Monday, January 11, 2016


Welcome! We're glad to have you here today! Hopefully your year has started off on a positive note and you're getting into the swing of 2016. I look forward to reading your stories this week. Go read the prompt and write something great!

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 (exclusive of title)
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
8. Only one entry judged per round. If you write/post more than one story, you need to indicate which you would like judged. If you fail to indicate, it will be the first one posted.
9. Winner judges next round.

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 Tara O'Dowd. Read her winning tale from last week here! Find her on twitter @TaraODowd1. Tara worked for ten years as a union organizer in the United States. She now lives in Amsterdam where she is writing picture books and her first novel and goggling at bicycles. Unfortunately, she can't quite seem to get rid of her subversive tendencies.

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #3-28 is:

It was an inviting piano, but it came with a ghost.

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Use all five senses to describe the ghost.



  1. (245 words)
    Optional Challenge accepted.

    Letter to Amelie
    It was an inviting piano, but it came with a ghost. I touched the keys feeling the slickness of the white surface and sighed as memory of you, laced with pain, came to me unbidden.
    I closed my eyes and I could hear the haunting music all around me. Sad and beautiful, riveting coming from your delicate fingers on the keyboard, moving as if by magic. I asked you once why you played only sad music but you just gave me a soft, melodic laugh for an answer and kept playing, your luscious mouth turned in a mysterious smile.
    Your skin was softer as warmer than the keys but almost as white, delicate. The smell of your perfume, with a slight tint of lemon and roses, filled the air and I longed to kiss and taste that special place, just below your earlobe. Oh, how I craved your taste and the touch of my lips against the velvet skin of your neck.
    The music continues and I tremble as I see you in all your splendor. You are sitting in the piano bench, head slightly bowed as your raven-black hair falls down your back. You, my beautiful ghost, are always dressed in a summer dress, bright yellow and your green eyes sparkle with love as you see me watching you playing.
    The music finishes and I open my eyes as a tear falls down my cheek. Oh Amelie... I miss you so.

    1. This is beautiful and touching. Thanks for sharing. Next time you join us, could you leave your contact information? Thanks so much!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. How Technology and Do-It-Yourself Fish Tanks Further Cursed the Ghost of the Piano
    499 words
    Special challenge accepted (I think)

    It was an inviting piano, but it came with a ghost.

    It started with a thumping sound in the middle of the night. Janet thought another part of her house had fallen down and she rushed into to the living room. She glared at the piano, as though it was the object’s fault she’d spent all that money to buy it instead of making home repairs. The piano thumped several more times, and a screeching wail emanated from middle C.

    The temperature of the room dropped several degrees and left Janet shivering with the cold. The ghost’s transparent body slithering up through the keys, snakelike in motion but as insubstantial as a gust of wind.

    The ghost howled with melancholy.

    “What on Earth, or wherever, is your problem?” Janet demanded.

    The ghost coughed once. Its breath (though how a ghost had breath Janet could not understand) nearly struck Janet dead with its pungent aroma. It smelled like the ghost had been eating rotten watermelon for a year. The smell was so bad Janet could taste the rotten watermelon.

    “My curse is to teach another to play the songs I could not.” The ghost drifted onto the top of the piano and spread out in a sexy pose. A microphone appeared in its hand.

    “You see, I was once a happy man who sang by torchlight in a bar, but I had not the patience to learn the songs I played. I hired a pianist, but alas, she could not bear my insufferable attitude. One evening she pushed me off a bridge and I drowned. You are the new owner of the piano, and you are the one I must teach.”

    Janet looked up from her cell phone. “Sorry, were you talking? I was playing Candy Crush.”

    The ghost howled with a bit more melancholy than the last time.

    “Dude, what is with your breath?” Janet asked, waving her hand in front of her noise.

    “My favourite food in life was watermelon, and now I am cursed to taste the rotten – would you put down your stupid phone and listen to me?”

    Janet shrugged one shoulder.

    “You must learn the songs!” the ghost said.

    “Nah. Not my fault you were a jerk in your previous life. You can haunt the piano until the end of time for all I care. I just bought it for decoration. My girlfriend said she could install a sweet fish tank on top. She’ll probably take out a few of the keys. That might be a problem for you, hey? Oh well. I’m going back to bed, so keep the noise down, okay?”

    Janet slammed the fall board down to cover the keys, and left the ghost to its sorrow. On her way up she thought she heard laughter, just as ghostly but in a different pitch. Perhaps the ghost of the pianist was pleased with her revenge – or perhaps Janet was losing her mind.

    Either way, she was looking forward to the fish tank.

  4. Story time. By Audrey Gran Weinberg
    Special challenge accepted

    "It was an inviting piano, but it came with a ghost." Rachel stopped typing and scratched her nose. Wasn’t it snack time, or maybe it was time to do some laundry? There was little chance anything would come out of this exercise. Her teacher was so wrong about so many things. He told her to avoid adverbs, to shorten her trains of thought and to include more dialogue. Hadn’t he ever read Virginia Woolf?

    Rolling her chair over to the door, she peeked around the corner. The shadows fell on the smooth wooden floor. No one would be back until much later. But she was thinking about food again. A thick warm aroma enveloped her. It smelled like her father’s chicken soup. She sent a text message to Jonah, her downstairs neighbor. ‘Nope,’ he replied quickly. ‘Sorry, am at work. Want me to pick up some wings on the way home?’ Hmmm, she scrunched up her mouth and rolled back to the desk and open laptop. Too bad she hadn’t made any soup lately. She could virtually taste the soft carrots and mushy leeks. Ok, Ok, Rachel sighed. I know this story won’t write itself.

    “It was a dark afternoon and Cindy sat alone in the big house, waiting for the deliverymen.” Why Cindy? Why not Vered, or Naomi, or Ofra or Yael? Did she always have to antagonize her parents, even in her so-far-unpublished stories?
    “But someday they will be.”

    Rachel jumped out of her chair, sending it sliding back across the room. What the heck? She ran to the radio, just to check if it was on, but of course it wasn’t. Wait, what was that audiobook she’d read last month, by, who was it again, oh yea, Oliver Sacks. Auditory hallucinations. He said it was a thing. And not just for crazy people either. Not insane. Not a problem.

    Rachel tugged at the chair, but it was stuck. Crouching down to take a look at the wheels, she lost her balance and fell backwards. But as she put a hand on the chair, to get up, the chair suddenly rolled back away from her.
    With a deep breath, Rachel firmly jerked the chair back to the table.

    “The van rolled up outside and Cindy heard the doorbell ring. “Mother,” she called, “Mother, can you get that?””

    Oh, man, thought Rachel, her face in her hands, eyes closed tight. I can’t remember now, was Cindy alone in the house or not? Why can’t she get up? Is she in a wheelchair or something? And what about the piano and the ghost? When will they get into this story already?

    As she opened her eyes, she saw him, a large, translucent man sitting on her laptop, arms and legs crossed.
    “Who are you, and what the hell are you doing here?”
    “Well,” he answered in a low baritone, “if you had a piano, I’d much rather be there.”

    Word count: 496

  5. The Piano Owner
    @NadaNightStar - challenge accepted. 500 words exactly

    It was an inviting piano, but it came with a ghost.
    Sheila already knew the catch behind the piano when she went to the Witch's Auction House. The problem was that no one knew who the ghost was or what it looked like. Man or woman? Short and round? Tall and handsome? A gentleman or a jester?
    The bids were many though not high. Many were curious but also cautious about the sum they were going to pay; who were they inviting into their home if they bought this particular piece.
    The piano looked fairly antique, but the auctioneer assured everyone that all the keys worked and demonstrated that.
    Sheila bought the black piano for only 200 euros. The auctioneer had hopes for a higher price, but since the ghost refused to reveal themselves and the previous owner did not give away any information in that regard, Sheila's bid had to suffice.
    She did have to pay an additional fee for transportation; luckily, it didn't cost more than the piano itself.
    That night, Sheila began playing some of the tunes she had learned as a child. She remembered taking piano classes in school and college – few, irregular classes but they served the purpose of touching a piano and bringing out some music.
    Bit by bit, she progressed and began singing to tunes that may not have entirely matched her playing.
    "Well, well, well! Who do we have here!" A man's voice sprung her out of her reverie; her heart nearly stopped.
    "You could have waited or surprised me gently you know!" She snapped.
    "My apologies, m'lady. I am Count Karl Adlar." The ghost said, bowing.
    May be the second introduction would be better, she thought.
    "Sheila Wintermorn," she responded.
    Her gaze went straight for his face. His eyes were silvery grey; she assumed they'd be bluish if he'd been real. He sounded German, or from that side of the map. He looked pale, but what could be expected of a ghost? Thin eye brows, but not as thin as woman's; his hair several shades of grey. For some reason, Sheila thought he smelled like lemons, which left a citrusy taste in her mouth.
    She wondered what he would feel like, and offered her hand to shake then retreated and apologised. "Sorry, I've never had a ghost here before."
    He smiled; then continued while pacing around her and the piano, "I see you have some piano-playing abilities. They'll need to be refined – significantly."
    She didn't like sarcastic people, especially men.
    "Care to elaborate?"
    Her challenge surprised him, rendering her a bigger smile and longer eye contact.
    "I am the man behind the renowned pianists Johann van Beethoven and his son Ludwig," he began, his tone loud and proud.
    "Yeah right."
    He ignored her and continued: "This piano came to them. I had already passed away. With no heir, I clung to my piece and moved from family to family, in search of an artist. A musician that would play my tunes."

  6. It was an inviting piano, but it came with a ghost. Me.

    The girl with the rose quartz pendulum, just stood there, transfixed. Her pendulum kept rotating violently. Her gaze was fixed on the piano at first then she slowly raised her eyes to look at me. What did she see? Did she glimpse my once human form, or was she looking at a foggy spectre?

    I was never a pianist, that I was sure of. My fingers never trailed over its chekered, slick keys. I never had the gut to even try. I was on life support when it materialized right infront of me. I felt a strong pull to it. I wanted to touch it, feel the vibrations of its tunes. I wanted to feel the music it might bring. I wanted to inhale the air that surrounded it. I wanted it to be my partner.

    It remains closed at all times, but I could hear its music. Melancholy and brooding at times, and snappish and lively at others.

    It's been a week now since my famy pulled the plug, deciding to let me go. I expected a long white tunnel of sorts, but all I got was this piano.

    The girl was still looking at me, like she could really see me. The pendulum was pulling her closer to me. I could tell the piano approved. I could hear it playing my favorite chopin perlude.

    She stood closer to me now. I could watch the rise and fall of her chest, hear her heart beat, and feel the pressure of her breath aganist my misty form. She dared to sit on the piano bench, and started playing, her eyes fixed on me that whole time. Why was she here? Why was I here? I guess I'll find out soon.

  7. "As Distinct as Mulberries"
    by Patrick Stahl
    494 words
    Special Challenge Accepted

    It was an inviting piano, but it came with a ghost. There I was, just home from the bakery, about to practice, when the scent of mulberries filled my nose. Mulberries? It was only my third day in the apartment, but I thought that a scent as distinct as mulberries would have come up by now.

    I scanned the walls. The purple paint seemed a likely culprit. I stood up from my bench and pressed my nose up against it, then coughed. Barely even dry and certainly not berry-scented. I turned back to my seat and froze.

    A little girl sat atop my piano. She looked faded, like she was only half there. “Oh my,” I said.

    “Amaya,” she corrected. She smoothed her dress.

    “Are you….” I pressed myself against the wall. “A ghost?”

    Amaya offered a gentle nod. She peered up at me. Her deep blue eyes pierced through her shadowy form.


    “I don’t know. I woke up one day and I was a ghost. Like Casper.” Her voice strung out like a mountain chain in the style of the Bronx.

    “Do you live here?” I asked. Most of my muscles relaxed, but I remained pressed against my somehow-sheltering mulberry-purple wall.

    “I don’t live anywhere.” Amaya laughed. “I’m a ghost.”

    My eyes welled up. “Right.”

    “I stay here though. Inside the piano.”

    “Inside the piano?” I studied my new hobby-machine. It was definitely not large enough for a living girl to fit in, even at five or six as Amaya seemed to be.

    Amaya giggled. “It’s bigger on the inside.”

    “It doesn’t travel through time, does it?”

    Amaya tilted her head. “No. I don’t think so.”

    I felt my face get hot. “Sorry. Never mind. How long have you lived here?”

    “For all time. Except not in the piano. That has only been some time.”

    I reached out my hand to touch Amaya’s face. She felt soft, yet solid, like a blend of swan feathers and porcelain. I pressed a little harder and my arm went clean through. “Sorry. I’m so sorry.”

    “That’s okay. It doesn’t hurt.”

    I bit one fingernail. It tasted faintly of mulberries. I shuddered. Is that what they all taste like? I wondered.

    “Are you my new family?”

    A sharp pain erupted in my throat. “Was that your family? Who lived here before?” I held up one finger and walked to the faucet for a glass of water.

    “They told me they had to go. They said they loved me very much, but they couldn’t stay anymore. I tried to follow them, but I couldn’t. I think it’s because I don’t know how I died.”

    I took a long sip of water. “Did you eat any berries just before you...passed away? Mulberries?”

    Amaya pointed at the wall. “That color?”

    I nodded. “Yeah.”

    Amaya smiled. “I was sitting here, on the piano. My daddy was playing, and he gave me a purple berry. I think. Yes.” She disappeared.