Monday, January 19, 2015


Welcome back for another round of mayhem! I'm glad you're here. Go check out the prompts and write a story! Have fun!

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. (Allowable alterations listed below)
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 Rebekah Postupakalso known as @postupak or @flashfridayficRead her winning tale from last week here! Check out her blog here. When not fretting over her dragons, Rebekah spends her time goofing off at Flash! Friday and picking her jaw up off the ground over how amazing today’s flash writers are. She apologizes in advance for all the mischief about to ensue at FTT.  

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #2-29 is:

[He] [slowly] opened the window to drink in what [he] knew to be [his] very last sunrise.

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Give your protagonist a debilitating physical or mental condition. AND write a happy/satisfying ending!



  1. Tick Tock
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or
    452 words, special challenge accepted

    He opened the window to drink in what he knew to be his very last sunrise.

    It hadn’t been an easy decision. He knew Justin wouldn’t approve. He knew his mom would be shattered. His father, less likely so. Hadn’t he always disappointed the man as it was?

    He didn’t care. He’d had enough. Enough of the taunts. The whispers. The laughs.

    “Freak,” they’d shout, as he twitched his way down the hall.

    “Weirdo,” they’d mutter when the grunts got extra loud.

    He could control them sometimes. The tics, not the people. If he put all his energy into it, he could make his head stop jerking, his eyes stop blinking.

    But when he put all his energy into it, he had nothing left.

    Just like he had nothing left now. He’d given it all to her, yesterday. Privately, of course.

    She’d turned him down. She’d been sweet and everything, claiming his Tourette’s had nothing to do with it, that she just didn’t want to go out with anyone right now.

    But he knew the truth. He’d seen her flirting with that stupid Chad Krueger at lunch the very next period.

    Nothing left.

    His classmates mocked him. Little kids gawked at him. At least they were honest. It was the adults he couldn’t stand, the ones with the artificial smiles and eyes that never quite looked right at him.

    “I have Tourettes,” he’d wanted to scream. “I’m not invisible. It’s not catching.”

    He fingered the gun he’d pulled from his dad’s desk drawer. With my luck, they’ll think it was accidental. You know, a tic of the trigger.

    The sound of his alarm clock radio startled him. The gun bounced on the bed as he jerked around.

    “Did you see the article claiming Tim Howard’s Tourettes is what gives him those lightning-fast reflexes?” he heard the DJ say. “Some are saying that’s why he defended all those goals against Belgium.”

    Wait, what?

    He jumped up, ears soaking in every detail. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the gun teeter and begin to fall. His hand whipped out and caught it before it could hit the floor.

    He found himself staring down the barrel. Sweat beaded on his forehead. His insides felt as if all bile had broken loose. He breathed heavily, his eyes glued on that dark chamber.

    Carefully, so carefully, he set the gun back down on the bedspread. He’d find a way to sneak it back later.

    “Danny? Are you coming? You’re going to be late!”

    The breeze from the window felt good against his damp skin.

    “Just a minute, ma! I gotta look something up!” he called as he pulled up Google.

    He began to read.

    1. First timer and I boo booed - Wait, what? was supposed to be in italics.

  2. First Born (500 words and special challenge accepted)
    by @doctormikereddy
    He slowly opened the window to drink in what he knew to be his very last sunrise. In truth, it would also be the first in this current incarnation. While he'd lived he had embraced the interconnectedness of all things. The journey towards enlightenment. After he had died - the first of many deaths, though only that first one had, in part, been real - he had collected so many faiths. So many religions. And, slowly, discarded them all as worthless. He, who could no longer truly die, knew that promises of karma, judgement, retribution, were just mist clouding the imperfect minds of mortals. He had already judged. And had been judged in his turn.

    Now, the truth was finally dawning on him. Dawning in a literal sense. The bitter sweetness of millennia of searching for salvation weighed against the irony of its simplicity.

    The Sun had barely stirred from its local rest, kicking off the bedsheets of night, and setting them aflame across the horizon. He mused that it had been shaken awake by Death, who often walked in his shadow. And now he, first of his kind and, after crimson decades of night, the last, could meet both of the stalkers of the sky with bloody serenity.

    Wilde, himself a complex night creature, had once confided "We are each our own devil, and make this world our hell." How accidentally profound Oscar had been as they had shared sweet corruptions. Poor Oscar, whose youth was lost too soon, in a world not ready for his later wisdom.

    If only he'd listened then, though the thought must have been planted like a seed, to bear the fruit of his redemption. Long after Wilde's sins had first been delivered, forgotten and forgiven.

    He had first sought to cleanse the World of his kin. After killing a brother, it was simple to dispatch one's heirs. When he could, he asked the same question: "Why do we fear the dawn?" None had answered. At least not with an identifiable correctness. And yet he continued to search until none, save himself, were left to answer.

    And now here he was, as close as Modern Day Man would let him, to his first fall from grace. Others sins were forgotten, but not this. This was a 'keeper' after all.

    The place looked different, of course. More 'developed' as mortals would say. It was funny how they used the word where he would say 'corrupted'. Perched high up, he could see for miles of mud-daubed houses, temples and the occasional tower. It had taken weeks of careful travel to return to the scene of his first crime. Dust caking his nights like a chrysalis.

    Finally, he had solved the puzzle. His curse was but a larval stage. He felt bitterness at the simplicity he had missed, thousands of years ago. Do caterpillars fear the coming change? He was a phoenix, finally be given wings.

    The Sun finally rose and lifted dust to the Western winds.

    1. One typo "Others sins" should read "Other sins". There may be others :-(

  3. Splendid Isolation
    A.J. Walker

    Rebekah slowly opened the window to drink in what she knew to be her very last sunrise. Her plan was scuppered by an eastern front which brought a disappointing grey-wash sky.

    She’d known this day would come, when her past would catch up with her. It was at the very least what she deserved. Penance for the accident.

    She’d caused it. That’s what she’d been told. So accident wasn’t the right term was it? She was guilty of causing all those deaths. Young and old. Lives smudged out in messy instant. Her fault. Her penance.

    Rebekah sat on the edge of her bed feeling the bag against the small of her back. Her meagre possessions. These would be all she would take. Her choice. It was penance.

    The broken mirror said much to her and she rubbed her roughened knuckles. The room was strewn with boxes, bottles, cardboard detritus of a life that had fallen apart. She couldn’t look after herself anymore.

    The magazine picture of the limestone pinnacles pinned to the wall the only decoration. A clue if anyone wanted to look for her, should she be missed.

    Her watch told her it was time to go. She took it off and left it neatly on the bed. She threw the rucksack over one shoulder. It dug in painfully to her clavicle. Pain she must take. She needed it. It was the one thing that showed she was alive. She could control it, inflict it. Penance.

    The coach took her west. Another three progressively smaller buses took her into the mountains. She gulped when she first caught a glimpse of the monastery perched between the serrated teeth in perfect isolation. One of the monks was waiting for her at the stop and drove her up the rickety track in silence. She took tea with the monks, who were calming. There was no judgment. Not even questions.

    She was pointed to the peaks where she would find a west facing cave. Where she could sit and contemplate life; death, accidents and blame. She needed to feel it all. Sometimes she felt totally responsible and hated herself. Sometimes she felt it hadn’t been her fault and she’d hated herself more.

    As she walked through the mountainside brush she could see her cave in the distance. There were plenty of others but this cave chose her. The monks would bring her alms each day. She would get better out here or die trying.

    When she was a child Rebekah had wanted to live in cave, she hadn’t envisaged these circumstances. She never saw the sunrise, but she got to see many fiery sunsets. A dragon started appearing in her dreams and one day she scratched the outline of one onto the ceiling. It would be the one and only companion for her journey, it would look after her.

    As the weeks and months passed in her splendid isolation she realised she would get better.

    (493 words)


  4. Long Walks In The Dark

    She slowly opened the window to drink in what she knew to be her very last sunrise. The poison sat in a green bottle on the bedside table, and she stared at it, as if it could pour itself into her mouth. She knew by the end of the day, she would drink it and she would be dead. All the pain of the years of depression, the days she hadn’t been able to crawl out of bed, because the darkness seemed so total and complete, would simply melt away, and she would be no more. Gone, simply gone.

    Still, she woke up and she went through the motions of living. She had a sudden stamina that she hadn’t felt in years. The night before, her friend Elaine had called.

    “So there’s this guy,” she had said.

    “I don’t do men. I mean, who would want to be with me? Half the time I’m too depressed to even pull a comb through my own hair.”

    “He’s like you, Marty. I’d like you to meet him. I’m giving him your number, and you can’t stop me.”

    “Don’t bother,” she had said, because she had already planned to end it all.

    She made eggs on the stove, but the taste felt like rubber rolling around in her mouth. She flicked on one of the lights in the kitchen and it seemed so bright it hurt her eyes. She flicked it off again. Who needs lights anyway, she thought.

    She dumped the eggs trashcan, and she glanced at the clock: 11:00. She’d slept half the day away, but it didn’t matter. In fact, maybe instead of waiting until tonight she could just do it now, walk into the room and drink the flask of poison. It would be so easy, and she didn’t have anyone who would notice. It would take Elaine several days to realize she hadn’t heard from Marty, and besides Marty knew to her friends, few and far between, that sometimes it was a relief for them not to hear from her. They didn’t know what to say or how to help, and talking to them only made Marty feel worse. They seemed to think it was possible for her to puller herself out of this pit of despair, even when she knew it wasn’t.

    She flicked the T.V. on then off again. She opened a book, then closed it. She felt unsettled. She picked up her phone, and it vibrated in her hand.

    She clicked on the message icon, and this popped up:

    I like long walks in the dark, depending on whether my mood for the day is severely depressed or only a little bit down. Would you like to come with me one day?

    She smiled: the first smile in a long time. She walked to her room, picked up the poison and slid it into the drawer of the bedside table. She’d save it for another day.

    You name the place and time, she’d texted back.

    Word Count: 500 words
    Special Challenges Accepted

    1. Should just say "She dumped the eggs." Sorry for the typo.

  5. Life is but a tap away

    @geofflepard 497 words

    Special challenge accepted

    Someone slowly opened the window to let him drink in what he knew to be his very last sunrise.

    The someone spoke. 'Are you ready, James?'

    They’d done their best. Pretending they wanted to involve him. Like he really had any say in what they did or when they did it. They’d say, 'We're going to insert the drip now, James. Are you ready?' Like they would have stopped if he’d shaken his head. Even if they’d known the pain every needle caused him. He was never ready, that was the point. If he could have screamed he would have screamed them to a stop. But screaming, like sex was now an experience of the mind only.

    That was another thing with them. Their optimism. Either they said crap like, 'When you're better...' or 'When you start walking...' Or they said nothing. There were never any intermediate if this or if that. Can’t let reality intrude into his megaplegic life.

    And still they kept on touching him, prodding him and poking him even though each touch radiated agony across his whole being. They’d scanned his brain and found nothing like he was making it up. Fuckwits. Didn’t they see the pain sensors beaming lasers of hate at them? Were they so useless?

    They saw nothing. He was stuck on his bed surrounded by his oh so caring torturers, planning their next assault and sharing their plans with him while all the time he had tried to think himself dead.

    But you can't, can you? You can’t think life away. You can't reject nutrients when they're dripped into you; you can't stop breathing when you're on a ventilator.

    That scan had been his lowest point. Yet from the bottom of the pit it is easier to see the light at the top. This twitch of his finger, involuntary perhaps but they all talked about it as an ‘if’. If he can move his finger he can control a mouse. If he can control a mouse he can write and communicate. If this and if that.

    He had fought his body, until finally his finger did his bidding. They built him an empire of electronics, slowly giving him mobility and a voice.

    They wanted his story but they had forfeited their right to know. He kept his pain secret as he learnt new skills. Holding onto pain meant he wouldn't lose focus. And today, after trial and error he was going to be allowed to medicate himself. At last he controlled his destiny.

    The someone spoke again. 'This is Ms Scott, James. She's going to re-assess your motor function. She's hopeful, you know, given your improvement.'

    James tapped the pad. 'Any chance of sex?'

    Ms Scott smiled. 'Not with me, but these days, I don't see why not. It's an auto response after all.'

    If James could have frowned he would have. Maybe he would have to reassess things too. He tapped again. 'Can we talk about pain management?'

  6. Majestiflees, Supreme Evil
    499 Words
    Special challenge accepted

    He slowly opened the window to drink in what he knew to be his very last sunrise. Majestiflees’ mother was going to kill him when she found the bodies in the basement.

    She wasn’t supposed to be allowed in his workshop, but she’d make her way down there like she always did. She’d have some excuse about cleaning or trying to find her spectacles. Her nosiness was infuriating.

    Majestiflees waited until he heard her scream before hobbling down the stairs. He often slept in the workshop to avoid the painful climb, but last night the stench had forced him up to his sparse bedroom. He hadn’t slept a wink but at least he’d had a chance to lay down and stretch out his twisted leg.

    “Hey, Ma,” he said.

    “What on Earth is this?” She waved her hand over the carnage. The twenty-three virgin sacrifices had started to go off and were swarming with flies.

    “It’s my new project,” Majestiflees said. “I was going to tell you about it, I swear. These are sacrifices to the God of Death and Darkness and they’ll increase my powers tenfold. They have to be marinated for a bit before he’ll want to eat them, though.”

    “I’m not cleaning this one up,” Ma said. One slippered foot tapped impatiently in a puddle of old blood.

    “I know, Ma! I’ll clean it myself once it’s all finished.”

    “I don’t know what I’m going to do with you, Erob.”

    “It’s Majestiflees! And I’ve told you before, if you don’t like it, move back to your hovel. This isn’t your Palace of Evil, is it?” Majestiflees grabbed the railing and started to haul himself back up. The bodies still needed twelve hours in the solution before his true evil could begin.

    “Do you really think you’re going to be able to uphold the family tradition?” Ma asked.

    Majestiflees stopped on the third stair. “You don’t think killing twenty-three innocent men and women is a good start?”

    “Yes, I’m proud of your evil so far dear, but with your leg…”

    “With my leg nothing! I’ve come this far, and once I’ve finished, I’m going to be the Supreme Evil. Just you wait, Ma! I’m going to unleash such horrors on the world that it’ll make your heyday look like a cuddle fest.”

    Majestiflees had fought from birth to become the sorcerer he was today, and he wasn’t going to let his mother’s doubt stop him. His father would have supported him, if his mother hadn’t required his liver for that potion. Ma was always bringing him down.

    Ma took another look at the bodies, and her face softened.

    “It’s a disgusting mess, but you’ve made some progress,” she said. “I’m proud of you.”

    Majestiflees’ shriveled heart swelled with gladness.

    “Want to see the spell?” he asked.

    “Sure, honey,” Ma said. “We can look it over after a nice breakfast of newt testicles.”

    Majestiflees knew he’d done well, because those were his favourite – and he was still alive.

  7. Gideon Soars

    Gideon slowly opened the window to drink in what he knew to be his very last sunrise. A gentle breeze brought the aroma of chappaberry and the sea. In the distance an airship slid across the sky towards Sar-Chona. Just a few hours and he would be heading the same way.
    A bell dinged insistently. Gideon pulled himself over to the mechanical kidney unit and strapped himself in. For the next hour he watched the sun climb above the valley. Light flowed into his room, warming it, while the cold machine went about ensuring he would live another day.
    Stroking the smooth metal Gideon again wondered what sort of mind it took to come up with something like this. And how come they couldn’t make one small enough to fit inside you. Why could you have mek-mek hands, arms, legs, even heart, but not mek-mek kidneys or liver. One of life’s mysteries. Still, after today it would be immaterial.
    A little before noon an ælectropede arrived for him. Recumbent in the cool dark interior, Gideon slept. Already exhausted from the small exertions of the morning.
    He awoke when the door was opened. The surgeon and thesiourge were there to meet him, to assure him that it was still a go. Did he still want to proceed? Did he? The matter had been sorted weeks ago, months ago. Since then it had been a matter of waiting the required amount of time. Yes, he wanted to proceed, wanted to more than he had ever wanted anything.
    Already he needed another session in a kidney unit. They had a newer one here. It was sleeker than the one Gideon used at home, but still cumbersome. While his blood was filtered various people made him read and sign different forms.
    Afterwards the thesiourge sedated him.
    Gideon woke to darkness and cold. Stars shone in an infinite night. Solar receptors filled storage cells while Gideon investigated his new form. Gone was the frailty he had been born to, the steadily failing biology that required more and more machinery to sustain it. Now, he was machine. Crafted to search between the stars, created anew to soar heavenly vaults. The form chosen was perfect for the task. A balance of agility, of power, it was myth and legend made real. He looked around, registering constellations, and wondered which one he would head towards. A sensor cascade scrolled information through his neural interface, the mechanism linking his mind and the magnificent machine that was now his body. Receptors registered a sufficiency of power, not full power, but enough to begin.
    Gideon unfurled his wings.

    440 words - Special Challenge accepted

  8. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 472
    Special Challenge Accepted

    Of The Sea

    She thoughtfully opened the window to drink in what she knew to be her very last sunrise. It would be a relief, in a way. The bright rays always burned her too-pale flesh. The heat parched her dry throat. She preferred the night, the cool light of the stars and the moon, but nothing could replace her home.

    She traced a moist finger over the chipped, dry wood of the window frame, leaving a wet trail behind it. One last appearance in class today before the end. One last nod from the professor, one last clumsy bow from her chair as she took the diploma from the president's hand. She would look out over her classmates, watch their faces, and try her best not to feel smug. After all, when one applies for the position of Poseidon's daughter, one can't simply slip into the role on a whim. It takes hours of practice, of learning to use the gills, of working the mermaid tail, of combating the sea monsters, of wielding the trident with ease.

    She pitied them. They didn't know that they really had no chance, that all their training would be for naught.

    She had it different from the other applicants. The others tangled their tridents with the safety tethers that linked them to the surface. She released the tethers as soon as she slipped below surface, sliding her trident smoothly through the silver and green water. The others struggled with wrapping their gills so they worked properly, but she often breathed more easily if she loosened the gills, sometimes even letting them float away altogether.

    The others wouldn't let her in the dressing room with them as they strapped on their mermaid tails and settled onto their wheeled chairs to be transported to the boat. They whispered about her behind white hands and arching eyebrows. No one made fun of her to her face, but she knew what they were thinking each time she wheeled into the classroom or heaved for breath at the slightest gust of wind.

    The sun filtered through the window, its growing light sharpening and blazing, burning into her sensitive pupils, and she turned away, thankful that today she could finally go home, back to the green waters that comforted her.

    No longer would she have to live a half life with these two-legged creatures that sought total domination over land and sea.

    Tonight, her father would hold a banquet on the trenched floor of the Indian Ocean, and she could finally consummate the shape given her by the sea gods. She would swish her mermaid tail and breathe her sea water, her lungs fully expanding for the first time in years. She would raise her trident to the surface far above her and claim her kingdom.

    She would be Ariel, Queen of the Seas.

  9. Rose Ketring
    500 words
    Special Challenge Accepted

    "Clara Lux in Obscuro"

    She quietly opened the window to drink in what she knew to be her very last sunrise. The air outside was just starting to emerge from the night’s womb. An infant breeze met her at the window and slid like a ribbon across her uncovered shoulders and arms. Sarah opened her mouth filling it with the lilac and the clouds, taking it into her chest like a lover. Small porcelain hands felt along the windowpane in search of her golden glow lover.

    She was almost in a trance when her ears caught a lilting voice dancing amongst the robins and dandelions. It was as if the stranger was put there just for her. Sarah imagined that the silvery tone belonged to a young woman with untamed dark hair and the ocean trapped in her eyes. Her steps quick and excited to meet her man under the flowering trees. Sarah’s heart dipped slowly into its secret hiding space. Her soul had worn through the glue and tape and was now slowly seeping out.

    “There you are! Ready to get dressed for your big day?” Sarah followed the source of the interloper. She heard the familiar metallic jangle and felt a sharp edge nudge her thigh. “What are you doing all alone?” Grace whispered in her ear. She allowed Grace to guide her into her steel chariot and silently bade adieu to the morning’s babies.


    Her heart had began shuffling around in her stomach like a washing machine she had once felt. The air had taken on a sullen disposition. The space, the very air was crowding in. Where was her brother? The shuffling in her stomach turned into a fierce storm and spread its icy grip throughout her small frame. Sarah longed for the comfort kisses from the morning dew, but she had left its solace to wait for James. He promised to meet her here, to take her home. It had been exactly twenty seven days she had endured the sterile, detached ward. She took a deep breath demanding courage from the very heavens. She would not shed even one tear here.


    It was from these very heavens that sent James to her side. He banished the sullen and dispassionate odor of illness and melancholy in the instant she recognized the smell of sun, dark earth and peppermint in the room. “I can smell you James!” A deep laugh answered her cry and then his voice was by her ear. “I’ve come to kidnap the Princess…I guess you’ll have to do instead.” Sarah stuck her tongue out in the direction of his voice as he propelled her out the double doors. He directed her into the cool shadows of an immense tree, removing the worn bandage from her eyes. Peering from behind ruby curtains, Sarah hungered to open her eyes to gaze once more upon images that had lived in her dreams for so long. Tomorrow dream images will cease..she will see the sun.

  10. Fellowship

    He slowly opened the window to drink in what he knew to be his very last sunrise.

    The sky was painted a southwestern palette as oranges replaced purples. The air was crisp against his skin and even more so entering his fragile lungs. The vivid aroma of flowering plants mingled with the synthetic bacon from his breakfast.

    Synthetic, he thought. Soon my entire life will be synthetic. Fake food, fake sunlight, fake clothing. Fake life.

    It had been such a difficult decision. Was continuing to live, worth a self-imposed exile?

    He packed a few things, along with his medication bags and waited for a taxi. His parents came see him off.

    “Are you sure this is what you want?” his mother asked him again.

    “Die here or live there,” he answered weakly, “you would think a choice like that would be easier.”

    She put her hand on the side of his face. His immunity was so low, any contact could be fatal. Yet, it seemed so, necessary.

    At the spaceport they beamed him straight into his new home. It was only about 20 square feet, a cubicle without windows, surrounded by thousands of other cubicles holding isolation patients. The station orbited Mars, using its gravity, sunlight and resources to self-perpetuate.

    He arrived to solid white walls, as the computer began its orientation program. Out of the floor a chair and table raised up and he was invited to sit. Every surface, he learned, was a touch pad, and could morph into anything he wanted. Almost anything.

    He made the room look like his home, back on earth. He walked from room to room, half expecting to run into the edges of his holographic chamber, but of course they moved with him, keeping him safely in the center of the cubicle.

    Food, drink, clothing and many other amenities could be synthesized on request. Every need met, he thought, Every desire quenched It sounded like heaven, but felt like hell.

    His mom called, her face appearing on a wall.

    “Are you alright?” and before she caught herself, “Have you made any friends?”

    He laughed, and simply said, “No.”

    After the call, he went to the window and checked the sunset. He breathed deeply. No flowers. No bacon. No chill. Only antiseptic perfection.

    As he got stronger, he hiked the Grand Canyon, signed the declaration of independence, and shot a tyrannosaurus rex, all reproduced by the station. Its fake foot served as a chair in his fake living room.

    Eventually, he asked the computer about the patients around him.

    “Some residents of the isolation station do not wish to be disturbed. You may call those who desire contact though. Directly beside you is Roger: A male, aged 23 years, fourth year resident and suffering from auto-immune disorder. Do you wish to call him?”

    His eyes, brightened, “Absolutely, I will start with him, and after him I will call everyone else.”

    487 words
    Special challenge accepted

  11. @weylyn42
    484 words
    Special Challenge Accepted

    A New Day, A New Me

    Gilbert slowly opened the window to drink in what he knew to be his very last sunrise. Oh, they said he'd come back topside, when a cure was found, but he had delivered those platitudes enough to recognize them for what they were.

    They were the saccharine bedtime stories fed to children when the fairy tales became too sour – when the morals hidden in them hit too close to home.

    He knew how bodies worked, had spent most of his four productive decades devoted to their study, their repair. And he knew the condition he faced was degenerative to the point that it would devalue him in society. That his time as, well, him, could be counted in months.

    Rose tinted clouds hung low, the light of the sun chasing the indigo of pre-dawn across the sky into the neighboring settlements. The air was cool, damp, and he drank that in, too, trying to savor the sensation without words. Words wouldn't matter soon.

    But the feelings would.

    The idea of souls had been hotly debated for centuries, and where they went when the body ceased. Some even held to the idea of reincarnation, that the next life was informed by the quality of the current one.

    Eventually the sustainability movement caught up the debate as the population experienced inexplicable decline. Research into the "why" was halted when humanity figured out a way to counter it, and they poured in all their resources into building a better transfer.

    What was life but a fluke of energy? What were bodies but a means to keep that life going? And bodies could be built, the energy preserved.

    The curve of the sun rose orange, and blinding, but Gilbert refused to turn away as the first light of day warmed his face, his breath in the spring morning. A mockingbird started to sing, and he remembered how Anna had loved how adaptable the species was. She whistled every morning with them, and eventually they learned her song.

    Pain started deep in his stomach and radiated out, and he clenched his teeth, re-calculating his time to weeks, and wishing he'd taught the birds a song of his own. But he'd been busy, making the transfer process better. Or so he hoped. Each new life, gifted when a spent one ended, had that inevitable human quality – it was unique.

    But sometimes there was that faint glimmer, something underneath that gave him hope.

    A perfunctory knock preceded Jarmil into the room. The nurse tsked, and administered pain nanos. "Don't you worry, it'll be no time before you're topside again."

    But as who, Gilbert wondered.

    Jarmil helped him to the mobile chair, and moved to shut the window. The nurse paused, listening a moment.

    "I love this tune," he said. Gilbert couldn't help but return the smile that, despite being framed on a different face, was achingly familiar.

    "Me too."

  12. The Meridian Stone by Mark Driskill
    Challenge accepted
    wc. 500 without by lines
    Captain James painfully opened the window to drink in what he knew to be his very last sunrise. For two years Lord Brennan had tried to break him with daily visits to the rack.
    Ever since his capture from the Citadel, and the last remaining stronghold, of Toryn, the veteran Commander of the beleaguered Navy had kept the location of the secret Meridian stone locked within the borders of his mind.
    Toryn was home to Captain James and generations before him. Before Lord Brennans incursion, Toryn's vast empire had protected the smaller kingdoms of the Western realm and maintained peace. But six years, three assaults and forty three sea and land battles later, Toryn was against the ropes. Her fall would mean disaster for the lower kingdoms. One thing kept Brennans raiders from bringing the whole realm into ruin. The Meridian Stone.
    As long as the stone remained unmoved it provided a protective shield over the Throne of Toryn. Until two and a half years ago three hundred men had been entrusted with its secret location. Now only Captain James remained as the last living keeper of the secret of the Meridian Stone. Brennan could not afford for the secret to die with the captain.
    While Brennan had succeeded in demoralizing Toryn's forces, He had also exhausted his own military. Without the stone a second offensive would take years to prepare, and even then victory was not guaranteed.
    Captain James stood looking out the window of his tower prison, the sea below beckoning him. For two years he had resisted despite the loss of one hand, a permanently dislocated shoulder and a crushed hip. Every morning he dragged himself across the stone floor, then hoisted himself onto the small wooden table and look out the window toward the horizon.

    However, today, his fight would come to an end. He knew the only way to ensure the safety of the sacred stone and its secret was if it perished with him. He could only hope Toryn's forces would be able to rebuild in time.
    With a long stare, he soaked in the warm rays of the morning sun and drank in a lung full of salty air like a glass of fine wine coursing its way into his soul. Pulling himself to the ledge, he prepared to take the death flight to the rocks below.
    Suddenly something caught his eye. The ocean landscape was filled with ships, moving swift as eagles toward the coast. He recognized the flags! Hundreds of ships marked with the colors of the lower kingdoms he had spent his life defending, and armed to the teeth, speeding toward Brennans castle. Captain James fell back onto the floor, laughing through his tears.
    After the liberation, a search was made for Lord Brennan. His battered body was found on the rocky shore at the foot of the Citadel of Toryn. His death stiffened hands had to be pried from a strangely marked stone at the base of the cliff.

  13. @KateJulicher
    498 words
    Challenge not accepted

    You slowly open the window to drink in what you know to be your very last sunrise. This time of day has always been your favorite. It’s not just the smell of the dew or the first stirrings of birds. What you love is how the sky changes from moment to moment. You can’t see the change, it’s too subtle, but when you blink everything is new again.

    This sunrise is particularly glorious, as if the sky itself is trying to apologize to you for the injustice. It’s not your fault, you tell whoever might be listening. But then if anyone was listening you wouldn’t be standing here right now, waiting.

    You don’t need to pee, a nice side effect of not being allowed water since midnight. Your stomach is queasy with hunger or nervousness. You reach down and finger the tracker on your ankle. No point in running. You’d never get anywhere. This place may look like a luxury spa but it’s better guarded than the Sistine Chapel. A wave of regret washes over you. You’ve always wanted to see the Sistine Chapel with your own eyes. Too late for that now. Though perhaps your own eyes will see it after all?

    Someone knocks at the door. Time to go, she says. You turn. She’s a pleasant enough looking woman dressed in those silly scrubs that look like pajamas. Her close-cropped gray hair contrasts with the pink teddy bear design. Silly sort of thing to notice at a time like this. But you’d always heard that a condemned man notices things more vividly. The world seems sweeter when you know it’s transitory.

    Don’t worry, the nurse says. It’ll be fast. The doctor’s the best there is at this. You won’t feel a thing.

    You follow, feeling numb, taking a last glance back at the patch of blue sky beyond the window. The big orderlies in the hall strap you to a gurney. They wheel you down. you stare up at the ceiling, counting tiles. The gurney pauses outside the operating room.

    They wheel you in and in moments you’re hooked up to a dozen tubes. Where’s the doctor, you ask. He’ll come in after you’re under.

    So you’ll never have a chance to see his face. Well. Maybe that’s for the best.

    He’ll talk to you after, the nurse assures you. Don’t worry. This is painless. We do it all the time.

    Now the panic is rising. Stop, you say, but they won’t listen, not with the gray-suited businessman in the corner watching them. He comes forward at last, checks your fingerprint against the one on his contract, and nods.

    Start the drip, the nurse says. The last thing you see before losing consciousness, the last thing you’ll ever see, is the tiny bio-tainer they’ve got set up. It’s got a pair of receptacles, made for a single purpose.

    Made to keep your eyes fresh until they can be sold to the highest bidder.

  14. Last Days

    I pull open the window to drink in what I know to be my very last sunrise. Through the iron bars is the freedom I once had. My father’s kingdom is spread before me. It’s a sea of purple and cyan flowers eagerly waiting the day.
    I have dreaded this day since I discovered my love for the ladies. Never again will I indulge in the apricot taste of Meredith’s lips. Neither shall I enjoy how Alexendra’s shoulders smell of quince. Gone is Audre’s perfect body that made those years training to be the perfect ruler bearable. They, and the children that they and their husbands know are mine, are lost to me now. Were I king, I could claim my loves, and recognize our children. Now, if I were to do so, they’d be slaughtered, and we may find ourselves at war.
    Neither has my father had the good graces to die, nor my older brother the misfortune to have a battle turn against him. Five years ago, the Eyekcub captured my brother in battle. The throne was mine before my father paid a huge ransom. I shall never forgive him for that.
    With my brother safely protecting the family line my father no longer has need of me. My life is forfeit.
    “Why are you not dressed?” the Chamberlain bellows as he enters the room.
    I contemplate prying the bars off and jumping.
    The Chamberlain spins me and backhand slaps me.
    I don’t flinch—I’ve been hit before.
    “You will not ruin your father’s big day,” he says.
    I take a battle stance.
    The Chamberlain signals his men. Despite a ferocious defense, they grab me. They force the fool’s outfit on me, complete with hunch and bloated belly. The strap a grotesque mask to my face, and shove a silly hat on my head. They leave the traditional gloves off since my hands are scarred and broken from battle and punishments. My real life is worse than their costumes.
    The men shackle my arms and drag me to the Grand Hall through a side entrance. Goodbye my loves.
    The Vicar himself awaits me. A modest gathering of our nobility is present. The second sons of the best houses witness my undoing. Audre’s husband lounges in the third row. The loathing from him is palpable. Congratulations sir, you won.
    The main doors crash open. A person—I hope—clad in leathers and skulls strides to me. From the gait I can tell it’s a she. When she reaches me, the Vicar hands her a sword. She now decides me fate.
    She holds the sword next to my mask.
    I hold my breath and stare at my feet waiting the inevitable. The crowd is silent.
    Boredom rallies my courage. She’ll have to kill me while I stare back. I raise my eyes to meet the most caring eyes ever.
    In a guttural language she speaks. I know not the words, but I know the meaning. She takes my mangled hands. She chooses me.

    500 Words
    Challenge accepted (assuming broken hands and being a putz count)

  15. A Conversation in the Airport Lounge
    440 words, special challenge accepted

    He hurriedly opened the window to drink in what she knew to be his very last sunrise. She was beautiful, in a movie star librarian sort of way: a brunette with a ready smile and green eyes that lit up behind her glasses as his video chat window opened. She laughed to see him, and empty cocktail glasses lined up in front of him. I busied myself stacking chairs onto the tables, pretending not to eavesdrop.

    "Isn't it a tad early to be drinking?" her voice echoed through the empty room.

    "Early here, but isn't it five o'clock there?" He sipped his orange tropical concoction through a bright red bendy straw. Then he ran his hand through his disheveled hair, grimacing as he brushed a patch of shaved skin on the back of his neck. Those scars must have still been raw. "Besides, I'll be crammed inside an AirBus for the next fourteen hours."

    "Enjoy it while you can, mister," she chided. "There'll be none of that stuff when you get home! And no more climbing volcanoes!"

    "No danger of that, love." A floorboard squeaked beneath his wheelchair as he rolled away from the table, showing her the casts on both his legs. "Very few volcanoes have wheelchair ramps. Besides," he wheeled forward and leaned close to the webcam, scraggly beard brushing his laptop screen, "I get drunk enough off of you and your designated-driver love."

    Across an ocean of internet, she rolled her eyes. "Sappy. Are you sure the painkillers have worn off?"

    "I'm clean and sober! Except for the alcohol, of course!" He raised his glass to his laptop in a toast. "To being out of that hospital at long last!"

    "Cheers!" She pantomimed a glass clinking. "Anyway, gotta run. After-hours faculty meeting on campus. I'll meet you at the airport tomorrow."

    "Give the Dean my regards. Tell him I have lots of receipts to reimburse. Miss you!"

    After a couple overdramatic blown kisses, the video chat ended. He shut his laptop and returned it to his rollaboard luggage.

    I approached to collect his empty glasses. "Would you like another Tequila Sunrise, sir?"

    "Hindi po." He shook his head and dug around in his pocket. "I have to catch a plane back to my humdrum life. Could you wheel my luggage to the door?"

    "I can wheel it all the way to your gate, sir." I extended the handle of his carry-on luggage. "Most people are not so happy to leave here as you are."

    As he dropped a fistful of coins onto the table, he smiled. "Most people who get on a plane here are leaving paradise."

  16. Ebon slowly opened the window to drink in what he knew to be his very last sunrise. He hoped the morning breeze would cool his anger, but all it did was tickle the curtains across his face. He pushed them aside with a big toe. The argument with Uncle seethed through him.
    Who ever heard of a EbonWing without wings?
    His twin sister’s fingers caressed his back like rivulets of water, usually a comfort. He glared at the red eye of the sun. Today, he wished Luna’d take her moony touch somewhere else.
    "Last day for us," she said.
    Tonight they would break open the chrysalises of their human existence to take their parents’ places in the night sky, shadow steed and lunar rider herding the stars. Unlike their parents, though, they wouldn’t be trading daylight for flight.
    Think of your sister.
    Ebon imagined himself as a lumbering dinosaur of an EbonWing and Luna as MoonRider bobbling on his ungainly back trying not to grimace.
    He bumped her hand away with a heel, and Uncle’s words spilled out of him: "I’m not your martyrdom."
    "You don’t think I’m afraid too?" she asked.
    Ice locked up his anger. Luna couldn’t be afraid. He hadn’t realized how much he’d propped himself up on her confidence until it dissolved underneath him.
    "Cousin Umber—" Ebon choughed.
    "I don’t want another steed," she said flatly.
    "At least you could have flight." And he’d end his life a human grub.
    She leaned on the windowsill, plucked at the pinned sleeve of his tunic. "Now who’s playing the martyr?"
    The sun heaved itself higher, harsh light spotlighting their uncertainty. Ebon finally said, "What if it can’t work?"
    "It will." The breeze twisted her words away.
    They remained at the bay window. The silence trembled with apprehension and nostalgia as the twins absorbed the last blue sky their eyes would behold.
    The sun bundled away the new moon. His sister gasped. Her form shimmered away before he could reach out to her. He knew the rider shifted before the steed, but he still panicked around being left behind. What if the transformation rejected a boy without arms?
    The last traces of dusk scattered from the horizon and the final glow of noctilucence released the clouds to darkness. At last the transformation slid into him.
    EbonWing strode out into the night, the sidewalk fractured under his claws. Starlight prickled the scales over his shoulders. He felt the tug of the astral strays, the ones he and MoonRider were tasked with guiding back into their spheres.
    Not a lot of time to acclimate. MoonRider said, lighting on his back.
    She gave him the rein and before he could stop himself, he mounted the night. The fabric of darkness yielded to his step. Startled, he nearly rolled back to earth, but MoonRider steered him back.
    You knew? he asked.

    Wouldn't matter. I'd hook stars from the ground.

    He was EbonWing—and he didn’t need wings to cross the frontier of space.