The Collective Inkwell Creative Fiction Contest – Win a pimped out Thesis Theme!

The Collective Inkwell Creative Fiction Contest – Win a pimped out Thesis Theme!

ci-contest-boxAre you a creative blogger?

Would you like to win a pimped out Premium WordPress Thesis Theme?

Then we’ve got the contest for you.

We LOVE writing here at Collective Inkwell. We love all kinds of writing, but we love fiction the most. Stories that move, amaze, and scare; make you laugh, cry, or FEEL IT IN YOUR MARROW – we love them all!

From the comments and emails received so far, we feel like we’ve hit on something special here with our celebration of inspiration and creativity. Nothing excites us more than kicking our first week off with a giant creative writing project/contest.

Here’s the deal.

We’ll give you two prompts to choose from. Sentence A and Sentence B, each provided by one of us. You pick one of the sentences and build a story from it! The contest will start today and run until Friday May 1st. The following week, we’ll announce three winners, hand picked by our panel of four bloggers.

The Rules

  • This contest is open to bloggers of any age who keep a regular and open-to-the-public blog. One entry per person.
  • Stories must be in the English language as we have no foreign language or Klingon translators here (though Sean speaks Spanish).
  • Stories can be any length, but try to keep it less than 2,000 words. We don’t want a novella. Well, unless you are named Clive Barker, Stephen King or David Sedaris.
  • Stories can be of any genre save for pornography. Those can be sent to our personal email at… Ha, I keeeed!
  • Stories will be judged on general awesomeness and creativity. We won’t be judging for grammar, though please do bare in mind horrible grammar may distract us from fully enjoying the story. In the event of a tie, we will lock ourselves in a steel cage and fight it out until the death. Or we’ll flip a coin.
  • You MUST post the first paragraph (including the prompt sentence) of your contest entry on your blog with a link back to this page. Then you must post the ENTIRE entry here (including the first paragraph) as a response to this thread. Please also include a link back to your blog post featuring the entry.
  • We won’t demand that you subscribe to our RSS feed (using a button to the right) or follow us on Twitter (also, a button on the right); we believe that you should only do these things if you want to stay up to date with Collective Inkwell. Having said that, we’d love it if you could publicize the contest on Twitter, Facebook, Digg, local restroom walls, on the back of your partner’s neck in sharpie when they aren’t looking, etc… but we won’t count it against you if you don’t.
  • If you have comments on another person’s entry, feel free to leave them in this thread. We all appreciate feedback or a pat on the back.

The Prizes

  • First Prize: A Thesis Premium WordPress Theme pimped out by David Wright. Chris Pearson’s Thesis Theme from DIYthemes.com is hands down the BEST WordPress theme out there. From SEO-optimized back end to endless customization options to a million other things, which we’ll get into in a future post, Thesis rocks! Heck, its our theme of choice here at Collective Inkwell – and also at BloggerDad and WriterDad. Thesis retails at $87, but you’ll get your very own copy for free! Additionally, you will receive a custom header for your site as well as some basic modifications for color and design. In order to win the custom theme, you MUST have your own hosted WordPress blog. You are also responsible for uploading and maintaining your theme after delivery. We will help out with customization and the initial Thesis setup, though. Maintaining the theme’s updates and future design modifications will be your responsibility. Don’t worry, though, as you will receive your own personal Thesis license and access to the incredibly helpful Thesis support forums.
  • Second and Third Prizes: Your choice of a custom banner or Twitter background page drawn by David Wright or custom writing from Sean Platt of your choice (including About Page, Services Page, guest post, SEO optimized post, general piece of ghostwriting – anything less than a thousand words).

Other Stuff

We reserve the right to modify the rules without notice. We likely won’t, but for legal reasons, or in case you get all weird on us, we added this.

Now the sentences to begin the stories

a) Well, this is odd, he thought to himself.

b) How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

Any other questions or comments, please email them to collectiveinkwell (at) gmail.com

Good luck to all, we look forward to reading your stories!

  • http://www.punintended.com/blog Bamboo Forest – PunIntended

    By the time the sun dips below the Pacific Ocean there won’t be one bathroom stall within a 50 mile radius of me that doesn’t have this contest plastered on the walls with a sharpie. I gotta go!

  • http://motivatethyself.com Eric Hamm | Motivate Thyself

    Great idea guys! What a great way to not only promote this great new site, but to give a blogger a dream design to house their content. Win-win, no doubt! Eric

  • http://www.bloggerslab.com Sunil Pathak

    Hello David & Sean Congratulations & best of luck guys for your new venture, Hope this blog will be as successful as Writerdad.com

    About the contest. well i would have done anything to win Thesis theme, but i dont wanna make fool of my self by attempting something like fiction. LOL

  • http://welshscribe.co.uk Marc – WelshScribe

    Hmm I have a creative thought.

    Someone needs a haircut, that same someone needs his competition pimped to the world…

    I’ll bring the hedge clippers, Bamboo you bring the sharpie.

  • http://www.laurelwreathsreflections.com Lori

    Awesome, my brain is churning away.

  • http://writerdad.com Sean

    Bamboo: HA! Too funny. Please try to hit some of the bathrooms in my neighborhood, though you’d probably need a pallet of sharpies to undo the damage that’s already been done.

    Eric: Definitely win-win. We’re hoping for a huge turnout, not just for the growth, but because it will be wonderful to read the words of our readers. Are you gonna join, Eric? It only needs to be a paragraph and you can add Thesis license to your belt if you win. I’m just saying.

    Sunil: You’ll never make a fool of yourself by trying, Sunil! A single sentence can sometimes say more than pages of prose. Here’s the complete text of my favorite short story, by Hemingway: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” See what I mean. Go for it, my man. It’s inside us all.

    Marc: So which prompt are you writing to. We know you don’t need Thesis, but I’m sure you want to throw your fiction down!

  • http://namasdaisy.com Cindy

    I would like to play! I know I can’t win or anything, but this sounds awesome! Dave, your brilliance shines in every graphic. It looks like you’ve found your playground. I love the contest graphic, love the black, love it ALL.

  • http://throughtheillusion.com Hayden Tompkins

    “Stories must be in the English language as we have no foreign language or Klingon translators here”

    HA! Rich coming from the “ighj idnklc sadfkjbu” guys. :)

  • http://writerdad.com Sean

    Lori: Churn it like yummy butter, Lori! Can’t wait to read what you’re writing.

    Cindy: I was wondering if you would want to play our reindeer games. Thanks for joining the fray, baby.

  • Lori — SpaceAgeSage

    Awesome idea, gentlemen. I’ll have to catch the first annual contest since I’m between blogs. I look forward to the creativity of your readers because the two sentences make my writing fingers all twitchy and itchy.

  • http://www.mikeslife.org Mike CJ

    I love this idea, will write something for it. Also love this theme!

  • http://writerdad.com Sean

    Hayden: akdfje;i laf;afm ciel;a fienla;sin linie a;iem cielafnne aifle jj!!!!

    Lori: Ooh, first annual. What an awesome yet subtle vote of confidence. Us too. Dave and I were just discussing how cool it will be to see what the readers come up with.

    Mike CJ: Hi, Mike. It’s great to see you. I look forward to seeing what you write. The theme is all Dave’s brilliance. I just nodded my head with happy glazed eyes.

  • http://www.collectiveinkwell.com David

    Bamboo – Awesome! This is especially good since all the best writers are known to hang out in bathrooms.

    Eric – Thanks!

    Sunil – Thank you. And why not give it a shot? You’ve got 2 weeks to edit,re-edit, whatever you need.

    Marc – HA! You keep the clippers AND the Sharpies away from my head!

    Lori – Cool, can’t wait to see what you write.

    Cindy – Thanks! And you can play, but you can’t win the contest since you’re sleeping with one of the site’s owners. I shoulda’ probably put that in the rules, but since it only applies to two women, I didn’t think it necessary.

    Hayden – That was Eric and Sean’s brilliant video, not mine. I only talk like that when I first wake up. Though you can replace some of the incoherents with random vulgarities. “fjirjn e,fkje F*&%ing mornings!”

    Lori – Well, get the new blog up and start writing!

  • http://butterfliesinmyhand.blogspot.com Kool Aid

    Ooooooo, I like this! Count me in! But don’t expect to be blown away or anything, it’s been eons since I’ve written something like this. But, hey! Sounds like fun!

  • http://www.domesticcents.com Nicki at Domestic Cents

    I will probably pee my pants if I win this. I am DYING to get Thesis. My fiction writing is rusty … but count me in :) Once I write it I simply publish it here in the comments?

  • http://welshscribe.co.uk Marc – WelshScribe

    I don’t need Thesis but I wouldn’t mind a shiny header, and no for once I’m not talking about Dave’s forthcoming shave ;)

  • http://www.sharingthejourney.co.uk janice

    Would love to go back to fiction – it’s been a while, but I’ve read what the guys who visit here write, so I think I’ll stick to appreciative reading. My daughter might want to have a go, though. Is there an age limit? Great win/win move , you guys!

  • http://writerdad.com Sean

    Kool Aid: Thrilled to have you, I’m sure whatever you write will be wonderful.

    Nicki: Ooooh, an eager contestant. We like! Please don’t pee on your new theme if you win though, it’s really hard to fully rinse it from the coding.

    Janice: Oh come now Janice, you can throw down a few sentences. You already sprung for Thesis, but maybe we can get you a Twitter background for when you finally break down and start tweeting. : > )

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  • http://www.sharingthejourney.co.uk janice

    Don’t even know what a Twitter background is – but it sounds like I’ll need one someday! I was tempted enough by the Thesis prize; my daughter would love a Thesis theme and when I showed her the Inkwell, she blurted “Oh, I like this one.” Guess my tulips don’t do it for teenagers, then.

  • http://welshscribe.co.uk Marc – WelshScribe

    @ Janice See http://twitter.com/welshscribe for an example of a Twitter background

  • http://www.sharingthejourney.co.uk janice

    Thanks, Marc. I went, I saw, I wept. It’s just as I feared; if I join, I’ll be sucked in and my children will starve! Your background’s cool, though. That header would look good on your blog. ;) Go write that story!

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  • http://www.travelinlocal.com LisaNewton

    What a fantastic idea. I’d love a pimped out site, plus who could pass up the opportunity to write a story. Yupp, I’m in.

  • http://www.essentialprose.com Zoe

    Love this contest idea! I’m always amazed at the ideas prompt-writing can pull up…

    :)

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  • http://writerdad.com Sean

    Janice: Have her enter! You guys can have sister sites, that would be awesome! You will get sucked into Twitter, but it is pretty cool.

    Lisa: YAY Lisa! We’re thrilled to have you and can’t wait to read what you write.

    Zoe: Throw it down, Zoe. Throw it down.

  • http://clarkkentslunchbox.blogspot.com/ CK Lunchbox

    Well, gentlemen, this looks like a fun proposition. I’m all in, and will be spreading the word! Thanks!

  • Pingback: How to NEVER run out of ideas | Collective Inkwell

  • http://waitwhatamiDoinghere.blogspot.com Abi

    ((Ok, I hope I’m posting this in the right place; I don’t see any other entries!

    Also since I don’t know how to get italics to show up in comments, (and they’re quite important to the story to set the proper tone) I’ll be representing them with ‘//’. You’ll see.

    http://waitwhatamidoinghere.blogspot.com/2009/04/collective-inkwell-story-contest-entry.html))

    Well, this is odd, he thought to himself. Wolves don’t usually come this close to the city this time of year. He thought it in that detached, empty sort of way that you do when you’re really scared.
    Damian was really scared.

    Wolves never came close to the city all, really. Galent was a big city, with lots of people, and wolves didn’t like people. Right?

    … Right?

    The howling echoed all around him and he stood frozen to the spot, tightly gripping the shovel in his hands. He’d just finished covering the hole that had a ridiculous amount of stolen money in it.

    He had this urge to just stand still, as though maybe they’d all go away, but the part of him that was still rationally thinking informed him that standing still would probably get him eaten. Ok.

    Ok, ok… Don’t panic. Well, too late for that, he was about to faint from sheer terror. Don’t… Don’t freak out. Ok. That was good. He could do that. Think.
    Alright, well, running seemed a bad idea… Maybe he could climb a tree. That’d be good, right? Wolves couldn’t climb, right? He’d be safe up ther-

    A low snarl came out of the bushes near his left. Damian dropped the shovel and ran.

    He ran as though his feet had wings, his body full of adrenaline and terror as he tore through the forest, leaping over roots and ducking around trees. He leapt clear over a small stream, but Damian could still hear the wolves behind him.

    /Please Othor/, Damian prayed, /I don’t want to die. Don’t let me die. Please!/ It’s funny how he never really considered himself to be particularly religious before. Oh yeah. Funny. Real hilarious. Oh God he was going to die wasn’t he.

    He burst out of the forest suddenly and onto an open field. He wanted to sob with relief. The lights of the city shone in the darkness just across the field. See? The wolves really were too close.

    Only… Damian risked a glance over his shoulder, and saw at least half a dozen shapes emerge from the forest. Big shapes. Bigger then a wolf should ever be.

    His terror took on a whole new edge. /Werewolves/. He tried to run faster, but even with all the adrenaline in him he was starting to get a crippling stitch in his side. He should’ve gotten in better shape, should’ve quit conning people and stealing, should’ve…

    Now, he knew the whole ‘life flashing before your eyes’ deal was a load of bullcrap, but right now his head was full of regrets and I-shouldn’t-have-done-thats and I-should-have-done-these, which admittedly wasn’t helping him get to safely.

    Werewolves. God. He knew the only reason he wasn’t a red smear on the ground (yet) was because they were enjoying the chase. They were toying with him. If he hadn’t been so scared he’dve been offended.

    He was about halfway across the field when he saw some more shadowy lupine shapes running /towards/ him, and he said some very bad words out loud.

    At this point, his brain did some very fast thinking because the rest of him certainly wasn’t, and flung himself to the ground as the werewolves leapt over him. He felt it in the ground when the two bands of werewolves smacked into one another freakishly close to his head.

    Wait, what?

    Damian felt about a second of relief- this wasn’t about him, thank Othor and Eda and Foden or whatever god was looking out for him- when a werewolf got flung into him by another and suddenly there was a mass of angry werewolf on him. And it turned, growled, and he didn’t even get the chance to scream before it sank its fangs into his arm…

    Later.

    Damian didn’t know how much later, only he knew that he wasn’t was where he was before so that meant some time has passed.
    In his current state, working out that much was an achievement. And by state, he meant that everything hurt a lot.
    He couldn’t even tell what was hurting, exactly. Everything hurt, which was a small comfort because it meant that he wasn’t dead. Everyone knows that when you wake up hurting you aren’t dead, because being dead didn’t hurt that much. Yes, logic. Ok. Good.

    On top of this brilliant logic, he was beginning to realize there were people around him. He knew this because they were talking. (He was very proud of himself for working this out).

    He tried to move, but white spots flashed in front of his vision even though his eyes were closed, and he made a hoarse noise somewhere between a moan and a scream, and everything went dark.
    Well, darker.

    Later again.

    He awoke without knowing he had fallen asleep. He felt lost, because he had a feeling he’d been asleep for a long time but couldn’t confirm it. He didn’t even know if sleep had done him any good, but he was thinking better. Sort of. And he could actually open his eyes, which he did.

    Watery sunlight streamed through the window, because this was Varu and they never got real sunshine. He could hear the noises of the street outside, which was familiar and somewhat comforting. He didn’t know where he was, but he was too tired to care. It wasn’t a jail, and that was good enough for him.
    You just had to learn to take these things in stride, which is what he was doing. One thing at a time.

    It was a average room, really. Bed, table, a couple chairs. He had a feeling there usually weren’t so many of the latter the room, as though a good number of people had been in here while he had been unconscious. That was a tad unnerving.

    He’d just finished surveying the room when the door opened and a tall red haired man walked inside. Damian studied him. There was nothing particularly out of the ordinary about him- except for maybe his hair color- but something about him demanded respect.

    It was hard to look away from him, because your gaze would just be drawn back anyways. It was like he was a friggin’ magnet. And the thing that made Damian most nervous was the something about him said “We both know what you’ve done, but why don’t you just go ahead and tell me anyways…?”

    He pulled a chair over to the foot of Damian’s bed and sat down on it backwards, resting his chin on his arms which he folded on the top of the back of the chair.

    “Hey there.” He said with an easy smile as Damian sat up in the bed warily. “Glad to see you’re awake.” He paused for a moment, seeming to size Damian up (or at least it seemed that way to him) before he asked in a casual way, “So, what’s your name?”

    “Damian.” Said Damian before he could think of a fake name.

    “Damian.” The other man repeated, like he was committing it to memory. That made him nervous.

    “Well, nice to meet you, Damian. My name’s Baril.” /And the authorities are on the way/. Damian knew that last part was untrue, but this other guy was making him nervous.

    “About last night…” Baril began hesitantly as though unsure to proceed. Yeah, right.
    Damian took on a look of mild surprise, as though shocked anyone could ever think to ask about last night. But his heart wasn’t in it.

    “Last night, sir?” Damian hadn’t realized he’d called Baril ‘sir’ until he’d said it. His expression of puzzled surprise suddenly became genuine. Who was this man?

    Baril looked uncomfortable at having to prompt Damian’s memory. “With the werewolves…”

    “Oh.” Damian said, surprised. He’d completely forgot about the werewolves at the prospect of getting arrested. Funny how the mind worked. “Oh. Yes, well, uh… What about it?”
    Damian knew how to read people, and Baril had the look of a man about to deliver some very bad news.

    Damian’s face paled. “You… You don’t mean I was…?”

    Baril sighed, but didn’t look away from Damian. “You were- well, you were mauled by one of the other werewolves. Not,” He added, “By one of mine.” Oh, well that explained the commanding presence. He was a werewolf alpha.
    Damian had never met one until now, but he heard that they could be pretty intense without meaning to be. He also heard that keeping up eye contact one was a sure fire way to get your throat ripped out.
    Damian looked down.

    “We thought you were going to die from the injuries, but when you began to heal…” He trailed off, then started up again on a different track. “It’s hard, but you can learn to control it over time. Not all the way, but enough that you can have a mostly normal life. The pack will help you.”

    Mostly normal. Yeah, right. Werewolves might’ve been human once, but as soon as it got out that you weren’t entirely human anymore, you were shoved in the fey minority. Never mind that werewolves weren’t technically fey; it was all the same to people.

    He’d heard it was like having another presence inside you, a monster within, but Damian couldn’t feel anything. Maybe he’d just healed quickly; he was a fast healer, after all. He had a feeling the hope was a false one, but it was all he had to cling to.

    “And what if I don’t want to join your ‘pack’?” Damian eventually said, because he was angry and felt like being difficult.

    “You’re free to go any time you like.” Baril said seriously, which to Damian meant ‘Nice try, hotshot. You aren’t going anywhere.’

    “What happens if I leave?”

    “You won’t be able to control your wolf, you’ll get angry at something or someone, you’ll Change, and you’ll be put down like an animal.” Baril shrugged.

    Damian said, after a moment, “… Ah. So, I’m stuck with you?”
    Baril pursed his lips for a moment. This isn’t the first talk he’s given, Damian thought. Or the first difficult… Newly Changed… Person he’d dealt with. Damian refused to use the word ‘werewolf’. Part of him was still in denial.

    “It’s not a punishment. The pack can help. It’s why we’re here.”

    Damian gave him a look that said, ‘I’m not buying it’. Baril smiled sadly, then stood. “I’ll let you think about it, alright?”
    He grunted in reply.

    After he’d gone, Damian rolled over and stared out the window, trying to take in everything that’d happened. It had all happened too fast without him any idea what’d been going on.

    He closed his eyes and sighed. Yes, this certainly was /odd/.

    The word didn’t do his situation justice.

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  • http://writerdad.com Sean

    CK Lunchbox: Hey there Ron, it’s great to see you! Can’t wait to see what you drop.

    Abi: Hi there, Abi. You are indeed at the right place, just the first one to the party. : > )

    Sean’s last blog post..April

  • http://butterfliesinmyhand.blogspot.com Kool Aid

    (Sorry about the run – on paragraph look. I copy/pasted it and it looked right when I hit submit. Any chance I can go back and edit it??)

    Kool Aid’s last blog post..Butterflies in my hand: Collective Inkwell – creative fiction contest

  • http://butterfliesinmyhand.blogspot.com Kool Aid

    Well, this is odd, he thought to himself. It was as if he was watching himself from behind, like a witness, not a participant. Everything seemed to revolve slowly around him; taxis and busses crawled by, pedestrians were mime artists moving through Jello, even the birds flew at half-speed.

    The Witness tried to shout, “stop!” but he couldn’t. The Participant was so focused on his feet shuffling forward, he wouldn’t have heard anything anyway. Certainly not the truck slowly approaching the street corner.

    He peered at the Participant. He looked sharp; his hair neatly cropped around his ears and collar. Square shoulders balanced the waist that was just starting to fill out from lack of regular exercise. Strong legs, encased in clean – probably new – jeans, looked like they would normally take long, confident strides. Not today.

    The Participant stared at his feet. His shoes had the look of comfortably worn leather but closer inspection allowed one to see they were barely used. His hands were shoved deep in the pockets of his jeans.

    The Witness couldn’t understand why the Participant wanted to disappear. He was an average but good – looking guy with gentle eyes that were currently avoiding the others on the busy sidewalk. He was well liked at work and just recently got a promotion. He had friends to hang out with on the weekends. So why the melancholy?

    It was truly as though he had become a separate entity from himself, as he watched himself approach the curb.

    “Excuse me.”

    The voice resounded in his ears, echoing like far-off thunder in the canyons of his thoughts.

    “Excuse me?”

    Her voice woke him and the Witness crashed back into the Participant, halting his feet just before stepping into the street.

    “Yes?” he mumbled.

    “I wondered if you could help me?”

    He looked at her, his brown eyes slowly focusing on her hazel ones as she came towards him down the other crosswalk.

    “I can’t really manage these bags on my own. Do you mind?”

    That’s when he saw the braces around her arms and supporting her weight. She was missing a leg.

    “Uh… Sure…. I guess.”

    She glanced at the truck passing to her left then laughed. Her laughter flowed through his thoughts like a soft rain filling the dried riverbeds of the canyons in his mind. His brow creased slightly at her laughter.

    “Sorry, I just feel silly asking for help sometimes. I can usually manage on my own.”

    He nodded mutely as he reached for the two bags dangling from her wrists. They were those reusable grocery bags everyone seemed to be carrying these days. He looked awkwardly at her absent leg.

    “My name is Julie. What’s yours?”

    “Michael,” he muttered. Clearing his throat, he tried again. “You can call me Mike, though. ‘Michael’ is for work.” This time, his voice had a little more life in it.

    “Thanks again, Mike. I usually carry a backpack to the market, but today I needed more things. I ran out of everything this week! I thought I’d be able to manage these bags, since they seem so easy to throw over my shoulders, but they keep falling down my arms.”

    “Sure, no problem.” Flowers were blooming in those dark, dreary canyons, bringing some color back into his barren landscape.

    “Um, where to?” He asked, glancing again at her. This time it was her face that received the attention.

    “Oh, not too far. Just down the block, in fact. I like being within walking distance of the market so I have a small studio apartment above that old shoe store. You know the one.”

    No, he didn’t, but he went along anyway.

    “So… Uh…” He tried to ask, but she beat him to it.

    “I was hit by a truck. The doctors tried to save my leg, but it was too messed up. That was a couple of years ago, or so.”

    The Witness stirred to life inside and whispered to the Participant, “You would have stepped in front of that truck if it hadn’t been for her.” Mike shuddered, wondering what had him so distracted before.

    “I’m glad I could help you,” he said, smiling a little.

    “Me, too,” she beamed back, smiling enough for both of them.

    They reached her apartment door and as she grabbed her keys, she turned and looked at him.

    “Would you like a drink? Some soda or tea? I also have bottled water. Please don’t say ‘no’, it’s my way of saying ‘thank you’ for your help.”

    The canyons of his soul teemed with life as he answered in the affirmative.

    Knowingly, she smiled brightly and turned to go inside.

    The Witness, still awake, looked at that knowing smile, laughed softly to himself and wondered. How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much.

    Kool Aid’s last blog post..Collective Inkwell – creative fiction contest

    • http://writerdad.com Sean

      Awesome, Kool-Aid! Way to tie in both prompts. Cool beans indeed.

      Sean’s last blog post..A Cornucopia of Thanks

      • Kool Aid

        Thank you! Feel free to delete my first two attempts at posting ;).

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  • http://www.bloggerdad.com David

    Abi and KoolAid, both awesome stories! Thank you. I enjoyed them greatly. I’ll get into specifics once all the entries are in and our winners are declared.

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  • http://laurelwreathsreflections.com/lorisbookreviews/the-collective-inkwell-creative-fiction-contest/ Lori

    Crossing Into Faith

    How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

    Dogwoods and pink azaleas lined the landscaped street. It was a quiet day with little traffic but the beating of Catherine’s heart kept her from noticing her surroundings. For 30 years she lived her life believing she was nothing special.

    As she balanced from one foot to another kicking the green grass below her heeled sandal she thought back to when life began whispering, “You don’t have what it takes.” Catherine remembers in sixth grade she wanted badly to be accepted by the popular girls, she memorized their movements and tried to dress like them, but it never seemed enough. Attending a private school her parents could barely afford, did not allow Catherine the luxury of wearing the Guess jeans or having the latest popular toy. Today as she looks back Catherine realizes none of that matters now, but the seeds of not being enough were planted.

    Those seeds were watered in high school when she tried out for the cheerleading team. Practicing everyday after school in her backyard Catherine had visions of finally feeling accepted into a group. The day arrived for try-outs and Catherine felt confident going in. With a loud voice echoing off the empty auditorium walls in front of a panel of 4 judges, Catherine performed the required cheers with grace and nailed her pike, herkie, toe-touch jumps. After try-outs the decision came between Catherine and one other girl by the name Olivia. In a group where image matters Catherine began to develop seeds of hope; Olivia was twice the size of Catherine. Both Catherine and Olivia waited anxiously out side the doors while the judges made their final decision. After what seemed like an eternity, Olivia was announced as the newest member of the cheerleading squad. Catherine walked away wondering why she even bothered to dream, she is not good enough anyways.

    Now three kids and a husband later Catherine still struggled with not being good enough. When Catherine’s kids were younger there was an elderly lady named Agnes who entered her life and kept telling her, “Catherine the Lord has big plans for you.” Catherine not daring to dream thanked her for the comments but quickly shrugged them off. Agnes is not one to give up, each day she saw Catherine she said the same thing, “Catherine the Lord has big plans for you.” Catherine was tempted to yell back, Agnes you don’t know what I have done. The Lord has moved me away from all my family, I was pregnant before I married my husband, and now we are looking at an increasing amount of debt. How in the world could God use me?

    Life began to unravel when Catherine’s husband suddenly lost his job. Seeking shelter in the only secure place Catherine knew, she drove over to Agnes’s house for comfort. Catherine had to chuckle when Agnes opened the door she saw the aging ranch style house with cream shag carpet. The house fit Agnes, Catherine thought. Sinking into the flowered upholstered La-Z-Boy chairs Agnes explained these were her and her husband’s praying chairs. Catherine suddenly felt unworthy to sit in these chairs. Agnes handed Catherine a worn sheet of notepad paper with a few verses written on them.

    “My husband was praying for your family today and asked that I give you these,” Agnes said.

    “Thank you,” I replied.

    “You know God has you right where he wants you? He has big plans for your life,” she said quietly.

    “Agnes,” I said, “I appreciate your words but I don’t believe them.” Catherine hoped Agnes would not feel offended by her words. Instead Agnes smiled big and said, “Yep, he has you right where he wants you.” Before Catherine left that night, Agnes prayed over her and Catherine walked away wanting to believe God had a plan.

    Over the next year Catherine thought of Agnes everyday. Agnes soon lost her husband and needed assistance in maintaining her home, so Agnes and Catherine met for one last time before she moved away.

    “I am sad to be leaving all my friends behind here,” Agnes said dabbing her eyes from the threatening tears. “But my kids are excited that I am finally going to be living close by them,” she said with a smile. Catherine knew this would be the last time she would see Agnes. Catherine shared that the Lord had indeed opened doors for her to teach a woman’s bible study. “It came accidentally actually,” Catherine laughed. “The lady who was teaching fell and broke her hip, so instead of canceling I volunteered to take over the class.” Agnes chuckled but replied, “I don’t believe in accidents, I know the Lord has great plans for you.” Catherine laughed and said, “Well for your sake I hope you are right because you have been saying that since the day I met you!”

    With Agnes’ persistence Catherine’s protective shell of feeling like worthless began to crack. Many times over the past few years Catherine had dreamed of sitting down with Agnes and sharing with her the doors the Lord has been opening. Who would have believed that through writing God could open doors and transform an insecure girl?

    But now this? Writing is one thing but speaking? Catherine wished she had Agnes there for comfort and support. “Agnes you always said God had big plans for me. Is this what you saw?” Catherine thought while digging her toe in the grass along the landscaped street. What if I am not good enough just like all the other times in my life? Somewhere in the back of Catherine’s mind she heard Agnes whisper, “Go child this is what God has been training you for. Go.”

    Catherine, pushing down all the negative thoughts from her past, held her head up high and crossed the street pushing open the double doors. The large room was nicely decorated with pastel colors with tables looking like they came out of a Victorian magazine.

    The hostess ran up greeting Catherine with a firm handshake. “Oh I am so excited you are here, we need to get you set up with the microphone. You will be speaking in 5 minutes,” she said breathlessly.

    “Thank you,” I replied. Soon the room was quiet and Catherine stepped on stage.

    “It is nice to meet you, the room is beautiful. Thank you for inviting me to speak here today. I humbly stand before you as an example of what God can do with an insecure girl who says yes to an extraordinary God.”

    (http://laurelwreathsreflections.com/lorisbookreviews/the-collective-inkwell-creative-fiction-contest/)

    Lori’s last blog post..The Collective Inkwell Creative Fiction Contest

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  • http://www.280dayslater.com 280 Days

    Congratulations to everyone who has entered so far! I’m really enjoying seeing how different all of the stories are with the same beginnings.
    Ok, in the spirit of feeling the fear and doing it anyway, here is my attempt. I’ve included the first paragraph on my blog:

    **When the Bow Breaks**

    How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much.

    How could she have known.

    She had been trying to be good, she really had. Yet her waistline, Kate feared, would never be the same again. Folds of flesh and vivid stretchmarks – etched like the charcoal-grey scars on the white softness of a silver birch bark – patchworked her skin. Today, though, vanity was far from the forefront of Kate’s mind. Insomnia had scratched red liner onto her heavy lids. Her body ached with exhaustion. Eve, her beautiful chubby baby had abandoned sleep, spending the late darkness suckling. Milk smacked from her lips, but the night brought no satiation. And they lay together for hours, Kate craving blessed sleep but getting no relief. She hummed nursery rhymes till her throat grew sore and hoarse and dawn broke, glittering soft light over the fields.

    What Kate needed now was a sugar hit. A boost of honeyed energy to spring life into her weary body. “Time for cake,” she whispered conspiratorially into the pram. She tightened her grip on the squidgy buggy handles and crossed the busy town street to the coffee shop.

    How could she have known.

    Kate had met Eve’s daddy when she was just a sapling – young, innocent, naive. Winds had blown her in different directions before him and her core had yearned a tether. He was older. Exciting, mature. So vastly different from the boys that surrounded her in the daily lecture halls. When he had dropped Kate back to her digs after their first date and kissed her, so passionately, so tenderly, she just knew. The tingle in her soul proclaimed it. Kate was hooked.

    He was the great oak to her acorn, and he nurtured her. Made her grow. With him by her side she felt she could reach heavenwards and touch the stars. They were lovers. They were friends. They were intertwined.

    When Kate had first told him she was pregnant, he had wept with joy and pride and enveloped her in warm cuddles and kisses. Through the marked months, he tenderly had stroked her growing belly and marvelled at its increasing cocoon. He had whispered to their unborn child in hushed marvel. He softly sang nursery rhymes, “Rock a-bye baby, on the tree top.” And when she was nearing the inevitable pain and agony of labour, when she felt her skin could stretch no further, that her ribs would surely split with one more breath, he laid her in bed and told her how proud he was of her. He fed her warm tea and chunks of soil-black bitter chocolate. He was comfort and love. And Kate’s heart spilled with blossom.

    How could she have known.

    Eve had come screaming into the world after 36 hours of brutal, stomach clamping labour. As she struggled, blue-grey, for breath, he had watched on – eyes wide in fear and love. He held his baby. And then they were three. Eve was their roots. Their nutrients. Their sunlight. The love they shared for their baby was all-powerful, all-encompassing. Eve made their leaves unfurl in joy and gratitude and wonderment. She was everything. Yet, for him, evidently, not enough.

    How could she have known.

    Kate tipped the pram up the curb with practised skill and headed to the coffee shop. The bell tingled above the threshold to announce their arrival to no-one on particular. Kate shoved the door open, contorting her body to prop it ajar whilst awkwardly squeezing her precious cargo into the warmth. The smell of bitter coffee and saccharine treats immediately permeated her nostrils and induced a glow that calmed her. Sweet calorific solace. Kate ran her hands across the thick wooden counter. Heaped cakes, glistening thick with snowdrop-white icing, sat alluringly under glass domes. She hummed mindlessly as Eve squeaked with anticipation of more milk. “Rock a-bye baby, mmm mmm mm mmm.” She ordered, speaking clearly to the waitress over the din of the steaming espresso machine, then studied the seating for a space to accommodate her and the large pram.

    And then there he was – slumped, lustfully entwined on the deep leather sofa. Caught. Kate’s own oak – her grounding, her steadfast – enkindling another woman! Cascades of long blond hair, perfectly groomed, shone metallic bright as it was flicked flirtatiously for his pleasure, and the woman’s bronze legs, glinting for miles into the spiked point of her stilettos, rubbed slowly against his thick calves. Appalled shock and consternation stole Kate’s breath. She felt bile fill her throat like poisonous sap. Kate watched, rooted, bewildered, as his long fingers stroked the woman’s thighs. He gazed so tenderly, so intently, it felt as a leaden blow to Kate’s beating heart. He looked as though he loved this other woman. The invidious bastard actually looked like he loved her!

    How could she have known.

    Eve wriggled and squirmed in her pram and mewed anxiously, intently. “Shh, baby, shh,” Kate comforted. She lifted Eve to her chest. Sweet, milky Eve. Kate’s world, her man, was a lie. And her heart felt staked. She was felled. As hot flashes of dew-drop tears fell from her eyes, she sang softly to her baby Eve:

    “When the bow breaks the cradle will fall.
    Down will come baby, cradle and all.”

    280 Days’s last blog post..Mummy connection

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  • http://paisleythoughts.blogspot.com/ Paisley (Paisley Thoughts)

    The Last Word

    How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much? Sirina used the edge of the sidewalk like a tightrope. Her heels hung down while her toes clung on. Through the window all she could make out were rows of shelves like forgotten soldiers. Above the expanse of dull glass, red letters declared, ‘Closing Down’. A car spun past. Warm air stirred against her caramel thighs Cuban-style. Instinctively, her arms turned into wings to stop her tipping over. It was time to move. Sirina placed one foot firmly in front of the other.

    She pushed on the glass door. A feeble tinkle announced her entrance. Lines of shelves were as dark and empty as the interior. A young girl, out of her depth, was mirrored in the shop window. Sirina stared at where she had come from. Turning her back on the sunshine she faced the gloom and ran her fingers along a shelf. It was cool and smooth. Nerve-endings flickered. An obstacle blocked her progress. With Braille-like delicacy she felt around the edges. She looked down. It lay, like it had, from the beginning.

    The girl lifted it up. The light from behind illuminated the script. Words hung like floating islands. Her finger traced each letter then came to rest on the colorful marlin. The book was compact with just enough substance to rest on a lap. Creamy pages fanned releasing a mustiness testifying to its endurance. A saffron sleeve covered the book like a robe and the swirls and strands of ‘Ernest Hemingway’ leapt alongside the marlin.

    Without hesitation the young girl slid the book under her blouse. It nestled beneath her heart. She turned towards the light. A final tinkle and her green eyes challenged the brightness. Cuban sunshine won and she squinted before once again crossing the street. Her ribs felt the sharpness. Each pierce reminded her. She had to deliver the book.

    Sirina walked and walked. She walked towards a small white building on a green mound surrounded by two shades of blue. Peppery heat made her lick her lips and she tasted the sea. It reminded her of the fish her father caught. Shining ovals laid flat against burning coals while pale yellow butter sizzled over silvery flesh. There was no smell of cooking and the door was closed. Serina knew it wouldn’t be locked. All she had to do was turn the handle. A window allowed her to glimpse the other side.

    Her father sat on a chair. Behind him was the turquoise sea. A man stood beside the chair. His dark suit was an offence to the sea and the sky and the sun. It absorbed all the colors of joy. The same way he absorbed every tree and every fish. The pain beneath her heart told her to be silent. It was as if her father placed his rough fingers to her lips. Silence called the fish.

    Crouching down, she pulled out the book. For the first time the girl saw the back cover. Beneath golden shards of sunlight a fisherman sat in his tiny boat. The sea was calm and he waited. Sirina waited. Shadows fell. She listened to the whisper of the sea. Darkness came. The moon’s allure made the sea heave. The door opened and shut.

    In the moonlight, her father still sat on the chair. The lines were free of dried fish. The pot was empty. She lowered herself to sit at her father’s feet and started to read, ‘He was an old man who fished alone…….’ She read and read guided by the moon and the stars. Her voice rose and fell with the swell of the sea. When she finished, Sirina put the last book in her father’s worn hands. He placed it on his lap.

    Paisley (Paisley Thoughts)’s last blog post..Competition Entry (click on link to read full story)

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  • http://www.domesticcents.com Nicki at Domestic Cents

    Here it is! Thanks for reading :)

    Well, this is odd, he thought to himself. I never leave home without my wallet, never. His mind whirled, attempting to solve the mystery of where he’d left it. A meticulous man, he didn’t misplace or forget anything. His routine was foolproof and he never strayed from his routine.

    While he stood there, mind racing, bewildered in the middle of the sidewalk, a woman looked on from 20 yards away. She trembled as she peered around the corner, convinced that everyone knew. Her worn, thin hands shuddered as she glanced down at the expensive wallet. She’d never stolen anything in her life, never. She wasn’t even sure what had prompted her to do it. Ashamed, she hung her head as she slipped back around the corner, the alley-way provided little comfort. She thought back to the events of that morning.

    She’d been awoken by an angry knock on their door. She didn’t want to answer it, and she didn’t need to. Her landlord let himself in. His voice thundered through her tiny apartment and she timidly walked out to meet him. They were being evicted. She’d known it was coming but had hoped in her heart she’d be able to find a way out before it came to this. He gave them one hour. She didn’t need to wake her children, ages 5 and 8, they’d heard the landlord’s voice and were old enough to draw their own conclusions. They changed their clothes and packed their bags.

    She walked her sons to school, telling them, willing it to be so, that everything would work out. She gave them a genuine smile and kissed their heads, with a forced, calm resolve that only occurs in the bleakest of situations. They had nowhere to live, no food and she had no options. She’d been laid off her secretarial job 4 months ago; you know – downsizing. As she gazed down the street her heart sunk as she realized she’d already applied to every business in sight, only to hear they weren’t hiring. She would have to walk further.

    She wasn’t sure what came over her when she saw the wealthy-looking man. The weight of her situation, combined with her desperate need to provide for her children caused her to do something that was now adding shame to the depth of horrid emotions she was experiencing. She dared another glance at the man she’d robbed. Why couldn’t she just run? Her legs wouldn’t move. He was still standing there. Why hadn’t he left?

    Consumed by his own thoughts, he played back the events of the morning. He’d refused breakfast, as usual, eager to get in to work early. His kids fumbled around the house, running late for school, also as usual. As his wife rushed them along she asked if he’d be working late again. Annoyed, he told her probably. She chided that he needed to hire an assistant. He brushed her off. Remembering that now, he winced. She was right. As she hurried the kids out the door, he stopped and grabbed his keys … wait … his keys had been on top of his wallet, as usual, yes, he’d remembered his wallet. As the realization crossed his mind, he faltered a little. It had been stolen.

    Before he could take a step he heard a voice, a kind voice, he turned to see a small woman. She stood confidently but her eyes spoke truth. As he gazed into them he thought she seemed pure and good. He followed her eyes as she looked down, and saw his wallet. His eyes darted back to her face. He wanted to ask how she’d gotten it; had she taken it? Was she simply being a Good Samaritan? He didn’t say anything. In his heart he knew, he could see she was holding back tears, she had taken it. As he numbly retrieved his wallet she breathed deeply and turned to leave.

    He was unsure what came over him in that instant. It was the moment of perfect clarity that we all dream of having. He suddenly felt ashamed of the man he was becoming; greedy and consumed with business. Remembering his morning made him realize he’d neglected his family for far too long. He looked up from his thoughts to see the woman walking away. He took a few quick steps and gently touched her arm. Nervously, she turned back toward him, knowing he deserved an explanation. But as she looked up he was holding the door open for her; the door to his business. He needed an assistant.

    • http://www.modern50shousewife.blogspot.com Liz

      Great story. I liked the surprise at the end. Hope you win.

      Liz’s last blog post..A list anyone?

  • http://www.domesticcents.com Nicki at Domestic Cents

    Here’s the link back to my post, not sure why it didn’t pick up with the commentluv.

    http://www.domesticcents.com/creating/collective-inkwell-fiction-contest/

    Nicki at Domestic Cents’s last blog post..Collective Inkwell Fiction Contest

  • http://www.domesticcents.com Nicki at Domestic Cents

    Thanks Liz! :)

    Nicki at Domestic Cents’s last blog post..Collective Inkwell Fiction Contest

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  • http://www.enewman.co.uk Emma Newman

    Hi! What a great way to launch, and what a great way to make me write a short story for the first time since I was seventeen (many years ago!). Thanks for the opportunity to stretch myself. The post on my blog about this is at http://www.enewman.co.uk/writing/the-first-short-story-i-have-written-in-the-last-fifteen-years

    How could she have known that crossing the street would mean so much? She hadn’t seen the man sitting outside the café in the sunshine. But as soon as she saw him, she knew she had to go to him.

    In the Saturday afternoon heat, the pavements were busy, crowded with tourists and residents alike. She hated the city in the summer. So did he.

    “What are you doing here?” she asked nervously.

    “Looking for you.” He gestured to the white metal seat. “Why don’t you sit down?”

    “I shouldn’t,” she replied, glancing around.

    He sighed. “No-one is taking any notice of you. Sit. Please. We need to talk.”

    She moved round to perch on the edge of the chair, clutching her bag to her stomach. The little wrought iron table between them was bare, with a small umbrella that cast a cooling shadow over him but left the glare on her. Her fair skin would burn soon. She knew he was staring at her, even though she couldn’t bear to look at him. Instead, she watched the waitress, hurrying between the tables, taking orders faster than the poor girl could serve.

    “I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” he said and she pressed her lips together. “Don’t be like this. Look, I know you want to talk to me. You crossed the street.”

    She sighed and looked across the table. His tweed jacket looked so odd amongst the cotton and linens of the other patrons. He hadn’t changed, hair still long, tied back in a ponytail, small round glasses. Those eyes. She shivered.

    “I didn’t see you actually. And then when I did, I only came to tell you to leave me alone.” She watched him fold his arms.

    “You need me.”

    A pain behind her temples began to thud with her heartbeat. Not again.

    “I don’t, I don’t need you anymore. It’s different now. I’m… life is better now.”

    He rolled his eyes. “Oh please. You said that that last time. ‘I don’t want you to help me,’ you said. ‘I can do this by myself’ you said. Then look what happened.”

    She scowled. “What happened?”

    He pointed at her left hand. “That.”

    The wedding ring glinted in the sunlight. “You’re just jealous.”

    “Jealous!” his head tipped back and he laughed bitterly. “No. No Katie. Not jealous.” He dropped his face back towards her, eyes burning. “Furious.”

    “Please don’t cause a scene. I’m happy now, really, I don’t need you any more.” She swallowed hard, noticing the other people looking at her disapprovingly.

    The moment was broken by an inappropriately cheerful melody coming from her hand bag. She hurriedly pulled out the mobile phone and looked at the number displayed on the front.

    “Checking up on you is he?”

    She took the call, turning away from him.

    “Darling, are you alright?” her husband’s voice sounded tinny. “You’ve been gone ages.”

    “The shop… ran out of milk,” she lied. “I had to come further into town.”

    “Katie, are you ok?”

    She shut her eyes, drew in a breath. Her chest was tight. “I’m fine,” she finally answered.

    “It’s happening again, isn’t it?”

    “No Tom.”

    “Don’t lie to me, godammit. I saw the signs. Damn. Where are you?”

    Her companion lent across the table. “End the call,” he ordered.

    “Katie? Where are you?”

    “End the call.”

    Shaking, she pressed the button and her husband’s voice cut off.

    “Good.” He sat back in the chair. “Now, let’s talk about what you are going to do.”

    She turned off the phone before the second call could begin the ring tone, and dropped it back into her bag. “That’s nice of you,” she muttered. “You’re making it sound like I have a choice.”

    He pushed the glasses back up his nose. “You do. Leave him now, or later.”

    “I don’t want to leave him!” she hissed across the table. The couple at the table next to them were stealing sideways glances at her. She reddened.

    “But you know you have to. Otherwise, it will be worse for him and you.”

    She massaged her temples, the headache tightening a band around her forehead. “But I love him, and he loves me.”

    “Love? Don’t be so childish!” he spat. “You think you can love like they do?”

    “Yes!” she felt tears coming and hated herself all the more for it.

    The neighbouring couple dropped money on the table and left hastily. She sank in the chair, knowing that others were staring. He merely laughed at them.

    She watched him, looking at the people around them with such disdain. Anger, like a solar flare erupted in her chest.

    “How dare you come back!” She fired at him. “I was doing just fine! Why can’t you
    leave me alone to live my life!”

    “Because you’re not one of them,” he replied calmly, patiently, as if she were a child. “And you never will be. Now I ask you again, will you leave him now? Or let this drag out and become… tiresome?”

    “I don’t have to leave him,” she replied fiercely. “I don’t have to do what you tell me any more!”

    The mocking amusement on his face dissolved into anger, and his eyes fixed her with such intensity she could almost feel them pressing into her like rapier points. “Yes you do,” he replied, voice measured. “Otherwise it will get very difficult for you. Do I have to remind you how difficult I can make things for you Katie?”

    She twisted the handle of her bag nervously, summoning the courage to stand up to him for the first time in her life. “I refuse to let you do this to me again.”

    He shook his head sadly. “So be it,” he sighed and touched the table lightly with his index finger.

    Its metal legs rattled on the pavement as hundreds of spiders burst up through the wrought iron spirals, spilling out like blood rushing from a wound. She screamed and leapt back, knocking her chair over. Then she was running, tears streaming down her face as she hurtled herself into the crowd, his laughter ricocheting off the buildings.

    Faces blurred past her, protests, shoves, people swearing as she careered into them. She fell, pulled her shoes off and then got up to run again, the concrete hot beneath her feet. His laughter echoed all the while as the soft surging sound of a thousand spiders swarmed into the street behind her.

    She hit a person that didn’t move aside. Hands grabbed her arms and she struggled, began to scream.

    “Katie!” Tom’s voice penetrated her terror and his face came into focus in front of her. He was holding her, shaking her gently. “It’s me, Tom!”

    Sobbing, she threw herself into his embrace and felt his arms wrap around her.

    “It’s ok, I’m here,” he said softly and for a moment, she felt safer. But then she sensed a presence behind her and twisted to see the man in his tweed jacket walking effortlessly through the crowd as it parted naturally around him.

    “Go away!” she screamed at him, but he ignored her.

    “Christ,” Tom said, turning her back to face him. “Katie, can you see him again?”

    “He’s there!” she gasped, with the voice she had as a child in the night, waking from the terrors.

    “No darling, he’s not.” He held her at arms length. “Look at me.” She forced herself to look at her husband, his warm brown eyes. “He’s not there Katie. He’s not real. Now we’re going to go home, and you’re going to take your meds, and we’re going to call the doctor, ok?”

    Meds? Yes… the tablets, they would make him go away, how could she have been so careless? She nodded and allowed him to steer her through the crowded street, burying her head in his shoulder as they walked.

    “You can’t keep running from me Katie,” a voice called from far behind. “You’re not one of them. You can’t deny what you are forever!”

    She squeezed her eyes shut, focused on the scent of Tom’s aftershave. She only opened them again when his arm moved suddenly. He swept something from the back of his neck and onto the pavement. A blood red spider scurried away.

    Emma Newman’s last blog post..The first short story I have written in the last fifteen years!

  • http://butterfliesinmyhand.wordpress.com Kool Aid

    I just want to say I do not envy the judges for this contest. Everything I’ve read so far is so GOOD! It would be nice to win, but really? I’m not exactly hopeful. There’s so much good writing here. Good luck, everyone! I have really enjoyed all these stories and can’t wait to see what crops up in the next day or so.

    Oh, and David and Sean? I really think you should keep these contests going.

    Kool Aid’s last blog post..Easter weekend, part 2

  • http://www.twitchinggreymatter.com christy

    Yea Em! I love the tweaks you made to your story. I think it’s great. Mine will go up either later today or tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

    christy’s last blog post..On Being a Responsive Communicator (And Business Owner)

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  • http://nebulousmooch.com Lovelyn

    Here’s my entry. I linked to the contest from this post.
    http://nebulousmooch.com/2009/04/29/im-entering-a-contest/

    A Wonderful Day

    How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much? Grace was simply trying to stay dry when she dashed across Vine Street to the cover of the green awning jutting out over the outside produce display at the local grocer’s. She was standing in front of the melons fishing through her large black bag for the umbrella she swore was in there somewhere when she felt a jarring force hit her hip. She steadied herself and looked down to find the source.

    A small man clung to her. Grace knew this was a man though he was the size of a child of four of five. Though his hands and fingers didn’t have the knobbed appearance of a dwarf, his cheeks showed the dark shadow of stubble. He clung to the nylon belt of her favorite hot pink trench coat. His legs wrapped firmly around her knees. His whole weight pulled down on her.

    “What are you doing?” she demanded.

    “Pardon me.” He let his feet slowly slide to the ground and released his grip on her belt. “I thought you were someone else.”

    “You really should double check before you go leaping on someone like that,” Grace was feeling quite put out now. She untied the belt of her trench, adjusted the length at both ends and retied it.

    “You’re right,” the little man said his face reddening with embarrassment. He watched the rain, now much heavier than before stream down the front of the awning.

    Grace looked at him for a moment as he stared out at the rain. His short thin arms crossed in front of him. His dark curly brushed the tops of his ears. He adjusted his blue jeans and zipped up his navy blue jacket. Grace had never seen anyone like him before. As she watched him standing there so small and awkward her heart softened. “It’s okay. No harm done.”

    He laughed—a sarcastic puff of a laugh that caused air to burst from his nose so quickly that it could’ve blown the thing clear off. “No harm done to you, but this costs me 30 bucks. Now it’s raining on top of that.” He shoved his hands deep into his jacket pockets. “I can’t afford to make these kinds of mistakes. I’ve got to pay the rent you know.”

    Grace had given up searching for her umbrella. She watched the rain stream down too. She had to speak loudly so her voice could be heard over the roar. “I’m Grace. What’s your name?”

    “Perry.”

    “Nice to meet you, Perry.” Even in the most uncomfortable situations Grace always keep her manners about her. “If you don’t mind me asking what do you do?”

    “You just saw, honey. That was most of the show right there.”

    “I don’t understand. You jump on women?”

    “Yeah. It’s a freak out game. Some jerk hires me to scare his girlfriend or whoever. They get a big laugh and I get 30 bucks. It’s not my only gig. I deliver singing telegrams and do some acting too. Christmas is a big time of year for me. You know, elves and the whole bit.”

    “Of course,” Grace said. She imagined Perry dressed in an elf’s custom. A pointed green and red felt hat flopped over to one side, it was easy to picture.

    “How many chicks come out of this market wearing a hot pink trench coat? I mean come on. How was I supposed to know? You’re supposed to be Sylvia. You’re supposed to be a lot younger and you’re supposed to be blond.” He pulled a small picture from his pocket and handed it to Grace.

    “I’m young,” Grace protested. She touched the corner of her left eye with her left hand. She’d notice crows feet making there marks on her face that morning when she put on her make-up. She took the picture from Perry and looked at it briefly. The picture looked like the type you get for high school graduation. A smooth faced blond girl smiled at the camera. Her hair hung in loose curls to her shoulder. A black V-necked frock draped across her large breast.

    Perry looked her over and said, “Not that young.”

    Grace winced and handed the picture back to him. She hated being confronted by the passing years.

    “Don’t get all offended. Youth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, you know? Those young giggly women get on my nerves. It’s better to have some life experience. Makes you interesting, you know?”

    “Yeah. I guess you’re right.”

    “Guess. You should know, Grace. That makes things a whole lot easier. Knowing is everything. Ain’t that what they say?”

    “I don’t know. Is it?”

    The rain was starting to let up. Perry looked at his watch. It was a narrow banded watch that hung loosely on his wrist. “I have to get going. I have a commercial audition across town. I’ve been running late all day. Isn’t that the way things happen? When I saw you standing under the awning I just noticed the bright pink coat and I thought, Great Sylvia’s late too. I can still get this job in.”

    “But I’m not Sylvia.”

    “Yeah. I’m sorry about that. It’s so unprofessional of me.”

    “It’s fine. What’s done is done.” She handed him the picture.

    Perry stuck the picture back into his jacket pocket. From his other pocket he pulled out a business and handed it to Grace. “Here’s my card.”

    Perry Stephens
    Actor and Performer

    The card stock was thick and off-white. The writing was gold and raised. It was a lot nicer card than Grace expected someone in his profession would have. “Nice card,” she said. When she went to hand it back to him he shook his head in protest.

    “That’s yours. I’ve got plenty. You never know when you might want to send someone a singing telegram, or completely freak them out. You might need a freak to appear in the movie you’re making.”

    “I’m not making a movie.”

    Perry laughed. “I thought every one was making a movie or at least writing a book.” When Grace met his joke with a blank stare he just continued talking. “Give me a call sometime. Maybe we could get a bite to eat.”

    “Maybe?” She looked back at the card on her hand.

    “Relax, Grace. I’m not trying to pick you up or anything. You seem new in town. I thought you might need a friend.”

    “Thanks.” Grace was new in town. She’d only been in the city of three months and had to admit that making friends was hard. “I’ll give you a call then.”

    “I’ll show you all the hip places to be seen. It’ll be fun.”

    “Yeah.” She smiled. The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started.

    “Good. I’ll be waiting for your call. I have to go. I’m going to be late.” He took off running down the street jumping over puddles. The farther away he got the less she noticed his height.

    “Bye,” she said though he was already out of earshot. She stuck his card in her pocket, zipped her purse closed and stepped out from under the awning. The sky was already clearing and she could tell it was going to be a wonderful day.

    Lovelyn’s last blog post..I’m Entering a Contest

  • http://writerdad.com Sean

    WOW! Competition’s totally heating up. Keep them coming guys!

    Sean’s last blog post..Deeper Roots For Longer Branches: Writer Dad 2.0

  • http://chasemarch.blogspot.com Chase March

    Here is my entry that I teased about on my blog. http://chasemarch.blogspot.com/2009/04/collective-inkwell-fiction-contest.html

    THE THOUGHT ALONE

    By Chase March

    “You know how there are never enough hours in the day, how it seems that you need to move faster, get more done? I know you do. We’ve all felt it at one point or another. And sometimes that thought alone is enough to motivate us.”

    Joe looked across the top of the podium and had to smile. He wasn’t sure that he’d be able to pull this off but so far so good. He was actually doing it. He glanced over at Jennifer, his daughter, to see if she approved of his speech so far. She smiled. That was all the fuel he needed to continue.

    “We can feel a pull and start to walk towards something without even knowing what it is. We sometimes feel opportunity coming and correct our course to intercept one that otherwise might pass us by. Perhaps Jennifer felt it that day. I sure know that Mark did. And I am sure most of you have heard this story over and over. But allow me this, as father of the bride, to retell it.”

    Jennifer didn’t need to hear the story again. It was part of the fabric that was her fairytale. Every girl dreams of this. It still seemed unreal. Could she actually have a fairytale wedding and live happily ever after? Did this really happen in real life? She looked over to Mark and felt absolutely no doubt. None. This was for real. “The heart knows what it knows,” was what her grandma had always said. And she was here to see it, which made it all the more sweet.

    “My wife,” Joe continued, “tends to obsess about seasonal clothes. And I know.” He cleared his throat. “I know this should be about my daughter but I bought the coat. And Cheryl washed it and put it away so that should count for something right.”

    Jennifer put her hand up to her eye and rubbed it. He’d been off to such a good start in the speech. Now he’d probably lost half the audience. They’d laughed, but how were they to know what he was talking about? How could he always manage to lose the thread of a perfectly good story? She wished she could jump in and tell the story herself at this point.

    It was early fall and the temperature was unseasonably low. The wind ripped through the city and pushed the litter alongside the road. People hurried along the sidewalks eager to get inside, afraid that this weather signaled the demise of another summer.

    Jennifer wasn’t immune to any of this. In fact, before leaving the house, she had dug her winter coat out of the closet in the basement. It was in perfect condition and looked brand new even though Jennifer had been through a lot with it that previous winter.

    As Joe continued his speech, Jennifer’s memories played in her head like a movie. The picture was perfectly clear. Was it because of the narrative that her father was awkwardly telling?

    “So, yeah, the coat was an absolute mess after that,” Joe continued.

    Jennifer tuned him out. This can’t be about a coat. It can’t be about her being in that part of town on one specific day. It had to be more that that. Or did it?

    She scanned the audience and couldn’t believe that everyone she loved was here in one room celebrating the fact that she’d found love. She made eye contact with her maid of honour who mouthed the words, ”Can you believe this?”

    Jennifer focused on that last phrase. She remembered that for the past year and a half she often said, “I can’t believe this is happening,” or something to that effect. Even her family and friends echoes that sentiment.

    What was so hard to believe about falling in love, about finding a soul mate, about being in the right place at the right time? Maybe the phrase “can you believe it” has very little to do with belief. Perhaps it is the only way we know how to describe something so perfect. Or maybe we do believe it but always have some doubt. This can’t be real, can it? Perhaps we need that doubt so that we can truly analyze the situation and get our bearings, so to speak.

    Nah, Jennifer didn’t believe that either. She believed in the fairytale. She believed in soul mates. And she knew without a doubt that when that special person walks into your life, you’d just know. And she knew it, right away. Had to have. Otherwise it wouldn’t have played out that way, would’ve it?

    “So, she tells me, ‘Didn’t think I’d need this already,’ as she dashed out the door wearing the red jacket.”

    Jennifer looked over to her husband and wondered what he was thinking right at that moment. He nodded his head and whispered, “You did need it.” It was a chilly morning that day. He wished that he could take over the microphone and tell the story. He could do it justice. Much better than it was being told now.

    I used to work at a donut shop part-time as I put myself through university. The shop had huge front windows that overlooked the main street.

    I remember that the door would sometimes open by the wind. The door chime would sound and I’d come up front to find no customers to serve. It was always a mild annoyance.

    Well, on the day that Joe has been describing so far the wind had other plans.

    I remember that day more clearly than any day before or since. I was working in the back of the shop baking when the door chime sounded. That sound was normal enough but the accompanying sound made me leave my station.

    I hurried to the lobby and saw that the wind had pulled open the door and torn it from its hinges. The manager and I were able to put the door back in place and lock it. We then put up a note for our customers to use the staff entrance. The manager called a repairman and I got back to work. Simple as that. A brief distraction in a regular workday.

    A few hours later, the manager and I were in the front lobby surveying the newly repaired front door. I would normally have been working in the back at this time so I take that as a sign.

    Anyway, as I stood in front of those large windows watching the wind still whip through the city, I saw a girl cross the street. She was strangely compelling and my eyes were glued to hers. There was something about it. An innocent stare as our eyes met for the longest time. It felt right in that moment.

    She crossed the street and walked past the front of the store. My eyes we glued to hers as she looked right into my soul and returned my passionate stare. She didn’t stop walking, as she looked right into the store at me. This too brief moment was amazing and outlasted normal time. There was meaning behind this exchange. There had to be. I could feel it.

    She continued walking and then shifted her gaze to where she was going. I was frozen to the floor, still in shock. I couldn’t move. The moment felt so right but she walked away. Why?

    I thought that it would’ve been perfect if she had turned around and came into the store. But she didn’t. I couldn’t go back to work and I couldn’t stay stuck to the floor in the lobby. My manager was right there. What was I to do?

    Only one thing. I ran out of the store and chased after her. I didn’t even know what I was doing. The manager yelled at me.

    “So the manager is yelling at Mark to get back here or he’s fired. Mark’s throwing off his apron. Jennifer’s turning around to see what all the ruckus is about. Mark’s yelling back to his manager, ‘Give me a moment okay?’ The manager’s throwing up his hands and turning around. I wish I could’ve been there.”

    Both Jennifer and Mark were all smiles at this point. Joe had told the story and told it well but he wasn’t quiet done yet.

    “I asked Mark what he was thinking when he ran out of the donut shop after my daughter. He told me that as Jennifer walked out of sight, her beautiful eyes and her red coat remained etched into his memory. He asked me if I believed in love at first sight. Then he said that he knew right away that he loved my daughter with no question at all. He told me that had he not run after her he would’ve regretted it for the rest of his life.”

    Joe continued his speech. “Now I don’t know if I believe in love at first sight but I do believe in soul mates. I don’t know what made Jennifer cross the street against the lights that day, or why she was in that part of town. Perhaps it was fate. Perhaps they both knew they were headed toward something special. All I really know is that they found true love and I wish them all the best.”

    He lifted his glass and toasted the happy couple. “Mark, welcome to the family. Jennifer, how could you have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?”

    THE END

    Chase March’s last blog post..The Collective Inkwell Fiction Contest Entry

  • Pingback: Twitted by chasemarch

  • http://www.twitchinggreymatter.com christy

    Here is my submission. Link to my blog entry may be found here: http://www.twitchinggreymatter.com/?p=206

    Well this is odd, he thought to himself. I didn’t imagine quite so much blood. Not on me at any rate.

    Wiping his hands on the girl’s skirt, he stood, considering his handiwork. Sadly, the unevenness of the floor caused the blood to run away from the girl, rather than pooling artfully around her head as a thick red halo.

    “Certainly not a perfect picture of innocence, but it will do,” he said aloud. “Yes, it will do.”

    There was no basin in the room, so he wiped the blades on the girl’s skirt, laid them to rest in his surgeon’s kit, and shrugged himself into his heavy woolen greatcoat. Gloves slid on over blood-stained hands, he picked up his hat.

    “I thank you for an enjoyable and instructive evening,” he said bowing.

    The door to his back, he opened the window and climbed out onto the fire escape. Trusting the frozen night to keep wandering folk confined to warmer accommodations, he descended to the alley and strolled home.

    The night was disappointingly like so many other nights before it. The frigid air evacuated the streets, and he was able to pass unhindered through the neighborhood. He had expected it to become somehow . . . different. In what way he could not have said, only that now that his world had changed, so too should the world around him.

    It had not.

    At this hour, there were few lights glowing in the windows. The city was as nearly at rest as was possible for this kinetic metropolis. It was as it had always been. He wanted it to be different.

    Without any mindful attention to his path, he was surprised to find himself in the foyer of his rooms. The recognition of home intruded upon his thoughts, dismissing the frustrated reverie. This place, too, was silent. He proceeded into the darkness with the confidence born of familiarity.

    He stood in the darkness of his study, allowing the viscous silence to envelop him. It had been an emotional night. A night he had planned. A night he had anticipated. A night about which he dreamt for longer than he could remember.

    And it was as yet incomplete. Laying greatcoat, hat, and gloves on the wing-back chair, he padded across the thick oriental carpet to his desk.

    Fumbling slightly in the darkness, he switched on the desk lamp. The bulb’s light burst onto his over-exposed retinas.

    “Damn.”

    Half-blinded he squinted. Crouching under the desk, he blindly sought out the power button on his computer tower while his eyes adjusted to the light. Finding the right texture under his fingertip, he pushed. The large LCD screen flickered to life. He waited patiently as the familiar start-up chime brought the machine to life.

    With a click Chrome bounced into action. Browser opened to an “incognito window,” he cleared the address bar and began to type.

    http://www.jacksnewworld.com/wp-login.php

    The login screen passed quickly as he entered the username and password. The dashboard glowed before him.

    This is it, he thought. The beginning. The new beginning.

    Clicking on Add New under the Posts menu brought an empty text box to his monitor. His fingers moved with rapid confidence over the keyboard.

    Who would have imagined that life’s basic element is viscous and sticky? It is.

    Were it not for the warped floor in the room she chose, she might have been restored to the picture of angelic innocence of her pre-whoring days.

    The entire operation was not nearly so difficult as one might think. It is the simplest thing to procure the subject and further to agree upon a meeting place.

    Once there, rapidity of motion and conviction of purpose are the primary keys to success. Once begun, the path cannot be abandoned else the risk of failure is at hand.

    The whore struggled, though only for a moment. It was as simple a matter as I had imagined. Though there is room for improvement.

    And improve I shall. And here shall I record my journey toward perfection. This first step into a brave new world is mine.

    Jack is back.

    He admired the words he had written much as he had admired his handiwork on the girl. Silently, he guided the mouse pointer to the Publish button.

    He clicked.

    christy’s last blog post..On Being a Responsive Communicator (And Business Owner)

    • Carl

      Yeah Baby! Jack the Ripper is back!!

      Can’t wait for Chapter 2!!

  • http://simplyblog.net Miguel Wickert | Simply Blog

    Okay guys, my submission. :)

    Here’s the post at my site: http://simplyblog.net/the-doubleshot/

    The DoubleShot

    Well, this is odd, he thought to himself. As he entered the coffee shop, a refreshing, vibrant odor from roasted coffee beans gave him something to smile about while creating a sense of authority; suddenly, his mind began racing with rumors about the owner.

    Known in town as the coffee Nazi because you had to drink the coffee his way. He is the shop’s roast master. if anyone possessed an understanding, fondness and familiarity with the product, it’s him. There could be no compromise.

    Ones preferences usually matter, this was the American Western way of life. But not at the DoubleShot. You either participate in what they have to offer or find a Starbucks. He knew, ordering off the menu was his only option. They only serve what’s on the menu. It made sense, but as he walked to the counter, he couldn’t understand what the big deal was?

    “Americano please.”

    “For here or to go?”

    “For here.”

    He had to order an Americano; at least that’s what his friends told him. Wanting to play it safe. He did what he was told. No one wants to get bitched out at the T-town’s notorious coffee spot for pissing off “the coffee Nazi.”

    Waiting for the drink, he felt the pressure leaving which made for a more pleasant experience.

    The Americano is ready and with his lofty expectations! He’s ready. Drinking espresso with a little hot water. For him, drinking coffee without alterations, this is a first!
    Normally, he is a sweet tooth coffee drinker: Half and half, brown sugar, cinnamon, crushed ice, ice cream and so on.

    That’s one of the notable distinctions about “The Double Shot.” They frown upon adding alterations to beautifully, tasty, finished cup of drip coffee, especially their espresso blend!
    Grabbing a seat, with pressure slowly mounting again, and ready to participate in what others believed to be the best, freshest coffee available.

    Why is this experience exciting? He knew they were watching. Trying to relax, with his lips to edge of the cup, he sipped. His palate absorbed about several distinct favor profiles: earthy, then tangy, followed by a refreshing, smooth, lasting mouth-feel.

    Well, this is odd, thought to himself. No added alterations: without sugar, milk, sweetener or syrups; simply a finished, untouched, not aged- fresh cup of coffee. He could no longer return to his former life.

    Miguel Wickert | Simply Blog’s last blog post..Why No-One Should Spend $1000 but less than $100

  • Pingback: Christmas Morning and a Camera | Travelin' Local

  • http://www.travelinlocal.com LisaNewton

    Ok, here’s my submission and the link back to my site, http://www.travelinlocal.com/christmas-morning-and-a-camera/

    Creative Inkwell, is a new site dedicated to “making your blog great” and was created by Sean Platt and David Wright. It’s currently hosting a creative writing contest.

     

    I thought participating would be fun, plus a great chance to help Sean and David launch their new business endeavor. When you have time, spend a few minutes from your busy day there, and read some great new fiction that’s been submitted from other talented and diverse bloggers from very different genres. While you’re there, make sure you check out the new services that Sean and David are offering other bloggers to make their websites noticed and top-notch.

    So, in the spirit of Travelin’ Local, here’s my entry:

    Christmas Morning and a Camera

    How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

    With her children grown and beginning their adult lives at college or with new careers, Christmas become just another symbol and routine: a time off from work. Her ennui did not engulf and enmesh her into anything worse than what happens to most—an acceptance of the way things are, not what they could be.

    She wasn’t depressed for sure, because long ago she knew that she was a survivor and a warrior. Life had taken on more of the pitter-patter of which many get used to, or make believe they do—full time job, a card carrying member of the rat race.

    So for her, as this Christmas portended another year almost gone, a footnote in history, however, new potentialities were approaching from around the bend.

    You see, her gift this year was a new camera. She was always interested in the arts, especially photography and writing, but she had foregone her career in lieu of her former husband’s, as did many women who thought that was the right thing to do. A person’s right to happiness, she later recognized was an elusive goal. But one she was determined to achieve, though, without sacrificing her moral underpinnings.

    At night, she frequently loved to look at the city’s panoramic and pulsating neon lights. To her they were an art-form of translucent beauty, a swirling of momentary magic to be captured through pictures as their affects are dreams, reflections, transfixions between the day and night, between original and man-made, and the creativity of commercial use for personal art.

    She has a firecracker personality, disarming to many, but treasured by those who really know her. Time waits for no one to be sure. She always knew the phrase and its implications but this day was different because she was about to cross the Rubicon she always dreamt of and knew that she was capable of. How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

    With her camera hanging around her neck, and her bag full of camera paraphernalia, she was ready.

    As she crossed the street, she looked at a scene that had presented itself many times to her, the Pacific Ocean beach’s of Southern California. As usual, it was brisk and fog-laden.

    But not as usual, she knew things this time were indeed different. Armed with her new weapon, she knew right there, right then at that moment that her new camera would spring life back into her morning and her life. It didn’t matter what the weather was, or how many people were out and about.

    Of course, most people were home, enjoying opening presents, eating Christmas cookies, watching the parades and Bowl games.

    She looked out over the beach, held the camera to her eye, and starting taking pictures. One, then another, then another, time was irrelevant. Her art was.

    Looking right, left, up, and down, she took picture after picture, trying to visualize each shot in her mind before she’d shoot. Like a director concocting a scene, or a writer visualizing his plot, her mind enjoyed the new found joy of being able to compose mis-en-scene and capture the moment.

    The moment is that characteristically misunderstood things that most people take for granted and now, with her new Nikon, she was able to find tremendous satisfaction in having the capacity to steal those things and seal their fate onto the palette of her memory using the photograph as a means to suspend time and beauty forever.

    Unsure of all of her camera settings, for this first photo shoot, she kept her camera on “auto.” After all, the brave new world she had entered even though now fully digitized, was also the same form and reference point that the greats worked with—hand on camera, eye to the mood and environment, and senses all tuned in and on by the light, many much more famous than she’ll ever be turned photography and photographs into a cultural phenomenon, a denouement of the senses, a moment of time never to be repeated but captured onto the silver gelatin. So she’d figure out, over time, all of those “whatcha ma call its” and “thing a majigs.”

    It suddenly dawned on her that she had started seeing common everyday things in a new way. The portrait of an Artist was now her new calling card as she now knew and understood that by crossing the street she had changed her life forever.

    Her personality and love of people, art, writing, and technology would allow here to pursue her life-long dreams of becoming a photojournalist and the vista of her dreams were multi-colored, multifaceted and didn’t have an ending or any restrictions that she could see.

    The clearer she was going to be about her destination, the easier it was going to communicate why others should pay attention.

    How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

    She couldn’t have, but by and because of that fact the rest of the world was soon to find out, her personal zeitgeist of what her interpretations of her environment is.

    Today was the First Day of the Beginning of the Rest of Her Life

  • http://www.travelinlocal.com LisaNewton

    Okay, gentleman, here is my entry. I’ve only included the words here, but because pictures are a large part of what I do, and several are included in this story, I posted the entire entry on my site. I tried to include the pictures here, but the comment section didn’t take them, so I hope I didn’t break any rules by putting the entire post on my site, http://www.travelinlocal.com/christmas-morning-and-a-camera/. You said any genue, so I included photos as part of my genue…………………….:)

    Christmas Morning and a Camera

    How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

    With her children grown and beginning their adult lives at college or with new careers, Christmas become just another symbol and routine: a time off from work. Her ennui did not engulf and enmesh her into anything worse than what happens to most—an acceptance of the way things are, not what they could be.

    She wasn’t depressed for sure, because long ago she knew that she was a survivor and a warrior. Life had taken on more of the pitter-patter of which many get used to, or make believe they do—full time job, a card carrying member of the rat race.

    So for her, as this Christmas portended another year almost gone, a footnote in history, however, new potentialities were approaching from around the bend.

    You see, her gift this year was a new camera. She was always interested in the arts, especially photography and writing, but she had foregone her career in lieu of her former husband’s, as did many women who thought that was the right thing to do. A person’s right to happiness, she later recognized was an elusive goal. But one she was determined to achieve, though, without sacrificing her moral underpinnings.

    At night, she frequently loved to look at the city’s panoramic and pulsating neon lights. To her they were an art-form of translucent beauty, a swirling of momentary magic to be captured through pictures as their affects are dreams, reflections, transfixions between the day and night, between original and man-made, and the creativity of commercial use for personal art.

    She has a firecracker personality, disarming to many, but treasured by those who really know her. Time waits for no one to be sure. She always knew the phrase and its implications but this day was different because she was about to cross the Rubicon she always dreamt of and knew that she was capable of. How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

    With her camera hanging around her neck, and her bag full of camera paraphernalia, she was ready.

    As she crossed the street, she looked at a scene that had presented itself many times to her, the Pacific Ocean beach’s of Southern California. As usual, it was brisk and fog-laden.

    But not as usual, she knew things this time were indeed different. Armed with her new weapon, she knew right there, right then at that moment that her new camera would spring life back into her morning and her life. It didn’t matter what the weather was, or how many people were out and about.

    Of course, most people were home, enjoying opening presents, eating Christmas cookies, watching the parades and bowl games.

    She looked out over the beach, held the camera to her eye, and starting taking pictures. One, then another, then another, time was irrelevant. Her art was.

    Looking right, left, up, and down, she took picture after picture, trying to visualize each shot in her mind before she’d shoot. Like a director concocting a scene, or a writer visualizing his plot, her mind enjoyed the new found joy of being able to compose mis-en-scene and capture the moment.

    The moment is that characteristically misunderstood things that most people take for granted and now, with her new Nikon, she was able to find tremendous satisfaction in having the capacity to steal those things and seal their fate onto the palette of her memory using the photograph as a means to suspend time and beauty forever.

    Unsure of all of her camera settings, for this first photo shoot, she kept her camera on “auto.” After all, the brave new world she had entered even though now fully digitized, was also the same form and reference point that the greats worked with—hand on camera, eye to the mood and environment, and senses all tuned in and on by the light, many much more famous than she’ll ever be turned photography and photographs into a cultural phenomenon, a denouement of the senses, a moment of time never to be repeated but captured onto the silver gelatin. So she’d figure out, over time, all of those “whatcha ma call its” and “thing a majigs.”

    It suddenly dawned on her that she had started seeing common everyday things in a new way. The portrait of an Artist was now her new calling card as she now knew and understood that by crossing the street she had changed her life forever.

    Her personality and love of people, art, writing and technology would allow here to pursue her life-long dreams of becoming a famous photojournalist and the vista of her dreams were multi-colored, multifaceted and didn’t have an ending or any restrictions that she could see.

    The clearer she was going to be about her destination, the easier it was going to communicate why others should pay attention.

    How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

    She couldn’t have, but by and because of that fact the rest of the world was soon to find out, her personal zeitgeist of what her interpretations of her environment is.

    Today was the First Day of the Beginning of the Rest of Her Life

  • Pingback: Collective Inkwell Creative Fiction Contest Entry « i write to be read

  • Pingback: Creative Writing

  • http://www.timmholmes.wordpress.com Timm Holmes

    Here is my entry for the contest.
    Hope you all enjoy it!
    Link back to the posting on my blog http://timmholmes.wordpress.com/2009/04/30/collective-inkwell-creative-fiction-contest-entry/

    The Crossing

    She never imagined that crossing the street could mean so much.

    Harry and Wendel stood on either side of Stephanie, the shields in their hands nearly as tall as they were. The shields had once been car doors. Their eyes darted from the open windows of broken burned out buildings to the piles of rubble scattered throughout the streets, anywhere one of Dragon’s Flames might be hiding. They couldn’t risk a confrontation with Stephanie in the condition she was.

    Dragon was an older boy, almost nineteen by some accounts, and was the self-proclaimed leader of The Flames. Dragon was Asian, muscular and a vicious fighter. No one knew his real name, but they all knew to fear him.

    Stephanie caressed her round belly that extended outward. She was unsure of what was going to happen and exactly how it worked but knew there was a new person growing inside of her frail thirteen year old body.

    Harry began to cough and she turned to look at him. Unlike the other Smiths, Harry was her real brother from before. They had survived together. Harry wasn’t the oldest or the strongest boy on the island, but certainly one of the smartest. She thought about all he’d done for her and the others and couldn’t imagine never being able to see him again. The other Smiths affectionately called him Turtle because of the glasses he wore. He was her younger brother by a year or so, but she looked to him for guidance as did the rest of the family.

    Harry had managed to collect a number of books from throughout the ruined city and he had read as many of them as he could. When someone had a problem or if they got sick, Harry usually knew what to do. So when Stephanie started vomiting each morning about four months ago, it was Harry that revealed to her that she was pregnant.

    After the bombs had all been dropped and the last of the bullets fired, you couldn’t see anything but fire and smoke on every horizon. The big green statue to the North was charred and broken. Looking south, burning boats and ships littered the wide expanse of blue.

    They had all looked for a way off the island, but the bridges had all been destroyed. Swimming seemed an unlikely success. Many had tried and failed to get to what had once been Brooklyn. A shorter swim existed on the western side of the island but no one wanted to go that direction. All day and night nothing but screaming came from over there since the fighting had stopped. They must have gone crazy to the West.

    Dragon and The Flames had made their home to the North somewhere.

    So the Smiths settled to the South East, taking refuge in some of the less disturbed suburban homes. Everything had been looted, nothing was left unscathed. But with a little work under the guidance of their former leader Desmond, The Smiths were able to carve out a decent existence.

    Desmond had been the last adult to live on the island and when he finally succumbed to the sickness like the others, the family he had built needed a new father. Harry was well liked, knowledgeable and had been close with Desmond. He was the natural choice to lead the family. Even though he did not want the responsibility, he wasn’t given a choice. It was unanimous. He became the head of the Smith family.

    Dealing with the threat of Dragon and his Flames was enough of a daily concern, but they also had to contend with the Scavengers that would come across the water from time to time.

    They were adults and they would come take anything they thought might be useful. The problem was as far anyone on the island was concerned it all belonged to them. They’d been left abandoned here, so anything that was on the island was theirs. No one could be allowed to just come and take their property.

    It was rumoured though that the Scavengers were just a few of the many adults that lived across the water. It was also said that they had managed to bring back electricity and that they had proper doctors over there.

    This is why Stephanie had to go.

    So when the look outs spotted the Scavengers’ boat and reported back to Harry, he immediately set out with Wendel and Stephanie to meet them.

    Dragon had once had a girl that always stuck by his side. She was less vicious but seemingly as crazy as he was. They called her Diamond. Her belly got fat just like Stephanie’s was.
    Five months ago, Harry and another boy named Sam were on lookout duty and spotted Diamond shuffling weakly past a couple of the Smith residences. Before they could approach her, two visiting Scavengers stumbled upon her and after a short conversation all three walked away together.

    Harry and Sam followed the trio and watched as she was loaded onto the boat, wrapped gently in a blanket and given a bowl from which she cautiously began to eat. Once the other Scavengers returned from looting, the boat’s engine started up and they all went back across the water.

    Harry and Sam reported this to Desmond and he asked them not to speak of the incident to any of the others. They promised they wouldn’t. Out of respect for the family’s father, the lookouts kept their word.

    Shortly after, Dragon came looking for Diamond, convinced she had run away to join the Smiths. He brought about twelve of his Flames. Four of them were girls, although you wouldn’t know it to look at them.

    They came to the Smith’s neighbourhood hollering and screeching, Dragon loudest of them all.

    “Diamond! I gave you everything! You owe me everything! Come back where you belong! You’re mine!”

    Desmond had become quite ill and could not get up from bed. He could do nothing when The Flames began dowsing one of the unoccupied homes with gasoline. And he could only watch as they lit it on fire.

    Desmond asked Harry to gather some of his brothers and see if he could manage to chase Dragon off or at least convince him that Diamond wasn’t with the Smiths.

    Harry ran from house to house and gathered ten of his brothers. They joined Dragon and his bunch in the street just as they were beginning to soak a second lawn. The groups were only a couple houses apart.

    “Dragon!” Harry shouted his voice wavering ever so slightly as his nerves reached a fever pitch, “We need to have a word!”

    The entire group of Flames moved as one and began to approach the Smith brothers.
    “No!” Harry shouted again, “Just you and me.”

    His brothers mumbled protests but Harry hushed them.

    “Just be ready.”

    He walked toward Dragon. Dragon signalled his boys to stay behind as well and met Harry about halfway between the groups.

    “This better be good Goggle-face,” Dragon spat the words out, “Where’s Diamond?”
    “She’s not here—“

    Dragon lashed out with a single punch that knocked Harry to the ground. His glasses fell off and skipped a step or two away from him. Harry could hear his brothers start to charge but put his hand up to stop them. Then he crawled and recovered his glasses returning them to his face.

    “Liar! Don’t lie to me!” Dragon roared.

    “I’m not lying,” replied Harry standing back up, “I saw her about a week ago. She left with the Scavengers on their boat. Dragon, she was preg—“

    Dragon lashed out again. He buried a knife in Harry’s ribs. Harry fell against Dragon’s shoulder and his attacker whispered, “I don’t like liars.”

    Then Dragon was gone, Harry was on the ground and there was chaos all around. Behind all the shouting and fighting Harry watched the house that had been set on fire burn. He didn’t have the strength to move and there wasn’t a free hand to help him.

    Harry woke up on a couch. It was dark outside and candles lit the ransacked room.
    Stephanie knelt at his side carefully, like she was sore all over.

    “What’s wrong? What did they do?” Harry tried to sit up, but a sharp pain from his wound made him lie right back down.

    “Tore up every house looking for Diamond,” she spoke softly, “And they … hurt me. But I’ll be okay. We all will.”

    Harry thought of Dragon’s words, I don’t like liars.

    The Scavenger’s boat was pulling up near the shore now. They could see the light on the bow guiding it safely in.

    They crossed the street, Harry in front of Stephanie and Wendel behind, with shields in hand. All three of them scanned the streets and buildings for any sign of Dragon or his Flames.

    They reached the other side of the street and made their way down the gentle slope directly toward the boat. Two men clad in yellow rubber suits were disembarking, their heads covered by the yellow hoods sealed to the necks of their suits. As they turned and came face to face with the three kids, Harry saw that a clear plastic seal covered the front of the hood. It was nearly impossible to make out any facial features in the late dusk light.

    The two men still on the boat began to shout for the kids to stay back. One of them fired a weapon and a large rubber projectile slammed into Harry’s shield knocking him back into Stephanie who helped him regain his balance.

    “We just want to talk!” Harry yelled out. He began to cough and the two men on the shore each took a step back.

    “Stay back!” one of the men on the boat demanded again.

    “Please,” Harry began, “My sister here. She’s pregnant. She needs your help.”

    “Turn around and walk away!” came the voice from the boat.

    One of the men on the shore turned to face the boat, “Shut up Mike! You know the Doc’s gonna want to see her.”

    The man turned back to face the kids and started to walk slowly toward them his hands raised up to his shoulders.

    “Let’s see her kid.” He said to Harry.

    Harry nodded at Stephanie to step out from behind him but she was reluctant.

    “I won’t hurt you miss,” there was something in his tone that reminded her of Desmond.

    She stepped out from behind Harry, her hands wrapped around her belly.

    “How far along are you?” the man asked.

    Stephanie looked at Harry.

    “Four months or so,” Harry answered.

    The man looked silently at each of the three kids in turn.

    “You know we can’t take you boys too, right?”

    “We know, “Harry said, “The sickness.”

    “Can’t risk it. But her. She’s a different story. With every new baby comes the chance for a cure. One of these days a baby will be born that’s not sick.”

    Hollering and shouting could be heard in the distance.

    All four men looked up over the kids’ heads.

    “You better get going,” Harry told the men. He lifted his shirt showing his scar, “They’re good with knives.”

    Stephanie kissed Wendel on the cheek and then held her brother for a long moment until the man in yellow spoke softly, “Come on miss.”

    “I love you,” Stephanie whispered in her brother’s ear.

    She didn’t give him a chance to answer as she turned toward the boat, her tears beginning to spill down her cheeks.

    Harry watched his sister float away across the water. She’d be safe. She’d be taken care of.

    Wendel’s free hand fell gently onto his shoulder.

    “Better go Harry.”

    Wendel was right. The shouting was getting closer. Harry picked up his shield and the boys ran off into the night.

    Timm Holmes’s last blog post..Collective Inkwell Creative Fiction Contest Entry

  • http://welshscribe.co.uk Marc – WelshScribe

    A truly great contest going on here. What a fantastic imagination everyone has. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading what you lot have come up with. I hope mine is just as intriguing and fun.

    Good luck everyone.

    Well, this is odd, he thought to himself. I feel so hungry, really hungry. Must be why I’m feeling so weak. But I had a full lunch, didn’t I?

    Why can’t I remember? And where am I? So difficult to see. Come on Miles, think! Where were you last? What were you doing? Ow, my stomach. I wish this damned hunger would go away!

    Wait! A hospital. I was in a hospital! Wait…why was I in a hospital? Goddamnit why can’t I remember anything! Think Miles, think.

    OK I’m in a hospital, I’m weak, can barely move and I’m having difficulty seeing properly. You’re also lying on the floor Miles. Get up. GET UP!

    Getting up however was not so easy. Miles’ weakened legs struggled to lift the weight of his body but there was something else conspiring against him. The floor was slippery, too slippery for a shiny hospital floor. Something was coating the surface where he lay, something warm and slick.

    With a small thud Miles fell back to the floor. If he was capable of crying then the tears would already be flowing. But his eyes remained dry and open. Unblinking and seemingly transfixed on the opposite wall.

    Goddamnit! What in the hell is going on!

    Miles opened his mouth to yell for help but all that came out was a guttural moan, the sound of which surprised even him.

    Great I can’t speak now eith….Oh God no. No this can’t be happening to me. Please God don’t let this be happening to me. Why me? I can’t speak, can’t see, can’t move. Oh God I’ve suffered a cerebral infarction, why m- wait a what? How do I know the medical term for a stroke? Doctor…I’m a Doctor!

    Was a Doctor. Now I’m just a vegetable, a mind stuck in a non-functioning body.

    Miles slumped out on the floor and lay wallowing in his self-pity for what seemed like hours. A painful pang of hunger in his stomach brought him out of his preoccupation as an invisible force compelled him to move. Something had clicked in the back of his mind, a primeval, sub-concious sense – the will to survive.

    Must eat he thought as he dragged himself across the floor with comparative ease.

    Come on Miles, you’re a Doctor! Why would a stroke victim be so hungry? And how does it explain why you’re lying on the floor?

    As these thoughts and more raced through his mind Miles’ body lifted itself from the ground and he stood in an almost drunken stupor in one of the hospitals’ long corridors. His body was slightly haunched over, his arms hung limply by his sides and his head tilted rather abruptly to the right. Unbeknownst to him a dark liquid from his open mouth began to dribble down his chin and dripped onto the floor.

    Ok I’m finally on my feet. Now what? Where do I go? Must eat.

    Thoughts of food and of sustenance were beginning to overwhelm the broken Doctor. So much so that he didn’t notice his surroundings. He failed to note that the lights in the corridor had all but stopped functioning. The ones that were still lit were struggling to maintain that state as they flickered constantly.

    He failed to notice the almost war like destruction that had occurred to the corridor. The cabinets that were toppled over and strewn across the floor along with files, clipboards, stethoscopes and other various pieces of medical equipment. He also failed to notice the sheer amount of blood that was splattered all across the walls and gathered in great pools of red on the floor.

    What he did pick up on though were voices. People in the distance though not too far and rapidly coming his way. The sense of relief was almost over-bearing and Doctor Miles Harrison turned his body to face the source of the noise.

    Finally some help.

    That sense of relief was short lived.

    “Quick, there’s another one. Zombie!”

    Wha-

    “Aim for the head!”

    Oh no…

    Marc – WelshScribe’s last blog post..Creative Writing

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  • http://lorihoeck.com Lori Hoeck

    Thanks to the contestants for the writing sparks and all the great reading so far.

    As for the two arm twisters who threw down the gauntlet — below is my contribution to the contest and the blog link as requested here.

    ———–

    Well, this is odd, he thought to himself. Time travel shouldn’t be this easy, should it? In less time than it took him to nervously swallow hard, Marco and his friend Baktu jumped 10 years into the past. One moment they stood on an alien planet, and now they found themselves in the cargo hold of the Union of Stars, flagship of the first emperor’s space fleet. They were here to stop an assassination and alter the course of human history.

    Marco stood shocked for a moment at what they had done and were about to do. It still amazed him that a master thief and a mastermind should find themselves working together at this one pivotal moment in time …

    Two years before first time jump

    It took months of solitary confinement at the deepest levels of GovTech’s infamous prison before Marco felt madness creeping into his mind. Two slow daggers of thought kept him company: Knowing at age 27 that he would never see another human again and knowing his foolish actions caused the deaths of every other member of the Thieves’ Guild.

    Marco had known GovTech would not take lightly to having one of their most secure data storage banks in the 14 Star Colonies hacked and sold to the highest black marketer, but he had no idea they would turn even the Mind Cops out in force across the face of Planet Tesla to hunt and kill every Guild member they could find.

    The bastards of the ruling bureaucracy saved him for last. It took them a month of mind raping every pimp, junkie, and crime boss to find him, but they did. Death wasn’t good enough, though. After punitive torture, he was thrown naked into a self-cleaning cell with a 100-year time lock. Food paste and water dribbled out of faucets twice daily.

    So it was with considerable surprise one day that Marco heard the huge metal barriers blocking his door start to slowly roll out of the way.

    Had the high rulers at GovTech Administration given him a reprieve?

    Expecting a host of armed guards, Marco stepped as far from the door as possible. His eyes grew big when he looked down and instead saw the strangest looking man he’d ever laid his eyes on.

    “You need to work on that tan, old man,” Marco quipped. He couldn’t help himself; the small man looked whiter than an albino.

    “And you need to work on those scars, yes?” the man replied, his impossibly blue eyes noting the vicious cuts and burn marks all over the taller man’s once handsome physique.

    Throwing clothing and shoes at Marco, the man said, “My name is Baktu. I have made a clear path of escape.”

    Following Baktu out of the cell and down the corridor, Marco saw dozens of prison guards talking excitedly to each other. He drew back, but Baktu said, “Follow me. They will not notice us.” Every guard they passed seemed intensely preoccupied with one task or a conversation. Baktu and Marco walked through the entire prison without a single glance their way.

    Marco, a hundred questions dancing in his brain, followed Baktu on a trek to Tesla’s seamy crime district. Once there, they met with the captain of a black marketer’s ship who was waiting for them. All three boarded the sleek craft and took off from Tesla and away from any manhunt.

    Onboard the ship, Marco quickly found the galley. Eating a real meal for the first time in months, Marco relished every bite. The whole escape still seemed unreal, but the food said otherwise.

    As he ate, Marco looked across the table at Baktu and said, “Thank you for freeing me, but I’ve got to know. How in the 14 Stars did those guards not see us?”

    Leaning back in his chair Baktu took a deep breath. “I’m not like other men…”

    “Ha! No kidding!” Marco didn’t mean to be rude; it was just this frail, pale man seemed anything but normal.

    Baktu patiently started again, “I’m not like other men because my brain has been altered.”

    Marco suddenly lost all desire to kid around. “You’re a test-tuber?”

    The horrors of early Gov-Tech experimentation left all humans with a phobia of genetic manipulation. Images of half-human nightmares were part of every history data bank. Marco felt like a million Tesla Tangle Spiders had just enveloped his body.

    “The revulsion you feel is justified, but no, I’m not a mutation from a GovTech lab. The medical doctor who raised me four decades ago spent his early life studying autistic savants. He eventually noticed a pattern of brain activity and inactivity within his patients. He decided to create something similar, but controllable in a child test subject.”

    “You were that subject?”

    “Yes. With chemical injections, educational regimens, and temporary implants, my ‘father’ trained me to turn parts of my brain on and off at will. I can also connect sections of my brain that don’t normally work together.”

    “So you can boost your mental output at will?”

    “Yes, but even better, I can completely alter how I view and relate to reality as most humans know it.”

    “What?!”

    “I can change my brain to ‘converse’ – for lack of a better word – with my environment. In those moments, physics becomes a plaything to me, I can smell thoughts, see feelings, and hear creativity as a song.”

    “Did you ‘converse’ with the guards on some level then?”

    “Not quite. In my own research, I discovered the triggers to control other people’s mental functions, such as the ability to switch focus from one thing to another. For the guards, I used an airborne chemical to block them from changing mental gears for an hour or so.”

    Marco fell silent for a moment, stunned at the magnitude of the older man’s skills. But then his Guild training kicked in.

    A devilish smile crossed his face, “So between your skills and mine, the universe is ours.”

    Baktu grinned back. “Exactly.”

    ——

    With talents to spare, both men aimed their respective genius at the common enemy GovTech. Marco’s hatred was obvious, but Baktu’s drew its venom from a deeper pool of loathing. His “father” sold him to GovTech for a seat at the table of the Top Administrators. Baktu eventually escaped, but not before years of hellish experimentation in secret GovTech labs.

    They decided the best way to bring the bureaucratic goliath down was to find and use the ultimate prize against it – the Planet of the Ancients. Quiet, fearful whispers in the rumor mill of the 14 Star Systems spoke of untold wonders abandoned there by an alien race – technological secrets so powerful only the research team on the planet and two Top Administrators knew anything beyond uncertain gossip.

    Baktu and Marco started raiding data banks and personal diaries – anything to find out more information. They even paid vast sums to informants at all levels, but it took six months for them to get a break. A space dock worker came to them with the story of a huge space freighter with flight plans that didn’t make sense and a hold full of falsely labeled cargo.

    With the dock worker’s help, they stowed away on the freighter, its small crew never the wiser. As Marco’s training taught him, those who think they have the ultimate security surrounding them usually become too cocky to maintain it. The same would be true on the planet. The two arrived safely and secretly on the Planet of Ancients and set up a hideout from where their well placed spy cameras allowed them to watch every move of the research team on several Vidscreens.

    Weeks passed as they kept an eye on activities and secretly read the researchers’ notes. Then they found an uncensored GovTech data base the team had with them. As Marco and Baktu brought themselves up to speed on the team’s amazing discoveries, they learned more about the history of humankind, how their ancestors left Earth in the Great Exodus to the Stars 300 years before and made their way to the 14 Star Systems.

    In more recent history, they read with horror of the corruption and power of GovTech. The historical records included details only true megalomaniacs, despots, and narcissists would dare record. Both Marco and Baktu wished they could go back in time and stop GovTech’s first big play for power – the assassination of the first emperor of the 14 Star Systems.

    After a month watching and planning how to use all this newly amassed knowledge, the two men turned to their Vidscreens to see the scientists going mad with activity. Under the rubble of ancient ruins, the team found a sealed room labeled in the Ancient’s language as “Time Travel Portal.” Excavating around the shiny, black walls of the room’s exterior, they detected no entrance. They threw acids, explosives, sonics, lasers, heat, and cold at it – nothing even scratched the surface. Too light to be a solid object, it drove them crazy trying to figure out how to get inside.

    As they watched the latest activities on VidScreens, Marco turned to Baktu, “What do you think of our friends’ failures out there?”

    “I think they will never open it.” Baktu had a far away look in his eyes.

    Marco knew that look well. He called Baktu’s moments of brain alterations “mental magic” or “communing with the cosmos.”

    After Baktu came back to human normal, Marco asked, “Why won’t they be able to open it?”

    “The key to opening it is not physical.”

    Marco let that rattle around in his brain for a moment. “You mean you have to be psychic?”

    “No, you have to be me.”

    “Someone with mental magic?”

    “No, I mean me. Whoever built that room, built it for me to open. Ever since we first arrived, I have been experiencing déjà vu. But that feeling only comes when I commune with the cosmos, as you call it.”

    Marco’s experiences with Baktu’s skills allowed him to take that unlikely statement at face value. “In that case, we need to get you up close and personal with that room.”

    After putting the researchers into an induced sleep with more chemical brain tricks from Baktu, they made their way to the huge lab housing the self-contained room. As they approached the walls of the room, they could hear and feel a bone-deep humming growing louder. First Baktu and then Marco were compelled to hum along with it. As the resonating vibrations filled his whole existence, Marco felt his body phase in and out of reality, or time, or space. He didn’t know and didn’t care. The world was nothing but the humming.

    Suddenly it all stopped. The room was gone. In the air, just in front of them, floated two, small circular objects. Marco and Baktu exchanged glances before reaching up to grab them. As they reached out, the items disappeared, and then as quickly, reappeared on their wrists.

    “We travel all the way to the Planet of the Ancients, and all we get is a bracelet?” Marco’s wry humor made them both smile and helped them finally to take a deep breath.

    Examining the smooth black “bracelet,” Baktu had another notion. “I think a better name would be Time Bands.”

    Marco held up his banded wrist. “These things will allow us to travel in time?”

    Baktu shrugged his shoulders. “I guess we will find out. Let us return to the hideout.”

    On the way back, Marco and Baktu discussed the idea that their future selves left the Time Bands for them.

    Marco laughed to think of an old Marco and even older Baktu making them go through all this. “I mean, crikes, Baktu, I think I would have given us these things long before the agonies we’ve been through so we could avoid them.”

    “But then we would have never met.”

    That thought gave Marco pause. Maybe this time stuff was trickier than he imagined.

    At the hideout, they decided to try jumping back five minutes. Words didn’t work. Thoughts didn’t work. They even tried to repeat the hum and will themselves back a short five minutes.

    “Damn things ought to come with a manual.” Frustration filled Marco’s words.

    Suddenly Baktu had a flash of insight. “Since we were meant to find these together, I think we must use them together. And since time travel is probably more in the realm of my mind magic, let me try to move us in time that way.”

    Instinctively touching his Time Band to Marco’s, Baktu felt them cling together as if magnetized. He looked at Marco who just nodded. Switching his brain to another gear, Baktu focused on jumping back five minutes.

    It didn’t work. Nothing worked.

    Marco pulled his Time Band back with a hard pull to separate them and sat down. “We must be missing something.”

    Baktu nodded slowly and began to motionlessly commune with the cosmos again. Half an hour later, he came back. “Our first jump must be the one we really want the most.”

    Marco jolted upright in his chair. “To save the emperor?” His eyes popped open as wide as Tesla’s moon. “That would mean these devices aren’t just for time travel!” He saw Baktu smile mischievously and nod.

    Marco shook his head in amazement, “What if we don’t get it right and end up in a sun or in space?”

    “It may seem like a leap of faith, but if we left ourselves these bracelets, it must have worked.”

    “Crikes, this is maddening.” Marco threw up his hands as if the fates were playing him again. Then he looked into the calm face of his friend. He saw nothing but complete confidence.

    Marco stood up, walked across to Baktu, joined Time Bands again, and said, “Why not?” Watching Baktu go into the mental magic for possibly the last time, he nervously swallowed hard …
    —–

    First time jump

    Well, this is odd, he thought to himself. Time travel shouldn’t be this easy, should it? In less time than it took him to nervously swallow hard, Marco and his friend Baktu jumped 10 years into the past. One moment they stood on an alien planet, and in the next moment they found themselves in the cargo hold of the Union of Stars, flagship of the emperor’s space fleet. They were here to stop an assassination and alter the course of human history …

    “Marco!” Baktu whispered the name intensely to get his friend focused. He didn’t want them to be found by any of the crew from the Union of Stars or by the emperor’s guards. They needed to hide and quick.

    Marco turned to look at his friend. “Uh, yes … yes, I’m OK.”

    “Are you sure of that Marco Polo?” The voice boomed from behind them.

    Startled by the voice and use of his full name, Marco whirled around, as did an equally wide-eyed Baktu. Neither had thought to bring a weapon.

    Their eyes fell on two familiar figures, one tall and one short. It took a long moment, but then they both realized they were looking at their older, almost unrecognizable selves. The older Marco wore the unmistakable clothing of the first Emperor.

    The younger Marco looked like he was about to commune with the cosmos, so great was the shock.

    “Yes, yes, younger selves, you have a million questions and few that I can answer. Here is what I can tell you, so listen well.”

    The younger Marco and Baktu could only nod and do just that.

    “I know GovTech is your main concern for being here, but their reign of bureaucratic terror started to unravel the day you two met. The escape and the work you did to find the Planet of the Ancients – it will all sow seeds of distrust and destruction among the Administrators who will first blame each other and then attack each other.”

    The Emperor paused, watching the information sink in. “If you try to change the timeline here, GovTech will actually become more powerful and longer lived. You will learn as you age that there are things far worse than GovTech.” Then he smiled and added, “Trust me, I know this. I can’t tell you how I know, but I do.”

    Stepping closer, the older Baktu took his turn to speak, “We’ve learned humans don’t do too well knowing their future. All you need to know now is that in 300 years, you two will be us.”

    The younger Baktu abruptly cocked his head sideways, as if to hear better, since the last words didn’t make any sense.

    The older Baktu grinned, “Yes, my younger self, you will discoverer a certain life extender that only you two will be able to use.” He turned to the other older man. “What else were we told by our older selves, Marco?”

    The emperor’s tone grew serious and wise. “You must know this: you will make the universe better. You will help humanity grow through its toughest times by reminding it that adversity must be faced with ingenuity and perseverance. You will face a heavy price for drawing a line in the sand and making a stand for what you know is right, but you will do it anyway.”

    The younger men remained dumbfounded as the older men each pulled one sleeve back to reveal shiny, black Time Bands.

    “Oh, by the way,” the older Marco said, “You only have ten minutes before this ship explodes.” With that, the two men blinked into some other time and space.

    It took the younger men several minutes of staring blankly to processes what they had just heard. Finally Marco snapped back to reality.

    “Crikes, Baktu, get us out of here!”

    “Where and when should we go?”

    “By the 14 Stars, how should I know? Just take us somewhere else now!”

    Baktu grinned and communed with the cosmos.

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