Monday, April 14, 2014


WELCOME BACK! I'm posting this last minute again (what is up with me lately???), so I won't beat around the bush. I certainly don't need to! There's fire! So go write about it! :)

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 Caitlin Siem also known as 
@CaitlinStatus. Check out her blog here. Read her winning tale from last week here!

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #41 is:

With every prod the fire crackled and danced, illuminating the night with vermillion flames.

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Include a cliffhanger.



  1. With every prod the fire crackled and danced, illuminating the night with vermillion flames. Nictitating membranes closed to guard against errant sparks, the Kthakii scanned the slumped corpses. Beardlings. Their watchfire had been ineffective for none of the lesser beings could make out the form of a Kthakii as it hunted silently on moonless nights such as this.

    Ik-Naa reached out a dactyl and traced the hair that sprouted from the slain dwarf. Plaited together with the others, it would have made a decent first offer for a seat at the upcoming ritual. In hindsight it seemed that dismembering the delicately fingered Woodlander in a fit of pique had been… unwise. Severing the heads, Ik-Naa drew the sigil to create a niche Beyond, and placed them there for storage. Not deigning to taint its palate with such a lowly meat, the Kthakii vaulted to the air, wings flung wide.

    Back at the colony Ik-Naa was unable to sleep, even long after the Sky Fire had driven all others deep underground. Revelling in the unfamiliar tingling on its scales, the Kthakii felt invigorated. Before long, Ik-Naa came to a solution that made it hiss with delight. It would summon a host of new prey, from other continuums, times and places. Tonight’s haul could still be put to good effect as a pitiful oopening gambit, making the final offer even more striking. Truly, this would ensure a victory that would garner immense prestige.

    Reaching into the space carved in No-Space, Ik-Naa roughly sheared the fibres from the trophy heads with a talon. Then - as an added insult to the other competitors - Ik-Naa wove the rope itself, rather than commanding a lesser race to do so. Next the Kthakii prepared a flayed hide with incantations and unguents. These ensured that the message would be translated and propagated to many worlds. When read, they would capture the entity’s essence, adding it to Ik-Naa’s collection. It paused for a moment, then began to write... With every prod the fire crackled and danced, illuminating the night with vermillion flames...

    345 words
    Special Challenge accepted (or not... if you don’t think it counts)

  2. A change is as good as a rest

    With every prod the fire crackled and danced, illuminating the night with vermillion flames. I loved this day of the year in fact I lived for it. There were sausages sizzling on the barbecue, marshmallows browning and glasses of punch ready for the final toast. Looking around the other guests faded into one big pile of nothingness. My senses were heightened I could hear the grass growing and the measured breathing of the one person that delighted me.

    Her name was Joanna; she was beautiful in an abstract way and had the personality of an angel. Her brown eyes shyly swept over the other guests looking for someone to like her. I liked her.

    Her eyes finally found me, I returned her smile. Clutching a big glass of wine she headed for me I knew there was no alcohol in it; I could smell everything or the lack of it. She smelled of fresh daisies and the morning dew. She was early morning I was evening tide.

    I tapped the empty seat, she politely sat beside me, a lovely girl taught to honour her elders. It would soon be time. Sipping the sherry I’d been given by the host I wanted to thank her but instead asked her questions about her life. She lived by the sea, worked in an art gallery, unmarried, no children, absolutely perfect. The only cross on my horizon was her dress, I’d never liked linen it creased too much.

    She asked me about my life. I wanted to tell her everything but decided on the edited version. Too much would have distressed her. I told her about my childhood, how I’d lived in Eastern Europe, how my family had fled persecution and we’d prospered ever since. I told her my grandson would adore her, she smiled coyly. Shame she’d never get to meet him.

    I felt the excitement flooding through me like a menopausal flush. Never again would I contemplate being middle aged, once was enough! I caught her hand, fresh young soft skin encasing it with mine, gnarled fingers and skin covered with brown age spots. For a split second I could see the fear in her eyes, she knew exactly what was going to happen.

    I shook the old lady; she’d spilt the sherry down the front of her cream blouse, a colourful stain spreading across her chest, the glass smashed on the floor. Guests crowded round.

    “I think she’s dead” whispered one

    “Call 999” uttered another

    I headed for the door, desperate to get home to see what Joanna had in her wardrobe. Hope it wasn’t all linen.

    436 words
    special challenge accepted

  3. “With every prod the fire crackled and danced, illuminating the night with vermillion flames.”

    Emma looked up from her keyboard and re-read the words she’d just written. “Awful,” she said aloud. “Horribly overwritten. I’m not even sure vermillion means red. It might mean green. I can’t possibly start my epic like this.” She reached for the backspace key. Erasing one letter at a time wasn’t nearly as satisfying as crumpling up the page would have been.

    “Only it’ll still be crap,” she said. Sighing, she closed the laptop and stood up. Maybe a nice cup of tea would help.

    Twenty minutes, one pot of tea, and a sinkload of washed dishes later, she reopened her computer. “Incarnating on the argentium plains was never pleasant, but this time the very marrow of his bones ached.” She stopped typing to read.

    “This is even worse,” she said. “I wish I knew how to write!”

    There was a crunching sound and in a poof of incarnadine smoke, a two-foot-tall imp appeared. The creature glared at Emma. “You just made a wish?” he demanded.

    Emma managed an affirmative squeak. “Who are you?”

    “Your fairy godmother,” the imp said.

    “No, you’re not.” Emma shook her head. “You’re nothing of the sort.”

    The imp reached out and pulled a roll of parchment from thin air. “Fairy godmother department got downsized, us in soul acquisition have to fill in. But. Says here you made a wish. Seems you’ve one left over from last birthday. You want to be a writer?”

    She nodded, heart pounding. “I do.”

    The imp rolled the parchment back up and it vanished. “Stupid thing to waste a wish on. What do you want? Talent? ‘Fraid that’s not a wish thing, though my other line of work would let me make you an offer… talent’s overrated though.” The imp snapped. A book appeared before him. He opened it. “Says here, it’s all about putting your time in. Writing words. Finishing stories. Is that your problem?”

    “Not at all,” Emma said. “If I could just get a good beginning, I’d be able to finish every time. I know it. But I can’t get the first sentence right.”

    The imp sighed. “Let’s see… page 33… ok. For one birthday wish, I can offer you the choice of: the perfect opening sentence. A crippling accident that robs you of your legs.”

    “How’s that going to help?” Emma asked.

    “Well, without distractions like going shopping or cleaning your kitchen, your writing should increase…. oh, or the third option.” Another wave of his hand and a box set of cds appeared. “Writing Excuses, Seasons 1-8. Try the episode about killing your inner critic. So. What’s it going to be?” He clapped his hands together. Three glowing portals appeared in front of Emma, bordered in red, green, and blue. “Just stick your hand into whichever you choose, and pull out your heart’s desire.”

    This couldn’t be real. Emma stood up. She held out her hand.

    495 words
    special challenge accepted!

  4. The Sacrifice

    With every prod the fire crackled and danced, illuminating the night with vermillion flames. The volcano grumbled. Dark shadows capered threateningly against the jungle's foliage. The barbaric, carved stone idols seemed alive. The heavy, humid air was rank with the usual odors of rot and decay, newly overlaid with the scents of blood and seared flesh. The normal cacophony of animal life was hushed for Heather, she existed in a bubble of stillness. Captain Thornton-Smythe lifted the red-hot poker from the flames, waving it in the air to cool slightly. "I'm going to ask you again Professor Hayesworth, how do you access the Temple's Treasure Vault?" His voice was a silken thread of menace as he laid the brand against his captive.

    Hayesworth emitted a shrill scream of pain and terror as his skin sizzled and burned. "I don't know! The Xionwyve Priests never wrote the key down!' The flames fascinated Heather, they whispered and spoke to her.

    "That's too bad for you Professor, if it's the truth. Perhaps your daughter will be more...forthcoming."

    "Noooo!" Her father wailed. "Leave her alone! She doesn't know anything!"

    Thornton-Smythe smiled nastily. We'll soon find out. bring her Brady!" He barked, easily slashing the Professor's throat. He reheated the iron bar.

    Huge hands grabbed Heather's shoulder's, brusquelly pulling her erect. "Get going, Cap'n wants you." The brute growled, roughly shoving her towards the fire. Heather stumbled sideways, unbalanced by her bound hands. "Uh uh, none o' that girlie!" He drew her to his body, pawing at her breasts, pressing her against his erection. His hot breath wafted across the nape of her neck. "You're nothing to look at girlie, but you got all the right parts, maybe the Cap'n will give you to me to play with." He leered meanly at her. Heather hardly noticed. Her attention was fixed raptly on the flames. Strange voices spoke to her from amidst the popping, flaring, flickers of fire.

    Brady carelessly knocked her to her knees. Thornton-Smythe lifted the brand and laid it on her. Agony flooded throughout Heather's being. Something broke within her mind. She was one with the flames! She opened her mouth and screamed. "HEAR ME! I CALL!AWAKEN! ARISE! COME FORTH! FEAST! FRESH MEAT WAITS! ALL ARE YOURS!"

    Slap! "Stop that!" Brady's voice was harsh.

    Heather gathered a mouthful of blood from her split lip, carefully she spat it into the fire. The flames hissed and sparked, greedily consuming it. BY THE BLOOD OF THE SACRIFICE I SUMMON YOU!"

    The earth rumbled. The fire raised higher. The ground rolled beneath the men, tossing them into the dirt. The volcano erupted. Molten lava gushed forth in a flaming geyser. The ground split open. Firey tentacles wafted from the openings. They gathered together, streaming into the idols ringing the camp. Stone grated. eyes filled with flame snapped open, with eerie groans the idols began to move. Jaws filled with rows of jagged teeth gaped wide. Razor sharp claws flashed in the firelight. Relentlessly they advanced.

    499 Words
    Special Challenge Accepted

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Resubmitted for consideration:
      This is the original post, unedited.

      Growing Pains
      499 words

      With every prod the fire crackled and danced, illuminating the night with vermillion flames. Sara was no longer using the long stick to move the logs into optimal positioning to keep the fire hot but out of the sheer enjoyment that came from engaging with the fire without parental supervision. Fires on the beach were a long standing summer tradition but this was the first that Sara and Cara were allowed to enjoy alone.

      At sixteen, Sara and Cara had once again come full circle to enjoying their rhyming names. It had been what bonded them during their fledgling days of kindergarten. It sounded like the beginning of a nursery rhyme or the names of long lost twin princesses who are reunited in the second act. During middle school while their friendship remained intact, the rhyming names felt like a burden, a weight that would keep them from becoming the more grown up and sophisticated girls that they wanted to be.
      But once high school had shown it’s hand and so many old friendships crumbled under the weight of social changes, there was solace in the familiarity of childhood. Sara and Cara, two names that said out loud often blurred into a singular entity of SaraandCara. There was a comfort in the sum of these parts.

      “I can’t believe they’re sending me away,” Cara said. She stared at the fire and picked at her nails.
      “It’s not like it’s a punishment. They let you come here tonight, they let us hang out before you go. I think they’re trying to show you they…just want you to get better,” Sara had stopped poking at the fire and was watching her friend.
      “There’s nothing to ‘get better’. I’m fine. Just because some nosy bitch says she saw something and talks to the guidance counselor, suddenly my parents think I have some kind of, like mental problem or whatever,” Cara said as she drew her hands deep within her long sleeves, gesturing wildly as she spoke.
      “I’m sure whoever it was was just trying to do the right thing,” Sara said.
      “And I’m sure that if I ever find out who’s responsible for sending me off to New Haven, I’ll be happy to ruin their life in return.”

      Sara pictured the rows of perfectly even cuts that ran the length of both of her best friend’s thighs. And then the rows on the insides of her biceps and how these marks had marched their way down the rest of her arms. The hidden had become barely visible, and then just on the cusp of blatantly visible and Sara had decided that this meant that in some way Cara wanted it to be acknowledged. That she wanted someone to see her pain and do something about it.
      A single entity when spoken out loud, this pain was a division that separated the girls but only Sara knew that. She knew she could not hold this weight.

      “Cara, I’m the one who told.”

  6. With every prod the fire crackled and danced, illuminating the night with vermillion flames. I had gotten used to the sulfur in the air here on Pentaxus Three – you can get used to any smell if you’re around it long enough – but I don’t think I’ll ever find green fire anything but weird.

    The howling started again, off to the east, but I wasn’t worried. The wolf-like beasts that roamed this island were timid enough to be scared by my small fire unless it was mating season, and that wouldn’t happen for months yet. I’d thought about trying to adopt one as a pet, maybe find one whose mom had died or something, but while I was lonely, the companionship wasn’t worth inviting the chance of danger into my encampment.

    One nice thing about the green fire – it didn’t kill my night vision the way burning oxygen did. On a clear night, I could look up at the stars and wonder if anyone from that little dot off to the north was looking for me, or if they thought I was dead. It had been just over four years – or what passed for years on this planet – since we’d crashed, and just under three since Susan had slipped down that ravine. I called after her for days, even tried to make a rope to get down there, but it was just too steep, and I couldn’t risk following her to my own doom. After a few weeks, when I knew she was really gone, I buried the remaining bits of her supplies and began my solitary life.

    The moon was still below the horizon, and in this part of the galaxy, where there were fewer bright stars in the sky, a night without a moon was truly dark. Without my fire, I would have trouble seeing my own hands. I wasn’t tired yet, but I didn’t want to blunder into danger, so I stretched out on the grass and traced the constellations of my new home. They weren’t looking for me, as much as I wanted to go home. Not with the rebellion of the outer worlds, or the discovery of sentient life in Andromeda, and I cursed the fates which had stranded me here, alone, the only living human in, well, I didn’t know how far. The green light sparkled through my tears, and I let them flow. My isolation had freed me from the shackles of embarrassment, and I wept openly as I had as a child.

    I must have dozed off at some point, because something woke me up. The fire had gone out, and I couldn’t see a thing, but I could hear something moving nearby. I froze, hoping the animal would wander by, searching for easier prey, and I silently excoriated myself for leaving my knife in the shelter. But the noises grew closer. They weren’t passing me by – they were coming towards me.

    That was when I felt the touch on my shoulder.

    499 words

  7. With every prod the fire crackled and danced, illuminating the night with vermillion flames. The light from the fire flickered against the cave walls, throwing up tall shadows that leapt and twisted along the edges of cavern. The fire could only reveal so much, however; the back of the cavern was shrouded in darkness, the depths of the cave unknowable from the entrance.

    Black-clad worshipers stood around the cavern, just outside the dimmest sphere of light. The high priest stepped into the brightest circle, his face down-turned and obscured by a dark hood. He raised his hands, sleeves falling down around his elbows, and the harsh murmuring fell silent.

    “Ut enim ad vos, Comedenti Mundum, de nocte surgens ad soporem.”

    The fire crackled and popped underneath the rhythmic words. Beads of sweat trickled out from under the priest’s hood, dropping unsteadily from his nose. The drops fell into the flames, sizzling sharply each time.

    “Hoc enim, quod infirmis nimium diu viuum infimis hominibus-”

    He was momentarily drowned out by the wind picking up outside. It ripped through the trees and howled into the cave, shrieking its rage for all to hear. The forest outside was whipped into a frenzy, the trees groaning and crashing amid the sudden onslaught. The worshipers inside pressed themselves together and glanced around, eyes wide and excited. The murmuring started up once more, rising and falling like the tide.

    The ritual was working.

    The priest rose his voice to boom out over the storm, “Nunc eget, Magnus.”

    Lightening flashed outside and thunder followed almost immediately after. A wave of excitement crashed over the throng of worshipers as they felt the ritual take hold.

    The priest raised his head, throwing his hood back to reveal wide, bloodshot eyes, while his lips pulled back in a feral smile to bare discolored teeth and bloody gums. The brilliant red of the flames cast a demonic mask over his face as he shouted,

    “Rise, Devourer, rise!”

    The chant was taken up by the buzzing throng at once. Their shouts bounced off the stone walls, voices upon voices echoing and spinning upward into the storm which raged even harder, hailstones as large as a grown man’s hand now plummeting toward the earth. The worshipers and the storm battled to be heard, the earth shaking with the force of the thunderous wind, their throats bleeding with the force of their shouts.

    Small stones began to fall from the sides of the cavern, the ancient stone cracking and crumbling under the force of the ritual. The worshipers began to stumble in their chanting, fear setting in. As they realized what they had done, one by one they broke rank and fled until all that was left was the high priest, still grinning madly as he repeated the powerful words.

    From deep within the cave came the sound of a great shifting. A presence left to sleep for thousands of years had been woken, and it was hungry.

    496 words
    Samantha J
    Special Challenge (mostly) accepted

    PS: Apologies for the bad Latin. I am not a Latin speaker. Google Translate took this one.

  8. With every prod the fire crackled and danced, illuminating the night with vermillion flames.

    “Will you stop that?” he asked, the irritation completely unmasked in his voice.

    I stared him straight in the eye as I poked at the flames again.

    He stood up from the log by the campfire, shoving his hands in his pockets, zipped up his threadbare hoodie, and began pacing. It made me nervous, but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of knowing it. “You aren’t taking this seriously,” he said.

    “I *am* taking this seriously. I just think your plan is stupid.”

    “I don’t hear you coming up with a better one,” he snapped back.

    It was true. He had hashed out some details at the diner this morning and I had mulled it over all day at work, picking at the hole in my jeans, trying desperately to come up with something – ANYTHING – else. But the idea of a new life, a fresh start, was so tempting I could almost taste it. I really tried to talk myself out of it, but it kept sounding more and more appealing.

    I prodded the fire again. With a loud HOOSH, one of the larger logs fell and rolled out of the stone circle in a violent spray of sparks. I absently kicked it away from me hoping that my shoes wouldn’t catch. “Are you absolutely sure about this? Is this what you really want?” I twisted my engagement ring. It had become such a nervous habit in the few weeks I’d been wearing it that I was beginning to get a callous underneath.

    It took him no time at all to walk around the fire and grab my hands, pull me close, and kiss me softly on the forehead. “Of course it is,” he said softly. I felt my insides melt along with the rest of my reservations.

    I sighed. “Then I’m with you. Always.”

    “Good,” he said. He turned his back on me and the fire and started walking to the car. Tomorrow, everything would be different. I would wake up in the morning a completely different person. A new life was waiting for me just on the other side of dawn.

    I heard him cock the shotgun just as I reached the passenger side door. He handed me a black ski mask and a handgun of my own. We climbed into the car in silence and sped off to my father’s bank, all of my thoughts bent on the vault and the freedom it would afford us.

    A new life, I repeated to myself. A new life.

    A new life.

    438 Words
    Special Challenge NOT Accepted
    Erin B.