Monday, August 10, 2015


So... My kiddos started school last week. We've had a bit of a difficult adjustment. I'm exhausted; they're even more so. I hope this week settles things (like tempers and expectations) to manageable levels. So cheer me up, please? Go check out this week's prompt and write something amazing. (And thanks for stopping by!)

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 D.E. Park. Read his winning tale from last week here! Dave (D. E. Park) spends his spare time writing flash and micro fiction, and just attempting to get enough sleep. He’s a first-generation computer nerd (older than the internet), a lifetime devourer of SF&F (loser geek), even a comic book fan (three strikes!). He actually hasn’t been actively writing for very long (you can't tell?) He lives in Chicagoland with his wife Annie. Follow him @parkinkspot and check out his writing blog at

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #3-6 is:

Stealing this opener from Ray Bradbury, from Something Wicked This Way Comes:
The seller of [lightning rods] arrived just [before] [the storm].

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Incorporate a prediction (true or false).



  1. Wind of Change
    499 words
    Special Challenge accepted

    The seller of marmalade arrived just after the tornado. In fact, Grandpa’s house had been smashed to bits and poor Lily Blue’s body weren’t even found yet. But don’t worry your pretty little head about her. She was just a cat.

    Grandpa had predicted it would be a big ‘un, and he was right.

    “Right as rain,” he said, stroking his whiskers.

    I rolled my eyes, because everyone knows rain can’t be right.

    The marmalade man must have thought we had a boat-load of money, because he showed up and set up a wooden stand packed with jars of jelly. Sign said: 2 for $0.10. But Grandpa’s cash was gone with the house. Grandpa said I should have said Gone With The Wind, on account of it being a tornado and all. I ain’t read that book, and I probably never will ‘cause I hear it’s for girls.

    I took to standing ‘round the marmalade man as Grandpa hammered nails and tried to fix us up some shelter.

    “You from these parts?” I asked.

    “No. I’m from New York.”

    Darn Yankee, I thought, but I had ‘nuff sense not to say it.

    “Do people buy marmalade?” I asked.

    “More than you think.”

    “You travel ‘round the world selling this here stuff?”

    “Last year I sold Bibles, but then those Gideons started giving them away for free. Imagine that.”

    “I’ve lived here my whole life. Just me and Grandpa,” I said.

    “Where are your parents?” the man asked.

    “Up’in left when I was just a babe. Grandpa says, ‘Good riddance, never needed them nohow.’”

    “You have the world in your heart, I can tell,” the seller of marmalade said.

    I looked at him real funny-like, cocking my head to the side. “What’cha mean?”

    “You look like a traveler. How’d you like to be my sidekick? The road gets awfully lonely.”

    Grandpa done predicted that I wouldn’t stay in this here valley town my whole life. I looked over my shoulder at him, and I picked up a jar of marmalade running my finger ‘round the silvery-looking top. Grandpa was busy nailing two four-by-fours together. He wouldn’t live forever, and there weren’t much for me in the pile of wood that remained.
    “I think I’d like it right fine. When we goin’?”

    “Tonight. You be here by the light of the moon.”

    The marmalade man packed up his table and jams quicker than you can say, ‘my dear aunt rose,’ and all but disappeared. The thought of the world filled my ‘magination as I worked beside Grandpa. By the time the sun set, we had a shelter.

    “I reckon I was right and you’ll be moving on.”

    “How’d you know?”

    “I’m smarter than I looks,” Grandpa said. “You go on and git. Nothing here but a dead cat and a pile of bones. But never forget where you came from, you hear.”

    By the light of the moon, I left. Like Grandpa always said, “Storms be bringin’ the wind of change.”

  2. Ghost Watch
    304 words
    Special Challenge Accepted

    The seller of lightning rods arrived just after the storm. Bad timing I’d say, since had I had one of his so called amazing rods, I’d have lived. As it was, now I stood there staring at him staring at my body lying prone on the ground. Even more unsettling about this whole new deal was I watched him rifle through my pockets finding nothing of value, except my gold pocket patch that had been given to me by my great grandpop.

    I wondered how this worked. If I stuck my new ghostly hand in my ghostly trousers, would the pocket watch still be there? The sensation was weird, almost fluid like the sea my parents had taken me to that one time when I was little. We hadn’t gotten the chance to travel much, sticking close to the family farm for the majority of my life. But my great grandpop had known. There it was in the now translucent pocket watch, I held in my hand. I couldn’t really feel it, but there it was. I snapped open the lid, and there were those words that haunted me.

    The prediction that I had found the first time I opened it after he died. “Those who want to leave home are often unhappy with their means of travel.”

    Well he was right, I wasn’t particularly happy with this mode of travel. I’d much rather had traveled by rail or by bus, not by being a ghost. Although, I wondered if once a ghost you got to hang with other ghosts. Maybe my travels could include finding grandpop. That would make this much better. That was my plan then. I’d go find great grandpop, and we could be ghosts together. Then the prediction would be wrong, because if I was with him, I’d be happy.

  3. Egyptian Sun
    447 Words
    Special Challenge Accepted

    The seller of antiquities arrived just before the excavation.

    Minuscule razor blades assailed my cheeks as I strained to see through the swirling sand. Metal trinkets and tools exploded like wind chimes in a Carolina hurricane, and hinted at the uneven gait of the wearer. A Tinker then.

    Setting my spade deep into the hot sand I stood, pulling the worn leather brim of my Father's hat over my brow to assess the direction of approach. To hot sand dropped like a hoard of flies down to the earth with a heavy thud. My breath echoed over the expansive horizon like a bottled scream and I reached again for my spade. Papa's prediction had been right.

    "Think my child, before making rash decisions."

    A delicate leathery hand—surprisingly strong—wrapped tightly around my wrist and I could feel my pulse weaken beneath its vice.

    "Who are you?" I whisper, the words hanging heavily in the sticky air.

    "The Tinker." Came the hissed reply from the putrid breath behind my ear.

    "One of many, who have no power." I scoff, willing my limbs not to shake.

    "Our power, my dear has long since been growing in the shadows, nestled in the womb of Sekmet until the ripeness of our prey was ready to be devoured."

    "Tinkers have no power." I say again, my voice rising above the deadened air.

    "That is what your Father, the coward said—before he lost his head." The leathery hand loosened and the tinker cackled, a wet, sickening peal as he shifted behind me.

    I listened to the clanging metal as he moved, closing my eyes to focus on the tone of each ethereal pang as he moved. Remember, a Copper Spike will ring out like Fairy Laughter, if you know how to hear it, Rebekah. My Father's baritone voice rung out from my memory and I turn to catch the notes as the Tinker circles me in a death snare.

    My breath hitches as my muscles contract, there is no time to exhale as I reach in the direction of the Copper spike dangling from his belt. The Tinker's eyes grow wide in disbelief as my hand encircles the cool metal, ripping it from the leather loop and driving it upwards into his rib.

    A great whoosh of air escapes with his damned soul and I dive from its path as it races upward, its Banshee screams rising into the red sky.
    The sand begins to swirl around the lifeless Tinker as its body withers into dust. A great cyclone surrounds the form as I step back, shielding my eyes from the sting.

    "It is done," I whisper as the portal opens.

  4. The Spice Seller
    500 words
    Special Challenge Accepted

    The Spice Seller

    The seller of spices arrived just before the holiday season. Mitzie and Angelina were busy at the counter taking orders when they noticed him through the window. He was standing outside the bakery, staring at them, his wagon run-down and his mule half-starved.
    “See, I told you he would make it in time before the holiday rush,” Angelina said smugly. She’d been at the bakery six months longer than Mitzie and liked to show off.
    “Of course he would, otherwise Master Arken would have had our heads for his supper,” Mitzie grumbled back.
    “Go invite him in. I’ll manage the orders,” Angelina whispered. Mitzie knew the only reason Angelina had offered was because she didn’t want to leave the warmth of the bakery.
    Mitzie donned her wool cap and shawl and opened the door. The air outside was crisper than apples and as cold as night.
    “Hey there, lass,” the spice seller greeted her with a smile. Mitzie nodded, and looked worriedly at the mule.
    “Is he all right?” she asked.
    “Oh aye, I’ll give him some warm feed at the inn. A night or two of rest will do him some good. For you, too.”
    Mitzie shrugged. “Come inside and wait for Master Arken. He’s finishing up some rolls.”
    The spice seller nodded and, after hitching his wagon to a nearby tree, he followed Mitzie back into the bakery.
    “Do you like working here, lass?”
    Mitzie looked back at the spice seller. His eyes were as warm and brown as freshly baked cinnamon rolls and his smile as sweet as the icing. Mitzie blushed.
    “I’ve only been here a month. Master Arken is fair and knowledgable.” She noticed that she hadn’t answered the question. His smile deepened; he had noticed too.
    The bakery was quiet as they went in and Angelina was nowhere to be found. Mitzie looked behind the counter and noticed Angelina flirting with Master Arken in the kitchen.
    “Oh Master Arken, you do know your way around such soft dough. I always tell my mum that your rolls just melt in my mouth,” Angelina was saying to him, while subtly fluffing out her wheat-colored curls. Mitzie rolled her eyes and turned back to the spice seller.
    “He’ll just be a moment. Would you like something to eat? Maybe I can scrounge up some oats for your mule.”
    The spice seller beamed with gratitude and Mitzie felt her chest tighten. She wondered what his name was, if he liked traveling from town to town, if he was lonely.
    Mitzie was sure lonely.
    She went to the cupboard for the oats, and then caught a glimpse of Master Arken with his arms around Angelina in the kitchen! Mitzie almost spilled the oats, cursing. They hadn’t noticed her. She grabbed a couple pound cakes and went back to the spice seller.
    “On second thought, why don’t we just go to that inn you mentioned earlier and let your mule rest in a warm place. I’m Mitzie, what’s your name?”

  5. Knowledge,

    The seller of fear arrives just as the sun disappears. His white hair argues with his youthful appearance.

    "Sinners, you must make sacrifice for your wickedness," he screams, storming into our midst under the shrine. He strides to father.

    My father is a god amongst the living. He's only felt fear once in his life that I know of—about ten minutes ago. That's when we could tell the sun was going to hide behind the blackness of the moon.

    The seller looks my father in his eyes. I've never seen a man who could. Father refuses to tolerate men his size living.

    The skull of the last man to dare to approach father sits on a spike outside the village. Yet, this man breathes.

    "You challenge me during such a tragedy?" father roars.

    I sense father's apprehension. He's killed for men merely noticing my sisters or I. Especially me. Without an heir, I became his favorite.

    The man bows; a sign of pleading. Yet, his eyes show no deference. His gaze tells all who dare to look that this man believes himself my father's equal.

    "Meet my terms or the sun never returns," the man says. "In a year all vegetation will cease, the animals with perish, and with it every person here."

    "You lie," father says.

    The man smile shows the whitest teeth I have ever seen. "Truth does change, even if a king wishes it. Usurper," — he uses the derogatory term mother called my father in secret — "You shall give me one of the two things you most love. Choose or all will starve."

    His stance, his arrogance… This is the first true man I have met, other than father. He is amazing.

    I wait for father to kill the intruder. Then father grabs the Great Horn, the symbol of his reign.

    Father no!

    The crowd gasps. Children crying, watching their world shatter.

    Father growls, "I will not make you king."

    The intoxicating smile returns on the man. "I offered you a choice of two options. You hold that title dearer than the other. Give her to me."

    I'm confused. Mother passed years ago.

    Father nods. He steps to me, kisses my head, and slides me to the intruder.

    That beautiful man is a snake staring at me like I'm a rat. I have to fight to not empty my dinner.

    Please let this be a dream.

    "Perform the ceremony and I return the sun," the man says.

    Father performs the marriage ceremony without asking my opinion. My sisters cry. They must know we'll never see each other again.

    The man throws me over his muscular shoulder. "The sun will return within ten minutes. Unless you follow me, then it shall remain dark forever."

    Father orders the men not to follow.

    My…husband…strides with me out of town. Once in the forrest he jogs.

    "Why the rush?" I dare to ask.

    After a minute he says, "Because the sun will rise regardless of our actions."

    Special Challenge Accepted in Special Prophecy Mode

  6. The Portal Into Summer

    Word Count: 443
    Special Challenge Accepted

    The seller of TemPortal Inc.’s Heinlein Bootstrap™ arrived just ten minutes before midnight. The golden glow of the portal through which she strolled lit up the lounge where I sat watching the hologram-remastered, 21st century classic ‘Minority Report’.

    “Not again!” I groaned. “I thought I’d seen the last of you guys. The government’s made it illegal for you to make cold calls inside private apartments.”

    The saleswoman turned on a smarmy smile.“I’m afraid, sir, that law doesn’t come into force until tomorrow. Until then, I can still..."

    "You're wasting your time… no pun intended. I'll tell you what I told all the other hustlers from your corporation: I aint interested.”

    “You may believe that now, sir, but I predict that within the next few minutes, you’ll step into my office and sign the paperwork to make you the proud owner of our latest model.”

    “You a precog or something?” I asked, putting the movie on hold.

    “Ah, I see you’re a Dick Head… Philip K. Dick, I mean. Precogs are, however, just a fictional invention. No, my previous statement was not simply a very high probability but rather a stone-cold fact. I have, after all, the benefit of having come here from the future, and therefore know whereof I speak.”

    “Look,” I said, shrugging, “Even if I swallowed this bullshit, I haven’t got the $1.5m asking price.”

    “We’re aware of that. All you need do is invest $5000 in TemPortals Inc. stock now and, by the time you reach my desk, you’ll have more than enough to cover it.”

    “OK, I’m gonna make a prophecy of my own: if you don’t take your scrawny ass and your glitzy portal out of here before midnight, I’m calling the cops.”

    As we tried to stare down each other, Pete strolled nonchalantly across the room and began to rub the side of his head against her leg. I tensed. She picked him up and began stroking his head, as she moved casually towards the portal.

    “Here’s what’s really going to happen. Pete and I are leaving now. You have three minutes and twenty-seven seconds to make that investment then join me, otherwise the portal closes and you don’t see Pete again. He’s gonna love it; it’s mid August there.”

    Just before she stepped through the portal with my cat, she turned and said, “This may seem a little menacing but, trust me, you needed this impetus to do what you were always going to do.”

    A couple of seconds later, I called out to my retro, voice-activated digital assistant, “Cortana, invest $5000 in TemPortals.” I grabbed my jacket, and strode towards my destiny.

  7. The Bargain
    500 words
    Special Challenge: Not accepted

    The seller of souls arrived just before the storm.

    I stood in the doorway, my slight frame filling the narrow gap meant to keep out the worst of the day’s heat. My father had already returned to the fields for the afternoon. My mother sat in her room, nursing a headache and cursing her stays.

    The warmth pressed against my lungs, coating my tongue and burning the back of my throat when I opened my mouth to speak.

    “Good afternoon,” the salesman said, preempting any speech I could make. “Is your mother or father at home?”

    “My mother’s in the kitchen,” I lied, careful not to blink. “My father’s just out back.” About a mile out back, hacking at the cotton that drooped beneath the weight of the bolls.

    The man’s grey eyes sparked, and one corner of his mouth lifted in a smile. “Well, that’s just swell, m’dear. I won’t take up much of your time.” He cocked his head to one side, and the skin beside his eyes crinkled as he gave me half a wink.

    I said nothing, every breath like pulling in a draught of air through a compress.

    “And besides,” he continued. “You’ve got a good head on your shoulders. I bet you’re top of your class, aren’t you?”

    I nodded before I could stop myself. My hands sought out the edge of my pinafore, my shoulders pushing back as pride lifted my chin.

    “Then you’ll know a bargain when you see one, hmm?” Long fingers, fingers my piano teacher would covet, reached into a pocket and drew out a small jar, clear glass, the size of an inkpot and stoppered with a cork. But instead of ink, the substance inside shimmered, like pearls turned to liquid, as if the haze that lingered over the fields were condensed inside that tiny container. “I don’t ask for much,” he said, and turned the jar over in his hands. The substance moved, a drift of cloud before my eyes. “A small price, really. That locket there you have around your neck. That should do.”

    My hand sought out the locket, a soft bulge beneath my dress. He couldn’t have seen it, couldn’t have known it was there. But my fingers moved of their own accord, opening up the clasp with a flick of my fingernail.

    “A fair trade,” he said, and pressed the jar into my palm as he drew the necklace from between my fingers. I clutched the bottle to my chest, to the very spot where the locket had been, out of sight to all but him. Behind him, the sky darkened, though not a ripple of air disturbed the fields of green and white. “They’re yours now.” He smiled again, and I noticed then the lack of perspiration on his face, the coolness of his fingers as they’d brushed mine. “Guard them well,” he said, before he slipped the locket into his pocket, bowed his head, and turned on his heel to walk away.

    1. It's a shame you didn't accept the special challenge: 'I bet you’re top of your class, aren’t you?' could be seen as a rather subtle prediction.

    2. Hmm, that could have worked if I'd had a bit more time to think about it (and not feel like I would've just been tossing it in there for brownie points). Maybe if I ever take this and expand on it, I'll twiddle around with that part. :)

    3. I don't discount anything for 'passed on the challenge', clearly there are times when they just won't fit the tale that you had in mind.

      See last week: I tossed in a wood chipper as a 'garden tool', but it was more of an afterthought than an integral piece of the tale.

    4. For some reason, I don't think I've ever been able to nail the special challenge when I've done these. It must be something about the way my brain works, that when I see what the challenge is, my mind screeches to a halt. :D

  8. Abandon All
    497 words
    Nancy Chenier @rowdy_phantom

    The seller of hopes arrived just after the apocalypse, shuffling along behind her pushcart. We could hear the generator growling through the gutted cars on the main street. I was drawing chalk animals with Ben and Kira on the steps outside the school—weird, right? We spent all our time trying to get out of school and now we can’t keep away from it.

    At first, the hope-seller was swamped. She’d trade anything: a handful of flash drives, grubby table runners, even the useless paper rectangles of cash. She’d take the item in her spindly fingers and tie it to the rainbow threads that wove a spidery umbrella above the cart. Then, she’d dip into her cooler and bring out a chilled hope.

    Each hope looked like a child’s drawing of a star, lopsided but cute. The adults went around with hope pinned to their sleeves. Their faces did their best to hold up smiles. Mom too. Her voice got shaky-cheerful when she offered a second helping of oatmeal. Too weird. (I took seconds but probably shouldn't have.)

    By week two, most wanted to return theirs. They couldn’t get a full refund for the shriveled things they brought back. Most just abandoned them. Hopes rolled through town like tumbleweeds and cluttered up the gutters. I started to feel a little bad for them.

    Then, Kira brought a dashed hope to our hangout at the playground. We didn’t really play there. Not having Minecraft or mac-and-cheese to go home to sucks the life out of everything. Parents rarely bugged us there. Where Mom used to hover, she now tells me to “get out from underfoot.

    Anyway, Kira brings one and Randy looks like she’s just about to stomp on it (both her parents did the suicide thing, tried to take her along). I stopped her and hung it from the monkey bars. In the sunlight, it looked really pretty. That was how it began. We started picking up ones we saw, and then we went looking for them. We lined both slides with hopes, piled them on the merry-go-round, tied them to the swing chains. Soon, the playground became a cool place to play again.

    About that time, Mom emerged from survivalist mode to find out where the laughter was coming from. She took one look at the hope-cluttered monkey bars and her legs gave out. Plop! Right in the sand, but she didn’t get up. She just sat there staring at all the hopes.


    She blinked up at me. "Mickey," she said. She climbed to her feet and hugged my legs. "Thank you, honey." She sniffled. "You guys…"

    I was just about to get really embarrassed when she backed out of the playground, a goofy smile on her face.

    By evening the entire neighborhood crowded into the playground. They brought picnic stuff to share and we played no-touching-the-lava tag until after sunset. And the weirdest thing about it was that it didn’t feel weird at all.