won’t be happening to us, will it?” she replied. “We have a mission to complete.”
“True, but what if……..?” Brodark suggested as he wrapped several of his limbs around Zeldark and she reciprocated. His ten and her eight eyes boggled and flickered with amusement. As they did so they both emitted a small squeak before breaking apart, laughing. It was a gurgle kind of laugh, that, if emitted whilst they were in their skins, would seem to come from deep in their throats.
“Steady now,” she cautioned. “ Let’s not get carried away. We still have to link up with the Comms Team before bed to file today’s report.”
“ But after that…? He let the suggestion hang in the air.
“Maybe…” was all she would say.
“Zargan coupling or human sex?” Brodark pursued the subject. A male of any species is still a male with many of the same inclinations.
“I’m easy, not bothered either way,” Zeldark answered dismissively, her mind already refocusing upon business not pleasure.
“I’ll take that as a Yes, then,” Brodark quipped cheekily and received a playful five limbed slap across all of his knees.
“Right, time to skin up,” she reminded him. “Hold my suit please.”
Brodark lifted her skin suit off its hooks and held it in front of him. Zeldark grunted as she slid her head up through the rectum and within seconds the suit filled out into a perfectly formed human female, age 38, height five feet four, hair blonde, weight 120 pounds, a perfect copy of the woman who used to inhabit this house.
“My turn,” Brodark reminded her as she began to cavort in front of the mirror, admiring her blond tresses. Brodark was soon squirming his way inside his skin suit and moments later a handsome young couple, apparently human, stood in front of the mirror.
Zeldark reached out to grab a handful of Brod’s groin.
“Feel anything?“ she asked.
“No, nothing,” he replied, not altogether truthfully.
“That’s good then. We need to look human and act human but we don’t want to feel human, do we?”
“Don’t we?” Brod replied still thinking about their previous conversation.
Zeldark fixed him with an eight eyed stare.“ No, we don’t. Don’t forget that with us Zargans the real beauty is beneath this skin.”
“Of course, it is,” he replied but without conviction. He rather liked Zeldark with blonde hair.
The infiltration of the Human Race by the inhabitants of the planet Zarga was a subtle and unhurried process. Replication took place whilst humans were sleeping, painless and invisible. Earth was, after all, just another struggling planet, ripe for covert infiltration, it’s problems mostly self -inflicted by it’s primitive inhabitants.. Zargan technology far outstripped that of Humans. Robotics and artificial intelligence had long since been mastered. All anger and animosity had been eradicated on their planet. Humans were considered to be quite primitive and dangerous by comparison. They inhabited a green and pleasant planet, abundant with water, air and sunlight. And yet, they seemed determined to destroy all this goodness by war, destruction of habitat and foolhardy governance.
The Zargan Ministry could have argued that they were saving Earth as indeed they were but really they were saving themselves. Earth was a valuable resource, especially the water.
The takeover would be slow and steady until all of the humans had been replaced by beautiful Zargans. Earth would become the new Zarga. In the meantime, in order to avoid panicking the warlike humans, who would respond with much unnecessary violence and bloodshed, as was their primitive way, the Zargan invaders would remain hidden, disguised as humans, in human skins. Hiding in plain sight.
By the time the water on planet Zarga finally ran out, they would have a ready – made new home, prepared by their replicants on Earth. It would be the dawning of a new age for the Zargans, free of all primitive humans.
“ Soon we will be able to report that we have a 67% replicant rate in our sector.” Brodark read from the daily report. “We’ll be due a bonus then.”
“How long until total takeover? “ Zeldar leaned across the comms console, reading the data,
“Precisely 74 Earth years two months, one week, four days….”
“And we will be due a new skin suit soon. Can’t wait,” Brodark said stroking his slimy abdomen.
“I almost feel naked without it after all this time.”
Whilst the fewer and fewer remaining humans were unaware that they were being replaced there were changes on Earth that were noted and recorded for posterity.
Criminologists noted that there was a gradual reduction in the number of murders worldwide.
The number of wars was reduced and, as a result, nations were living more peaceful lives.
Climate change deniers seemed to have seen the light and across the planet fossil fuel use dropped dramatically. Sea levels were recorded as stable, no longer rising, helped by a reduction in the melting of the polar ice caps.
To all intents and purposes, Earth seemed to have become a happier, healthier and more peaceful world, whilst its inhabitants remained blissfully unaware of how these changes had come about.
For many years there was peace and prosperity on Earth as the Zargans made improvements to their new planet.
Then came the Darkness, when many millions died. The disease only killed Zargans but as none of the remaining natives on Earth knew anything about Zargans, they were simply recorded as deaths.
By the time that Brodark and Zeldark and their like were all dead, the Zargan Government had long since abandoned Earth as they continued to search for another water-rich planet to invade.
Eventually, the ice caps began to melt again on Earth. Wars broke out once more and murder became so common it was no longer reported.
The beauty and peace that had reigned whilst Zargans lived on Earth disappeared as the humans’ true nature bubbled back to the surface.
That beauty had only been skin deep.
Incidentally, I can’t decide if “the real beauty is beneath this skin” is a great pun or a cringeworthy “Dad joke”. 🙂
Thanks for your comments. I can’t hell feeling at the back of my mind I was thinking about the state of the world and the fact that the very people who should be leading us are simply not up to the job, lying and cheating their way to the trough to fill their greedy mouths.
Of course, there are good people, many of them, probably the majority but their voices are not being heard. I think that’s why I considered gradually wiping us all out.
If you ask me, that last line is a beautiful, clever and subtle line. However, if you ask my kids, they would say it’s woefully”dad stuff.
Sounds good and appreciate the heads up.
Time is up and it’s time to vote!
Remember you must vote for your story to count, you may not vote for yourself and you may not vote more than once.
Here is the link to the voting page: https://fictionwritersgroup.com/truth-voting-2022
Good luck to all!
What happened to Phil’s story?
Hi ken, he emailed me and let me know he would be able to vote so not to include his story.
It’s me again. I’m sure you have this covered but when I voted, as there are only four stories for me to vote for, fifth place should be blank but it is already filled in. That means that that person will gain additional votes from each voter.
Hi Ken, I tally the votes manually and discard the 5th vote.
We’ve had contests before where there were only 4 stories, you can always just put your story in 5th place as that vote doesn’t actually count.
Ok thanks. That’s a shame as I really liked his story.
Y’all are some damn good writers, and hard to keep up with! And I have completely unraveled.
I am still going to read and comment and vote, but I am going to stop writing on here for an extended period. Due to personal reasons. Ridiculous personal reasons.
I can stop myself from doing a lot of things, like making snippy comments when I am feeling bad, or venting excessively, or straying over lines into the socially taboo, but I can’t ever stop myself from being ridiculous.
Live long and prosper!
The results are in!!
It’s a shame Ken C wasn’t able to vote as he would have won 1st place by 11 points! And he would have won the Story with Favorite Dialogue too.
But….since he wasn’t able to find a random spot of wifi in which to allow voting his story is disqualified and everyone shifts up!
So without further ado here are your winners!
1st Place: “Nyssa” by Vicki Chvatal
2nd Place: “The Ninth Wave” by Kristin Record
3rd Place: “Skin Deep” by Ken Frape
4th Place: “Bones” by Jagan
Story with the favorite dialogue was “The Ninth Wave” by Kristin Record!
Dragan from Vicki Chvatal’s “Nyssa” won the favorite character!
Dead Pool by Ken Cartisano
Lake Azidoa by Phil Town
Congrats to all!
Granted, I was consumed by work and was busy trying to support my youngest son as he packed up and got ready to move off to Indiana. He left late Monday night and I tried not to cry as the lights of the U-Haul truck faded into the darkness. For the first time in my life, I am truly an empty nester – no adult kids or grandkids living here anymore. Just me, my SO and 3 crazy dogs…
Koi Pond by Carrie Zylka
Melissa stood outside, the cold air softly kissing her bare shoulders. She gazed upward at the inky sky and watched the bright bits of burning leaves fall slowly through the darkness towards her face.
“Such a strange place.” She muttered, this land so unlike her own, with their trees made of cold fire and delicate flames. She turned back to the expansive house, her slippered feet quiet on the cobblestones. She made her way through the kitchen entrance and headed towards the ballroom, Marcum’s party was in full swing, and she didn’t want to seem rude.
She made a face at the thought of entering the massive room filled with noise and glittery people and music and the cloying layers of perfume that had driven her to seek fresh air in the first place.
She turned left into a hallway, and then a right and then another right and then a left and stopped. Looking around, she tilted her head to try and hear the music, but she was lost. Hopelessly lost in the maze of the mansion.
“Perfect.” She muttered annoyed at herself.
The hallway she was in seemed to border an outdoor space and her eyes were drawn to the lovely koi pond in the center of the space. Oddly out of place, yet so perfectly placed in a glass room with a bed and wardrobe lacking any sort of ceiling.
She moved to the glass door and tried to open it, heavy and cumbersome she threw her back into it. An odd scent filtered through her nose, a scent she was familiar with having grown up in a land of swampy rivers and bayous. The smell was of decay. The cloying humidity hit her, miniscule beads of sweat forming on bare skin.
Despite the smell she was drawn to the water feature. Kidney shaped with a tumbling waterfall in the corner. Huge koi fish swam lazily in the murk. The water looked like velvet.
She sat on the ornate marble bench near the edge and shrieked as a beautiful face materialized beneath the surface of the pond.
She grabbed up her skirt and made to bolt but the desperation in the voice behind her brought her to a halt.
“Please…” The woman had risen out of the water to the waist. She’d extended a slender hand imploringly. “Please help…”
Melissa turned back. “What is this? What is going on here?”
“Markum is what’s going on here.” The woman’s lip trembled. “Please help me get out of here.”
Confusion caused her to make another face. “Why can’t you leave?”
“He’s bound me to this infernal pond. Please, I can’t leave on my own.”
“What do you need from me?”
The woman turned her gaze to small box sitting on an ornate table on the far side of the pond. Melissa realized how young this woman was, she was barely a girl. Delicate features aged by desperation.
“Please, there is a necklace in the box, I can not retrieve it, it’s set too far from the water. He put it just out of reach for me, so that I could know my freedom was close, but too far.” She turned huge soulful eyes back to Melissa, tears welling in them.
Melissa moved to the table and looked at the box, alarm bells ringing in the back of her head. Something was very off about the whole situation. She paused, wracking her brain.
“Please, please, just open the box. He’s cursed me and keeps me for his own concubine!”
Melissa turned back to the woman. From where she was standing she could see into the water. He hand raised to cover her mouth to keep from screaming. The woman’s body was beautiful, perfectly sculpted. But the form beneath the surface of the water was hideous. Bone and flesh streaming in the water’s current.
“It’s the curse.” The girl spat. “Only when he comes and puts the bracelet on my wrist do my legs form again. But you, if you could give it to me, I can escape. He uses me and then puts me away like a little toy.” Anguish crumpled her face and she reached towards her, begging.
Melissa turned back to the box. A plain wooden box with only a rune carved into the top. She reached forward and touched the sides of the lid with two fingers. Taking a breath, she raised the lid. A gold bracelet, delicate and almost fragile looking lay on a bed of red velvet. She couldn’t believe something so simple could provide such magic.
“Please…” the woman breathed behind her.
Melissa picked up the bracelet and turned towards her, she slowly extended her arm and the woman eagerly snatched it from her. She slipped it on over her hand and threw back her head, long dark hair fanning out like a crown of triumph.
Her waist seemed to grow downward, skin forming over slender legs and feet. She laughed a deep satisfied laugh and stepped out of the water. Moving quickly she went to a wardrobe and slipped on an ornate dress.
“I can’t thank you enough.” She said over her shoulder as she buttoned up her bodice.
“I can’t believe such evil exists. To keep a young girl captive for his own pleasure in such a morbid way.” Melissa shook her head in disgust. “I’ll definitely be returning to my home after all of this madness.”
The woman turned and began to speak. Her voice stopped abruptly and she narrowed her eyes. “He’s coming.” She whispered.
Melissa turned her head towards the door and hallway, there were indeed voices making their way towards the koi pond. She turned back towards the woman with the intent to flee but the woman had disappeared. She looked around in confusion, jumping violently as several men flooded into the space.
“Where is she?” Marcum shouted.
“Who? Your sex slave? Your concubine??” She shouted back, her chest flushing an angry red.
“Ha! Is that what she told you? You fool.”
“It’s absolutely outrageous to keep someone locked up like that. And to use dark magic? What is wrong with you? Is that how this country treats its women? If so, then I’m-” her words were systematically cut off by the gloved hand around her throat.
“You stupid wench.” Marcum’s face was close to hers, wine-soaked breath warming her cold lips, eyes golden and furious. “Do you know what you did? You released one of the most violent succubi in history. She doesn’t just drain you; she rips your life force from you. She destroys you as she steals your soul. Agony, pain, suffering, hours of torment before she finally ends it. Did you even look in the pond? Did you even see the skulls of those that have gone before?”
“I – I didn’t know.” She gasped for breath.
His eyes softened for a moment, and he let her go. “It’s no matter. We found her once, we’ll find her again…” He turned back to his men. “Party’s over boys. Tonight we hunt.”
The burning trees were a nice touch, btw.
I really liked this!
Hahahahaha you NAILED IT with that character.
I had to cut out a lot of his backstory to fit inside the words.
And thanks for the kind words!
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