Monday, August 11, 2014


Welcome back for another round!!! I'm gearing up for GenCon Indy this weekend, so I have a lot to prepare and not a lot of time. My good friend, crit partner, and previous FTT winner Kate Julicher won the Baen short story contest and I'm excited to cheer her on! So, no more from me - Go write! :)

If you haven't read the full version of the rules, go here. Otherwise, here's the short version:

1. Start with the given first sentence.
2. Up to 500 words
3. Keep it clean (nothing rated R or above)
4. Optional Special Challenge
5. Stories submitted must be your own work, using characters and worlds that you have created. Sorry, no fanfiction.
6. Include: Twitter/email, word count, Special Challenge accepted
7. The challenge is open for 24 hours on Tuesday EST

Oh, and feel free to change pronounspunctuationtense, 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 Carolyn Astfalk. Also known as @CMAstfalk. Read her winning tale from last week here! Link to her Facebook author page here. This is what she has to say about herself: I'm a stay-at-home mom to four kids, and over the last four years have managed to mostly complete four novels that I would best describe as Catholic romance/fiction, which is an itty, bitty, tiny genre. I don't have the signed contract yet, but one should be published in 2015. (Fingers crossed.)

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #2-6 is:

[His] was the last face [I] expected to see [outside my front door].

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

-No colors.
-Include at least one of each: Land animal, sea creature, winged creature.
-Include the name of a fairy tale character. Hint: not Snow White (the color thing...) ;)



  1. Mommy Dearest

    Hers was the last face I expected to see outside the cave door, but there she was, hunched over, greasy hair, warty nose, raven on her shoulder, like the past five years hadn’t even happened.

    “Cinderella, tis I!” she rasped, doing a skittish dance with her feet and finishing with a cackle.

    “I see you’ve been taking your Creepy Pills, Mother,” I said, sighing and stepping back so she could come in. “And it’s Rapunzel.”

    “All you girls look the same,” she said, shuffling past me with a shrug, “you, Cindy, Snow-Whats-Her-Name, Rose-Something-or-Other, Belle, Dusk—”


    “Aurora? Huh. Well, you try giving unmedicated birth to ten famous princesses and see how good a job you do with names.”

    “You’re a marvel, Mother.” I heard my own bright-eyed little baby gurgle in the other room and cleared my throat loudly. “So! What brings you to this dull little corner of the kingdom?”

    She flopped into a chair and said nothing, instead staring around the room making odd but soft, whale-like screeches.

    After spending a couple decades locked in a tall tower by a witch, though, I had mastered patience; so I tossed her a light smile and resumed preparing lunch. It was just little Tenebrae and me today, which meant a simple menu of chicken, ham, and smoked pork loin, capped by delicate slices of roasted lamb. My stomach growled. Only two hours past a glorious breakfast of dried fish with goat’s milk, and already I was hungry. I wondered vaguely if I was pregnant again.

    Oh. My mother had said something.

    “What was that?”

    “Smells good, I said!” she shouted.

    “Thank you.” Hmm, what had I done with the leftover pheasant?

    “Don’t suppose you have any cabbage to go with it? Any kind would do—I just get this hankering sometimes, for a head of fresh, gr—”


    “What? Can’t a person feel in the mood for some gr—”

    “MOTHER!” I slammed the meat fork on the counter and whirled to face her. “Will you please do me the courtesy of not mentioning that word! Or have you forgotten how I wound up in a tower in the first place?”

    She studied me curiously. “That was you? I thought you were the one always eating veggies under your bed.”

    “That was Pisa.”

    “Are you the one who read a romance novel during your wedding vows?”


    “Fired the scullery maid so you could scrub the hearth yourself?”


    “Well, shoot. Which one of you is good at dragons?”

    For the first time I noticed her singed brows. “Aurora, but she’s—”

    She leapt to her feet and hurled herself to the door. “Aurora! Then off I go. Duty and adventure call!”

    “But Mother—!” My protests slogged through the air of a now-empty room.

    I sighed again and turned back to the food. It wasn’t easy having a deranged mother; rather miraculous, actually, that we girls had survived her parenting unscathed.

    (Wouldn’t bacon go great with this??)

    498 words
    Special challenge: Yeah, baby, and that was FUN!

  2. The Last Edge of Night

    “Yours was the last face I expected to see on the other side of my bar," Grimm said. "That a cup of Joe would be worth risking your life for.”
    “My one weakness.”
    “You believed I would have forgiven you, but you were wrong.”
    “That was three years ago,” Lorelei said.
    “Now you’re back. You don’t heed warnings well, do you?”
    “I’d hoped we could talk.” Lorelei shifted foot to foot and met his gaze. “Without you trying to kill me.”
    “If I were trying to kill you, you’d be dead.” Grimm went back to wiping the bar. “Barely a fortnight passes that my chest doesn’t pain me.”
    “Just talk. Can’t we—“
    “The time for conversation was before you took me for everything of value I owned, including my self-respect.”
    “I didn’t take everything. You have the bar.”
    “No. I have it now. I sold my last chicken and the seahorse to purchase this place.”
    “The dragon?”
    “Left.” Grim stepped back when Lorelei reached a hand toward him. “Na. Not this time. Twice is twice too many.”
    “I’d say I’m sorry—“
    “Hold your lies. What is it you want this time, my blood?”
    Lorelei smiled in a way that sent shivers down Grimm’s back.
    “You’re serious? You want my blood?”
    “A few drops.”
    “Why?” Grimm rubbed a spot in the center of his chest.
    “You’re the last son of a great wizard.”
    “And you think what? It’s in my blood sort of speak? I’m no kind of a wizard. I’m just an ordinary man. In every way.”
    “You’re not.” Her face turned somber when she said, “I really did love you once.”
    “Bullshit. You don’t love yourself and aren’t capable of giving two shits about anyone else.” Grimm poured coffee in a mug adorned with skull and crossbones. He bent beneath the bar for a tub of whip cream adding a dollop to the sludge. Then he drew his left index finger through the surface and sucked the drips from his finger as he slid the mug across the wood that separated them.
    “For the road,” he said with a nod.
    “You don’t want to hear my offer first?” Lorelei wrapped her dainty hands around the ceramic vessel and inhaled of the sweet aroma.
    “You tore my heart out with your bare hands and stomped on it.” If only that wasn’t the truth.
    “I gave it back,” she said dismissively.
    “Mangled beyond repair. I can’t imagine anything you could offer that would sway me.” He jerked his head at the mug. “Now drink up before I throw you out.”
    Grimm held his breath while Lorelei sipped the contents with the delicacy of a winged bird. But it did her little good. Before the last drop slipped over those pouty lips, her blood had begun to froth and her eyes bulged. By the time he’d thrown her into the gutter those flawless features had turned leathery and brittle.
    “Only your death for payment,” he whispered into the still night.

    500 words
    Challenge accepted.

  3. The Wolf At The Door

    His was the last face I expected to see outside my door. I crossed my arms over my chest and glared at him. "What are you doing here?" I snarled, teeth bared threateningly. The late day sun threw a dark shadow across the yard. My sheep baaed uneasily in their fold as the light breeze carried his scent to them. My crook of solid oak rested out of sight just inside the doorway, ready to hand.

    "Now, now, don't be like that, 'Peeps." He drawled, all suave charm, which is what had got me into trouble the first time around.

    "Don't call me that!" I snapped irritably.

    "Little Bo then, only you're not so little now are you?" He smirked at me. His tongue lolled out from between his sharply pointed teeth. He inhaled deeply through his long muzzle. "I'd say that you're a prime bit of female now, aren't you?" He stood tall on his hind legs, his fur groomed smooth. "Maybe you and I can get together later, hmm?" He leered at my chest. His beady eyes gleamed lustfully.

    I glanced down, my crossed arms had plumped up my breasts up over my shepherdess' dress, hastily I dropped them. "So not going to happen! What do you want Wolf?"

    "I've got a caper lined up that you'd be perfect for."

    I rolled my eyes in disbelief. "Like I'd trust you after what happened last time." I sneered.

    "Hey I did my part, it's not my fault that your cousin Riding Hood wound up inheriting everything from your grandmother." He protested.

    "Sure, it's not." I said disgustedly.

    "You should've checked the will first." He chided me.

    "That's true." I conceded.

    "I imagine by now that you've heard about my lastest insurance scheme, the one with the houses built of straw, wood, and brick?" He said insinuatingly.

    "That was you Big Bad?" I said impressed.

    "None other." He stated immodestly, buffing a sharp clawed paw against the bright broadcloth vest he wore.

    "That was one sweet job. I could use some extra income." I stood in deep thought for several minutes. Finally I sighed heavily. "All right, come on in and we'll talk about it."

    He whistled sharply. "C'mon boys, it's okay!" He yelled to the woods. The three pigs (no relation) were the first to emerge. They waddled forward, pork bellies waggling; followed by a woodsman, shiny axe sharply honed; a dragon whose wings flapped nervously, smoke trickling from his nostrils; and weirdest of all, a gigantic kraken, tentacles holding its slimy squishy soft body clear of the ground.

    I nodded in recognition to the woodsman. He swept me a deep bow as did the pigs. "What's up with the kraken?" I whispered out of the corner of my mouth.

    "He'll be responsible for our escape route." Wolf replied.

    "And the dragon?"

    "He's our diversion."

    "Some diversion, talk about overkill." I muttered skeptically. "I can't wait to hear this." I lead our motley company into the cottage, easing the door shut.

    498 Words
    Special Challenge Accepted

  4. The Witness

    His was the last face I expected to see at my trial. And after hearing witness after witness point out my faults, lies, short-coming and my sins—especially my sins—His was the last face I wanted to see.

    I hadn’t expected my life to end this way. I hadn’t expected eternity to start this way. I had been put on trial and humiliated, as my every mistake was highlighted by those who most wanted to gloat over my failures.

    The small kid in the neighborhood that nobody wanted to play with described me as a bully. The girls I dated in high school talked about me like I was a whoremonger. Business associates who had seen me behave less than scrupulously all had something to say.

    I couldn’t deny any of the charges, because I knew each witness was telling the truth. I was guilty. The worst part was knowing all along they were right.

    Then when I was sure things couldn’t get any worse, He showed up. I went from trembling to convulsing. I went from being upset to being paralyzed with fear. I know I let Him down more than any of the others. I know He has more reason to testify against me than all the others combined. I can’t bring myself to look at Him as he walks by.

    After He passes by, I steal a glance to see Him consulting with the Judge. As He turns to face the courtroom, I hide my face again. But no words of testimony were spoken.

    He walked up and lifted by face to look into my eyes. He said, “I already forgave you. I already paid the penalty for you. Come with me.”

    I followed Him out of the courtroom. I followed Him into eternity.

    298 Words
    Special Challenge not accepted.

  5. The Logistics of Fish-Ownership

    Samantha J.

    His was the last face I expected to see outside the window. I mean, why would he be here? How could he be here? I hadn’t seen Peter since our junior year of high school.

    It’s hard to keep in touch with a dead guy.

    You’d think I would have been scared, seeing my dead friend outside my window, but the fact that he was hanging onto a tree branch and making stupid faces at me kinda lessened the terror. Still, I froze for a minute. It was my cat bumping into my ankles that sent me stumbling toward the window.

    As soon as I yanked it open, Peter fell through with a yelp, upsetting a bird’s nest in the process. A chorus of angry chirps erupted, and I slammed the window shut as fast as I could.

    Peter was face down on the floor. It could have been a scene from our high school years, except for the fact that he wasn't breathing.

    “Well,” I said. “This is a surprise.”

    “You’re much calmer than I expected,” Peter said as he rolled over. “How long have I been gone?”

    “Five years,” I answered. “So I figure there’s gotta be a good reason you’re here. Dead guys don’t generally wander around for no reason.”

    Peter stood, dirt tumbling from his hair. He looked exactly the same as he had at the funeral; you’d think he’d have started decomposing by now, but I guess all those chemicals we pump into ‘em are pretty effective.

    “I hate to disappoint you,” he shrugged, “but I’m just here to get my fish.”

    “You… what?”

    “You know, Gretel? You’ve been feeding her, haven’t you? I left clear instructions for her to be given to you. You were supposed to look after her.”

    “Are you serious?” I couldn’t help but feel a little offended. I mean, come on. The fish? “What are you even going to do with it?”

    “I’m going to take her home, obviously. She’s my pet. What else would I do with her?”

    I blinked at him.

    “But… Where do you live?”

    “That’s pretty insensitive, Lisa,” Peter said, frowning. “In case you’ve forgotten, I’m not exactly “living” anywhere.”

    “So why do you need the fish?”

    “Because I get lonely!”

    I gaped. I stared. I tried to form a logical thought.

    “But you’re dead.”

    Peter rolled his eyes heavenward.

    “Yes, we’ve established that. Why should being dead preclude me from having a pet?”

    “Okay, you know what?” I threw my hands into the air. “Fine. I don’t even care. Take the fish. She’s in the guest room.”

    I ignored his thanks and turned back to my book as he left the room. Should I have felt nervous about a dead guy wandering around my house? Maybe. But it was Peter. He'd always been kinda weird, but he was never malicious. Out of all the zombies you could run into, he was probably the nicest.

    “Hey, Lisa?”


    “…I need help moving the tank.”

    Of course.

    500 words
    Special Challenge Accepted

  6. Monster

    His was the last face I expected to see outside my iron door. I unchained the rusted locks. He walked past me and my nostrils bristled at the stench of decaying flesh emitted from him. He took off his hat and hung it on the Minotaur horns mounted on the wall. With his face unhidden and the light of the candelabra flickering, Frankenstein’s Monster looked more horrific than even the first day the Doctor breathed electrical life into him. I couldn’t look away. His face haunted my dreams.

    “Igor,” rasped the Monster, speaking like his lungs were full of dust from a long forgotten attic. I shook myself as much as possible to break my stare. “I’ve been searching for Father.”

    “I…I have not seen The Great Doctor since the incident,” I stammered. The Monster’s eyes grew misty and the memory of that fateful night flooded my senses. The lab had been bombarded with hostile villages ever since The Doctor’s Creation breathed its first breath. We barricaded the doors. But we did not expect an even greater threat to come from above. Dracula’s army of bloodsuckers attacked through the skylights. Their giant wings shattered the glass and cascaded upon us. Only the Monster fought his way out. At least, when the Doctor and I were captured, the Monster was still fighting. The flying bat army took the Doctor and I directly to Dracula himself. Doctor Frankenstein was removed from the room and Dracula told me I had a special purpose…

    “I have searched everywhere,” said The Monster, pulling me back into the present. “I heard Dracula had a lair in the north. I spoke with the merman king. He was the first who didn’t scream in fear at my face. He pointed me higher to the mountains to a colony of werewolves. I’ve been all over looking for Father.” he said, trailing off. The tears from his eyes nestled in the scars of his face, making them shimmer in the candlelight. He was terrifying. He turned his back towards me. I started to walk forward but the Monster spoke again, this time, less hollow sounding.

    “But then I found him. Dracula,” he sneered the name. He spun around and faced me. I felt my lungs tighten in my chest. “His army lay dead around him and my hands were around his throat. I told him I wouldn’t rest until all of his kind were dead. And he laughed. Laughed! And said it was ironic.” He paused and I felt the hair on my arms and neck rise like an electrical storm. “He said in order to kill all his kind I would have to kill my Father and his friend.”

    He knew. I felt the wings on my back burst open. Ever since I had been bitten by Dracula himself, I was no longer human. And it was my mission from Dracula to kill the Frankenstein Monster. Just as it had been my mission from the Doctor to create him.

    500 Words
    Special Challenge

  7. The Ex

    His was the last face I expected to see outside my front door.

    “All sales are final,” I told him, and tried shut him out just as he opened his mouth to speak.

    “Wait!” He shoved a booted foot forward, blocking the progress of the door. The great slab landed hard against his toes. I saw his jaw tense with pain. “I just want to speak to you.” This, spoken around clenched teeth.

    My fingers flexed around the latch. “One minute,” I told him, and opened the door, releasing his foot back to him. He winced again as he put his weight on it, but when he raised his eyes, I saw an attempt at a smile.

    “Moira,” he said, but I began to shake my head.

    “You gave up permission to call me that.”

    He sighed, stamped his injured foot on my porch, and tried again. “Miss Delaney.”

    “Better,” I nodded.

    “The potion…”

    “... is fake,” I finished for him. “I told you this. A bit of herbs and spices. A dash of honey to make it go down more smoothly. But at the most, it won’t do more than cure your bad breath.”

    “It wasn’t for me,” he said, chin dipping down toward his chest. “But she wanted it, thought it would make our love stronger…”

    “Your girl is a fool.”

    “Well, she…”

    “You’re a fool,” I added, already tired of this. “Go home. Go home to your lovely house and your lovely girl and all the riches and happiness she’s brought to you.”

    “Moira,” he said again, and I didn’t have the heart to chastise him for it. “I’m sorry.”

    My hand found its way back to the latch. “Go home, Finn.”

    “I should never have let you go,” he said then, his voice a whisper. “But I couldn’t stand to be poor anymore. To toil and slog my way through life, I was… I was tired of it.”

    I felt my head nodding along with his words. “And I gave you nothing,” I said, my voice strong where his was weak. “Except everything I had.”

    “You mix concoctions,” he said, the insult plain as day. “You’ve no real power, no skill with charms. And I was supposed to work my fingers to the bone, for the both of us?”

    “You’re right,” I told him, my eyes cast down, a study in penitence. “I’ve no skill with charms.”

    Another sigh. “Moira, I-”

    A whisper of a word was all I needed to speak, and I watched his form diminish. His eyes widened, briefly, before they disappeared, before he disappeared. Or rather, before he shrank down, landing with a plop on the doorstep, all soft fur and shiny eyes and four paws, complete with a wriggling, hairless tale.

    “No skill with charms at all,” I said, and scooped up the mouse with my hands. “But that, my dear, was only a bit of transfiguration. And if you were smart, you would have learned to tell the difference.”

    498 Words
    Special Challenge NOT Accepted

  8. Charming

    Hers was the last face you expected to see outside your office door. You shake cobwebs out of your head, trying to battle through the confusion. You unlock the door, but then walk to your desk it the dingy office.
    She walks in and all the emotions are back. Love, lust, hurt and loss assail you. Her perfume makes every part of your body demand her. You always were helpless when she broke out the cinnamon scents.
    “Is that any way to greet me? After all we’ve been through.”
    She looks in better shape now that you’ve seen her before. It’s like those nights never happened. The cuts have healed — on her. You can still feel the burn where your flesh surrendered to steel and leather.
    “Are you going to invite me in or do I have to wait until you leave?” Her cat’s eyes blink from the sides.
    You fight the urge to grab the chair and do something foolish. “Leave,” You say.
    Her raven cackle stirs primal desires. You have to concentrate to regain focus.
    “You failed witch. Leave.”
    With a feline grave she steps across the threshold. She must see you shock, because she says, “Oh, did you think I couldn’t do that? Come now my Prince. I was giving you the option to be — what was it they called you? Oh yes, Charming.”
    The name sears in your memory. Pain and guilt. The stallion’s finale sigh dances in your mind. The lobster you threw in the pot to see if they scream. The vulture you shot just so you could have it stuffed. A lifetime of suffering that you inflicted summoned by that one horrible name.
    “Charming. Come, I have someone you must meet.” Her hand is ice, draining life where it touches your chest.
    Rage powers you to throw the witch across the room. She lands in a heap in the fire — but does not burn. Her howls of laughter make you feel worse.
    “That name is not me,” you say through stinging tears. “It never was. Now, I am worthless.”
    She stands, and shakes off the dust. Even in dirt she looks regal. “You without merit? Stop trying to think. Charming never was good at that. But don’t fret, the scars mean nothing. Princesses are so broken that they prefer non-perfect men.”
    You stand straighter, stronger.
    “There you go. Now, let’s tousle your hair. No Princess wants a man with better hair than theirs.”

    411 Words
    Special Challenge Accepted
    Team: No Tag Back

  9. High Heel

    His was the last face I expected to see outside my front door. The pearls that were his eyes pierced me, while my eyes gazed upon the cluttered crow feathers resting atop his head. He was dressed in the bleakness of a city on a dull, dreary day. He stared through me, silently, for what seemed like an eternity.

    “Michael, what are you doing here? How did you find me? ” I said. His reply was a high heel, dressed in death’s cloak, a memento from a time forgotten. It would’ve been best had it stayed forgotten.

    “Your glass slipper, my lady,” he said, face solemn.

    “Michael, this isn’t funny. What the hell are you thinking? And, for the record, the Cinderella thing isn’t cute; it loses its appeal after the age of six.”

    “It’s been ten years. I’ve looked for you. Why didn’t you look for me?”

    Ten years ago. The memories flooded my mind, like an ocean wave engulfing a ship. His hungry wolf gaze, the cat and mouse games we played, and the final predatory strike that led to the consummation of our forbidden relationship. That night on the cruise ship, I stumbled back to my room, back to my seasick husband and sank the betrayal to the deepest depths of my being. With the birth of Marie it sank even deeper and was quickly forgotten. Now it shot out of the depths like Ahab’s monster.

    “Go away Michael. I’m a married woman. I have kids. I’m happy. Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

    “Why didn’t you look for me?”

    “Please Michael, please just go away. You can’t be here.” His cloudy eyes stared past me.

    “Mommy, who are you talking to?” Marie asked.

    “No one, dear.” I said turning toward her.

    “I’ll leave. I’m sorry,” Michael said behind me.

    Marie, dear, go upstairs and I’ll tuck you back in sweetie,” I said

    “Ok Mommy,” she said, craning her neck to see past my obstructing body.

    I turned back to Michael, but in his place was a heel, my heel, aged and damaged. I stared at it in disbelief. From the heel’s toe box a pair of ragged claws emerged. A tiny crab scuttled across the high heel.

    “Mommy, are you coming?” Marie called.

    “Yes dear.”

    I shut the doors, the one directly in front of me and the one to my past, and looked to the top of the stairs, to my beautiful, lanky girl. It was hard to believe that in a couple of months she would be ten years old. A beautiful, lanky, ten year old girl.

    Carlos Orozco
    434 words
    Special Challenge: Accepted