Monday, February 10, 2014


Welcome back to another round! I considered doing another Festive Challenge, but there are enough people out there who HATE Valentine's Day that I just figured I'd skip it. I wouldn't want to turn anyone away, plus Eric would probably strangle me if he got the chance... (but he doesn't live in my state, so I think I'd be safe even if I went for it...) I'd personally love to see you be creative with the words in brackets - I LOVE variety! Anyway, enough of what I want - I'm not judging! Go find out what the judge's prompts are and go write! :)

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 #32 is:

The cat meowed, and stretched, and that was when I first heard [the scream].

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Set your story before the year 1900CE.



  1. The Sound and the Silence

    The cat meowed, and stretched, and that was when I first heard it. You’d think I’d have been used to that by now, hearing things late, but six months in, it drove me as crazy as it had at the beginning. The cat’s mouth opens, and two seconds later its meow hits my ears.

    Same thing happens with people. They open their mouths, or slam the door, or snap their fingers, then—one Mississippi, two Mississippi—the sound wafts gently, taking its own sweet time before settling on my eardrums.

    A year in, the problem had only gotten worse: the delay had lengthened to a full ten seconds. I’d taken to stuffing cotton in my ears. It was much easier trying to live deaf than it was hearing sounds well after things happened. Unfortunately, as you already know if you’ve tried it, cotton doesn’t keep out sound very well. And it tickles something fierce. But I tried.

    I had to quit school, of course. Teachers didn’t have the time or patience to wait ten seconds for me to get around to hearing their questions, and I spent more time in the principal’s office that last month than I did the classroom. My boss fired me. Heck, I couldn’t even burgle without getting caught and scaring myself half to death. All this left me penniless and homeless.

    So I spent my days sleeping on park benches, hoping people would drop money in my cup then leave me alone. They did, mostly, and I was grateful. They probably thought my brain was broken. Maybe it was.

    But then came the day that gigantic silver spaceship burst through the clouds and hovered over the city (you sure you didn’t see it??). Horses and buggies careened into each other like marbles in a pail. And then suddenly everybody dropped flat to the ground. I stared up at the sky and heaved a sigh, waiting to hear what everybody else already knew.

    By the time “HUMANS! LIE ON THE GROUND OR YOU WILL DIE!” reached my rebellious ears, I was already being sucked up into the air and flung straight toward the spaceship.

    The alien who met me at the spaceship’s door smiled for long moment before saying clearly, “Welcome.”

    His lips moved in perfect synchronicity with his voice. What?!

    He smiled again. Ten beats. Then: “Sound delay, right?”

    I nodded, torn between relief and terror, not daring to speak.

    Satisfaction creased his face. “I thought so. Now—come with me, or die. I have a job for you.”

    And that, Your Honor, is the true story of why it looks like I ripped off the fireworks plant before setting it ablaze, but actually it was the alien who bent light waves and needed the fireworks for his breakfast. I guess you could say I saved humanity from invasion.

    I know what you’re going to say, but no thank you; saving lives is its own reward.

    I’ll let your acquittal meet me at the door.

    500 words
    Judge's challenge: Sure, why not!

  2. A cat meows and stretches at my feet, then I hear a scream in Apartment 608, where dispatch has sent me to investigate a domestic violence call. The scream is followed by what sounds like high-pitched panting, muffled through the apartment door. Sounds like a child.

    A shiver races up my spine, jerking me upright. I pull my service pistol, call out loud enough to be heard from the hall.

    “Police! Open up!”

    The scream was one of those shrill cries that you couldn't tell was born of fear or delight. Another scream inside, but away from the door and to the left, followed by the heaving sobs of a child too terrified to escape its tormentor.

    A hot flash rushes through my body, flushing my cheeks. Bile rises in my throat. I holster my gun and prepare to break in the door. With my small frame, it isn't likely to happen, so I try the knob. The door is unlocked.

    I pull my gun out again and step into the living room, sweeping my gaze around the open layout. Solid wall on the right, living room clear. Dining room to the left, clear. Kitchen, open to the living room with a half-wall separating it from the dinette. That's where the kid, now silent, waits. I can't see far inside, but I can see the pool of blood spreading across the floor.

    A powerful wave of nausea sweeps over me. The silence amplifies the ringing in my ears to a nearly unbearable level. Grey threatens the edges of my vision. I take a deep breath with each careful step to the kitchen.

    I round the corner to find a boy facing away from me, staring down at a lacerated female, her face frozen in pain and horror. Likely the boy's mother. On her back, her dead eyes stare at the ceiling. A black and white checkered apron is twisted around her torso, torn and soaked red.

    The boy's saturated with blood, too. He's holding a kitchen knife that looks like a machete in his small hand. He turns his head slowly, his body frozen, weapon held aloft, until I can see the wide grin stretched across his face. His shining, manic eyes are the last thing I see before darkness takes me.

    Taken by Darkness
    by @West1Jess
    383 Words
    No Special Challenge for you!


  3. The Fall

    The cat meowed, and stretched, and that was when i first heard the screams. I glanced out the window and stared at the scene it revealed. Citizens were yelling and fleeing in terror down the streets. The panic spread to include the livestock. Horses neighed shrilly and bolted. Oxen bellowed and stampeded lumberingly. One poor man fell and got trampled into a bloody paste under the wheels of a grain cart. I leaned out the window, craning my head in the direction they were running from. I froze in terror. Distant on the horizon, a giant wall of water charged for the city! It towered high above even the far-reaching spires of the Temple.

    I knew in an instant that the city was doomed! I lunged up the stairs. There was no sense in taking to the crowded streets, I'd be trapped in the seething mass of humanity below. I burst out onto my rooftop. I turned to face the mountain. My house stood at the end of the block. I darted to the building's edge. I gathered myself and hurdled the alley space. I thumped onto my neighbor's roof. I scrambled frantically across the cirty, racing against time and fate. A few other hardy souls joined my flight. I did'nt dare look back, I knew that I'd trip. There! I saw the marble gleam of the city walls. I made one final, magnificent leap. I landed, grasped the far side of the wall and dropped to the ground. My bent knees helpedabsorb the shock of landing.I bent panting for a moment, marshalling my strength. One of the other escapees screeched in agony as he landed wrongly, bones jutting out from his legs. I blessed the Gods for my youth and athleticism. I swerved onto the road and broke into a steady, ground covering run. A dull, rumbling roar filled the air. I knew that it was the sound of the oncoming wave. I risked a quick glane backwards. The gates were tightly jammed with a shouting, churning group of people all trying to squeeze through at once. The wave hadn't hit the Harbour yet, there was still time! I carefully paced myself as I raced past the fields. I reached the foothills and started to scale them. The slope grew steeper and I had slow my speed. Gasping, I came to rest at their top. I turned to watch. "Crash!" The wave engulfed the city. It churned and ground inexorably towards me! It lapped at the edges of the foothill a few inches from my feet, but came no further. I exhaled in relief. I was safe!

    The earth shuddered under me. The tremors grew stronger. The earthquake rocked the island."BOOM!" The volcano erupted. A sea of molten rock fountained up. A huge ball of flame arced towards me.My last thought was, "So, this is how Atlantis ends!" The lava bomb engulfed me. I felt a burning pain, then there was only blackness.

    SpecialChallenge Accepted
    499 Words

  4. Saint Valentine’s Day

    The cat meowed, and stretched, and that was when I heard the scream. It was piercing, made my hackles stand on end. Sounded like entrails being ripped out. Not that I’ve ever seen entrails in or out of a body. Maman wouldn’t take me to public executions she said it was unladylike. Since the revolution it was like everyone was desperate to hang onto their heads.

    I was more interested in Madame Sarkozy’s son Francois. He had long auburn curls and a smile that would melt ice. I wanted to be a bride, sooner than later and leave Mamma’s household, away from her constant nagging

    “Cecilia do this, Cecilia do that, Cecilia don’t do that” her voice stridently ringing in my ears.

    I was sixteen. I’d soon be too old to be a bride for a wealthy young man. I thought about my friend Marianne married off to that old aristocrat, pots of money but riddled with gout and the pox. The only blessing was at forty-five, he’d probably be dead soon. Then she could have the pick of suitors as a wealthy widow.

    The cat stared me out. We had to watch where she went, in case one of the peasants fancied an exotic meal. These days everyone stole food, not us of course unless Pierre, the footman did it for us. We never went hungry, plenty of cake to eat.

    I went in search of the scream, not thinking my life would change for ever. Pushing the large oak door open into the parlour there was Maman lying on the floor. Her beautiful brocade dress spoiled with rosy red blood, her throat leaking out gallons of the life force. A large man, in the leather uniform of the republican army, stood over her brandishing a sword. He was breath taking.

    I feigned a swoon and he leapt to catch me before I fell to the ground.


    I opened one eye, “Is this your mother?”

    “Non Monsieur”

    He smiled and planted a chaste kiss on my lips. With more to follow I pray.

    Challenge accepted
    345 words.

  5. When The Sun Freed The Moon

    The cat meowed, and stretched, and that was when she heard the footsteps. Selene picked up another date and bit it in half. The door to her chamber rattled and then burst open.


    Only one of her brothers had such a deep voice.

    “My dearest Helios, what is the matter?” She popped the rest of the date into her mouth.

    Helios crossed over to Selene’s bed and ripped the drape away so forcefully it tore right off.

    “How dare you!” Selene sat up, knocking over the tray of fruit. His eyes were filled with tears; she softened immediately. “What is it?”

    Helios' hands shook when he took hers. He pulled Selene off her bed.

    “Mother is dead.”

    She pulled her hands free. “What happened?”

    “Aspis bite,” he said. “Self inflicted.”

    Selene walked to the balcony overlooking Alexandria. First father and now their mother?

    “It would appear she was not Isis reincarnate as she claimed,” she said.

    Helios came up behind her and placed a hand on each shoulder.

    “There is more troubling news I fear.”

    “What could be worse?”

    “Caesarion has been captured.”

    Selene turned around, her pulse quickened. “Whom dare seize our Pharaoh?”

    “Gaius Octavianus.”

    They were both quiet as the name sunk in chilling their blood.

    “Then we are doomed for Caesarion will soon be dead alongside mother.”

    “Father had mentioned concerns about Egypt falling to Rome. He said Octavianus will stop at nothing. We will be but another target for him,” Helios said. “Though I believe one of us can be spared.” He turned back to the chamber. “Mansika.”

    Mansika knelt on the floor when she neared the siblings. Selene knew the girl. She frequently saw her in the bathhouse. Selene looked from Helios to the slave and back again.

    “I do not understand.”

    “You are going to trade places with Mansika.” Selene opened her mouth to protest. “The only way to protect you will be if you leave disguised as another. Take Sefu. He will protect you and keep you happy.”

    Selene blushed. “How do you know of Sefu?”

    “I am your twin. I know all.” Helios kissed her nose. “Please. Octavianus will not let us live and I cannot bear to lose you. I can die in peace knowing you are safe.”

    Selene embraced her brother. Everything in her life had altered so abruptly. She walked over to Mansika.

    “Stand.” She examined the slave as she spoke. “You must not only pass for me but become me. For all time. Do you understand what that means?” The girl nodded. “Tell me who you are.”

    All fear vanished from Mansika’s eyes as she looked into Selene’s. “I am Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra Philopator. I have three brothers; Alexander Helios is my favorite. I enjoy Falernian wine and olives as did my mother but I prefer Mareotic wine and dates from the orchards.”

    Selene turned to her brother. “Get my slaves, she does not have the look of Cleopatra Selene. Not yet.”

    500 words
    Special challenge accepted

  6. Madness

    The cat meowed, and stretched, and that was when I first heard the screams.

    It ain’t a still night, London’s never still, always somebody going somewhere, some devilment or other cropping up. Screams are commonplace, don’t hardly split the evening air most times. Some people take notice, others don’t.

    I smile and scratch the cat’s ears. He arches his back and looks at me, all green eyes and sharp little teeth. Nice thing he is, skinny though, must be a terrible ratcatcher if he can’t get fat in Whitechapel.

    More screams echo through the streets. Mayhap dear old Jack’s busy with his knife again.

    Whitechapel ain’t been safe these past few months. Women being slaughtered left and right. Perhaps Jack don’t like them who sell their charms like goods at market, anything a man wants for a price. Or it could be he’s just mad, drunk on blood, I’ve seen it happen. Either way, he’s got London good and scared.

    Ain’t a soul dares to walk the streets of Whitechapel after dark. Except me. I got nothing to fear from Jacky-Boy. He don’t kill men, does he?

    I look up, ain’t many stars out tonight. No moon, neither. Good. I feel like doin’ a bit of slaughtering of my own.

    My knife’s sharp against my thumb. Slices the skin like butter, it does. Makes my blood well up so pretty. I smile. Perfect.

    I fancy seeing some pretty red blood on pretty pale skin. Think I’ll find me a redhead tonight.

    Jack ain’t the only killer in town.

    259 words
    Special challenge accepted!

  7. Moving Target

    The cat meowed, and stretched, and that was when I first heard the scream. I laid down my book and made to investigate, but was interrupted by a cry from the yard.

    “Carol Anne McDowney? Are ye to home?”

    It was the youngest Sullivan, the dullest son of my exceedingly dull neighbours. I sighed and wondered if I would ever reach the end of my chapter.

    “Yes, Padraig, I am ‘to home’ at present, as you can no doubt tell from the smoke in the chimney and the boots by the step.”

    I opened the top door and caught him a blow to the head with it, bent as he was to remove his own boots. It was a good whack and he lay sprawled in the yard, groaning and moaning that I had killed him and ought to at least kiss him as consolation. I judged that it was no worse than he’d receive when Mother Sullivan saw that he’d ripped up half of her garden when he came courting, and I told him so.

    Behind me, I heard the cat pounce, and another scream from the creature’s quarry. I wondered if the boy would notice, but he was too busy dusting off his behind and gathering up the mangled roses.

    “And what exactly do you mean by coming here and taking off your boots at my door?”

    He raised the battered bouquet and grinned as sheepishly as anything his father ever sheared.

    “I was wonderin’ if you’d maybe like to go walkin’?”

    I shook my head in wonder that I should be asked to promenade by this turnip headed child.

    “And what made you think that?”

    “Well, it’s a fair day, and you’re a fair girl, and I had these flowers.”

    “The flowers came first then, and you need a girl to match them?”

    He frowned, trying to make sense of his scattered thoughts.

    “No, I was thinkin’ see… I was in the garden…”

    He looked at the flowers as if seeing them for the first time, then cast an uncertain glance towards his mother’s parlour window.

    From the kitchen I heard the snap of a mousetrap and a stream of muted curses.

    “I take it that you don’t know why you are here, or why you thought that it would be a good idea, or even that your brothers have been here already? Go on home now, and we’ll say no more about it.”

    He looked pitifully grateful, then hopped away, scattering roses in his wake as he struggled to pull his boot on. I watched him go, then turned back towards the cherub who was struggling with the tensed steel of the mousetrap.

    “Is he the last of them?”

    He stared at me sullenly and raised his bow once more, but I pinched it from his tiny hands before he could let fly another arrow. He began to scream afresh, but I took up my book, returned to my chair and left him to the cat.

    500 words
    Special Challenge Accepted

  8. A Civil Valentine

    The cat meowed, and stretched, and that was when I first heard it. Or rather, when I noticed it, since one does not actually hear silence. Slipping my feet out from under the covers, I hurriedly shoved them into my slippers and threw a coarse blanket over my shoulders.

    “Stay here,” I whispered to Luna, knowing full well that the fluffy grey mass would wallow wherever she chose to. Thankfully, she was more interested in the warmth of my bed covers than getting under foot. I fumbled in the darkness for a match and lit the candle on my nightstand with a shaking hand, the silence eerie after the constant thunder of gunfire.

    Padding down the hall to the stairs, I met one of my servants on the landing. She too held a candle, her dark face blending into the shadows.

    “I wuz jus comin' to get you, Miz Caroline,” Mabel said. “There’s someone at the door.”

    I nodded for Mabel to open it and held the candle aloft to make out who was there. An officer in a grey uniform stood on the front step.

    “I’m sorry to trouble you this late, ma’am,” the young lieutenant said in a soft drawl. He doffed his cap and stood fiddling with it, no doubt somewhat awkward about seeing a lady in only a nightshift. My mind, however, was whirling in despair at what his message might be.

    “Is- is he…” my raspy voice couldn’t bear to ask the question.

    “No, no!” the young man quickly exclaimed. “Your brother is well. In fact, he sent us here.”


    The soldier stepped back and gestured to the yard. There was a small company of men, most of them on rudely crafted crutches or moaning on stretchers. I stepped forward hesitantly until I was standing next to the lad and surveyed the poor souls.

    “They’ll die before they make it to a hospital,” he said softly, his baritone voice vibrating through the thin fabric of my nightgown.

    I looked up at him, his dark eyes pleading in the flickering light of my candle. I took a deep breath and nodded, “We can make room.”

    Immediately, I marched back into the house and ordered Mabel to wake up the other servants. Beds must be made out of the living room furniture, bedding out of my fresh linens. Unfortunately, the town house had very little room, but I was determined to make the best of it.

    After over-seeing the transformation, I retired to my bedroom to change into something more suitable and sent Mabel to fetch my craft box.

    “Wut you plannin’ on doin’ with this, Miz Caroline?” she asked curiously. I took the wooden box from her and set it on my dresser, opening it to reveal streams of ribbons, coloured paper, and pressed flowers. I handed her a pair of scissors.

    “It’s Valentine’s Day!” I replied as the first light of dawn crept in. “We’re going to cheer those men up with some cards.”
    500 Words
    Special Challenge accepted! (And Alissa's non-existent challenge. ;) )