Monday, January 20, 2014


WooHoo! Another week, another prompt, another opportunity for you to show us what you've got! As always: have fun, good luck, and challenge yourself. Have at you! :)

If you need to read the full version of the rules, go here. Otherwise, here's the short version:

1. Up to 500 words
2. Keep it clean (nothing rated R or above)
3. Start with the given first sentence.
4. Optional Special Challenge
5. Include Twitter/email, word count, Special Challenge accepted
6. The challenge is open for 24 hours on Tuesday EST

Oh, and feel free to change pronouns, punctuation, tense, and anything in brackets to fit the story/pov/tone. I'm not going to be TOO picky... Our judge however...

Our Judge today is Eric Martell also known as @drmagoo. Check out his blog here. Read his winning tale from last week here!

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #29 is:

The gate still squeaked.

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Tell your story without using dialog.



  1. Speechless

    The gate still squeaked. Not that it mattered to Sibille, who didn’t even glance at it as she swept past into the house. Sibille ignored most things—and most people, for that matter—unless they were immediately useful or relevant; there were too few hours in the day to waste time on the mundane. So as a rule she ignored the shattered panes in the front windows, the rats’ nests in the bushes, the clogged chimney and, today, the rusted gate.

    Sibille tossed her handbag on the kitchen counter and made a face at the mountain of dishes caked with food (or what used to be food) and cobwebs. Washing dishes was mundane, but eating wasn’t; and the dishes always reminded her painfully of eating. Chicken alfredo had been her favorite in life, that wonderful, buttery cream sauce, and chicken grilled to golden brown perfection. With, of course, thick slices of garlic toast to mop it all up.

    Gripping the handrail, she climbed the stairs leading from the kitchen up to the bedrooms. It’s true that technically she didn’t need the stairs. She’d seen the floating thing done often enough by others to know how to do it herself: a light shove off the floor and then a gentle fade-in-fade-out while passing through the ceiling. But it tickled in a way she didn’t quite like. Plus, there was something… comforting… about the stairs. Going up felt familiar. Nice. It almost made up for—well, there was no point in dwelling on unpleasantness until she was ready.

    She pushed open the door to her room. Yes, she had a place to call her own; it’s a lot more than others like her could (and did) say. She couldn’t actually say anything herself, obviously, which rankled. She ached to talk. One simple line of dialogue. A single word, she felt certain, would satisfy her forever. How could she be denied this small thing—aaargh. Sibille growled.

    For the first fifty or sixty years, she’d mechanically followed the path laid out for her. She’d scribbled ominous notes on windows, rattled chains in the middle of the night, switched lights off and on. And sure, people would go screaming, like they were supposed to. There was no challenge in such childish mischief, however, and after a while she ducked out and retreated to this abandoned country home. Permanent hermitism was not permitted, but she hoped she might escape notice for a decade or two, seeing as how They had intentionally handicapped her. And she needed time to plot her revenge.

    They’d told her she talked too much.

    They’d accused her of never listening.

    They’d said she would pay in death for her offenses against the living.

    Sibille lay on her bed, trembling with dry-eyed rage. They’d been wrong. She’d listened. And if They thought she’d talked too much then, just wait. Maybe there weren’t many options for a ghostly deaf-mute. But her day was coming.

    And it was going to be a doozy.

    499 words
    Judge's challenge resented but accepted

  2. The gate still squeaked. “Dang it.”

    I swung that sucker back and forth, and in response, it sang a kind of song. “Shreek, clack, tock, tock, tock, tock, tock, groan, pop, pop, pop, ting!”

    “Dang it,” I grumbled. I took the can of WD-40, and sprayed the hinges again, until they shined in the sunlight. Then, once more, I swung the gate around.

    Once more the gate sang an infuriating song. “Shh, skreee, tick, tick, tock, mum, mum, mum, mum, gronk!”

    I threw the can of WD-40 into the backyard, where it collided with the railing of the deck, “Clack!”

    “Useless junk!”

    I punched the gate, causing a loud “Whack!” followed by another song, “skronk, tack, tack, tack, tick, wonk!”, as it swung away from my fist. I felt splinters from its wood embed themselves in my knuckles. I looked at the back of my hand, and saw bits of wood sticking out from the knuckles of my index and ring fingers. I watch blood start leaking out around the wooden stakes.

    I growled, and ripped the splinters from my knuckles. “Son of a…” I let the thought trail off, knowing I’d caused the damage to my knuckles myself. It certainly wasn’t the gates fault. Or the WD-40s fault.

    I looked up at the clouds in the sky, “Yeah, yeah. I know. Another lesson in patience.”

    I let the knuckles bleed, and I went to the garage to get the quart of lawn mower oil. SAE 30. I went back to the fence, and dumped motor oil on its two hinges. Oil dripped from the hinges to the ground. I didn’t care.
    I swung the fence back and forth, working the oil into the metal joints. Gradually the song of the gate faded. “Skree. Skraw. Skree. Skraw. Swee. Swee. Free. Fraw. Zee. Zee. Zee. See. See.” The noise faded away, until the gate swung silently.

    I leaped in the air, “Yes! Take that, you! Ha!”

    I closed the gate, put the oil back in the garage, left the useless can of WD-40 in the back yard somewhere, and went inside, proud to have successfully completed the task of silencing the gate. Inside, I washed away the blood on my knuckles. I left the wounds open to the air, wearing them with pride.

    That’s when she got home. She parked in the driveway. I heard her heels clacking on the sidewalk, as she headed for the gate, to take a walk through her veggie gardens. She got to the gate, and opened it.

    And the frackin’ thing said, “Grooooonk! Tang! Tang! Tang!”

    430 Words

  3. Intruders

    The gate still squeaked. Thank God I’d never gotten around to greasing the rusted hinges. The noise alerted me to their presence. I rushed around the house, turning off the lights, closing the drapes, double checking the locks.

    Shadows moved outside, hulking figures against the cornflower blue curtains that matched the stripes on the couch and chair. At one time, coordinating colors mattered. But not anymore. Not since they’d arrived.

    A scratching sounded at the window. Branches? Most likely not. Sweat trickled down the middle of my back. I held my breath, crouching low in the darkest corner where they couldn’t see me. Maybe if I remained quiet, they’d believe nobody was home and move on.

    The door trembled with loud bangs. Someone punched the buzzer. I covered my ears against the onslaught of noise. Slowly and careful as possible, I crawled across the dark living room floor moving toward the front window. Taking a peek would be a great risk, but I had to know. I. Had. To.

    I nearly jumped out of my own skin when I spotted a two eyes peering through the window at the top of the door. Flattening myself against the carpet, I held my breath. A fluff of lint tickled my nose, irritating my sinus until I feared I might sneeze, giving myself away. Harsh whispers came from the other side of the door. They must suspect.

    The eyes disappeared. Was this my chance to make a run for it? Taking in a deep ragged breath, my muscles tensed, preparing to leap onto my feet and race… to where? Where, honestly, could I run? Perhaps it was somebody else, not those dreaded ones. I had to check. Just a quick look. Teeth gritted, my feet found a grip on the stained carpet. I practically flew across the room.

    The doorknob turned. I laughed under my breath, having locked it first. The pounding resumed. Once I reached the window, I dared opening the drapes a fraction of an inch, just enough to peek one eye through, only to find one of them pressed up against the glass.

    Her not-so-innocent cherub nose was flattened against the window. Her green hat sat askew on her head and her green dress was smudged from the dirt covering the panes. Who had time to clean windows these days? Pounding one hand on the window, she called to the others, alerting them that I’d been found.

    Defeated, I slowly went to the door, turned the lock and opened onto a group of girls. Behind them sat the wagon full of thin mints and other various cookies. The girl scouts had found me. Leading the pack were my own two children.

    450 words
    Challenge accepted

  4. *A New Life*

    The gate still squeaked. Curses at the betraying sound ran through Tara's mind as she crawled through the opening to the cemetery. Her head swiveled left and right, searching for any sign of pursuit. The woods surrounding the edges of graveyard seemed clear, but she didn't relax.

    Barb never saw it coming when took her.

    Tara didn't know what kind of power it possessed; she only knew the ravenous hunger that gleamed in its reptilian eyes. She wished Barb had never found that damned book. They should be at the mall, scarfing junk at the food court and hitting on guys.

    But Barb wanted to visit that rare bookstore and find a book on demons for her boyfriend. He loved to play a game called Dragon Dungeons or something like that, and she felt the need to join his world. The two of them chanted one of the spells as a goof.

    The lights dimmed and hell-light poured from the floor. A rip opened in the ground, and a clawed hand wiggled out. Tara remembered that first scream. Barb's parents came running in as Tara and Barb burst out.

    Barb's parents were the first victims. Tara remembered those screams as well.

    They ran out of the house and down the street. A red-scaled, bat-winged thing chased after them, but only Tara seemed to see it. They ran past people who looked puzzled about why two girls would run down the street in their pajamas, but no one screamed as the creature flew past.

    They'd made it two blocks before it caught Barb in its talons, pulling her into the sky. Tara tried to grab Barb's flailing foot, but couldn't hold on.

    So she ran. She headed for the cemetery, half-remembered stories about holy ground giving her hope. She twisted her ankle when she missed a gouge in the sidewalk, but she limped on. Soon the pain forced her to crawl.

    She huddled against an angel statue and prayed for the nightmare to be over. A whimper escaped when she saw the demon fly over the fence and bull through headstones in its search. Stone crumbled and Tara swore she heard the cries of the damned as the beast crossed over their graves.

    Its shadow fell over her, and she closed her eyes. Death didn't strike, so she peeked to see the demon kneeling before her. One black nail reached out to touch her ankle. She felt energy sizzle and course through her body, taking away her pain and flashing memories of women roped to logs as fire kissed their flesh.

    Tara's eyes popped open and she cackled. Her hand caressed the demon's face, and she allowed her servant to take her in its arms.

    They flew deep into the night.

    464 words
    Challenge accepted

  5. Maintenance

    The gate still squeaked, but barely. The old, stooped man swung it open and closed a few times to be sure. It wasn’t much of a squeak but he would have to fix it. He’d been doing this year after year, fighting the elements to keep it right. Sighing, he set down the metal tool tray in the long weeds and knelt in front of the ancient wrought iron gate contemplating the hinges. The noon sun beat down on his shoulders mercilessly as the cicadas sang and rattled in the tree above the small family plot. A single ancient limestone marker shared the small square of earth with a stunted oak whose shade stopped selfishly at the very edge of the fence. Inside the metal border looked cool and inviting. Even the grass inside was short and green when the rest of the field was brown with thirsty weeds that hissed when there was a breeze. He swatted at a deer fly that landed on his neck.

    Today there was no breeze and the thick air hung heavy with pollen and dust that mixed with the sweat dripping freely down his face, burning his eyes when he did not pause his work and wipe his forehead. This was never an easy job. It was always too hot, too rainy or so cold that skin cracked and bled against the metal. But the work had to be done. The old man selected his tools from the tray with hands that were deep brown from sun and slick with sweat. He fumbled with the hot metal tools. Prying the hinges up, he poured the iron shavings in. First the top and then the bottom hinge. He clamped the rough black hinges closed tighter over the post gripping the wrench with every ounce of his fading strength. He wasn’t the young man that once tended this chore with vigor. Those days were gone and soon his son would take over this duty.

    He stood raising a hand to shade his eyes from the scorching blaze above. Looking towards the manor, minuscule in the distance, he opened and closed the gate gently. He smiled when he was rewarded with a harsh grating squeak that echoed across the field. The old man nodded when he saw the two flashes from a mirror at the manor. They could hear it over there just fine. He latched it again, and refastened the ancient copper bands that kept it locked. Picking up a stone jar of salt from his tray he reinforced the thick line of white powder that encircled the plot just outside the fence.

    His work was done for today. Their matriarch could keep her shade tree and green grass to herself and leave the rest of them alone. But if somehow she did decide to go wandering, they would know. They wouldn’t be caught by surprise, again.

    Word count: 477
    Challenge Accepted!

  6. The gate still squeaked. Evidence of everything that happened here is gone. Grass has regrown over the pits they filled in. History that dates to when Egypt had pharos is cleansed from our memories. The stain from when they came for the remaining refugees has been erased. Unless one knows where to look, and then only with careful inspection, is it possible to notice that something is amiss.
    Years pass, and they have disappeared. Perhaps they didn’t realize how they were tied to their victims. Perchance they knew and didn’t care. Regardless, history simply observes they have perished.
    Fire rolls across the land. It consumes the grassland and engulfs the world they left. Everything organic burns; everything that one was life is destroyed. Everything, except the future hidden unground by those victims. Flames destroy some things, but awaken rebirth in others. New trees reach for the sun without shade from the prairie plants.
    Life reborn, awaiting another rise and fall of the pharaohs.
    A powerful wind blows without mature trees to break it. And still that damn gate squeaks.

    Word count: 179
    Challenge Embraced

  7. Tomorrow

    The gate still squeaked, yet another chore on the list that Dad will never get round to. I can still hear Mums voice, nagging him to fix it before their guests arrived, because that’s the kind of thing Mums notice when they visit each others homes. The thought makes my stomach sink with the realization that the list will never be finished now, all those items put off until ‘tomorrow’ with that assumption that tomorrows were unlimited. No-one bothered to tell the drunk driver, one beer too many and all my parents tomorrows disappeared in an instant. The thought twists my insides and I feel the darkness swell again, I need to stay focused.

    I stare at the sign declaring that the main stage of all my childhood memories has been SOLD. A nice young family is moving in tomorrow, complete with two kids and the scruffiest dog I ever did see. During the viewing the little girl went straight to the tree house, the one Dad built all those summers ago. She’d climbed the ladder before I could stop her, ignoring her Mothers pleas that it wasn’t safe. My Mum always said the same thing, and I paid just as much attention. I’d sleep up there when it was warm enough, dreaming amongst the clouds in my very own castle. It seemed so high off the ground then, but now I can reach it on tiptoes. Did I grow up or did my imagination shrink?

    I clench my fists and walk in through the back door. The kitchen smells empty without the aroma of Mums cooking. She was always trying something new, never afraid to fail. Tears well in my eyes at the thought of the infamous Lamb Vindaloo incident. I guess as you get older it’s easy to forget you’ve already added the chillies. Dad finished his bowl anyway out of principle, he wasn’t one to waste food.

    I head upstairs, taking each step slowly. I can’t bring myself to go into their bedroom, even though it’s empty. Instead I head down the hallway, to what will always be my room. It feels so small now, barely able to contain me. A memory pops into my head unbidden, a tea party with my Dad. He’d let me do his makeup, Mum chuckled for days.

    I run from the house, no longer in control. It was a bad idea to come back, there’s no closure here, only heartache. I slam the gate behind me and it shrieks angrily. I stop and stare at it, furious. I’m in the garage before I can stop myself, searching the crates until I find the old rusty can. I pour the oil carefully onto the hinges, testing them until they glide. That’s one less thing to do tomorrow.

    466 words