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April 2018 Writing Challenge

  • 01 Apr 2018 8:53 AM
    Message # 6009846
    Jim Keen (Administrator)

    Photo by Tammera Cooper

    Some days we have the blues and some days we sing them, but a night of electric blue could be filled with promise and intrigue. Tell us your story.

    Happy Writing!

    Last modified: 02 Apr 2018 9:42 AM | Jim Keen (Administrator)
  • 05 Apr 2018 3:22 PM
    Reply # 6030890 on 6009846

    Under the Blue Moon

    I watched the deserted beach from the comfort of my truck cab, sipping coffee from a thermos while waiting for sunrise. The dark blue of the ocean and sky blended together so that the eye could barely find the line where they met, and the waves were choppy from the storm that had passed in the night.

    The novelty plate on the front of my pickup said it all—retired: no boss, no job, no money. And since my wife’s passing, my favorite time of year was the fall when the blues run and the tourists stay home.

    Down a little way, a faint light bobbed above the whitecaps. As the sky slowly brightened, I could barely make out a small boat stranded on the sandbar. Grumbling at myself for being such a damphool, I pulled off my overalls and slipped the straps of my waterproof pouch over my head. I waded out toward the boat but had to swim the last twenty feet.

    The water was about waist deep over the sandbar, but the tide had already turned. Peering inside, I saw a man in a life jacket slumped in the bow. It took several tries before I could throw my leg over the side and scramble aboard.

    My first thought was to check for a pulse; the man moaned when I touched his neck. I took my cellphone out of the pouch and called 911. As I waited for help to arrive, the man slowly regained consciousness.

    “Where am I?” he asked in a faint voice.

    “You’re on the beach; actually, on a sandbar,” I corrected myself. “I called for help; they’ll be here soon.”

    “No,” he said softly. “I’ll go to jail if the cops look in the bag.”

    Looking around, I noticed a duffel bag lashed to a cleat.

    “What’s in the bag?” I asked.

    “You don’t want to know,” he said. “Just throw it overboard before they get here.”

    It was no skin off my nose and he had already been through hell, so I did as he asked. Park rangers were the first to respond, but after a little yelling back and forth, they decided to wait for a boat. The EMTs parked on the road and hoofed it over the dunes, but they waited too. In another fifteen minutes, a truck arrived towing a boat on a trailer, and I got a ride back to the beach. Then they tied a line to the boat, winched it ashore, and carried it off on a second trailer.

    Finally, they left me to my fishing. Just as I was thinking of going home to clean my catch, my line hooked something heavy. Not wanting to lose my rig, I waded out to get my hook out of the storm flotsam. It was the duffel bag.

    Out of curiosity, I drug it up on the beach and looked inside. It held plastic bags of powder; drugs I thought. The small boat must have met a larger ship out at sea.

    Thinking I wouldn’t want kids to find it, I tossed the bag in the back of my truck with my cooler. On the way home, I crossed a small bridge over a creek—just a culvert under the road that most people wouldn’t even recognize as a bridge. I stopped on the side of the road and toted the duffel bag back to the bridge. Methodically, I opened each plastic bag and dumped the powder in the water. I hoped it wouldn’t hurt the fish, but better fish than people.

    After cleaning the fish, frying a few and freezing the rest, I was worn out. I collapsed in bed and was dead to the world until someone started banging on the front door. Out a window, I saw two men—one with a shaggy beard pounding and shouting something about merchandise, while a younger man stood behind him. I might have asked them their business, except the younger one was holding a pistol.

    I retreated behind my locked bedroom door and dialed 911. Then I got my shotgun out of the closet. The last time I had used it was to hunt squirrels so it was loaded with #4s rather than buck shot, but it would have to do. I opened the window and fired right through the screen, hoping to frighten them off. Instead I heard a fusillade of answering fire and then the splintering of my front door.

    Pumping another shell in the chamber, I sat on the floor and waited. A siren blared in the distance as the men crashed through my bedroom door. I pulled the trigger. The deafening noise reverberated in the small room and my eyesight pulsated red from the blast, but the thugs beat a hasty retreat.

    They were gone by the time the cops arrived. It must have been the crime of the century because my house was soon overrun by a herd of police and technicians. I waited in the backseat of a cruiser for a while, and then spent several hours answering questions in the station.

    It was near daybreak before I got home to my disaster zone. The front door was boarded up and festooned with yellow tape, so I went around to the back door. My splintered bedroom door hung by one hinge, and the wall beside the door had absorbed some shot too. Thinking I would clean up later, I crashed on the couch only to be awakened by the phone.

    “Hello,” I said blurrily.

    “You got’em,” said a voice I recognized as the deputy who had interviewed me.

    “What?” I said. “I couldn’t have; there’s no blood.”

    “You got’em,” he repeated. “It just took a while for them to notice the bleeding. The one with a beard had a pellet in his abdomen, and the younger one caught a couple in his legs. They both walked into the ER, claiming they were accidentally shot someplace else. It’s over.”

    Last modified: 21 Apr 2018 10:26 AM | Michael Worthington
  • 14 Apr 2018 2:59 PM
    Reply # 6099228 on 6009846
    Gloria A. Gould-Loftin

    Cobalt Blue

    I am an old woman now in my third millennia. Our genetic scientists gave each of us who traveled to this world from our beloved planet Heur the ability to prolonged lives.  I have lived too long and just a few of us remain. I am telling this story so that when the land above us fully cools and life comes to this planet there will be a record of our people and how we lived.

    ****

                Before I was born we were at war with a savage race of space travelers who wanted to ravage our world for its treasures. We successfully fought them off and had believed that all had been defeated. We sank their space vessels in the deepest part of our ocean and never gave them another thought. That was the mistake that doomed our world.  Since the war we have lived at peace on our planet for over 7 billion years.

    I was born, as were all my people, under a Cobalt blue sky.  We swam and fished in the glassy Black sea. Our land was a lush tropical paradise.  Our children grew strong.  We fostered each child to achieve his or her chosen path, and we lived, oh how we lived!

      We are an advanced people who are ruled by a group of elders from each of our tribes, who kept the laws that we live by passed down from the Gods.  Thorus, God of the Skies, gave us good weather and fair winds. Ahorus God of the Sea’s, gave us bountiful catches and calm seas, and Horus, Goddess of the Land, gave us sustenance and plentiful harvests.

    Our days are filled with hard work, but always tempered with plenty of time for each of us to meditate and chose our chosen path. I chose to be a flyer.

    We were allowed to leave our families and live with others who had chosen this the strictest of disciplines. We possessed the highest regard of all the other paths.  We became our own family and soared above the clouds and kept our land safe.

    I and my chosen family became complacent and our scientists too careless. We never noticed the ravagers coming again.  We had so little notice that we only had days to send the chosen few to a Nara a moon, high above a planet we call Gaia, which was raging at its birth.

    They skies above our planet became a battle ground that only one side would win.  We again thought we had defeated them but with one final blast, they burned our world to ashes.  One of their ships lumbered off, and we believed that it was doomed to die.

    Of the 10 billion people on my world only 2 billion survived.  We made a place for ourselves on the dead moon Nara, sooner than were ready to do so. We had been sending thousands to this moon to plan for the passage to the savage planet below, Gaia to wait for it to be habitual.  It was the goal of our people to seed a new world.

    We had been building below ground, which had been planned for, for over a millennia and knew that soon we would have to travel to the burning planet before we were ready. We still had three flying ships and they constantly patrolled high above this dead moon.

    Our scientists had gotten most of our technology off planet before it was destroyed, and had sent it to the moon Nara. We would need every bit of technology to survive in the massive caverns deep below the deadly land below that was only 4 billion years old.

    The scientists built sleeping chambers that would let most of my people sleep for 10 millennia before they would need to be revived. That way the supplies that we brought from our planet Heru would be sufficient to sustain the population not in hibernation.  We were building new habitats that we would transport to Gaia, and help us rebuild before the sleepers were awoken.

                We were readying for our jump to Gaia when the alarms started going off.  The ships above Nara were under attack.  It seems our old ancient enemy was coming for us again. 

    “Moon base, moon base, can you hear us? We are under attack.”

                Having no ground weapons we could only watch and listen in horror as our three ships, the Zaras, Legas and the Saraes came under attack.

                “How many ships do you see Zaras? 

                “We can only make out three.  I can make out one ship that was described to us, as the one that limped away in the war. We are going to come up and around them.” 

                “Legas here, I think that the one I am after does not seem to have weapons. Look out Saraes it is going to ram you!”

                A mighty battle ensued above as the last ravager ships bombarded Nara relentlessly. People that were in the underground base never had a chance as the weapons tore holes in the fabricated building above ground. Most were dead before they ever floated into space and all who were in the sleepers perished.

    The last two of our ships in the skies were both mortally wounded and the Captain of the Zaras turned into the path of the last ravager ship giving his people a chance to jump to the caverns under Gaia.

                Again we became a group of nomads. We settled into the caverns miles below the Gaia above.  We again set up our lives, for there was no other place to go. 

                We learned again to be a civilization of laws. We brought up our children who would never know Heru and her Cobalt blue sky to revere her through song and dance.

    The young and the restless moved off to other caverns thousands of miles away.  We never heard from them again, 500,000 young lives lost.  

    It is just us elderly few now left. I wanted you to know that an exceptional people lived, so I leave you this diary. May you live and prosper and remember the ones who came before.


  • 15 Apr 2018 3:31 PM
    Reply # 6100079 on 6009846

    Gloria,

    It's difficult to engage in 'world-building' in flash fiction, but you used familiar words such as "Gaia" and "Thorus” as shortcuts. You should use more active-voice, direct sentences to strengthen your writing and shorten the sentences. For example, "Our days are filled with hard work" (7 words) could be "Hard work filled our days" (5 words) and "people who are ruled by a group of elders from each of our tribes, who kept the laws" could be written as "The elders from each tribe enforced the laws."

    I enjoyed reading your story, especially because SciFi had been my favorite genre since I learned to read.


  • 26 Apr 2018 9:21 PM
    Reply # 6122016 on 6009846
    Sherri Hollister (Administrator)


    The sky aglow with azure light. Millions of stars shining in a velvet night, sparkle in the reflection of the river below. His face blurs in the ripples of the water, a truer portrait than the image in his mirror.

    Sounds of waves and cicadas fill the night with song. People lost in their own stories, pass him on the boardwalk, oblivious to the pain, the shame, the blues pouring out of his soul as he strums his guitar. Fingers pluck the truth from the strings, giving sound to the words he cannot speak. The apologies he cannot make. The song, deep, and dark and blue, shimmers on the tip of starlight, a fragile bubble against the wind.

    His eyes, dry, the tears long past, he strums his guitar as the stars wink out. One by one they fade into the darkening sky as he sings the words that mock his pain. Lost in the music that fills the night, a troubadour on the crowded streets. Couples stop to listen, arms entwined they allow the music to bathe their senses. A coin, a dollar, dropped in his guitar case, the price of a bottle, the price of a dream. He collects their pity and packs away his pain, tomorrow is another day, but for tonight the demons rest.

    Alone, he turns his collar up against the cold, the wind off the river chills his soul, and portents a future dark and bleak. Shuffling down city streets, dingy and gray in the fading light, his eyes roam neither left nor right. Head down, he counts the foot falls to the faded door. He’s not been here since before. With hands trembling, he fumbles the brass from his pocket. The key jambs in the lock, he jiggles it until the door opens. The hinges creak as he shoves it past the debris and memories gathered behind.

    Air blows through the broken glass, swirling leaves and dirt about him in a cyclone of emotions. Faded memories dance in the moonlight, picking their way in the teasing nimbus. Oppressive darkness descends, suffocating, as clouds cover the moon. His feet move of their own volition, familiar with the path, filled with contrition. Stumbling over years of detritus, he visits each room, haunted by his former life.

    The laughter and warmth filter through dust covered walls. Long forgotten songs mingle with scenes from the past. In the distance a dog howls, a saxophone lifts its mournful tune, a truck passes loose panes rattle, each sound a reminder this is his reality, now. A present bereft of their song. 

    Closing eyes, itchy and dry, his tears have all been shed. He leans against the door jamb, his portal to the past. Their room, the master, their haven from children and strife, the place they loved, and where they dreamed their arms and thoughts entwined. He yearns once more to step into time, a time before, when dreams could still come true. An old familiar love song tickles his memories, the sound so sweet he can almost taste the salt upon her skin. Her laughter and Bulgari Rose, teases and beckons to him. He hungers to go, aches to know, the touch and taste and feel of loving her again. With eyes wide open, he thrusts, futilely against the wooden barrier, swollen by time and damp. Aching shoulders sag, once more defeated he turns to go. A rush of wind, powerful and true chills him in his place. A pop of sound, a whoosh of air, like the releasing of a break, the door swings open, on hinges heavy with rust.

    The room is a temple. The altar, her dresser shrouded in dust. The vessels and urns, powders and perfumes lay scattered upon the surface. A photo, faded and stained with time, of the two of them, arms entangled, a vacation somewhere, he cannot recall. A time before it all, lay derelict and lost.

    His memories all gather, crowded into one. Too many to name, they jumble, like people on a bus. He cannot divine their story from the others in his mind. Only their last night together, plays clear and strong. Her anger, his teasing, her pleas, his promise. They’d stayed too long, the party too wild. It was past the time to retrieve their youngest child. They battled over who would drive. He was high--on life, on booze, on her. “It’ll be okay,” he promised. His last words a lie. How he wishes he could retrieve them, shove them back into his mouth. How he wishes he’d not betrayed her with his music and his lies.

    Vanity, man’s vanity, his masculinity and desire. Shoving away the people who give his world measure, for meaningless money and fame. A terrible husband, and negligent father, convinced and conceited, he toiled in strife, to give his family a better life. Life, better or worse is all they wanted. One more moment to treasure, one more laugh, one more song.  

    “Daddy? Why are you here?”

    The child, so like her mother, had forgiven him all. A boon he did not deserve or desire. Her love and kindness, salt to a wound.  

    “What are you doing here? Come home.”

    “I am home,” he whispers, holding onto the memories, holding fast to the pain.

    Blinking back tears, she nods. “She’s gone pops.”

    He sighs and shakes his head. “Not when I’m here.”

    Patting his arm, she leads him from the house, the mausoleum. From their old life, to the new. There is nothing left but ghosts here. Specters and regrets, they follow him, a constant reminder of the promise he failed to keep.

    The moon pushes through the clouds, electric and blue, as a guitar strums a final tune. The old man whispers, “I’ll be joining you soon.”

       


  • 26 Apr 2018 9:30 PM
    Reply # 6122019 on 6009846
    Sherri Hollister (Administrator)

    Michael and Gloria, I love to read your stories. You each have such unique twists and view the stories differently. 

    Michael, I don't think I'm going anywhere with you, your stories usually end up with danger. I love them. 

    Gloria, I agree with Michael, this is a good story and could be more intense or immediate if you used an active voice. 

    Great stories. I can't wait to see what you do next month. 

  • 27 Apr 2018 5:05 PM
    Reply # 6123361 on 6009846

    Sherri, Great prose poetry! Wonderful imagery and awesome story.

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