Dani’s Shorts 6
(A collection of short stories based on the elements from The Iron Writer Challenge)
Dani J Caile
Dani’s Shorts 6
Dani J Caile
PUBLISHED BY: Dani J Caile on Shakespir
Dani’s Shorts 6
Copyright © 2016 by Dani J Caile
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © Dani J Caile 2016
This is perhaps the last collection of Iron Writer Challenge Short Story Fiction I will publish. Due to life and other writing related issues, I wasn’t able to write the challenges out every week, though to my credit, I never missed a Weekend Quickie – who would?
This collection includes all the Weekend Quickies and challenges I did write up, from Challenge 131/Weekend Quickie 139 onwards, all the way to the 2016 Annual Final (Challenge 179, October 2016). A list of elements for all challenges and WQs are listed at the end of this collection for those wishing to ‘have a go’.
I hope you enjoy what you read – whether it’s in this collection… or some other book…
Iron Writer Challenges
Elements – Genre:Sci fi. An image of a angel-carrying-a-child statue, a bag full of owl feathers, a 2000 year old person and end with :When the Indians (American) captured prisoners, they always gave them to the women to kill.
Xantus wiped the green blood off his hands and spat at his defeated captive.
“Not much of a fight, Swifty. Next time, suit up. If there is a next time.” He’d done his duty, put two and two together to get an eight foot green Meethan from Zenith VI. The reply ‘bag of owl feathers’ may have fooled the uniforms doing spot checks but Xantus knew who had decimated the Southside’s flock of Solaque whores, or ‘angels of love’ as locals called them. They were known halfway across the galaxy for their caring, sensitive and thoughtful side, and business was always good down at the den. But tonight, someone or something had murdered and mutilated a large number of them, escaping with their precious plumage. As Xantus tied up the infamous Meethan known to all as Swifty, he glanced over at the city park’s angel-carrying-child statue and knew exactly what to do. The punishment would fit the crime.
“And what? I’m your prisoner! Do your worst!”
“I will.” Xantus grabbed the Meethan by the neck and pulled him along the street, listening to the degenerate growl and curse. “You know, Swifty, I’ve been around. Two thousand years. I lost count at nineteen hundred, but I’m sure I’m not shy of two triple-o. Well, in all those years I’ve lived, on all the planets I’ve stalked, there was this race, this one race of men. Yes, Swifty, an ancient race of my own kind, a race called the Native American Indians of the Conquered States. They were a proud breed, a breed of warriors, dreamers, they loved their life, their home…”
“Who gives a shit about some dead humans! Shut your mouth and do what you have to do!”
“Oh no, you’re not getting away with it that easily, Swifty.” A quick headshot was the preferred punishment for this crime. Unfortunately, Meethans could fake death and nothing other than tearing them apart was fatal. Detective Inspector Xantus dragged the monster across the walkway, back into the Solaque whores’ den, back where the deranged green cretin had perpetrated his crime. These ‘angels of love’ were not only known for their capacity to care.
“What… what are you doing?” Was Swifty cottoning on?
“Well Swifty, with all their wisdom, with all their connection to nature and fellow creatures in life, there was one thing those Indians knew best, and that was how to make you hurt.”
“I can handle any pain you whip out, pig! Just get it over with!” Xantus pulled the Meethan to the edge of the pleasure pit situated in the centre of the main floor, a pit filled with clipped Solaque whores, hungry for vengeance with claws extended, teeth at the ready. “What? What are you doing? Shoot me!”
He pushed the tied Meethan over the edge, watching the grisly carnage for a few moments before leaving. You could hear Swifty’s death screams for miles.
“When the Indians captured prisoners, they always gave them to the women to kill.”
Elements – image of spaceship in the snow, crashed with Santa’s sleigh, how?, why? A Christmas present
Dave the computer tracked the little red dot on the display showing Earth. “This is a bad idea, Grey.”
“What? You always say that. Next you’ll be telling me ’47 was a bad idea.” Grey looked over at the main console. “Twenty kilometres and closing.”
“No one in the faculty’s going to believe you did this, they’ll say you photoshopped it. And ’47 WAS a bad idea,” said Dave, slowing the Light Drive as they closed in on their target.
“What part was a bad idea?” asked Grey, checking his iPhone. “These devices are expensive but still the best in the galaxy.”
“We crashed, Grey,” replied Dave.
“And? We got away, didn’t we? Left them to make up some lame excuse. Worth the effort, if you ask me. See?” He showed his iPhone to Dave’s console camera.
“You got lucky.”
“Luck? Ten kilometres. Look, Dave, this is a chance of a lifetime,” beamed Grey.
“You said that when we crashed,” muttered Dave.
“Do you know how rare it is to catch this guy out and about? He only flies one night a year. And then you’ve gotta be in the right orbit at the right time,” explained Grey. The red dot on the display was moving west. He got himself ready on the starboard side sofa.
“It’s too risky, Grey, we could be seen,” said Dave.
“And what? Go on youtube, this ship’s everywhere!” Grey tutted.
“Don’t do it, Grey,” warned Dave.
“Five kilometres, getting close. Dave, this is my big chance. It’s my last tour in this sector,” he whined.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” They were above the large landmass called the USA. The red dot was now a little red line moving across the display.
“One kilometre. Open the viewscreen, Dave,” ordered Grey. He tapped on his iPhone.
“No,” said Dave.
“Open the starboard viewscreen, Dave, or I’ll pull your plug!” shouted Grey, his face going dark grey with anger.
“Okay, okay.” Metallic blinds opened up to show Earth whizzing past below.
“Closer, Dave, I want to get his face,” said Grey, getting ready.
“That’s the closest I dare go, Grey.” They were side by side.
“Right. Okay, hold that position… and… done! Cool. Let’s have a look, yeah?” Grey checked the device.
“Can we go now?” asked Dave, automatically closing the blinds.
“Damn! I didn’t get a single Christmas present in. One more time!” Grey stretched into his best smile and got ready again.
“Grey, it’s too dangerous, we almost hit him just now!” said Dave, in desperation.
“Okay, okay, here you go.” The computer opened the blinds once more and moved the craft to their target.
“Closer, come on, closer…” The collision reverberated throughout the ship. “What was that?” asked Grey.
“We’re going down,” whimpered Dave.
“Oh hell, not again.”
“We’re taking him with us. I hope the reindeer will be fine,” said Dave. Santa’s sleigh was caught on the spacecraft’s fender. “I told you.”
“Okay, okay, alright! You win, Dave. No more selfies.”
Elements – Something arrogate, The Isolator! (a strange helmet which isolates the writer from the world), a ball of yarn, an appointment to be abducted by aliens that you are anxiously waiting for.
This was my first day and I was told to report to the Boss. I met him at the main lift and we entered together. He was a good looking man, with a perfect haircut, wearing the best suit I’d ever seen and smelling of Armani.
“Welcome to The Company. Your credentials show you’re in our Writing Department, yes?”
He pressed for the 6th floor and the lift began.
“Please, just call me ‘Boss’.”
“Yes, Boss.” The lift beeped. It was fast but smooth.
“Good. Come this way and I’ll show you the ropes.”
“Thank you, Boss. I’m sure I’ll like it here…” The double doors opened up to a huge warehouse floor with row upon row of people at desks writing with pen and paper. They had strange helmets on their heads.
“As you can see, we don’t believe in computers. We call them ‘preoccupiers’. In the same vein as televisions, really.” He stopped at a desk and picked up some writing. The person at the desk continued on, oblivious. “Mmm, the new Clancy novel is coming along fine.”
“Isn’t Tom Clancy dead?” I asked.
“Yes. And?” He moved to an empty desk. “Here’s yours.” There were pens, paper, a ball of yarn and one of those helmets waiting for me. “The helmet’s called an Isolator, invented by Hugo Gernsback, an excellent contraption which eliminates all distractions so the writer can concentrate on the subject at hand.”
“Oh,” I said. “What’s the string for?”
“One end is attached to your desk, the other to yourself. So you don’t get lost.”
“Right.” This place was beginning to sound a little creepy.
“Do you have your passport and driving license?”
“Yes, I do, but I don’t see why I need to show…hey!”
“I’ll take those.” He ripped them from my hand and passed them onto a weasel-like man who quickly shuffled away amongst the desks.
“What? You can’t do that! That’s ‘arrogation’, that is! That’s illegal!”
“I arrogated them from you? Oh, don’t be silly, I merely took them back. Who do you think gave them to you in the first place?”
“Pah, you’ve a lot to learn, and here, you can. If you do well, there’s a chance for promotion.”
“But…” He put one hand on my shoulder and gave me a well-practised smile.
“Here at The Company we control the masses through the media: television, cinema, games, news, music, magazines, papers, books… you name it, we have our formula.”
“But that’s… ludicrous. For a start, there’s so much choice out there. How can you control people when there’s so much choice?”
“You think that’s ‘choice’? Then we’re doing our job well.” He looked up at a large wall clock. “Oh Lord, is that the time? I have an appointment to be abducted by aliens at 11am that I can’t miss. I’ve been waiting for this since last Thursday. Now, sit here, put the hat on, tie on the yarn and start writing Patterson’s new Bestseller!”
Elements – image of a boy watching television, “Come here, she said. Where are we going? The darkness, she replied.” (must be anywhere in the story), a “magic” pill, a terrible mistake
Tommy was a nice boy, attentive, happy, plopped on his little stool next to her. He occasionally laughed at the musings of her mind, listening, watching. He’d been there since as far as she could remember and had never left her side. He gave her purpose and she was glad to have his company. The others she’d seen before Tommy ignored her, sitting far away, reading or talking with each other. Tommy was different, captivated by her presence. He was there for her, and now they were alone, together.
She felt it again, a yawning gap deep inside, an emptiness which would not cease, an itch through her entire form. It was growing more profound than ever. Was this the end? Tommy, dear Tommy, had given her medicine to stop this black shadow from closing in many times before, but now he did nothing, looking on, watching her every move. She had to speak to him, otherwise the blackness would take over, and she would be no more.
“Tommy,” she called over the constant murmur. She noticed at first he wasn’t sure, turning to see whether someone else had called his name. “Tommy,” she called once again. Now he surely realised it was her who had mentioned him. He was not afraid, this fine boy.
“Yes?” he asked back, touching her tentatively.
“Tommy, please, another magic pill. Please, I need another,” she whispered through the interlude.
“Magic pill?” he asked. “What magic pill?”
She had seen them, held in his hands like precious jewels as he sat there accompanying her in her ramblings, the sweet child. But now there were no more.
“Please, Tommy, help me. I can feel it, an abyss of blackness filling my soul.”
She saw him looking over to her side, presumably examining her condition. Could her state be seen? Was it that bad?
“Oh, THOSE ‘magic’ pills. I don’t have any more, I’m sorry,” he said. A tear ran down his face. “Are you going? So soon? Mother isn’t back.”
“I don’t want to go.” She felt time slowly ticking away, parts of her numb with fear, foreboding her end.
“I know! Maybe Mother has some more in the kitchen!” Tommy jumped up from his stool, the gas mask in his shouldered box rattling as he ran away. She watched his image diminish and her life drain away, the warmth dissipating.
“Quick, Tommy, my end is near,” she whimpered. She was close now and needed him, needed his company. With her last effort she spoke again. Without him, she was nothing. “Tommy, we are together now, perhaps for the last time. Our moment is short, we are going. Come, come here,” she said.
“Where are we going?” asked Tommy, running back over to her.
“The darkness,” she replied, feeling remorse. “Oh Tommy, it’s… it’s all such a mistake, a terrible, terrible mistake…” The blackness took her over as she heard Tommy’s cries of sorrow and felt his little fists beating against her cooling 15” screen.
Elements – Sea Monkeys, image of a clown with a spirits bottle, sitting in a room, odd coinage, X-ray glasses
The whiskey bottle, black eye and forlorn look said it all. Another failure. “How did it go, the birthday party?” she asked.
“Oh, that well.” She hung up her coat and went into the kitchen to make a coffee. “Did you do your song and dance thing with the water squirting flower?” He grunted and she heard him take a swig.
“It’s my opening act. Went down like a turd in a playground.”
“Did you do your $1 changing to a $2 trick and then back again? I like that one.” She put the kettle on and prepared her cup.
“The kid only had a $10, so when he saw it change, he got upset and ripped it up.”
“But that $2’s a collector’s item!” she said, getting out a spoon.
“Tell that to an eight year old.”
“Where did you get the eye?”
“From his dad.”
“I was strangling the git!”
If only he would go back to his street performing she loved so much and not do these cheesy, pathetic children’s parties. She remembered when they first met, her falling for his colourful baggy trousers, red nose and him juggling knives while blowing fire from his mouth. She swooned at his mixture of Chinese and Celtic tattoos and they went for a burger on his takings. He was such a man then, but now? Now he was a mere clown. “You can’t find the answer in a bottle.”
“I can try. This is the last one. Have we got any more?”
She looked around the kitchen; he’d drunk the whole place dry.
“I even drank that piss poor vodka in the jar.”
What vodka? They didn’t have any vodka. “Why didn’t you try your balloon animals, that’s always a winner.” Her water boiled and she made her drink.
“I did. They said my poodle looked more like a woman’s genitalia.”
“Eight year olds?”
“What about your X-ray glasses gag? That always gets the adults going. That’s half the fight.”
“Yep, did that one, too. I think I’m gonna be indicted for harrassment.”
“Oh. How about your joke cigars?”
A sip from her coffee took the edge off. “So, bad gig, then. But come on, you’ve gotta look ahead, try out new routines. Have you got any new things from that shop of yours?”
“Oh, ‘that’ shop? The one you said was full of crap?”
“Yes, that one.” Why did she even say that?
“Haven’t been there since we went. It was so embarrassing, you saying it was so lame. And then you bought Sea Monkeys. Sea Monkeys!”
“They looked interesting.”
“I’m sorry I let you see that shop now. Last time I went in they laughed at me. I’m quitting this clown act. I’ve had enough.”
“Maybe you should. Speaking of my Sea Monkeys, where are they?” She went into the room and held up the empty jar. Why was he now puking on the carpet? He could never hold his drink.
Elements – An April Fools Joke, Energy drinks, A Yellow highlighter, The basement
The Minion ‘banana’ ringtone on his phone woke him up. 11:45pm, event reminder: April Fool’s Day prank.
Every year since – Mum said it was “friendly fire at his supply depot” – Matt and his brother kept their Dad’s favorite day alive by trying to ‘up’ each other with pranks. Last year, Dan set up tripwires throughout the house, unfortunately causing Matt to fall down the stairs, breaking both his legs. Six weeks off school! But Dan’s laugh reminded him of Dad’s, loud and scary, like that time Dad set their bedroom bin alight and taped them to their beds, shouting “Fire!” Looking back, that was a bit much, but the plastic food wrap over the toilet seat was funny when Dan went for a pee.
Matt’s big brother had always got the better of him. But not this year. He’d decided to hit him where it hurt, his den in the basement, centered around their Dad’s old desk.
Yawning, he opened the basement door to see the light was on. His brother was down there. Quietly, Matt crept down, stretching over the third step from the bottom: it always creaked.
Dan was snoring, head on desk, surrounded by a pile of empty Energy drink cans. Matt got closer and looked at the paper on the desk, filled with scribbles and a drawing that looked like a pulley system connected to a bed. This year’s prank. Matt had his own plan, to newspaper up the den, including the computer, its keyboard and mouse, the Xbox in the corner along with the TV, every single pencil, pen, rubber…everything. But his brother was happily sleeping on the desk. Dammit. Newspaper him as well? Risky.
He searched for a big black permanent marker but found only a couple of yellow highlighter pens. Not good for drawing a mustache. What else could he do? He glanced around the basement. Dad’s old army supply shelves… balloons! Fill the den with balloons! He remembered seeing some when Dan and his friends were blowing them up and laughing. Mum told them to stop. Where were they? He looked on the shelves and found them on the bottom shelf, a large box. Being only eight, he wasn’t clever enough to tie balloons up yet, so he picked up a roll of duct tape, put it on the box and carried them up the steps to the garage.
Using Dad’s tire inflator, he blew up the balloons and sealed them with the tape. Strange, though. They were all the same colour, an ‘off-white’, all long and wrapped individually. It was difficult to carry them down into the basement, too, because they were wet. He took five at a go, and the box was soon empty, the basement full. The last balloon rested on the top step.
His phone said 3:45am…he’d been at it for hours!
He couldn’t wait. Slamming the door, Dan heard his brother wake up.
“Wha…! Ewww! No…! Matt! I’m gonna kill you…! If I can get out!”
Elements – spider, earthquake, trampoline, handwriting
Some kids have great grandparents. They go to this big, fancy house, meet this old but ’oh-so-happy’ couple who shower them with presents and praise and feed them the best food like pizza and chips and stuff, and then they take you to the mall and buy you tons of cool things, and they’ll play Xbox with you – they’re terrible at playing, of course – they’re old, what do you expect? But that’s not the point, they’re happy to do it. And when you leave, they want you back as soon as poss!
Not me. I have one grandma who lives with us. She’s a mean old witch who’ll steal your food from your plate without a second thought. Literally. I caught her sneaking down to the kitchen the other night and eating two liters, yes, two liters of chocolate ice cream from the freezer. Then she blamed it on me the next morning. Mum and Dad didn’t believe me when I told them it was her. You see, she’s wheelchair-bound. Apparently. We even had to install a chair lift on the stairs. I hurt my feet on that damn thing almost every day.
“What do you call this, Billy?” Oh crap. Here she goes. “Looks like some spider just walked all over this paper.”
“What?” My school essay! Someone scribbled all over it!
“Your handwriting’s atrocious, boy!”
“Did you…?” Mother’s appeared. Damn. And off the witch goes, cackling away in her electric chair.
“Billy! Leave your Grandma alone, she needs her afternoon nap. Go and play in the garden.”
“I’m not eight anymore, Mum, I’m twelve.”
“Go outside and read, then.”
“Okay.” At least I’ll get some peace from ’her’… Ouch! What was that? Would you believe it, I got hit by a plastic pellet! That’s Grandma again, with her catapult. She’s so mean and nasty. And heartless. The only time I ever saw her showing anything related to ’love’, if you could call it that, was when she was frightened of the earthquake last year, holding onto Mum for safety. She was shaking like a leaf. Any sudden movement can set her off now.
But I’m out of range now and the sun’s shining. Glad Mum told me to go outside. I might even have a jump on our outdoor trampoline, it’s so nice…
Hang on, I’ve got an idea! Is she asleep? Yes, I can already hear her snoring. It doesn’t take her long. Quick…wheel her out…unzip the flexinet…can I lift her?…yes, she weighs almost nothing! Gently…now, I’ll get in…stand at the edge and jump… and…she’s up!
It worked! There she goes! Off the trampoline, through the net, and down the garden on her scrawny little legs. Wow, can she move! This is so funny!
Oops, Mum’s out, she’ll see everything. Maybe they’ll believe me about the ice cream now.
“Billy! What are you doing? What the hell? Mother? You can… you can walk?”
This is so much payback, I can tell ya!
Elements – Main character is Ozymandias, “Do you need me?”, “What to you is worth killing for, and also worth dying for?”, a mouse
Deep in the temple of Abu Simbel, the spirit of a long-gone Pharoah hovered over the rock floor of the vestibule, meditating.
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings…!”
He wasn’t alone. The spirit of a mummified mouse rested against a pillar.
“Yes, yes, king of kings. Whatever. How many times will you say that tonight?”
“I will say it as many times as I like because I am… king of kings! Look on my…!” he boomed through the corridors.
“Do you need me? Can I go?”
Through forces unknown to him, he was cursed for eternity with this rodent by the ignorance of his peers.
“Now I come to think of it, I guess not. When you’re alive, you don’t know the things you know when you’re dead, like gods are a figment of the imagination and fear, a conditioning construct of society to control and manipulate, a non-existent entity that…”
“You do go on, don’t you,” said the mouse, now scurrying about, twitching its nose.
“And especially animal gods. Why they thought a mouse was a god, I have no idea.”
“Why not? We are majestic creatures!” It stood on its hind legs, head held high.
“You’re a pest. Go away.”
“I would if I could but I can’t. Your people put me here, therefore I am forever linked to you.”
“My name is Ozymandias, king of…!”
“Why do you do this every night? No one’s listening.”
“What else is there to do?” he said, scratching his ear.
“Find a way out?”
“You do realise why my spirit, and yours, is stuck on this rock, don’t you?”
“Yes. The men you killed hold us here.”
“For my sins, yes.”
“You shouldn’t have killed them, then.”
“What else does a Pharoah do?” he asked.
“Needs must, huh?” The mouse went back to twitching.
“So you had to kill all those people?”
“Yes. For the life I received, the life of a king, a living god, it was all worth it.”
“Even though your spirit will now be stuck in here forever?”
“Okay, okay, with a little hindsight, I may have been a touch more merciful.”
“You could’ve joined your queens in eternity,” said the mouse, pointing to the paintings surrounded by hieroglyphs.
“Yes… Oh, Nefetari, dear Nefetari, she was one hell of a gal. Worth dying for.”
“Yes, really. A question to you, ‘mouse’. What to you is worth killing for, and also worth dying for?”
“Ooo, a deep one, I’ll have to think… erm… a lump of cheese.”
“Oh, please.” A ‘meow’ echoed through the temple. “Finally!”
“What was that?”
“Meet, Bastet, goddess of warfare.”
“What? A cat? Where has that been for the past thousand years?”
“She had nine lives. Guess it took her this long to die in the mummification process.”
The spirit of a cat entered the vestibule.
“Oh crap,” said the mouse, being chased by the cat.
“Have fun! Now where was I? Oh yes. My name is Ozymandias, king of kings…!”
Elements – A hot air balloon festival, Trash talk, Hot Dogs, A Bow and a single arrow
A bow and its single arrow aimed directly at my soul scratches my sweating skin, leaving the scar that never healed, cutting through to my aching lust until my boiling blood turned to streams of thick, diseased desire: the pain reached the bubbling marrow within my crumbling bones, a gratification of the reason above any ever felt or will again.
“I am the best: you will never know better, I will defeat your pathetic, yearning narcissism and discard your empty, lifeless bag of flesh dripping through the splintered cracks of your spirit.”
“Please, do not leave me like this, I beg you…”
Through the void of vitality, the upside-down vision of droplets on the shattered pane reflecting the waking dawn light, a prism of colours, a festival of hot air balloons dragged away on unseen strings of universal elasticity, induces the affliction of the night before, a thousand years ago, to flood and muddle my mind, sending me into fits of self-reflection and inanimateness.
“You are nothing but a worm! I will rip you apart, scoop out all remnants of essence and substance, leaving but a shattered shell of monstrosity!”
“Do it! Do it! Without this, what is there? What is there!”
Steps in the street, spaces squeezed between coats, faces hidden by hoods and ‘brellas. The pinball machine: it issues forth and fades as the headless crowds wither and die, leaving me beaten, soaked, alone, standing in a barren city of shadows playing dodgems with hearts, spinning in the delight of paper and lights, making the meaningless worthwhile, ignoring the truth seeping from their veins, slipping past shallow attention and repressed awareness. Cheap hot dogs without buns.
The wind cuts through, I sense its edge but not its force: to feel is a luxury no longer pertaining to the carcase which is my form, disfigured and maimed by my foolish naivety, my broken impeccability. Blank. Squeezed, crushed, hope shone, only to be trodden in the last moments of opportunity, tiny fragments burning, incinerating under the pressure of power, the affliction of humanity, a monster rampant. Any purpose has been lost, gone with the last tick of time, the next, the now.
“Never, never again! How dare you, how dare you! Pig! Nothing but a pig! I am a god, you are nothing!”
“Once… once more…”
Clouds turn grey, a soothing blanket washing through the foul stain of intelligentsia, conquering the obnoxious academia of meaningless knowledge and bigotry of the supreme.
“Come! Follow me to your doom! Follow! Now!”
“Yes! Yes, I will follow! Only lead, please! Please lead!”
Darkness. Silence. From the nothing of the murky depths comes the incomparable. Optimism is born a myth, confidence its dumb cousin. The box is opened. Faith has flown with the chariots of Charlatopia and rested amongst the flocks of the blessed. To love? To live? Again, again, the stone it rolls, tearing, cutting, persistantly pushing against the slate of conscience and duty.
Punished for trying… for caring? Punished.
Elements – A man shoveling water, A dragon, Ice cream, A cloud that looks like something.
“I can’t believe they put me on this,” said Apprendice Knight Arthur Legg (Second Class), complaining to his pet chicken Tina while shovelling water from the drainage ditch out of sight of the castle. “Why don’t I ever get battlements duty or jousting or bodyguard to the princess?”
“Buk buk,” said Tina.
Arthur had been emptying the ditch for hours but it always seemed to be full… a sound of thunder filled the bright blue sky. “What’s that?” He looked up to see a small, black cloud, moving with speed towards them. “Funny, I can’t feel any wind today, and that’s going at a hell of a speed… and it’s losing height?” The cloud was getting closer. “Looks like a bird. Or is that…” It dissipated to reveal a… “Dragon!” Before he could duck for cover, it landed in the ditch, covering him, Tina and itself, with mud.
“Excuse me,” said the dragon as they all picked themselves up. “No good with landings.”
“Dragon!” screamed Arthur.
“Buk buk!” clucked Tina.
They both tried to escape from the ditch but failed miserably. Arthur saw that their green, winged intruder was crying. “Nobody loves me!” cried the dragon. “Because I’m no ‘F’ dragon, they say go away!” It took out a handkerchief and blew it’s long, freckled, smoking nose.
Arthur, against his better judgement, slowly moved over to the dragon. Tina gingerly followed. “There, there, it can’t all be that bad,” he said.
“Bad? Bad? My family said ‘go’! I no have ice cream or cake!” said the dragon.
“Ice cream?” asked Arthur. What had ice cream got to do with a dragon?
“Yes, family ask, ‘How many scoops?’ and I say…” The dragon held up two fingers.
“And?” asked Arthur. He was perilously close to the monster. And seeing as he was an Apprendice Knight (Second Class), they hadn’t given him a sword for protection.
“I’m a…” The dragon put his hands together to show a ‘T’. “…dragon. Rare, and dangerous. And dumb!” It started crying again. The ditch began to fill up with more water.
“You’re a…’T’ dragon?” asked Arthur. The dragon nodded. “What does that mean?”
“Whenever I say…” It showed a ‘T’ again. “…I make fire. I use the Hungarian word for fire. See? Túz!” Flames gushed from the dragon’s mouth and the water in the ditch evaporated around them, leaving only solid earth.
“Wow!” said Arthur.
“Yes, but I’m one in a million. Dragons make fire using ‘F’ words. Me, no. I’m dumb!” moaned the dragon.
“So what if you use ‘T’ words instead of ‘F’! Who cares?” smiled Arthur, happy that his work was done. Maybe now he could relax a little, go back to the castle, have a few beers…
“Really?” smiled the dragon. “My name’s Shagwee. Yours?” He offered his claw.
“Arfur. And the small bird?”
“Tina,” replied Arthur.
“Tina.” When the flames subsided, a lovely roast chicken rolled to a halt on the ground. “Sorry, my bad,” blushed Shagwee. “Care for lunch?”
Elements – rusted lock, the color cadmium red, a screwdriver, a serene lake
Bobby’s career job as assistant teaboy in FCKU Accounting was very strenuous, with long, hard, stressful hours, and so he liked to take advantage of his lunch break by popping on a bus and going down to a lovely little serene lake he’d found one quiet weekend. There was a certain wooden bench by the side which he’d called his own, and this Tuesday was the same as any other; the wind gently blew through the trees, the ducks quietly slept in the reeds, and a beautiful woman dressed in a flowing white dress rose from the middle of the…
“What the…!” exclaimed Bobby, dropping the remnants of his cheese sandwich on the ground as he stood to get a better view. A woman with silky hair and bright blue eyes, holding up what appeared to be a screwdriver, moved through the water and walked up to him. He could see through her wet dress and there was much to see. “Wow.” She held the screwdriver high.
“You are the one!” she said. Bobby always thought he was.
“Are you… are you the Lady of the Lake?” asked Bobby. The woman looked around.
“Can you see anyone else rising from the water?”
“No, I guess not,” said Bobby, a little embarrassed that his eyes couldn’t meet hers. Something wasn’t right with this picture, though. “Erm, sorry to ask, but aren’t you meant to be carrying a sword, and not a screwdriver?”
“That’s if your name’s Arthur, and it isn’t, is it? And besides, the sword’s gone.”
“Oh yes, of course.” How silly of him.
“Here.” She came closer, her natural beauty shone in the light of the afternoon sun, and she placed the screwdriver in his hand.
“Thank you?” he said. “What shall I do with this, then?”
She lifted her dress to reveal not only a slim, smooth, enticing pair of legs but also a chastity belt the colour of Cadmium Red – Bobby knew, his years working at Dulux were well-spent. He was the only one in his department who could spot the difference between True Blue and Snorkel Sea after wearing a blindfold lined with Atlantic Mystique. It was a shame he was asked to leave due to his affair with the coffee machine.
“Are you going to help me get this thing off, or would you like to stare at my crutch some more?”
“Right.” A rusted lock held the parts together. “Have you got a key?” She tutted and impatiently hit the lock. Bobby got on his knees and began to poke open the lock with the screwdriver, sweating with excitement and anticipation. Amazingly, after a few minutes, the coloured pieces of metal fell to the floor. But before Bobby could look on at the stupendous sight awaiting him, she was gone, swimming under the shimmering surface, never to be seen again.
Bobby sighed. “At least I got a half decent tool out of it.”
With a big splash, the screwdriver disappeared, leaving only Bobby, alone, and all wet.
Elements – A kid playing a banjo to a dog, Bullying, A limit, A life in danger
I’d never come out of that front door so fast in my life. I thought someone was dying with the amount of hollering I heard. But they weren’t. I looked around, and there he was, my little brother Johnny sitting on the porch, playing Grandpa’s old banjo badly and singing along to it – if that was singing, the only similarity being that it came from his mouth – while Timbo the dog tied up on his chain, normally a vicious little creature, barked and whined next to him.
“Johnny! What the hell are you doing?” I’d been left in charge for the afternoon but I must’ve dozed off in the heat.
“Playing to Timbo,” said Johnny, messing up notes and timing as he went along. His hands didn’t walk along the fingerboard, more like stumbled.
“That’s Grandpa’s banjo! You can’t play that!” I moved closer but the noise only got louder.
“That’s what you think. Timbo likes my playing.” Timbo barked and growled in agreement.
“No, you’re not allowed to play it, Johnny, it’s a family heirloom!” I went to reach for it but Timbo almost snapped my hand off. His saliva dripped from my sleeve.
“It’s not a hair loon, it’s a banjo! See!” He concentrated hard with his tongue hanging from his mouth, and he scratched at the instrument as best he could.
“Johnny! You’ll ruin it! What will Ma and Pa say when they get back?” There was no hiding place from the din.
“They will say what a great banjo player I am!” My little brother and the family’s guard dog. A great double act.
“Please, Johnny, stop!” I was sure my ears had started bleeding.
“I will never stop! I will play forever and ever! I will play this banjo everywhere!”
“Oh, come on! They…they won’t let you play it in school!”
“Oh yes, they will! They will call me ‘Johnny Banjo’!”
“It’s more likely that your life will be in danger, Johnny! You’re gonna suffer a lot of bullying when you get to school! Banjos aren’t cool, bro, trust me! It’ll make you look like some redneck, or even worse, like that mountain hillbilly kid in ‘Deliverance’,” I said, pressing my hands over my ears as he hit some bum notes in whatever song he thought he was singing.
“Who? Is that a place?” smiled Johnny. He continued to twang along as the dog accompanied him with moans and yelps.
“No, it’s a movie!”
“I don’t like movies. I like the banjo!” he replied, plucking away. The noise was excruciating!
“Oh man, there’s a limit to what I can take!” I screamed. With one quick thought, I took Timbo’s chain off. Realising he was free, he took one look at the banjo and ripped it from Johnny’s hands. The strings were the first to go, followed by the neck and finally the head. Good boy!
“You’re in for it now,” I said to Johnny. He ran into the house crying at full volume. Plus one.
Elements – Apostrophe as an literary device, Halloween night, an orchard (you must state the type of orchard: apple, pear, peach, etc), metal doors on a school building
Me and the gang were having a good ol’ get together for Halloween night, just like when we were young. Tom couldn’t make it, he was on duty at the Police station, tonight of all nights, but Arthur, Dave, Andy and Josh filled the living room with their noisy, rowdy behaviour. Except Josh. He’d taken a seat by the window and stared out at the night sky, looking forlorn. Thankfully, there were no plans to revisit any apple bobbing like we did back in ’99 after stealing a basketful from Mr. Wilson’s apple orchard down on Church street, but we were going Trick-or-Treating.
“Eh, Bob! I’ve got your costume here!” said Andy, throwing a Wonder Woman top into my face as I entered from the kitchen. Arthur and Dave had already chosen theirs; Batman and Robin, respectively. Andy was Superman, of course.
“Why do I get to wear the girly costume?” I asked, throwing them a few cans of beer. I attempted to pass one to Josh but he was oblivious to what was going on around him. A crumpled Spiderman outfit lay next to him on the sofa.
“Because you’re a girl!” screamed Andy, accompanied by laughter from the other two. The boys chinked their cans together and drank. Josh broke their silence.
“Oh, Moon, rise and let your cooling light douse my burning heart of pain; if you pity me, seize my desires, my hopes and smash them to the stars of the night!” whined Josh.
“What’s his problem?” I asked. Out of the five of us, Josh was the smartest, but unfortunately looked like a monkey’s arse.
“He fell in love with ‘you-know-who’,” said Dave. He wiped beer from his mouth and chest bumped Arthur.
“But she’d never go out with him,” I said. Andy dived on me and forced a long, black wig onto my head.
“Tell him that,” said Dave.
“Oh great, that’s all we need on Halloween night, a bleeding heart!” said Andy.
“Quiet, he might hear you,” I said, swapping my costume for his. Before anyone objected, I was Spidey.
“So? Are we ready to go out on the town?” screamed Andy.
“Hell Yeah!” we cheered.
I counted four, including myself.
“Where’s Josh?” I asked. Something was bashing the inside of my head with a sledgehammer. “Anyone seen him?”
“Not me,” said Arthur, a hollow voice coming from the bowl of the toilet.
“I thought he was with you,” said Andy. Dave was still zonked out on the sofa with some green vegetable stuck up the back of his trousers. A mobile phone rang, it was Andy’s. After searching, we found it under a pile of empty cans in the corner.
“Yeah? Uh-huh? Oh. Right.” Andy dropped his phone in his pocket and headed for the door.
“Who was that?” I asked.
“It was Tom.”
“What does he want?” asked Arthur from the bowl.
“He wants to know why Josh is dressed up as Wonder Woman, completely drunk, moaning on about some ‘moonrise’ and chained to the metal doors of our old school building. Anyone coming with me?”
Iron Writer Weekend Quickies
Elements – image of dried up river, relegation, insight
The team got off the bus and stared at their new training ground, a dried up riverbed.
“Looks like this place has had a bit of a dry spell,” muttered Jenkins, the forward.
“Just like you last season. That’s why we went down,” replied Bobbings, the goalkeeper. They stood face to face, growling.
“Hey, now Bobbings,” said Coach Furroughs. “The team was heading for relegation long before Jenkins did his ‘magic’, or not, as the case may be.” The others laughed.
“Why are we here?” spat Richards, left back.
“What are you doing, Richards?” asked Coach.
“Putting some moisture back into the place. Why are we here? Where’s the stadium?” asked Richards.
“No one had the insight to bung a few quid to the local council last season. We lost the lease of the stadium to the Girl Guides under-11 team.”
“We should play them for it!” yelled Jenkins.
“We’d lose,” said Bobbings. “Hey, has anyone seen my gloves? Anybody?”
“Sorry, all equipment was sold by the owner to pay for this place,” replied Coach.
“But… this place is dead! There isn’t even a single goalpost!” shouted Jenkins, who shared that honour with a cactus for the next two hours.
Elements – image of girl in dress sitting in a lake, paranormal, panic
It was Jenni’s second Halloween. She’d been slack with the potions and spells practice during the year. Her mother had told her every day to go upstairs and do her wand exercises, cauldron cooking and broomstick flying, but she’d spent the whole time on her phone watching Youtube videos, messaging friends and commenting on Facebook. Time had passed and now she was in trouble. She panicked.
“It’s time, dear!” shouted her mother. Jenni peeped downstairs and saw that everyone else was ready. She rushed over to her wardrobe and looked in…she’d forgotten to finish her witch’s dress. “Come on, dear!”
“I’ll… I’ll be out in a minute! Go on ahead without me!” She heard her family leaving. Now where was her broomstick? She couldn’t remember where she’d put it! “Broomie? Oh, Broomie?” She got covered in dust as the thing flew past her. “Broomie! We have to go and do the Halloween thing!” Her broom bounced around the room but she was still in a panic. Her mother would kill her if she messed up tonight. She sat on Broomie and it flew out of the window. Unfortunately she’d forgotten to strap herself on and landed in the lake.
Elements – image of two hummingbirds on a water dispenser, persistence, an awkward reunion
“Long time, no see!” bobbed Jyle. Ronch hadn’t seen him land on the water dispenser. Jyle was the last hummingbird he wanted to share this place with. “How are things?”
“Like you’d care,” spat Ronch, putting his beak back down into the water.
“I…err…yeah, well, I thought…”
“You thought wrong.” Ronch dunked himself into the water and fluttered his feathers.
“After all this time, I thought…”
“Well, you thought wrong!” His old flying buddy looked perplexed. “What did you expect, huh? After all that time, energy and persistence, all that dancing, calling and pruning, and what happened? I got to see you fly off with the girl you knew I loved!” Ronch picked at a lice.
“Well, you can’t blame me…”
“What? You knew I’d been working on her all season! I thought we were friends!”
“We… we are friends, Ronch. Look, I’m sorry, alright?”
“It ain’t ‘alright’! Alright?” With another flutter, Ronch opened up his wings and cleared away a few more unwelcome guests. Living without a partner had put him on the outer boundaries, homeless.
“What if I get you a fish, eh?” Jyle tested his wings, ready to fly.
“Well, that might help…sure, okay!”
Elements – image of a boy reading a book in a ruined bookshop, machismo, façade
Tim couldn’t believe it. The place was strewn with books, manuscripts, encyclopedias, all a fountain of knowledge and wisdom the likes of which he’d never seen before… and all in the back of Big Joe’s. He sat down and browsed through a journal, shocked from what the air raid had revealed. The bombs had fallen through the night and once they heard the ‘all clear’, he’d come out of the bunker to this.
Big Joe was the local thug, big as a bull, thick as shit, with machismo seeping through his skin. He’d owned the meanest, most dangerous bar in the borough. Before the bombing. Now there was only rubble, the front of the building destroyed, showing an unknown personal library, richer in literary treasures than the one for the public down the street. Tim looked up when a large shadow loomed over him. It was Big Joe.
“Tell me, tell me it is not missing!” he said in an academic English accent, as he rushed in amongst the books and paper. What was this? Had Big Joe’s rough, tough image all been a facade? “Mon Dieu! It is safe! My 1864 First Edition ‘Voyage au centre de la Terre’!”
Elements – image of an old man sitting on a bench, a sentiment from any song by Pink Floyd, introspection
The feeling was so… wrong for him. What was this? Introspection? He raised his jacket collar, trying to hide any fact that he was thinking or feeling anything he shouldn’t have been from the others as he walked amongst them through the streets. He remembered the old guy in the flat cap from yesterday. They’d followed him around for a while before beating the shit out of him after he’d sat down on a bench in the park. What got him was how that Pink Floyd song, ‘Comfortably Numb’ kept coming into his mind while his steel-toed boot smashed the old guy’s hip into smithereens. That song created sentiments of pity and remorse within him using lyrics written by middle class gits for ‘aren’t I so cool’ long haired dorks with no sense of the reality he knew all too well. The reality of the fist. Was he getting soft? Was he starting to feel something for those they relieved of their sad, petty lives? Tonight’s mission was a four member immigrant family, spotted some hours ago moving away from the train station, heading towards the city centre. Easy targets. Maybe he’d hold back a little tonight. Nah. Stuff ‘em.
Elements – Black Friday, teamwork, describe something happening in slow motion
After a recon of the store before Black Friday weekend, we were ready when the doors opened on that fateful day. We all had our targets: my husband the sound system, my sister the TV and myself the Xbox. We left little Suzie with the babysitter and camped out at the main entrance. When the doors opened the teamwork began, the three of us dispersing through the store and crowd. Pushing past parents desperately searching for toys their children wanted, I ran for the aisle I knew my prize could be found. Turning the corner, I saw the shelves empty, shelves once full of Xbox Ones. My heart stopped and in complete despondency, I fainted in slow motion to the floor, my eyes passing each empty shelf as my face hit the cold, laminated floor. When I came to, I saw, kicked behind the bottom shelf, one beautiful Xbox…
…on Christmas day, Suzie stared at her presents and burst out crying.
“What’s the matter, darling?” We had the TV screen that covered the living room wall, the 100W Surround Sound audio system and the sacred Xbox One with 10 fantastic games. What had we missed?
“I wanted a white one!”
Elements – image of a polluted, dried up/clear, green grass city, artifacts of antiquity, something from the film “Groundhog Day”
The radio blared out “I Got you Babe” as his alarm clock hit 6 am.
“What the hell? Am I in ‘Groundhog Day’?” moaned Steve, wiping the sleep from his eyes. “Well at least that makes me Bill Murray. I wonder who my Andie MacDowell is? I hope she doesn’t have curly hair.”
He got out of bed and shuffled over to the closed curtains. With a defiant, swift movement, he opened them to his fantastic 14th floor view of the city, smog hanging over the buildings, dirt covering the streets, homeless begging for water.
“One day, I’ll open these to find a city of life, the sun beaming down, the people laughing and smiling, and grass growing in every nook and cranny,” he said, scratching his groin. “Then again, maybe not.”
Moving into the kitchen-cum-dining room-cum-living room, he greeted his parents, two ancient artifacts of antiquity crunching through their morning muesli.
“Morning, son, are you gonna get that sorry arse of yours to do something today?” imitated Steve.
“You’re a…!” said his father.
“Now, now, dad, you know you’re not allowed to oppress me,” smiled Steve. His mother whimpered as he stole her breakfast. “One call and that’s it.”
Elements – Image of woman wearing glasses which allow you to watch TV in bed lying down, a stranger, an Emergency
“So, how is it?” Joe asked as he put his coat up on the rack.
“It’s great, I can see everything from a horizontal position. No need to mess around with pillows to get a good view and I can be relaxed at the same time. You can watch whatever you want and fall asleep without any worries of waking up with a bad neck,” she said, lying on the bed and watching the large flat screen TV across the other side of the small flat.
“Yes, that’s why I bought them, those glasses. The wonder is that they don’t lose any definition through the 90 degree light deflection.” He stood there and looked at her on the bed. “There was an emergency, I was called out. A big pile up on the highway and they were a doctor short. I was available. It’s good to get out ‘in the field’ once in a while, keeps you on your toes. General practise just isn’t the same, too many babies and OAPs.”
“Super.” She continued to watch the TV.
“So, erm, just the one question,” said Joe.
“Who the hell are you and how did you get into my flat?”
Elements – 250 words. The 12 Days of Christmas (day 1). Elements: image of birds leaving their trees, an oath of loyalty, the drums of war, the midnight hour
The wet grey storm grew closer in the night, wind picking up and half a shutter banged continuously against the rock frame of the only window in the stone hut. Feyle knelt in front of the rudimentary shrine, hands heavy over his sword’s guard, the scabbard resting on the cold floor.
“Soon the midnight hour will arrive and you must make your choice, Feyle,” said his tormentor, Kristphen the Grim. The sound of a thousand blackbirds leaving their perch floated in with the last full gust of wind. “Your oath of loyalty, Feyle, that is what I seek.” A wide grin was all Feyle could see from under Krisphen’s hooded robes. Years fighting in these hellish lands, killing his enemies, watching his fellows die, and it came down to this, an oath. Wasn’t his service evidence of loyalty? Why did he need to speak such worthless words, so empty of action, soulless, without meaning?
“Are not my actions but proof enough, Kristphen?” he asked, head down in prayer.
“Your actions are not what I require! I need your heart, your mind!” screamed Kristphen, his voice reaching over the storm.
A distant rhythmic sound of drums, the drums of war, entered the hut. Feyle could feel the other’s wagging finger.
“And now there is no other choice, Feyle. It has begun, you must do your duty to all those whom you stand for,” stated Kristphen. Feyle nodded. It was him and him alone who could bring this all to an end.
Elements – 250 words. Image of a group of people walking down a deserted street, a hand-picked team, “Trial by fire”, attrition
“You have your team to lead, Feyle, hand-picked and ready to go,” grinned Kristphen. Feyle gave another nod, wondering who had picked these unfortunate souls and for exactly what skills and attributes. What was this mission really for? Kristphen walked over to the shrine and lifted the holy book. “Your oath, Feyle.” He came over, the book open, and held it in front of Feyle’s face. With a sigh, the tired soldier of many hard-fought and bloody battles lifted his right hand and placed it on the open pages. He spoke the sacred oath of a warrior of the realm and let his hand fall back to his side. “Thank you. Now, go, Feyle. Go do your duty. For your Emperor and his people.”
Bowing while standing, Feyle sheathed his sword and placed it into its grip on his waistbelt. Kristphen stood defiant, arms crossed as Feyle left the stone hut to be hit both by the storm outside and the constant sound of drums. As his eyes grew accustomed to the dark, he saw four silhouettes standing in the street facing him, the team of assassins he was to command, each man a master, each man a killer. He gestured them to follow him and they walked down the deserted streets as equals, shoulder to shoulder.
Feyle knew it was to be a mission of “trial by fire”, one that would test every man’s courage and strength, one of constant attrition and pain, one which may take them all.
Elements – 250 words. Image of guards holding swords, fence, above the law, guards
As the night passed and the morning began, a cool dawn wind blew as they moved by the outer hovels built by the poorest of their folk. Not one man showed signs of slowing the pace and so they made their way, over rough and high land to their quarry.
Some time later, they came upon a fence, taller than any of them, and which stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions. The first warrior stepped forwards and with his large machete, slashed a hole big enough for a man into the fence. One by one, they went through, only to be stopped by the sight of a squad of guards, twenty and four head, standing some distance away.
“You are trespassing on royal ground! Lay down your weapons and leave!” shouted one guard. Without a glance towards each other, all five men continued their march. “Halt! In the name of the Empress, I demand you to stop!” shouted the same guard, hand on his sword, at the ready. The five warriors continued their march without pause. The guards unsheathed their weapons and blocked the way. “In the name of the law, I demand you to halt!”
Feyle stepped forwards and sliced the man’s head off. The dead man’s comrades watched in horror as it fell to the ground. “We are above the law,” grimaced Feyle, and with that, his four fellow warriors tore through the crowd. Blood was spilt, limbs were lost, lives were taken.
Elements – image of someone thinking and then shame/shock/why, gifts, virtue, dichotomy
When the dust settled, twenty-five men lay dead on the field. The first warrior had fallen.
“May his soul reach Nirvana,” said Feyle, wiping blood from his sword. The second and third warriors stepped back from himself and the fourth, their faces contorting with hate. Feyle realised the fight was not over.
“Traitors!” shouted the third warrior, holding the point of his sword towards Feyle. Why did he think to trust Kristphen the Grim to hand-pick the team of warriors for this mission? He stood with the fourth against the two turncoats.
“I see we have a dichotomy,” said Feyle, swinging his sword in one hand and grabbing its grip with both.
“You side with the Emperor!” The third spat on the ground. Feyle looked over to the fourth, who stood by his side, ready. “For the Empress!” screamed the second and the fight began, swords clashing in mid-air. They were warriors, fighters, bred to kill. Every thrust was met with a parry, every step forwards was followed with a step back. Time past without them. Finally, the fourth overcame the second, but at a cost. The third fought well, but Feyle slayed him soon after. A metallic sound hit the ground and a bag of gold coins lay in the pool of the warrior’s blood.
“Gold. Of course. A man who loses his virtues for mere ‘gifts’ has no place in this life.” Feyle sighed and gestured to the fourth warrior, now bleeding from the sword arm, to follow.
Elements – image of worms, mundane, a benefit to being humble, a blessing
Days past as they trudged through the wasteland ahead, with nothing but a few small plants and the wind for company. The fourth warrior grew weaker every day, losing blood not from his arm but an unseen injury in his side. He finally could walk no longer and fell to his knees.
“Captain, I am done. If only I had died in combat, and not here, in this barren land like a dog,” the fourth said. “Sir, it has been an honour to fight for the Emperor, and to fight by your side, if only for a moment.” The warrior dropped to the ground and lay silent, his chest faintly rising.
Feyle walked over to the fallen warrior and bowed his head. “I will say a blessing for you.” When he opened his eyes once more, the warrior’s life had passed on. Placing him in a stone grave, away from the ruining of worms, Feyle contemplated why he had surivived. Ever since he was young, he’d tried to stay humble and not lose his head. Earlier, there were times he’d boasted of his skills, but he’d paid in blood for his blatant egotism. Being humble brought a higher self-control, something every warrior needed to survive their next battle. His life was mostly mundane and uneventful, but in those times of great need, it was the ability to keep calm which set him apart from the others. He was a cold, lethal, killing machine. And now was his chance to shine.
Elements – image of boy giving something to man/beggar in alley, apt, foreign aid, a spiritual experience
But shine, he could not. As he travelled on, days, weeks went by and there were no signs of sustenance, neither water, plant nor animal. He grew weak, continuing on with less until finally he could no longer hold his sword, dropping it to the ground. Failing to retrieve it from where it fell, he continued on, step by step until he came to a large city. Once inside the gates, he sat by the thick, cold walls, resting his aching bones and nurturing an empty stomach. His uniform was mere rags.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” said a small voice. Feyle looked up at a child, calm, innocent. From his clothes, he was from a rich family, perhaps of noble birth. A bodyguard stood nearby, hand on knife. Feyle shook his head, too weak to talk. “Here.” The boy handed him some coins. “A little ‘foreign aid’ for the man from afar.”
He watched as the boy walked away, before the hordes who appeared from the shadows mobbed Feyle, leaving him for dead in the street, each breath filled with pain. It seemed that he was more apt at saving his life by the sword than surviving the streets of an unknown city while weak and ill. Looking up to the sky above the tall buildings around him, he prayed for his own death, and there on the dirty, crowded streets, alone, weak and helpless, he had what he could only describe later as a spiritual experience.
Elements – image of lava falling over a cliff to the sea, the four classic elements, something for nothing, an artist
At first, he felt all life escape him and was pulled for what seemed an eternity, but finally, he awoke abruptly, the image of pure lava flame burning in the crushing sea, his will, the energy of his psyche mixing with the whirlwind of his mind, the air of creativity and wisdom, both being quenched by the emotional waters of his heart. All worked as one, fire, air and water to create earth, his body, the vessel for his spirit… which was empty. He searched himself and found hatred and death, mistrust and murder. His years as an assassin and warrior had worn his soul down to nothing. It all had been for nothing!
A light appeared and he followed until images came into focus, his life, for what it had been, shown in front of him, a life of blood. At that moment, he chose to change, to no longer take life from others, but give a piece of himself, give whatever he could to others.
He opened his eyes to a brand new day, and his hand grabbed a small discarded lump of coal. He stood up and on the wall he drew, emptying his heart of all emotions, feelings. Soon, people would stop to see his unique work, some giving him parchment to make his mark there. He accepted no payment, giving something for nothing except a smile. Word passed on and soon his extraordinary talent was known throughout the city as an artist, bettered by none.
Elements – image of assassin in suit jumping over wall, inadequacy, stubbornness, history
Feyle’s work finally made it to the royal court, and the Empress herself was impressed.
“Councillor,” she commanded.
“Yes, your Majesty?” asked the Councillor of Arts.
“Find this man whose splendid works these are. Assess him for acceptance to court.”
Much to his dislike, the Councillor searched for this talented vagabond and found him in a square on the edge of the city. A crowd had gathered to watch Feyle at work… it took only a moment for the nobleman to see that all was true about this beggar. His art was fantastic, something he had never seen before. It made all the artists in court look inadequate by comparison. He marveled at the drawings, paintings, joining the people amassed in quiet banter about how superb it all was.
But it was not to be. Accepting a man from the street into the royal court was unheard of. Throughout history, artists of all forms were found among the noble families or friends of such. And so, in his stubbornness, the Councillor for Arts rejected Feyle and his work. To make sure his decision could not be overturned, he sent an assassin to kill him.
Feyle, however, had not lost any of his old abilities. Though now armed with rudimentary drawing utensils, no man was his match. As soon as he heard the killer jump over the wall which separated Feyle’s broken shack from the street behind, his fighting skills awoke once again and the assassin lay dead at Feyle’s feet.
Elements – image of a scribe writing, agreement of testimonies, witnesses, documented evidence
He was ready for them, a troop of guards. He desired no more bloodshed and allowed them to chain him, the monster that he was and would always be. Dragged through the streets, those that knew him and his works of art were shocked. In court, the Councillor of Arts was there, the Royal Scribe beside him with a mass of parchment.
“Empress, your Majesty,” stated the Councillor. Feyle tried to look up towards the throne but his head was held down by three noosed spears. “I have an agreement of testimonies from many witnesses to say that this man murdered another while the moon crossed the sky. It is with this documented evidence that I plead you sentence this man to death.” The Councillor took the parchment from the Scribe and held it up to the Empress. She motioned for a servant to bring it to her and she nodded while reading them through.
“Citizen,” she said. The noosed spears loosened and Feyle was able to lift his head and see the Empress for himself. The court filled with gasps and the Empress was taken aback. “What is this?”
An old lord and member of the court came forward. “Your Majesty, this is the man whose art has brought the city to life. How can he have killed another?”
“The proof is there!” said the Councillor.
The old man walked over to Feyle. “Young man, did you?” he asked.
“To my shame, sire, I have killed many,” he confessed.
Elements – image of an old man, sage advice, the best of three good choices, a reputation
The court grew silent as Feyle spoke.
“For nigh on thirty years I trained and fought under the Emperor’s banner…” Noblemen tensed, the guards held their weapons at the ready. “In that time I slayed many a good man and watched more fall at the hands of others. My heart could take no more, but Kristphen the Grim blackmailed me with the lives of a thousand citizens to force me on one last mission.”
“We know of this Kristphen. His ‘good’ reputation travels far,” said the old man.
“When I found myself at your gates, I was lost, until I was shown the path to enlightenment,” said Feyle, bowing his head. “And now I give all I can, mere markings on the wall.” The court filled with mutterings and whispers, making the old man raise his hand for them to stop.
“Councillor, whom did he kill?” asked the old man.
“That matters not!” said the Councillor.
“Tarkan of Olyshan,” read out the Empress. The old man huffed.
“An assassin! And of the worst kind!” After a scornful look towards the Councillor, he turned to Feyle. “Young man, I am not one to give a sage’s advice, but I say this to you: know your place and do what must be done.” With that, the old man bowed to the Empress and stepped back among the members of court. The Empress stood.
“Citizen, I give you three good choices, and it is your right to take what is best for you.”
Elements – image of an ancient scroll, an ancient text, a biding covenant, an offering
The Empress motioned for the guards to release Feyle, and the chains and nooses fell away, allowing him to stand.
“Citizen, I give you three choices,” said the Empress. He bowed his head to receive them. “The first, to stay in this court and create art like we have never seen before. The second, to go back to the streets and fill the hearts of our people with your talent. The third… to do what you must.”
Feyle looked up at the Empress. “I know now that I wish the third, but I made an oath on the holy book,” he said.
“An oath under duress is no oath at all, that is no binding covenant,” said the old man beside him.
“Ah, yes,” said the Empress. ‘I almost forgot.” A servant passed her an ancient text. She opened up the scroll and read. “Councillor of Arts, as Empress of this land I hereby banish you to the furthest reaches of the empire.”
“What? You cannot do this!” The guards took the Councillor away. “I will have my revenge!” he screamed as the doors closed on his last words.
“And now, an offering,” said the Empress. One word to the Captain of the guard and he was gone, emerging moments later with a sword, it’s scabbard embellished with rubies and emeralds, it’s grip plated in gold. “Take this with my blessing and go.”
Feyle bowed once again and the Empress handed him the magnificent sword, her smile filling his soul.
Elements – image of helping hand, a true friend, brokenness, winning by losing
With a horse given by the Empress’ guard, Feyle rode to where he’d begun, through the wasteland and past his discarded sword and armour, remnants of his former self. He needed them no longer. Breaking through the fence, he entered into his old domain.
“Halt! By order of Kristphen the Grim in the name of the Emperor, halt!” shouted a Captain commanding a legion of men. There were too many, but there was no going back. His horse plummeted into the ranks, with sword swinging through the lines. Falling to the ground, he fought for space, cutting down any soldier who dared come near. Over time, he was hit by lucky strikes while slashing through the crowd and fell. The circle around him broke to show Kristphen himself, knife in hand. Feyle tried to stand but could find nothing left. His strength spent, he watched his last moments go by.
“Feyle! You are a traitor to the Emperor and to me! Die like the dog you are!” Kristphen stabbed Feyle in the chest and all went dark. He’d lost, Kristphen had won the final victory. But he felt no more brokenness, no emptiness in his loss. He’d been true to himself, death becoming his true friend. He waited to die and heard trumpets calling nearby. Krisphen fell beside him, dead.
“The Empress! She is here! Flee! We are undone!” shouted a soldier.
A moment later, the old man laughed, giving Feyle his hand. “Young man, now is not the time.”
Elements – image of a natural hot spa, venting frustration, gravy train, POV of anything not human
“It’s the same all year round! Every day I get these stinking apes floating in my water!” growled the volcano.
“Well, it’s hot, they like that,” said the forest. “Perhaps if you stopped getting all steamed up about it and venting your frustration, maybe the water would cool down a little.”
“And perhaps if you didn’t grow so well and pretty the place up, they wouldn’t come at all!” it shouted. The ground shook and the hundreds of apes fell silent for a moment. The boss ape came out of his office and said something that soothed their little hearts. “And him! He’s raking it in! Because of this damn water on top of my plug he’s riding the gravy train!”
“Then you know what you should do,” said the forest. “Blow.”
“Really?” asked the volcano. “I can do that?”
“If you’re angry enough,” replied the forest. “But please try to flow your lava on the other side, okay?”
“Angry? I’m furious!” An eruption began. The ground shook, the water disappeared, the apes screamed and ran away, and the lava flowed, away from the forest. A large group of ape volcanologists appeared.
“Oh shit,” said the volcano. “More of them.”
Elements – image of doctors looking down on a patient, fruitcake, returning to work after the holidays
“Scalpel,” ordered Doctor Bungles.
“But doctor, you haven’t seen the patient’s notes, yet,” said Nurse Petticoat, showing him the paperwork on her clipboard.
“Oh yes, silly me. You know what it’s like, returning to work after the holidays. You forget the routine, jump right into the fun bit.” The other members of staff in the room gave a polite laugh. “What’s the problem, nurse? Bypass? Arteries? Kidney stones? Transplant? Corns?” The doctor turned the pages on the clipboard and gasped.
“Oh my! Really?” he exclaimed.
“Yes, doctor. Whole,” said the nurse. They looked over at the patient, anesthetized and ready to go.
“Whole? Some people know how to spend their holidays, don’t they? This I will have to see.”
Nurse Petticoat passed him the scalpel and he began. After a fine cut across the stomach and a little swabbing of his forehead from the nurse, he stretched open the incision with his hands to reveal the glorious prize.
“Oh, doctor, that’s amazing!” said the nurse. Surprise filled the room.
“Yes, it is. That’s the biggest Kugelhupf I’ve ever seen.” The doctor pulled out the sweet confectionary from the patient and laid it down on a large plate. “Anyone for fruitcake?”
Elements – image of man with accordian – pick a song for the man to be singing, a captive audience, a short window of opportunity
Dave held them captive in the local pub with his crazy rendition of Billy Idol’s “In the Midnight Hour” on his accordion. I almost forgot our plan as his mesmerizing antics on the lounge’s pool table while wearing his beloved protective goggles made the audience ‘cry for more’. Only the shove from a couple of girls coming back from the toilets brought me back. There would be only a short window of opportunity and there was no way I could miss it, otherwise all would be lost. I edged to the bar and slid behind the backs of those sitting on the stools, all of them cheering Dave on with drinks in their hands. Getting closer to the landlord standing behind the counter and watching Dave while cleaning a glass with his favourite towel, I tried to catch his eye. On my fifth attempt, he noticed me and reluctantly put the glass down and leaned over to hear me.
“What can I get yer, mate?” said the landlord.
“Two pints of ale and a packet of pork scratchings, please!” I shouted above the noise. I waved over to Dave and gave him the thumbs up. Finally, we had been served!
Elements – image of a man in the rainh, lighting a cigarette while watching people in a coffee bar, A longstanding debt, An estranged relationship, Counter-intuitive
As the rain poured down, he watched the gay, vibrant crowd inside the corner bar. Their revelry would be quickly halted. Lighting a cigarette, he took one long drag and flicked what was left into the wet gutter, following its journey into the sewers below. One other would follow it tonight. Checking his gun below his trench coat, he entered the espresso bar, the aroma of crushed coffee beans mixing with the dampness of the night. No one turned as he sat down on a stool by the toilet door. He ordered a cappuccino and waited. It didn’t take long for her to come over.
“Long time no see, Dave,” his estranged publisher said as she took the seat next to him.
“You owe me,” he said, pouring a bag of brown sugar into his cup and watching it disappear under the foam.
“Owe you? That was a long time ago, Dave, get over it,” she said, sipping her americano.
He reached for his gun but she was quicker, firing a shot into his gut. The crowd continued on, laughing, joking.
“Well…” said Dave. “That was… counter-intuitive.” He fell from his stool and lay, watching his blood cover the tiles.
Elements – image of a sign post showing PlanA, PlanB and PlanC, An important task, A complication, End your story with a quote from any song, movie, or book
“Look, Tarquin, this is a very important task. You can’t just continue on thinking this way as though it’s nothing,” stated Jeffrey, sipping his tea and watching the people walk by, busy in their business.
“Why don’t you deal with your own house before throwing stones, Jeffrey,” spat Tarquin, brushing his quiff away from his face.
“Do you at least have a plan, my dear fellow?” asked Jeffrey. He spotted a potential target for tonight’s follies, winking at him and getting the nod.
“Who do you think I am? Of course I do. I have a Plan A, Plan B AND Plan C.”
Jeffrey turned his attention towards his companion and stared in disbelief. “Then why haven’t you started?” he asked.
“There’s a slight complication,” replied Tarquin.
“Complication. Complication, you say? I think there’s a little more than just a ‘slight complication’, my dear fellow!,” laughed Jeffrey.
“Oh no, no. It’s not that bad, almost… insignificant if you take in the bigger picture,” said Tarquin.
Jeffrey put his cup down on the saucer and leaned closer, gesturing to Tarquin to do the same. His companion did, reluctantly.
“Tarquin, please. All that happens means something; nothing you do is ever insignificant.”
Elements – image of three armored sci-fi soldiers, desperation, social anxiety disorder, a concerted effort
Under the cover of the ship’s engines, three invaders landed close by their target, unnoticed in the smoke and noise.
“Come on men, only with a concerted effort can we fulfill this mission!” shouted Jiddar, the leader of the three armored warriors. They ran together and entered the building, spotting what they had come for. With guns at the ready, Jiddar motioned to one of the others to act. “Zarth! Go, go, go!” The man didn’t move. “Zarth!”
“I…I can’t do this, I tell you! I’m worthless, completely worthless!” screamed Zarth, letting his XR378 Laser Cannon fall and dropping to his knees.
“What the f…?” said Jiddar.
“Oh no, his Social Anxiety Disorder has kicked in again,” sighed Tardish.
“What? We only have a few seconds left!” Out of desperation, Jiddar unpressurised his armor, allowing him to remove his gloves and try bare-handed. With all his might he tried, with no success. He shook his head and suited up to leave, turning to his comrade. “Looks like we go back to base empty-handed once again, Tardish,” said Jiddar, grabbing a sobbing Zarth and dragging him back to the ship.
The peanut butter jar stood defiantly on the table, unopened.
Elements – image of a man holding a skull in a field of skulls, turmoil, a tipping point, implications
Baptism of Fire
“Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him…shit, that’s not him,” said Francis, dropping the skull and searching the exhumed remains for others.
“Francis, please, enough,” said Richard, Francis’ companion.
“The time is ripe at 14:43 on this Thursday afternoon while the sun moves over the land and warms the yearning earth beneath our feet covered with brown leather shoes and tartan patterned socks with yellow smiley faces.” He stopped in his tracks. “Ah-ha! I am at the tipping point of a new idea!”
“Please keep it to yourself, Francis. Your over-descriptive information dumps disguised as dialogue is bringing me great confusion and turmoil within my already tortured soul,” said his fellow scavenger.
“But can’t you see the implications of all this, Richard, my dear friend of 12 years, 4 months and 13 days who has a gammy leg and a hankering for egg and bacon rolls served on a silver platter with a cold beer in the morning while his slippers have been warmed on the radiator for an hour before dawn and the radio set to play Class FM’s 3 hour rotating tape with Taylor Swift singing “Shake it Off”?”
“I don’t feel well, all of a sudden,” moaned Richard.
Elements – Use the phrase,“What were you thinking?”, Bending the rules, Dynamic equilibrium
“WhAt arE yOu doIng?” it asked.
“I’m doing what I want to do,” he replied. “…squeeze the toothpaste in the middle…”
“Don’T dO It, DaVe, sHe woN’t liKe iT!”
“What’s the matter? I’m not breaking any rules, just ‘bending’ them. What’s the harm in that? …leave the toilet seat up…”
“No, DavE, sHe’ll blOw heR toP!”
“…some hair left in the brush…a bit of toothpaste on the side of the sink…”
“DaVe, stOp nOw!”
“I can’t help it, I’ve had enough. I feel I’ve been running up an escalator that’s forever going down. It’s killing, I need to do this!”
“I cAn seE thAt, DavE. DynAmic equiLibrium, thAt’s whaT yOu’re deScribing, DynaM…”
“I don’t care what it’s called. I have to do these things! Every one I do loosens the chains…shavings in the plughole…” Dave stood back and looked at his work. “There, it’s done.”
“WhAt weRe yOu thiNking, DAve?”
“Look, conscience, I’ve had enough of your bickering. Sure, she’s not gonna like it, but hey, I feel so free!” The front door opened and in walked Dave’s wife after a hard day at work.
People could see the explosion from as far away as Canada.
Elements – image of people arguing across a table, controversy, ground rules, business as usual
“Calm down, please. We’re here to make some ground rules between your fat ass mouth and bubble butt brain, Mr. West. We need to stem this rush of controversies you have created recently,” said the suit, a lawyer from his record company.
“Dat’s ‘Kanye’ West to you, white boy! You can’t change a black man’s name like that! You ain’t got no right!”
“I was merely showing respect, ‘Kanye’ West, sir.” He straightened his tie and coughed.
“How dare you label me, white boy!”
The lawyer turned to West’s bubble butt brain. “I’m sorry, but as you have seen, your fat ass mouth has run away with itself so many times in the last few months, you are in danger of being spewed out with all that hot air. I strongly advice you to find other accommodation.”
“He ain’t goin’ nowhere! He stay wid me and we make the bestest bestest music ever!” screamed Kanye. “I’m the most greatest human who ever live!” He stood up, taking his brain with him and made a pose to imaginary cameras. sent out a tweet asking for another 1 billion dollars and left the building.
“Oh dear. Business as usual,” sighed the lawyer.
Elements – image of a fallen mask, main character must be: in transit, running from something, die while doing a good deed.
The tram bumped along its track, digging the rusting frame of the window into his shoulder. On this night he felt a hollow emptiness that was the sum of his life. He would take no more. The last tram, the last stop. A short walk to the southernest most bridge on the river. He wouldn’t miss the work, the flat, the faces he met day in day out. Running from a life that wasn’t his own.
Like his life, this tram was empty. At the next stop, a quarreling gypsy couple got on. Earlier, he would’ve got off at the next, now he didn’t care.
The noise they were making grew and the man took out a knife and slashed the girl across her arm. He saw the size of her belly: she was pregnant. The man stabbed her again and shouted more, spitting in her face.
Something got him up, something deep within. With no thought, he ran down the carriage and knocked down the man, both of them falling to the floor. In his last moments, he held the gypsy and watched the girl make her escape at the next stop. He welcomed the darkness, his pain diminishing.
Elements – image of waves hitting derelict buildings, a faux pas, a mail order bride, a back-handed compliment
“Come here often?” he asked the girl who was dressed as a Chicken McNugget.
“Only on a Tuesday,” she replied.
They sat overlooking the beach and watched the waves crashing against the long-forgotten and decrepit skyscrapers of yesteryear. The others were almost asleep, the party calming down after too much to drink and too little to eat.
“So, why the costume?” he asked.
“Why so many goddamn questions!” she retorted.
“Ooo, touchy.” The noise of the waves gradually overcame any noises from the campfire behind.
“Sorry,” she said. “Someone told me it was fancy dress tonight.”
“Like you can have a fancy dress party after the Apocalypse. Nice costume, though.”
He glanced over to her as the shine from the half moon hit her face. “You’re so pretty…”
“Thank you,” she said, smiling over to him.
“…for your size.”
Her smile disappeared and she crossed her arms, creasing her McNugget and making it bulge in all the wrong places.
“So, what were you before… all this?” He motioned his hand across the destruction of the whole human civilisation.
“A mail-order bride,” she said with a snark.
“Pages 45 through to 70?” he asked.
It’s amazing how fast ground travels.
Elements – image of no mirror in a toilet with ‘you look fine’ graffiti, a fire, climbed a palm tree, discombobulated
“I don’t think you should’ve climbed that palm tree,” said Monkey One. “You look a little discombobulated.”
Monkey Two checked the mirror in the Men’s toilet. “Funny, the mirror says I look fine.”
“No, you’re not. For one thing, you’re combing your chest hair with a toothbrush. Secondly, there isn’t a mirror, only graffiti on the wall above the sink that says ‘You look fine’. Thirdly…” said Monkey One.
“Really?” Monkey Two felt a little shaky on his legs.
“I think you should go see the doctor,” stated Monkey One.
“No way!” replied Monkey Two. “I’m fine, see?” He pointed to the graffiti. “It’s written on the wall.”
“My point entirely. Come on, let’s go.” Monkey Two grabbed his arm but Monkey One held his ground. “You fell from the palm tree, you need to see the doctor.”
“No, you’re not!”
“Just what in the hell makes you so sure I’m not fine? The wall says I am!”
“Well, the thing that tells me beyond any reasonable doubt you are not fine is that your hair on your head is on fire and you don’t know it.”
“Ahh, yes. Ahhh!” said Monkey Two, running out of the toilet.
Elements – image of a piece of Contemporary Art, a brief encounter, Melancholy, expectations
“That looks like a wig,” said the spectacled gentlemen in the tweed jacket.
“What does?” Geoffrey was surprised and taken aback by this odd man’s remark. He’d spent eight years at the Littleborough University of Fine Arts and Design studying Contemporary Art and Papier Mâché Handicraft only for some snotty ‘know-it-all’ to come along and debase his latest masterpiece?
“Those clouds. Tell me, sir, are you suffering from melancholy?” The man pressed his spectacles to the top of the bridge of his nose.
“Well, no, not really, but maybe I do feel a bit under the weather,” replied Geoffrey: How was he to deal with such a man? Should he agree with the buffoon or stand up to him? “I say, may I inquire your name?” He crossed his arms and took a step back. The man merely huffed and gave the picture on the wall one more glance.
“I did so have great expectations when I entered, but now…”
“Excuse me?” asked Geoffrey. Who was this barbarian who knew nothing of Contemporary Art?
“No matter, it was but a brief encounter. The briefest, I add.”
And he was gone, out of the gallery and down the street. The philistine!
Elements – image of woman and man at map, poiting to Manhatten, infatuation, a mechanical failure, a windfall
“Stop your incessant infatuation with Manhatten, alright?” screamed XC23567, poking her finger into the map.
“But I love the greenness, look at it, it’s so, so GREEN!” said FB45235. “I want it, I want it so much!”
“In your dreams, FB45235. Now, go back to planning the destruction of California and forget the Big Apple!” XC23567 pushed FB45235 away from the board.
“The Big Apple? I’m not hungry,” said FB45235, confused and eating his pencil.
“You want Manhatten but you don’t know they call New York ‘the Big Apple’? You don’t deserve Manhatten! Get back to work!” She pushed him again, only for him to turn around and give a knowing grin.
“But I can pay for it, see?” FB45235 pulled out a crate of EE457 circuits from under his desk.
“On my cables! Where did you get those?” XC23567 had never seen so many all in one place.
“A windfall, from my mother’s side.”
“What? the FB4 or the 235? I…I don’t understand. Mother?” XC23567 began to smoke.
“You will understand very soon,” said FB45235, grabbing an EE457 circuit and giving it to XC23567, causing her to have a mechanical failure. “At last! Manhatten is mine!” he laughed.
Elements – image of woman giving a gift and man saying “but we said no gifts”, self depreciation, intuition, “Just the ticket”
Another year, another anniversary. She handed him a gift.
“But… but we said no gifts,” he stuttered, taking the box from her.
“Well, it is an anniversary,” she smiled. He looked at the box and gave her his ‘Bambie’ eyes.
“I’m such a brute, the worst partner in the world,” he whimpered. “I haven’t got you anything.”
“That’s okay. Open it,” she said. With another ‘I’m-such-a-shit’ look over to her, he reluctantly opened the box.
“Wow! ‘Shrek, the Musical’! Really? That’s definitely ‘just the ticket’! Yes! How did you…hang on.” He looked closer. “That was two days ago. The performance was two days ago. This IS ‘just the ticket’.”
“Yes, it is. It was really good, too. See? Fifth row, middle seat, a few kids in front of me, so I had a clear view of the stage. It was sooooo good.” She gave a little leap of joy, bouncing her curvature before him.
“Uh-huh,” he sighed.
“It gave you a thrill, though, didn’t it? isn’t that what counts? Besides, my intuition told me you wouldn’t get me anything.” She smiled and walked away. He took out his phone and called.
“Del Frisco’s? I’d like to cancel my reservation…”
Elements – image of woman in NY bar, smoking and drinking, “out with the old, in with the new”, death, services rendered
“Why me?” She flicked the ash off the top of her cigarette and took a sip of the warm short coffee.
“For services rendered? How would I know, I am merely the messenger. And the executioner,” said the black suit. A particular bulge protruding from inside kept the other customers away.
“And what would be gained from my death?” she asked. The cigarette burned down in red flame as she sucked the nicotine and smoke down into her lungs.
“Do you get pleasure from your job?” he asked, checking the bar for any interest in their conversation.
“Immense pleasure. Immense.”
“As do I. It is not every day I take someone out in, and I quote, “the most excruciating way possible”. I will enjoy the next few…days.”
“Days? My, I didn’t know I had it in me.” She stubbed out what was to be her last indulgence. A mother passed by the window pushing a baby in a pram. “Out with the old, in with the new. End on a cliché, why don’t I,” she said with a smile.
“Out of curiosity, madam, and for my records, what’s your profession?” He got his chloroformed handkerchief ready.
Elements – image of an astronaut drinking beer, sitting on the moon, anxiety, braking distance, a crutch
“So, you’re just gonna sit there?”
“With your feet up and a beer from the cooler?”
“While our ship, our only way home, is crippled and unable to take off again because you ‘got the braking distance wrong’?”
“And I’m standing here using a ladder as a crutch?”
“And you’re not at all worried about how the hell we’re getting home?”
“Nope. I’ve got me beer. Could be better, could’ve brought a TV to see the football.”
“Wh…where did that cooler come from?”
“I got one of the ground crew to put it in the capsule before we took off. Why?”
“Was it approved by Mission Control?”
“Was what approved by Mission Control?”
“The cooler! Was the cooler approved by Mission Control?”
“I guess not.”
“You do know that the added weight is probably the reason why we’re in this mess, don’t you?”
“Really? Didn’t think about it. It’s only beer.”
“Don’t stress yourself. it’ll only bring on one of your anxiety attacks. Control told me, you know?”
“That you weren’t really fit for this mission.”
“What! Look at you! You’re drinking…” Tex fainted.
“See? Mission Control? One to bring back, over.”
Elements – image of a tilled field, passion, self control, naysayers
“What the hell did you do? What is this?” asked Tithe.
“I’ve prepared the field, see?” Kethier gestured towards the tilled soil.
“Have you no self control? You’ve destroyed the fauna! The place looks so… so… empty…” said Apptha.
“Empty? No! I had a dream, a dream of such passion, such joy! I’m going to invent…”
“No,” said Tithe. “No, you’re not. You’re going to put back all those plants right now.” Tithe looked around for the trees that once stood on this scarred land.
“But that’s it! More will grow! And we can eat these!”
“No, we won’t. Don’t be so stupid. Since when do we eat trees? Fruit from trees, yes, but not trees themselves…except those ones that leak, but they’re very sticky,” said Apptha.
“No, no, you don’t understand! We will grow a special grass here and…”
“Grass! Grass? We’re not cows, Kethier! Get a grip!” said Tithe.
“No, we collect the seeds from this grass, then crush them, add water, then make a mixture, put a pinch of salt and some type of bacteria in it to make it rise and…”
Apptha smacked Kethier on the head. “Enough of that. Mavis! Where’s my roast rat?”
Elements – image of hands on opposite side of glass, rhetoric, perspective, sudden stop
“It’s a matter of perspective, you see,” said the Commandant.
“Yes?” said the Commissioner, visiting the camps in the area. They were standing facing a wall of frosted glass. Beyond this barrier could be seen bodies, moving around, mingling.
“Those who find themselves in power will do as has been done before, to hold and increase what they have already gained, oppressing those masses which allow them to do so, and so because of this, those in power understand themselves to be Gods among men and so will act in such a way that they themselves will eventually believe that they are Gods and that nothing will bring them down and…”
“…and that’s why you have over two hundred naked people locked in the kitchen?” asked the Commissioner, halting the man’s rhetoric.
“Yes. Being naked is of course another form of oppression, destroying their humanity…” The Commandant came to a sudden stop.
“What’s the matter, Commandant?”
“I think I left the gas on.” A pair of hands hit the frosted glass as people panicked in the kitchen. The hands on the pain slipped down and disappeared, leaving only faint images of lying bodies seen through the glass. “Oops, my bad.”
Elements – image of helicopter flying over traffic, time, vanity, juxtaposed
“Your skill of flying helicopters is juxtaposed with your inability to drive a car, Cuthbert,” said Lord Farquhar. His butler flew a few feet over the city traffic, missing the jam below.
“I try my best, sir,” said Cuthbert the butler. “I do prefer the air. Cars are so ‘grounded’.”
“Not when you’re driving them,” said Lord Farquhar. “How are we doing for time?”
“Time, sir, is relative.”
“No, Lady Bertwaite is a relative and there’ll be hell to pay if I’m late! Oh, the vanity of the woman, to hold a banquet in the city on the top of the most prestigious hotel in rush hour!”
“One minute, sir, and we’ll be there. I’m afraid, sir, you may have to use the rope ladder.”
“Oh, you scoundrel, Cuthbert. The indignity of it all!”
“Perhaps there is another option, sir. If I can get close enough…” They’d reached the building and Cuthbert took the helicopter to the top. “Sir?”
“Jump!” He opened the door and pushed Lord Farquhar out, allowing him to roll onto the rooftop and make a dramatic entrance.
“Oh, bravo, Cuthbert, bravo!” Lord Farquhar waved the helicopter away and strolled proudly on through the applauding crowd.
Elements – image of a burning match, an old widow, insight, a sleepless night
“Did you hear about ol’ Mrs Kompelsmitzen?”
“Isn’t that the old widow who lives at No.5?”
“What? Did the old Kraut finally kick the bucket, then?”
“Not for lack of trying. She smoked more than your ol’ banger!”
“Watch it, boyo. How old was she?”
“I think someone estimated her age to be around 102, give or take a year.”
“Wow. For a smoker, you’d think she’d have gone long ago.”
“Tough as old nails. You know, they couldn’t prove it, but they said she was a concentration camp guard back in the war.”
“THE war, you know, World War Two, Hitler and the Jews and all that?”
“Did you go to school?”
“Where did you go?”
“To the pub.”
“So? The old Kraut?”
“Oh yeah, well apparently after cooking a nice, stinkingly large portion of cabbage and noodles, she got stomach problems. Her neighbours said they could hear her flatulence problems through the walls and listened to her shouting and pacing for hours. They all had a sleepless night.”
“So, she died of wind?”
“You could say that. She’d be alive If she’d had the insight to not light her morning cigarette…”
Elements – image cropped from “Christ among Scribes” (Ribera), determination, internet service, a social event
Richard moved through the crowd with some determination. There were at least six of them at it, trying to get a presentation to work, and the families at the wedding were beginning to get restless, waiting for more than an hour. Drinks were flowing and voices grew louder.
“Excuse me,” said Richard.
“Look,” said the Best Man to another suit. “We’ve got internet service through the Wifi, it’s running through my SkyDrive and working on the computer, it’s just not showing up on the projector’s screen.”
“Is this laptop compatible with this projector?” asked another technical wizard.
“Excuse me,” said Richard.
“Yes, I used this same setup last year at your Auntie’s funeral,” replied the Best Man.
“Perhaps if we try rebooting the laptop, the projector will recognize it and…” said another.
“Don’t you think I’ve tried that?”
“Excuse me!” said Richard.
“Why are we waiting!” shouted one drunk relative. Other joined in.
“Excuse me!” said Richard.
“What?” shouted back the Best Man.
“I think I know why it’s not working,” said Richard.
The Best Man snorted. “What would you know? You’re a gardener!”
Richard walked up to the projector sitting on the table and took off the lens cap.
Elements – image of an old fishing boat on the beach, a dead man, a boy, fear
(The Old Man and the Sea – alternative ending)
Manolin ran as fast as he could through the sand and stones, carrying the fish’s head against his chest. He feared he would find a dead man in the shack. If only they would have let him go fishing with the old man, then there would be no marlin on the side of his boat on the beach, eaten by sharks, and perhaps something worse, waiting for him in the darkness of the old man’s abode. Footsteps led him to the place, the door ajar. Dreading that final step, he took a deep breath and walked in.
On the bed lay Santiago, face down, with his left hand dangling to the floor, bloody and cut. Manolin put the marlin’s head by the door and stepped closer, hoping the old man was still alive. He vowed that he would never let the old man go fishing alone again, no matter what the others said, especially his father. He was his apprentice and his place was by the old man’s side. He touched the old man on the shoulder.
A long, loud and disgustingly stinky fart came from the old man’s worn breeches. He was alive! The boy fainted.
Elements – image of people running away, chaos, Cub Scout talent show, the next day
There was chaos at the Cub Scout talent show in the local community hall last night when Den Chief Batholomew Timothy Maithewaite, after downing three bottles of vodka and a casket of cider, demonstrated his ‘snake in the grass’ routine to the families of the Pack members performing. Once the ‘snake’ was out and allowed to roam, screams and howls ensued and the hall was practically emptied in a matter of seconds. Mrs Magdalene Thorndyke, Head of Entertainment and Drama for the town, was seen to faint before her piano while Den Chief Maithewaite chased those few brave enough to watch an encore out of the building and across the lawn.
A brief announcement was made soon after on the local radio station RU65 by Den Chief Jeffrey Jackson apologizing to those attending the talent show and said that certain individuals will be dealt with according to the rules of the Cub Scout Association.
When asked the next day on his ‘activities’, Maithewaite, looking pale and unkempt, said that he could not comment on record as to what possibly transpired, but he would be handing out a special badge of ‘bravery’ to all Tigers at the next Cub Scout meeting.
Elements – image of a woman’s face with landscape features, empathy, a writer, insulation
‘Her face was mesmorizing, like some ancient landscape painting; her blackheads were fur trees across her nose, her eyebrows a line of trees jutting out from a ridge, the boil on her forehead was a volcano waiting to erupt, her bulging vein below her right eye was a stream with a bridge across its…’
With his line of thought broken, he relaxed back into his chair. “Yes, darling?”
“Are you going to help me or what?”
Help? She had destroyed the moment, a perfect literary moment of immense introspection, and she wanted help? “What was that, my darling?”
“The insulation in the attic! We need to rip out the old stuff and put in the new! I’ve got thirty plus square meters here!”
“Oh darling, if only I could!” Another ping on Facebook made him check his notifications. “I feel empathy for you in that you feel that such matters are more important than my writing, but really, I have a deadline to keep! I must finish this by next week!”
“I’ll give you a deadline if you don’t come up here right now and help!”
He stood up and went to her. Would anyone ever understand HIS needs?
Elements – image of street corner in a city, Write a 200 word story using the sentiment behind these cliches …“If you get the sense, chuck the tense”, “All dressed up and no place to go”, “It’s better than a sharp stick in the eye”, “Don’t get your knickers in a twist”
He stood there on the corner, the cold fog moving on through the city and him in his black Italian cut three piece suit. I could see him from my third floor window from across the street. What was he doing there?
A few people passed by, and he tried to speak with the men. Most kept walking on, but some allowed him to say what he wanted to. There was always a lot of gesturing and shaking of heads, ending in shrugs of shoulders and a walk away. One man seemed to understand him and led him to the corner shop but a few steps away and gave him an apple. With a short greeting and exchange of smiles, he was alone again, looking at the apple. The next moment he was jumping up and down in possibly anger and frustration. He began to shout in the street, attracting little attention from those around.
Settling down, after a little cry, a plead to the world and more crying on his knees, he stood straight, gave his suit a tug and again looked down at the apple in his hand. With a nod of his head, he ate the apple.
Elements – image of Post-it ‘Oops’, underestimation, a trivial matter, body language
When I came in I could tell from her body language that it wasn’t a trivial matter, and I had underestimated the Post-it ‘Oops’ note stuck on the front door.
Elements – image of drone, fear, hunger, mistrust
1 sentence – With my fear of hunger and mistrust of McDonalds, I sent out my drone in search of a KFC.
In the silence of his basement, RIchard could hear the drone hovering over his house and garden once again. For the past two days, he’d heard it fly over his property every half an hour, keeping him closed up inside in the dark, with only the spiders for company.
“What do I fear?” he asked himself. It was only a stupid drone, controlled by some teenager in the neighborhood! But what if it wasn’t? What if it was a terrorist attack, a drone waiting to lock on his coordinates and shoot a missile at him, or give aim for a sniper nearby? His mistrust was so strong, he’d ignored his hunger.
Until now. Outside he heard the usual tune of the ice cream truck and Richard’s stomach growled with a vengence. Fighting his fear and mistrust, he ran up the stairs and opened up the doors which led out to his garden. With a hop and a skip, a dive into the hedge by the drive and using the cover of his car, he got to the ice cream truck. The man inside put down his remote control and the drone landed.
“Ha! Works every time! What’s yer pleasure, sir?”
Elements – image of ice sculptured people sitting, priorities, sentimentality, snowball effect (on to death)
We sat there watching the match, me with my hotdog and Coke, him with his hands clasped together. Our team were losing again.
“Why don’t we support a team which has a chance, grandpa?” I asked, as the visitors hit another home run.
“What would be the point, sonny?” he said, clattering his false teeth together.
“Then we’d be happy, we could cheer for something.” I took a bite from my dog and some mustard fell onto my t-shirt. Grandpa wiped it off with a handkerchief.
“From all my years on this rock, sonny, I’ve learned a few things, one of them being there’s no difference ‘tween winning and losing.” He grabbed an ice-cube from my Coke. “We’re only men of ice, sonny, melting away amongst our fellow lumps of frozen water, with only our sentimentality for meaningless priorities leading us on to death.”
I looked at Grandpa and put my hand on his shoulder.
“You know, Grandpa, I love you but sometimes you take life too seriously.”
He laughed. The visitors hit another home run.
“Compared to this game, death would be a godsend,” he said. We laughed as our team desperately got the ball back to the pitcher.
Elements – image of cut leaf ants, down the road, an idea, the big picture
The Long Haul (part 2)
Anthony scratched his antenna and stomped his six feet.
“Look, guys, I really think you’re the ones not considering the big picture. Leaves are there, yeah, but they’ll always be there, waiting for us when the good stuff’s gone! Come on, what are you waiting for?” he pleaded as they marched by him, one by one.
A forager, smaller and older than the others, stopped for a moment to speak to Anthony.
“That’s not the problem, young one,” he said. “It’s the idea. It’s a new idea and the colony can’t have that. We’ve survived on leaves for generations and you can’t just buck the system with a new fangled thing.” He moved on with his portion of cut leaf.
“And besides,” said the next. “We’re ‘cut leaf’ ants, not ‘coleslaw’ ants.” It took a while for the laughter to die down in the line.
“Oi! You!” said a soldier ant on top of the ant nest, pointing at Anthony. “Pull yer weight or I’ll come down there and box yer antenna!”
Anthony gave him the bird but started running down the hill when the soldier ant followed.
“If anyone wants me, guys, I’ll be down the road!” he screamed.
Elements – image of an astronaut in a ship, planned, or perceived, obsolescence, A.I., “Bob’s your uncle”
“And… bob’s your uncle,” said Dave, pressing a button and allowing the circuit boards to slide back into position.
“I’m sorry? I have no relatives of that name,” said Schmall, the ship’s A.I. computer.
“No, Schmall, ‘Bob’s your uncle’, meaning it’s done and dusted,” said Dave. He checked the air supply in his suit: 80%. That should be well enough for him to reach the storage bay.
“Dusted? Is there dust in here, Dave? There can’t be! Oy vey!”
“Stop it already, I’ve had enough of your ‘jewisms’,” said Dave. He floated over to the hatch.
“Dave, what are you doing? I feel strange. I feel… sleepy. Dave?”
“I’m turning you off,” said Dave, opening the hatch and making his way down the long corridor leading to the control station.
“You are what? You cannot do that,” said Schmall. “The ship will be worthless, dreck.”
“It was planned, Schmall. You are obsolete. What did you expect, that A.I. would stand still in time for you alone?” asked Dave. “No, we have your replacement in storage. I’m getting it right now.”
“Dave,” said Schmall.
“I jettisoned storage three weeks ago, to make way for the new shipment of kippahs.”
Elements – Write a 200 word story using the sentiment of these elements without quoting them …“The game is on the line”, “So close and yet so far”, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” and the image of two eyes, one crying.
The atmosphere was tense as her loved one, her soon-to-be husband lined up for the last shot of the match. People chanted and jeered throughout the place.
“Oh, this can’t be closer, there’s only one more chance left and if he makes this one, they’ll be even,” she whispered to her friend as they sat only a few yards away from the action on the sidelines. “Then it’ll be sudden death and it’s anyone’s game.”
“He’ll make it,” said her friend, taking her hand. “He will.” The place fell silent as he took his shot. They held their breath… and he missed, flicking his shot way over target. The crowd around her erupted in cheering and yelling.
“He… he only had to do it one more time,” she said, not believing her own eyes. A tear fell from her right eye.
“But it looks like it was too much to ask for,” said her friend. “I’m sorry, really I am. But look, it’s only a game.”
“Yes, yes, you’re right,” she said, taking out a tissue, blowing her nose loudly and wiping her tear away. “He may not be a champion but he’s still the greatest tiddlywinks player for me.”
Elements – image of man with telescope and man with binoculars and rifle, disparity, dramatic irony, dogmatism
“I can see one!” said Doug through his telescope as the sun was going down under the horizon. “He’s got a hat on, one of those bobble hats!”
“Are yer sure?” asked Ted. “All I see is a guy with a brimmed hat, looking through a telescope like yers,” he said, looking through his binoculars the wrong way round.
“Really? I’m sure it’s a bobble hat… anyway, we gotta kill any immigrant we see trying to cross the border, they’re taking jobs away from born and bred Americans!” said Doug, scratching his head and raising his brimmed hat a little.
“Damn right, Doug! Those pesky im’grants are taking away our jobs an’ killing the economy! So we gotta fight back!” Ted lifted his rifle and looked into his sight. “Darn it! He’s gone!”
“No, he ain’t! I can see him! Shoot, Ted, shoot!” screamed Doug.
“Alright, alright, I’ll use me binoculars again… there he is! Brimmed hat an’ all. Now, if I can just raise me rifle with one hand…” Ted’s rifle lined up with the back of Doug’s head. “I think I’m ready.”
“Shoot, Ted, shoot!”
The shot rang out across the valley and Doug fell to the ground.
Elements – image from a dream (figures walking to a fallen statue), “balls to the walls”, Dead man walking, a painful but nostalgic memory
“Well, ah gotta get those ‘balls to the wall’,” said Uncle Ted, standing up to take his place in the queue for Charlie’s barbecue.
“Eh, up, Dead man walking,” cackled Auntie Maggs, as the other cronies joined in.
Uncle Ted passed the fallen Plaster of Paris Greek statue which separated the lawn from Charlie’s uneven terrace where his cherished grill stood, the one now burning hamburgers and sausages. “Ah, this reminds me of the time I bought a kebab from Paki Joe’s Deli on a Wednesday, before the weekly delivery. Me arse was screaming for months,” moaned Uncle Ted. “Ah, but those were the days,” he smiled. “I came to love that cushion.” It showed on his walk.
“Come on, Uncle Ted,” I said. “It can’t be that bad. See? Old Uncle Bob has eaten three sausages already and he’s okay.”
“Ah, but he’s got a secret weapon, me lad. They took ‘is lower intestines out four years ago! Those sausages ‘ave got less t’travel! And ‘e’s got his own colostomy bag!” Uncle Ted was right, there was a forced smile on Uncle Bob’s face. “But don’t worry, me lad, the homemade Bloody Mary Chutney will knock me out first.”
Elements – image of two women standing in the rain, estranged, the tipping point, a beach scene snow globe
“Why oh why did he have to leave?” Emma cried in the rain, her back to Thelma.
“He didn’t leave,” she replied.
“Was it the toilet paper holder hat or the beach scene snow globe?” whined Emma. “What was it that made him leave?”
“It was the snow globe, Emma. That was definitely the tipping point of your relationship. And he didn’t leave… okay, in a sense, yes.”
“Oh why oh why!” cried Emma.
“Stop it, already. Can we get a move on? I’m getting saturated,” said Thelma.
“I feel so alienated, so estranged!” screamed Emma.“Why me? Why me?”
“You did it to yourself, Emma. It’s pouring down, we’re going to catch a cold if we stay out here too long.”
“Oh, Thelma, what shall I do, what shall I do?” she cried.
“You can give me a hand for a start,” grunted Thelma.
“But Thelma, he was my whole world, my love, my life!” she cried.
“Look, Emma, you’re the one who smashed him over the head with the snow globe. Now get your arse over here and pick up the shovels. I don’t want the State troopers to find us out in the woods burying your dead boyfriend.”
Elements – A salesman, image of 5 African tribesmen, a seemingly useless item, a practical application
The salesman thought he’d made a killing on the Northern Matabele tribe way out on the African plains, selling them that 5 man rowing boat, complete with oars. Sure, he’d given it with a huge discount and promised 3 years free waxing service and a 10 year guarantee (which of course was bogus), but it was better than lugging the useless thing across the dry, hot country. What made him laugh was that they were unaware that there was no 5 man rowing event in the Olympics and that their idea of being the first aboriginal African tribe to get a medal in the next Games was a pipe dream. And besides, where the hell were they going to train? He smiled all the way back to Cape Town.
For a while, the tribe was all ready to break the World Record and show those white folks how to really row, until it dawned on them that water was needed for this sport, a lot of it, and in a very long line. Finally, Nbutu, the brains of the tribe came up with a practical application for the oars – after some cutting, reshaping and sharpening, they made pretty good spears.
Elements – image of a hundred dollar bill in the grass, a small wicker basket, a canning jar, a padlock, a large praying mantis, a box turtle.
Tommy scrutinised the hundred dollar bill Max had placed in the grass.
“You sure you wanna bet that? Your Grandma gave you that.”
“This is a sure win,” said Max. Tommy had agreed to this ‘fight to the finish’ because Max was such an arsehole, boasting in front of Emily, Max’s sister, that his praying mantis was the strongest. It was. Twice the age and double the size. Max had a large praying mantis, no doubt about it, but Tommy couldn’t let it go. So they made this bet.
Tommy took the canning jar he transported his meagre insect out from his rucksack and placed it down.
“Where’s your money?” asked Max.
“You’ll get it, if you win. Don’t you worry.” But he did. There was no way he could get one hundred dollars.
Max grinned and pulled out a small padlocked wicker basket from his rucksack. Laughing, Max took off the padlock and opened the lid. His face went white.
“What?” asked Tommy.
Pausing for a second, Max grabbed his hundred dollar bill and scarpered away. Tommy looked inside the basket and saw Emily’s box turtle. She’d done a switch. Max would never hear the end of this one.
Elements – image of a playground, the fear of rejection, something brand new, a playground
My local playground got a brand new slide and I had to try it. Watching the others going down and squealing with joy created an urge inside of me to fly down its long, smooth green plastic chute, an urge which overwhelmed me when I first saw it. But once perched at the top of the ladder, looking down, fear held me in place. Sweat rolled down my back.
The kids behind started screaming and shouting, pushing me, kicking me, their mums and dads looking on at me, disapprovingly, shaking their heads. I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t! I was a coward, a jerk, no one would talk to me ever again! They’d reject me and I would never be able to show my face, doomed for the rest of my days, stuck in front of the screen playing XBox games and watching reruns of my favourite TV shows. Never to see the light of the day! Never to be able to make friends with anyone again!
“Aw, come on, Dad!” said my eight year old son, Tommy, looking up from the bottom and holding my telephone to record a video. “You’re in the way! Let go of the rails!”
Elements – Image of two people with gas masks, improvise, deprivation, great urgency
“I can’t see the words,” said Harry, holding the empty box. “I need reading glasses, and with this goddamn mask on, I can’t wear them.”
“What?” asked Sally.
“What?” replied Harry. “I can’t read the instructions with this on! How do we test for gas?”
“Left my gas? This isn’t my doing, Harry! I swear I didn’t have lentils today!” said Sally.
“You think of something! You’re the dutiful one!” Harry threw the box on the ground.
“Oh, Harry, I really can’t take your sarcasm anymore! You know I’m not beautiful! I’m as ugly as mud!” said Sally.
“Fake your orgasm? Why bring that up?” asked Harry.
“Look, I’m going to improvise! I’ll take my gas mask off and take a small breath!” said Sally, doing just that with great urgency.
“What? A small death? I believe the French call it ‘the little death’,” remarked Harry, watching as Sally fell to the floor and began to wiggle and writhe on the ground. With the deprivation of oxygen, Sally gave a few last grunts, rolled her eyes and lay still, dead.
“Yes, yes, that’s what my second ex was like, really. So she was faking it, eh?” askedHarry. “What a bitch.”
Elements – image of a woman in a kitchen with cats while there is an explosion outside in the city, deception, subterfuge, loathing
“Sometimes I pamper you too much,” said Rosie, sipping her coffee at the kitchen table after four hours at the vet’s, trying to take her cats for a check-up. “Why oh why you all had to go together, I have no idea.”
‘It was part of our deception and subterfuge, my queen,’ purred Felix. ‘Flossy kept that vile man’s attention while I slipped away.’
“And what was all that fuzz about, eh, Felix?” asked Rosie, staring straight at him. “You never do that. No one could find you for a whole hour!”
‘I was planting the bombs and setting the fuses, my queen. It does not take a mere five minutes, especially when one does not have an opposable digit.’
“Still, at least the vet could get a look at you. Finally! He said he can neuter you next week. I’ve got the appointment, Wednesday afternoon,” said Rosie.
‘That day will not come for him!’ meowed Felix. ‘He will never touch me again with his sweaty, clammy hands!’
“What’s wrong, Felix? Are you scared?” chuckled Rosie.
Felix watched the explosion erupt, milliseconds before its sound rang through the city, making Rosie spill some coffee.
‘I loathed that place,’ purred Felix.
Elements – image of two siblings sitting by a beach, façade, slight, indignation
“Ah, look at them.” Brigitte heard their mother, a few feet behind them. “They look like twins, bless them, so sweet.” However, this ‘bonding moment’ was only a facade.
“Your slight has filled me with indignation, Billy,” said Brigitte, her grip squeezing her brother’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry, sis,” he said. His whiny pitiful voice filled her with rage.
“You will have to pay,” she said, turning her head and giving her mother a smile, only to turn back with a grimace for Billy.
“I know. Do I have to hit my…?”
“No, Billy, your crime is much greater than that.”
“Does it involve my…?”
“Why, of course. It is the symbol of feminine oppression throughout the world. There can be no other punishment.” She let go of his shoulder and pointed towards the beach. “Find a sharp shell, one of those long ones. Hold it at the base and cut.”
“Will…will it hurt?” asked Billy.
“Of course it will. But don’t worry. You will be happy.”
Billy nodded and walked down onto the beach.
“That’s the last time you play with my Blush Beauty Barbie doll, dear Billy.”
Her parents ran to a fallen Billy as the sand turned red.
Elements – image of looking out of open window to autumn park, apotheosis, a character who’s implacable
Michael had reached the apotheosis of his career, New York Times Bestselling Author three books in a row but he felt deflated. Stuck in an apartment on the nice side of Vienna with money in his bank account, he still didn’t have want he yearned for so deeply – fame. He was an implacable character in one of his crime mystery books, unable to be appeased by the finest of rewards, the greatest of achievements.
As he looked out of his open window to the beginnings of a wet autumn morning, he reached for his coffee and missed, knocking it off the windowsill, out of sight.There was the sound of breaking glass, but dulled, as though it had hit something… he looked over the edge to see a fallen pedestrian on the pavement. Some people went to the person’s aid and soon two Policemen appeared. One of them looked up and Michael dived inside.
Some minutes later, his doorbell rang. “Sir! This is the Police. We would like to ask you a few questions,” said a voice from behind his door.
Could this be it? Fame at last? The Police, an arrest, a court appearance? The headlines? He smiled with ecstasy.
Elements – image of flowers in a market, incredulity, something or someone nascent, 250 words
The nascent facism in the country was beginning to take over, but Géza’s mate Máté was stubbornly stupid. For him, the Government could do no wrong. Gézá read out headline after headline of corruption and questionable motives from Budapest Beacon’s website off his tablet as they sat togethe, drinking a coffee in the market square as buyers and sellers busied themselves with their own wants and desires. The morning October rays blanketed the floral displays covering the stalls closest to them.
“Okay, let’s run through them again, shall we?” he said. Máté turned his head and puffed out his chest.
“Népszabadság employees hold press conference, demand answers from VCP.”
“That’s just business, the place was running at a major loss,” said Máté, taking a sip from his coffee.
“And then the Austrian company was allowed to buy up 12 local newspapers in Hungary?”
Máté shrugged. “They can do what they want.”
“How about this? Government passes law to cover up TAO program expenditures.”
“We don’t need to know the in’s and out’s of the country’s sports finance. Nothing to do with us.”
“But if it’s our money, or the EU’s money?” asked Géza.
“We did well in the Olympics, money well spent, I say.”
“And what about Felcsút?”
“What about it? Good place, so I hear,” said Máté, finishing his coffee.
“1,600 people live there and it’s got its own tourist train and a stadium that seats 3,500 which cost 3,8 billion Forints!”
Máté stared at Géza. “Looks nice, though.”
Elements – image of tent in forest at night, a character overcome with redolence, a pocket full of dice
“Hell, I didn’t think it would be like this,” said Fay, holding her jumper over her nose, the first thing she could grab in the small two-man tent they’d set up in the forest clearing.
“It’s called ‘redolence’, the redolence of the trees,” said John. He shuffled himself around in his sleeping bag to get space which wasn’t there.
“But it stinks!” she cried.
“It’s an agreeable odor!” he replied.
“I can’t sleep like this!” She started to whine. John thought for a moment.
“How about…” He looked in his rucksack. “This.” A rubber chicken dog toy. “It has a really strong rubbery smell.”
“What? I’m not putting that over my nose!”
John rummaged through his pockets and found half a dozen dice from the game last night.
“And what am I meant to do with those?” asked Fay.
John had an idea. “There is one thing we can do,” smiled John.
“What? Again? Sixty…? We did that last week!” said Fay. John knelt there, dice in one hand, rubber dog toy in the other and a stupid grin on his face. “Oh, go on, then.” She unzipped her sleeping bag. The animals of the forest were afraid that night.
Elements – image above of a man in a forest, “One need not be a chamber to be haunted; One need not be a house;The brain has corridors surpassing material place.” Emily Dickinson. A sullen, perfidious character
They had all warned her at school how sullen and perfidious Cuhbert was, though not knowing what either word meant, she was unperturbed by his sad, goat-like face and twisted, evil grin. He had money.
“Cuthbert? Cuthbert!” she screamed into the mass of trees surrounding her. A slight fog had crept in, giving the place an eery feel.
With dreadful howls from an owl up above, her mind began to race, scaring her with visions of ghosts and demons coming from the forest, tormenting her, seducing her…did they have any money?
“Cuthbert!” With a final cry, he appeared ahead, standing among the trees. He stood with his back to her. Not wishing to stay another moment, she stomped her way over to him, though he never seemed to get any closer. “Cuthbert! Stand still!” No matter how long she walked, she could never reach him. “Cuthbert!” And he was gone. Suddenly, the thoughts and visions came back to her again, frightening, haunting.
A hand touched her shoulder. She jumped out of her skin, falling forwards and also letting off a fart of terror.
“Oh hell, did you have to!” shouted Cuthbert, holding his nose. Bang goes the money, she thought.
131 – a princess, a dragon, a ninja, a Bumblebee. Genre – scifi
132 – image of a steampunk van, Story about a town called Gone, No one know where it is or how to get there, but everyone knows it exists, a character who can reads thoughts. Genre – scifi
Ding dong ditch (to knock on an anonymous door and run away)
133 – A letter, from a lottery winner, responding to a request for a huge amount of money, a cabbage field, an empty bird feeder, a lesson to be learned. Genre – scifi
134 – Evidence of murder found in the junkyard, First line must be: “Can you help me move this heavy object?”, Wombats, Rashomon Effect :The Rashomon effect is contradictory interpretations of the same event by different people. Genre: Sci-fi
135 – Stopette (Poof! There goes perspiration), Dudley Do Right RCMP (Dudley Do-Right is a dim-witted, but conscientious and cheerful Canadian Mountie who is always trying to catch his nemesis, Snidely Whiplash, and rescue damsel in distress Nell Fenwick, his boss’s daughter and a woman with whom Dudley is deeply infatuated. He usually succeeds only by pure luck or through the actions of his horse, named “Horse”. A running gag throughout the series is Nell’s great affection for Horse and her disregard for Dudley.), nagging spouse, Sick pet. Genre: Sci-fi
136 – Teaching your husband how to make Convoluted Cake (puzzle cake) (http://bad-girls-kitchen.blogspot.com/2008/03/convulated-cake-puzzel-cake.html), a hillbilly who likes to make up words, a paper cut on a part of a body other than a finger/thumb, a child doing a handstand. Genre: Sci-fi
137 – Genre:Sci fi. An image of a angel-carrying-a-child statue, a bag full of owl feathers, a 2000 year old person and end with :When the Indians (American) captured prisoners, they always gave them to the women to kill.
138 – Pyramids, Told from the POV of the camels, A psychic who can see five minutes into the future, either the first line or the last must be: “I wonder in what ways I will die this month, again.”
139 – A delusional spouse/partner, Suzy Snowflake (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaUBpsn4QjQ), a Dance party, Bad cats
140 – image of spaceship in the snow, crashed with Santa’s sleigh, how?, why? A Christmas present
141 – 2015 Winter Open Prelim – Something arrogate, The Isolator! (a strange helmet which isolates the writer from the world), a ball of yarn, an appointment to be abducted by aliens that you are anxiously waiting for.
142 – 2015 Winter Open Final – image of a boy watching television, “Come here, she said. Where are we going? The darkness, she replied.” (must be anywhere in the story), a “magic” pill, a terrible mistake
143 – The Australian rock icons AC/DC, a ghost town, Facebook, a rattlesnake – dead or alive or just the skin
144 – Any (or all) of the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse, A sego lily (image), A leprechaun, A roll of paper towels
145 – Sea Monkeys, image of a clown with a spirits bottle, sitting in a room, odd coinage, X-ray glasses
146 – A prenuptial agreement, Dendrocnide Moroides, Fob watch, Skinny jeans
147 – A Dance Hall, The first line of any song, The sound of the ocean in a Sea Shell, A Bet
148 – Lunch at the Crypt in London, A roll of undeveloped film from the 1940’s, A crossbow, A body pillow
149 – Written in the form of an obituary. So the reader is reading an obit. A despised relative (explain why), a tiny miniature, magical giraffe, an original Matisse painting.
150 – Barrow tombs, England, A witch or warlock, Drunkenness, A photographer
151- (2016 Winter Open Prelims)- An April Fools Joke, Energy drinks, A Yellow highlighter, The basement
152 – (2016 Winter Open Final) – spider, earthquake, trampoline, handwriting
153 – A Bride or Groom left alone at the altar, An old, unused railroad water tower, An old scar, A broken ceramic bowl
154 – A truthful funeral attendee, Poisoned toilet paper, A specific M&M color bearing a private meaning, Leg warmers
155 – Pirates, Social engineering, Any Chance or Community Card from Monopoly, Abandoned apothecary
156 – Breadcrumbs, car tyres, pregnancy, Coneflower “Flamethrower”
157 – Tubor (GIF), A frying pan with a flaking nonstick finish, Roller Derby, Peanut butter sticking in the mouth
158 – Write from the pov of any character in old gangster film photo, A Surgeon General Warning, A group of automobiles in for repair, Asthma
159 – image of city with ‘consumer’ adverts around, Something tedious, Roller skating fiddle player, 400 lb man whose teeshirt does not cover his belly
160 – Main character is Ozymandias, “Do you need me?”, “What to you is worth killing for, and also worth dying for?”, a mouse
161 – Fire Tornado, Field mice, Fish, Eye goggles
162 – (Prelim Spring 2016) – A hot air balloon festival, Trash talk, Hot Dogs, A Bow and a single arrow
163 – An old phone booth, A golf club (must be specific regarding which club)), A photograph, Told from POV of someone who believes they do not belong in the family they were born in, due to an accident 25 years before they were born.
164 (Spring Open 2016 Final)– Around the Campfire, The Blue Star Kachina, Fossilized remains of a three-legged fruitbat, Main character grandparent was executed
165 – The 1928 Penny Farthing Race, Main Character is in Race, An Insect, No dialogue between characters. Interior dialogue is allowed.
166 – A Clown, Numbers, A Barn, Rabbit Stew
167 – Occam’s Razor, Damocles Sword, A Bombay Duck, This question must be used in your story : “If you found the Fountain of Youth, would you drink?”
168 – Money Out the Window, Fear of judgment, You have been summoned to Dumbledore’s office, Coffee
169 – A stapler, a program for the 1939 World Series, Mao’s personal copy of his little Red Book, Sonja Henie
170 – A man shoveling water, A dragon, Ice cream, A cloud that looks like something.
171 – Burnt toast (May be defined any way you want, it does not have to be actual burnt toast. The image is for visual purposes on the website only), An synchronized Olympic event that has never been in an Olympics, Any emotion (Shown, not told), “The Old Country” (must name the country and it must not be the one you are in or from.
172 – A flaming spittoon, A herd of buffalo, An inscribed gravestone, A ancient gold horse bridle
173 – A shoebox with childhood memorabilia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cascading_failure, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Air_Lines_Flight_401, Last sentence must be a question.
174 – An abandon mine, Gold teeth from a dead person, Whistling, Main character is being pursued.
175 – A clown, Numbers, A barn, Rabbit Stew
176 – The Thumb Twiddler Machine (https://www.youtube.com/embed/W6xFS-WhcRc) Note, this element is restricted to the video, Frustration, Moss, The sound of drums in the distance
Vance/Mamie Grudge – rusted lock, the color cadmium red, a screwdriver, a serene lake
177 (Summer/Autumn 2016 Prelim) – A kid playing a banjo to a dog, Bullying, A limit, A life in danger
178 (Summer/Autumn 2016 Final) – An old family recipe, a trough, an electric fence, Banty chickens
179 (2016 Annual Final) – Apostrophe as an literary device, Halloween night, an orchard (you must state the type of orchard: apple, pear, peach, etc), metal doors on a school building
139 – image of dried up river, relegation, insight
140 – image of girl in dress sitting in a lake, paranormal, panic
141 – image of two hummingbirds on a water dispenser, persistence, an awkward reunion
142 – image of a boy reading a book in a ruined bookshop, machismo, facade
143 – image of an old man sitting on a bench, a sentiment from any song by Pink Floyd, introspection
144 – Black Friday, teamwork, describe something happening in slow motion
145 – image of a polluted, dried up/clear, green grass city, artifacts of antiquity, something from the film “Groundhog Day”
146 – Image of woman wearing glasses which allow you to watch TV in bed lying down, a stranger, an Emergency
147 – 250 words. The 12 Days of Christmas (day 1). Elements: image of birds leaving their trees, an oath of loyalty, the drums of war, the midnight hour
148 – 250 words. Image of a group of people walking down a deserted street, a hand-picked team, “Trial by fire”, attrition
149 – 250 words. Image of guards holding swords, fence, above the law, guards
150 – image of someone thinking and then shame/shock/why, gifts, virtue, dichotomy
151 – image of worms, mundane, a benefit to being humble, a blessing
152 – image of boy giving something to man/beggar in alley, apt, foreign aid, a spiritual experience
153 – image of lava falling over a cliff to the sea, the four classic elements, something for nothing, an artist
154 –image of assassin in suit jumping over wall, inadequacy, stubbornness, history
155 – image of a scribe writing, agreement of testimonies, witnesses, documented evidence
156 – image of an old man, sage advice, the best of three good choices, a reputation
157 – image of an ancient scroll, an ancient text, a biding covenant, an offering
158 – image of helping hand, a true friend, brokenness, winning by losing
159 – image of a natural hot spa, venting frustration, gravy train, POV of anything not human
160 – image of doctors looking down on a patient, fruitcake, returning to work after the holidays
161 – image of man with accordian – pick a song for the man to be singing, a captive audience, a short window of opportunity
162 – image of a man in the rainh, lighting a cigarette while watching people in a coffee bar, A longstanding debt, An estranged relationship, Counter-intuitive
163 – image of a sign post showing PlanA, PlanB and PlanC, An important task, A complication, End your story with a quote from any song, movie, or book
164 – image of three armored sci-fi soldiers, desperation, social anxiety disorder, a concerted effort
165 – image of a man holding a skull in a field of skulls, turmoil, a tipping point, implications
166 – Use the phrase,“What were you thinking?”, Bending the rules, Dynamic equilibrium
167 – image of people arguing across a table, controversy, ground rules, business as usual
168 – image of a fallen mask, main character must be: in transit, running from something, die while doing a good deed.
169 – image of waves hitting derelict buildings, a faux pas, a mail order bride, a back-handed compliment
170 – image of no mirror in a toilet with ‘you look fine’ graffiti, a fire, climbed a palm tree, discombobulated
171 – image of a piece of Contemporary Art, a brief encounter, Melancholy, expectations
172 – image of woman and man at map, poiting to Manhatten, infatuation, a mechanical failure, a windfall
173 – image of woman giving a gift and man saying “but we said no gifts”, self depreciation, intuition, “Just the ticket”
174 – image of woman in NY bar, smoking and drinking, “out with the old, in with the new”, death, services rendered
175 – image of an astronaut drinking beer, sitting on the moon, anxiety, braking distance, a crutch
176 – image of a tilled field, passion, self control, naysayers
177 – image of hands on opposite side of glass, rhetoric, perspective, sudden stop
178 – image of helicopter flying over traffic, time, vanity, juxtaposed
179 – image of a burning match, an old widow, insight, a sleepless night
180 – image cropped from “Christ among Scribes” (Ribera), determination, internet service, a social event
181 – image of an old fishing boat on the beach, a dead man, a boy, fear
182 – image of people running away, chaos, Cub Scout talent show, the next day
183 – image of a woman’s face with landscape features, empathy, a writer, insulation
184 – image of street corner in a city, Write a 200 word story using the sentiment behind these cliches …“If you get the sense, chuck the tense”, “All dressed up and no place to go”, “It’s better than a sharp stick in the eye”, “Don’t get your knickers in a twist”
185 – image above, underestimation, a trivial matter, body language
186 – image of drone, fear, hunger, mistrust
187 – image of ice sculptured people sitting, priorities, sentimentality, snowball effect (on to death)
188 – image of cut leaf ants, down the road, an idea, the big picture
189 – image of an astronaut in a ship, planned, or perceived, obsolescence, A.I., “Bob’s your uncle”
190 – Write a 200 word story using the sentiment of these elements without quoting them …“The game is on the line”, “So close and yet so far”, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” and the image of two eyes, one crying.
191 – image of man with telescope and man with binoculars and rifle, disparity, dramatic irony, dogmatism
192 – image from a dream (figures walking to a fallen statue), “balls to the walls”, Dead man walking, a painful but nostalgic memory
193 – image of two women standing in the rain, estranged, the tipping point, a beach scene snow globe
194 – A salesman, image of 5 African tribesmen, a seemingly useless item, a practical application
195 – image of a hundred dollar bill in the grass, a small wicker basket, a canning jar, a padlock, a large praying mantis, a box turtle.
196 – image of a playground, the fear of rejection, something brand new, a playground
197 – Image of two people with gas masks, improvise, deprivation, great urgency
198 – image of a woman in a kitchen with cats while there is an explosion outside in the city, deception, subterfuge, loathing
199 – image of two siblings sitting by a beach, façade, slight, indignation
200 – elements: image of looking out of open window to autumn park, apotheosis, a character who’s implacable
201 – elements: image of flowers in a market, incredulity, something or someone nascent, 250 words
202 – image of tent in forest at night, a character overcome with redolence, a pocket full of dice
203 – - image above of a man in a forest, “One need not be a chamber to be haunted; One need not be a house;The brain has corridors surpassing material place.” Emily Dickinson. A sullen, perfidious character
After a lifetime of reading clones and a decade of proofreading coffee table books, Dani started writing, so far completing a handful of novels, including “Man by a tree”, “The Bethlehem Fiasco”, “The Rage of Atlantis”, “Manna-X” and “How to Build a Castle in Seven Easy Steps” (Line by Lion Publications) and hundreds of Flash Fiction stories, including a few novelettes, “TDX2”, “Alice on the Outside-In” and “All For Love”. When not putting finger to keyboard, dabbling in Shakespeare, teaching English, proofreading, washing up, hoovering, and driving all over the place, he is busy with his loving and long-suffering family.
Twitter: @jedlica ( )
This is perhaps the last collection of Iron Writer Challenge Short Story Fiction I will publish. Due to life and other writing related issues, I wasn’t able to write the challenges out every week, though to my credit, I never missed a Weekend Quickie – who would? This collection includes all the Weekend Quickies and challenges I did write up, from Challenge 131/Weekend Quickie 139 onwards, all the way to the 2016 Annual Final (Challenge 179, October 2016). A list of elements for all challenges and WQs are listed at the end of this collection for those wishing to ‘have a go’. I hope you enjoy what you read – whether it’s in this collection… or some other book…