‘Alphabet Stories’ – 2010
From the July, 2010 Contest
Starting Letter – ‘G’
INDUCTION, by Joan Stradling
Gnarled branches swayed and undergrowth snapped as a shadow made its way toward me through the dark forest.
Had my grandmother and mother made it or was something more sinister following me from the woods?
I took a shuddering breath and strained to see through the storm darkened, moonless night.
Just let them have made it, I prayed to anything that could hear my thoughts.
Knowing I had run away and left them made guilt gnaw at my gut.
Lightning flashed overhead, but the brief illumination wasn’t enough to identify the shadow making its way through the trees.
My guilty heart told me to go back in and rescue my family, but my traitorous legs wouldn’t move.
Now that I’d escaped, nothing could make me go back and face the danger within the trees.
Only the hope that my mother and grandmother would make it out kept me from running east to the next village and putting more distance between myself and the deadly forest.
Pelting raindrops battered me as though nature itself wanted to punish my cowardice.
Quaking with fear and cold, I welcomed the uncontrollable tremors shaking my body because it meant I could feel, and feeling meant I was still alive.
Run, my brain told me, but I couldn’t leave until I knew if my mother or grandmother had survived.
Shoving my drenched hair out of my face, I strained my eyes to locate movement through the downpour.
The shadow in the woods struggled forward, slipping in the wet underbrush, but coming ever closer.
Using every ounce of willpower, I managed not to flee.
Violent lightning strikes lit up the night, revealing my grandmother emerging from the woods.
Without thinking, I ran toward her and threw my arms around her neck, sobbing my relief into her shoulder before pulling back to look at her.
X shaped wounds on her cheeks proved they had captured her, and I staggered back.
“You’ve been infected,” I said, tears welling in my eyes.
Zeroing in on my own face, she smiled, and I thought she might still be my grandmother until she lunged and closed my arms in a vise-like grip.
“And soon you will be one of us too,” she said.
Before I could move, more lighting flashed to reveal hundreds of other x marked faces emerging from the trees and surrounding us.
Cool rain mingled with the tears on my cheeks as I took in the faces of people I once knew.
“Don’t cry, darling, it will all be over soon,” my mother said, stepping from the circle of infected people and standing close enough for me to see the still bleeding x’s on her face.
“Eternity is ours to share,” she said, brushing one of my tears away with her thumb.
Fire burned through me as my mother cut the marks into my cheeks and poured in the infected blood, inducting me as one of Hel’s half-dead children and stripping my humanity from me forever.
And the rest of the stories, in no particular order. . .
School Challenge, By Kat Zhang
Getting to school was always the hardest part.
Her mother always told her to just keep her mouth shut and her mind far away, but sometimes, that just wasn’t possible.
“I can’t do those things when they’re mocking me, Mama,” Yi-ling said.
“Just try,” Mama said firmly.
Keeping her mind far away was hard, but keeping her mouth shut was impossible.
Let Mama say all she wanted about tranquility and peace and the honor in keeping silent.
Mama didn’t have to face a school bus full of American elementary schoolers, each one with a pair of round, staring eyes and a mouth full of poisonous words.
No, not even a Buddha could keep silent in these conditions—Yil-ling was sure of it.
Older Brother had gotten into three fights already, so it wasn’t as if she were the only one who longed to snap back.
Perhaps he would teach her how to throw a punch.
“Quick, like a snake,” he’d said once. “Right, then left.”
Silently, Yi-ling practiced the moves as she waited for the bus.
The other girl standing by the stop sign gave her a weird look, but Yi-ling was used to those by now.
Usually, there were harsh words to follow, comments on her slanted eyes or yellowish skin or flatter nose.
Vexed, Yi-ling lashed out at the air again, pretending it was Tommy’s face.
Wait until she was done with him—then they’d see who really had a flat nose!
“Xenophobia,” her father had said last night with a sigh. “Young children with such hatred toward foreigners…”
“Zero tolerance for bullying!” the principal had shouted on the first day of class.
And at the time, Yi-ling had foolishly believed him.
But now, three months had passed, and she was smarter—and wearier.
“Can’t wait anymore for someone else to take care of this,” she murmured to herself.
Decision made, she boarded the bus with something almost like a smile on her lips.
Eastern Kung-fu movies were a big hit in the United States, and though Yi-ling was about the furthest thing on earth from a martial arts master…well, her classmates didn’t know that, right?
Frankly, she thought with an evil grin, meeting eyes with every student on the bus, all she had to do was bust a few crazy looking moves…
The New Guy, by Urel Sawyers
“Goolies!” he screamed and we could tell what that was as he contorted in pain clutching an area close to his groin.
Hilarious Harlan was the new guy, coming as he did in our class in the middle of the school term just as the football season was in full swing.
Imagine watching a stand up comedian twenty four sevens for he had that thick queer British accent that made us laugh most of the times and respond “uh?” at other times.
Jocularity followed him but this time it was funny yet not so funny.
“Keeping goal,” he said, was his thing and the game was down to penalties.
Laden with custodial responsibilities by our school team, Cheyne, he had done well up to this point, diving, darting, parrying, clutching everything that came his way leading to a tie at full time.
Much was expected seeing that he claimed to have been in “spitting” distance to big names such as Rooney and Gerrard, players we had only seen on television in the English Premiere League.
Now it was the big final between our school and McCrimmon Junior High for not only the trophy but also coveted bragging rights.
Occasionally both schools would playfully taunt each other but this encounter was extra special because of something Harlan said to the opposing team as they trashed talked.
“Put a sock in it,” he said in his inimitable way that made us laugh and our opponents feeling a little condescending.
Quivering still under the pain after his groin stopped the first spot kick, Harlan gingerly hobbled away to regain his composure.
Revenge etched on his face.
Save after save, both teams were still deadlocked after four out of the five shots each.
The situation was that with one penalty each remaining, it was going to be all down to Harlan.
Unabashed by the situation, Harlan resorted to some psychological gamesmanship on our opponents.
Vexed about his earlier remark, the players from McCrimmon almost lost it when Harlan spoke to them again.
“Wankers!” he blasted them putting us in stitches because his accent made it sound more pathetic than what the word meant.
X-Ray eyes were piercing him now as our opponents were obviously distraught at being made to look like fools being constantly laughed at.
“Yakitty Yak,” the captain of McCrimmon taunted, his hands waving threateningly, “we’ll see what you can do other than with that big mouth of yours.”
Zestfully pacing his goal area, Harlan then settled between the goal posts, spreading his arms, making himself as big as he possibly could so that the McCrimmon captain would have to think carefully as to which side he would put his kick.
Absolute pandemonium broke out among us when Harlan flew fully stretched to his left, his body perpendicular to the ground, tipped the ball with both hands only to be deflated when we saw the ball sneak just inside the upright for a goal.
“Blimey!” was his response and while some of us had heard that one before, it wouldn’t have been the first word on our tongues.
Calling on all the skill he could muster, Harlan prepared himself to take the last kick for our team.
Decisively, he spotted the ball and backed a few paces, staring at his opposing number squarely in the face, knowing that if he scored our team would still have a chance to win but if he missed that would be the end of it.
Everyone waited with bated breaths as Harlan approached the penalty spot and fired a hard right footed shot that was goal-ward bound.
“Fiddlesticks!” he cried in anguish, as the ball hit the upright, bounced away and left us sad at the miss but grinning at the choice of his words at the end knowing fully well it was going to take some time to get used to his way of speaking.
Misinformation, by Zoe Farris
“Great! Now I have to go to the hospital to pick him up.”
InstantlyMarge regretted asking that question.
Just as Reba was about to answer her friend’s question the phone rang.
“Killed who?” she asked, pulling the phone from her ear and looking at it.
Looking at Reba’s ashened face Marge came to her aid.
Marge reached out and took the phone from Reba’s hands and spoke into it.
“Now who is this and what are you talking about? Who got killed?”
Over the next five minutes Marge was quiet as the person on the phone explained the situation.
Putting the phone down, Marge grabbed Reba and shook her by the shoulders.
Quick! I will drive you to the hospital, Robert swerved off the road as he came around a corner.”
“Robert’s killed someone, that’s what they said.”
Stay here, I will get the car.”
Taking the keys from the hook near the door, Marge went to get the car.
“Unlock the back door so the kids can get in and let’s go.”
Vivian will have to be told, but I don’t know where she is.”
“What could have happened I wonder?” Marge pondered aloud.
“Xanthoma has flared up again; do you think it could have caused the accident?” Reba cried as they got in the car.
You’ll have to ask the doctors.” Marge said as she pulled out of Reba’s drive way.
“Zoocytium is how I feel right now.” Reba said as she fidgeted with her seatbelt. “I can’t hold on to any thoughts at all.”
About fifteen minutes later they pulled into the hospital, where they were met by the doctor looking after Robert.
“Before we go and see your husband I want to clear up that phone call earlier.”The Doctor said as he directed them to the ward. “Your husband ran off the road and killed a cat before hitting a tree.”
Cat? A cat? You are telling me that someone here told me someone was killed and it was just a freaking cat?” Reba yelled.
Disgusted with the doctor’s expression as he smiled at her confusion, she stormed off ahead to see her husband.
“Evidently your friend got the wrong idea from the call.” The doctor shrugged and continued to the ward. “It will be fine now; her husband has minor injuries and will be out in the morning.”
For Goodness sake, they scared her half to death.” Marge shook her finger at the doctor. “Maybe you should train your staff more about what they tell people.” She took off and joined her friend.
Two-Week Notice, by Michelle Frank
Go to the corner of West and Main – take the number 6 bus to Clark – wait for your contact outside at the coffee shop.
“How do hey keep finding me?” Kayla thinks, looking up and down the busy street for a glimpse of an agent.
It never ceases to amaze her how the Organization can track her down in such unpredictable public places: this time in the Lifestyle section of the newspaper.
Judging from the widespread dispersion of this contact, she figures she must be getting better at avoiding them.
Keeping her head down, she moves toward Main, hoping she isn’t being followed by a counter-agent.
Leaving the Organization behind has been more difficult than Kayla imagined.
Mainly, she’s irritated they won’t accept her resignation – she’s given them a dozen written letters already, but they continue to track her down.
Nothing is more important to the Organization than its agents and nothing is more important to the agents than their personal assistants.
Originally, it was exciting to coordinate Agent Orion’s missions – bartering for Army transport, fabricating credentials, ordering fake mustaches.
Proud of her achievements, Kayla loved working for the Organization and more importantly, she loved Agent Orion, even if she couldn’t tell her mother.
Quantifying risk-factors were her specialty, excelling her boss to the top of his field and catching the eye of the Organization’s top brass.
Regrettably, this made her indispensable and the Organization took over her entire existence, keeping her from her family and friends – hell, she even had to get rid of her cat.
Sitting at the wrought iron table in front of the coffee shop, she wonders who would be collecting her this time.
Taking a sip of her coffee, she picks up her Blackberry, longing for the constant barrage of test messages from Orion, but the screen said ‘no new messages.’
Until today, she thought they had given up on her, having abstained from contacting her for nearly eight weeks, but this contact made her realize how much she’d given up.
“Verify,” says a deep voice behind her and she responded, “May I get you a cherry turnover.”
“Walk with me, Kayla,” the voice says as she turns to face a handsome tan man in white shirt and trench coat.
Xanthophyllic flowers are clutched in his left hand, rustling softly in the wind.
“You never said goodbye,” the man says and Kayla is struck by the hint of sadness in his voice.
Zipping her purse, she gets up from the table, takes the offered flowers and strolls up the road next to him.
A few moments pass in silence, then the man stops abruptly and says, “Why did you leave the Organization?”
“Was it because of me?”
Battling a desire to console him, or run away, she give the most generic response that comes to mind.
“Can you please state my directive? She asks, but she knows he’s not going to buy the standard.
“Did you even consider me – us – when you decided to leave?” he asks.
Entertaining the notion of happily ever after, Kayla throws her arms around Orion’s neck and kisses him feverishly.
Finally, she pulls away, taking in the glow of Orion’s expression and says, “Please consider this my two-week’s notice.
Gertie’s Blues, by Ardee-ann Eichelmann
Great balls o’ fire, Gertie was feeling under the weather.
Her lumbago was acting up and it was really slowing her down.
In the midst of all this she had company coming and needed to clean house so she got busy dusting, mopping and sweeping.
Just as she thought she had everything under control she heard a sound.
Kittens were mewing from under the front porch.
Lo and behold, some stray mama cat had given birth to a litter of kittens right under the porch.
“My goodness gracious,” thought Gertie, “what am I going to do about these kittens?”
Not a minute later the mama cat was purring and weaving around Gertie’s ankles begging for food.
“Oh my,” Gertie wondered,” what do I have that I can feed a hungry cat?”
Purposefully Gertie marched to the cabinet and began to scan the contents.
Quickly she found some cans of tuna in the cabinet.
Rapidly she opened a can of tuna for the poor hungry mama cat.
She took the tuna out to the front porch.
The mama cat gobbled up the tuna with gusto.
Underneath the porch the baby kittens were crying to be fed.
Very quickly, after eating, the mama cat went to tend to her babies.
Walking around the porch in the yard, trying to see the babies, Gertie fell and hurt her ankle.
X-rays were clearly called for as Gertie’s ankle quickly swelled to three times its normal size.
Yelling for help Gertie hoped that a neighbor would hear her and come assist her in getting up.
Zooming quickly, Ned who lived across the street came running.
After some maneuvering Ned was able to help Gertie stand and get her into his car to take her to the doctor.
Before leaving Ned got Gertie’s pocketbook and locked up her house.
Calmly, Ned drove Gertie to see her doctor.
Dr. Evans did some x-rays and found that her ankle was broken needing a cast put on it.
Eventually the doctor was finished and Ned took Gertie back home.
Finally, Gertie was back in her own home but she didn’t know how she was going to get her house ready for company with crutches, a broken ankle and her lumbago was still acting up.
A Day on the Links, by James Ross
“Great golf weather today,” Julie said to the regulars in the back booth.
“Heck, it’s always good when you’re off work,” Fred replied.
Inside the clubhouse the guys huddled together and picked their playing partners.
Jovial Julie knew them so well she could predict who would win and lose.
Ketchup oozed out of the backside of the hot dog bun after BT took a bite.
“Leave it for me to clean up after you head to the first tee,” Julie griped.
More than twelve guys had shown up to play.
No one was a scratch player.
Only five of them carried a double digit handicap though.
“Perhaps today is the day that I’ll beat Scottie P,” Pork Chop boasted.
“Quite unlikely,” Fred laughed.
“Real vote of confidence there,” Pork Chop said.
“Shoot, he’s a one and you’re an eight,” Captain Jer interjected.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t have a chance,” Pork Chop countered.
“Use your strokes wisely,” Elia advised.
“Very wisely,” Fred agreed.
“Why don’t you guys get to the first tee?” Julie urged.
“X factor is we don’t know if everyone is here yet,” Fred said.
“You’ve got enough to start teeing off,” Julie suggested.
“Zero chance of Paul being on time,” Captain Jer replied.
“All but one is here, so get going,” Julie yelled.
Brutal honesty had given her respect with the guys.
“Can you fill that cooler up with beer?” Captain Jer asked his favorite bartender.
“Damn, Jer, when are you going to back off the sauce?” Julie bitched.
“Every day is Friday for me,” the retired pilot replied.
“Frightfully so,” Julie said as she iced up the cooler, shaking her head.
A Parenthood Moment, by Rebecca Flansburg
“Go shopping”, her bored and restless brain told her.
However, shopping takes moola, and Becky had very little of that at the moment.
Ice cream was another thing that sounded temptingly good as well, but there was none in the house.
“Just a few more days until payday”, she muttered to herself. “then I will be home free.”
Kryptonite brought Superman to his knees in the movies.
Lack of funds was Becky’s kryptonite.
“Money doesn’t grow on trees”, her dad used to preach when she was a child.
Now in adulthood, she wished she woulda listen to dad more.
Over-due bills, and impending overdrafts were the only thing from preventing her from grabbing the checkbook and going butt-nutty at the local mall.
“Pull yourself together!”, she scolded herself silently.
Quarantining the checkbook and finding something else to do sounded like complete common sense at that moment.
Random money-worry-type thoughts ran through her head and made her start doubting herself even more.
Stress eating was starting to look like the activity of the day.
“Top of the morning to ya!” a cartoon blared from a TV that someone had left on.
Understanding “energy waste” was apparently not in her children’s vocab.
Very odd looking characters sang and danced across the TV screen.
“Which wacky show is this?” she distractedly thought to herself.
Xanax was going to be her desert today as well since she was feeling her frustration rising.
“Yo Gabba, Gabba” she finally decided since no other kids show could be that bright and odd.
“Zero to sixty!”, shouted one of the bright creatures on the TV as he waddled across the stage.
After a wild and hectic morning, Becky found herself enjoying the simplicity of the morning cartoon.
Before she was a parent, mornings were so…predictable.
Cars started, breakfast was whatever got grabbed on the way out the door, and the house was always clean.
During the “season of parenthood”, that easiness had pretty much disappeared from Becky’s life.
Even though she felt lost in hole, she knew it was just a snapshot in time.
Family was first, and friends, fun, and adventures would all seep back into her life in time.
What’s in Her Hand, by Becca Legassie
"Guess what I found Mom," Tina said. "How am I supposed to know if your hands are closed," Mom said. "If you would open them I could see," Mom continued. "Just because you can't see doesn't mean you can't guess," Tina replied. "Keep your hands still and maybe I can hear what it is," Mom tried. "Like that would really work," Tina said sarcastically. "Maybe I could just take a peek thru your fingers," Mom said. "No way!" "Opening them will let it out," Tina cried "Please just try to guess," Tina whined. "Quiet down sweetie, I'll try." Mom said. Reaching out Mom held Tina's hands to help calm her down. Sitting down beside her Mom stared very hard at Tinas hands. To anyone looking they could have been praying. Until, that is, Mom yelled, "A cricket!" "Very good guess Mom but no," replied Tina. "What else do you think it could be?," Tina asked. "X-raying would be out of the questions right," Mom said. "Yes Mom, way out of the question," Tina replied. "Zebra stixs, Tina I don't know what it could be," Mom exclaimed. "Alright Mom, I'll give you one hint," Tina said. "But before I do you have to promise not to scream." Closing her eyes Mom nodded her head. Doing her best not to laugh Tina leaned close to Mom to whisper in er ear. Even though Mom promised she just couldn't help it.
“Frog’s! You’re holding Frogs!” Mom fainted.
From the June 2011 Contest
Starting Letter – ‘A’
7. Quest for The Dress, by Michelle Frank
“Are you kidding me?”
Baby blue taffeta goes flying in the air, fluttering in a heap to the ground.
“Could you please calm down?” her mother asks, sweeping the frock from the ground and shaking out the delicate fabric.
“Don’t tell me what to do!” Abigail screeches and her mother lets out a frustrated sigh.
Every weekend for a month they ventured out to formal wear shops to find the-one-dress-to-rule-them-all.
Finally, after calling every formal wear shop in Indiana, they found it at Kate’s Bridal – 200 miles from home.
“Great,” cries the over-dramatic-prom-queen as she bites back tears of panic, “they don’t have it.”
“Honey, they said they hadn’t sold it,” her mother says, trying to fake enthusiasm. “We just have to keep looking.”
Intent of ending this quest today, Mary shoves a bunch of dresses down the rack and starts flipping quickly through the gowns.
Just as she reaches the end of the row, she sees the dress – in the hands of a petite blonde heading for the dressing room.
Keeping her composure, Mary silently slips out of the aisle, away from her now inconsolable daughter.
Looking around the corner into the dressing area, she sees the blonde emerge from the dressing room in the soft blue bedazzled frock they have sought for a month.
“Maybe she doesn’t really like it,” Mary thinks, watching as the blonde transforms into a blubbering ball of glee.
Needing more ammunition, she fishes out her checkbook and a pen.
“Oh, hello there – you look lovely – let me ask you something,” Mary rambles as she approaches the girl.
“Pardon my bluntness, but what would it take for you to let me have THAT dress?” she asks.
Quaking internally, she presses though her fear, her determination focusing on the reward.
“Really,” she continues, “my daughter is prom queen and she HAS to have THAT dress.”
Silence fills the space and then the girl speaks, her expression morphing from ecstasy to seriousness.
“Three hundred dollars,” she says, squaring up her shoulders with her hands perched on her hips.
Unable to risk losing the dress, Mary pens the dollar amount on to the check without a second thought.
Victoriously, the blonde glides into the dressing room, emerging moments later with the prize returned to its hanger.
“Who do I make the check out to?” she asks, then exchanges the expensive paper for the key to her daughter‘s happiness.
Xenon light spills over the glittery gown now hugging Abby’s petite frame, as Mary stands triumphant behind her daughter.
“You know,” Abby says, at the dazzling prize with a cocked head and a pursed pout on her lips, “I don’t think I like this dress anymore.”
“Zut alors,” Mary exclaims, resisting the urge to strangle her daughter, “Now I know why animals eat their young.”
6. Bella’s a Tease, by Nikki Crick
“Amazing, fantastic, wow, I cannot believe it,” she gushed.
But Bella had always been a drama queen.
Curiosity got the better of me this time.
“Damn it! Tell me,” I demand.
Ever elusive she mumbles her reply.
“For Pete’s sake, tell me,” I demand again.
Giggling, Bella asks, “Who’s being dramatic now.”
“Hate you at times,” I growl.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that,” I offer as an apology.
Just as she gave me the look that I know, others hate.
“Kisses?” I offer pleadingly.
Laughing, she tells me “I could never be mad at you.”
“Maybe not, but you do scare me sometimes.”
Never has a woman been so attractive, but left me feeling so vulnerable.
“Oh hunny, you know I love you,” she purrs.
Patronized a little, I asked again, what her news is.
Questioning Bella is always a game she wins.
Rarely do I feel in control.
She smiles her teasing smile.
There, she knows she has my undivided attention.
Unsurprisingly, she does her flirty little giggle and lowers her voice.
“Victory is mine,” she whispers.
Whilst smiling, she dances, twisting and turning.
Xenial, is not something you could accuse Bella of.
“You know babe, forget it, I’m sure you’ll tell me when you’re ready,” I turn to walk away.
Zealously, she shows me the page in her hand, ‘Congratulations, you have been selected as the featured writer in ABC.’
5. Trauma in Happyville, by Karen Cantwell
A terrible thing happened to Ethel on her way to church.
Between Main Street and Second Avenue, two small women wearing Berets and ponchos appeared out of nowhere.
Carrying AK rifles and smoking French cigarettes, they looked oddly out-of-place in Ethel’s small town of Happyville.
“Darn if you don’t look oddly out-of-place in this small town,” she said to the women.
“Everybody’s got a right to be anywheres,” replied the dark-haired one.
Forgetting that Sunday service would be starting in just minutes, Ethel felt compelled to continue the conversation.
“Give me one of those fine French cigarettes, would you?”
Heartily, the women laughed.
“I don’t know what is so funny,” Ethel said, pulling her sagging panty hose up to a more comfortable position.
“Just, you don’t look the type,” said the light-haired one.
Kicking a small stone with her sensible black shoe, she pondered the comment as laughter rang out from a nearby building where young boys and girls played happily.
“Many people misjudge me,” Ethel said finally. No one was going to get Ethel down on this fine day.
“Our time has come,” said the dark-haired one.
Puzzled, Ethel cocked her head and gripped her pocketbook tighter.
“Queer one, you are,” said the light-haired one.
“Really, I don’t think it is me that is queer,” she answered.
“Should we do it now, or later?” asked one woman of the other.
Time ticked by while silence loomed between the three, while under a veil of panic, Ethel considered her options.
“Vipers,” said the light-haired one finally.
“What?” asked Ethel
“Xenon Vipers,” the woman said.
“Yes, I see now,” said Ethel, nodding sadly.
Zowie, went the AKs.
4. An Interrupted Battle, by Morgan Ives
Another arrow whizzed past Michael’s head.
Boulders thumped against the wall, sending tremors through the soldiers that lined the parapets.
Citizens of the town, having taken shelter within the curtain wall at the first signs of an invading army, huddled together in the courtyard.
Dogs, cats, and livestock milled about, adding to the chaos and smells.
Eyes flitting about, Michael wandered along the parapets and scribbled in his notebook.
“Fools!” an armored man with a heavy grey beard shouted in Michael’s ear, causing him to stumble back against a merlon.
“Get that hot oil over here, or I’ll have your hides.”
His glare passed through Michael as if he wasn’t there, pinning the soldiers carrying the cauldron.
“If the king hadn’t kidnapped Duke Orlion’s daughter, we wouldn’t even be here,” a second man, barely more than a boy, mumbled as he peeked at the invaders.
“Just you keep your opinions to yourself, son, and don’t be questioning your betters.”
“Kings and their sort follow a different set of rules than us regular folk.”
Lashing out with his axe, the bearded man cut through a grappling cord above the boy’s head, causing the boy to duck with a grunt of surprise.
“Men win battles by staying alert, not by complaining, and don’t you forget it.”
Nodding, eyes wide, the youth hefted his own small axe and returned his gaze to the attackers.
Outside the gates, a tall figure on a black charger pushed to the front of line, shouting orders at the men carrying the battering ram.
“Pox upon us, that’s the duke,” the bearded knight said, gesturing at his men.
“Quickly, tip that oil before he moves out of range.”
Roiling brown liquid surged from the upended cauldron and over the barbican.
“Stop!” Michael yelled.
“This isn’t going to work.”
Unilaterally, all motion halted as time froze.
“Very unlikely that a duke would ever be in the front lines of an attacking army,” Michael mumbled to himself, scratching lines out with his pen.
“Writing on an empty stomach never works well.”
Xanthic paint and dirty grey carpet took the place of stone walls and wooden walkways as Michael began rummaging in the mini fridge beneath his desk.
“Yes, this will do nicely,” the writer smiled as he retrieved a carton.
“Zabaglione with raisins: the perfect solution to war interrupted.”
3. Me, Reborn, by Christine Horos
All my life, I’ve tried to figure out with what career I would be happiest.
But, it took until my 30’s to find my true passion.
Certainly, I have considered it in the past, but this time, I am sure.
Drawing from my life’s experiences, I delve deep to discover my talents.
Every day seems like an eternity when you are trying to reach a goal.
Finding ways to break into the business, I search endlessly.
Grasping at bits of information to guide my journey.
Hours of research online has to provide me with some type of education.
It would be easier to go back to school if I had the money.
Jobless and starting over is a combination that scares me.
Kindness from strangers online is encouraging when you don’t know where to begin.
Laughter in my life keeps me afloat, so I don’t drown in a sea of confusion.
Maybe tomorrow will bring more success.
No one can know for sure.
Only the determination I have will carry my motivation.
Proficiency can’t be based solely on the number of college degrees one has, can it?
Question my talent on my work and not on a university’s approval of me.
Rising to my own expectations, success cannot be too far from my reach.
Simply following my heart should be enough to keep me going in the right direction.
Today is the day I will get one step closer.
Using the internet to introduce my work.
Venturing into an entirely different career path that I have never traveled before.
Writing is what I so desperately need to pursue.
Xenomorphic for so long, I feel I’m finally evolving into my true self.
Years may pass before I feel I have truly succeeded.
Zegedine in hand, I will toast that day when it finally arrives.
2. After the Flood, by Jess Pettit
After the flood, nothing remained; not the riveted cobblestone paths, not the towering Portland Press building–not even the church remained standing.
Before the flood, I heard God.
Call me crazy, but He appeared to me in a dream.
“Dying,” He assured me, “Is nothing to fear: it is part of the life I bestowed upon you.”
Everyone dies, sure—everyone knows the truth, but we never want to face it; death lurks in the innermost, blackest corner of our minds, and facing it is like reading a blank page: it is nothingness.
“Flood,” he whispered, without explanation, before disappearing.
Gasping upon waking up, I knew that God had not chosen me to be the next Noah—He was warning me not to oppose Him, for both myself and my love were destined to drown.
Hell would be ours if we defied Him, for its road is said to be paved not of Portland cobblestones, but of good intentions; and ours were the best (if anything good can come from opposing God).
I had always been a child of privilege, untouched by society–but my love had been ravaged by it, and was not ready to succumb yet.
Jammed into a tiny room in a tall building, hundreds of feet above the ground, we stood together to await the end, three years after the revelation.
Knowledge of the coming flood had begun to spread through the world by then, but nobody wanted to believe me until the waters had risen and the city began to be evacuated, little by futile little.
Love kept me there, along with the fear of change; I would take my stand in my home city because I already knew that if we left, we would be no better off.
My mother was a Catholic but she never believed in God–or at least, his wrath, and thus, she never believed me when I told her we must climb to the highest place we could find; she would not be saved.
Nobody followed me at first, but eventually, they came like birds to the south.
Only as they began gathering before me to hide, I understood that it was because of my defiant nature that God had not chosen me as one of the survivors to begin the New World to come.
Promising others survival was not what He wanted me to do, but I would not idly watch them die.
Quarrels began and the human race began to gnaw each other alive–perhaps God always knew it would happen that way, and knew we had to be quelled for good.
Room was scarce atop the tower, and I told my love to leave; perhaps if he did, he would be spared.
“Spared?” he said, “I would not be spared if I was to live without you.”
Together, we remained, cooped up in that tall hotel far above Portland, Maine, sharing our last breaths with other hopefuls, praying the worst was not to come.
Until we saw the wave rise, roaring like God Himself.
Vacated buildings were swept away like autumn leaves in the wind, and soon, the raging waters crashed into us, and we fell.
Windows smashed open and ocean grabbed everyone it could and pulled them inside its hungry belly…my consciousness…wavered…and broke.
xactly…what He want…it…came…pass…
…“you will always be mine,” I mouthed to…my love…immersed…salty tides…we stared….eyes stinging…submerged…
zed…by how, even…against God himself…some things…never die…and when the morning light comes to herald the Rebirth, I know that someday, I will see my love again.
1. Another Day at the Office, by Pete Jordan
Another day at the office, and work . . . work . . . work!
By the time I got there, I was already 10 minutes late due to all the traffic and construction.
Coffee has to be the first order of the day to get things going, if you know what I mean.
Decaf is definitely out of the question first thing in the morning, you need the real thing.
Espresso was all I could think about . . . now that’s more like it to get those eyes wide open, and the cobwebs all cleared out of the head.
Finally, I got settled in at my desk, enjoying that fresh cup of Java, and sharpening my pencils.
‘Got to fire up my computer, check my Email, and see what’s going on in the world.’ I thought.
Having logged on to my computer, a little pop-up window appeared, telling me there were updates available and ready to be installed.
Instinctively, I clicked on the window and chose the default “express” installation.
Just as I hit the “OK” button, I noticed there was a rather large list of updates, which could take as much as an hour to download and install.
Killing time at work is not what I normally do, but there’s something about watching those little green bars go across the screen that fascinates and hypnotizes me as the files are installing.
Luckily, things went faster than expected, and the updates were completed without my system crashing, so now we’re getting somewhere!
My watch said that time was marching on, and I decided it was time for that second cup of coffee.
Now my computer is telling me to reboot in order for the update process to finish!
‘OK, if you insist,’ I said to myself as I went through the restart process.
‘Patience, patience, patience, and stay positive,’ I thought as I headed down the hall to the coffee machine.
Quality time spent with co-workers and catching up on the latest gossip has always been a favorite part of the day for me, especially when there are lots of rumors floating around the office, so it’s important to make the rounds and socialize a bit.
Realizing that I hadn’t even read my email yet, or done any work for that matter, I quickly headed back toward my desk with the intent to at least try and get something done!
Suddenly, I realized I had an appointment shortly with a vendor who was coming by with a contract for me to sign, so I turned and headed down to the lobby.
‘Today certainly isn’t going as planned,” I said to the cute little secretary sitting at the front desk.
“Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes sometimes,” she said, as she picked up the ringing phone.
Very often, all those little unexpected interruptions eat away at your day, and the time just slips away.
When I saw the salesman come through the front door, he had all the paperwork ready for the new copy machine that we were waiting for anxiously, because the old one was on its last legs.
Xerox has always made reliable equipment, and the company has been around for years, so I had no reservations signing off on the 48-month lease contract which included everything except paper and staples!
You know, you just can’t pass up a free lunch invitation offered to you by a salesman who’s just made a big sale and earned himself a nice commission check for the month, so why not?
Zero work was accomplished when I got back from that two-hour lunch, but you know, that’s the way it goes sometimes, and besides, as I was heading out the back door toward my car, I thought . . . today was just another day at the office.