Monday, December 1, 2014


HAPPY DECEMBER!!! I love this time of year! (And I really love not being sick anymore!) My NaNo didn't go as planned (what with the sickness of myself and my family), but I plan on working on the novel and finishing the first draft within the next couple of months. I have a TBR list a mile long that I might partially tackle before I get back to it though. :) Go check out the prompt and write something amazing.

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 Phil Coltrane. Read his winning tale from last week here!  Phil is a software developer, husband, and father of two alien creatures known as toddlers. He enjoys reading and writing speculative fiction of all sorts, from atompunk to zombie. Some of his short fiction may be found on his blog,, and he hopes to complete a novel prior to the heat death of the universe. He can be found on Twitter at @pmcolt.

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #2-22 is:

As quickly as [she] appeared, the [woman] in the red dress vanished into the [woods].

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Include at least FOUR different words for shades of red. "Red" doesn't count as one.



  1. RED

    As quickly as she appeared, the woman in the red dress vanished into the woods.

    I watched her go with a sigh. This was the sixth night in a row for that mysterious vanishing crimson-clothed woman, and I did not yet know quite what to make of her. Was she a ghost? A vision? A result of my having eaten (again) a shade too much mincemeat pie after supper?

    The real estate agent, herself ironically sporting a raspberry-tinted shawl, had warned me, in her own vague way. “You’ll love it here,” she’d said. “The neighbors will leave you alone.”

    Since my sweet little cottage at the edge of the woods was the only building on the fifty-acre lot, I’d taken her words as a joke. Now I wasn’t so sure.

    The woman in the red dress hadn’t been the only person, either.
    First there’d been the broad-shouldered man striding past, a fiercesome axe resting casually on one shoulder. I’d told myself the blood red-marked handle was merely d├ęcor. In any event it hadn’t mattered, as within moments he had disappeared into the trees. That had been at breakfast the day after my arrival.

    A couple of hours later I’d seen an old woman, hunched over so far her bony chin nearly scratched her knees. She moved quickly for such an aged person, and in her hands she clutched a basket of sparkling vermillion fruit. Plums, probably, or apples; both were native to this part of the country, and in season. She was the only one of the passersby to appear to note my house, glancing across the lawn to where I stood at the window. Her feet hesitated, as though she were considering coming my way, but after a prolonged moment she too plunged into the shadows.

    That very night I could have sworn I saw two children, holding hands and rushing weeping past. A string of tiny glowing stars trailed behind them, dropped methodically by one child’s free hand and laying an ethereal path. When I checked at first light, however, the grass betrayed no sign of their passing. In fact, it showed nothing at all but dew: cold and wet and, somehow, sad.

    There had been others, too. Short, tall. Alone, or in small clusters. They carried baskets, or swords, or food, or drawstring purses, or stumbled by emptyhanded. I witnessed their journeys in sunlight and in moonlight, and cloaked in storm-black night.

    It is the woman in red who haunts me.

    Screaming, I have woken from a dozen rose-tinged nightmares. When I turn from tidying the den or sweeping the hall, more than once I have caught a flash of scarlet out of the corner of my eyes. Her carmine cloak lurks behind my doors. Garnet bubbles pop, mocking me, in dishsoap foam.

    I moved here because it looked safe. Quiet.

    But perhaps it is true, after all, what they say. Perhaps peace is only a fairytale, even for a gentle-hearted wolf like me.

    497 words
    Judge's challenge accepted: crimson, raspberry, blood, vermillion, rose, scarlet, carmine, garnet

  2. This Life
    468 Words
    Special Challenge Accepted!

    As quickly as it appeared, the woman in the red dress vanished into the woods. Max fished through his bag and retrieved the small bottle of pills.

    “May cause hallucinations,” he said aloud. He should have checked the side effects before starting his hike. He’d been in a hurry, though. Harold had insisted they arrive at the campgrounds before dinner. He wanted to roast hot dogs over an open fire.

    Max sat back down and stared into the orange and scarlet flames of the fire. Harold had disappeared into the forest shortly before the moose’s arrival, and Max hadn’t seen him since. If he was in such a hurry to eat a hot dog, what was he doing now?

    Max popped the top off the bottle and shook a few pills onto his hand. He hadn’t read the instructions, either, and he didn’t want to bother. He’d finally given in and let the doctor prescribe him the anti-depressants; he may as well get some use out of them.

    He stared at the handful of the ruby red pills, twinkling in the fire like gemstones. They went down easy, like candy.

    The fire swirled into a steaming cloud. He reached out to touch it, but he couldn’t find it.

    “I’m hallucinating again,” he said.

    “You should have known that when you saw me,” Harold said.

    Max folded his arms across his chest. “Where have you been?”

    “The pills were wearing off, Max. You stopped seeing me because I wasn’t there.”

    “Make your hot dogs already,” Max said. He shoved what he thought was the food bag in Harold’s face. It was melting into a crimson stream of blood. He tried to catch it before it slipped through his fingers, but it seeped into the ground below.

    “I can’t eat them, Max.”

    “You said you wanted them!”

    “I said that last time we went camping, but not this time.”

    “Stop it,” Max said. “I don’t want to hear it.”

    He knew Harold was dead, but he liked to forget.

    The woman in the dress, the colour of rust (or old blood), approached his fire. Max wasn’t too high to be polite. He offered her his chair, but she shook her head. She nodded at Harold.

    “I’m here for him,” she said.

    “Do you have to take him?” Max asked.

    “Let me go,” Harold said.

    The woman reached out a hand, and Harold took it. Max watched them go, too angry to protest. Why didn’t Harold want to stay with him? Why had Harold gone away and left him? Was this woman in the red dress, this Death, so much more fascinating than life?

    Max wouldn’t ask why Harold had committed suicide. He was afraid of the answer.

    “Goodbye,” Harold said.

    Max threw the pills away, and cried himself to sleep.

  3. Repainted in Red

    As quickly as she appeared, the child in the red dress vanished into the house. She left a blood-red smear on the brick next to the front door, a tiny scarlet hand-print the only evidence she'd been there at all.

    The front door opened to a room with bright, salmon walls and matching floral-print furniture. Three different types of flowers covered the gauche upholstery, but in too many different shades of red for me to count.

    A flash of the little girl's velour dress in the hall, barely caught in the periphery, hinted at trouble in that direction. Before I followed, I glanced into the adjoining kitchen.

    A bowl of fruit sat next to the sink; freshly rinsed apples, strawberries, and cherries glistened. Next to this, a watermelon had been cut in half and abandoned, it's bright red innards giving off a delicious sweet scent I smelled all the way from the door. Bacon and stewed tomatoes sizzled in a skillet on the electric burner. I turned off the stove, apparently forgotten.

    A low groan rose from one of the rooms down the hall. Not a child's voice, but a woman's. "Why would you do this?"

    Her pitiful pleas went unanswered. I pictured the little girl in the red dress standing there smiling innocently, maybe even with pride.

    I took a few calming breaths as I approached the last door on the right and stepped into a room decorated in varying shades of pink. The woman knelt on the floor and sobbed, head in hands. The little girl stood a few feet away, her crimson-stained hands dangling at her sides, with a quizzical expression on her face.

    It seemed as though she couldn't quite grasp why the red hand-prints on her walls and bedspread would bring her mother to tears. She rubbed her eyes, spreading the vibrant mess to her face. She even had streaks of it in her fine, blonde hair. Her big blue eyes turned to me, trying to ask what she hadn't yet learned the words for.

    She looked back to her mother and her lower lip quivered. A sniffle quickly followed, then a wail with my name written all over it. She didn't raise her hands for me to take her. Unable to push through guilt and leave her mother's side, she simply stood there and cried.

    The immediate shock wore off and I picked her up. I put one hand on my wife's shoulder, trying my best to calm them both. "It's gonna be okay, I'll clean it up. It's only lipstick."

    Jessica West
    Word Count: 427
    Special Challenge: Accepted (blood, brick, scarlet, salmon, apples, strawberries, cherries, watermelon, bacon, tomatoes, electric burner, crimson, lipstick)

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  5. Foy, d.b.
    Word Count: 414
    Special Challenge Accepted: ruddy, burgundy, cherry, scarlet, crimson


    As quickly as it appeared, the 8 in the red dress vanished into the abyss. He can still taste it on his tongue, salty, seductive number eight.
    -Hem is muddy, ruddy, rudder, boat, sailing, sea, sky, blue-
    Next is 6, sallow, shy. Tastes like piss and hides in a moldy overcoat.
    -Unhappiest yellow. Focus. Next number.-
    Eight’s cousin and a jaunty fellow, 7 wears a scarlet suit and sings, drinks, and dances.
    -Cologne, Christmas, Xmas, ecstasy, gluttony-
    Rolling in burgundy, 5, is all butter and jollies.
    -Jam, figs, currents, raisins, dates-
    He doesn’t like what follows, 3. It swallows everything into black depths.
    -Steeples, belts, bells, -“the visions are from hell,”-black. Don’t look long! What’s next?-
    Emptiness. Floating. Calm.
    - Clams, carrots, kale, kings-
    And the last?
    His favorite! Number 9 wears green and she is younger than the seedlings that precede thoughts.
    -Laughter, swings, grass, trees, breeze, sneeze, peas-
    What was her name? Jenny, he wants to call her Jenny, but her name was Kate. Why Jenny?
    She smelled like cinnamon – gave him her number. He can see them all there (867-5309), 7 and 5 push and shove each other, 6 cowering, 3 looming large ready to consume 5, the curling script written in neuronal ink. He goes to punch the phone’s screen. Eight. Cherry colored, fruit, apples, pie, pi equals 3.14 159265359…
    His mind spirals off,
    the other numbers slip from its grip.
    He would never forget them, He can’t forget anything. An endless party trick until remembering leads to memories, leads to correlations, leads to associations, leads to inklings, leads to whispers, leads to the resurrection of every ghost that ever passed through his brain. He sits there, thumb poised over 6; his body a husk, lost in the elephantine memory that consumed both thought and action.
    “So you can remember everything?” She asks, playful. A prism of the past opens like a kaleidoscope behind her and he can see a thousand other women, men, children asking the same. The noise in the bar hurts his senses but he forces an answer, “Everything I ever heard or saw or read.” She giggles and throws out a challenge, “Prove it!”
    “Give me your number. I won’t write it down.” He promised. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
    She hesitated and her lips were a coy crimson, “8675309.”
    And here he is, a day later. The numbers are still there, cemented in that rosy matter misnomer-ed “gray.”
    -Her number. It sounds so familiar…-

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  7. Dream Chaser, by Mark Driskill
    W.C. 500 words- without title. Challenge accepted
    As quickly as she appeared, the woman in the red dress vanished into the woods. There the dream usually ended. But this time the dream continued and I felt an eerie compulsion to follow her into the maroon forest along a slippery, deepening bog. I tried to catch up with her, while slipping wildly or sinking ankle deep in the burgundy sludge. I was guided by intermittent flashes of violet light slicing through the branches overhead. How could she run ahead so effortlessly? I considered turning back, but even in my exhaustion the compulsion dragged me deeper into the dark.
    Once she stopped and glanced back toward me. Her magenta dress effused a luminous magnetic energy that horrified and drew me at the same time. Her eyes locked on me. Just as I thought she was about to wait for me, her laughing eyes quickly enflamed, brick red, and she turned and bolted again. I wanted to turn back and try to make my way home. But home seemed lost now. All I could see behind me were dark forms reaching up out of the filthy path I had made, clutching violently at nothingness. Gradually the lights became less frequent. Ahead, all I could see of the woman was a faint crimson mist lightly trailing her path. I continued wondering what had prompted me to chase her in the first place. All I knew was I had to, as if at some previous point, I had given her access to my very soul, and I had no choice now but to pursue her.
    I trudged on like a drunken man chasing an alley cat. The path had started ankle deep, but now was moving up around my knees and past my waist. The night draped across my shoulders, pressing me deeper. Then, for the first time, she spoke. Her sharp, biting tone filled to the brim with volcanic contempt. The sound formed a slippery coil around my brain, gently crushing any sense of hope that lingered. “You fools are all the same. You stupid, pathetic fools. How can you be so easy?”
    Darkness swallowed me whole. I awoke, my heart racing with terror, until my consciousness settled. I sat up in bed, dazed, and then checked the clock. It was 9:15 a.m.! “I’m late!” I jumped into action. On one level, trying to process the dream, and search it for meaning, while on another, navigating my jeans, trying not to fall, and on still another I was planning my route to the deal I was about to miss. The contacts name was Mrs. Ruby. I wasn’t allowed to know more than that, for security purposes. All I knew was she had some new merchandise for me, but I had to move quickly to get it. Hoping I could still make it in time, I pulled out the photo, ran across the watered lawn and scanned the courtyard for a woman in red. Once I found her, everything would be fine.

  8. I deleted my first entry and tried again. Same story, hopefully minus the typos this time.

    Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 472
    Special Challenge Accepted: scarlet, rose, crimson, flame, blush

    Clear the Red

    As quickly as she appeared, the girl in the red dress vanished into the mist, the tattered edges of her scarf floating behind her atop the air currents.


    The whisper drifted across the damp air, settling heavy upon my scarlet conscience, beckoning me, prodding me, and I could not say no. The rose-blush of shame would not let me return, the dark promise of forgiveness pulled me forward.

    It hadn't been a hard sin to commit. The stranger was an angel, and I, the compliant wife of the village thatcher. My husband, despite his hours of labor to house the humble homes of our tiny hamlet, made time to love me as best his thin, bony fingers could.

    So the crimson guilt weighed on me, shading me with all its heaviness through my secret meetings and wooded trysts with the glorious stranger.

    I took a step forward, my foot swirling the mist with its movement, my slipper sinking into the mire, sucking at it, squelching my ankle, tugging me downward, and I began to sink.


    The whisper shrouded the mists again, and I wrenched my other leg forward, falling onto my hands, my knees, crawling through the water that swathed my neck like a cold noose. I was floundering. I was sinking.

    The life inside me flamed, flickered, pulsed. I loved them, the tiny movements, the butterfly whispers inside. I hated it, the shame of my indiscretions.

    No one knew, yet.

    But they would, soon.

    Soon enough.

    My husband had brushed my cheek with pale fingertips this morning. He hadn't said anything, but as I stared into his eyes, I wondered if he understood. Black wells of sadness flowed from his gaze.


    One more floundering push forward, and the mist parted.

    The crimson girl stood before me, her arm outstretched. Take my hand.

    It was a long distance of thin air between her fingers and mine. So far to reach, so much to overcome. I couldn't see; the shade of confusion touched me. I couldn't. I couldn't. I didn't want to. I wished to. The desire was there, but the strength was gone.

    And then her hand grasped mine.

    The mists melted like magic.

    Behind her, I saw the face of the man I called my husband. Tears stood in his blue eyes.

    In a moment, he held me, his hand pressing my head into his shoulder.

    “You came,” he whispered. “I didn't think you would.” In his voice, there was the balm of forgiveness. In my heart, there was the touch of healing. In my womb, there was the movement of life.

    I pushed my fingers into my husband's hair, murmuring his name. Behind him, the girl in the red dress vanished into memory, the floating imprint of her form disappearing into mere recall.

  9. As quickly as she appeared, the woman in the red dress vanished into the woods. I’d tried to follow her in the past, but in the ruddy light of early autumn sunsets, she was naught but a sprite in the leaves. This year, I had something different in mind.

    The snap and the squeal came sooner than I’d expected, followed by a string of curses which made my cheeks turned florid with shame. Faeries weren’t meant to be caged, and I’d pay a price for what I’d done – and what I had yet to do - tonight. For a moment I considered freeing her, wondering if she’d forgive me, but as I set off toward the trap, I fingered the knife in my pocket and knew that hope was in vain.

    I’d paid a pretty penny for enchanted rope, and it had done its job, binding her tightly to the oak. She looked like the avatar of all things autumnal, her feet kicking through piles of spent leaves, scattering bits of ochre to the winds. The world died in the fall, though.

    There was hate in her eyes, feral and visceral, but she stopped yelling when I entered the grove. It was clear that her reputation for cunning hadn’t been spun out of whole cloth. Her breathing slowed, and gradually, the scarlet left her face, until she looked like no more than what she was – the most beautiful woman in the world. We considered each other, her and I, for more than a few heartbeats, and I ran through my options once again.

    Unless I was prepared to give up, there weren’t any, and that wasn’t going to happen. My choice, to be sure, but I’d spent too long getting ready for this to stop now. When I drew the knife from the pocket, the blade glinted crimson, as if it was already slick with her blood, and all doubt left me.

    Her eyes filled with fear at the sight of the weapon, and she tried to twist away from me. But the rope held her tight. I reached out and touched the tip of the blade to her swollen belly, and she stopped squirming. The panic was emanating from her in waves, her faerie nature magnifying the maternal instinct common to everything from insects to humans. It was almost enough to rattle me. Almost.

    I knew she’d try to stop me, somehow, but I didn’t give her the chance. I knew where her child was, and as she started to mouth the word why, I made the first incision. Vermilion cascaded over my hands, and she screamed, shrill into what now was night. My fate was sealed as soon as I’d pierced her skin, and the time would come soon when the gates of hell would welcome me. But with her babe by my side, I’d be entering as a conqueror.

    482 words
    Special challenge accepted

  10. Owl Healing

    As quickly as she appeared, the woman in the red dress vanished into the woods. The silky rustle of her dress and the soft tinkle of her anklets dissolved in the thick air of the log cabin. A hint of gardenia scent lingered behind. Sky inhaled deeply and smiled. The solitary mirror on the damp wall smiled back wickedly. Harry hooted in approval and perched onto Sky’s shoulder. “Want to snuggle?” She whispered as she dug her fingers into Harry’s downy feathers.

    The woman ran all night through the woods, clutching the hem of her dress in her trembling fingers. Leaves crumpled under her feet, and boughs brushed against her soft skin, drawing blood. The scarlet startled her the first time she noticed it. But she had no time to waste; the rusty feather had to be delivered to the future emperor before the first ray of sun appeared. She hoped Sky would not discover the missing feather before that. The woman recalled Harry’s hoots as she struggled to open the cherry colored mahogany box with her shaky fingers. She wasn’t sure if she could trust Harry not to betray her. She knew how Sky had a way of communicating with that sly owl. Don’t overthink, the woman cajoled herself and picked up pace.

    She arrived at the castle just as the dawn’s pink was beginning to appear on the horizon. The guards cleared the aisles and ushered her in. The emperor lay silently in his bed. His face was pale and his breathing heavy.

    “Have you brought the feather?” He struggled to get the words out.
    “Yes, mighty one!” She bowed and handed the feather to the blank-faced nurse.

    The silence was severe as the nurse worked behind the crimson curtains.

    When the nurse was finished, she handed the potion to the woman.

    “May I approach the might one?” The woman bowed again.
    “Yes, yes!” The nurse answered impatiently. “No time for formalities.”

    The woman picked up the spoon and put it to the emperor’s lips. He licked it slowly. His cheeks began to gain rosy hue with each spoonful. All the attendants sighed in relief. After the last spoonful, the emperor sat up in his bed. His cheeks were positively radiant. The rusty feather had turned as white as snow.

    The first ray of sun appeared on the horizon. The towel bell tolled.

    Sky settled down with Harry on the plush cardinal settee. Harry snuggled; his warm breath began to fall quicker on her cheek. She felt wetness on her brow. She rose to get a cloth to wipe. At once, she noticed the color fading away from Harry’s feathers. His eyes were half-closed. A sinking feeling came over her, and she ran to the box. It was empty, bereft of Harry’s precious rusty feather.

    “Cerise!” She screamed. “I will get you for this!”

    In the castle, the woman in the red dress, Cerise, shivered and turned into a red stone.

    Special challenge accepted: cherry, crimson, scarlet,cardinal, ruby, cerise
    493 words

  11. Sympathy in Green

    As quickly as she appeared, the woman in the red dress vanished into the woods. Despite knowing what it was, Brandon’s breathing deepened and heat prowled through his blood.

    "Did you get it?" Izumi called down from her perch in the pine.

    Brandon fumbled with the camera, but the subject was gone. Only the damask perfume of roses lingered.

    Izumi swung down and snickered. "Another scarlet woman?"

    "A riding-hood variant." Veiling his obvious arousal, he took out his notebook to record the appearance. "How do they know?" he muttered.

    Izumi tapped her temple. Official word was that the discarnate Shapers had plumbed library archives to get their information, but Izumi believed they tapped into brains.

    Their camp straddled sand and moss. The wooded spot—one of many—had been coaxed out of the dusty desert by the Shapers, ostensibly to communicate with humans.

    Luckily for Brandon, the Shapers seemed to communicate in archetypes. At long last, a real-world application for an otherwise useless degree. Izumi may get something out of helping teens tease out the shadow self and anima from Star Wars characters, but Brandon’s stint as a middle-school instructor was never meant to be permanent.

    "Little Red keeps getting sexier and sexier," Izumi noted. She entered the temperature and humidity differences between the treetops and the thick shade. She pushed into the undergrowth.

    Brandon trudged after her. "So, they’re flirting with us."

    "Nah." She scrolled through her data. "It’s getting wetter in here."

    The ruddy shadows darkened to black velvet, defying the scorching sun above. "And darker," he said.

    Deeper in woods, branches curled into claws. The forest throbbed with menace. "Maybe they’re telling us how it feels to visit earth?" Izumi suggested. “Our carmine-cloaked gal was a bit of an explorer. "

    "Would that make us wolf or woodsman?" He didn’t feel like either. Nor did the ruby women seem very flower-pluckingly innocent.

    A tree loomed up between them. A branch swept Izumi up and dropped her again as if she were a rag doll. When Brandon rushed forward, a root hunched out of the soil to trip him. "Hang on! I’ll get you."

    "No! Brandon!" she hissed. "Don’t go hero, here."

    Quibbling over narrative patriarchy at a time like this? Briars lashed across his path. He backed away only to find himself surrounded by thorns. The briars tightened their coils with him inside.

    A howl pierced his panic. Izumi?

    Through the thorns, he saw her move on hands and feet. She gave a convincingly feral growl, and the briars loosened their coils.

    "What are we doing?" he panted as he crawled alongside her.

    "They’re aliens," she said. "I figured they could think of the forest a sympathetic character."

    Brandon barked at an encroaching shrub. To the forest, the only hero would be the wolf.

    His lower back was going to hate him later, but at least there would be a later. He could hardly wait to return to the classroom. His students were going to love this.

    Nancy Chenier
    Special challenge accepted
    500 words

  12. As quickly as she appeared, the woman in the red dress vanished into the woods.

    “Did you see that?” I poked Harry in the ribs.


    “That woman. In a red dress.”

    Harry shook his head. “Now I know we’ve been walking too long. You’re seeing things.”

    I shut up, then stared back at the place she’d appeared. That’s when she laughed, “Did you hear that?”

    “Hear what?” Harry glared at me. “Geezus. We’ll be back to camp in another hour, and you can eat ‘till you bust.”

    She stuck her hand through an opening in the brush and gave me the “come here” signal. “Say what you want, Harry. I know what I saw.” I dashed into the brush where he hand had been a moment earlier, but she was gone.

    Well, except for her dress. That was still in the brush. I picked it up. Red velvet. “Damn.” Visions of a woman running through the woods in nothing but her underwear danced in my head. I looked around, wondering which way she could have gone. She laughed again.

    That was all I needed. A sound. A direction. I raced to the north-west. She left a trail. A red bra. Then, further on, panties, red again. A broken twig here. A footprint there. I followed her trail. “She wants me to follow her.”

    I reached a stream just in time to see her vanish into the brush on the other side. “Geezus.” Yep, she was starkers. I didn’t slow down, taking the stream in three bounding steps, at full run. I plunged into the brush, fought through it, into a clearing. An alcove under the trees, branches and vines formed a natural ceiling. The ground was clear. It was silent. I couldn’t hear a thing.

    She was in the middle of the clearing. Not a stitch on. Blonde hair reached halfway down her back. She motioned me to join her. Gorgeous naked woman in the woods, waving at me, smiling, giving me a full view of everything, and a smile that said, “Come here.” Of course, I walked right up.

    She kissed me. Next thing I knew, she had me naked too. We had wild sex in the woods.

    Turned out, that’s how she lives. Lures people in. Men, women, doesn’t matter. She picks a target, draws them in, has wild, anything goes sex with them. When the sex is over, she leaves.

    When she left, I got dressed, headed back the way I’d come.

    I never found my way. But I did get to see the skeletal remains of her previous conquests. Good thing I had a pen and notebook with me. It let me write this down. I hope it gets found before she suckers in another sap like me.

    463 Words

  13. Blind, Elegant Ambition

    As quickly as she appeared, the little girl in the red dress vanished into the woods. Her breast blushed pink, highlighted by the rosy hues of the sunrise behind me. I was scheduled for work, but I couldn’t stop now. I had seen just enough to draw me in for more, so I followed a path in the direction she had traveled.

    Up ahead there is a flash of crimson. But was it her? There is no turning back now. I will not be satisfied until I have her under my glass. So I press on watching for any hint, straining to make out the mournful notes of her song. So many others have had her, while I jealously missed out. I should be leaving for work; I should remember my responsibilities. But the hint that I might be lucky this time drives me onward. All else must wait while I pursue her.

    I reached the edge of the trees and still had not found her. Cliffs rise up beyond my ability to scale, so I must turn back. I will be late for work; and I expect to be fired. It wouldn’t matter if I had collected her. She was the only reason I had taken that job in the first place, but to be forced to leave without her would be torturous.

    Then up ahead a see a flash of scarlet. Could it be? Had I missed her on the way in? Off again in pursuit of her flight, a maze of trails in a deep wood. This time I found it, but it was only a cardinal. So again I start the long trek out.

    The trail was strangely empty. No hikers, no other searchers, and no one else either. Soon I was worrying whether my blind pursuit had been foolish. Maybe I was lost. Maybe I would be one of many who disappeared in these hills and woods. But before I could truly mourn my own demise, I came across a crowd. She had just seen here. Several had collected her for the first time. Predictably she left right before I approached.

    While they were all pushing in around me, I saw a brief vermillion flash of color behind them. The female, immature elegant trogon we had all come to see, lighted on a clear branch. She sat still while, through the glass of my binoculars, I counted off all the field marks. I could finally add that 500th bird to my life list.

    Now to quit my job and head to the Colorado Mountains before the ptarmigans disappear into the tundra. I want to see as many of these wonderful creations of God as I can, before I go.

    454 words
    And special challenge accepted. Rosy, pink, crimson, scarlet, vermillion

  14. Chasing Red

    As quickly as she appeared, the woman in the red dress vanished into the cluttered abyss of cyberspace. The ruby dot blinked once, twice, then disappeared as static overtook the 42” screen.

    “Dang it, she’s gone again!” Murphy cursed into his headset. Fingers flattened from many years of typing on keyboards gripped the scuffed edge of the roll top desk in annoyance. The woman in scarlet always did this, always got away just in the nick of time before he came onto the scene. Like clockwork.

    “Where d’you think she’ll head next?” inquired his partner on the other end. “Morocco? Venezuela?” Her southern syllables dripped with a calming patience. However, Murphy had worked with this mysterious woman—known only by her code name CrimsonHater and honeysuckle voice—long enough to recognize the subtle difference between her indifferent tone and her I’m-about-to-blow-a-gasket tone. This was definitely more towards the latter.

    “I’m not sure, I didn’t find any clues this time,” he admitted sheepishly. Pulling out his datapad, Murphy licked the pad of his forefinger and flipped through the top sheets to his scribbled notes from this case. “At some point she’s got to go to Portugal to meet up with her contact there, but that’s only after she gets her hands on the Damask Files. As far as my contact here knows, she hasn’t gotten them yet.”

    “Should we consult W.A.L.D.O.?”

    Murphy grimaced. He hated having to resort to W.A.L.D.O. [Wayfinding Agent for Locating Distributed Objects] for any reason. It made him feel like a cheat. Besides, he’d misplaced the flash drive containing the program the last time the maid decided to do a surprise spring cleaning of his office and digging up the search engine online just irked him to no end. No one had the time to find W.A.L.D.O., least of all him.

    “Negative, Crimson. We can do this ourselves. There’s got to be a clue we’ve overlooked, a question we haven’t asked. How did your interrogation go?”

    A long sigh sounded through the headphones.

    “That bad, huh?” Murphy turned to the world map hanging on the wall to study the scattered cherry-topped pins symbolizing red-coat sightings. He pinched a green pin from the side of the board and pressed it into Munich. Their woman wasn’t in Germany after all. “There’s got to be some sort of pattern I’m just not seeing-”

    “Oh, for heaven’s sake, use W.A.L.D.O. already!”

    “Fine...” Sighing in defeat, Murphy pulled up his web browser in another window. The hourglass cursor rotated again and again as he waited for his search query to bring up answers. Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?

    Word Count: 439
    Special Challenge accepted!