Monday, September 7, 2015


The USA celebrated Labor Day on Monday, and it got me thinking about work. I googled what the holiday was (I knew the basics, but was interested in the details), and one phrase stood out to me: the contributions of the working people. A day to celebrate those who do any job (which is EVERY job) that contributes to the economy and the morale of the people. Even if you don't live in the USA, Thank you for the work that you do. Even if it seems thankless. Even if it seems pointless. Even if it frustrates you. Even if there are moments, or days, or months where you wish you could be doing anything else... Thank you. But thank you most of all for the work you share here, that many of you don't ever get paid for. The art that you bring to this world. The inspiration. The empathy. The joy. The story. You each have a precious gift that CONTRIBUTES to society. I celebrate you today. Thanks for joining us. Go check out the prompt and get started again! You are all 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 (PG-13)
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 Lauren Greene. Read her winning tale from last week here! Lauren Greene lives in Alabama where she spends most of her time procrastinating. When she's not thinking of all the things she has to do, she's actually doing them! She is a banker, but her passion is writing. She's recently published a Southern Fiction book, The Devil Within. When she's not writing or working, she's busy with her husband, chasing her three kids, and working out! 

You can find out more about Lauren at her website and follow her on twitter @laurenegreene.

Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #3-10 is:

He knew he heard a scream, but when he turned around he was surprised to see no one was there.

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Include three of the following: an alpaca wool sweater, a muddy lake, an orange, Istanbul.



  1. Wallowing
    379 words
    Special challenge accepted

    He knew he heard a scream, but when he turned around he was surprised to see no one was there. An alpaca shuffled up the alley, head cocked to one side curiously. Jeff had heard of screaming goats, but he wasn’t sure about alpacas.

    “Where’d you come from?” Jeff asked.

    The alpaca’s body heaved. He screamed again, and his eyes lit with red fire. Jeff tried to back away and hit the wall.

    Something round rolled up the alpaca’s long throat. The alpaca spat and ejected a whole orange from its mouth. It splattered to death on the ground at Jeff’s feet.

    “That’s much better,” the alpaca said.

    “I stopped doing drugs twenty years ago. What’s going on?” Jeff demanded.

    “I’m here to offer you a choice, Jeff. Will you emerge from the muddy lake of your life and become the Chosen One – or will you wallow in the murky depths and continue on as you are?”

    “What’s wrong with the way I am?”

    “You’re a loser, Jeff.”

    Jeff’s job at the factory was far from glamorous, his wife had left him for the pool boy, and his son hardly ever wrote – but he was not a loser. He worked hard for his money, he was dating a charming woman, and his daughter adored him. Jeff chose to focus on the positives of life rather than dwell on the negatives.

    “We need you, Jeff. We need a man who is pathetic, has nothing to lose, and is dying to prove himself. You are that man. You will be a hero.”

    Jeff felt like a hero every time he put the finishing bolts into some safety equipment.

    “I’ll pass, but thanks for asking,” he said.

    The alpaca hacked up a banana, an apple, and a grapefruit. His furry expression was one of surprise.

    “No one ever refuses! You can’t!” the alpaca said.

    “You said I had a choice. I’m going to wallow, thanks.”

    The alpaca screamed once more, and exploded into a plethora of fruit salad. All that remained of the creature was a small ball of wool, miraculously spun and reading for knitting. Jeff didn’t know much about magic or Chosen Ones, but he did know how to knit.

    It was the softest gosh darn sweater he’d ever worn.

    1. I gave up drugs thirty years ago... Surreal stuff, Holly. But 'plethora' does sound like someone throwing up! I'm glad my (almost) namesake made good in the end...

      [ Did you mean 'READY for knitting'? ]

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  4. Horror Ice Cream


    He knew he heard a scream, but when he turned around he was surprised to see no one was there. How could ice cream frighten someone so much? But his wife was a witch and they had opened a shop called "Scary Ice Cream." Their delicacies were frighteningly good. They made taste buds stand on end like goose bumps.

    The unusual flavors included: Dawn's Early Light, Chocolate flavored Ocean Breeze, and Strawberry Lilac. Their parents were former hippies and had taught them to think outside the box.

    Her husband returned from a business trip in Istanbul where he brought back a very old recipe from the curator of the Turkish Calligraphic Arts Museum. The recipe was thousands of years old, and translated it said it made something called, "Horror Ice Cream."

    His wife was reading a book when he walked in the room, a book about a man who lived near a muddy lake, who enjoyed eating oranges, and wore alpaca wool sweaters all the time. It read like an Ed Wood film. Bored, she put it down.

    "This recipe is mysterious," her husband said. "It requires odd ingredients."

    "The ingredients are magical. They're meant to make something so good that they will cause anything made from them to instantly disappear."

    "You mean because of how good it is?"

    "Precisely. Leave it to me."

    After weeks of preparation the Horror Ice Cream was finally ready.

    Only one woman ordered Horror Ice Cream. He brought her a bowl, then went in the back to listen to the radio. He heard something. It sounded like a scream. He knew he heard a scream, but when he turned around he was surprised to see no one was there - nothing except an empty bowl on a table.

    What had his wife done? What kind of sorcery was this?

    When the man got home his wife was still trying to finish the book about the man who lived near a muddy lake, liked oranges, and wore alpaca wool sweaters all the time.

    "Your recipe caused a woman to disappear, today! What did you do!"



    A woman emerged from the kitchen.

    "That's the lady!"

    The lady had a large cherry on her head and started to melt, her dark brown hair cascaded like warm syrup down her sides. Soon nothing was left but a puddle of cream.

    "Your mad!"

    His wife started toward him with a spoon and a bowl.

    He ran from the house and from her life, forever.

    Later, the woman eventually finished the book about the man who lived by a muddy lake, liked oranges, and wore alpaca wool sweaters all the time. She smiled to herself, then went to the window. Moonlight cascaded off murky water like a scoop of vanilla ice cream surrounded by chocolatey heaven held in a very large bowl. She bent down and picked up an orange peel from the floor.

    Then she cackled and sang, "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!"


    (500 words.) Special challenge accepted.

  5. Mean Old Game
    493 words, special challenge declined.
    Dave @ParkInkSpot
    I knew I heard wings fluttering, but when I turned, I was surprised to see nothing there. “Did you hear that?”

    Uncle Mitch spat a big brown gob onto the highway next to the possum carcass he was scraping up.


    Meet my Uncle Mitch, dazzling conversationalist.

    Mitch drives a roadkill pickup truck for the Missouri Department of Transportation. It’s an even less attractive job than you think. Thanks to my folk’s divorce and my lack of legal majority, I’m his able assistant, and I’m currently assisting by holding open the sack that Mitch is about to fill. Also wishing I had another hand to hold my nose, because this particular possum is well beyond its “sell-by freshness date.”

    The pungency is robust enough that I doubt it ever had any such thing.

    Mitch is a deft hand with the scrape-and-flip, so that took a lot longer to describe than it took him to collect the specimen.

    “Five,” he said. I closed the sack and tossed it into the back of the truck with the others. We get anywhere from a buck per squirrel to seventy-five for a good-sized buck. I daydream about the glorious financial windfall of delivering a bear, but nuts for luck so far.

    Mitch spits into the shallow brown lake surrounding his accelerator pedal, and we’re off to the next kill.

    We have some sophisticated tech, for Missouri. Our “sniffer” samples the air along the highway, searching for methane trace and any of 104 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with decomposition using a diffusive sampler and laser chromatography. The truck beeps at us whenever the “corpse scent” rises above a few parts per million, and we’ll pull over to find the payday.

    Just like a good bloodhound, except we can track a new roadkill while doing thirty.

    I hear wings fluttering at the next three collections.

    “Come on, Uncle Mitch, I know you heard it that time.”

    He just gazed at me levelly.


    “What the hell does that mean?”

    He just hooked his thumb over his shoulder and drove on to the next kill site, while I tried to figure out where he was pointing. Back at the collection sacks in the truck bed?

    I kept listening. At the next four collections, when he scraped a corpse, I again heard the flutter of wings. It was louder with the larger animals, and just a whisper with the tiny squirrels.

    After a few more days, I started to see them, too, a flutter of semitransparent darkness winging away from each corpse, like the shadow of a bird flying.

    While scraping up a red fox along U.S. 54, a Peterbuilt tractor nailed my Uncle Mitch and missed me. When the paramedics loaded him onto the gurney, they clearly didn’t expect him to survive.

    I waited expectantly and wasn’t disappointed.

    Uncle Mitch didn’t flit away like some happy little dove. My uncle thundered out as the angry shade of an irascible diseased buzzard.

  6. Small Town Folks

    He knew he heard a scream, but when he turned around, he was surprised to see no one was there. Not a complete surprise really, because he was sort of used to those untimely screams in the dead of the night or the heat of the afternoon. He suspected the screams were probably coming from his neighbor’s home. But whenever he spotted Mr. Lang in his alpaca wool sweater, holding hands with Mrs. Lang on a leisurely stroll of the neighborhood, he felt silly for his suspicion.

    “I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach,” Debra said every day. “Let’s report it; let the authorities investigate it.”
    But he wasn’t so sure. “Let’s see if someone else in the neighborhood is as concerned,” he kept dodging.
    “It’s just like you, passive. You never step up, never take charge.” Her accusatory tone bothered him.
    “There you go, calling me a loser,” his voice had a tinge of child’s whine. He hated when that happened. “We have only been here for a month; we don’t know them well. What if we are wrong?”
    “What if we are not?”
    Maybe you have a point, but I would rather not get involved in wrongfully accusing the new neighbors. Accusing of what? That is the biggest problem. Neither of us has seen anything alarming.”
    “But what about the strange screams?” Debra wasn’t about to drop the topic.
    “I will casually bring up the screams when I see Mr. Lang next time.”
    “Yeah, right!” Obviously, Debra wasn’t convinced.

    The move to this little town hadn’t been her idea. Every little thing about the hick town bothered her, like when the loud tractors rumbled across the street, or when the dogs tracked dirty snow into the house to soil her city slick cream sofa, or when the neighbors came by to drop off the jars of marmalade. Now these screams!

    Next morning, when she saw Mrs. Lang sitting on the porch, peeling an orange for breakfast, Debra walked over.
    “I love the way you spiral cut peel that orange.” She half-heartedly tried to flatter Mrs. Lang and hoped that it would lead to more meaningful exchange and lead to the secret of the screams.
    “Howdy, Debbie. Why don’t you sit down and let me make a mighty egg-hash-brown bake with fresh-squeezed orange juice.”
    Sensing Debra’s hesitation, Mrs. Lang said, “It won’t take long. I just need to put Billy in chains quickly.”
    Debra’s ears perked, and she gasped. “In chains?”
    “Yea, otherwise he will snatch your breakfast,” Mrs. Lang’s nonchalance was shocking.
    She opened the backyard screen door, and a strong whiff of muddy mess overwhelmed Debra’s nostrils.
    “Come Billy,” she grabbed the big bowl of hash, and opened the gate to the chain link fence, and put in in front of the Billy the baby pig in the muddy lake, who gave out a high-pitched squeal.

    Thank goodness, we didn’t call the sheriff, Debra sighed when she just wanted to scream and run.

    500 words

    1. I forgot to mention yesterday. But I accepted the special challenge.

  7. @GeoffHolme
    Word Count: 499
    Special Challenge accepted

    Breaking Up is Hard To Do

    He knew he heard a scream, but when he turned around he was surprised to see no one was there. Then came the sound of Bella's skittering claws, sliding on the laminate flooring, as she sought the safety of the kitchen.

    "Rhona? Is that you?" Slowly his girlfriend's head rose from behind the sofa by the living room door, until her sheepish grin was visible. “Hi, Jamey. Sorry, I tripped over your dog.”

    Yet again, thought Mike. It’s true that Bella’s black coat was difficult to distinguish from the dark carpet at this time of night, but she was an overweight Labrador who loved to curl up in the same spot; no matter how many times Rhona took a tumble over the sleeping mutt, she never seemed to learn from the experience.

    That was one of the reasons why James had tried to split up with her soo-o many times. Although she had a body to die for and the looks of a Hollywood leading lady, Rhona was, not to put too fine a point on it, a total airhead. When they had first got together, he had found her… idiosyncrasies … endearing, especially as she was the hottest babe that he’d ever had a relationship with. Now, these foibles grated, and he knew that his friends laughed at him behind his back.

    He had tried to make subtle hints that he needed more space, but Rhona didn’t do subtle. To make matters worse, James didn’t do confrontation. So Rhona still had a key to his apartment, and still turned up unannounced, even though she’d never officially moved in.

    “I bought you a birthday present, sweetie,” said Rhona, climbing to her feet and handing him a battered, gift-wrapped bundle.

    James gritted his teeth. “But my birthday isn’t until July… next year.”

    “Really? Ha, ha! Oh well, it’s an early birthday present then.”

    A sardonic grin was his only response.

    As he began to tear off the wrapping paper, she said nervously, "It's a sweater." Then she muttered something under her breath.

    "Did you say 'Istanbul'?!" he said, puzzled.

    "N-no... I said 'It's tan wool'. Alpaca, actually."

    He held the garment by the shoulders and examined it. "An orange tan... like David Dickinson's."

    Her tentative smile evaporated. “David Dick...?”

    “Doesn’t matter.”

    Rhona’s slowly began to register that not everything in the garden was rosy. "You can take it back to the shop... I kept the receipt."

    "No, no! I was joking. I really do like it."

    Relief flooded Rhona's features. "I nearly bought you a Muddy Lake CD instead, but I couldn’t remember which ones you already had."

    He decided to spare her the embarrassment of pointing out that his favourite bluesman was, in fact, Muddy Waters. He could overlook this, with another torrid sex session in prospect.

    Tomorrow, after she left, he would get someone in to change the locks. Then he would sit down at his computer and finish editing the final draft of his “Dear Jane” letter.

  8. Stay,
    405 Words

    Ciara knew she heard my scream, but when she turn around she was surprised to see no one was there.

    I can see from the way the hairs stand on her neck that she heard me. Good.

    Oh yes mommy, I'm still here. A giggle almost escapes my mouth at that thought.

    I shouldn't enjoy this as much as I do.

    Ciara takes off at a sprint. She cuts down alleys and runs through a group of street people. She ignores their shouts of outrage.

    Ciara dashes across the street, narrowly missing a deliver truck, and ducks into a used piano store. She dives under a piano. She curls into a ball and shakes.

    Ciara whispers his name, "Oliver." The irony in Ciara reaching out for her husband. Don't worry, he'll know what happened soon enough.

    Tears are rolling down her cheeks by the time I crawl next to her under the baby grand. I sense the vibrations of an approaching train.

    The tracks run right down the middle of the street out front of the store. Just like they did when I was a tot. Of course, that was long before these clean electric versions ran through the streets.

    I time this up as well as I can. I bring out my best angel's voice. "I'd be alive if you hadn't left the rails off my bed."

    Ciara screams and scrambles out from the piano. She whacks her head on the bench, but continues out the door.

    She never saw her doom. Not that I care how she exits the mortal realm.

    I glide through the wall onto the sidewalk. Oliver is standing there with a bouquet of flowers. The train rumbles past, it doesn't make stops here.

    Oliver waits for the coast to be clear, and then lays the flowers on track. It's almost like he knew this would happen.

    Oliver then walks to the fountain and tosses in two gold coins.

    I grab the coins before the rabble takes them. These are mine. I earned them fair and square.

    Ciara stands in the water. Tears stream from her face, but she's not looking at me. Instead she watches her husband leave with a lilt in his step.

    "Sorry Doll," I say to her. "But these coins will earn my keep here for another six months. I'm thinking after all these years that I don't want to be crossing to the other side."

  9. Secrets from the Deep

    Melina Gillies
    Word Count: 299
    Special Challenge: Accepted

    He knew he heard a scream, but when he turned around he was surprised to see no one was there.

    The furor of Manhattan life buzzed around him like a fury of bored cicadas, a great collective whine as everyone went about their business—everyone but Albert.

    He could place that scream anywhere. What made him pause in the middle of the night on Seventeenth and Broadway was that there was no ways that scream could exist—not anymore in any case.

    Albert furiously scraped his nails across the tender flesh on the back of his neck, the skin raw under the unforgiving weight of his alpaca wool sweater. He was sweating now, uncharacteristic for him, even in February, but his entire body felt like it was singing in the Istanbul sun, and for some reason he could taste the salty tang of Halloomi cheese heavy on his tongue—or was it citrus—orange maybe?

    Albert turned and swayed, the overwhelmingly clear picture of a muddy lake appeared where the rising steam of a sewer grate used to be. Rising from the dirty water came a hand, followed by a mass of dark, stringy hair and the bloated face of a woman who had clearly spent days under water. Her hollowed out eyes bore into his soul and Albert backed away, slamming his skull against a lamppost in the process.

    "This can't be!" Albert shouted, "You're dead!"

    He spun around and the slick, heavy weight of the dead woman fell into his arms on the streets of New York City and the corpse spoke, though her face never moved.

    "You failed me Alberto, my Alberto."

    Albert moaned as he collapsed on the pavement, the anguish of his cries echoed down the steamy alleyway beside him.

    It began to snow.