Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Welcome back to our fourth week of competition! I am so excited to read what you all come up with this week! If you need to read the full version of the rules, go here. Otherwise, here's the short version:

1. Up to 500 words
2. Keep it clean (nothing rated R or above)
3. Start with the given first sentence.
4. Optional Special Challenge
5. Include Twitter/email, word count, Special Challenge accepted

Oh, and feel free to change pronouns, punctuation, tense, and anything in brackets to fit the story/pov/tone. I'm not going to be TOO picky... Our judge however...

Our Judge today is Rebekah also known as @postupak. Go check out her blog here (where she has a flash fiction contest every Friday!). Read her winning tale from last week here!

And now for your super-special shiny prompt to start us off!

Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #4 is:

Hands trembling, [he] opened the door.

Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Include the words:



  1. The homecoming

    Hands trembling, she opened the door.
    There they stood, the parents of her beloved husband, beatific smiles lighting up their faces. They were evidently exhausted but nothing about their body language suggested any displeasure at the long-winding journey. She looked on blankly for a few seconds before realising that they were expecting to be let in. She opened the door and watched them walk in slowly, wide-eyed.

    Sourav, the husband, emerged from the kitchen, wiping his hands on a towel. “Maa! Baba!” he exclaimed, like a little child who’d lost sight of his parents in a fair and been reunited with them hours later. “I hope the flight was comfortable. Here, I’ll take the bags,” he held out his hands, then remembered his father was not the type to hand over baggage. “I’ll put it away, son. I’m still pretty strong like that,” Baba winked. Sourav rose to face him, and realised Baba was holding out his arms for a hug.

    Fifteen minutes later, when Maa and Baba had freshened up, Sona began to set the table for lunch. Despite herself, she’d pulled out none of the fancy crockery, choosing instead to stick with the regular tableware. The spread in the kitchen revealed her state of mind though. She’d cooked thrice as much as four people could eat. And even as Maa surveyed the spread, Sona’s heart sank at the thought that this may not be enough to impress.

    She began serving the other three, beginning with Baba. He motioned to her to stop. “Don’t bother child, we will serve ourselves. We always do. Why don’t you join us right away? Let’s all pick one container each and pass it around.”

    Sona, whose upbringing in India had strictly demanded that elders be served first, was a little hesitant to do so. But Sourav looked at her meaningfully and she got the message. Lunch was begun.

    “The lentil curry is wonderful,” Baba mentioned casually as he gnawed on a piece of drumstick. Sona smiled but did not look up to make eye contact. From the corner of her eye, she noticed the wrinkles on Maa’s right hand. They reminded her of her own grandma back home in Calcutta.

    For the first time since they’d arrived, Sona allowed herself to wonder how Maa must have managed the burden of an entire joint family all alone, all these years. A sob had been lingering in her throat for a while, threatening to show up. Sona held herself together, suppressing an outburst, and asked Maa if she’d like some more curry.

    Later, as she was winding up after lunch, Maa walked up to her. Sona looked up to find her mother-in-law smiling benevolently. “We’re family, child. You need not cook so many dishes. For dinner, plain rice and the leftover curry will do.”

    Sona smiled. She was glad for a second chance to get her Karma in place.

    (486 words including title)



    1. Very interesting take on the prompt. I liked this one a lot.

    2. Good emotion and pace for the protagonist

  2. "Here be dragon" by Dr. Mike Reddy (@doctormikereddy)
    266 words, special challenge accepted in one sentence!

    Hands trembling, he opened the door. "I'm home… Dear."

    "Well, it took you long enough," his wife snorted. "Gallivanting off while I have to clear up the mess left by that wyvern. You DID kill it? Tell me you got THAT right, at least!"

    "Yes, I di…"

    "Bad enough the Militia let the bloody thing raid the village. Stealing all our belongings. Smashing up our hovels!"

    "Yes, D…"

    "Call themselves yeomen? 'NO men' more like! Lazy useless good for nothings. And you're just as bad"

    "I did kill th…"

    "Got our stuff back have you? Been down the Ale House, I suppose? The big hero triumphant."

    "I did stop off to retu…"

    "Oh yes. 'Have a drink, Wolfy! Thanks for saving us and retrieving our treasures, oh Dragon Slayer!' I bet. And I'm here all alone and defenceless…"

    "Hardly defenceless, Dear. You've got your tongue."

    "What's that?"


    "Don't mumble. How are the villagers going to respect you if you mumble?"

    "I'm sor…"

    "My mother warned me. She said 'You'll need…"

    "…a thick skin to survive marriage to a hero.' Yes, I remember, Dear."

    "And don't interrupt. It's rude."

    "No, Dear… You've been busy. Everything back in its place."

    "Don't change the subject. Is it dead? Did you get them? They're needed for something I'm cooking up!"

    "Yes. And yes."

    Of all his hoard from the mountain, the Dragon's scales were the most valuable. He handed them to her.

    "Finally. About time! Now hand me the flour. I need a pound for this loaf."

    "Yes, Dear."

    Some dragons, he thought, were harder to kill than others.

    1. Amazing that you managed all of them in one sentence! All the best!

    2. I did it for #3 as well. It's become something of a 'thing' now. My whole story was inspired by trying to fit all the special challenge words together for that one too.

    3. That is hilarious. I love how you were able to put all three words of the special challenge in one line/sentence. The ending is spectacular!

      A well deserved win - to be added to the hoard ;)

  3. Confrontation by Nada Adel Sobhi (@NadaNightStar)

    Hands trembling, he opened the door. The room was darker than darkness itself. Alexander thought he was staring into an abyss.
    As he turned on the switch, pain seared through his spinal cord bringing him to the floor. He couldn't scream; his voice couldn't - wouldn't - come out from the intensity of the pain. He twitched and turned till he lost consciousness.

    Waking up, all his eyes could see were doubles and triples. He rubbed them several times till they remembered their function.
    He was inside a mountain.
    "What the --?"
    He remembered the pain, but didn’t feel any; though he was afraid to get up lest it should return.
    When he did. Nothing happened.
    He began to explore his surroundings. He was in an often-used cave with orange-flamed torches.
    He walked around, going deeper into the mountain, till he stood before the largest and most well-lit cave. The torches' flames were reflected on massive hoards of gold coins, goblets, jewels and gems. His heart skipped a beat.

    As he took his first step inside, the ground trembled and mighty roar followed.
    shaking all over, Alexander reluctantly turned to face his doom.
    A Dragon's head filled the space before him, silver eyes with black slits glared at him.
    "My brother's awake, I see," a familiar voice came from behind the beast.
    Hannah seemed to appear out of nowhere next to the Dragon's head. She looked tired but was smiling as always.
    As the Dragon moved making way for Hannah, Alexander, stunned by its size, saw its scales, sapphire-and-turquoise blue with a tinge of silver.
    “They’re beautiful, aren’t they?” came Hannah’s voice.
    “Huh? Yes.”
    “Hannah, where’re we? What’s going on?”
    “Allow me to introduce Silver Sapphire,” began Hannah as the Dragon’s head came back into view. “He is my Guardian.”
    “Your what?!”
    Guardian. And that bit of pain was your punishment.
    Alexander froze, his breath caught up half-way in his chest. The voice that resounded in his head was not that of his sister. It was a powerful male voice – and presence.
    “Pun- bit… what?”
    “Silver Sapphire is my Guardian. He is both the reason I’ve been over-joyed lately and the reason I haven’t been getting enough sleep,” Hannah said in a calm-but-excited tone. Turning to the Dragon, she said “You’re not to blame for that. You are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” –Alexander could’ve sworn she hugged the Dragon’s head.
    “You were in trouble?”
    Alexander fell from the lightning-and-thunder-filled voice.
    Goblins have been trying to kidnap your sister for months, boy!
    “Don’t forget the man in the suit who’s been stalking me.”
    “What-Who are you talking about?”
    “Oh don’t pretend you didn’t know Alex. I tried to tell you several times.”
    “No you –-”
    Oh but she did.
    “Silver Sapphire and I are mentally connected. He sees and hears what I hear and see.”
    He looked from Hannah to the Dragon and back, then dropped to the ground, unconscious.
    It was just too much.

  4. The Basement
    By: Allison K. Garcia (allisonkgarcia@yahoo.com) - word count - 270, special challenge accepted

    Hands trembling, she opened the door. The darkness hit her like a black cloud, the mustiness almost palpable. Her heart beat in her throat as she felt along the wall for the switch. The cement was old and cracked, feeling like scales under her perspiring fingers. Something across the back of her hand, and she screamed, flinging the object into the abyss with a flap of her wrist.

    Now her entire body shook as she outstretched her arm again into the darkness. The tips of her wary fingers touched the plastic switch and flipped it.


    “Dear Lord,” her whispered prayer echoed into the basement.

    She placed her foot on the first step, then the second, then the third. Each moment her heartbeat increased. The mustiness surrounded her now, the blackness of the basement closing her in. Another step, then another. She was almost there.

    She heard a rustling below her. Her eyes stared wildly into the nothingness. Perhaps it was her imagination. She took another step and touched down on the cement floor. She reached above her for the dangling string for the lightbulb. Cobwebs covered her arm and she brushed them off with a shiver.

    Feeling the metal against her thumb, she pulled down. Light flashed briefly. Her eyes saw her nightmares become reality. They were here. The hoard.

    She cried out and climbed up the stairs on hands and feet, like a mountain, scrambling as quick as she could but it was too late. They were upon her before she could reach the door handle. Their claws encircled her waist and dragged her back into the depths.

  5. Allyson, alene@bactroid.net, 282, special challenge accepted

    “Damage Control”

    Hands trembling, she opened the door. “Everything’s going to be fine. You’re in control here,” she thought to herself, as she reached for the overhead lights and turned to put down her lunch and laptop bag. As the fluorescents flickered to life, she thought about the hoard of humanity that would be rolling into the room in the next hour. The last day of school. Why had she not listened to Mike’s ridiculous suggestion of calling in sick? It’s just babysitting on the last day anyway. “These children are going to murder me if I try to do anything practical.”

    “Well, at least you tell it like it is.” Camilla jumped at the voice, but recognizing it as Assistant Principal Sanders, she turned on her heel, flashed her most confident I’m-totally-not-a-first-year teacher smile, and responded “It’s all about damage control today. I’m prepared.” With that, she gestured to the small mountain of papers on her desk, and then to the TV remote.

    “Let me guess,” Paul smirked, “Empty threat…and Kung Fu Panda?”

    “Not exactly. I’ve owed them their last test for two weeks now. You know how honors students are. I’d be stoned if I didn’t return it, even though grades have already been entered and they know where they stand on the grading scale.”

    “And the movie?” Paul raised his eyebrows quizzically as he turned to continue down the hall.

    “You hit that nail on the head. Kung Fu Panda. I’m sure I can relate it to geometry somehow.” And with that, Camilla took a deep breath, propped open her door, and tried to contain her nervous energy as the realization that she’d nearly survived her first year washed over her.

  6. Untitled - 497 words.

    Hands trembling, he opened the door.
    The closet hinges, long unused and rutted in place, squealed angrily. The bottom edge of the door was warped and scraped the uneven floor.
    What was he doing? Surely, he was absolutely mad. Hadn't he seen the movies depicting this very foolhardy act? Hadn't he read all the books? Hadn't he heard the horror stories told around boy scout campfires? (Those stories that only grew scarier as they grew older.) When they were younger scouts, the tales were of bloody hooks hanging from car doors and dead hitchhikers. He particularly remembers the story of the teenage boy and the cursed egg.
    One morning, the tale begins, a farmer's son found one of his father's chickens dead on the roost. Beneath the dead chicken was one last laid egg. When the son first picked up the egg, his stomach contracted, his throat closed up and a feeling of panic flooded over him. He nearly dropped it to the ground, but was able to control himself enough to return it; and as it tumbled gently from his fingers into the dead chicken's straw bed, that ominous feeling faded, but slowly. After recovering, the boy questioned if what he had felt was really so bad, and he brushed his fingers over the egg again. He felt the queasiness in his stomach and the tenseness in his throat, yes, but not quite as horridly this time. By the fifth touching, he was able to hoist the egg confidently in his hand and carry it out of the hen house.
    Inevitably, his friends pronounced the dead chicken's legacy cursed and urged him strongly (egged him on, if you would) to eat it and prove himself a man. He did so and his first feeling was one of elation. Somehow, whatever the chicken had imparted to its potential progeny as it sat dying eked into him and gave him some sort of higher understanding, a greater knowledge. No, that wasn't quite it. It was that he began to think differently. His mind was expanded, his vision horizon extended.
    Ultimately, this was, of course, his undoing. A series of increasingly tragic events, directly attainable to his “opened” mind, occurred and one morning his horrified mother found the chickens pecking at his dead carcass.
    Kid's stories, of course; but as the boys grew older, the stories became much more realistic.
    He felt like a caricature of the hero. He wanted to shout to the theater screen, “You fool, turn back. This can only end one way. Don't open that door!”
    Slowly, he sat down at the kitchen table. His eyes only glanced upward once, then lingered on the black and white patterned Formica. Tense and queasy, he surreptitiously rubbed his right palm on his knee, working the sweat into his jeans. With a glace at the rooster-shaped cookie jar and away from his parents, he began: “So. (throat clearing, quick sniff) I think... I think I might be gay.”

    1. Literally coming out of the closet?

    2. I apologize, you needed my email address - penname24@gmail.com

  7. Hands trembling, Nora opened the door, and winced as the morning sun came bursting through. The thick oak planks outweighed her by a hundred pounds, but the hinges were well-oiled, and the door swung easily. Built into the side of a mountain, her prison cell had been sealed tightly for centuries, but the earthquake this morning broke the lock, and she saw the sun for the first time since the dragons enslaved her people.

    It was a bright fall day, and the reflection of the sun off the lake between the mountains would have blinded her had Nora not quickly cast a dimness spell over her eyes. The cave had been enchanted, and even the thought of using her own magic set fire to her mind, but now that she was outside, the power came bursting out of her. The cool breeze felt good against her grey skin, and her pointed ears twitched as she heard the sound of fish jumping in the lake. Running down the side of the mountain, she leapt onto a boulder and launched herself in the air, she shed the tattered remnants of her prison rags and blurred into the form of a hawk. Shades, but it felt good to fly.

    The trout surfaced briefly, and Nora shifted her wings back to go into a dive. The world seemed almost preternaturally sharp this morning, and she could see the individual scales on the fish’s back flex as its back arched into the water. Her claws grabbed it easily, but securely, and she rejoiced in the feel of the splash as she and her breakfast glided over the surface of the water. As she settled on the banks of the water to tear the succulent meat off the still-squirming trout, her mind exploded in flashbacks to that horrible day when she was locked up, and she cried out in pain and blacked out.

    When Nora came to, she’d turned back into an elf, and realized how vulnerable she was here, out in the open. She bathed briefly in the lake and then conjured her standard traveling outfit, the soft leather and sturdy cotton feeling more comforting than any armor. Her staff was harder to get a hold of, as she’d been able to protect it – barely – in her hoard under the Endless Forest, and while it was safe from anything, even dragon fire, it was also a thousand leagues away.

    404 words

  8. Servant of Nefrit

    Hands trembling, Ky'Saan opened the door to the inner chamber. Reverently he knelt before the statue of Nefrit, goddess of the sky.

    He placed his humble offering of dates, bread and a glass of homemade Swarve at her feet and prayed silently. Then he carefully poured the strong tasting Swarve over the food and set it aflame.

    The scent of the alcohol and flame teased his nostrils and was reminiscent of Dragon Fire. Exactly what he wanted protection from.

    Without warning, the statue moved and a young girl grasped his hand, "Your offering has been accepted. Nefrit smiles upon your quest. Follow me."

    Ky'Saan followed the acolyte of Nefrit into a magnificent chamber.

    He was given lightweight armor ("made of scales harvested by Hi'Janick 100 years ago from the fearsome Dragon Shaykalla"), a short, sturdy sword and a map of the mountain caves.

    "Should you complete your quest, Nefrit asks only for a donation of 1 fourth of the treasure you liberate from the dragon's horde."

    "It shall be so, Great One," he bowed, "All hail Nefrit, gracious Goddess of the Sky. I, Ky'Saan am forever your faithful servant."

    The acolyte silently showed him out. Then she consulted the scrying pool. It showed success but that he would betray his promise.

    Sighing, she wriggled out of her human skin. Her scales gleamed brighter than the treasures around her as she grew.

    Emerald green eyes narrowed and a puff of smoke rushed forth from her nostrils.

    Lunch time.

    - challenge accepted
    *unsure of word count re: being on my Blackberry

  9. The Decision

    Hands trembling, he opened the door. It was 11 PM. He hoped Mildred and the baby would be asleep by now. The computer bag on his shoulder was getting heavier as the days and weeks passed. He was accumulating the marketing literature, forms, and advertisements, almost becoming a hoarder. In spite of the abundance of caution, the latch made a squeaky sound in the still of the night. He thought he heard the baby whimper. He saw Mildred coming out of the bedroom.

    “Sorry, Honey. A long day again!” He said.

    “I am getting a little worried about you working so hard every day. I think in a few months, we can get a babysitter and, I can get my old job back, so you won’t have to work long hours.” She said.

    “There is really no need for that. The baby needs you and you are so happy being home. Take your time.” He said.

    “I do love being home with the baby!” she happily agreed.

    “That makes me happy. I don’t mind the long hours. I would scale the highest mountains in the world for the two of you. You know that, don’t you Baby?”

    She smiled a contented smile. His eyes lit up, and his trembling hands steadied.

    He was wide awake long after Mildred fell asleep. The dance of the shadows on the faintly lit curtains kept him enthralled. The numbers and calculations kept running through his head. He was only 35. How much should he save? How much life insurance? Accidental death insurance? Will the shadows hold an answer? Finally, in the wee hours of the dawn, the exhausted arms of the slumber took him in their embrace.

    The tiny fingers tickled his forehead and he woke up to the sunshine and the babbling baby. “Great, no trembling!” he thought as he picked up the baby in his arms. The baby giggled and grabbed his hair. He wished for the moment to last till eternity.

    He set out for the day in his crisp ironed shirt and the heavy compute bag. “How long?” he asked himself, although, he knew that no one could answer that question. What was it that the doctor had said? “It could be years before you would lose your mobility. You are young and in good health otherwise. Tremors are just one of the early symptoms.” But he knew, his handwriting was changing, and he was increasingly spending more time being enthralled by the moving shadows. Parkinson’s was advancing. He must decide.

    As he inched towards the home that night, he prayed for the trembling to stop until he can buy the accidental life insurance.

    Word Count 444
    Challenge Accepted

  10. Hands trembling, I opened the door. Opening the dryer door is not a big deal. People open dryers everyday. I’d opened my dryer more times than I could remember. But this time, things were different.

    That night, I’d moved a load of whites from the washer to the dryer, turned it on, and went to bed. I’d planned to get up when her alarm went off, reheat the load, and fold it, so she could have clean socks to wear to work.

    But she woke me, about midnight. The dryer was still running. “Dear. Something’s wrong.”

    Some strange banging sound was coming from the dryer. And with every bang, there was a turbine jet sound. Like some big flame thrower or something was in the dryer.

    I got dressed, and staggered downstairs. She’d quit asking why I got dressed in the middle of the night, in our own house, when no one could see me in my underwear. She’d learned, it’s something I do. I’d have grabbed a gun from the closet, ‘cept we don’t own any guns. Probably because I hate guns. Those things are dangerous, you know! We don’t have any baseball bats either, so I didn’t grab one of those.

    Nope. I made like an idiot, and turned on the lights. You could track me through the house. The light in the bedroom turned on. Then the upstairs hall. The downstairs hall. The utility room. I didn’t see any reason to walk around in the dark. We owned three cats. One was long-haired. And I’d stepped on too many soggy hairballs and too much cat puke soaking into the carpet in the dark. I walked with the lights on.

    “Well?” her expectant voice carried from the bedroom, through the house.

    “I haven’t looked yet!”

    I decided I should turn the dryer off before I open it. When I did, the dryer quit running, but I could still hear that jet turbine sound and the occasional loud bang. To be safe, I unplugged it. Didn’t make a difference. The banging and jet engine continued. So, I reached for the door, hands shaking, and pulled it open.

    Inside the dryer was the strangest thing I’d ever seen. I remembered an old song about socks and a dryer. “Where do my socks go, in the middle of the night, when I put them in the dryer,” or something like that. Well, that night, I learned where the socks go.

    They get eaten by a black hole. I know. ‘Cause there was one in my dryer, carefully sucking up one sock from each pair of socks it came across. The bang happened each time a sock fell in, and the turbine was the small pair of jets of helium that sucker made when it ate each sock.

    “Honey! I know where the missing socks went!”

    476 Words

  11. Hands trembling, I opened the door. Painfully aware of Uncle Darius lounging patiently against the anteroom wall, I hesitated on the threshold.

    “Well boy, don’t you want to know?”

    Of course I wanted to know. Other boys at my school knew that their fathers had made their fortunes in shipping, or oil, or even in laundry detergent. Whatever, but they knew; I only knew that Uncle Darius was fabulously wealthy. I’d learned to copy his suave line in evasion, so not knowing hadn’t caused me any problems at school, but it was starting to trouble my conscience. I couldn’t help thinking of Nazi gold, hoarded amongst the Swiss mountains, however often I told myself that there was something forthright and incorruptible about my uncle that just didn’t fit with that image.

    The night before he’d come home from a business trip, bone tired, as he always was when he’d been away. That morning, out of the blue, he’d offered to show me the source of the family wealth. I was scared, when it came to it, to find out the truth, but I knew that I couldn’t waste the opportunity, and I stepped into the room in a sudden flurry of bravado.

    It was a disappointment, to say the least, a bare storeroom about three metres square. There was a cabinet in one corner, draped in black cloth like a birdcage, and a set of scales on one dusty shelf. I picked a coin out of the scale pan, and found it heavy and cold and utterly unfamiliar. It was crudely stamped with a coiled dragon, surrounded by a script that I didn’t even recognise. I was about to ask about it, but found my uncle was waiting by the cabinet, poised like an illusionist about to show off his best trick. He looked almost as nervous as me as he whisked away the cloth, but that was starkly impossible; it must have been a trick of the light.

    In the cabinet was a sword, a sword fit for princes, a sword fit for emperors. The blade was steel, because even an emperor has to remember the ultimate source of his power, but it was etched with a fine blue tracery. The hilt was golden where the metal was visible, and encrusted with every precious gem I’d ever heard of.

    I stepped back, feeling cheated.

    “This is nonsense,” I protested. “Even if that’s what it seems, it can’t be the source of our wealth. It might be worth a king’s ransom – but it’s still here.”

    It felt like an eternity before I could nerve myself to meet his eye after my outburst, but when I did I found that he was grinning.

    “I knew you’d see through it. It’s in the blood. Look again.”

    And the sword was damascene steel, with an honest hilt bound in leather.

    “That, my boy, is a sword that has slain dragons, and I believe that it’s time you learnt the family trade.”

    498 words, special challenge accepted

  12. Hands

    Hands trembling, he opened the door…and just as suddenly pulled it closed again.

    A veritable mountain of a man, Jocko Halloran shook his head side to side so vigorously the bones of his thick neck crackled loudly. In 56 years on God’s Green Earth he’d never lacked the strength or the will for…anything and he’d be damned to the Netherhells if he was to go starting such now.

    For lack of any idea what else to do, he stared down at his hands. They were good, strong, big hands. They were hands that had hauled a hundred times a hundred hods of bricks in the hot summer heat of Atlanta. They were hands that had dug mile upon mile of trench, it seemed, in the frozen soil of the Ardennes. They were hands that had hammered and sawed, lifted and hauled and done every task he’d ever asked of them with nary a worry they’d not be sufficient to the task. So why, he asked himself, could those fine, strong hands not do something as simple as turn the handle of a door?

    Reluctantly, he was forced to admit it was not the act of opening the door that stymied his considerable physical strength. It was the mind-numbing fear of what waited for him beyond that door that tipped the scales against him. For beyond that simple, functional, utilitarian door, the woman he loved…the only woman he had ever loved, was slipping further and further beyond his reach and ever nearer to the cold embrace of death.

    Sure and his Bessie was a braw scrapper. Every battle she could wage against the accursed wasting of her body she had fought with silent dignity and unassailable tenacity. If spirit alone were enough to sustain her then, Saints knew, she’d live to see a hundred years but there comes a day…a point…beyond which spirit must give way to the disease. When the last tests had been run, the last chemotherapy dosage given and still the cancer remained, then the battles won mattered not a whit to the war being lost.

    Today would be the end. There would be no reprieve, no resurgence of health, no more chances. Before the sun had set on this day, his Bess would be no more and what remained of Jocko wouldn’t be worth a damn anymore.
    But, for that day, Jocko Francis Halloran would hoard every last ounce of his strength and will it into the resolve to never, ever let his wife know how lost he’d be when she was gone. She deserved better than that. She deserved to pass with love for her and not tears in his eyes. For her, he would do the last strong thing he might ever do.

    Scant minutes later, the battered, hard-skinned hands that had cracked skulls and crushed rocks, gently stroked the flushed, bald head of the most beautiful woman he had ever or would ever see until the Good Lord called him home to join her.

    500 words, challenge words included @klingorengi

  13. Justice

    Hands trembling, he opened the door. Frankie’s eyes squinted in the darkness. The grind of iron against iron scraped behind him, followed by the sound of one—two—three—four locks.

    “Out,” a gruff, emotionless voice hissed.

    Frankie turned, meeting Hector’s eyes.

    “You heard me. Get out of here.”

    Frankie gulped, a grateful tear forming. The drop swelled, escaping in a single stream down his cheek.

    “Frankie, I’m no sap. I’m just doing what I think is right. Now get the hell out of here before I change my mind,” Hector paused for a moment, his tone turning grave, “Do you remember the plan?”

    Frankie nodded.

    “Repeat it back one more time,” Hector whispered. He paused himself, taking in a single deep breath, exhaling with planned precision. Frankie wondered what he was feeling now, risking his reputation, his job, perhaps even his life, for a nobody like him.

    “Head towards the mountains,” Frankie began, reciting the plan with decisiveness.

    Hector nodded, a motion Frankie knew was an invitation to continue.

    “I follow the stream to deaden my scent.”

    Hector nodded once more.

    “After two kilometers, the scales will tip in the stream’s favor, where I’ll find rapids along with the raft, the pack, and the other supplies you’ve so graciously had someone on the outside hoard.”

    Another nod.

    “By then the stream too wide and deep to walk; I’ll have to raft.”

    “Very good, Frankie,” Hector said.

    Hector was silent for a few moments. He glanced at the sky, and Frankie let his eyes follow the other man’s gaze. The two men stood, silent, staring at the stars. Volumes were spoken in stillness.

    “What’s it like?” Hector asked, his voice barely audible. He paused. “I mean…being on the outside for the first time in twenty years?”

    Frankie couldn’t control his emotions any longer. A swell formed in his throat, seemingly preventing Frankie from swallowing, breathing, speaking. The left eye began to leak, then the right, and then both were freely flowing. In the silence, Frankie looked through the icy, iron gates to the senior officer.

    “Like seeing a newborn for the first time,” Frankie thought at first, “Or realizing you have a chance to start over. Or…I don’t know, Hec. It’s so many things at once.”

    They were silent again.

    “Hector,” Frankie managed to muster, “Are you sure it’s worth it?”

    Hector nodded, certain.

    “It is, Frankie. Too long an innocent man has been held behind cement blockades and iron gates. It’s the only right thing to do.”

    Frankie nodded from the other side, meeting the guard’s eyes once more.

    “I can only give you so much time…”

    “I know.”

    “And the risk involved…”

    “Regardless, Hec, you can live knowing you freed an innocent man.”

    “Get on your way, then, Frankie.”

    Frankie turned, the mountains sparkling with possibility, leaving behind a cell, iron, cement, and a friend.

    Hector watched Frankie go, nodding to himself. And, for the first time in a long time, Hector felt all was just.

    498 words, special challenge accepted

  14. Shift
    By Lisa McCourt Hollar

    Hands trembling he opened the door to the cabin. The lights were out, but he could sense someone was there. Movement in the corner caught his attention and a vague shadow moved across the window.

    “Come in, Harvey.”

    There was no point in running. He stepped carefully inside, careful not to knock over the hoard of papers stacked inside the door.

    “You’re really a pack rat, Harvey. I never would have known it from how impeccable you are in public.”

    “Everyone needs a hobby.”

    She laughed. “Collecting trash is a hobby?”

    He didn’t answer. What could he say? Certainly not the truth, she would know that soon enough.

    “Do you mind if I turn on the light?” He didn’t wait for her to answer, flipping the switch and bathing the room in a soft glow. If he’d been hoping to blind her with the sudden light, he was disappointed. He hadn’t been. He knew her… knew her eyes didn’t work like everyone else’s.

    He stepped over to the window and looked out. The mountains were silhouetted against the moon. “I suppose the place is surrounded?”

    Nova shrugged, “You know they wouldn’t send just me. I’m good… but they agency wants you dead.”

    “And you?”

    “I want you dead, too.”

    “You didn’t always feel that way.” Harvey leaned against the wall and folded his arms. He looked her up and down, appraising her. She’d put on a little weight, but not much. Most of it was muscle.

    “I’ve gotten wiser in my old age.”

    That brought a laugh from him. “Old. Well, I suppose 273 years would constitute old by human standards…but in our world you’re still a child.”

    “Perhaps, but a wiser child than you. Why did you do it Harvey?”

    “Why not? Don’t you get tired of all the pretense? We walk around, pretending we’re gods, and we aren’t. So I balanced the scales.”

    “You told the world of our existence. They didn’t believe you…”

    “Some of them have.”

    “And they’ve been dealt with. Painfully. Your girlfriend… what’s her name, Jessica? She screamed for you as she was dying. Took four days… I drained her blood myself.”

    He turned pale. Stepping forward, he raised his hands and then put them down. Savannah smirked, glancing outside. He looked too. They were no longer hiding in the shadows, but advancing towards the cabin. “You would be dead before you ever touched me,” she said. Then she added, “You never should have left me.”

    “I couldn’t stay,” he said. “And I can’t now, either.”

    He picked up one of the papers stacked on the table. The front page showed a picture of a cathedral. “I learned a new trick.” Before she could stop him, he took her hand and the cabin vanished.

    Pulling from his grasp, she looked around the Cathedral. “Harvey… how?”

    “It’s just a shift in perspective,” he said, pulling the stake from his jacket. It was fitting that she should die in the same place they had been wed.

    Word Count: 500

  15. Hands trembling, he opened the door. He could hear Alexa behind him, begging him not to, but he had no choice. He didn’t know what would happen once the door was opened and at this point he didn’t really care. All that mattered was saving Alexa and if opening the door kept her alive a little longer, so be it.
    He took a deep breath and gathered his courage to him. Something told him he was going to need it.
    He felt the change even before he’d finished the task at hand. He didn’t see inside the room as much as feel it burning through him. It burned like a white hot light, until there was nothing left. Everything he was, everything he thought he was changed in that instant.
    He knew nothing. He knew everything.
    He smiled as he turned to face the man holding a gun to Alexa’s head, only to see her eyes widen with fear. Behind him a horde of angles charged towards them from mountains beyond. Each wielded a flaming sword engraved with the ancient words of justice and strength, in their leader’s left hand the scales of justice teetered.
    “You thought you could contain me,” he said, his eyes echoing the fire that had transformed him. “You thought you could use me to control a power you don’t even understand.”
    “Do you?” The man taunted him as he moved the barrel of the pistol to Alexa’s temple. “Understand that is?”
    He laughed as the gun vanished from the man’s hand and in its place he held a rose. “I understand completely.”
    With a wave of his hand, the man vanished as well and he stood alone with Alexa.
    “What was that,” she asked, her breath coming in fearful gasps.

    296 words - including word challenge

  16. And... I copied down the wrong hoard Thanks for an interesting challenge!