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Category Archives: Challenges

Stories written specifically for a challenge of some sort.

Potion Problems

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Hey look! Another Flash Fiction! Unfortunately, I failed to get this one finished on time (stupid time zone differences) but I still wanted to post it. This week’s challenge: receive a list of random objects from @youarecarrying and use each on in a 2K word story. My objects were a fragment, a thin piece of paper, a bag, a bottle of cough medicine, a fiery orb, a green silk ribbon, and a dark potion. It’s a pretty simple, somewhat silly story. Enjoy! And of course, any thoughts/comments are appreciated!

Potion Problems

“Drink the potion, and all your troubles will fade away!” The witch’s words bounced around in my head as I trudged through the waist deep snow. I hugged myself, trying to hold as much warmth in, but my efforts were wasted, for I was wearing nothing but a thin flannel shirt, jeans, and old tennis shoes in a full on blizzard. My teeth chattered as I pushed through snowdrifts as high as my shoulders. My heavy breaths created large clouds of fog that seemed to stick to my face as I moved through them. The stinging on my ears became unbearable, so I reluctantly uncrossed my arms and began to rub some heat back into them. I could feel liquid running from my nose and down to my beard, creating a snot-sicle almost a foot long. I tried to ignore it and pushed myself harder.

Up ahead, the blowing snow slowed just enough for me to see a large rock formation. I couldn’t see the top through the storm, but I could faintly make out a small opening only a few feet off the ground. A cave! I recrossed my arms and tried to quicken my pace, but the wind blew harder, and I trudged slowly forward.
When I finally stood before the rocks, I discovered that the cave was higher than I had guessed. The bottom of the opening was about a foot above my head. The opening was narrow, but I looked just wide enough to squeeze through. I clapped my numb hands together to beat some feeling back into them. Taking a deep breath, I placed my hands to the rocks and felt for any handhold I could find. It took every ounce of strength left in my body to pull myself up. As I climbed, I cursed a certain witch who’s promises seemed so good only a couple of hours ago. My money problems brought me to her doorstep, and now I’d give anything to cry over my empty bank account while sitting in my warm apartment. I could almost feel my hands wrapping around a steaming cup of tea- my foot slipped and my daydream disappeared. I barely caught myself as I slid down the rocks, banging my knees and chin on each one as they passed. When I stopped, I looked down to see that I was back on the ground. My groan sounded faint through the storm, but I reached up and resumed my climb towards the cave.

Finally my head was level with the opening. After another few pulled upward I practically threw myself into the small hole. The entrance was very narrow, but just beyond I could make out a large room. I pulled myself to my feet and studied the jagged rocks standing between myself and the room beyond. The passageway was roughly man shaped, and I figured that if I turned myself sideways, I’d squeeze right in. Moving forward, I began to push my frozen body between the rocks, but almost immediately my head hit upon the sides. I tried again, but my head was halted as if by some invisible force field. I didn’t feel the cold stone against my skin as it hit, but something was keeping me from passing through. I raised my hand to my head and immediately felt a boney horn protruding through my head. In a panic, my other hand flew up and discovered another horn. I cried out as I poked them with my fingers. Knocking them against the walls produced a thunk sound that rattled my senses and made the rocks around me begin to spin. I took a deep breath. Horns, that’s a new one. But I’m still freezing, and I need to get into that room. I contemplated how I would get my extra large head through the space. Finally, taking a step back, I crouched down and crawled through the widest part that rose about three feet off the floor.

After dragging my legs through, I pulled myself to the side of the entrance and shivered. Stupid witch! Stupid me for thinking she would fix my problems! I smacked myself with my open hand once, twice, three times, but the third time felt like I had slammed a sharp stone against my forehead. I cried out in pain, and then shock as I saw what had happened. Where my hands used to be now were hooves; small, cloven hooves with wiry hairs covering my wrists and slowly growing up my arms.

I screamed. At least I think I did. Anyone would scream if their hands suddenly became hooves. My breaths were quick and shallow. My eyes darted from one hoof to the other and back again. Suddenly, one of my tennis shoes plopped against the floor, the sock under it hanging limply against the thin hoof-tipped leg now inside. I watched as the other shoe followed suit and I did what every normal person would do if they just watched their feet turn to hooves: I screamed again.

Horns? Hooves? What the hell was happening to me?

Just then, a fiery orb moved slowly through the entrance to my shelter. It sat suspended in air for a moment until it exploded, sending pieces of what looked like black glass flying everywhere. I heard a faint click as a fragment bounced of one of my horns and finally came to a rest between my now useless shoes. Before me stood the witch, her size greatly reduced, but I could still make out the green silk ribbon braided through her fiery red hair. The pint-sized witch spun slowly as she examined the room. She wore a huge grin on her face, and, had I had hands, I might have just smacked her once or twice. But I didn’t have hands, and I was still in a state of shock over the loss of my extremities. So, with eyes wide and mouth gaping, I stared at her.

As she finished her examination of the room, she giggled. As if that wasn’t maddening enough, as she saw my multiple transformations, she clapped her hands and danced a jig right in front of me. “That potion sometimes gets ahead of itself! Usually transformations don’t begin for a day or so, but oh! It’s beautiful!” She gestured at me and laughed.

“You?” I sputtered, finally finding my voice. “You did this?”

“No, dear, you did.” Her voice was filled with an excitement reserved for massive accomplishments, like finishing a marathon, or taking the top prize at a middle school science fair.

“No I didn’t!” I was yelling. She smiled even wider, almost breaking her face in two.

“You drank the dark potion, didn’t you?”

“What? Yes! Because you told me it would make my problems go away!”

“And they have! Money is a common human problem. Goats, on the other hand, have no use for money!”

“GOAT?” The word came out as more of a squeak. I lunged at the small figure giggling before me, but I felt nothing as I passed right through her. I turned around just in time to see her image materialize once again. She wasn’t really there in the cave with me, only her projection shared my miserable space. At that time I wanted desperately to plant a hoof solidly up her backside. I growled instead.

She rolled her tiny eyes and me and, with a flourish of her hand, and thin piece of paper appeared above her. I recognized it instantly as the contract I signed just before I drank that vile mixture she set before me. “The contract clearly states, in Section 32.1.B., that ‘the supporting witch or warlock is not liable for any transformations, mutations, deformations, etc. (whether human or animal) for the remainder of the client’s existence’. Section 42.5.9 goes on to say ‘while the dark potion is conjured by the selling witch or warlock, it has a mind of its own and will do at it pleases.’ Pesky potions, wouldn’t you say, dear?” She smiled gleefully at my gaping, goat-like appearance. Suddenly her eyes grew wide and she laughed aloud. Reluctantly, I raised a hoof to my ears and sighed. They were now big and droopy, and covered in the short, wiry hair that covered my arms and legs.

“Change me back!” I cried, my tears dampened the new hair on my face, and I screamed as I felt my nose grow into that of a goat’s.

“Now, what would I want to do that?” She giggled and waved her hand at the floating paper, which then rolled itself up and vanished into thin air. “You asked to be free of your problems, and the potion has done just that! I would say I have sufficiently fulfilled my end of the bargain! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe my next appointment is trying to call! Ta-ta!” With a wave of her fingers, the witch disappeared, leaving behind nothing but a faint ringing sound. My breaths were shaky and shallow as I sat against the rock. The ringing slowly grew louder as I contemplated my situation, until finally it drowned out the roaring of the storm outside. I shook my head as it increased in intensity until-

I bolted upright in my bed, the alarm ringing at full blast on the table nearby. I lurched clumsily in an attempt to silence the clock, knocking it off the table as I did so. I looked at my hands- hands again! Instantly my fingers were feeling through my hair, but there were no horns to be found. I jumped out of bed and ran into the bathroom to examine my face in the mirror. No goat face! I began to laugh hysterically, immediately brushing off my goat transformation as a horrible dream.

As I laughed at my reflection, my eyes found a bottle of cough medicine on the counter. I vaguely remembered drinking it right before I went to bed the night before. Could the medicine have anything to do with that ridiculous dream? I snatched up the bottle and, without pausing to read the label on the back, I threw it into the empty bag in the trashcan. I quickly knotted the plastic and ran from my apartment. I ran down the three flights of stairs, jumping over three at a time and straight out the back exit where the dumpsters were. A garbage truck was emptying the closest dumpster to the door, so, without thinking, I hurled the cough medicine into the back of the truck. With a final salute, I turned and panted my way back to my apartment, this time taking the stairs one at a time.

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Flash Fiction: Cat vs Con

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It’s been a while since I’ve done one of Wendig’s challenges, so I thought this would be a good time to get back into the game. This week’s challenge is to choose one thing each from two given lists, writing a story that incorporates both things. I chose 1). a talking cat, and 2). an escaped prisoner. Here is ‘Cat vs Con,’ at exactly 1500 words. I hope you enjoy!

Stanley pulled his hat low as a man and woman passed his seat, their fine clothes rubbing against his own ragged ones. Holding a shaky breath, he wondered why train aisles had to be so narrow. Once the couple had taken the seats two rows behind him, he let out his breath slowly and pushed his hat up a bit. On the seat next to him was a small satchel filled with his scant belongings. A man on the run had little need of possessions. It was the freedom he craved, and the fresh air his lungs basked in. Everything he had with him was stolen, even the toothbrush and half smoked cigar he had stuffed in the satchel. His light fingers felt rusty, but he was pleasantly surprised at how easily he made off with the news boy’s hat. Stanley was a small man, and luckily the boy’s hat fit perfectly. The fishmonger’s coat, on the other hand, dwarfed his small body, and let off a faint odor. Four days of constant wear hadn’t lessened the scent any, nor had Stanley gotten used to it in that time. Now, as he waited for the other passengers to board, he prayed that the smell would keep the seats nearest him empty.

Outside, Stanley watched as the conductor walked the platform and assisted passengers onto the train. Finally, in a loud booming voice, he announced “All Aboard!” Stanley tapped his foot nervously, anxiously waiting for the train to get on its way. The number of people boarding the train slowly diminished, and Stanley heaved a quiet sigh of relief. A moment later, the train jolted forward and began to pull away from the platform. Stanley quickly scanned the seats around him and found them empty. After almost four years in chains and five days on the run, it was beginning to look like Stanley’s luck was changing. Leaning his head back against the seat, he closed his eyes and smiled.

A loud banging from the front of the car woke Stanley from his happy thoughts. His eyes shot open and immediately sought shelter beneath the brim of his hat. At the front of the car, an old man squeezed his way down the aisle, no doubt looking for an open seat. Stanley froze as the old man, wearing layers of tattered cloth covered in trinkets and medallions and a ridiculous short, pointy hat, advanced through the car, finally turning into the open row across from him. The clatter made by the man was astonishing, and Stanley found himself sighing in relief once the old man had finally settled himself and stopped moving his various cases around.

When the car once again got quiet, Stanley stole a glance across from him. The old man sat in the seat closest to the window. On the seat next to him, he had stacked a number of small cases. On the floor sat the largest case, one with holes along the sides, and a wire door on the front. Inside lay a black cat, its blue eyes staring lazily back at Stanley. The old man slumped against the window and muttered quietly to himself, his breath creating a patch of condensation on the glass. Stanley sat almost motionless in his seat across the aisle, not able to relax with someone so near. Every few minutes he glanced at the old man and listened to his muttered ramblings until, about twenty minutes later, the old man fell asleep.

Once Stanley heard the man’s snores, he pushed his hat away from his eyes and scanned the pile of boxes across from him. They were all old, each one showing various signs of abuse. The box on the bottom was missing an entire corner, and Stanley thought he could see cloth stuffed inside. He guessed the case contained clothes and moved to the middle case. This one had a few small punctures, with a few patches here and there, but the latches had locks, and Stanley decided that it would most likely be more trouble than it was worth. He moved to inspecting the top case and immediately smiled. It had a large gash on the side, and one of the two latches was held together with string, with the second latch missing entirely. This would be an easy target.

Stanley heard a low chuckle and immediately looked away and pulled his hat down. Another laugh, this one louder, and then silence. Stanley shot a quick glance at the old man, but he was still sleeping against the window, his mouth hanging open slightly. Stanley shook his head and took a calming breath before deciding that the laughing must have come from the couple a few rows back. Slowly, he returned to his perusal of the top case, even leaning into the aisle to get a better look.

“Don’t do it.” The calm voice startled Stanley, making him jump and sending his hat slightly askew. He looked around for the source of the voice, but the man still snored against the window, and no one else was in easy speaking range. Stanley held his breath as he tried to curb his confusion, but the voice returned before he could decide on an explanation. “It’s not worth it.”

Stanley gasped and looked around again, this time frantically, but still he could find no source of the voice. He heard a low sigh. “Down here,” the voice said. Slowly, Stanley lowered his eyes until they settled on the case housing the cat. Blue eyes met his and he frowned. The cat’s teeth appeared as its lips pulled back in what could only be described as a smile. Stanley’s eyes widened in shock and a gasp caught in his throat until finally erupting in a faint squeak. The old man shifted against the window and muttered before settling back into his slumber.

“Did you say something?” Stanley whispered the question, hardly believing he was talking to a cat. The cat rolled his eyes in a very human fashion.

“I know what you’re thinking, an I’m telling you that you’ll regret it.” The cat gestured toward the top case.

“I’m not thinking about anything!” Stanley stammered, shaking his head.

The cat laughed. “Right now you’re thinking that you’ve lost your mind. After all, you are talking to a cat.” It smiled again. “No one would believe you, not even him.” It glanced in the direction of its sleeping owner. “He doesn’t even know his spell worked.”

Spell?” Stanley’s eyes narrowed in confusion.

“He may be old and senile, but he is proficient in the magical arts. In a very memorable manic episode, he decided that his feline companion should be able to speak, so he discovered a spell that gave me the gift of speech.”

“But,” Stanley asked, still disbelievingly, “I thought you said he wouldn’t believe me if I told him you could talk?”

“Just because I can talk doesn’t mean I want to talk to him. I mean, look at him!” the cat laughed and glanced over his shoulder again, “Does he look like he’s fun to talk to?” The cat rolled his eyes again. “Always going on about this and that, the fool wouldn’t let me get a word in even if I wanted to!” Stanley blinked in response. Loud squeaking reverberated through the car as the engineer applied the brakes and began slowing the train down.

“That being said,” the cat continued, “even though the old wizard is a fool, he is still a wizard. Getting into that case of his is the easy part; recovering from whatever vile hex he sends your way would obviously be the hard part.” Stanley glanced at the sleeping man before meeting the cat’s stare again. “Have you ever seen a man turned into a newt? I have,” the cat raised a paw and gestured to itself, “and it’s not a pleasant memory!” It squeezed its eyes shut and shook its head, clearly remembering the sight. It sighed. “Look, I can tell that you are a man who enjoys taking things without permission, so I will give you this one piece of advice and spare you the task of asking beforehand.” Stanley’s eyes widened, but the cat ignored him. “Get of this train right now, while you still have two legs! Forget about the half crazed wizard you sat by on the train, and for God’s sake, forget about his talking cat! Look,” it said, pointing a black paw toward Stanley’s window, “the train is stopping, so now is your chance.”

Stanley hesitated, but looked out the window anyway. Two policemen stood on the platform only feet from where he sat. He took a deep breath and looked back at the cat. A short nod from the blue-eyed feline was all he needed. Stanley grabbed his satchel and hurried down the narrow aisle before jumping down onto the platform. Glancing at the policemen, Stanley lowered his hat and blended into the crowd.

Griefstruck Earth ~ Flash Fiction Challenge

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Chuck Wendig’s first Flash Fiction Challenge of 2014 was not an easy one, at least for me. I had a feeling that I probably should pass, but I was too excited about the difficulty I knew it would pose for me, so I caved. The random number generator decided my title, and it took most of the week of brainstorming to finally come up with an idea. Executing it took longer than I had hoped, so I’m actually a day late in getting this up. I like the concept of this story, but I think I came up short in making it a good story. Feedback is very appreciated!

Griefstruck Earth

The room was silent, last night’s find already a distant memory in the minds of the few who witnessed it. Jackson sat in the same place he did eight hours ago, his back now hunched over the control panel. His eyes were still glued to the tiny screen before him, but the crowd around his station had dispersed long ago. Still, he hung on to every morsel of hope the machine fed him.

He pushed a small stick slightly to the left and waited. It took a minute, but eventually the camera view swung left. Jackson swore under his breath. He nudged the stick right, sighing in relief a moment later as the camera finally pointed at its intended target. It didn’t look like much, only a square blob in the distance, but in his mind it was something much bigger. He pushed the stick forward and waited, forcing himself to breathe.

The door behind him opened and a small head peaked into the room. “You’re still here?” Anna didn’t hide her disapproval. Her brother was always pushing himself too far when it came to these kinds of missions. He didn’t care about repopulating the planet, which was the ultimate goal; he only wanted to learn about the population that killed the planet in the first place. “Go home. Get some sleep. She’ll still be there when you get back.” Jackson stared at his screen and didn’t reply.

Anna sighed and sat down, carefully positioning herself behind Jackson so he couldn’t see her roll her eyes every time he got excited about a new blob on the screen, but also making sure she had a good view. Just because she didn’t think Jackson should care so much about the past, didn’t mean she didn’t care about it at all. Jackson’s earlier find would be the talk of the colony for months to come, and she was just as excited about it as he was, even if she didn’t show it. Yawning loudly, she propped her feet up on a nearby table and leaned back in her chair. “What do you think you’ll find next, a toe nail?”

He grunted. She shook her head. “Jackson, I doubt that anything bigger even survived the war, so you’re just wasting your time.” She yawned again.

“I found the crown, didn’t I?”

She rolled her eyes. “You got lucky. Besides, you need to let that thing recharge, you’ve been running it ragged-“

Jackson leaned forward as a faint beeping sound began chirping. “He’s close.”

“’He’? Now the rover has a gender? Don’t tell me you’ve named it, too.” Anna put her feet back on the floor and leaned over her brother’s shoulder as she spoke.

“Columbus.” He spoke softly, forcing Anna to lean in even more.

“As in-“

“Yeah, as in Christopher Columbus.” His face hovered inches from the small screen as he controlled the rover with his fingertips, directing it toward the object on the screen.

“God, you’re obsessed with that place. They started the war that destroyed the planet, you do know this?” Ignoring his sister once again, Jackson squinted, then leaned forward and breathed onto the screen. He leaned back and cleaned the screen with his sleeve and leaned back in. He moved the rover forward once more and waited, his sister leaning in as far as she could.

Jackson sighed and leaned back. “That’s not it.” Despair filled his voice, and Anna felt a pang of sympathy for her brother for the first time since this mission began.

“Jackson, she’s not going to walk off while you get some rest. Her legs aren’t attached anymore. Hell, they were blown to bits centuries ago!”

“I’m not looking for her legs; I’m looking for her torch.” He rubbed his eyes and looked at his sister for the first time that evening.

“Why are you so obsessed with these people?” She threw her hands into the air. “They’re the ones who fired the first missile. They started that damn war! If they hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t be here sifting through their remains!”

“You’re forgetting that our colony was the first one on Mars, and it was American. They may have destroyed their world, but they gave us a new one first. They are our past, Anna, and we owe our past some thanks for thinking of their future.” He sighed and rubbed his eyes.

“Their future before or after sending the entire world into a nuclear war that destroyed the planet in less than a decade? Thanks guys! We love our home consisting of red dirt and rocks!” She rolled her eyes again.

Jackson was once again focused on the small screen. His fingers moved the stick to the left and then forward, only pulling back when the rover was sitting before a large, triangular mass. Behind him, Anna leaned in again.

Jackson pushed a handful of seemingly random buttons on his control panel before placing his hand on the steering mechanism again. This time, when he moved the stick, a small arm on the front of the rover responded. Columbus picked at the dirt and debris surrounding the mass slowly, Jackson moving the stick ever so slightly in order to uncover what lay beneath. Finally, Jackson pressed another sequence of buttons and pulled back on the stick. The rover backed away from the mass. Jackson barely breathed. “I think I found it!”

Anna squinted, unable to make out what the mass on the screen was. She shook her head in confusion.

“He has just enough power to shine his light for a minute.” Jackson pushed another button and waited. After a moment, the small screen was illuminated as the rover’s lights shined on the mass, giving more than enough light for Anna to finally see. Sitting upright, buried halfway in debris, sat Lady Liberty’s torch. Anna’s jaw dropped. For the first time in her life, she felt the warmth of hope for the stricken planet her race once thrived upon. She hugged her brother’s shoulders as they stared at the image in silence. Anna nodded to herself as she let the image sink in. Yes, thinking of the future is what saved humankind, and now it was their turn to return the favor.

Challenge Part Five: The Final 200 of the Fair Folk’s Favour

This week, the final week, our challenge was to add the final 200 words to a story. I chose The Fair Folk’s Favour and wrote the 200 required, but I wasn’t quite done. After editing it down, it ended up being a bit over 300. I had quite a bit of fun with this one! The players who contributed to this story are Strange Corners, Mckkenzie, Justice, and Simon B. As always, my contribution is at the end.

 

The Fair Folk’s Favour

The wolves came in. That’s what happens when you leave the front door open at night, which is exactly what I did. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I was in the kitchen warming up some midnight milk for myself when I saw their shadows slinking along the hallway, breaking up the moonbeams across the floor. I heard their panting, smelled breath most foul. I froze, of course. But–and I guess this was stupid of me but I still had my wits about and what else was I to do with them–I tried to figure out just by looking at their shadows if these wolves were scared, bored, or hungry.

You’d think the hungry ones are the most dangerous, but these aren’t ordinary wolves. And if they were bored, I was as good as dead.

Very quietly, I shut off the gas. Stove dials would make too much noise, and so would my bunny slippers. I slid the biggest knife we had from its place in the wooden holder with the brood of ducks on it before I realized that one, I tended to focus on the most mundane things when I am scared, and two, I sure as hell didn’t know how to wield a knife.

 ***

 Well, not against wolves like these anyway. It just wasn’t in me. They couldn’t help that they’d been corrupted any more than I could help fixing what had been done. Why did this always seem to happen? I was planning a quiet few years this time with no conflict, no involvement in anything. The wolves were always the first to come. I knew they’d be followed by elves, dwarves, pixies — all needing my help and here we’d go again.

I clenched my teeth and sliced the big knife over the palm of my hand. The blood flowed and I cupped my hand to collect it. Then I watched the milk turn pink as I turned my hand over the saucepan.

I lifted the pan in absolute silence and squatted down to cast the grisly mixture across the floor. The wolves smelled it immediately and closed in to lap it up. I didn’t move a muscle, counting on the distraction to keep them interested until they started to change. Luck was with me and it didn’t take long. Their matted fur smoothed and their rank panting mellowed to something not much worse than dog breath. There were three of them and they padded over to surround me, nuzzling my skin with their night-chilled noses.

 ***

 “Good boys,” I mutter. “Go.”

They stare up at me as though they expect something else.

“Go!” It is a harsh command, but they linger. Why? I have nothing more to give them.

My heart thuds in my chest when I realize what the pack is – not hellhounds, werewolves, or skinchangers. These are Cu Sith, and it’s taken me this long to see the greenish tint in their dark fur.

I don’t expect to be alone, but my breath still catches when I look up: Melvina.

This is why you don’t leave the door open. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

“Maleficent thing,” I say, “you tricked me.”

She wears embroidered brocade. Impractical for the weather, but the Sidhe have no need for practical things.

“Such silly magic,” Melvina shakes her head when she sees the pink paste on the floor. “A child’s trick. It would not work against beasts of the Fair Folk.”

“I did not know they were the Sidhe’s hounds,” I reply.

“You say our name?” Melvina grimaces.

“I have your wrath already. What do you want?” I answer.

“A favor.”

 ***

 I snort incredulously, not realising my stance is considerably diminished by my choice of footwear. I glance down for a barely a second but it’s enough for Melvina to notice. She smirks.

“Don’t be so quick to dismiss the idea,” she continues. “Your threshold was unwarded. If malice was my intent, you would already have breathed your last.”

A fair point, but not one that helps me relax. Any sort of contract with the Sidhe should not be taken lightly; their word is quite literally their bond. “And should I refuse?”

“We leave, I and they. And you close your door.” Melvina flashes the briefest of smiles.

My reply is worded carefully. “And what consideration for me?”

Melvina nods, as if approving. “The three thralled here.”

I shake my head, glancing at the beasts roaming my kitchen. The smallest of the Cu Sith lies clumsily at my feet.

No chance.

“You know I can’t keep the bonded,” I say.

“Free them, then.” Melvina’s words are clipped by an impatience I’ve never seen in her. I’m suddenly curious.

“And what do the Sidhe ask?” I realise I’m still holding the knife.

“Not the Sidhe. Me.” Melvina steps forward, her gaze cast to the floor. She takes a deep, measured breath, and for the first time my would-be enemy seems frail and small.

Her eyes meet mine, and the tiny moment of weakness is over. She speaks softly.

“I want you to kill me.”

 ***

I laugh. “I can’t do that. I would have the Sidhe at my doorstep in an instant. Besides, killing the likes of you requires runed weapons that are unfortunately hard to find.”

Melvina smiles. A bundle wrapped in worn leather appears in her hands, seemingly pulled out of midair. She places the bundle on the counter beside her and it begins to unroll, exposing runed daggers one by one. A black sword is the last weapon, and I know its runes protect against rebirth. Silently, the weapons rise into the air and fly, point first, straight at me. I step back, but the weapons freeze in midair, hanging silently between us. She laughs quietly as she walks around the weapons, gently fingering the hilt of the sword as she moves.

“As you can see, I have come prepared.”

I shake my head.

“The Sidhe want me gone. I won’t be missed.”

“No.”

She scoffs. “He was right.” She turns to leave.

“Who-?”

“Does it matter?”

I thrust my hand out toward the weapons, throwing the full force of my magic against them. The blades spin around and race toward Melvina. Fanning out at the last instant, each dagger sinks into an extremity. Once again the sword hangs in mid air. Melvina spins around, her face contorted in pain. Black smoke streams from the dagger wounds. She breathes heavily as her strength drains away.

“Ridding you from this land is the biggest favor of all!” I grab the sword hilt from the air and drive it through her chest. She screams as the black smoke envelops her, taking her eternal soul with it. As the smoke dissipates, the steaming weapons clink to the floor. The wolves stand and nod their thanks before disappearing into the hall, the soft click of the door closing following soon after, leaving me alone in the quiet house.

Challenge Part Four: 200 More

This week: add another 200 words. Pretty straight forward at this point. Next week is the conclusion, and lots of fun will be had reading the results of this challenge.

This week I chose this gem by Mildred, Dean, and J. As always, my addition is at the end. And, as always, ~grumble-200-word-limit-grumble~!

Part One (by Mildred):

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but I will try to paint for you a picture of what I found, using only nine hundred words. Why nine hundred? Because any more than that and I will have run out of time!

It is the smell that greeted me. I could actually see vapours of this smell seeping underneath the big, oak, door. These vapours were – for lack of a better word – intelligent. They forged a path that went into the chilly night, a path that clearly avoided the area I was standing on. If I wasn’t so horrified by what I was seeing, I would have taken offence. No one likes to be avoided, whether by other human beings or by intelligent vapours.

I was determined to complete this doomed mission so I walked to the door and opened it. There was a slippery substance on the door knob but I refused to dwell on what I had touched. What I saw inside was far more horrifying. There wasn’t a single drop of blood on the floor and the absence of blood was somehow more disturbing than if the room had been flooded with blood.

Part two: (by Dean):

The smell of blood, heavy with copper filled my nostrils, making its absence all the more confusing. I sniffed at my fingers, if only to see if they had picked up any of the crimson fluid; they hadn’t. Instead they smelled of seawater and fish, grown old and pungent. I pulled them away quickly, my stomach, already threatening revolt, at risk of an out right rebellion.

This can’t be real the sensible part of my mind whispered. You don’t have a mausoleum in your garden. This must be a dream. Yet here I was, inside it, unable to convince myself that I was asleep. Yes, I was dressed in my pajamas, but the floor felt icy cold under my feet, a breeze played around my neck and somewhere nearby I could hear a whippoorwill calling. Could you hear things in dreams?

I shrugged, determined to see this thing through. No blood? Check. Stinky fish smell on my fingers. Check. What else was in here? From where I was stood by the door I could see a half dozen shelves, laden with coffins, all of them heavy, lined with brass on the outside. One was partly ajar, the tendrils of amorphous vapour leaking from it.

Part Three (by J):

I shuffled toward the open coffin, foolishly, I suppose. It is what one is meant to do in a dream, is it not?

The vapor oozed out of my path unlike any kind of gaseous emanation I had encountered before. To the eye, it was more like an oil slick upon water than like smoke, fog, or steam. Tendrils of the stuff seemed to beckon.

As I approached the coffin, the rank smell of a dead and abandoned tidal pool emanated from its confines. My stomach, momentarily forgotten, lurched at the odor and acid burned in my throat.

It seemed to me that something rustled within.

I contemplated ancient desiccated flesh, its forgotten owner now woken into this nightmare, somehow shared twixt the two of us. The mere thought was repellant and filled my mind with instinctive reptilian dread. I wished for nothing more than to flee from this dreadful phantasmagoria and return to my bed.

Alas, I was rooted in place by some inexplicable force. It required me to continue, somehow I knew.

I hesitated but the sound did not repeat itself. I must have imagined it, I thought.

Reaching out, I pried at the coffin lid.

(My addition)

It didn’t budge.

Stepping closer, I grasped the lid in my hands and pushed. There was enough space for the lid to open another few inches, and it took all my strength to raise it. The hinges cried out in protest, filling the space with a chorus of deafening squeaks before the lid banged into the shelf above.

A dim blue light pulsed from within the coffin. I leaned closer for a better look. The breath I didn’t realize I was holding came out in a rush when I saw what was inside. Nothing. I reached inside, searching for the source of light.

Suddenly, the lid snapped down, pinning my arm. I struggled as the vapor closed in around my feet, feeling like a cool ocean mist. It billowed up around my legs, the chill going straight through my pajamas, the smell assaulting my nose. I struggled harder, my breaths coming and going rapidly. I watched the vapor as it reached the top of the coffin directly under the one I was pinned in. In an instant, its lid popped open, and two skeletal arms leapt out, each boney hand wrapping itself around one of my legs and pulling me forward. The vapor crept higher, and I wanted desperately to wake up.

Challenge: And Another 200…

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This week is week three of Wendig’s five week Fiction Challenge. The challenge: select a 400 word story fragment and add another 200. I chose this one, originally began by Shane Vaughan and continued by Courtney Cantrell. This week was difficult for me because I had a lot to add, but in the end, I had to accept the rules and do my best in the 200 words I was allowed. (I came in at 214 actually, so lets just say those extra 14 are there out of spite.) There are some questions to be answered, so hopefully someone picks this up for round four. Here is the whole thing:

COLD

(Shane)

He is cold. It’s always cold around this time of year. The sun decides it’s had enough and pops off for a quick solstice nap. Not that he minds. He’s used to the cold by now.

He props his collar up, puffs his scarf to cover all exposed skin; all that dead, gray skin. He tucks his gloves down over the wrists and sucks on the butt of his last cigarette. Damn things never last. His wife used to say it’d give him cancer, not that it matters now. He lowers his woolen packer hat over his brow and stares at his reflection in a shopfront window. He used to recognize himself, now what is he?

It had all happened so fast; the heart attack; cracking his head on the tile floor; the ethereal sensation that he was losing life, as though it were seeping out of a hole somewhere. And then the doctors. The nurses. The scalpel. He saw it all, from outside his body. He watched as they operated, trying so heroically to save his life, but in the end the line went dead.

So what the hell is he doing back on Winthrop street in high Winter, and how did he return?

 (Courtney)

He shuffles down the sidewalk, leaves skittering at his feet. They’re as dead as he, but at least their hop-skipping gives a pretense of life. The cold slows him, as though he’s walking through vats of the red gelatin his daughter snacks on. Childish giggles echo in his memory.

He wonders what his funeral was like. What they wore. How they sat. If her tears were as loud as her laughter.

Did his grave the next morning warrant an investigation?

His sluggish foot kicks a loose rock at a passerby. The woman glances at him, frowning. But then her eyes widen. He already knows her thoughts. Too many other well-meaning lips have spoken them. Sir? You look ill. Can we help?

And in undertones: Is he contagious?

That question always makes them back away. Even now, the woman veers aside, covering her mouth and nose with her hand. Just in case. Can’t be too careful.

If only he could tell them this is no illness they can catch by breathing his air. He shies away from them, too. Even in the cold, they smell too good. He places his hand over the scarf covering his own mouth. Even through the wool, he can feel the fangs.

(My continuation)

He had forgotten how hungry he is as he studied his reflection in the shop window. Now, as he turns and watches the woman scurrying away, he wonders if anyone would notice her absence. A sharp pain brings him back to reality. He was clenching his jaw tightly, piercing his lower lip with his fangs. It wasn’t the first time he’s done this. Luckily he heals quickly. Shaking his head, he turns away from the woman, now a small dot a few blocks away. Now is not the time to slip up.

He keeps moving, fighting the cold breeze as it assaults his legs and threatens his pace even more. Behind him, a shadow flits under the yellow street lamps, quickly concealing itself in the shadows once more. He smiles. His lengthy pause in front of the shop window had done the trick. His plan is working beautifully.

Every move he had made since he dug himself out his own grave had been witnessed by that shadow, and it was now time to find out who, or what, it was. He turns the corner and immediately enters through the first door he comes to. The house has been vacant for years, and it is the perfect place for a predator to trap his prey.

Challenge: 200 Words to Add…

Last week we wrote the first 200 words to a story. Here is my beginning.

This week, we chose someone else’s beginning and added our own 200 words. I chose this one, submitted by boydstun215. I picked this one because even though it was one of the first submissions I read, I could not stop thinking about it as I read through many more. I decided to be a bit tame, hopefully building up to something crazy/exciting/insane? Who knows? Hopefully I’ll find out next week if/when someone takes this one up and continues it.

(Editing to add the beginning 200 words):

The soldiers carried the man across the narthex and through the nave. They lumbered along like some giant, wounded insect, three pairs of cold, stiff legs shuffling clumsily beneath a motley carapace of steel and leather. Close upon their heels, the master-of-arms was careful to avoid the hissing droplets of blood that the insect left in its wake. His sword was drawn.

At the end of the nave and standing at the foot of the chancel, the bishop held a gilded crosiers at arm’s length as if to thwart to advance of the shambling mass making its way toward the altar. In his other hand he grasped a large silver crucifix. Despite his advanced age and diminutive stature, the crimson-robed bishop made for an imposing figure. “No further,” he whispered. The soldiers stopped , unsure of themselves. One of the men looked down nervously into the pale face of the man he carried while the other two turned their heads in askance to the master-at-arms. For several moments the only sound was the steady hiss of the blood as fell from the lifeless man and met the cold marble floor.

“It must be done here,” said the master-at-arms. “Take him to the altar.”

And here is my addition:

The bishop moved aside, letting the soldiers scramble up the few steps to the altar. His crimson robes did nothing to shield him from the cold radiating from their frozen armor. The slick marble stairs proved difficult for the exhausted soldiers as they stumbled and fell under their heavy load. Grim-faced, the master–at-arms followed their procession, only sheathing his sword to offer aid in heaving the unconscious man atop the bare altar.

The soldiers scurried away, stealing a glance at the stone table before fixing their gaze on their snow-crusted boots. The master-at-arms moved to the side of the altar where the man’s head rested. His shallow breaths produced a faint mist in the cold air. Steady drops of blood from his mouth had already created a small pool that hissed quietly on the stone. The master-at-arms looked down at the man’s face, searching for any hint of the soldier he once knew, but finding only the thing he had become. A sharp intake of air through the pale, bloodied lips tore the master-at-arms away from his thoughts.

The bishop joined the master-at-arms. Two terrified altar boys carrying trays covered with vials, books, crucifixes, and various cutting tools followed closely behind.

“It is time.”