Monday, October 13, 2014


Welcome back! We've been fighting allergies/head-cold stuff here, so I'm going to just point you to the prompts below and go to bed. :) 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.
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 Betsy Streeter, also known as @betsystreeter. Check out her blog here. Read her winning tale from last week here! Betsy Streeter is a novelist and artist. Her YA sci fi novel, "Silverwood," is available as an ARC and goes on sale in March 2015. She really wishes her son's pet tarantula would eat that noisy cricket.

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #2-15 is:

It is time to make the announcement.

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Include a beaded necklace, a bridge, a glass of water, and an envelope.



  1. Josh Bertetta
    499 Words
    (All challenge elements included)


    “It is time to make the announcement,” said the note no larger than a business card Ben-Oni pulled from the envelope. No, not now, he thought. Not now not now. I’m not ready yet. He held the glass of water to his mouth to hide his nervous smile from those before him, their eyes—all sort of eyes—rapt and waiting. Now they would be given the chance for that which they had been waiting. Of course he didn’t want to say it, but he was under oath. He looked over his shoulder and could see in Lola’s eyes she knew. She nodded and mouthed “I love you.” He faced his on-lookers and, almost choking on the brambled knot in his throat, proceeded to speak.


    “Everything will be just fine,” said Lola. She always tried to reassure him in times like this. “You’ve been in this position before, and you’ve always come out unscathed.” Ben-Oni looked at her. His corticated brown eyes, bearers of the roots that bridged their souls, bore now the scar of lightning. She took his face in her hands and, resting her forehead against his, looked into those eyes and said, “You are going to be fine. Now take a deep breath.” He did. She released him, said “now go,” and, drawing her beaded necklace between her teeth, watched him, her nervous foot tapping, approach the assembly.

    They’d been there before she reminded herself. And yet as the years passed, it never got easier. They knew when the letter would arrive and they knew by the stamp what it meant. So here they were and there Ben-Oni stood. She hoped the others hadn’t noticed, but he could not hide his body language from her. And when there was that slight sag in his shoulders after he opened the envelope and read the card, she knew. The glass of water to his mouth, he glanced at her and she, trying to hold back the tears of a thousand years, knew he knew she knew and despite everything inside that made her want to crumble and die too, she managed to mouth “I love you.”


    Deimos stood in the back. Though this was all his doing, it was not for him. It was for them. Though each and every one of them thanked him for yet another opportunity when he greeted them at the door, he was not so selfish as to presume that though this was of his making that the spotlight should be on him. No, it was, once again, on Ben-Oni. He pictured Ben-Oni’s shirt soaked with sweat under that atrocious brown coat of his and chuckled under his breath. But why he should still tremble with fear after all these years Deimos could not quite fathom. Perhaps he’d put him through too much. But he did let him live. He knew this day was to come. Ben-Oni was ready. And the others had been waiting.

    “I have an announcement to make.”

  2. Bridge To The Stars

    "It is time to make the announcement." Her aide handed the President the hardcopy of her speech, adjusted the microphone and then scuttled clear of the camera's view. Sharp-eyed, black suit clad Secret Service men and red-uniformed Royal Canadian Mounties scanned their surroundings constantly.

    President Hilary Clinton fidgeted slightly, adjusting the lay of the beaded necklace of pearls that hung around her neck. She raised the glass of tepid water from its place on the podium and took a sip. The wind from off of the lake ruffled her hair and flags snapped in the breeze.

    The director of the news camera crew raised his right hand. "In five, four, three, two, and you're live on air Mrs. President." He said, hand slashing down.

    "My fellow Americans as you know, our country's and Canada's best and brightest minds have been engaged these past ten years in an unprecedented union between governments, technologies, and the sciences in pursuit of the fulfillment of the greatest vision ever conceived of by mankind. It is with great pride that I stand before you with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, here in Winnipeg, Manitoba on this momentous occasion, and announce the grand opening of the NorAm Sky Bridge." She raised her left hand a waved it at the massive column of the gleaming space elevator behind her.

    The audience clapped, yelled, and whistled. She waited until it was mostly silent. "And now for the moment you've all been waiting for, the envelope if you please..." Her aide handed her the gold embossed vellum envelope. The President slowly raised the flap, drew out the piece of paper tucked inside, carefully unfolded it, and read the contents aloud. "The winner of the North American essay contest to cut the ribbon and be the first civilian to ride on the NorAm Sky Bridge is", she paused briefly increasing the suspense, "Miss Betsy O'Connell from Boston Massachusetts! Please come up to the podium Betsy."

    Wild cheering erupted from the crowd. A blushing sixteen year-old with blond hair, blue eyes and a trim figure nudged her way forward through the crowd, climbed up the steps and took her place beside them.

    Perfect, just perfect. Thought the saboteur. This moment will play for days on every media source in existence on this planet. The girl raised the over-sized scissors in both hands and snipped the ribbon cleanly in half. The saboteur pressed the gigantic red button that triggered his device.

    KABOOM! A series of explosions rippled down the length of the cables. Metal groaned, ceramics shattered, plastics fractured, and the elevator buckled to the ground crushing the crowd into a gory paste.

    That out to put these hairy apes back a few decades. The PR^%$@STHCK Empire doesn't need any competitors. Emotionlessly the alien packed up his gear and stepped into his spacecraft. I hope that I don't have to come back here anytime soon, this planet is such a mud ball. He thought coldly as the Earth receded behind him in his rearview screen.

    497 Words
    Special Challenge Accepted

    1. My first thought was "Stephen Harper still PM??? Nooooooo!" Some nice tight descriptions through here. I enjoyed the alien's dismissiveness toward the striving of earthlings.

  3. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 382
    All elements of the special challenge included.

    Three Suitors

    It is time to make the announcement.

    Two weeks ago, I met with three members of society for a light game of bridge.

    Wealth did not name his beverage of choice; I assumed it was a glass of water, but the vodka soon made itself known as it flowed from his mouth in the form of delectable words.

    “Why not choose me, darling? I'll transport you to places you never knew existed without my help, to the heights of the tallest skyscrapers or the depths of the deepest gambling hells. Let me woo you, luscious. I'll court you to the most wondrous end.”

    Fame snorted in derision. He turned to me, enveloping his words in sparkling glamor. “With me, Princess, you will never be lonely again. Friends will flow from the woodwork. You will walk with me down red-carpeted aisles, and the masses will clamor to touch even your shadow.”

    Wealth pummeled Fame on the arm, unwilling to give even an inch of ground. “My gifts are greater than yours. Friends cannot feed. Friends cannot clothe. Friends can only talk.”

    “Where is the warmth of wealth?” Fame snarled back. “Better a coterie of glittering friends than cold silent dinners and empty palaces void of laughter.”

    A seductive finger slid smoothly beneath my beaded necklace, a long finger tracing the nape of my neck with feather-light strokes.

    “Perhaps she has use for neither of you,” the rich voice whispered across the table. “Perhaps she would be wise to consider me for her suitor. For where else can she find your best offers, Wealth, and your most glittering prizes, Fame, packaged into one all-encompassing personage? Oh yes, dear one,” he breathed in my ear. “I eat Wealth for breakfast. Fame wilts beneath my shadow. In the end, neither will romance you, but I,” he laughed, seduction coating his voice, “I will remain constant for eternity. I am the best choice.”

    Now, here I stand, my knees trembling on my stage. I have looked Wealth in the face and rejected him. I have turned my back on Fame. For as Death says, in the end, he is my inevitable suitor.

    My lips part, and I speak the announcement to my small world. “I am dying.”

    1. What a... seductive allegory. Beautiful language (as ever). I adore the way you used the prompts, especially "envelope". Death does come across as the most seductive.

    2. Thanks! :) I was coming up pretty dry for any type of story, so this felt sort of scraped together. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    3. Tamara I think this is genius. So packed with truth. Really like this.


    402 Words
    Special Challenge Accepted!

    “It is time to make the announcement!”

    The magician dipped his right hand into the velvety top hat on the table, and came back with a rabbit. The rabbit held an envelope in a chubby front paw.

    The room exploded with applause. I didn’t clap. I never clap.

    “Is there anyone in the audience who would like to volunteer?”

    Hands shot into the air so quickly I was afraid there might be a few dislocated shoulders. I slouched further down in my chair and tried to become invisible.

    “You there, in the green sweater. Yes, you.”

    I shook my head.

    “Don’t be shy!”

    I knew he wouldn’t give up until I was on the stage. I made my way up the stairs and grabbed the envelope from the rabbit. I tore it open and read the first line.

    “The Great and Mystical Martin would like to announce his retirement.”

    A frantic whisper went through the crowd. I looked up at my dad and he nodded, his mouth set in a grim line.

    “I have chosen as my successor…”

    My dad did a twirl.

    “…Maximus Rabbitus.”

    Wait, what?

    I waited until after the show. I asked dad to pull over so we could talk. He stopped by the footbridge and we went up to look at the river.

    It was a peaceful night, and I almost felt like we’d be able to connect, like we had when I was little. In those days I was impressed when he could make the water stay in the glass, but now I knew all the secrets and magic wasn’t magic anymore.

    “You can’t make the bunny your successor,” I said.

    “Why not? At least Maximus appreciates me.”

    Dad pulled her out of the hat. She was wearing a beaded necklace, a top hat, and a little cape.

    “She’s cute, but she won’t make a good magician.”

    “Why not?”

    “They don’t make handcuffs that tiny.”


    I knew my dad was doing this to make me feel guilty. He wanted me to think he’d lost it because I refused to join the family business.

    “I’m not going to be a magician, and there’s nothing you can say to change my mind,” I said.

    “It’s what your mother would have wanted.”

    Mystical Martin Junior made his debut the following week.

    Hey – I’m a brat, but I’m not heartless. Wipe that smirk off your face and pick a card.

    1. Loved the cynical voice in this one. You somehow managed to make Junior petulant AND likable (even before he proved himself a guy with heart).

  5. Title: Phone Call
    Words: 496
    Challenge Accepted

    “It is time to make the announcement,” Randal whispered into my ear. I started to stand with him but sat right back down.

    “I really think we should wait until after the doctor calls. She said she’d call this morning, and her office closes soon, we should get the call any minute.”

    “Jenna, we talked about this. I know you haven’t been feeling great, but nothing is wrong. The doctor is going to confirm what you’re feeling is normal and you haven’t lost the baby. We need to share this exciting news with our friends and family.”

    “I know but people have miscarriages all the time, I’d rather have the doctor confirm everything is ok than announce to everyone we’re expecting and then take it back later,” I was practically begging him. Our friends and family were gathered as usual for Saturday barbecue. It had been a tradition ever since Randal and I had gotten married over a year ago. Most of our family lived across the bridge, so it was nice to have an excuse for us to get together every week.

    “Ten more minutes? Then we make the announcement?” He kissed my forehead, “Don’t worry, love, it’s ok to be excited about this. I know I am!” I smiled back at him and let myself relax into his arms. It was safe there.

    Ten short minutes later, everyone was still seated and Randal took my hand and chinked his plastic knife against his glass of water. It didn’t echo right, so he clapped his hands and got everyone’s attention. All eyes turned toward us and I squeezed Randal’s hand tighter.

    “We have an announcement to make,” Randal said, his deep voice resonating. I jumped as my phone vibrated in my pocket. Everyone laughed and I held up my finger in the standard “one moment” way. I stepped to the side as I heard Randal say, “Well, thank you for making these Saturday bbq’s awesome. Always good to see…”

    I put my ear to the phone. “Hi, Jenna? This is Dr. Noran, I have your test results.”

    I hung up the phone, not even enough moisture left in my mouth to seal and envelope.

    “Oh and here she comes back…” said Randal and his face turned towards mine. His expression went from one of pleasantries to absolute terror. Tears filled my eyes and I saw redness seeping into his.

    “Uhm, just wanted to thank you all, no other annou…”

    “Randal,” I said cutting him off and rejoining him at the table. My mother was nervously running her hands along her beaded necklace.

    “We do have an announcement,” I said. Randal put his hand over his eyes to hide the tears that were starting to flow. “We’re expecting twins!”

    Randal’s head shot up as his upset tears turned to tears of joy. He bundled me up in his arms as our families clapped and cheered. As he held me I felt little kicks celebrating from inside.

    1. I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for the bad news...which made it so much more happy when the bad news never came!

      Though I suppose some could argue twins might be a kind of news all their own...

    2. I absolutely agree about the twon news! Thank you for your comment!

    3. Twin* sorry....

  6. Third Time

    It’s time to make the announcement, I decide, dropping beads one by one over the guardrail into the foam. Red, blue, purple, green, purple…

    The river seems gentler in spring, like you might survive the jump and drift along with the tufts of cottonwood. But you jumped into unforgiving winter waters, and your family is still asking why.

    My jump would have been in early fall if it hadn’t been for you—or rather the necklace twined around your wrist. I wouldn’t have hesitated but for that scatter of colors on a worn bit of yarn.

    A child made that, I said through your mollifications. The corners of your lips dipped just enough to confirm it: a child no longer around. And then I wondered how the hell could you believe life worth living if you’d lost a child? And how could I claim it wasn’t when my problems were trivial by comparison? So I took your hand and clambered back to the walkway.

    If you hadn’t offered to buy me a drink, we would have parted ways and you would have always been the good samaritan that talked me off the bridge that one time—my first real attempt. But the way you fingered red-blue-purple-green-purple like a rosary beckoned me into your confidence.

    A niece, you said. Hit and run driver. Some drunk.

    If I weren’t so busy straggling my own bitterness, I might have tried to pry open the fists around yours. I probably could have guessed the truth in the way you were nursing a glass of water while re-ordering me dark lagers. But you’d peeled away a layer of isolation and I didn’t want to sabotage it.

    If I hadn’t already burned the bridges back to my old life, I would have crawled into a cab, ever grateful for that guy who paid my tab. I wouldn’t have followed you home like an abandoned three-legged puppy.

    If your couch hadn’t given me the best sleep in years, I would’ve slipped out before you’d woken up, leaving a note of thanks. I would’ve been too embarrassed to leave my number even though I wanted to. But my hangover couldn’t refuse the scent of maple syrup and coffee. I wouldn’t have stayed just to Thanksgiving, then just to New Year’s.

    If I hadn’t spilled cereal across the counter, I never would’ve opened the envelope you’d left or known where to find you. You might have talked yourself back from the ledge.

    Finger-bone trees tore at the haze. Frost stubbled the guardrail. You swayed like a cypress in a gale. The rapids swallowed gin-and-tonic sobs.

    If it weren’t for the truth I carried with me, you might have taken my hand and let me buy the drinks.

    Red, blue, purple, green, purple. So, the announcement has waited through the winter. I imagine it’s why you indebted me to you in the first place: someone has to tell your brother the real reason you kept the necklace.

    493 words
    Special challenge accepted

  7. “The Game”
    by Michael Seese
    493 words

    Special Challenge ACCEPTED

    “It is time to make the announcement,” Mr. Boddy said, clinking a glass of water with his fork. “Someone in this room will die tonight.”

    How would one expect an assemblage of six renowned aristocrats to react to said pronouncement?

    Gasps? No.

    Screams? No.

    Panic? No.

    The genteel guests erupted in applause, and then scattered to the remote recesses of the deserted manse, leaving Mr.. Boddy and Wadsworth, his trusted butler, alone in the dining room.

    “Well,” Mr. Boddy said, “what shall be our weapon of choice?”

    “The revolver tends to kill rather effectively, sir,” replied the dignified Brit.

    “A fine suggestion, Wadsworth. Further, as an instrument of human dispatch, it allows for a more hands-off approach than the other methods.”

    “Agreed, sir. Though it does tend to leave a larger mess for me to clean up.”

    “Yes, regrettable. But, to make an omelet...” he shrugged. “On to the lounge!”

    Their crisp footsteps echoed sharply on the hardwood floor. Entering the plush parlor they found the woman in red reclining casually on an overstuffed chaise lounge, fondling her beaded necklace. A single shot through the heart left the young starlet scarlet.

    “Might I suggest, sir, that we employ the secret passage as a shortcut to the conservatory?”

    “A splendid idea, Wadsworth. We’ll clean up the mess later.” Wadsworth knew there would be no “we” about the task. Mr. Boddy pressed a button ensconced in the pastel paisley wallpaper. A large section of the floor slid aside revealing a concealed staircase. Wadsworth removed a hurricane lamp from a table, lit it, and led the way down.

    As they traversed a diagonal beneath the manor, the butler paused on the bridge over the underground river. His employer stopped by his side.

    “Is something troubling you, Wadsworth?”

    “If I may, sir. Do you ever tire of this?”

    “A fair question. With 324 possibilities, I did not think I would. But I will admit it has lost some of its luster. Nonetheless, we cannot end the game now.”

    In the conservatory they encountered Reverend Green.

    “Forgive me, Father,” Mr. Boddy said before turning him into a holey ghost. In the billiard room Colonel Mustard sank a bank shot. Mr. Boddy sank his shot as well. In the library Professor Plum studied a dusty tome. Mr. Boddy saw to it that he was written into the history books. Mrs. Peacock, in the study, exploded like a clay pigeon. Finally, across to the kitchen where Mrs. White perfectly matched the cabinetry and modern appliances. Before the splattering.

    The final piece eliminated, the devilish duo retreated to the cellar to retrieve the envelope.

    “Would you do the honors, Wadsworth?’

    “Certainly, sir.” He cleared his throat. “I believe it was Mr. Boddy, in most rooms, with the candlestick.”

    “Hmmm. It appears as though I had the weapon was wrong.”

    “Perhaps next time, sir.”

    “Perhaps. Do you think those rich adventure-seekers will ever realize that it’s not a board game I’m advertising?”

    1. Terrific stuff as usual Michael. Funny thing, I considered doing a Clue themed story as well. My story is a first here; I definitely like the idea for the prompts and the extra challenges. Neat site.

    2. That was delightful. I adored the various the various appropriately punny deaths, especially in the rapid-fire montage paragraph (holey ghost and clay pigeons, the wordplay with "shot"). Great tone throughout.

  8. A Family Outing

    By Geoff Le Pard
    @geofflepard 498 words. Special Challenge accepted.

    'It is time to make the announcement.' Harold repeated the sentence to himself and then to the mirror. He watched his reflection play with the beads around his neck; after a moment he pulled his hand away angrily. Surely he didn't need to say. They must have realised by now.
    Harold opened the oven; the cake felt just the right side of firm. How many clues did they need? He slipped the pinny over his head and smoothed out the ruffed edge.
    Maybe they knew. Maybe he didn't need to say.
    He shook his head. He had to do it. His parents were waiting. They knew something was up. He smiled grimly. They probably thought he was going to announce his engagement to Sammy but that wasn't going to happen now. He could hear his mother. 'It will be white, won't it?' They were so traditional, so set in their ways.
    Harold stared at the cooling cake. They had been good parents. Never had they criticised his choices, his friends, his clothes. He looked at his new jeans. Didn't they see the change in his dress? Wasn't that a giveaway?
    Easy going but traditional. Churchy. That didn't help, either.
    Harold stood slowly and began to make some butter icing. Meeting Charlie hadn't been in his plans. He barely took on board the new intern despite the comments, mostly disparaging about how ‘out there’ Charlie was. 'In your face' was the politest. And then the Christmas party. What a cliché, caught snogging on the back stairs. The secret was out then. Harold had tried to hide his feelings but Sammy heard and in next to no time things unravelled. Not just his relationship with his partner of four years but at work too. Some were nice, talking about ‘modern thinking’ and ‘building bridges’ and ‘pushing the envelope’. But some couldn’t hide their disgust.
    He had to be honest with himself. He had changed. No he hadn't changed. He'd grown up. He didn't need to hide the truth to gain acceptance anymore.
    The cake had cooled and he took his usual care decorating it. He knew he was delaying the inevitable, but he wanted things to be perfect.
    It was pressure from Charlie that tipped the balance. 'When am I going to meet your parents?' Bloody hell. Why was it always the one you loved the most who caused you the greatest heart ache?
    The cake was ready so Harold laid the tray. He wanted it to be just so. First the doilies then his mother's best bone china. Tea leaves not bags. A glass of water for dad. The cake stand his grandma had given him. Granny. She had known a long time ago. She'd told him as much. 'You know, Harold, you have to be brave. Don't pretend to be what you're not.'
    Granny was right. Harold Johnson, 32, head of communications at LGBT Support, was coming out. He was going to tell his parents he was straight.

    1. Great twist and title! The misdirection made me think Charlie might be an ET or something--because surely it couldn't be a standard coming out. You got me--I was so not ready for that.

  9. It is time to make the announcement. I wish it wasn’t. I wish I didn’t have to. I wish I was somewhere else. But I’m not, and I have to, and it’s time. I stand up, clear my throat, and wait for silence in the room. I don’t wait long, just a few seconds. Then I speak. “It’s time for the annual mystery race.”

    All seventy-three people in the sanctuary cheers. I wait for silence to return. “Everyone knows the rules, of course.”

    Someone raises his hand, “I don’t.”

    “Yeah, the rules! We need a refresher!”

    I grimace, “Humans,” I think.

    “Very well.” I sigh. “The mystery race has four clues. The first three clues always show you where the fourth clue is. The fourth clue is an envelope containing the phone number you must call to complete the race.”

    “What do we get?”

    “This year, Mr. Anderson will send you a $50 gas card once a week for 52 weeks.”

    They cheered, of course. For some of them, $50 of free gas a week meant they would drive all year for free. Others would cut their gas bill in half. Who wouldn’t want such a gift. Again, I waited for silence in the sanctuary.

    “These are the clues Mr. Anderson has provided for this year’s challenge,” I push the button on the remote control, and a picture of the first clue displays on the movie screen. “A beaded necklace.” I close my eyes to avoid seeing the gaudy picture once more. “Only five copies of this necklace exist in the city. The beads of each necklace give you a street name.”

    “The second clue is a bridge.” I press the remote control button and replace the image of the necklace with one of a bridge. “The bridge is visible from somewhere along the named street.”

    I click the remote and the third picture appears. “At one foot of the bridge is a glass of water. In the water is the key for a safe deposit box. Bring the key here, and open the matching safe deposit box. The first box opened will contain the envelope with the phone number.”

    Chaos ensues, with countless questions. “How do we find the necklaces? What stores are they in? Are they all in one store? Is there a time limit?”

    I answer as honestly, and calmly as I can. “There are five necklaces. They are in five different stores. The stores are not specified. They are any stores that carry necklaces, including Wal-Mart, jewelry stores. Any stores that sell necklaces. There is no time limit.”

    It’s time for to finish the announcement. “And now, the contest starts. Mr. Anderson wishes you all a Happy Halloween, and hopes you enjoy his race.”

    When the last person leaves the sanctuary, I close the doors, then lock them. Then, I pull my silver flask from my jacket pocket, and drain it. “God, I hate this annual challenge.”

    488 words

  10. The Guide

    "It is time to make the announcement", the female projects in gbMan.

    "Use a contraction -- we humans prefer them," I answer while drinking from my glass of water.

    The female Ambassador skips across the room to stand in front of me. She wears the body of Professor Wescott. I used to pine of those long legs. The days she wore witch glasses and button-ups were almost too much for me. But the Professor is no more. The program inhabiting her body has taken the allure of out it. “You are incorrect. Our Guide must know better.”

    The heartbeat behind my eye threatens to burst out. “Esteemed Dashi. Your host practiced formal English. The audience for tonight’s broadcast is commoners. You need to trust my advice.”

    The Ambassador steps well within my personal bubble space. Knowing what is controlling the Professor chills my soul. The last guide was dismissed over an unfortunate curry misunderstanding. “This is the same as concept as wjen replacing wjot tjə?”

    I bend my left ear to my shoulder using the Cherxhe gesture for agreeing with a superior. I always feel trepidation performing their gestures — it’s so easy to perform a faux pas. Who knew my parent’s push for me to become a professor of Mandarin would lead to a position acclimatizing Earth’s first visitors?

    “Guide. It is time. Lead me to your communication’s station.”

    Like a good butler I open doors for the Ambassador. We walk across the wooden bridge over the joy pond to where the Ambassador will lie to the people of the earth. My role is to ensure that the arrangements have been made.

    The studio is empty, sans for a breathtaking hostess and three broadcast technicians. I requested the redheaded hostess because she exudes friendliness. That she will be mine within the month is motivation enough to continue.

    I cut the Ambassador off before she reaches the chairs where the hostess will “interview” her. “Dashi, if I may.”

    The Ambassador turns while I attend to her modesty. The notion of proper appearance isn’t one that she has grasped yet. I button up her shirt, fold the skirt flat, and place the azure beaded necklace around her neck. The necklace reminds me of the Earth — a thought I shove out of my mind.

    I walk to the hostess and extend my hand. The hostess ignores my attempt.

    I am nothing to her — yet. Regardless, I hand her the envelope with the questions. As her confusion I explain, “These are the questions you will ask the Ambassador. Do not deviate.”

    I take my place off camera where I may signal the hostess. The Ambassador explains the miracle of gbMan communication and how they are willing to share this with our people.

    Yes my fellow humans implant the chip. Provide the Cherxhe the hosts they need. It’s fine, as your Guide I’ll be a benevolent ruler.

    482 Words
    Challenge Accepted

    1. Love the direction you took with the opener. That first line had me hooked. I enjoyed the interaction between the MC and the alien, how he seems to subordinate himself, all the while veiling dark ambitions.

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  12. Changing Of The Guard

    It is time to make the announcement. We’ve waited 50 years for a new liege, and I like my siblings, know our family’s time is coming. As if on cue, Marcus faces the gathering and pulls an envelope from his inside jacket pocket. He smirks at the stage where my brother Frank stands, before slipping the paper from the envelope smoothing it flat.
    “I’ve said it before, some people are just meant for greatness,” Marcus says. “This doesn’t happen to be one of those times, but it goes to prove that often the weak must be thrust into roles they don’t envision for themselves. Now we shall see how far one can climb.”
    “On with it,” someone shouts.
    Greatness? Whomever is chosen will rule our land. And more importantly, protect us from our neighbors.
    Diane is pushed forward and wraps a trembling hand around the beaded necklace our mother gave her. “Don’t let it be me,” she mumbles.
    I nudge her with my elbow and she gives me a death look. “You’re stronger than you know.” Its a tired line, but as apropos as always when speaking of my sister. Diane could rip the wing off a faery without losing sleep, but is frightened of her shadow.
    “Why would you worry it to be you,” Leesa asks. The eldest of us, she’s ever the pragmatic one, and the first to call foul for little provocation. “If there were a chance, you’d be on stage as well.”
    “Not like it’s a big deal,” I taunted. “Cross the bridge.”
    “And drink from the glass,” Diane all but whines.
    “Its water.” I can’t see who says this, but he is correct.
    “That’s what they want you to believe.” Leesa shrugs and smiles at Diane.
    Sometimes I hate her. Frank stares at me. I swallow. He knows something.
    From the back of the crowd someone calls my name.
    I freeze hearing it again only it’s from Marcus.
    “Shawn O’Malley.”
    My name should not be in the mix. Franks, yes, even Diane’s. Not mine.
    “Our founding fathers held truth that the individual chosen to cross the bridge and drink the glass of water be of sound mind and honest heart.” Marcus lifts the sword of command. “That they be not only able body, but also capable of leadership. That they be willing to take the road not traveled.”
    Everyone looks at me and I quake in my boots. I’ve never thought of myself as any of those things. Leesa pushes me forward until I’m in front of the crowd, Marcus, and Frank.
    “These simple tasks hold the promise of hope and shine a light on the character that resides inside a person.” Marcus kneels to whisper in my ear. “You were born for this.”

    “That was 50 years ago. My life is not one I’d have sought for myself, but I’ve regretted none a lost hair.” Reaching into my pocket, I remove the envelope, slip the paper from inside, and smooth it flat.

    Challenge accepted.

    (sorry about the deletion, had a huge typo I couldn't just leave.)

  13. The Riddle

    “It is time to make the announcement.”

    “Are you certain this is the best way to save our son?”

    The king’s wet, burning eyes met hers. “This is the only way.”

    The news roared through the kingdom like dragonfire. Three impossible tasks; the prince himself as reward. What girl could refuse such a challenge? Many failed, however, as dreams outflanked wisdom; and many more died in the trying.

    I’d be smarter.

    Bring the prince thirty drops of blood drawn from both sea and land.

    It didn’t take past breakfast to deduce this was (unsurprisingly) less quest, more riddle. Some girls went about picking fights with mermaids shipboard, collecting blood in diamond vials. Others fished for mini-kraken and dragged them on shore before hacking them to pieces. Me, I’d lived on the coast too long to get this one wrong. Pearls were meant, of course, so I strung thirty of them on a silver chain and dropped them off at the front gate.

    Bring the prince a strand of hair from a Cloud Walker.

    This one was easy too, and I almost spit my pomegranate juice on the envelope when I read it. Cloud Walkers don’t have proper hair, of course. They are made of mixed vapor and moss, and no one’s ever gotten close enough to talk to one. Still, it wasn’t any great secret they lived in the air between the Twin Mountains, and I reasoned Cloud Walkers were surely as decent as anyone else if approached politely. I flung a vine across the chasm to make a sort of bridge through the clouds, and explained things. Sure enough, they were eager to pluck a delicate bit of fuzzy wetness from their heads for a good cause.

    Bring the prince the heart of the land, split in two.

    Ah. Now this task almost needed brain work; everyone said the prince was the heart of the land.

    Good thing I was smarter.

    “I’m here with the land/heart thing,” I said to the gatekeeper. He motioned me in, and I trotted behind a servant up a back turret.

    The prince lay there, pale and still. Dying, it appeared; a fact quite left out of the original announcement. I wasn’t one to shrink at surprises, however, so I shuffled on up and handed him the glass of water.

    “What’s this?” he whispered.

    “Look in,” I said, and when he did, his own watery reflection stared trembling back. Then I poured half the water into a second glass.

    “Look again,” I said, and now two shaky reflections appeared.

    This counted, apparently, and the king, queen, and court officials flooded into the room, cheering.

    “Such a clever girl,” said the queen, wiping her nose, “and there’s no one we’d rather have for our son.”

    “You have saved us all,” the king said, eyes brimming over.

    “Brave, clever maiden,” said the queen.

    “I’m eternally grateful,” whispered the prince, licking his dragon lips and opening his maw.

    Seems smarter is relative.

    495 way DQ'd words -- am late but had to write anyway

  14. Doh! I loved the riddles and clever solutions--but I should have guessed something was seriously up, and still the end punched me!