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The Letter in the Alley

Categories: Creative Writing Prompts Tags: creative writing exercises, creative writing prompts.

Walking to catch the bus, you see a young boy look both ways before entering an alley. When you follow him into the alley, he has disappeared. Instead, there is a neatly folded note lying on the pavement. What does it say and how do you react?

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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569 Responses to The Letter in the Alley

  1. Not A Hipster says:

    Comments welcome!
    —————-
    Dan walked in time to ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’. The bus ride to Boston University was bearable if he had his iPod with him.
    ‘God, I hate Interpreting Literature classes,’ he thought. ‘Trying for an English major is NOT as easy as it looks.’
    Walking to the bus stop from his apartment, he saw a scrawny boy look around carefully, then dart into an alleyway. The boy looked underfed and homeless. Dan curiously peered around the corner into the narrow passageway, but he couldn’t see anything. He tentatively followed the boy. He walked for a solid 5 minutes before seeing a pinprick of light. Dan quickened his pace before bumping into a wire fence. Rubbing his nose, he looked down at his feet. There was a neatly folded piece of paper. Dan picked up the paper curiously, unfolded it, and began reading.
    “Daniel- Cooperate. -The Council,” he read aloud.
    “Well, what is that supposed to-” His voice was suddenly muffled by a gloved hand.
    A smooth and charming voice responded,”As we said, cooperate.”

  2. J.J.Hollis says:

    I have just registered with this site today. This is also the first time I have ever made my work public – little bit nervous! Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks

    A day’s fun activity

    I played with the straps of my backpack, trying to get it to sit comfortably as I walked to my bus stop. School put the bus on for those living on the outskirts of the city. There were not many, most were rich enough to live in the center of the city, close to the schools.
    Sat at the bus stop I tried to think up a new excuse for later for why I skipped school today. The bus would arrive in ten minutes and I needed to be gone before it did. Looking up the road my fun activity for the day was walking down the opposite side of the road, straight toward me. It wasn’t the excuse that I’d be telling my dad, but it would be such a fun way to start the day.
    Stan was seven years old. Only three years younger than me, but appeared to be closer in size to a five year old. I watched as he turned into the alley between The Golden Arms, my dad’s favourite pub and the boarded up electrical shop, which had been an awesomely easy place to shop lift from.
    I knew the alley was a dead end. I was the reason the owners of the electrical shop had built the ten-foot wall at the end of the alley. It had made robbing the shop from the back more difficult, but not impossible. That’s what nights and hammers were made for.
    Stan didn’t belong in this part of town. He had a rich mummy and daddy and his clothes screamed money as did the Bentley that dropped him off at school every morning. I was going to enjoy stealing his phone, tablet and whatever other devices or money he had on him. My mind had already gone to a darker place, I wanted to hit him in his tiny face, and laugh at him as he wet himself in fright as the big bully from school robbed him.
    I all but ran into the alley, skidding to a stop, ready to grab Stan by the throat.
    He wasn’t in the alley. It was a mess, but it was easy enough to see no one, not even a tiny child, hid among the littered garbage. I wanted to squeeze the little brat’s neck just for outwitting me.
    I walked to the end of the alley stupidly hoping to find an invisible ladder that would explain Stan’s escape. Instead, I found a folded note, I only picked it up because I recognised Stan’s self-important monogram. Inside the folded note there was one line of printed text: I own the world: I own you, Billy the bully you are going to die for your crimes.
    For a second I felt ill, until I remembered that it was Stan that I had seen coming into the alley. Turning to leave, laughing to myself, I was faced with six men and Stan. Stan! The little twerp had gotten himself bodyguards.
    “Good-bye Billy the bully” he said and then pointed a gun at me…

  3. Jacob T says:

    I’m late. My day has hardly begun and I’m already making it harder on myself. I race around my dirty apartment throwing on my one nice outfit as I try to think of a reason I’m late to tell my potential employer. “I over slept” is certainly honest. But, good first impressions aren’t about honesty, they’re about what I want them to see and, more importantly, what I choose to hide. Sitting at my computer with my wrinkled button-up half tucked into my slacks with only my left shoe on while I print a resume I fudged three minutes after the interview should have started is definitely one thing I want to keep to myself. I slip on my right shoe and finish making myself presentable just as the printer spits out the last word in my list of half-truths and accomplishments. I snatch the resume out of the printer tray and notice my pen sitting next to a half-empty mug of coffee. Well, it probably was coffee before it sat on my desk neglected for a week. Better take that pen. There’s nothing worse than looking unprepared to write something down at an interview. Well, except for being late. But you definitely don’t want to be late AND have to borrow a writing utensil. First impressions, after all. I slip the pen in my pocket, dump the once-coffee in the sink, and precariously perch the empty mug on a mountain of dirty dishes as I rush out the door.

    There’s that weird neighbor kid again. It’s 12:07 on a Tuesday and he’s just now leaving his apartment. Shouldn’t he be in school already? I guess with his mother working all day, she’s not in a position to be his truancy officer as well. I turn and lock my door behind me as he passes, head down, decked in the usual attire of dark ripped jeans, shades, and a long-sleeve jacket with the hood over his head. It’s July. Girls his age must still be into the mysterious, brooding, vampire-type. I say hello, as I usually do when I feel the pressure to be cordial to a stranger simply because we sleep with only a wall between us. Right on cue, he continues forward without even a turn of his head to acknowledge my existence. Teenagers.

    A quick power walk down the stairs and a forceful swing of the lobby door later, and I’m greeted with loud and bustling sounds of the city; people talking loudly on their cell phones to sound important, cars honking at time slipping away as they sit in traffic, sirens wailing as they chase death and danger, the bus pulling away from the stop down the street…

    THE BUS!

    I turn heel and sprint to the stop, only to get there and have a better view of the shuttle turning out of sight. Dammit.

    With a frustrated sigh, I flop down on the bench and look up at the smoggy sky through the smoked tinged plastic canopy of the bus stop gazebo. I reach into my pocket for my phone, but grab my pen instead, pulling it out to nervously click it in an impromptu rhythm to my internal monologue. There’s really no point in going now. The next bus isn’t for another hour and it’ll take longer than that to walk there. I set the manila folder housing my linen-paper dishonesty and stare blackly across the street.

    There’s that weird neighbor kid again. I watch from across the street as he looks turns toward an alley and disappears out of sight after glancing all around for followers. Kid’s been watch too many movies. Who follows a possibly mute teenager?

    Me.

    I slip my pen in my pocket, grab my resume and cross the street in pursuit, trying to turn my curiosity into concern. Maybe he’s trying to dodge some bullies? Or is slipping off to do drugs? I could get there just in time to save him or stop him and possibly give a little purpose to what is turning out to be a waste of a day.

    I turn 360 degree in the middle of the alley, peeking between every dumpster lining the buildings on either side, and the solid brick wall at the end. No trace of anyone other than a confused man turning in bewildered circles contemplating the idea of having stumbled upon the real-life Peter Parker. I walk to the dead-end wall at the end of the alley trying to find anyway out but up and almost step on something that catches my eye.

    A piece of folded paper. Normally such a thing would blend in with the rest of the alley trash, but this one is different. It’s still white, for one, and folded neatly as if it were on it’s way to an envelope addressed to an elderly woman in a nursing home wondering if her children would visit her this year. Once again my curiosity takes hold, and I open the note. I should call grandma this Thanksgiving.

    Blank. Completely blank. I flip it front to back several times hoping for writing to appear and give this oddity some purpose, and myself a reason for opening it. I take one last look at the blank page when I notice in my periphery the color of the bricks bleeding from the walls of the buildings like paint. Still clutching the paper, I glance around, confused and frightened as the color bleeds and fades from not only the buildings, but the street behind me, the shadows in the alley, and even the sky itself. My surroundings become a skeleton of lines in an unfinished sketch. Soon, even the lines fade until I’m left standing alone in empty white space.

    What the hell just happened? I look down at the paper, now depicting the alley where I once stood, and flip it front to back several times, hoping to reverse whatever I had just done. Nothing. Just before the panic sets in, I hear footsteps and voice behind me.

    There’s that weird neighbor kid again.

    “Welcome”, he says as if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened.

    “What the…,” I don’t even have time to finish.

    “I’m not really sure how it works. I’ve only done a few times myself.”

    “A few times,” I parrot back in a near panic, “Then you know how to leave?! Great! Tell me how!”

    “Why would you want to go back?”

    A poignant and presumptuous question. Two can play at that game.

    “Well, you said you’ve gone back. Why do you?”, I quip smugly.

    “My mom would worry. I’m all she has since dad left too. But, I’ve seen you at your place. You never have company, don’t have a girlfriend that I’ve noticed, and I rarely see you leave.”

    This kid is way too observant. Normally when confronted with such harsh truth, I just lie and say I haven’t lived in the city very long. He knows I’ve lived here for at least three years now. Honesty it is then.

    “I don’t know what this place is, other than nothingness. Look around, kid. Frankly it’s a little creepy.”

    Without a word, he pulls a pen from his pocket a draws circle in front of him. He grabs it and gives it a firm shove. We both watch as it rolls off into the emptiness, becoming a dot before disappearing altogether.

    “This place isn’t nothing. It’s anything,” he says as he hands his pen to me.

    My thought returns briefly to reality as I remember the pen in my pocket. I’m prepared! Not exactly for what I had in mind, but prepared nonetheless. I pull it out and click it a few times to impress the kid with my forethought. It fails to dazzle as much as it did in my head.
    I stare at the blankness. This vast empty space is the only thing separating me from whatever I want. Well…that and my complete lack of artistic ability.

    “Well,” he says expectantly, “draw something.”

    “I can’t”

    ‘Why not? You have the tool you need.” he retorts in yet another shining moment of profound pragmatism.

    “I mean, I’m not very good at drawing” I snap, as if it were somehow his fault that I never practiced it enough to know.

    There’s a brief pause as my hatefulness diffuses into the air. Before I can take a breath to apologize, the kid continues

    “Well, what do you see?”

    “Nothing”. I respond, proud I finally had something smug to say again.

    “Then that’s your problem,” he says, both ignoring and trumping my response, “You’re focused on what’s there and not what could be there.”

    My silence allows his profound solution to resonate within me as I stare at my pen. The silence is broken with another gentle prod,

    “Just draw whatever you want.”

    “I don’t know what I want” I retort, growing more frustrated as I succumb to the analysis paralysis of possibilities.

    “That’s why you can’t draw well then. You have to figure out what you want to draw first”.

    I’m beginning to think this kid never says hello to me in the halls because it’s not possible to turn a greeting around and make me feel stupid.

    “You have the tool you need. Just draw something.”

    Again I freeze.

    “I don’t want to mess it up. This is a pen, you know. I can’t erase it.” I say, puffing up a bit with pride at the truth of my statement.

    “So, you’d rather have nothing than an imperfect something?”

    He’s good. He’d probably be a good student if he ever went to school. Unable to think of something clever, I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Unfortunately, it’s the truth.

    “Yes. I’d rather have the possibility of perfection, than to be stuck with imperfection.”

    Yet another brief pause. The kid shrugs his shoulders in defeat.

    “Then that’s why you can’t draw.”

    As if the ringing truth of his words willed it, the color begins to return to the vast emptiness. The kid fades away as the world did before. I close my eyes and let out a yell of fear.

    My scream echoes slightly in my empty, yet somehow still messy, bedroom. I look around as I sit up, trying to get my bearings. I rub my face with my hands as I attempt to piece together what must have been a crazy dream. Time passes as I attempt to recall what had just happened, but the events evade me, just out of reach of conscience mind as it fades out of memory. Out of habit, I turn to look at the clock on the grate beside the mattress on the floor I call a bed, unable to shake the feeling I had forgotten something important.

    I’m late.

  4. thewriteman16 says:

    As I walk down the alley I notice the mysterious man has left me a note, as I walk closer I decide to take a look at the letter. The letter tells me that if I want to learn more to meet him at the old warehouse next to the river. I contemplate going to the warehouse or just ignoring the letter and going on with my daily life, but ultimately decide that I have had enough ordinary for a while and that I am going to meet the strange man and get to the bottom of things.
    As I step up to the doors of the warehouse I can’t help but wonder what I would be doing if I hadn’t picked up the letter in the alley. Most likely I would be sitting at home reading a book I had already read going on with my regular old boring life. In that moment I know I have made the right choice coming here tonight. I finally get up the nerve to open the door and see a single table with two chairs the mysterious man stands by the table waiting for me to sit down. Now that I see his face better I realize he is much older than I originally thought, appearing to be in his 60’s. Despite his age he was in remarkably good condition. He sits down offering the other chair. Once I have sat down he begins to explain why he has brought me here. He says that he has been following me. My first reaction is amazing anger, but I decide that I will let him finish before I let my anger known. He explains that he has been sent to recruit me for a job in the military, in a new type of squad. When I ask why I was chosen he explains that it is because he needs people of high intelligence with computer knowledge. He explains that if I would like to join the team I need to be at the airport with a packed bag tomorrow at 8:00 A.M.
    On the small plane I see 5 other people including the mysterious man who has introduced himself as Don. I have been informed that we will be landing in Colorado where we will begin training for the new squad. I could not be happier with the chain of events that has brought me to this new life. I am so happy that my new life is one of action and adventure for no longer will I sit around transferring information into computers. Now I will be programming and designing fighting machines that will aid the army and prevent the loss of life of U.S. soldiers around the world.

  5. embersofher says:

    I strode briskly along the desecrated road towards the last bus stop, wrapping my scarf around my face to act as a filter for the acrid mid-summer air. Suddenly there was a flash of red in the corner of my eye. I turned to see a boy, in his late teens like me, draped in a brilliant red coat. It was silken and flowed down his back like a cape, with a striking black hood that glittered in the sunlight. But the strangest thing wasn’t his gaudy clothing; it was the lack of an oxygen tank on his back. I opened my mouth to enquire but something made me hesitate. Perhaps it was the intensity of his gaze as he peered into the darkened alleyway before him, the alleyway I could’ve sworn wasn’t there a moment ago, or maybe it was the secretiveness with which he glanced around, as if checking for watchers, before striding purposely into the darkness.
    The screech of the bus pulling up beside me broke my trance and I squinted up at the bus driver as the doors wheezed open. He gestured impatiently, already late for his check-in with HQ. I glanced back at the alleyway, curiosity warring with duty inside me…
    “I’m sorry,” I said, smiling up at the driver sheepishly, “but there’s somewhere else I have to be today.”
    The old man scoffed in disbelief, pulling away from the curb as the doors hissed to a close.
    I bit my lip as the bus disappeared into the distance, rethinking the wisdom of my decision. Now here I was, stranded alone in the deserted countryside, my closest homestead a two hour walk away and not enough oxygen in my tank to last the trip. But I had to know.
    I ran into the alleyway after the boy.
    He was gone.
    There was no way out, the walls were smoothened concrete so he couldn’t have climbed, and the rest was sealed off. The only entrance or exit was the one I had come through, and I was standing next to it the entire time, I would’ve seen if he left. So where had he gone?
    I beat at the walls with my fists in frustration. He wasn’t wearing a tank, but he looked human. And humans need to breathe. I sank down to my knees, cradling my bleeding knuckles in my lap. And then I saw the note. It was written on a piece of paper. A real piece of paper like the ones we used to use in class when I was a kid. And he’d written me a message. It took me a minute to decipher his handwriting; it was like the beautiful loopy scrawl my mother use to write with, cursive, I think it was called. I re-read the note twice; sure that I’d misunderstood, because what he had written was impossible. But what if he was right? I reached up to the incision under my neck, my fingers deftly clutching the tube that carried oxygen into my body.
    And I tore it out.

  6. DeannaVM says:

    The sky was gloomy, covered with dark clouds and drizzling rain. I was on my way home in the city, standing under the cover of the bus stop waiting for the next bus to show up when I noticed a young boy walking into a dark, ominous alley. He appeared to be around the age of six or seven. He had dark hair that hung in his face and clothes that were stained and looked as if they hadn’t been washed in a while.
    I looked around to see if anyone else walking up and down the street had noticed. No one made a move to follow the boy into the alley, so I decided to follow him myself to make sure the boy was okay. I was appalled that such a young boy could look so grimy and shook my head in disapproval at a lack of supervision for such a young boy.
    I was making a mental list of the questions I would ask the boy and the actions I would take based on the outcomes out of the various answers he could give. I figured the questions I was going to ask him would point me in some kind of direction on what to do with him. I definitely could not just let him freeze out in the cold by himself. He didn’t have a jacket, his shirt was torn and nearly sleeveless and his pants were worn and torn. I don’t think I saw any socks or shoes on his feet either.
    But my mental lists did not prepare me for what I saw.
    There was nothing in the alley. Nothing. Not a dumpster; no fire escapes on the two buildings, no garages or doors, no windows. Nothing but brick wall by brick wall by brick wall. I was shocked. Had I imagined the little boy walking into the alley? No, I don’t think so. He seemed too real, too vivid to be a fragment of my imagination. I know I could be a little over imaginative sometimes, but I honestly didn’t believe this was one of those moments. I know what I saw.
    I stood at the start of the alley, staring into the dark space as I examined each wall of the alley, and I examined then the ground. Then I blinked a few times when I noticed a piece of paper on the floor. I walked deeper into the alley to pick it up. It was a regular lined piece of paper, folded as neatly as the script inside. It read:
    “I am the eye of the world. I see all and I know all. I know your deepest desires, so the question that remains is: will you risk everything to have your wishes satisfied?”
    My brow lifted and my face took on a confused expression. What is this? A joke? I strode across the alley, looking for a secret passage that may be hidden on one of the walls or on the floor with no success when a voice stopped me.
    “Am I the one you’re looking for, master?”

  7. Alex says:

    I wrote a piece for this prompt. Thought it was a great suggestion. You can find it here at my blog. Enjoy.

    http://phoenixrisng.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=122&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

  8. morganalexis1990 says:

    Okay. This one’s a little more than 500 words.

    If she hadn’t had to fill out so much paperwork at the eye doctor’s, time wouldn’t have been an issue. Just as Minerva turned the corner onto Chester Avenue, she noticed the bus’s tires spinning, its tailpipe breathing a farewell into the late November chill. She tried to chase after it, make sure the driver knew he was one passenger short, but her first step was too harsh. She felt that old, nagging pain slither from her lower back, down her right thigh, and coil multiple times around her knee.
    “Oh,” she grunted as she steadied herself. She clutched at her leg and then her back, trying to bully her sciatica into submission. By the time Minerva’s pain was fully soothed, the bus had long ago turned the corner onto North Trace Street. Had she been fifty years younger, she still wouldn’t have been able to catch up to it. She let out a frustrated huff. The next bus wasn’t due for another two hours. Minerva could wait. She brought her knitting for just such occasions.
    “Guess I should call Jennifer. Tell her I’ll be a bit late,” she thought as she shuffled towards the stop’s glass-encased bench. “Since I’ll be gone longer than usual, I’ll have to tell her to keep an extra-careful eye on Wallace.” In their sixty-two years together, Minerva and Wallace were rarely apart. As age progressed, Wallace became increasingly disoriented, especially whenever Minerva would leave the house to run errands.
    “He cries, constantly when you’re gone,” Jennifer, their Home Health Aid had once told Minerva. “He cries because he thinks his wife has left him for good. He talks about the baby too; how all three of you are going to the Adirondacks on Sunday. That always cheers him up.”
    “We’ve never gone to the Adirondacks,” was Minerva’s reply. It was true. They had never made it there. In 1958, they had plans to go one Sunday; Wallace, Minerva, and baby Christopher. Their car flipped along the way though. The baby was lost. Wallace doesn’t recall that part of the story anymore. Every now and again, he would still ask about Chris. At first Minerva would tell him the truth. Each time she would have to watch a newly grieving father be born again, again, again, and again. And she too would feel fresh mourning claw at her spirit. Finally, she learned to answer with, “He’s at the babysitter’s today, remember?” I want him to forget, she would tell herself. Forget everything. Me, the baby. He won’t have to cry over us anymore. It’ll be lonely for me, but in a lot of ways, I suppose it already is.
    A constricting in her leg pulled Minerva from her thoughts. She was sitting on the stop bench, still waiting on the bus. Fifteen minutes had passed and she still hadn’t called Jennifer. She paused as she was feeling around in her handbag for her cell phone. Just across the street stood a boy. This boy reminded her so much of Wallace when he was younger. The way the sun sat in his dark hair made it look almost white from where Minerva was. He carried with him a cheeky, checkerboard grin, much like the one Wallace used to give her when he would get caught dipping his finger in the cake batter. She wanted to tell this child how much he looked like her husband, so much so that it felt as if something was propelling her off the bench and across the street. The boy took no notice of her.
    He stopped abruptly in front of the alley between Dynasty Chinese Restaurant and Mickey’s Jewelry Shop. After looking around and noticing Minerva coming towards her, he gave a wink and ran off into the alley. “Boy! What are you doing back there,” She called. “That’s no place to play.” Her phone began to ring, but she had no time to stop and answer it. She had to get that boy out of the alley. He could get hurt. She was running as much as she was able, but the pain in her leg was becoming crippling. “Boy! Get on out of there! Go on home now, you hear? Don’t make people worry over you!” Finally, she was in the entrance of the alley, but the little boy had vanished. Out of breath, she stopped and sat against one of the walls to message her leg. The rustling of paper being scooted across the chilled pavement caught Minerva’s attention. Looking to her left, she saw a piece of notebook paper, folded carefully. It was marked “For You.” Before she could open it, Minerva’s phone began to ring again. This time, she answered. “Hello?”
    “Minerva? It’s Jen.” She sounded pained and exhausted. “I’ve been trying to call you!”

    Wallace’s funeral was small, and warm, and it left Minerva tired, almost world-weary. That night, she sat on his side of the bed and looked around the room. It was not the house she remembered. Her Wally wasn’t there. She reached with knotted fingers into the pocket of her night gown and pulled out the note that she had been wanting to read. She placed her head on her husband’s pillow and opened it. “Minerva, I won’t ever forget. I don’t want to. Again, again, and again, Your Wally.”

  9. Icyss says:

    Grey eyes caught the disappearing form of a familiar young boy through the heavy rain that clouded her vision. Something was off about this, something that kept her from walking away. It was a feeling of mystery that slowly consumed her, beginning at her fingertips and spreading onward until she couldn’t deny it. With a sigh, the woman looked both ways and followed the boy into the alley.
    When she arrived, the majority of rain was caught by the roofs of various houses. Scout had waited too long, and the boy had already vanished, but left in his wake a small white parchment. It was folded neatly, and still held some of it’s former crispness despite the humidity. Scout considered leaving it there. It was not her business to look at what he had left. But at the same time, she couldn’t resist. Excitedly lifting the note off of the dirty ground, she opened it it’s content.
    It was a neat hand written note, with various columns and sections, but the main point was conveyed directly at the top. Something was eerily familiar about the handwriting, but she ignored it and began reading.’ Dear reader. I know I am worth nothing to the world, but I just wanted to get a few things established. This is not the fault of anyone besides myself. Mom, you did a great job. I love the entire family even though we have our small fights on occasion, and Dad, you did fine. I suppose I was never considered a quitter, but there are a few things that simply become unbearable. I am sorry, so sorry, for this, but I can’t stand this any longer. No matter how you try to make me feel accepted, no matter how surrounded by people I am, I always feel alone. Please, don’t cry, though. Any of you, either friends or family. Love you. Hunter. P.S, this is for police evidence only, please do not read.’
    Scout shoved the note into her pocket, unable to stop the tears from cascading down her face as she ran, out into the street. She needed no words to know what was happening.
    “Hunter!” she yelled, voice cracking as the tears mixed with rain, but it was no use. She came to a stop, directly beside the body of her only child.
    “no…” the words took an effort to get out, and were strangled even when they came. She held his head in her lap, stroking the hair out of his eyes. The boy had apparently jumped from the building’s roof after dropping the note, enough to kill him, but just barely. She had just taken out her phone, to call an ambulance, or just someone, when his eyes clouded over and he was no more. A small wail escaped the woman’s throat, and she collapsed, next to her son, small sobs escaping her mouth through the steady streams of tears.

  10. K Lee says:

    I tilt my face up, resisting the urge to stick out my tongue. The first snowfall of the year has forced many inside, but I have nosy neighbors and you never know who is watching. The few people I do see outside are huddled in thick coats, slowly shuffling through the thick snow. I pull my hat down farther, trying to cover my ears, and smile brightly. I love snow. Suddenly a boy runs past. Startled, I almost don’t notice the glove he dropped beside me. I let out an exasperated sigh and pick it up.
    “Hey, you dropped this,” I yell, my voice shattering the wintry silence. The boy turns to glance at me and smiles. I hesitate, confused. People don’t usually smile at me. In the split second it takes for me to compose myself the boy darts into an ally. Intrigued beyond belief, I run after him. I enter the ally only to find it empty. I look to the end, which has been walled up since last summer. My eyes rove the walls for doors or windows within reach. There is no way he could have left the ally without me seeing. I stare down the vacant ally for a few more seconds, willing there to be something else there. Finally I turn to leave, my cheerful attitude completely ruined.
    Amid the falling snowflakes I see a slip of paper floating on the wind. I snatch it out of the air, my curiosity once again piqued. I look at the scribbled letters, trying to comprehend the tiny message. I look up in alarm and hear a voice as everything goes black.
    “Time to go”

  11. zanyrox says:

    I can’t see him clearly as he has a grey hoody that obscures most of his face, but I see him duck into my alley. I feel like he can’t be up to anything good at 6 in the morning. I’m debating if I should continue to the bus stop or see if I can maybe stop this kid from graffiti-ing Mrs. Randall’s fence, or whatever he’s up to. My sneakers squelch in the puddles from yesterday’s rain and I’m painfully aware of the sound and how weird I am for following someone who is probably just up to nothing. The indecision halts me and I wonder why I feel like I can stop him even if he is a criminal, and who exactly I think I am to go around watching people’s actions. It obviously has not been a good morning. I’m close to turning around and seeing if I can still make the bus when I see the kid dart out and run in the direction opposite me. Did he see me? I can’t tell. I decide to just peek in the alley and make sure nothing is too messed up before leaving. I don’t see any spray paint, and feeling foolish I start to turn when a bit of white against the wet gray of the alleyway strikes me. It’s an envelope, placed on the ground by the garage entrance of a neighbor who I don’t know. Realizing that I am a sick and terrible person, I slowly reach for it and see it hasn’t even been closed. In that case it wouldn’t hurt, too much, to glance at it, I tell myself. Ignoring the voice that’s telling me I’m a pile of shit, I pull the letter out. It’s short.

    “Mom,
    I’m alive. I don’t want to come home where he can hurt me. If you love me, just stop trying to find me and realize that I am safer where I am now.
    I’ll always love you and please stay safe. Please break free. Keep her safe too.
    Love,
    J”

    Oh my god, what have I just read. I slip the paper back in the envelope and prop the envelope against the door. My hand is shaking and I feel like shit. Did I expect to read a receipt or a rude note telling someone to learn to park? This is some serious private family shit that was none of my business. I start running and when I get to the bus stop, soggy leaves on the floor is all I find. The next bus is fifteen minutes away which means I am probably going to end up being half an hour late to work.
    I decide to just not think about the note since it isn’t meant for my eyes, but my mind has already gone ahead, wondering about this family. I figure the mom’s husband or boyfriend is the problem and that he must be abusive, but I definitely do not have enough information to come to that conclusion. The woman who lives there is short and quiet, brown haired maybe. I think about how she probably works nights since she’s come home in the morning whenever I have seen her in the past. I’ve never talked to her though. I clamor on the bus when it gets here, shoving the kid who sits near the front and who also usually rides the early bus with me. He is an asshole, but he’s 9 so I have to act like I don’t care. I always get a good “accidental shove” in when I can. I can see him glaring at me and plotting revenge as I put in my headphones and fade away. I think of a boyfriend in college, and I fear this note is taking me back to that dark place.

  12. Kylero says:

    The rain hadn’t stopped all day, plopping and tap-tap-tapping it’s way down as if the clouds were being twisted dry. People out on the streets were bundled up in their coats and scarfs, hiding their faces, from what little sun forced its way through the coal colored clouds, underneath their opened umbrellas.
    Days like today make it easy to see why zombies are everywhere. Television, movies, and books: the walking dead are more alive in the media than they were in anyone’s imagination in the 90’s. Blame it on technology, I guess, or society’s dependance on status updates and how many likes their posts garner. We’ve become more interested on making the next news clippings humorous than the actual information.
    I’m not saying I’m any better. In fact, I love zombie shows. But today, it all seemed overdone. As if I’d read this script already.
    Maybe that’s why I noticed the boy, running past me, through the dead sea. His face, red and damp under his thick black framed glasses, running across the street from the screeching of tires and honking of horns.
    “Watch out!” I yelled, but only the zombies looked back, scouring at me.
    I don’t know if it was embarrassment or concern for the kid that led me to follow him, but I did. Running through the traffic of cars and zombies like the boy, looking for his red-striped beanie.
    Reaching the street’s corner, I thought I’d lost him.
    “What a waste,” I thought, watching my bus drive past.
    I turned around and started back, when the kid poked his head out of an alley, peering around the corner to me, before sneaking his head back in.
    I ran until I reached the alley and turned the corner, gasping for breath as I entered the alley.
    Empty.
    “Hey.” I yelled, hoping he’d pop out from behind something. “Look, kid, I’m not going to hurt you. Which, now that I say that, I’m sure that’s exactly what someone who would hurt you would say, but trust me. I’m not like that.”
    I walked down the alley, looking for him instead of talking like an idiot, but there was nothing. No sign he’d been there. I turned around, confused and completely worried that I’d gone bat-shit crazy. I reached the alley’s exit and stopped. Closing my eyes, I sighed exasperatedly.
    “Relax. It’s all in your head,” I told myself. “Like usual.” I began doing the breathing technique my doctor taught me. I focused on being calm and when I opened my eyes, I was. Another deep breath and I readied myself to head back to the when I noticed a wrinkled piece of yellow paper on the ground. I bent down and picked it up off the pond-like pavement, careful to not tear the wet paper as I peeled away the edges from each other.
    There, in the middle of the page read:

    “Congratulations! You found me!”
    -Waldo

  13. P.S. says:

    “Oh no I’m late!” I said looking at the clock. “9 again. It’s always 9”. I jumped out of bed, tripping over the random cords other clutter that lies on my bedroom floor. Made my way into the bathroom, skipping a shower and halfway brushed my teeth before I rushed out. Slipped into my wrinkled suit that I wore yesterday and ran out of the door. “Why is he spiting me? Why me?” Running down the busy Apple streets. Acting out my rightful role as a worm as I burrow through the crowds making my way to the core, my bus stop. As I pushed through the blank faces that were in front of me, I noticed a small boy running towards into an alleyway between two apartments to my right. He seemed in a hurry as if he was delivering a letter to the queen of England. I decided to swamp roles and play the act of the knight. I was already late anyway and I don’t get paid enough for what I do. Dashing into the alleyway after the boy, I saw a dark cloth slip behind the brick wall at the end of the road ahead of me. Picking up my pace, I shot forward at full speed through the empty alley and wisped around the corner. My heart stopped as I laid eyes on a dead end. The boy was nowhere to be found. The black cloth was just a paper bag stuck on an exposed nail in the tagged wall. Leaning against the wall in front of me was a folded origami figure in the shape of a dog. Confused and curious, I stumped towards the paper dog and began to unfold it once I had my hands on its sharp paws. What was written inside brought even more confusing to my situation.

    “You are already late. You probably shouldn’t be reading this. Don’t worry who I am, just know that I am here to help break your curse”.

    I tossed the dissected dog with all my might before it was carried away by the wind. I watched it as it flew towards the wall tagged wall that help betrayed me seconds before. The paper guided my eyes to the words written on the red blocks.

    “We’re watching you”

    • snuzcook says:

      Some nice images here, but (hate to say) the typos kept interrupting the flow so I had to reread and interpret. Would enjoy reading a proofed version…

      • P.S. says:

        I apologize. It’s my first post and I typed this in a place where spellcheck wasn’t an option. I will try to post better quality writing next time. I just wanted to see how the community is around here. Thank you for the comment.

  14. BiancaB says:

    The day the slaughter of the adults started, I was cursing the bus for being so damn late.
    The revolt had started with clusters of boys and girls and teens, meeting at the corners of the streets and in playing fields. The addresses of some forums had been passed from hand to hand, hidden inside little scraps of paper to burn once read, and not on mobile phones where ‘adults’ could find them. Some assumed command; each captain chose his own men. This time, the weakest were called first, and for a long time spied their families to know when to leave the door of their homes open. That night parents woke up surrounded by their children’s friends, their sons and daughter in front of everybody. Richard must have been confused at seeing our little boy, Andy. Little Andy, who always tripped over his feet. Little Andy, who could never guess the accent of a word right.
    But I found out everything later, with alarms and people screaming all around me. For now, I knew only the touch of cold air on my nose, and the throbbing of the hangover threating to make me throw up at the bus stop under the eyes of the rich-looking woman waiting beside me.
    I stamped my boots. The snow crunched hard under my feet. The chick looked at me from her fur-rimmed coat and wrinkled her nose. I stopped, but the snow kept on crunching behind us.
    A boy had said goodbye to his friends and was running into an alley, the schoolbag bouncing off his shoulders. The keys hanging from the bag clinked, then fell down in the snow with a thump. “Ehi!” I cried, but he didn’t hear me. I picked the keys up, thankful for my gloves, and looked at his friends to see whether someone would have offered to take them. But they were all staring at me, huddled together in their scarfs, like a pack of wolves watching a deer from afar. “Your friend lost his keys,” I said. Nobody moved. “Won’t you take them?”
    The pack stayed still.
    I shrugged. I hated when children use silence against adults. Ignoring them, I turned and followed the boy’s steps up to the alley. The boy had disappeared from sight, but perhaps he would have noticed that there was no clinking behind him anymore, and would have come back to look for them. I walked past piles of hard snow and garbage. There was a spot of yellow not too far away. I picked it up too – a scrap of paper, this time. “Worser than Hansel and Gretel,” I muttered. Behind me, a distant bang echoed in the street. I turned, but heard nothing else. The paper had been folded four times, and I unfolded it again, deciphering the dribbled ink and the messy handwriting. “Team 19. Public garden near bus stop, Collins Street up to the pub.”
    The snow crunched behind me, at the end of the alley.

  15. BiancaB says:

    The day the slaughter of the adults started, I was cursing the bus for being so damn late.

    The revolt had started with clusters of boys and girls and teens, meeting at the corners of the streets and in playing fields. The addresses of some forums had been passed from hand to hand, hidden inside little scraps of paper to burn once read, and not on mobile phones where ‘adults’ could find them. Some assumed command; each captain chose his own men. This time, the weakest were called first, and for a long time spied their families to know when to leave the door of their homes open. That night parents woke up surrounded by their children’s friends, their sons and daughter in front of everybody. Richard must have been confused at seeing our little boy, Andy. Little Andy, who always tripped over his feet. Little Andy, who could never guess the accent of a word right.

    But I found out everything later, with alarms and people screaming all around me. For now, I knew only the touch of cold air on my nose, and the throbbing of the hangover threating to make me throw up at the bus stop under the eyes of the rich-looking woman waiting beside me.
    I stamped my boots. The snow crunched hard under my feet. The chick looked at me from her fur-rimmed coat and wrinkled her nose. I stopped, but the snow kept on crunching behind us.
    A boy had said goodbye to his friends and was running into an alley, the schoolbag bouncing off his shoulders. The keys hanging from the bag clinked, then fell down in the snow with a thump. “Ehi!” I cried, but he didn’t hear me. I picked the keys up, thankful for my gloves, and looked at his friends to see whether someone would have offered to take them. But they were all staring at me, huddled together in their scarfs, like a pack of wolves watching a deer from afar. “Your friend lost his keys,” I said. Nobody moved. “Won’t you take them?”
    The pack stayed still.
    I shrugged. I hated when children use silence against adults. Ignoring them, I turned and followed the boy’s steps up to the alley. The boy had disappeared from sight, but perhaps he would have noticed that there was no clinking behind him anymore, and would have come back to look for them. I walked past piles of hard snow and garbage. There was a spot of yellow not too far away. I picked it up too – a scrap of paper, this time. “Worser than Hansel and Gretel,” I muttered. Behind me, a distant bang echoed in the street. I turned, but heard nothing else. The paper had been folded four times, and I unfolded it again, deciphering the dribbled ink and the messy handwriting. “Team 19. Public garden near bus stop, Collins Street up to the pub.”

    The snow crunched behind me, at the end of the alley.

  16. artemis khan says:

    I picked up the origami rose with fingers that would rather be holding a drink, and unfolded the edges. My bloodshot eyes adjusted.

    Blue words read: I knew you’d follow me…let’s see if you’ll follow your heart back to life. Your wife loves you, Brekker. She came to me in a dream. Ghosts are fond of children, you know. Now go catch that bus to something beautiful.

    I left that alley, and my past…behind.

  17. MCKEVIN says:

    In an alley in Cali,
    a note’s quote,
    “Fred’s dead,”
    lickety-split
    got out quick.

  18. Keith says:

    Hugh Nelson looked up just in time to see the boy walking toward the alley. The kid stopped, looked to his left—looked to his right then disappeared from sight. Something familiar about that boy, he thought…

    He opened his briefcase, removed his newspaper and tried to read the headlines. He couldn’t concentrate, though, the boy’s face—there was SOMETHING about that face. It’s no use, he thought, as he refolded the paper and placed it back into his briefcase. A quick glance at his watch told him the bus wouldn’t be here for awhile.

    Curious, he stood up and walked over to the alley’s entrance. The alley was deserted, the boy, nowhere to be seen. A closer look at the alley revealed an alley unlike any he’d ever seen in his 20 plus years in New York.

    The alley went straight back to a brick wall. It was no more than an entrance, with three walls four stories tall. Interestingly, this was the cleanest alley he’d ever seen. No trash cans, no litter, the usual piles of junk were glaringly absent. Most mysterious was the lack of doors, windows, or fire escapes. Since when does a New York alley look like this, he wondered? And where was the boy?

    Looking down at his watch Hugh realized he needed to get back to the bus stop. It was then he noticed the white square at his feet. Reaching down Hugh picked up the neatly folded piece of paper. He unfolded the note and read:

    Hugh, your life is in danger. You MUST do exactly what I tell you. DO NOT TAKE THE BUS TO WORK! Go home to your wife, Ellen. Do it NOW! DO NOT go into work today.

    Hugh read the note a second time. What the…is this a joke, he wondered? Suddenly feeling very self-conscious he turned and walked back to the bus stop.

    “Go home to Ellen,” he thought, what was this all about?

    Just then the bus arrived at his stop. Hugh stepped back and allowed his fellow passengers to board. When the last person cleared the steps he began to step up—then stopped. Something was holding him back. Was it the note? Was it the kid’s face?

    “Hey buddy, you coming on board or what,” the driver yelled down at him.

    Hugh looked up, paused, then shook his head slowly. “No…I, uh, I forgot something at home,” he mumbled.

    “Fine,” said the driver closing the door and pulling away from the curb.

    “So you had ME go through the portal because you new granddad would recognize me”?

    “Yes, son. You look so much like he did at your age. I knew he’d be curious and hopefully follow you into the alley.”

    “Well it worked, Pop.”

    “Yes it did, if it hadn’t you wouldn’t be here, son.”

    “So what WAS the date you sent me to so I could stop grandpa from going into work?”

    “It was September 11, 2001.”

    • BezBawni says:

      Oh my, I almost cried out when I read the last line. You must have a great deal of courage to post something like this, I mean the subject is very delicate and painful for so many people. I don’t live in the US, but my heart is bleeding now at the memory of the awful event. I so wish your story were true and people could have been saved. Your story was a hard blow, I don’t know what to say.

      • Keith says:

        BezBawni, thank you for reply. Yes, I was concerned about the sensitivities and wasn’t sure if I should go there. But felt after 10 plus years it was time, for me, to move forward.

    • Keith says:

      Sorry for the double entry, this was my first submission and it took quite a while to post…thought I’d done something wrong. KGS

    • Svapne says:

      I wish there were a whole bunch of grandsons like him. Great story.

  19. agnesjack says:

    O.K. Here’s my minimal word entry (29).
    _____________

    The boy beckoned me into the alley with a smile. When I got there he was gone. There was a note on the ground. It read:

    “Tag! You’re it!

  20. I heard the bus door open and the faint clinking of coins dropped into the toll container followed by the contraction of the mechanical linkage that pulled the doors closed. The engine accelerated and it continued down the street without me. People rushed past, some exchanged muffled conversations. The “don’t walk” sign bleeped a warning. The world continued to move rapidly around me but I was a frozen statue in their midst, transfixed by the yellow paper folded into a tight little square lying on the ground before me.

    Deeply engraved into my memory were the words neatly handwritten across the page, “I’m sorry I didn’t call but I knew you would try to change my mind. Please keep Benjamin with you. It isn’t safe for him to return home right now. I trust you to make the right decision. Love, A.”

    If my ten-year-old adventurer had only obeyed the command to deliver it before I went to school and if I had not decided to use it as a free pass to skip out for the day I would not be stuck here reliving over and over again the final carefree moments of my life before they took me. The constant torment of regret forced me to relive this sliver of time again and again. I heard squeal of breaks from another buses arrival. The escape of air as the door broke the seal and extended open. I tried to communicate with my legs to turn around and start toward the bus but they refused me.

    “Please,” I prayed.

    The hand that grasped hold of mine was warm and strong.

  21. shaferkg says:

    Hugh looked up just in time to see the boy walking toward the alley. The kid stopped, looked to his left—looked to his right then disappeared from sight. Something familiar about that boy, he thought…

    Hugh Nelson opened his briefcase, removed his newspaper and tried to read the headlines. He couldn’t concentrate, though, the boy’s face—there was SOMETHING about that face. It’s no use, he thought, as he refolded the paper and placed it back into his briefcase. A quick glance at his watch told him the bus wouldn’t be here for awhile.

    Curious, he stood up and walked over to the alley’s entrance. The alley was deserted, the boy, nowhere to be seen. A closer look at the alley revealed an alley unlike any he’d ever seen in his 20 plus years in New York.

    The alley went straight back to a brick wall. It was no more than an entrance, with three walls four stories tall. Interestingly, this was the cleanest alley he’d ever seen. No trash cans, no litter, the usual piles of junk were glaringly absent. Most mysterious was the lack of doors, windows, or fire escapes. Since when does a New York alley look like this, he wondered? And where was the boy?

    Looking down at his watch Hugh realized he needed to get back to the bus stop. It was then he noticed the white square at his feet. Reaching down Hugh picked up the neatly folded piece of paper. He unfolded the note and read:

    Hugh, your life is in danger. You MUST do exactly what I tell you. DO NOT TAKE THE BUS TO WORK! Go home to your wife, Ellen. Do it NOW! DO NOT go into work today.

    Hugh read the note a second time. What the…is this a joke, he wondered? Suddenly feeling very self-conscious he turned and walked back to the bus stop.

    “Go home to Ellen,” he thought, what was this all about?

    Just then the bus arrived at his stop. Hugh stepped back and allowed his fellow passengers to board. When the last person cleared the steps he began to step up—then stopped. Something was holding him back. Was it the note? Was it the kid’s face?

    “Hey buddy, you coming on board or what,” the driver yelled down at him.

    Hugh looked up, paused, then shook his head slowly. “No…I, uh, I forgot something at home,” he mumbled.

    “Fine,” said the driver closing the door and pulling away from the curb.

    “So you had ME go through the portal because you new granddad would recognize me”?

    “Yes, son. You look so much like he did at your age. I knew he’d be curious and hopefully follow you into the alley.”

    “Well it worked, Pop.”

    “Yes it did, if it hadn’t you wouldn’t be here, son.”

    “So what WAS the date you sent me to so I could stop grandpa from going into work?”

    “It was September 11, 2001.”

  22. Kerry Charlton says:

    My entry, 21 words.

    DELUSIONS

    When I was a young boy, I spoke as a child.

    Now years have passed toward twilight and I think as a child.

  23. charlynchu says:

    There was a slight breeze as I bent down to pick up the note. There was no trace of the young boy anywhere. My hands slowly and gingerly opened up the note. “IT WORKS!!!!” I looked up into the air just in time to see the young boy’s ecstatic smile. “My father did it! He invented the flying potion! It really works on people!” He started doing loops in the air and shrieking excitedly.His infinity loops started to distorted before I realized that he was losing speed and altitude. Suddenly, he fell out of the sky. Instinctively, I ran towards his spot with my arms outstretched. His weight was unexpected, but I managed to maintain my balance. As I looked at him worriedly, he looked up and beamed brightly. “I could fly!”

  24. Wingless Illusion says:

    I end up walking to early to catch the bus, standing there I open the pocket watch that’ s hanging around my neck to do a time check. Suddenly a boy runs into me not paying attention but looking down at the same pocket watch as mine. I watched the boy turn down the alley and I just couldn’t get rid of the curiosity of the boy having the same watch as mine so i ran after him.

    When I reached the alley I peeked around the corner no ones there. I began to walk down the alley until I come to a dead end. When I turned around there’ s a brick wall a couple feet away from me and the alley way has disappeared. “What’ s going on?” I turn around and place my hands on the wall pushing. “It definitely is a real wall maybe the other one is just an illusion.” When I turn back around there is a girl standing there instead of the boy but she looks similar to the boy. She stares at me with the pocket watch in her hands then looks down at the pocket watch as her eyes become blank. Something makes me reach around my neck to open mine. My eyes go blank, when i come to its dark.

    “Where am I?” In front of me is a mirror, I look in it. Suddenly twin children appear pounding on the mirror. I fall back onto the ground. “Mom, you have to run away! Get out of here, he’ s coming! ” “What, Mom? I’ m not your mother. I don’ t have children.” “Mom, look you gave us your pocket watch.” “What? How do you have the same watch as mine?” “Mom, he’ s here. Close your eyes, don’ t look him in the eye.” For some reason I listen to the children and close my eyes tight. I feel a breath on my neck. “Who’ s there?” “Foolish woman, why did you follow those children here?” “Because they are my children and they came to me for help.” “So you admit they are yours?” “Well I don’ t know but I believe if they say I’ m there mother then I’ m sure I’ m their mother.” “Open your eyes and look at me. If you do, I will free you.” “Don’ t listen, Mom.” “I won’ t.” “The watch, quickly wind it!” I still keep my eyes shut as I wind the watch. When it doesn’ t wind anymore I open my eyes and stare into the watch. My eyes grow heavy and begin to shut.

    When I come to I’ m laying on the ground, next to my pocket watch and a letter. I push myself up onto my knees and open the letter.
    “Dear Mom, In the future you will have to make a complicated decision. This decision will change the future forever. You must select the right patg or even we will not exist. One more thing always remember the saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” This simple saying may save you in the future. We love you mom. Please don’ t mess this up, we have faith in you.”
    My hands slant downward as the letter falls out of my hands and a tear slides down my cheek. “What should I do? Can’ t I go back and help them? Or do I have to just wait it out? What was that place anyways? What was that thing they did not want me to look into the eyes of? So many questions unanswered rushing through my head. Where do I begin to find the answers?”

  25. snuzcook says:

    Silent alley, empty now.
    Note dropped, or left, intended?
    I begin to read:
    “Miss Bailey,
    Billy will not be in school today…

  26. Melanie folded the paper and placed it reverently on the coffin. I hugged her tightly as she buried her face in my chest, hiding from the judgement of the dispersing crowd. The note was simple: ‘I’m sorry, Dad’

  27. op2myst says:

    It was hot, very hot and all I wanted to do was catch the bus. I had been walking for I don’t know how long and my shirt was sticking to my back. At least the bus had air conditioning. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a young boy dart into an alley. He looked both ways and disappeared, but he didn’t see me watching him. Okay, what’s going on, I thought. He must be up to something. I followed him, but he had really disappeared. Just as I was about to turn and leave I saw a piece of paper. Slowly, I picked up the paper not knowing what I would find, but thinking it would probably be just a kid’s drawing or homework.

    I stared at it. “My father is abusing me. If he finds out I wrote this note he will kill me and my sister. Please help me. I live at the corner house. My mommy has been gone for a long time and she never came back. Please help.”

    Is this a joke? What if it isn’t? I had to do something, but I’m too scared to go to the house by myself. I call the police and wait in the humid heat. What if I have made a mistake and there is absolutely nothing wrong? As I stand there I begin to feel more and more uncomfortable. There was something about the boy….

    As the police pull up my heart is racing and I almost faint. I know now what happened. After all I’m mommy.

  28. BezBawni says:

    (I couldn’t stay away, this is just too good. Here’s my entry into the competition of shortest prompts. 28 for now, less to go!))

    ***
    “Game over,” the note reads. The boy starts cheering.

    James beams at me over his monitor.

    “Again!!!” I yell.

    “Enjoy losing?”

    “Again!!!”

    I push ‘start a New Game’.

  29. Dirty Toupee says:

    I’m one of the lucky ones. Most of my childhood friends are gone, they’ve long since moved away.

    I’d taken this walk to work for the past 15 years, leaving my home at 4 am. What others call lonely and dispiriting, I’d describe as invigorating and life-affirming. I have the pleasure of seeing my city at its wondrous, peaceful best.

    Just as it always does, the streetlight flickered as I passed by. I walked to Big Al’s Newsstand. He’s not open yet, but Al waits for me to knock three times and then he unlocks the door, hands me the paper and we talk while he brews the most amazing pot of coffee.

    Quickening my stride, I passed by what used to be Folly Park. Today, only two benches remained. In my mind, I can still hear the sounds of my kids playing there. I played there too as a child. It’s a new office building now. The gleaming metal and hundreds of windows looked down on me. It was beautiful, but it was cold and unfeeling.

    I waved to Joe. Our first meeting was by chance when I stopped a man who tried to steal his boots as he slept. In colder months, he stays at the shelter, but as soon as the weather breaks, I find him on his corner. Don’t call him homeless though, he says he prefers to be called, free.

    “Be well my friend,” I called to him.

    “Goodspeed to you and your family,” he nodded knowingly.

    One block away was my friend Killer, the most ferocious looking Rottweiler I’d ever seen. Every morning for the past few years, he’s kept watch on his porch and I stayed on the other side of the street. At least I did until a skunk sashayed my way. It was either be sprayed or take my chances with Killer. He turned out to be the sweetest dog I’d ever known. We’ve greeted each other every morning since.

    I paused briefly to touch the trunk of the old oak that offered some refuge against sudden, unexpected downpours.

    My luck had run out. Relocate or get pink slipped.

    “Today is my last day,” I said aloud to no one. I inhaled deeply and let out a sigh, letting the words sink in. I spotted a child who looked like me when I was a boy. I followed him into the alley. He gave me a sad smile and then disappeared, leaving only a note where he once stood.

    “I’ve watched you grow into a respectful, loving man, who can find the beauty in life’s imperfections. The time has come for you to move on and start anew. You will be missed. Signed, The City.”

    I blinked away a tear. If I hurried, I could still catch Sam on the 4:35 bus. I want to say goodbye. He’ll wait a few minutes for me. He knows I’m coming.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Beautiful and touching, DT (everybody’s getting initials these days). Colossal job, packing all that nostalgia into less than 500 words.

      I find it easy to believe that cities have a spirit.

    • BezBawni says:

      I’ve just come to work and this is the first thing I’ve read today. Somehow I feel a little nostalgic now, you made me think of all the years I’ve lived here, in my City. What I love most about your story is the way you let us know all the minor stories behind the people your MC meets on the way.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Your descriptive prose is the heart of your story. Little things in life like gaining the trust of otherwise a deadly animal are things that spread magic today. Old cities have such magic. As a child I put my hand on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, walked the same cobbled streets as Ben Franklin did.

        Memories at the age of eight or perhaps ten, are always with me. I call this story delightful.

    • Amy says:

      Wistful and very sentimental. I like the attention to detail, without wandering aimlessly. Nice story.

    • snuzcook says:

      I’m really glad I read this story this morning.
      What a great addition to my day.
      Thanks!

    • Susan says:

      Extremely moving and evocative – loved it.

    • Dirty Toupee says:

      Wow you guys! If you keep this up, I’ll actually start to believe I have some talent. LOL. Thanks everyone, for the wonderful feedback.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was lovely.

      It touched so beautifully on the inevitability and sadness of change, but never let go of thankfulness, appreciation and hope.

  30. JRSimmang says:

    30 words, and my contribution to the challenge.

    The note must’ve fallen out of his pocket, and I couldn’t leave without reading it.

    “Watch gears, particularly the cog
    dog brush
    toothpaste”

    I remembered I left my oven on.

  31. Observer Tim says:

    Okay, here’s a short one:

    I pick up the note he dropped. The boy is nowhere nearby. Flipping it open, I read.

    “Walking to catch the bus, you see a young boy look both ways before entering an alley…”

  32. calicocat88 says:

    I wanted to play too! Amy, here’s a slice of my world ;)

    Shoulder Wars

    The editor dashed into the alley and was dead-ended. Neon lights glowed in the darkness as the novelist honed in, twirling her light saber. She plunged the saber forward, swiping off his head in mid grin. It clunked to the ground. Laughing maniacally, the head slowly turned upwards. “500 words or less!”

  33. agnesjack says:

    The man was running late, but when he saw the boy glance furtively behind him before ducking into the alley, he was curious. He crossed the street against the light, and almost got hit by the bus he had been waiting for. When he got to the alley it was empty. There were no doors and it was a dead-end.

    “How the hell did he…,” he said out loud, but then he noticed something on the ground. It was a white, crisp piece of paper, folded neatly into quarters. He picked it up and turned and left the alley. He unfolded the paper as he headed back to the corner to cross to the bus stop. In the middle of the paper in neat block letters was written:

    “What if?”

    “What if, what?” the man said. “What if I hadn’t lost all that money in the stock market? What if I hadn’t had to take this job for half of what I used to earn?”

    He waited on the corner for the light to change. “The last thing I need right now” he grumbled to himself, “is to think about the ‘what ifs’,” and he and threw the note at the trash can, missing by a foot. The light changed and he crossed without looking back.

    The woman standing behind him was disgusted. “Lazy litterbug” she muttered under her breath as she picked up the paper and went to place it in the can. Then she noticed the words and stopped short. “What if, indeed,” she thought, and refolded the paper and put it into her purse. On the way to the dead-end job that she hated, she thought about those words. “I’m thirty-seven,” she thought. “I could get a much better job. What if I don’t try? What if I do?”

    She walked into her office to find her boss standing by her desk.

    “Get this back to me before the end of the day,” he said without making eye contact, as usual, and dropped a new client folder on her desk.

    She was sick and tired of doing his job for him on a secretary’s pay. “Enough!” she thought. She packed her personal items into a plastic bag, typed her resignation and dropped it on his desk. He didn’t even look up.

    She went into the ladies’ room feeling wonderful. She took the note out of her purse and left it open on the counter. “Pass it on,” she thought, smiling.

    No one paid any attention to the note that day, but when the young cleaning woman came in that night, she picked it up and looked at it for a long time. She had left her home in Guatemala against her mother’s wishes when she was sixteen. They hadn’t talked in six years. She thought about calling her. “What if she hangs up? What if she cries,” she thought.

    She had the note in her hand as she left the office building in the early morning. She was so distracted, she bumped into a young boy and the paper fluttered to the ground. The boy picked it up and handed it to her.

    “Thank you,” she said.

    He smiled at her in an odd way. She smiled back and then rushed home to call her mother.

    • calicocat88 says:

      This was too awesome :) I love the chain of events and the way you tapped into the line of people’s lives. Actually, this would be a pretty great thing to do. It’s crazy how one little piece of paper with the right words scrawled across it could fuel someone to change their entire life by one decision based on “What if?” Maybe we all need to ask ourselves that question and see what we’ve holding ourselves back from doing. Great take on the prompt!

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      And I couldn’t agree more! Very imaginative. Sounds like something O’Henry might have written. ‘The ever revolving note’. Great job on this.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Great story, agnesjack. I love the way the note travels and changes the people it meets.

      And it even has its own pet boy!

    • BezBawni says:

      This is one of those stories that makes you smile incessantly and gives you hope. Thank you, agnesjack, this was inspiring.

    • Amy says:

      I love the six degrees of separation here, AJ, as well as the pay it forward motif. Just a couple of very minor grammar slip-ups that are easy fixes. I also liked that the guy in the beginning didn’t take the message to heart, suggesting that not all of us pay attention to those things. A charming story.

    • Susan says:

      Fantastic – I love the way you weaved the lives of so many characters into this, using the note as the link – brilliant.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thank you, everyone. I was late posting this week and rushed to get it in before the next prompt.

        I actually had difficulty getting it to fit within the 500-word limit (didn’t succeed — 54 over). If there had been no limit, I would have had the note travel much farther.

        I’ve always been fascinated by opportunity and circumstance. The man in the beginning is more typical, I think, than the two women. When an unexpected door opens, how many of us go through?

        p.s. Thanks, Amy, for the grammar vigilance. Perhaps it’s time for me to dust off my copy of “The Elements of Style.” :)

    • Toni Smalley says:

      Reminded me of pay it forward, without the horrifying sad ending. I liked the concept of two little words awakening a feeling deep within someone, simple, simple words to make them make the decision to act on their desires that they keep hidden, desires they know are right to act upon and have been to scared to. Now you have me thinking “What if?” Lol :) Nice story!

  34. lailakuz says:

    Me (lailakuz): This is my first real piece in a while. Didn’t do a whole lot of editing, it was more of a free write done during a lecture. Style needs some work but I would love to know if the abstractness works in this one. I would really like some feedback.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
    Her drab gray dress was an eyesore on the jaunty red of the bench. A sigh, followed by the crisp ruffle of leaves and cheap cloth. A screeching bus pulled to a halt. The bright autumn trees, blazing youthful, fiery hues, clung to their leaves overhead. She paused, foot halfway in, announcing her commitment to the ride ahead.
    He would love it if he had been here. No, she shouldn’t think about it as wispy tears came to her eyes.
    Let’s go find him! The thought appeared as sudden as the desiccated acorns fell from trees to frantic, eager squirrels.
    “Liam!” she called, half crazed with excitement.
    “Liaaaaam, sweetheart, come here, mommy wants to show you something pretty.”
    Her calls were absorbed by the dew-dampened grass. Like the angel that he was, he appeared, peeking the brown-fringed head behind the suddenly unimpressive line of trees behind her. He dashed off to an alleyway.
    Heart racing, she followed. Hide and seek: his favorite game. Just don’t hurt yourself, her mind raced frantically. Dashing off behind him, arms flailing, she let her gasping dissolve into wild, incoherent laughing.
    “Liaaaaam, I’m coming to find youuuuuuuu.”
    She finally reached the mouth of the alleyway. No Liam. No Liam??? The darkness had swallowed him. Swallowed her sweet, her precious….
    “Liam,” she cried hoarsely, voice cracking, body ransacked with sobs. Then, she smiled. Ha! What a clever little boy! He sure knew how to scare his mommy.
    She got up, smearing the dirt further into her dress, her muted gray flats touched against an object.
    A misshapen, half folded – half crumbled note on the ground. She opened it. A small yellow sun with a wide smile splitting the pastel yellow. Two disproportionate figures, a woman with intemperate hair, spilling off of her white head in all directions and a tiny child next to her, gripping her hand. Orange tulips embedded in the unnatural green around them. A brief image flashed in her mind: an ancient sheet of paper with similar messy crayon marks still clinging to a filthy fridge with colorful magnets.
    “Liam,” her voice was now an expectant whisper. The orange tulips! Of course! How clever her little baby was. She had to find orange tulips. So Liam wanted a scavenger hunt, after all.

    • calicocat88 says:

      This is a beautiful story. I like how you never came right out and said really what was going on and left it purely to the reader’s imagination. The only thing I would look into would be over-use of adjectives. I noticed it mostly around the beginning, however, I love description so I’m torn here. I would just simply re-read it and see if it bothers you or wait and see if the majority of readers say that it distracts them. It didn’t bother me. If you feel that you don’t need to change it, then great :) I’ve always had complaints about using too many descriptions in my writing. So since you want some critiquing, that’s the best I can come up with, lol! But honestly, I like the word painting and I don’t think it would hurt if you left all as is. Great job!

    • Observer Tim says:

      Word painting is an excellent way to describe this story (thanks, calicocat). I am not totally sure if the mother is losing her mind, or lost it some time ago, or if Liam is the kind of kid that brings out that sort of reaction in his mum. The thick imagery makes it a little hard to figure out what is actually going on, but that is also the story’s strength.

      Beautiful, but with a hint of disturbing.

      • lailakuz says:

        Thank you guys both for the responses. They’ve been really helpful. I have had a problem with people finding my writing to be a little bit too descriptive and was thinking about editing the beginning part as I thought it maybe sounded a little ‘floral.’ It had actually bothered me but I was a little stuck at the moment, so, I kind of tried to let it flow rather than think through it.
        Observer Tim, I was trying out a more abstract technique and wanted to see if it would work. Maybe I’ll try to clarify what is actually going on a little more. I wanted to lay the foundation for the reader so that they could infer what was going on from the piece and also feel that weird, disturbed sensation. Maybe I’ll try lightening up the imagery some and see if that helps it out.

    • BezBawni says:

      Extremely touching and incredible prose)) (here’s my abstract appreciation of your story)

    • Amy says:

      Too many adjectives, too many “wow” words. It feels to me like you are trying hard to impress, and that rubs me the wrong way. If you clear away some of the complicated description, your story will shine. It’s okay to be abstract, but there should be enough symbolism for us to at least pick up a hint or two along the way. I think I see where you’re headed here, with the mother’s mind constantly justifying its own madness as a sort of coping mechanism. (Let me know if I’m way off!) I think simplicity speaks far more in terms of being abstract than an over-worded onslaught of description.

      • lailakuz says:

        Thanks for the tips. I’m still pretty new with writing (I finally embraced my love of writing last year because I was afraid of losing it after high school). So, I have been meddling with some different styles, trying to develop my own voice and some more restraint in writing. I have been really annoyed with myself for some of the more flowery aspects of my writing. And yes, Amy, you’ve got the plot right. Thanks again!

        • lailakuz says:

          Aaaand … I just realized how many times I repeated ‘writing’ in that paragraph. Editing issues, anyone?

        • Amy says:

          Laila, I spent an entire year trying to summon a writing voice that just wasn’t there anymore after I gave it up for a while out of high school. I realized that all I was doing was making myself miserable and trying to be something I wasn’t. We can only pour out what’s inside of us, and expectation is at the root of all heartache, or so a famous Brit once said. I annoy myself with my own writing quirks (semicolon addiction, plot reuse, and over-adjectivization) on a daily basis. (yup, I decided that’s a word) All we can do is write on, because it’s what makes us happy and keeps us (somewhat) sane. Do what works for you, take the tips you think will help, and move forward.

  35. Amy says:

    I couldn’t resist…

    Damien

    The paper feels heavy in my hand, each word like a stone in my heart.

    “No,” I whisper, whether out loud or just in my head, I can’t tell.

    His footsteps echo through the alleyway, just as they did years ago, though they’re farther apart now.

    I sink to my knees, the asphalt piercing the skin of my kneecaps as memories pierce my vision. The mother in me is sickeningly glad to see him, but the rest is pure terror.

    He stares at me through the darkness, eyes red as the blood we drained out of him.

    I hear a feral growl close by and the note slips from my hand, the three fated numbers disappearing into shadow.

  36. QuiverPen says:

    Jordan glanced back towards the alley, but the boy was gone. There had been something familiar about his actions, as if a memory had been sparked upon noticing the boy’s furtive movements. What was it about him that was so gripping?

    With a sigh, Jordan folded his newspaper and got up from the bench. He couldn’t get the boy out of his thoughts. He tossed his coat over his arm and glanced both ways before crossing the street. Ordinarily he would have avoided the alleyway, but the sun was high despite the chill in the autumn air and the alley well lit. He stopped at the mouth of the alley and peered down into its depths. His sight fell on a handful of empty boxes, a trash can, and a single sheet of paper lying in the exact center of the pavement. He rubbed a finger under his nose, glanced down the street once more, and then stepped into the alley.

    Where had the boy gone? He walked all the way to the end of the alley, which rested against the back of an old apartment complex, long abandoned and well past its prime. He turned around and looked back the way he had come. The boy was nowhere to be seen.

    A chill ran down his spine.

    “What am I doing here?” Jordan muttered to himself.

    He shivered and took a moment to throw his coat over his shoulders and stick his arms in the sleeves. A cloud passed in front of the sun. The alley grew dark. Jordan felt blood pound in his ears. His pulse raced and he fought down a note of panic. Forget the boy!

    He dashed for the street. He burst out onto the road and barely avoided being hit by a passing car. He cursed, but rushed across the street and back to the empty bench where he’d left his folded newspaper. He puffed and panted, but took a seat on the bench and brought his right leg up to rest on his left knee. A piece of paper that was stuck to his shoe fluttered in the slight breeze. Irritated, he snatched at it, but it stuck to his fingers. It flapped in the wind as he brought his other hand over to try and pull it free and noticed the writing on the page for the first time. He brought it closer to his face so that he could read it.

    “My name is Yvin,” it read, “and I walk the path between life and death. I am the watcher and the guide. Your path was chosen.”

    The boy watched him from across the street. The boy smiled. Jordan shivered. He was so cold.

  37. jhowe says:

    The alley near the 35th Street bus stop was pristine and well lit. The wide pavement was smooth and level with inviting doorways on either side. Both ends were open and easily accessible. The writer looked and thought, “This will never do.”

  38. Observer Tim says:

    I couldn’t tell if he was a boy or a very small man – the trenchcoat hid him almost completely. He looked both ways, then ducked into the alley, pulling something out of his coat. Something else fell out of his pocket at the same time. I followed him curiously. He was nowhere to be seen, but he’d dropped a piece of paper. I picked it up to see if it might be a clue to his strange behaviour, but instead I turned white. They had found me.

    All it said was, “The anvil is your friend.” Then it hit me.

    I crumpled up like an accordion, complete with sound effects. That’s the problem with trying to hide from cartoon characters.

    • jhowe says:

      Nicely done in so few sentences. You can’t hide from the toons. In your case though, you can’t bounce back like the coyote.

    • BezBawni says:

      Come on! You gotta stop doing this to me! )) I read your story and laughed out loud (still giggling).
      Oh, Tim and your vivid imagination! By the by, you’ve just broken all records of word count (I’ve jumped back into my pants and turned green) ROFL.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Tim, I grew up with the Roadrunner cartoon. You’ve brought memories rushing back to me. And I’m thanking you for that. An entire story in 100 words or so. Amazing job.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Thanks for the compliments, BezBawni and Kerry. Wile E Coyote (Super Genius) was actually the first thing that popped into my mind when I first read the prompt. It just took a while to figure out how to implement it in a sufficiently quick and cartoony way.

      And it scares me, but knightauthor managed a good one in only 52 words! His relies on reading the prompt, though, so there’s some debate.

    • Susan says:

      Very funny – brought back happy memories of Roger Rabbit, one of my favourite films :)

  39. Jim L says:

    While sitting at the bus stop watching the morning hustle and bustle I saw a small boy dart across the street. Typically he would have held my attention until making it safely across the street, but as soon as he leaped the curb he headed straight into the alley behind me. He was clean in appearance and his hair had recently been trimmed. Fearing he was being chased and about to fall victim to some disgusting predator, I hesitantly followed. I wasn’t going to get involved I kept telling myself, just a quick glimpse to let the “good guy” in my head know I did the right thing. But what I found was definitely not what I expected. The alley was empty.

    Garbage cans lined both sides, their stench powerful and the only way out was a screened door about half way down the alley. The tingle factor set in. The hair on my arms were at full alert, they were telling me to turn and flee, this was a job for professionals.

    My legs ignored my mind and they took slow cautious steps forward, maybe he was just going to the bathroom behind some garbage cans. There had to be a logical explanation how a kid that just darted past me and ran into an alley had quickly disappeared. My brain finally found the correct lever and stopped my legs; turning I saw the street wasn’t as far away as I thought and my bus had yet to arrive. If I sprinted or screamed I would be safe. Then I saw it, it didn’t belong in the alley just like the boy didn’t belong. It was neatly folded and lying at my feet. A crisp piece of paper that had yet been corrupted by the filth and goop that filled the alley. It made no sense. It was gibberish. All it had was a row of numbers.

    3 – 23 1 – 14 1 – 7,8 4 – 24

    I had completely forgotten my surroundings until the gun went off . I screamed like a 12 year old girl and before I could react a small elderly man materialized before me and snatched the note from my hands with lightening speed. He then turned with a dismissive gesture and yelled to his counterpart that he had recovered the boys order and something about 3 number 23′s and 4 number 24′s. When he entered back into his shop the screen door fired off another round.

    I shuffled back to the street and watched my bus pull from the curb. I hadn’t yet decided what to do next when the boy stepped up next to me holding a brown paper bag. I knew he was there but was to ashamed to look. He cleared his throat and I instinctively turned. He smiled, I looked away. I had failed him. Had he been in real danger I would have never been of any help.

    Then he spoke, “Don’t feel bad mister, they have that door rigged to make that sound so as to scare off the bums. No way you should have known.” and he darted across the street before I knew it. I stood there a bit longer, his words were kind but they didn’t improve my felling of being a complete failure.

    Something snapped and my legs took over turning me back into that alley; this time with purpose and bravado I walked up to that screen door and sneaked a peek inside. There was the elderly man and another both hunched over a wedding cake as they added the finishing touches.

    I pulled that screen door open as quietly as I could, it’s heavy springs as taught trapeze wires and just before slamming it shut I yelled, “Look out! He’s gonna shoot”. Then I ran as fast as I could… All the way home.

  40. JRSimmang says:

    Another take, slightly off prompt.

    ROSEMARY FOR REMEMBRANCE

    I have only read some Arthur Conan Doyle. Personally, I didn’t care too much for “A Study in Scarlet,” though is sits on my desk, lit by candle, and picked up only when I can’t seem to close my eyes at night. My wife tells me to put it down if I abhorred it so much. I couldn’t, however, and that is one of the reasons I didn’t care too much for it.

    At a quarter to one, Friday afternoon, I received a letter from young Charlie Wales. He is our mailboy, short and stout with a lazy eye. He’s the son of Chief Constable Wales, brother of Admiral Wales, and is apparently fit to run mail in our little corner of the Yard.

    The letter was simple, written by someone who has had a least some cursory education, and requested, rather urgently, that I should meet a Missus Regina Carver at St Paul’s cathedral on Paternoster, an area I’m well acquainted with. It is, after all, just a short jaunt to the north and east.

    Why I felt compelled by this is no coincidence. Regina Carver was complicit in a series of thefts that have recently ravaged the Piccadilly. They were almost inconsequential, however, the amount of all the thefts nearly totaling a modest eight pounds and a handful of shillings. Trite, when the paperwork had to be turned in. Regardless, I felt she wouldn’t have contacted me if she hadn’t had more information to share. Perhaps we could finally nab these petty thieves, who I was convinced were no more than some bored children. Part of me, however, reluctantly accepted that this chance meeting may be related somehow to the Ripper, though that case has been closed, and the number of murders fitting his profile have dwindled to zero.

    I packed up my belongings, put on my overcoat and hat, and began walking toward St Paul’s. It was a humid afternoon, having just rained that morning. The bakery on Trafalgar saturated the air with its salty sweet breads. The aroma sat heavily in my gut, having failed to eat breakfast that morning. Pushing the impulse to stop in and chat with Mr Norrell further into my soles, I strode by and onto busy Fleet Street.

    When I arrived at St Paul’s, as described by the letter I had received, Missus Carver was nowhere to be found. Instead, I found a letter, left for me by Constable Billingsly. He said it was left to him by a small boy, perhaps no more than eight, with a lopsided smile and black hair, perhaps Polish. I thanked him for his time, for which he continued to speak to me, telling me of how strangely the boy behaved. He told me the child persisted in checking over his shoulders, as if “his mum were lurking around the corner with a wooden spoon, waiting to see if he recited the speech as she gave it to ‘im.”

    We shook hands, and I sat on a nearby bench, whereby I unfolded the crudely assembled envelope.

    “Dearest Inspector Drummond,

    With all luck, you have received my letter. I have left it with my nephew to give to you upon arrival at St Paul’s. Inspector Drummond, I must needs speak with you in person. However, my very life is in danger, and I cannot be seen in public, regardless of how holy the place. Please come to Lant Street, the home of Dickens. There is an alleyway next to the house that is safe.

    Signed carefully,
    Ms. Regina Carver”

    The sun was setting, and I knew I could have been elsewhere. But, it was always the thrill of the chase which kept the badge on my uniform. I stood and resolved to stop by the bakery on the way to Southwark before checking in with Ms Carver.

    The stroll was lovely, the moon bringing with it a subtle fall breeze. And before I had time to finish my cruller, I was staring at Charles Dickens’s old house. He had passed away less than forty years ago, and already had he left his mark on the face of literary history. A bright man, in any regards. We had met once, and he greeted me with the warmth of an old friend. Nearby, there was a taxi stop. A carriage drove by, dropped a couple off, and continued on its way.

    Around the time I was getting lost in my own respite, I noticed the boy who matched Constable Billingsly’s description: fair skinned, dark haired, with a limp. He checked both ways before entering the alleyway, just as Billingsly had noted. I thought first to shout halt, but thinking I would scare away Missus Carver, I instead waited for the child to disappear into the alley before moving.

    I first found no child. He had apparently made for a quick escape. A child like that could squeeze into even the smallest crevices and be gone in a matter of seconds. What I found most notable, however, was that Missus Carver was not there either. Instead, I found another envelope. How tired I was getting of receiving mail!

    I stooped to pick it up, assured that it was for me. My name was penned on the front. I opened it eagerly, my heart beginning to pick up pace. The letter began in similar fashion.

    “Dearest Inspectory Drummond.

    If you may, please turn your eyes heavenward. Then, catch me if you can…”

    When I looked up, Regina’s corpse was hanging from a wire, her belly carved empty so that I could peer strait up into her ribcage. The heart was coated in gold. Around her head was a halo of thorns. Her breasts removed from her chest.

    I heard a laugh emanating from somewhere nearby. I was already playing along, and it was my move.

    -JR Simmang

    • BezBawni says:

      Is this an abstract from one of your novels? Because it definitely sound like one. The funny thing is, I started reading your post and somewhere in the middle of it I thought “I can surely feel a waft of Dickens in the style.” And then I see the name ‘Charles Dickens’ – made me smile)) I’m not a fan of detective stories, so I’m not to judge is your story is good or not, but I liked reading it.

    • jhowe says:

      Wow JR. What a voice you have. The inspector’s premonition about The Ripper seem to have some merit.

    • Svapne says:

      The references to other literature really make this interesting. The description of the corpse is full of awful detail (both awful-disgusting and awful- awe-inspiring). This is a very compelling tale already!

    • Observer Tim says:

      Very nice, JR. I would personally prefer a bit more Doyle and less Dickens in the style, but that’s because I am an avid feaster on the tales of Baker Street’s favourite son.

      You painted a beautiful scene, if a disturbing one. Now, is Inspector Drummond going to solve the case? The game’s afoot!

    • Susan says:

      Wonderful – next chapter, please? I’m a sucker for detective stories – the old Ripper mystery has enduring appeal, and this is a great take on it.

  41. JustinT says:

    When her hand slipped between my callused fingers, I knew that we would never see each other again. This was heartbreaking as the summer of love finally found its end in the sweet autumn air that filled my spirit. She turned and I watched her board the bus, gazing into her beautiful strawberry hair as if I could muster one last taste, but it was over.

    I was left standing all alone, watching her stare at me with empty eyes through the foggy glass covered with bug juices and hand prints. The bus began to pull away and I stared at the tail of the white and blue ship leaving the port known only as the Bristol Bus Station. She was all I had left, but I rejoiced in the fact that one day we would see each other again.

    I turned and began to walk towards the bus station to purchase my ticket for New York. I was going to stay in a flat and pursue writing. I was excited, but the pain began to spark my creative juices and I knew that I would be the next Hemingway or Steinbeck, hell even Fitzgerald as I’d write about my agony, but I stopped. I stopped dead in the street and took one last breath of the autumn air.

    I glanced around to find some bit of hope, only to be distracted by the young boy with the face of a ghost, wearing khakis and a blue sweater. He looked both ways, crossed the street and headed down a dark alley. I walked towards him as I felt in my heart that he had something I desired to see. What was it?

    I came around the brick wall, noticed steam coming from the sewer vent and then marched onward. A dark green garbage dumpster was the home to three cats and they meowed at me as I followed my shadow down the alley. I searched for this boy. He was far too young to be alone and I found myself dying to see where he went.

    As I neared the next corner I saw a white piece of paper lying on the wet cement. I squatted down, hearing a slight tear in my tight boxers as I scooped up the paper. What did it say? Was it intended for me? I quickly opened it to notice a note that changed my perspective on sadness.

    You will find her again.

    I began to tear up. A knot of pain nestled in my throat as I tried to swallow the dry clumps of saliva. I fell to my rear and ran my fingers through my silky hair. Tears streamed down my face and I found myself in a puddle of hope. She was all I ever wanted, especially since I had three months of knowing her when she came in for the same friend’s wedding. I had talked her in to staying in the small town as we both lived off my editor’s salary.

    I picked up my bearings and stood to my feet, only to great the blue sky warmly. I knew that as I stood there, this pain and hope of losing and seeing the woman I loved would guide my writing skills. I would be the next great author.

    • starwatcher says:

      I really liked that the story leaves you with hope for the MC.

    • BezBawni says:

      ‘I found myself in a puddle of hope’ – an amazing figure of speech. The story is very touching.

    • jhowe says:

      The word hope is a central theme so far with your readers. Nice job of instlling that. I was a little confused with your first sentence when he said, “I knew we would never see each other again” and then in the last sentence of the 2nd paragraph, he said, “She was all I had left, but I rejoiced in the fact that one day we would see each other again.” Maybe his attitude was changing but i wasn’t sure.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a very touching story of heartache, JustinT. Grammar needs a bit of work, but that can be done with practice.

      Welcome to the forum! I can tell you’re new because I’ve seen a lot of folk get hung up on the “my first post disappeared” issue. Your story has also appeared in its original position (look down, look waaay down…).

  42. jhowe says:

    The bus shelter smells of stale cigarette butts, body odor, wet leaves rotting in the gutter and something far worse. The old man sitting on a bench across from Kerstin McGillicutty has dog shit on his shoe. At least she hopes its dog shit. The man crosses his legs and the upturned shoe displays the foul mess.

    Kerstin decides to walk to class. Chemistry lab doesn’t excite her today anyway. Ahead, a young boy walks alone, kicking at stones and wads of paper that litter the sidewalk. Something tugs at her heart, something familiar and pleasant and terrifying. The boy is wearing an old denim jacket that looks like her jacket from junior high, with a faded peace sign embroidered on the back, the one that got handed down. Her mother wasn’t one to throw something away that still had some use left in it.

    The boy stops at an alley between a parking structure and the crumbling Kalamazoo Gazette Building. He looks around, catches Kerstin’s eye and darts into the alley. “Joey!” Kerstin shouts and runs to him.

    She slips while rounding the corner into the alley and nearly falls. The boy is running around a parked black Audi Q5 and slides into a recessed doorway. Kerstin makes her way around the car and the doorway is empty. The door is an exit only and has no knob. She pounds on the door and calls for Joey. Her words echo and die in the dark alcove.

    Kerstin leans against the door and slides to the pavement, tears wet her cheeks. Her hand lights on a folded piece of paper and she knows what it is. It will be one of the fliers she made with her mother when Joey went missing, exactly five years ago today.

    Exactly four years ago today, the denim jacket, stained with Joey’s blood, had been found in an alley, possibly, no probably this one, Kerstin had not wanted to know at the time. Joey was never found. Exactly three years ago today, there was a funeral for Joey. The casket was empty.

    Kerstin fumbled in her purse for her phone and dialed her mother. Her mother answered on the third ring. “Oh honey, I can’t talk now, I’m sorry, I…. it’s just not possible.”

    “Mom?”

    “Something’s wrong with me, I just… it can’t be…”

    “Mom, I saw him too.”

    “You saw him?”

    “I’m coming home mom. I’ll be there in ten minutes okay? “

    She hung up and called her father. The call went immediately to voice mail. “Dad, it’s me. I’m going home to be with mom. Please come home as soon as you can. We both saw Joey, I think you probably saw him too.” She paused and wiped her cheeks with her sleeve. “Dad, I think he just came back to let us know he’s okay.”

    Kerstin slipped the folded paper into the back pocket of her jeans and walked toward home. A smile almost creased her face. It was time to let go.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      You are really on roll and each submission (post) gets better and better. I liked this. Why do I get the feeling of the 6th sense and all these people are dead? Even if I’m wrong, its still a good story. I like my 6th sense angle but I don’t know if they have busses and dog shit in heaven. And I’m positive they aren’t holding chemistry class there are they? Am I somewhere in the area of getting what you wanted the reader to get or is my imagination still on overload from this weekend? Good job! And thanks for my making my weekend with “The Prompt That Wasn’t There.” Lol. Have a good one.

    • BezBawni says:

      I couldn’t agree more, this piece is brilliant in its action and suspense. I wonder why the boy was running away and even now, when I’m writing this comment, my mind is already racing through possibilities.

      p.s. I’ve just remembered the line ‘where’s jhowe’s ass when you need him’ and almost fell off my chair laughing)) Jhowe, you really are irreplaceable here.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Great shared spectral experience jhowe. The interaction only makes the supernatural aspect more intense.

      And I wonder if the sister is saying that “he’s okay” thing to calm her parents down or if she really believes it. I’ve seen both.

    • Amy says:

      J… your best, to date. Your others were all good, don’t get me wrong there, but this was compelling, affecting, and flat-out beautiful. I love your descriptions, the way you danced around the reveal of Joey without throwing it in our face. My favorite line: “Her words echo and die in the dark alcove.” You have outdone yourself. Your first paragraph sticks out just a little bit in comparison with the rest of the story. It seems, to me, to have a different tone. Otherwise, loved it.

    • Susan says:

      This is really beautiful – intense and powerfully moving – love the way the pace quickens towards the uplifting ending.

    • agnesjack says:

      I liked the backward look at time. A tragedy like this one, with all the uncertainty, makes the passage of time seem surreal. I especially liked the message at the end — letting go.

    • Toni Smalley says:

      Sad, but a good story. Breaks my heart hearing about things like this, and I could feel the emotions of the characters.

  43. BezBawni says:

    (Yippee, guys!!! I’m about to jump out of my pants for joy. 338 and I don’t need another word! I’ve opted for a minimalism this time round)

    ***
    The rain has stopped. I’m freezing at a bus stop: my bus is late. I notice a boy across the street. He dives into a small alley. I would recognize that shifty gait from anywhere.

    I look at my watch (8:00 p.m.), and run across the road: I live on the other end of the city and he’s my neighbor. I catch a curb with the heel of my designer shoe and the heel snaps. I pull myself together not to snap myself and limp into the alley.

    Once I’m there, I can’t see the boy anywhere. Instead there is a note on the ground. I reach for it, but a gust of wind sweeps the note from under my fingers and up in the air. Higher, higher – now I can’t reach it anymore, and it’s gone.

    I hear the low growling of an engine and turn around – my bus (the last one today) is driving away. Some kid in the bus sees me through the back window and waves me goodbye.

    I curse. Then I curse again. Three times. I take a deep breath, but curse again.

    (I’m not very self-possessed.)

    I bite one of my nails off, rip up my new tights. I fish my house keys out of my bag and throw them into a trash can. My phone’s battery follows the keys. A moment of hesitation. The wallet goes in as well (what the heck). I wait for a bird to poop on my head – the bird doesn’t come. A car does come, though. I walk towards the road, place myself as close to the edge of a huge puddle as I can and get splashed all over.

    I like going to extremes and playing with fate. I don’t like bad luck ruining my day – I can perfectly ruin it myself. (I’m not easily defeated either.)

    Devastated by my self-inflicted misfortunes, I’m walking home with a weird sense of schadenfreude.

    In your face, lady providence, in your face!

    I hope tomorrow will be better.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Very good BB. I hope its okay to call you that. This has a very unique feel and completely different from what you posted earlier. Good job. Want to have some fun? Change this piece to second person and see how it reads. (You can use your word processing program’s search find function by finding all the I’s and changing them to You. Tweak it when its finished and you’ll have a whole new piece from a completely different perspective.) But I have the feeling you already tried this didn’t you? Lol. Good job.

    • jhowe says:

      Minimalism with maximum punch. Man, that girl is spontaneous.

    • Observer Tim says:

      I like the way the main character admits her flaws as she goes. I have a tendency to do that.

      Good story, BezBawni! Glad you made your goal, and that that promise to yourself didn’t keep you off the prompt for very long.

    • Susan says:

      Just love this character’s feisty, defiant attitude – this story definitely has some punch!

    • agnesjack says:

      A very different take on the prompt. I haven’t read all the prompts, but I’ll bet yours is the only one where we don’t know what’s on the note, and it doesn’t matter.

  44. Jen says:

    Really enjoyed this Dani – we don’t see enough Sci Fi on here :)

  45. Najah says:

    “Got Ya!”
    The hair on the back of my neck stood up. My gut squeezed and a cold chill ran through me.
    Holding the note in my hand, I anxiously looked around the alley, but the little boy was nowhere to be seen.
    Suddenly a sharp wind blew through the alley.
    “Gimme all your money or prepare to meet your maker!” said a squeaky little voice.
    “Why you little brat!”
    “I ought a…”
    “Ought a what?” said a much deeper voice.
    How could such a deep voice be emanating from such a small person?
    “You big people are alike. You think because you’re tall, you can treat short people any way you like!”
    Then he kicked me in my shins. I fell to the ground, screaming profanities, but it was too late.
    The little bastard had run off with my purse.

  46. BezBawni says:

    Phew! I’m finally through all the stories. It was huge fun, hope you’ll enjoy my contribution and won’t murder me for the word count).

    ***

    The last bus was long gone. The night was chilly, but, walking home along empty streets (nothing new for the outskirts of a small town), Liz was hardly noticing the cold or the drizzling rain that was soaking her short black party dress and helping her tears wash the mascara down her cheeks.
    Nor would she have taken any notice of a man who hurried past her into a dark alley to her right, if he hadn’t brushed her shoulder on his way. Liz flinched from the touch, as if woken up, and followed the man with her eyes. He had almost merged with the darkness of the alley, when she noticed a white slip of paper fall out of the back pocket of his jeans.
    Liz turned into the alley and picked the piece of paper up.

    “Sir, you’ve dropped— your letter. “

    The man was gone.

    Liz stared at the envelope in her hands, and tiny butterflies of indecision started to flutter up her stomach. The street lamps behind her seemed to shine brighter, the more she was fighting the fear of following the man into the darkness of the small alley. She turned the letter around – it was said: To Liz.

    “Is it a joke?” she said out loud. Her words echoed back to her, and then there was silence. Cautiously she tore one side of the envelope off, took the letter out and started reading.

    MY DEAR SISTER, —

    Liz blushed and looked away. She didn’t have any brother, so the letter was definitely not for her eyes. The paper was flapping in the wind, as if smacking her hands for prying in someone else’s life. Not my business, she thought, I have enough problems of my own. Images flashed through her mind: people dancing in a stuffed smoky room, a pair of laughing green eyes, lips twisted into a smirk – same lips that had told her she had never been loved. Liz shook the memories off, and, cursing herself internally, started reading again.

    MY DEAR SISTER,
    PLEASE, FORGIVE ME. I KNOW YOU’LL BE HURT, BUT YOUR PAIN WILL GO AWAY – MINE WON’T.
    WHAT HAPPENED WAS MY FAULT, AND MY FAULT ONLY, NO MATTER WHAT YOU TELL ME, NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE TELLS ME.

    Liz blushed. She felt like she was peering through a keyhole of a stranger’s house.

    IT WAS ME DRIVING THAT CAR – ME! SHE DIED, SISTER. DO YOU REALLY EXPECT ME TO LIVE WITH MYSELF? I CAN’T. I COULDN’T. I HOPE YOU WILL LIVE FOR US BOTH. I LOVE YOU AND—

    As if grabbed by some wild force, Liz jolted forward and darted into the dark alley, kicking off her high heels. The letter squeezed in one hand, she was running through the alley and across a road and into a park towards an old bridge spanning a deep ravine that used to be a river. The wind was tousling her hair, drying her tears, pounding against the walls of her lungs in gasps. She didn’t care for the stones and grass cutting her bare feet, or the nausea coming up her throat, or her screaming with pain muscles. Her world had shrunk down to the life of a stranger.

    She emerged out of the bushes just in time to see the man climb onto the railing of the bridge.

    “Wait! Please…” she rasped and raced towards him. He didn’t hear her words, but he heard her collapse on her knees to the asphalt behind him, panting hoarsely as if she was about to be choked to death.

    “Stop…” she said, “I read it.” She lifted her hand with the crumpled letter and held it up high. The man grasped the back pocket of his jeans, and his eyes widened.

    “Give it back,” he said.

    “Step down.”

    “You may have read the letter, but don’t think for a second that you have understood me.”

    “I won’t give it back.” She raised her eyes to him in defiance.

    “Well,” the man said, climbing over the railings, his back to the bridge and his face to the ravine. “If you don’t want to give it to me, go to 4, Red Mile Road, and give it to— What are you doing?”

    The man stared at Liz, who had scrambled to her feet and with the remnants of her power was now climbing over to him.

    “Don’t think for a second that my life is any less a mess,” she said. “Tonight, the last thing I cared for told me to go to hell. That’s exactly what I’m going to do now.”

    “No! Don’t.” The man put one hand in front of Liz, holding on to the railing behind his back with the other.

    “Why?” she asked and met his wild stare with her pale indifferent eyes.

    “Because…because life…goes on,” he said.

    “Life goes on,” he repeated, but this time, Liz knew, he wasn’t talking to her any more.

    She climbed back over onto the bridge, tore the letter she’d been squeezing in her fist all that time, and let the wind take the shreds away. Then she stretched out her hand to the man. He watched the white pieces of paper whirl down into the ravine, and took Liz’s hand without another word.
    _____

    And that, my son, is how I met your mother.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Bezbawni, I always count the words in each post. Always. 889 you have here. You could have tightened it up a bit but this was good. I mean really good. The double twist at the end was worth the extra words. Good job. I like Liz because there are always people who come and show us a mirror of our shallow selves and Liz did it well. Lol.

    • calicocat88 says:

      Don’t let the word count get you. Of course, coming from me that’s not really great advice considering I’m ALWAYS over the limit, lol! It’s my firm belief to stay true to the story and if that leads you over the limit, so be it. I enjoyed this, personally, word count and all. Your setting was good, leading in to the story. I love chilly, nighttime settings, btw :) From the first few lines, I had a good picture of Liz and from then on began getting to know her better–I like her! You have some very strong phrases in here as well that caught my attention: “Her world had shrunk down to the life of a stranger.” Beautiful! And the ending was great! I’m left with so many questions. Great story!

    • don potter says:

      Great story. The double twist made it doubly good. I agree with MCKEVIN, working within the suggested word count is what makes this weekly exercise an interesting challenge. However, we all break the rules occasionally, but not always.

    • BezBawni says:

      I’m sitting here and blushing. Partly because of your kind words, and partly because I promised myself I will be within the limit this time, but failed again. “We all break the rules occasionally, but not always” – is tolling in my head like a verdict. But never you worry, I’m very stubborn, I won’t post anything else unless I get within those 500 bastards )))

    • Observer Tim says:

      A very uplifting story, BezBawni. It ran long, but it’s the better for it. And such a perfect ‘just so’ story. It brought a tear to my eye (which doesn’t happen often).

      I saw your comment to Mallory Terry’s story. The elements may be the same, but you and she took it in such thematically linked but wonderfully different directions.

    • JRSimmang says:

      There’s nothing that hasn’t been said already, Bez, that cannot be said again. This is a touching story for sure, but I stopped reading after the 500th word. I am, after all, bound by it.

      Just kidding.

      Liz and The Jumper are both believable as characters, and nice touch at the end for sure.

    • jhowe says:

      BB, as MCKEVIN calls you, I have been struggling with word count as well on a few stories. I didn’t get lambasted too badly when I went over. Nice story. I kind of knew the girl may have had an attraction to the man when she followed him with her eyes. That was a nice touch.

      • BezBawni says:

        That’s one of those awkward moments when your reader finds out something in your story that you haven’t noticed yourself, which is another proof that stories have their independent lives. You have a great eyes for details, jhowe.) )

    • Svapne says:

      Two of a kind (of damaged goods)… it’s a very sad way to meet your future spouse, but who better to understand and help you through your struggles?

      Also, wow @JRSimmang… I checked, and 500 words (or just a little bit more) leaves this off on one hell of a cliff-hanger!!!

    • Amy says:

      Murder- no. Maim- perhaps. j/k I liked your story, even though it had many more words than it needed. I find myself strangely wishing that the little epilogue sentence wasn’t there. I wanted to picture where the two would go from there for myself. But that is just one opinion out of many. I liked your pacing and language was good. Very satisfying.

    • Toni Smalley says:

      Oh. My. Goodness. Loved the story you told here and how the two strangers were in similar positions in their lives and both saved each other. Very nice :)

  47. Kerry Charlton says:

    MELISSA

    Tall, sterile buildings of steel laced with reflective glass, only added to the misery of Commerce Street on a February morning. Dallas had sunk to it’s worst on the streets of failure and duress from an all encompassing depression that had swept the country due to the shut down of the federal government.

    Brian Caldwell had been one of the fortunate ones to escape the financial collapse. Four generations of oil income had shielded his financial assets but his heart bled for the hungry, the desperate and especially the young children who had taken to the streets to beg for survival.

    A young girl of fourteen or so, the age of his own daughter, had glacced back at him as she heard his footsteps echoing on the harsh pavement. What once was a proud city of banking and commerce had revolved into dismay.

    The hollowed look on her face, reflected pain and sorrow. But through her eyes, he saw a glimmer of hope,
    understanding and remanants of a fierce pride.

    She started to run, fearing him as she stumbled toward a narrow alley between two red, brick buildings that had basked in the bright sun before the massive towers of business had arrived. He followed her at a steady pace so as not to alarm her, but when he reached the alley, only cold, laced winds greeted him.

    No entrances existed on either side of the trash strewn walkway. She had disappeared. A neatly folded envelope under the edge of a lid from a trash can, lay before him. He saw his name written in calligraphy on the front of it.

    As he opened the letter and read it’s contents, he fell to his knees in anguish,

    “Dear Father,

    I just wanted to see what you looked like. News articles in the paper, showed a cold, calculating personality. Business, all about collecting and tearing apart companies, reselling them, adding more to your wealth. But yesterday I read another side of you. You had founded a non profit to help disadvantaged children, not only with physical problems but also mental conditions.

    It’s not your fault, you know. Mother never told you about me. She said her brief love affair felt like Camelot. She didn’t want you to worry about either one of us. I’m fine you know, for I have your spirit in me. And it’s enough for me.

    I am so proud of you Daddy, for now I know where your heart lies. I wish I could put my arms around you and tell you how much I love you. I know how much damage would come to you and I couldn’t bare seeing you in distress. I won’t leave Dallas for I want to be close to you. When I’m older, perhaps I could meet you.

    I love you, Daddy. You can think of me as Melissa. It’s not my real name but it’ll have to do.”

    Brian lay prostate on the brick pavement of the alley. His eyes riveted tears running down his cheeks, splashing on the surface. ‘I will find her, he thought. I won’t rest ’till I’m standing beside her and telling the whole world she’s mine.’

    • don potter says:

      Sad, yet hopeful tale. Well done.

    • BezBawni says:

      Personally, I was touched by the reference to Camelot. I also adore your imagery, Kelly, it’s like I was there myself.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I’m very happy you liked it, BezBawni. I lived in Dallas in 1963 and was a mile away from the triple underpass. My words describe the feel of Dallas, that horrible week after JFK was killed. Commerce Street led to the triple underpass.

    • Susan says:

      A very moving story – loved the vivid description of the desolate city at the beginning.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Susan. I’m sure I’ll expand on this. There’s a whole lot of words I want to write about this. These responses are mind-boggling. Kerry

    • This was a very touching read, Kerry. Not all absent dads are deadbeats. Some are just lost for a while.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thanks Doug,

        I do think there’s a lot of depth to Brian Caldwell to explore here and also to his daughter Melissa. I’m definitly going to expand on this, hopefully soon.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      KC, you’re going to make me do the “ugly cry.” And it’s not a pretty sight. Lol. This was good and the perfect opening for a short story or novel. We can call it “Daddy’s Quest” or “Mining for Melissa” just kidding. Lol. I hope you expand this because I want to see what you do with the mental illness part and how it plays against the other characters. Wishful thinking. Good job.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you McKevin. I do think there is a lot of story that I can tell here. But I’m so damn upset from even writing it, I need to let it settle in for a day or so.

    • calicocat88 says:

      Kerry, love the description right off. Lovely wording. I’ve never heard of “laced winds” before and I think this is a beautiful phrase. Calligraphy is awesome, btw ;) I sense a romantic atmosphere (not the lovin’ and kissin’ kind) to your story. It off-sets the cold, hard world with a trace of delicate innocence. I was sold on the line “…love affair felt like Camelot.” I nearly dropped off my seat. Loved it! Great job!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Wow, Calico, I’m thrilled about your response. I never know when I start a prompt, where it will end up. It was a moving experience to even write it. Thank you in so many ways.

    • Toni Smalley says:

      I don’t even know which parts I should bring to your attention as my favorite, because I held my breath through this entire story. Like you know when you read a sentence or paragraph that is so beautiful that you inhale a deep intake of breath and hold it until the sentence is over, then sigh…ya, well, you almost killed my Kerry! Death by prose asphyxiation! There were no time-outs in this for me to catch my breath, because the descriptions, oh, my goodness. I have no constructive criticism to offer right now, because I’m in a literary drunken stupor from your words.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Beautiful and touching story, Kerry. It’s amazing how something so seemingly simple can turn a life upside-down.

    • jhowe says:

      Kerry,

      I’d like to add to the positive comments you are receiving. Your story touched many of the others and it touched me as well. Nicely done.

    • Amy says:

      Full of emotion, Kerry, and nice descriptions. Just a few instances of “comma trauma” where you didn’t really need them. Also, the last paragraph states that, “Brian lay prostate…” You probably want to make sure that “r” gets in there. Nice write.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Amy. Freudian slip on the “r”. I’ve always put too many commas in spite of reading comma use over and over. I need fine tuning and I appreciate your attention to detail. [I'm not saying this just to be nice] I need help on polishing. Glad you liked the story.

    • agnesjack says:

      KC — interesting choice for the prompt. I felt the isolation of the main character, due to his life’s pursuit of material things. The daughter, with her sense of forgiveness and generosity, seemed like an old soul. He could learn more from her than she from him.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Agnes. You are at my soul of the story. Your comments are exactly what I wanted to portray. In a future story, Mellisa will come into his life and amazing things will be generated. However, evil forces will be there to throw brutal roadblocks against their goals. Melissa will revolve to greatness, born from a brief journey at Camelot.

  48. Najah says:

    “Got Ya!”
    The hair on the back of my neck stood up. My gut squeezed and a cold chill ran through me. Holding the note in my hand, I anxiously looked around the alley, but the little boy was nowhere to be seen.
    Suddenly a sharp wind blew through the alley.
    “Gimme all your money or prepare to meet your maker!” said a squeaky little voice.
    “Why you little brat!”
    “I ought a…”
    “Ought a what?” said a much deeper voice.
    How could such a deep voice, be emanating from such a small person?
    “You big people are all alike. You think because you’re tall, you can treat short people any way you like!”
    And with that, he kicked me in my shins. I fell to the ground, screaming profanities, but it was too late.
    The little bastard had run off with my purse.

  49. Amy says:

    Didn’t have much time to spend revising this one, but here it is.

    I heard the growl of the bus behind me and knew I had missed it. The tedium of human legislation would have to wait; I knew the mischievous smile and winged boots of that boy anywhere. When I rounded the corner, the empty alley came into view. I knew he wouldn’t stay; he always was nervous around me. Any extension of my father made him squeak like a sprite. His note was glittering gold in the muddy puddle where he had left it. I opened it to find my father’s words leap from the page into the air, glinting in the dim alley.

    My Darling Melinoe,
    Why have you left me, again? You know you are bound to this place, just as I am. Your torments are your own, and should not be imparted on those of human kind as torturous nightmares. Winter draws near, and your mother will surely be enraged at your departure yet again. You must leave these fickle humans to their own devices and do your duty. The lost ones are in need of your guidance. We are charged with balance, my love. Heed the call.

    I waved the gilded words away and turned back where I had come from. They faded into the air and disappeared with a pop. I crossed the road to the bus stop and sat on the bench to wait out the next bus. My father, the altruist. If he only knew of the reputation he had up here, he wouldn’t be so eager to spare these humans of their rightful sentence. I watched as an eremos drifted through the throngs of busy humans, its despondency radiating from it. There were many lost ones here in the city. Sometimes, it was hard to tell them apart from the depressed masses of monotones. The eremos flitted between people and out of sight and I rose reluctantly to follow.

    A man in a navy suit and arrogant arch of brow sat down at the other end of the bench just as I was about to aid the eremos. The condescension in his eyes held me there. My apologies, father, I thought. The lost one would have to wait. The snobbery of man had grown in our absence and it was more than I could bear. These appointed leaders were the worst of them all. His mind was full of superiority as he unfolded a newspaper and began to read.

    I set my concentration on the paper in front of him, changing words and transforming pictures until the beautiful face of a woman smiled up at him from the page. The headline above it read, ‘Wife of State Senator Displeased with His Performance, Says He Can’t Measure Up.’ The woman winked at him and strolled away down the street within the photograph, arm in arm with another man. The man’s eyes widened and the newspaper fluttered out of his hands to the ground.

    I caught the glow of yet another eremos out of the corner of my eye and my connection to the man’s mind was broken. His torment was, for the moment, over. I breathed the grimy air in deeply and made to follow the lost one.

  50. Svapne says:

    I always loiter in the bus stop on my days off. It’s my routine:

    I wake up, have a miscellaneous breakfast, and set off with a book or a project. As a kid, I always liked that old song about the bus stop and the umbrella, and I always bring mine, just in case. I sit in that sheltered nook no matter what the season (though it’s usually chilly no matter what) to people-watch. No one ever pays me any mind… the city is an awfully unfriendly place. Sometimes I wonder if I should jump on a bus and find a new city, but I don’t think it’s any different anywhere else. Anyway, I just like to sit with my eyes out of focus and my ears dulled to the city’s buzz and watch the day go by until it’s time to scrape together dinner.

    Today is no exception.

    Near the day’s end, my stomach grumbles. I’m not much of a cook and my kitchen is practically non-existent, but I’m always hungry for whatever slop I’ll concoct after a long day of people-watching. I stretch my stiff muscles, rub my aching, cold joints, and stand.

    Movement catches my eye. I don’t know why, but I turn and squint through the dirty glass of the back wall to try to see it more clearly. A child-sized blur streaks by, and I think I hear a chant underneath the buzz:

    “Now you see me,
    Now you don’t…”

    I rush to pack up and look in time to see him duck into an alley, of all places. This isn’t the exactly good side of town, if there is a good side at all. Concerned, I start to follow and bump into someone along the way; I mutter an apology but don’t look back. I hurry over to the alley between the long-since-closed bakery and the vacant Laundromat.

    But there’s nothing there but the wind blowing around some old newspapers.

    Worried, I decide to look for the child. Halfway down, a crunch tells me I’ve stepped on something; it’s one of those origami fortune tellers. Nothing’s written on the outside; I open it to read the fortunes.

    It’s nonsense… Until I remember the song…

    Now you see me… a wisp of smoke
    Now you don’t… comprehend
    Now you see me… bones and ash
    Now you don’t… have anyone
    Now you see me… dead all along
    Now you don’t… get to forget
    Now you see me… for what I am
    Now you don’t… get to hide

    And when I turn around, my fragile, obvious construct breaks. I remember:

    I don’t leave… because there’s no bus… and all the other cities I’ve been to are exactly the same.

    There are no people… but skeletal remains.

    It’s cold now because of the bombs.

    When I look again, the note is gone; like the rest of my imaginings, it was never there at all.

    I’m all alone in this dead world, without even insanity to protect me.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      I liked this Svapne. Dark PTSD sick with a child innocence.Good one and thanks for “The Prompt That Wasn’t there.”

    • Amy says:

      Really enjoyed this one, Svapne. It kept me thinking long after the words had run out. A great little wisp of fiction.

    • don potter says:

      The more I read the more insane I became. Nice write.

    • Susan says:

      Brilliant, Svapne – very evocative – the end is all the more powerful because by then we’re so engaged with your character. A great read.

    • BezBawni says:

      I’m officially in love with your piece of poetry. The story definitely went into Edgar-Po mode somewhere along the last lines, but who doesn’t love Edgar Po?)

    • This will stick with me for a bit. wow.

    • sprattcm says:

      This is haunting and bleak. The MC is delightfully unreliable – i can’t tell if it is alive and insanely lonely or dead and tied to a dead world. You’ve given us a grim and concise slice of a larger narrative that leaves the reader begging for the rest of the story. Nicely done.

    • Observer Tim says:

      As usual Svapne, you caught me in this dream with the fantastic imagery. I loved the way my view of the character and the world evolved in the telling. And the poem was wonderfully haunting.

      Another thing I like is the completeness of the story. I can’t think of any real way to expand on it that wouldn’t detract from the stark simplicity and the shock value of the ending. Even the amount of description was just right.

    • Svapne says:

      Thanks guys- I’m glad it’s got that haunting stick-with-you quality. I spent a lot of time on this one, just trying to slip in little hints and not reveal anything telling about the setting (then I spent an equally long time paring down to length!).

      I was actually really worried that the “poem” wouldn’t be effective… I agonized over it. I wanted the revelation to be due to a verbal cue and a nonsense note (once I thought of the origami, I couldn’t get it out of my head- neat has multiple meanings, after all). I ran out of words to make the song into something different- so I stopped agonizing. I’d love to know if anyone has any constructive criticism to that end! Poetry is a particularly weak point for me.

      @sprattcm: my intention was for the MC to be alive, as unlikely as the “sole survivor” trope is. However, you bring up a really interesting idea. The epilogue to this story could just as easily be a lonely ghost letting go of what’s keeping her bound to the world.

    • jhowe says:

      Svapne,

      Congrats on creating this piece. You really did a nice job of showing us the mundane life of this sole survivor.

      • Svapne says:

        Thanks! I love making the mundane into something more extraordinary (coincidentally, there is a certain painter John Howe out there of like mind). There are definitely things I would change on a second attempt, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

    • Toni Smalley says:

      How terrible! And not the writing ;) The story made me feel all depressed…soooo, good job! Definitely had an affect on me. I loved how you set the story up, then the eventual collapse of the barrier she constructed to hide reality. The mood, tone, ambiance were perfect! Loved the last line :)

  51. calicocat88 says:

    Not everyone was born with Titanium blood. Sera was one of the rarities among the metals. Ever since the production of the vaccines hundreds of years ago the human population began dying off from over injection and those that survived left a genetic trail for future generation’s evolution: their blood had a high concentration of metal allowing for physical feats that were at one time impossible. Copper, silver–they began to repopulate and after the fourth world war a new human race walked the earth. A few protested the vaccines and resisted the change in government, the monarchy reign and employment of machines. They fought against the change and lost. No one really knows where they’re hiding now. Peace is prevalent when their existence is overlooked. They were ghosts in the system. Until now…

    Sera had been following the boy for hours. He had made it to the bus stop and vanished. To disappear the way he had—something larger was at play and he was going the lengths to hide it.

    The laser gun bounced against her hip as she rocked uneasily on the balls of her feet. Sugary scented fog emanated from underneath the bus as it hovered over the pavement, a faint mist dewing the atmosphere. The neon blue street lights were like watery eyeballs peering through the glassy haze. She had to find the boy soon. Midnight was approaching and the streets of The City would be colored with humans and cyborgs making it impossible to pick through the masses.

    “Hey you,” Sera cut her eyes to a large bohemian man with dark orange dreadlocks and eyebrows. “I think you dropped something.”

    Sera took her focus off the line of passengers being scanned and boarding the bus and followed the line of the man’s finger. A white piece of thin material flapped beneath her boot.

    “Thanks,” she muttered, and picked it up.

    It was weird to the touch, crunchy with a smooth surface and sharp edges. Paper? That hadn’t been used in centuries. Who would even have access to something like that? All the paper plants were destroyed after machines took the throne in the mid 2000’s. She unfolded the paper and inside was scrawled one line: Reaper.

    She looked up, scanning the street and at the mouth of the ally, she saw him watching her.
    He was going to run.

    “No!”

    Sera shoved the note in her leather jacket and ran across the highway, sliding under hover crafts and nearly ramming into a cyber bot escorting children from school. She skidded to a halt, catching the boy by his hood and slamming him against the metal wall of a building.

    “Who are you?” she demanded, jerking back and slamming him again. “Tell me now!”

    “Aren’t you a little tall for a girl?” he grunted.

    She ripped the hood away. His hair was a strange bland color she never saw before…brown? And his eyes were the same dull shade. How disconcerting. She glared into his face—he was all glow with little orange dots covering his cheeks—and lifted his arm examining his veins.

    Blue.

    Sera backed away, her mouth dangling. “You’re not one of us. You shouldn’t be here.”

    “What you mean is that you don’t want me to exist,” he eyed her warily. “You’re not going to turn me in, are you?”

    She fingered her laser and dropped her hand. “No.”

    “But you’re not letting me go either?”

    “It’s against the law to let an outsider escape when entering The City,” she said. “Even if I wanted to, I can’t let you go without reporting this to the Union.”

    “Yes, you can,” he said, and he dimpled, reaching up his hand and touching her hair. “Gray at your age?”

    “Silver. I’m titanium,” For a moment, she wavered, and then the booming of the club music radiated up the streets, shaking her back to her senses. She whipped out her gun and aimed it in his face. “You’re kind is a myth, even if you did exist you should be extinct.”

    “And your kind’s not as brilliant as my people thought you were,” he said. “You know the system is corrupt. So you’re going to let me go.”

    Sera slowly let her gun wilt. There was something about him that was going against all the stories she was told as a child about the savage rebels. He was so human, so vulnerable. It was a sin just by questioning the system.“Get out of here. I won’t tell them I saw you.”

    “Traitor,” he said, smiling.

    He began walking off down the alley when Sera heard her own voice, “What’s your name?”

    “Thomas.”

    “If you come back I can’t promise they won’t kill you, Thomas,” she said.

    “I know.” And he vanished into the shadows, his words leaving Sera with an emptiness in her stomach: Traitor.

    • Svapne says:

      Nicely done! This sounds like a wonderfully rich setting! I’d love to see more of it.

      • calicocat88 says:

        Thanks Svapne :) Glad you enjoyed it. I was worried that the setting would be described too muddy and vague. So I’m happy you got a sense of it.

        • Svapne says:

          I think it’s pretty clear- but could use some explaining. Given the length of the peace, you give us enough, I think- especially if a full explanation is something that would be revealed at an appropriately dramatic time as a plot device.

          I’d love to know what you have in mind for the “vaccines”… I could understand the silver as an anti-biotic, from a technical standpoint of modern understanding… but where were you going with it? What are the metal vaccines against?

          • calicocat88 says:

            That’s why I have so much trouble with the word limit at times. My ideas usually require soooo much explaining to actually make sense.

            Actually, I may change the theory of the vaccines. I honestly haven’t developed that part thoroughly enough (bad me, bad!) but I may not even keep the vaccines. I’m kind of using them as an explanation for another of my stories and I like to change mine up so much that they don’t resemble each other. Sorry I don’t have much of an answer for you :( This story is very vague for me right now. You can put your gum in my hair, lol! I’ll understand.

    • Amy says:

      Very fun, calicocat. It definitely pulled me in to your metallic dystopia. The warring voices on your shoulders must have cooperated for this one, though I can still hear the editor yelling, “over the limit!”

    • don potter says:

      Great story. The single word message, set the stage for the rush to the end.

    • Susan says:

      A great read, calicocat – you made it easy to visualise this weird world, and to empathise with the MC’s dilemma. Excellent ending.

      • calicocat88 says:

        Thank you Susan! Like I said above, I was worried about the description and confusing the reader. Glad you were able to visualize without any problems.

    • BezBawni says:

      I loved the end of the scene too. The name of the girl is perfect too, I think. I’m starting to love this world of yours, calicocat))

      • calicocat88 says:

        BezBawnie, those are super kind words :) Thank you! The end scene took a few editing moments and I’m still not truly happy with it, but if you enjoyed it, then my job is complete there. I actually got the name from my great-great Italian grandmother. Her name was Rosario and they called her Sera :) I thought it was pretty and wanted to use it for one of my stories. My world can be a little overwhelming for some people (myself included, lol) As writers I think we all live in multiple worlds with multiple personalities. Again, thank you!!

    • what a creative setting, calicocat! I was totally drawn it. of course, you have a lot of work to do finishing the novel that goes with this….

      • calicocat88 says:

        Doug, that is awesome of you to say something like that to me. I appreciate it so much! Maybe one day it will turn into a novel…I’ll have you guys to thank for all the encouragement. Honestly, I was inspired instantly a couple of years ago with this idea from the song “Titanium.” Music has always been a story starter for me. Even the rhythms can be an idea spark.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      This was good. Before I found this website, I wasn’t a big fan of Sci Fi. When I read stuff like this I don’t know how I could have dismissed it. Doug is right you should expand on it. Good job.

      • Observer Tim says:

        Sturgeon’s Law, MCKEVIN; you were probably reading from the 90% that’s crud. One of the things we don’t have the luxury for here is page upon page of technobabble to set up the plot. The SF element has to be set up in a way that it doesn’t interfere with the story.

      • calicocat88 says:

        MCKEVIN, thanks a bunch! I was never really a Sci-Fi fan either and I’m still pretty picky with it. I just have a blast writing it, lol! If I do expand, hopefully readers will appreciate it as much as you guys.

    • Observer Tim says:

      An interesting dystopia, calicocat. I would love to see more about this world. I wonder if it’s possible to “fix” this world with a social revolution rather than a physical?

      Hmmm, this makes me think. Excellent story.

      • calicocat88 says:

        There’s some crazy stuff going on with these new humans and their metal blood Not sure how things are going to be solved, if they ever will be. Glad I could get ya thinking ;) Thanks, Tim!

    • JRSimmang says:

      It is difficult to execute sci-fi prose (and not have blood on your hands [pardon the pun]) gracefully. As usual, Cali, you certain have a flair for brushing a world onto this megapixeled canvas. I was taken by the humanity of Sera, and found her name to be well-chosen, hinting at the idea that she may be more human than she once thought.
      Thomas, too, is intriguing, almost a rebel-leader. Nicely done.

      • calicocat88 says:

        JR…I’m so tickled you like this. I have so many different worlds in this noggin’ of mine and I’m never sure how they’re going to look painted out in words. That’s considering if I can create a clear enough picture of it. And you nailed it with Sera and Thomas :) Thanks so much!

    • agnesjack says:

      You’ve created an interesting world, here, Calicocat. I felt that it was the beginning of the story, though, and would like to know where it goes from here. I want to meet Thomas’s people.

    • Toni Smalley says:

      Your imagination astounds me. You have so many ideas, and they are all amazingggggg! For God’s sake, get your butt in gear and start working on generating these ideas into series, because soooooo awesome and entertaining and fun! Loved it!

  52. MCKEVIN says:

    I saw Tweed enter the alley and knew immediately something wasn’t right. He was a street savvy and book smart kid and how he’d become a domestic terrorist is beyond me. I snatched up a note from our clean but desolate alley as my eyes continued searching for him. If my Jeep were running, he wouldn’t have gotten away. The note read…
    “Bus stop, every day, 6:30 am.”
    It read like a middle school crush’s instructions.
    “That’s him! Get him!” A teenage girl about fourteen yelled from a garage gate.
    I didn’t fear children but I turned towards the bus stop. Too late!
    “WHUMP!” A metal pipe banged across my shoulder.
    “SON-OF-A-“ I screamed.
    “CLUNK!” A bottle slammed against my back. It hurt but I couldn’t turn around out of fear. I lunged at the unknown teenager who’d hit me with the pipe, grabbed his collar and slung his ass to the ground.
    “WHAM!”
    Flesh ripped against the concrete and blood splattered from his temple. Rocks whistled past my head.
    “Are you out of your-?“ I screamed.
    “WHACK!” A stick struck my head, I went into shock and my body morphed into survival mode. I dropped the thug, jumped to my feet and came face to face with Tweed who was positioning for another swing. The girl continued hurling rocks like bullets. I snatched the stick, dodged another pellet and aimed for Tweed’s head.
    “BAM!”
    Got him! Police sirens and blue lights drove up just as I’d planted the stick against his face. He screamed like a wounded animal as he fell to the ground. Peripherally, I saw the girl vanish from the gate.
    “Drop it and turn around!”
    A policewoman said jumping out the squad car holding a taser. I dropped my weapon. Both boys cried on the cold concrete. My body throbbed and ached.
    “This isn’t what it looks-.” I said.
    “He followed me! Call my dad.” Tweed yelled.
    “Officer, I suspected something was wrong and believed someone might need help. Instead, these hoodlums ambushed-“
    An ambulance approached us.
    “They’re kids!”
    “Kids don’t attack adults with pipes, bottles and sticks.” I responded.
    Paramedics assisted the boys into the ambulance and applied neck-braces and head bandages.
    “You, stay here.” The irritated officer directed.
    She questioned them for several minutes…
    “I want to press charges!” I said as she approached me again.
    “Tweed said you’ve been harassing his girlfriend’s family.”
    “What! You know him?”
    “He’s my commander’s kid.”
    “He’s a thug! What girlfriend and what’s the family’s name?”
    “Delana. Her parents are Robyn and Douglas Edwards.”
    My pain disappeared. I couldn’t believe Doug’s daughter was behind this. No his wife Robyn did this and this was a mother’s lowest con. I looked back at the gate wondering what a parent could say to convince a child to do this. Unbelievable! I stared through the officer as I dialed Doug’s number.
    “Officer, I don’t give a damn who his or her parents are, I’m pressing charges! They’re lucky I didn’t kill them!”

    • don potter says:

      I liked the description of the attack but did not quite understand the reason the kids did this. Maybe it’s because I don’t understand the significance of Robyn and Douglas Edwards.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Hey don, miss you yesterday. Remember I told I have a running story line about a man (Doug) who leaves his wife (Robyn) for a man (Tracy). If my memory serves me well (and it does) you said you “didn’t like Robyn, Sayber and the used car salesman in a previous prompt because she (Robyn) slept with the salesman as payment to off Tracy. Sayber set the whole thing up because she doesn’t make enough money as a Claims Adjuster for invitro because she can’t get pregnant and she’s scared her finance will leave her because he wants kids. It gets better but you’ll have to get the book when I finish which I hope will be soon. Hope this refreshes your memory and clears up a few things for you. Just remember if see me use the names Robyn, Doug or Tracy my prompt response is part of a larger story. Thanks for reading and commenting. Note: Robyn set the bus stop attack up and Delana (Robyn and Doug’s teenage daughter) is the girl throwing the rocks in the story. Tweed is Delana’s boyfriend. Got it? Thought so. Lol. We’ll talk.

    • Amy says:

      I am confused, MCKEVIN. It felt a little like an episode of the old Barman & Robin, with all the Whams and Kapows. I don’t understand who was a terrorist and how that had any bearing on teenagers attacking a guy. The names feel like they are supposed to mean something, but they were never established. I’m left very puzzled.

      • Amy says:

        Sorry, I meant “Batman & Robin,” not Barman & Robin, though that might be a fun departure from the classic.

        • MCKEVIN says:

          Hi Amy, I stole “domestic terrorist” from the way a comedian used it. He meant how our unreal expectations in life, love and relationships can sometimes make up want to blow something or some people up. Lol. Sorta like Roseanne was a domestic goddess okay. The MC here is Tracy E Warren, the man who Doug left his wife for. Remember when she was on the bank’s roof about to jump? You responded to that prompt “Today is the day you save someone’s life.” Remember? (These are my go to characters when I want to work something out in a story and I used the prompts here as their playing fields. Hey it works for me.) Thank for reading and commenting again.

          • Amy says:

            Roseanne- a domestic goddess…? Who would have guessed? Anyway, a head’s up that you’re using the same characters/storyline from a previous prompt would be courteous. With so many stories to read involving so many characters, it’s sometimes difficult to remember a specific few and apply them to a new week without a the spark of a hint.

        • MCKEVIN says:

          Lol. It would be…

        • MCKEVIN says:

          Amy I should have said “neighborhood terrorist? Yeah, how about that? Lol.

    • Susan says:

      Loved the action sequence – could really “see” the fight – found the end a bit mysterious, and was left wondering what Robyn is up to – would like to read the next episode ;)

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Susan, there is not enough room on this page to answer your question so I’m trying to put in a book. (I’ll keep you informed. Lol.) Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • BezBawni says:

      Can I just say – Tweed is such a marvelous bastard of a character!)) I didn’t even have to care who Robyn and the other person were, or what was the reason for the attack, because I was absorbed in the brilliance of the teenager’s character. (I don’t mean I liked what the character did, I’m just amazed by his audacity and vividness)

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Why thank you and yes you can say that BezBawni. Lol. However, he is just one of a few despicably human characters in the larger story. How would you feel if you shot your stepson? How would you explain it to his father, your husband. Would you wake from a coma if your husband decided to divorce you while you were comatose? If your best friend who you’ve known as straight all your life, ask you to be the best man at his gay wedding. Would you do it? (Could you do it for your best friend that you’ve known since 2nd grade although you don’t believe he’s gay?) it gets better and I’ll keep you posted. I think this type of thing is going on all over the world everyday. I’m glad you like Tweed and I hope I’m on the right track with all of this. Thanks for reading and thanks again for your participation yesterday. I’m still laughing at some of the things we posted. Lol.

        • BezBawni says:

          Oh, my, do you even realize what you’re doing right now? I’m sitting on hot coals here, dying to know more of your story (novel, whatever it’s gonna be)!

          • MCKEVIN says:

            No. What? Tell me tell me…

          • BezBawni says:

            You’re dangling a piece of bacon on a fishing rod in front of a hungry person. Feeding me all those questions and leaving without any answers is just cruel. (I can’t be mad at you for too long, though, ‘cuz you’re a honey bunch)) I’d love to read the book.

    • I liked the fight scene but missed the reference to the other story. It’s like I’m in the middle of something. The dialog flowed well for me tho.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        The names Robyn, Doug and Tracy are always the clue (reference) for that larger story. Thanks for reading and posting. And Doug… following these characters will always put you in the middle of something. I guarantee it Lol. Thanks again.

    • calicocat88 says:

      Domestic terrorist caught my attention…and jeeps, lol! You did great with the fight scene–fast paced and painfully good description. I loved the line “…middle school crush’s instructions.” You can’t trust teenagers, my friend, lol! I would like to know more about this guy and why he would have people do this to him. Good job!

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Thanks calico88. The man’s name is Tracy E. Warren and he is the luckiest person I know. However, you can’t tell this because of all the things I’m putting him through. If you look under don potter’s post here, you will see an explanation that will bring you up to date with Tracy. Then, read under Bezbawni (2 responses up from yours.) and you’ll get a preview of what I’m working on with these characters. It’s a hoot if I have to say so myself. Lol. Lastly, neighborhood terrorist is a better fit. Lol. See above explanation under Amy’s posting. Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you at the next prompt. We missed you at Friday’s forum but your name was mentioned. Have a good one.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        jeeps lol. “was”

    • Observer Tim says:

      I love the way this story was told in action, plus the subtle reference to the characters I’ve seen at least once before (The Contract). I guess it’s a little bit of “like mother, like daughter”. I wonder what the main character did to piss Delana off – probably tested the other side of the sheets, that’s my guess.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Thank you OT for the compliment and for remembering my characters. I think Robyn’s actions are deplorable but I understand her because she’s hurt. Delana (Robyn’s daughter) is worst than Robyn could ever be because she’s defending and protecting her mother. The worst position a young child could ever be in because they have not yet learned the necessary skills to maneuver through life. So the only way her immature mind knows how to resolve a problem is to kill it. The difference is her mother (Robyn) will only kill a problem as a last resort whereas that’s the beginning point for Delana. So there. Have a good day.

        • Observer Tim says:

          That makes sense. I missed the key piece of information – “why”. Some kids react that way because they don’t know better, others because they’ve experienced how cruel their peers can be.

          Deep nuances, McKevin. I would love to see the final story when it’s published. I’d buy that book.

    • jhowe says:

      MCKEVIN, You got the comment train going with this one. Lots of action and good dialouge. I remembered the characters once my mind was jogged.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        I think there ‘s a wounded child in all of us who would to get revenge against someone or something that did us wrong somewhere in life. Our religions, environments and family values sometimes in some households, to push those feelings of anger down and away. But until we resolve the meaning of those beat downs, they pop up and show out our lives from time to time. I think this pieces represents all of those people and emotions and the forum is getting a chance to see it play out this time. Thanks for reading, commenting and remembering my characters. Have a good one.

        • MCKEVIN says:

          Let me try that again Jhowe.
          I think there’s a wounded child in all of us who would LOVE to get revenge against someone or something that did us wrong somewhere in life. But, our religions, day to day environments and family values sometimes FORCE us to ignore or push down those feelings of hurt and anger because we don’t why they happened in the first place. But until we resolve the meaning of those beat downs, they’ll pop up and show out at various times in our lives. This piece shows the reader what it looks like, feels like and sounds like when you fight back. It forces you to answer the question “Would you harm/kill a kid in order to save your own life?” Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Toni Smalley says:

      And the story continues :) The fight was described very well, I could see it clearly in my mind. Just confusion on the dialogue exchange, some tags could make it clearer.

  53. ** a little fan-fiction for this prompt **

    DAVEY’S BOAT
    ============

    There was only one bus in town and I missed the last run, its taillights taunting me with the faint spray from the wet wheels. As I stood hunched over, ass against the wall and hands on my knees, I fought to win back my breath. For the umpteenth time, I vowed to quit smoking. A drop of rain mixed with salty sweat dripped off the tip of my nose. Cold and miserable, I stuffed my hands in the pockets of my jeans and steeled myself for the long walk home.

    I caught a flash of bright blue out of the corner of my eye and I looked to see a young boy running towards an alleyway. His coat was unzipped and flapped wildly in the weather. Spiderman pajamas and rubber boots completed the outfit. Surprised that anyone, aside from yours truly, would be traipsing about town at such an ungodly hour, a child was just plain concerning.

    “Hey, kid!” I yelled across the street. “What’s your name?”

    He stopped and looked at me. I could barely make him out over the strengthening storm pounding the metal garbage bin to my left. “Davey,” he said.

    “What are you doing out here, Davey?”

    “I’m looking for my boat. I forgot it outside. Mom’ll be so mad. It went down there.” He pointed to the alley. I saw water sputtering and tossing as the gutters swelled from one drain to the next.

    It made no sense that he’d be out in the rain. He couldn’t possibly live far away. “Where do you live, Davey?”

    The kid didn’t answer. He darted away down the alley and I took off after him. What else was I supposed to do? Something wasn’t right in Who-ville.

    The alley was narrow and dark, like most alleys in the middle of the night. I couldn’t see the end of the lane, likely bricked off to prevent thoroughfare. High above, the eaves and gutters of the buildings carried the water away, the noise along with it. I could still hear the rain, but it was outside somehow. The backstreet more resembled a chamber, a Great Hall for the Rat Kingdom.

    I heard a little boy’s high-pitched giggle echo throughout the brick canyon. It sounded like he was everywhere.

    “Davey!” I called out. I was answered with another spurt of playful laughter, then another voice.

    “Over here, Davey. Would you like a balloon?” said the older voice, friendly and inviting.

    I moved forward as quick as I could, blindly feeling my way along. The runoff from the street babbled and flowed like a brook, weaving and making its way through the alley’s debris and human waste. The stench was overpowering and I held my breath too long, causing my head to swim. I let it out, stumbled and scraped the palm of my hand against the decaying brickwork.

    More giggling, then “Have you seen my boat?”

    “Down here, Davey. It floated down here.” They sounded like I was right on top of them.

    “Who’s with you, Davey?” I asked. “Who are you?” I demanded of the kindly voice, my own trembled with alarm.

    “BACK OFF, JACK.”

    I was shoved roughly and knocked off my feet, smacking my head against something hard as I fell.

    When I opened my eyes next, the sun was out, shining a shaft of steamy heat into the alley. It looked considerably less threatening in the day, standing as a sad reminder of humanity’s lack of compassion. The deluge of the night before, now reduced to a tiny trickle, left its considerable mark. Sluice and rot from higher ground filled the tiny lane. I looked to the back wall where the drain captured the ruin and was reminded of the boy. Davey’s lost paper boat, folded with the care of a child’s love, had sailed against the grate.

    I picked it up and carefully unfolded the soggy paper, looking for a hint that it was all a bad dream. I stared in horror at a note, written in an angry red scrawl, on the inside of the boat.

    THEY ALL FLOAT DOWN HERE

  54. PamBo says:

    Charlie watched from inside the barrier, invisible to all but his kind. He was different from the others his age, smaller, smarter and more thorough. Sometimes thoroughness could cost you; Charlie had only a few more days to find and lure to De Plane a man or woman to be his Advisor, or he’d never get to be a Helper.
    Helpers needed training from Advisors, who had to be Old Ones, because they had Experiences. The rules were simple: Advisors had to have no family, love animals, be kind and not be afraid to be silly wherever they were.
    Charlie had found three others that fit the criteria a few weeks ago, but they couldn’t seem to follow the instructions on the note, so had failed. Just as well; this one was the one he truly wanted with all of his heart. He’d found her when he was seven and three quarters, but was too young to start Enticement Training, which starts at age eight and eight days. He’d lost track of her; hence the three others that had failed. He found her again today.
    “I know you’ll do it right, just read the note…”
    “What’s that child up to?” I muttered to myself, chuckling, as I followed him. I’m always muttering, singing, yelling, high-fiving myself. I don’t care if I look ridiculous, that’s who I am.
    “That’s odd. Where’d he go?” All I saw was a folded piece of paper lying on the ground in the dead-end alley. I felt an inexplicable pull to open it. I never ignore inexplicable pulls. I felt watched, but not creepy watched. No, this was more of an anxious, anticipation type aura in that alley.
    I looked around, grinned and winked at what, I don’t know and opened the note.

    #1. Read everything before doing anything.
    “Ooookaaayy…”
    #2. State your name out loud while jumping on your left foot.
    #3. Pick a booger out of your nose.
    #4. Turn 3 times.
    #5. Go to #1.
    “What? If I go back to #1, am I going to have to read them all over again…?” Laughing out loud, I went back to #1. It was different. Now it read: #1You followed instructions! Say “Hi Charlie.”
    Still laughing, I said, “Hi Charlie.” And there he was, grinning big as you please, then gave me a bear hug and the sweetest kiss on my cheek.
    He explained, “We used to be babies that died here, but were transported to another plane where we grew. At age ten, we get training to be Helpers. Helpers come here to offer assistance to others, like saving someone from a fall, or thwarting an auto accident. But we don’t know stuff, so need Advisors to teach us, Old Ones that can follow instructions. You passed!
    “You must decide now. Once you come with me to De Plane, your life here will be erased.”
    And even though he’d called me an “Old One”, I took his hand and stepped into De Plane.

  55. I was walking to catch the bus that Monday morning, the air was crisp but it made me feel alive. A kind of aliveness I hadn’t felt in quite some time after the death of my wife. Today I strut along past the alleys as I always did. Normally I saw the occasional bum or a little critter running around behind a dumpster, but today I saw a young boy. He had to have been no more than thirteen or fourteen years old. His short pixie hair reminded me of my own son’s hair when he was this boy’s age. I smiled.

    I looked around to see what he was doing but with my eyesight these days it’s hard to see anything far away. I followed him into the alley. Honestly, it wasn’t a safe place for him to be anyways. This wasn’t the best area of town.

    Once I caught up to where he had been standing, the boy was gone, disappeared. There was a piece of paper lying on the ground where he used to stand. I picked up the neatly folded notebook paper to reveal a letter on the inside.

    Dear Mom,
    I’m so sorry to have to do this to you. But I don’t see any other options. After Dad died, everything seemed to go downhill. You didn’t talk to me anymore, I felt like I had no one. That is when I met John and he told me all there is to know about life and quite honestly, it doesn’t sound like it gets any better. So, my option is to leave. And I think you know the way that happens.

    I didn’t want to leave this note at home. I didn’t know if you would get it. Here, I know for sure, that you will get it.

    Love you,
    Mark

    I stood there, probably longer than I should have when such a young boy’s life was on the line. I began to think. Where would he have gone? I looked up and saw the ledge of the building above me with a single pair of feet dangling over the edge. My eyes widened and my heart began to beat fast.

    I ran. I ran as fast as an old man, with a bad leg, could. I ran up through the building of apartments, skipping two and three stairs as I did. I couldn’t let this be the fate of the small boy, I just couldn’t.

    When I was on the last flight of stairs, I took in a deep breath and opened the hatch to the roof. There the boy stood on the ledge, toes slightly off the side. I yelled, “STOP MARK!”

    He froze.

  56. Observer Tim says:

    There was something familiar about the kid. He looked a bit like my nephew Jake, about 8 years old, wearing a jean jacket and matching pants and carrying a backpack with a reflective-tape “X” on it. He looked both ways; when he spotted me looking he burst into tears and ran into the alley beside my apartment building.

    I ran over and looked for him but he was nowhere to be seen; the only trace of his presence was a neatly-folded sheet of off-white paper. When I unfolded the note it read:

    Dear Dad;

    I know this is going to sound stupid, but I’m your son. They say I’m an autistic savant or something like that because I don’t talk. But ever since you died I’ve really wanted to see you. So I built a machine from the junk behind the building and it brought me here.

    I peeked in my room from the fire escape last night. There’s a girl in my bed. I hope her name’s Christy. I like that name. I always wanted to be called Christy, but I’m a boy. I also saw you and the pretty lady in the living room. I guess you never married Mum here. You look happy.

    I bet you’re the best dad ever here. I have to go and find someone who can be my dad now. Have the doctor look at the back of your neck. There’s a blood vessel there that’s all puffy and stretchy and might break. Maybe the doctor can fix it and Christy won’t have to find a new dad.

    Love, Billy.

    I was about to throw the note away, put it in my pocket instead. And I booked an appointment with my doctor to talk about my recent headaches. It was probably nothing, but I wouldn’t want to leave my daughter Allison (her middle name is Christine) without a dad.

  57. Susan says:

    I can’t stop looking for him, no matter what Ron says. I can’t. It’s been 8 years now since he disappeared – so he’d be 10. I’ve been told I can’t have any more children, but it’s probably just as well – I couldn’t go through all that again. Patrick caused me nothing but pain from the moment of his conception to the day he vanished into thin air. During the pregnancy violent, interminable bouts of convulsive “morning” sickness ravaged my guts from dawn to dusk, and purple rivers of ugly varicose veins erupted and flowed down the backs of my aching legs. They’re still there – a grotesque momento of my lost boy. By the time his head ripped through my cervix and emerged to the sound of my screams, at the end of 27 hours of labour, I longed for oblivion, but there would be no peace. Patrick took over where I’d left off, shrieking and crying almost incessantly for the next two years. Then there was silence. A sudden, deafening silence. And for once, I longed to hear him scream.

    It was all my fault. I’d left his buggy by the bench on the riverbank and just turned my back for a minute while I went to the water’s edge to feed the ducks. And when I returned, he’d gone. There was a massive police search, but as the days trickled into weeks, gathering into an ocean of desolate months, words of hope turned to voices of despair, and everyone assumed he was dead. But not me. I kept searching. Always on the look-out for boys who’d be about his age. Like this one.

    The trouble is, this one frightens me. He’s playing games with me. Messing with my mind. He was there again today, at the same spot, waiting for me, slouched against the wall in his baggy jeans and scruffy trainers, laces trailing in the dirt. As usual, he pulled his faded hoody over his head as soon as he saw me, but not before I’d caught a glimpse of his fair, curly hair – just like Patrick’s.Taunting me. I’d decided I wasn’t going to follow him again, and risk missing my bus – I’d had enough of his sick game of hide and seek and his silly, cryptic notes. But I couldn’t resist. So as he went through his James Bond routine, looking up and down the street before darting into the alleyway, I followed. And, surprise, surprise, when I entered the narrow passage, he was nowhere to be seen – as ever, it was as if he’d metamorphosed into the immaculate little note that lay there on the ground, waiting for me. I ripped it open in a rage, and stared at the childish handwriting. Just two words this time: “I’m lonely”. Tears streamed down my face as, finally, I understood. And I remembered. And I knew I had to return to the broad river that flowed down to the sea, to join him.

    • Pattypans says:

      This is powerfully written and paced, with a very surprising (but terribly sad) ending.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Very intense, Susan. Great job.

    • Dani says:

      Wow very sad ending. Very descriptive, really enables me to put myself there in the story. Great job.

    • snuzcook says:

      Wonderful story, dense with emotion and description. The first paragraph pulled me in completely and you kept me thoroughly engaged. Left me with just enough question whether he was a ghost or a demon child to invite me to climb into the story and invest my own judgment whether the MC was correctly interpretting her own experience.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      If this isn’t the first chapter of a novel I don’t know what is. Good job. This could have been posted for last week’s prompt regarding the never ending dream. The mother here would never take her own life because she knows about lost. I hope you get the opportunity to continue this prompt in the future and let us know what’s really going here. Again, good job and thanks for sharing.

    • don potter says:

      Even as a guy, I could relate the problems of the pregnancy, delivery and early childhood. The torment she endured over the past eight years must have been devastating. No wonder she was ready to pack it all in. Well told but sad story.

    • Amy says:

      Susan, this is marvelous. I absolutely love the juxtaposition of the pain in the neck Patrick was as a baby with the silence of his absence later on. And your descriptions are just achingly beautiful. I am very intrigued by this piece and was genuinely sad to see the end. Well done!

    • BezBawni says:

      This is, indeed, a great beginning to a novel. I can’t say any more right now, I’m too sad.

    • Susan! You take that back and write me a happy ending.. :-(

    • JRSimmang says:

      I agree, this is excellent. It’s quick, urgent, and it outlines just how unfinished business haunts (no pun intended) us. Nice little twist at the end, of course.

    • jhowe says:

      Do they really rip through the cervix? Dang. What a great job you did to bring us to that tragic ending. I loved how she expected the boy to disappear in the alley, again, and how the note was no sirprise, again.. It kind of reinforced her defeatist attitude.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Powerful story Susan. It made take a darker view than the rest of the critiques. It’s a hideous thought but I imagined she lost control temporarily and threw her own clild in the river to drown.

        Obviusly she wouldn’t have remembered the act since she pined for the boy’s return. But your last three sentences make it crystal clear for me.

        ‘Tears streamed down my face, as finally I understood. And I remembered. And I knew I had return to the broad river……….”

    • Toni Smalley says:

      Oh my goodness, what happened! I wonder what that last line meant. Is she going to commit suicide? Good story, and my favorite line was “it was as if he’d metamorphosed into the immaculate little note that lay there on the ground.” Loved it :)

  58. PeterW says:

    NOTE IN THE ALLEY

    Aidan sat on the bench in the shade of leafy summer oaks. The newspaper trembled in his hands. In his peripherals to one side was the main street of small Beckerville, and to the other the park’s play structure, alive with lithe, childish movement at 11 am on a sunny Tuesday. The running path, a winder was a foot off Aidan’s Docker adorned feet. His feet were crossed tight. Aidan, unfortunately, was a developing pedophile. Why?… I don’t know… but he had not yet broken any moral code. He was twenty-six. His sexual encounters with females over the age of eighteen had been satisfying physically, but mentally they had left him empty. Some females wanted only sex, some wanted relationships, and relationships with a working twenty–five-year old can be tiresome. The phrases “rest of my life,” and “I used to…” came up often with these females. But with children there was no past and no future that meant, well, everything. No, children lived in the present. So when it was lunch at the Beckerville bank, Aidan left the teller window, and made his way to the park, a newspaper in hand. His only violation thus far was optically, peripherally from the bench by the park.

    That morning, a certain boy caught his eye. The boy seemed to be half and half. His mother, on the bench, on the smart-phone, was Asian, but the boy was fairer, with light brown hair. The boy was atop the play-structure. He was above the six or so other children. He seemed to be proclaiming something, directing the whims of the other children’s play. His eyes were big, his limbs half tan and his voice… a jogger! Quick, quick, Aidan jerked back to the newspaper.

    Aidan’s mind whirled. I heard it. It sounded like this: “Go back to the fucking bank. What the fuck are you doing? You’re not even gay, and you’re checking out a boy, now. Look at his mom, for godsakes, she’s athletic, she’s young, she’s cute. But her mind, it must be like a diamond, a judgmental and harsh diamond turning back into coal, but her kid, his mind is a sweet flower, it can judge, of course, but without the sharpness. It is soft, just like those smooth, fresh arms, those wide, wide eyes, and knobby knees and…. Fuck, Aidan. Go home, you fucking pervert.” Those were Aidan’s thoughts. They didn’t stop him from following, when the little half-Asian left to play-structure, left the other children, his minions, all unbeknownst to his smart-phone-involved mom.

    The boy made his way across Beckerville’s main street. Aidan felt his heart jump when the boy entered the tight alley between the Antique Store and the Foreman’s Grocers. His mind split, as he rose from the bench and followed: one side said ‘I’m just a concerned, responsible adult,’ and the other said, ‘opportunity.’

    Sweat now coursed down black slacks. The tie tightened around Aidan’s throat. Certain muscles near the groin were ready to spring. He entered the alley. Where was the boy? He wasn’t there. At the end of the alley was a brick wall. I don’t know either, but the half-Asian boy was not there. But there, on the ground, in the alley-shade, was a piece of paper.

    Aidan nearly collapsed. All his mind was thankful that the boy was gone. Who knew what could have happened. Panting, Aidan dropped his newspaper and picked up the piece of paper. It was written in crayon, in large, messy letters, that were beautifully sprawled all over the page. I’ll tell you what it said.

    It said: “I was your first, Aidan. Remember me. You can wake up now.”

    And so Aidan woke. It was winter and the winter oaks were skeleton limbs above him. The newspaper lay on the icy jogging path. It was 11:30 am. There were no children in the playground. It had been six months since the little half-Asian boy. The muscles of Aidan’s groin were aflame. It had been six months since the best day of his life. A small portion of his brain intoned, “You sick fuck.” But, Aidan got up and began walking towards the Beckerville bank. The now larger portion of his brain block the thought, and it scanned the street on the look-out for the next opportunity. This is what happened, and for it, I can only apologize and say that it happened.

    (Author (PeterW): Oh Lolita, Nabokov, this is what I get for reading you. Sorry for any grammar errors, length infractions—all of these prompts I free-write for about an hour without proofreading.)

    • seliz says:

      I liked the story you told. Although, it was difficult for me to switch when reading from third person to an abstract first person. That may just be me though. The story itself was interesting and gave some idea of what may go through a criminals mind.

    • Susan says:

      A rather depressing little tale – but effective. It’s difficult to feel much sympathy for the protagonist, despite his apparent internal struggles over his sexuality and behaviour.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Great psych-piece, PeterW. I almost had hope for Aidan until the end there.

    • Pattypans says:

      What’s your reason for not proofreading, PeterW?

    • don potter says:

      I have a difficult time with pedophiles since they prey on our innocent youth and rob them of the joys of childhood, and oft times their lives. But your story took us inside the mind of one of those sick bastards.

    • BezBawni says:

      I’m a little confused. When you mentioned Nabokov, I felt the similarity immediately, but Nabokov, for all the sickness of his novel, was able to make me feel for the characters. Right now I find it very difficult to feel for Aidan.

    • this was uncomfortable for me to read, Peter. It was well done and if I ever wanted to have my mind in the head of a pedophile, you did it. Gotta go shower now.

    • jhowe says:

      I liked the narrator although it’s not clear who he is, which is probably good. Since the narrator knew a great deal about Aiden, I wonder if he (the narrator) is the one who wrote the note? I wouldn’t think the child had written it. Well done.

  59. LadyCatrina says:

    My feet stomp repeatedly on silver pavement; I hear their rhythm pulsing and feel a raindrop splash my cheek. My breath comes fast, producing a ragged and constant vapor in front of my face. Night emerges in neon glow and bright blurs of headlights on the highways. Teenagers cluster on the sidewalks and cast their amusing, reproachful glances at me as I run past them. Even though some of them may only be a few years younger than I, we are worlds apart.
    Shaggy dreadlocks touch my eyes and blur the street and I see the bus stop just ahead of me. My goal in view gives me fresh adrenaline and I heave to a stop seconds later. I check the time; it has become my own game at the end of each day; I’m 7 seconds faster today. Between the people at the stop I see a little white boy duck around the side of the shelter. Tall brick buildings seem to shrink his already small figure; he is swallowed in the big city and I wonder if I’m the only one who sees him. He pauses at the alley and looks around the sidewalk before slipping around the corner of the building and fading into the darkness.
    I need to go home; I work tomorrow and the bus will be here soon. I don’t know why, but then I turn to follow him. No one glances at me as I walk toward the alley; I, too, am invisible. My eyes adjust to the light from a lone streetlight and I search for the boy. But it’s just me; the boy is gone. He was so little, no more than eleven or twelve years old. He must live around here, but I know how unlikely that is. If I had seen him before I know that I would’ve remembered him. A neatly creased piece of paper is resting at my feet; a perfect square, it is pressed against the alley’s wall. Curious, I reach for it and flip it over in my hands; the sides are blank. I search the alley, and once reassured that I am alone I unfold the page and scan my eyes over the words, their meaning sinking in slowly.
    I have to find that boy. I need to find him, talk to him, that little white boy. He was meeting someone here, tonight. I think of his words “I came to see you again. But I was late”, scrawled in pencil. Careful folding, placed with trust. Because he knew someone would read it. I remember the bus and stuff the sheet into my pocket. I run to the stop as the bus is nearing; it is a race, between me and the bus. We near each other and I make it in time. Those words on the page I know are his, and they echo in my head as I find a seat.
    “Come back soon. I know you really weren’t here that night. You’re still alive.”

  60. Pattypans says:

    He reminded me of Gavroche from Les Miserables. True, we were in Rio de Janeiro, not Paris, and it was 250 years later, but he had that panache, that twinkle in his eye, and that street-smart way about him. Besides, I always notice children, and he was a child.

    It was hard to judge his age. He was obviously poor, so undernourishment could easily have made him small for his age. And the ways of the street might easily have made him knowledgeable beyond his years. I sighed. How I wished all children everywhere could enjoy simple childhood and keep their innocence until they were old enough to have some wisdom to go along with adult knowledge.

    I walked along that street every Thursday to catch a bus to the organic farmer’s market. In Rio, there are ‘nice’ neighborhoods separated by only one street from ‘other’ neighborhoods. Some of the other neighborhoods are safe; some are not. This one was deemed safe, but then, is anywhere ever completely safe, all the time?

    That thought went through my mind as I watched this scruffy, scrawny boy approach the narrow alley that led to another alley-like street, the one where a seamstress whose services I sometimes avail myself of had her tiny workshop. Her ‘atelier’, she called it. The boy was shirtless; the muscles in his neck were tensed. He paused for the briefest moment and looked to his right, where there was a pile of trash, and to his left, where several dogs patiently waited their turn to dispute the bones from a broken trash bag.

    I lived nearby, on one of the nice streets. I didn’t want the boy to know I was watching him. That’s why I looked away casually and said hello to a mother walking her baby in a stroller, who I knew from somewhere. But when I turned back to look down the alley it seemed empty. He’s as agile as Gavroche, too, I thought. I sauntered down the narrow path anyway, and about a quarter of the way down, I saw a piece of dirty, crumpled paper tucked under a garbage can. But it was tucked; it was put there deliberately, so I tugged at it carefully and looked at it. The words had been scrawled very hurriedly in crooked cursive.
    Please, help me!” it read in Portuguese.

    Was it genuine? Or was it a ruse to lure me, a blue-eyed, fair-haired, obviously foreign woman, into some sort of trap? I was afraid: afraid of what might happen if I failed to try to find the child and help him out of whatever distress he might be in, and afraid of what might happen if he were part of some gang out to rob. Everyone in Rio knows that if someone tries to rob you, you either give them what they want—or get shot. They only want to rob you, but if you resist, they shoot to kill.

    I heard muffled whimpering behind me and wheeled. My senses were fine-tuned now, in high alert for I knew not what. I let out a long breath when I saw it was only the smallest mutt trying to muzzle his way into the broken garbage bag.

    Shots rang out behind me and I slammed my body into the nearest doorway for cover. Two policemen ran in the direction the boy had gone. I prayed that he would be safe.

  61. DMelde says:

    Lewis worked alone at a research lab for the government. His job was to study and build quantum vacuum lenses. At first, whenever he looked through the lens at the fabric of space he saw nothing, but after fine-tuning the process, he gradually began to see through the nothingness of quantum reality and into another dimension. He saw creatures that lived there, and what’s more, the creatures could look through the lens and see Lewis. They were short, squat creatures with scales instead of flesh, and hooked noses that curved downward into spikes.

    Then Lewis began seeing the creatures without using the lens. They had found a way to cross over between worlds. He discovered that he was the only one who could see them, and Lewis began doubting his own senses. His brilliant mind, already on the verge of insanity brought about by a cruel and uncaring world began to unravel. He started walking around at home with pillows strapped to his feet, fearing he might fall through to the other side. He felt that he could no longer drive safely, and he sold his car.

    The creatures became his constant companions and they followed him everywhere. They learned how to manipulate objects in our world; a vase pushed over and broken, a stove turned on and neglected.

    One day, as Lewis walked to the bus stop to go to work, he saw a young boy on the sidewalk, flanked on either side by a creature. The boy looked left, and then right, as if sensing them, then he ran down the alley. The creatures ran after the boy, and Lewis, fearing for the boy’s safety, ran after them.

    In the alley, Lewis found a crude note that read, “kilz him come warehous 5”. Lewis ran to warehouse 5.

    He entered the warehouse through an open doorway. Inside, he saw hundreds of creatures on the large floor. Looking up, he saw hundreds more on every walkway. In a corner cowered the boy, unharmed, surrounded by even more creatures.

    Some of the creatures pointed at a partially completed giant lens. They wanted his help to finish it. Lewis shuddered at what unholy purpose it might have, and he tried to decide what to do, when he suddenly remembered the baubles in his pocket. The day before, as if led there, he had entered an unusual little gift shop, owned by a woman with fire-red hair. She had sold him two baubles, but not before making him sign a contract of secrecy.

    “Use these, when all else fails.” she had told him.

    Lewis took the baubles from his pocket and he threw them at the nearest creatures. The baubles exploded on contact, and a little demon, sitting on a fat demon’s shoulder, appeared. The demons looked at the creatures.

    “FOOD!” both demons yelled. The fat demon ran towards the creatures, with folds of fat bouncing up and down. Creatures scattered everywhere trying to escape. Lewis took the boy to safety, and then he went to his lab and destroyed the lens. He never saw another creature ever again.

    • calicocat88 says:

      Horrifying and exciting! Poor Lewis! You have to be careful with research in fiction ;) Sometimes the scientist just might come across millions of tiny creatures. This sort of reminds me (faintly) of Gremlins, lol! Of course, this was written much better. You have me sucked in right away–great attention getter in the first few lines. Also, I love the unique take on the prompt. Great job!

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Lol. It is good and it includes an extension of what the forum did yesterday. (Missed you and the others.) You should read it. You owe to yourself calicocat99 because DMelde put “catassins” (Cat assassins) in the posts. Lol. Have a good one.

        • Pattypans says:

          What forum, McKevin? What am I missing? Could you fill me in, or is it top secret?

          • MCKEVIN says:

            I thought we were a forum of writers and some of us decided to make up our own prompt since a new one hadn’t posted. (Thank you Svapne). If you read all of last week postings, you’ll see how it became a group activity that I believe had everyone laughing until their sides hurt because we were creating on the fly. I think our individual personalities seeped out in our spontaneous posting. All I can say is “You should’ve been there.” Check it out and read DMelde’s Sci Fi posts. Watch for Kerry’s quick wit and Jhowe’s sentimental journey, Observer Tim’s inherited body talent, agnesjack insistence to free me from the evil red head shop owner who’s skin was the color of milk and had eyes the color of water. BezBanni didn’t miss a beat either. Again, thank you DMelde and all the others (Veterans and Newbies) who participated. You all made my weekend with that. Lol.

        • calicocat88 says:

          Yeah, what forum?

          • MCKEVIN says:

            Whew! See above.

          • Pattypans says:

            Thanks, McKevin. I did notice that it was a long time between prompts, and that the previous one had a lot more posts than usual. Now I understand. I didn’t participate the last two weeks because I’d been (well, have been for a long time) neglecting my small WIP. I told myself no writing for the WD prompt if you haven’t been writing diligently on your WIP! But I’m glad to be back.

          • Svapne says:

            Don’t forget to give yourself credit, MCKEVIN. We would never have been able to rescue you without all those helpful texts.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Lol.DMelde, You really have a gift for this genre. This is good and 518 words to boot. I am still reeling from yesterday’s “Prompt That Wasn’t There.” This is icing on the cake. Thanks for making my weekend… Good Job!

    • Susan says:

      A very entertaining take on the prompt – a real roller-coaster ride of a story, great fun!

    • Observer Tim says:

      I’ll support all those that went before, DMelde, and add this.

      I love it when the story turns out well for everyone. Well, except the little lizard-guys. Unless they wanted to be eaten, and then it’ great for them too!

    • Svapne says:

      You know, science fiction is all kinds of fun. I really liked the story up until the baubles.

      Then I loved it.

      Nice inclusion of my Prompt that Wasn’t There- and the demons!

      (For those who missed out on the fun, by the way, check out the most recent response(s) to The Never-Ending Dream prompt. Hilarity ensued.)

    • don potter says:

      Scary, grisly stuff. I liked this tale from beginning to end.

    • BezBawni says:

      Yeah, catassins were my first thought too, when I was reading this)) I almost expected the exploded baubles fill the air with the deadly odor Observer Tim knows all about))

    • This was spectacular! You should write this genre more often,

    • Amy says:

      Very entertaining, DMelde. I’ll have to check out the Prompt that Wasn’t There after I finish this week’s responses. Sounds like a hoot. My son actually attached pillows to his feet a few days ago and walked around the house with them on- I had no idea that he was worried about falling through to another dimension. We’ll have to have a sit-down tonight.

    • Toni Smalley says:

      This was sooooo awesomely weird and way out there. At first, I was smiling by the end of the first paragraph, because I lovvvvvve the imagination and that feeling of awe and wonder you created. So unique. Then, the creatures got all creepy and I was horrified with the little buggers. Good story :)

  62. suzee says:

    The Letter in the Alley

    The young boy looked around as if looking for someone or maybe watching to see if no one was about as he quietly entered the alley. This was a young lad. Not old enough to be lurking in alleys, I was afraid he would be hurt by elements unknown so I followed him.

    Entering the alley, I knew the sun would not be reaching it today as dark clouds loomed overhead. I searched for the youngster, but he had scurried out of there. Laying on the scratched and pitted dirty asphalt a white sheet of paper glowed in mockery. It was folded over to prevent the words from seeing the light of day.

    I looked around, but no one was entering the alley so I picked it up. It was not sealed, should I open it or place it back on the ground? Curiosity, that habit that killed the cat, got the best of me and I opened it.
    Before I could read it; a door crashed against the building, thunder sounded in the distance and I dropped the paper and rush to hide behind the dumpster.

    The man dumped the trash, hurried back inside as the sky opened up. I ran to the paper shielding it from the rain, left the alley, and I saw the bus pulling away from the curb; I was going to be very wet today.

    The smell of coffee lured me towards the café. Others had the same idea. The place was busy; I ordered my coffee and bagel. There was only one seat left; I asked if I could join them? It was not a good time to look at the note. I waited. Time ticked along slowly as the rain pour down from the sky.

    I looked out the window, a man was chasing a young boy, I got up to go help, but it looked like he was running towards the café. The door slammed open the boy rushed towards the back of the café. The man, who was chasing him, asked where the boy had gone, he had drop a sheet of paper and he wanted to return it. He held the paper in the air, it looked just like mine. Others begin to holding up pieces of paper; I take mine out, they are all folded over, but not sealed.

    Someone opens their paper and reads it aloud, I look at mine it says the same thing.

    Rainy Day Café is your safe haven from the rain.

  63. suzee says:

    The Letter in the Alley
    The young boy looked around as if looking for someone or maybe watching to see if no one was about as he quietly entered the alley. This was a young lad. Not old enough to be lurking in alleys, I was afraid he would be hurt by elements unknown so I followed him.

    Entering the alley, I knew the sun would not be reaching it today as dark clouds loomed overhead. I searched for the youngster, but he had scurried out of there. Laying on the scratched and pitted dirty asphalt a white sheet of paper glowed in mockery. It was folded over to prevent the words from seeing the light of day.

    I looked around, but no one was entering the alley so I picked it up. It was not sealed, should I open it or place it back on the ground? Curiosity, that habit that killed the cat, got the best of me and I opened it.
    Before I could read it; a door crashed against the building, thunder sounded in the distance and I dropped the paper and rush to hide behind the dumpster. The man dumped the trash, hurried back inside as the sky opened up. I ran to the paper shielding it from the rain, left the alley, and I saw the bus pulling away from the curb; I was going to be very wet today.
    The smell of coffee lured me towards the café. Others had the same idea. The place was busy; I ordered my coffee and bagel. There was only one seat left; I asked if I could join them? It was not a good time to look at the note. I waited. Time ticked along slowly as the rain pour down from the sky.
    I looked out the window, a man was chasing a young boy, I got up to go help, but it looked like he was running towards the café. The door slammed open the boy rushed towards the back of the café. The man, who was chasing him, asked where the boy had gone, he had drop a sheet of paper and he wanted to return it. He held the paper in the air, it looked just like mine. Others begin to holding up pieces of paper; I take mine out, they are all folded over, but not sealed.
    Someone opens their paper and reads it aloud, I look at mine it says the same thing. Rainy Day Café is your safe haven from the rain.

    • Observer Tim says:

      You got me, suzee! I did not expect that. Especially with all the darkness and lost sunlight images.

      Great job. Keep on posting!

    • BezBawni says:

      The twist is great, indeed. The description appealed to me as well, though I’d avoid actually using the word ‘curiosity’ since you’ve turned the expression into a figure of speech already. It’s always more powerful when a reader guesses a word (a phrase, a meaning) than when it is explained to him. (don’t mind me, I’m just a fan of word plays))

  64. don potter says:

    A scruffy looking boy, about ten, ran past me. He paused at the end of the building, looked both ways, and disappeared down the alley. It was a strange scene, something one would not expect at 7:45 in the morning.

    Since I was early for my bus, I decided to check out what he was up to. The alley was dingy and creepy, because the tall buildings denied the sun from making its presence known. I surveyed the bleak surroundings. The kid had vanished.

    Curious, I edged my way deeper into the concrete canyon being careful of the water filled potholes that lay before me like landmines. I heard a sound and turned to see an old drunk wedged between a dumpster and the wall. The noise was made when he dropped a paper bag containing a bottle of cheap wine. It was probably empty, anyway.

    I continued my trek, feeling increasingly uncomfortable with each step. The top flew off a trash can, and two cats ran away. They were frightened, like me, but had the good sense to leave. I should have followed them, yet I was determined to find out what happened to the boy. I made a quite contract with myself; if the kid did not show up by the time I reached the halfway spot, it was back to the bus stop.

    The alley seemed to get narrower or was it my imagination? One thing was certain, the wind had kicked up.
    As I came to what looked to be the midpoint, the sliver of sky above darkened. I felt very cold. My eyes scanned the area for any signs of the lad. There were none. About to head back, I noticed a neatly folded note on top of a manhole cover lying under a rock to keep it from blowing away.

    I opened the note and shivered when I read what it said. ‘You will not be going to work today.’ My mind spun out and I crumpled to the ground.

    “Mister, mister. Are you alright?” the young voice said.

    “What happened? Where am I?” The scene came into focus as I spoke. I was lying in the middle of that horrible alley.

    “Want him to call 911?” The boy asked.

    “Who?”

    “My father,” he said pointing to the open door leading to what looked like the back of a small bakery.

    “What about the note?” I asked.

    “Oh, the old guy that lives here does that everyday,” he said gesturing toward the drunk by the dumpster.

    “Why?”

    “He used to work in the bakery but got fired for drinking. My father won’t hire him back, so he leaves that note early each morning as a reminder that he won’t be going to work today.

    I got up, brushed myself off, and rushed to the bus stop. On the way I stopped long enough to give the old guy five dollars, grateful that I had quite drinking one year ago today.

    • calicocat88 says:

      Wow! I didn’t know where you were going with this. It had so many possibilities that kept me reading. I HAD to find out what was happening to your MC. I was able to relate to this guy, feel his panic and confusion. Good job there. And the dialogue was smooth and not too muddy. I enjoyed this :)

    • Susan says:

      I really loved this story – you kept me ‘turning the page’, as it were, right the way through to the end – and that final sentence is a lovely touch. As calicocat says, we really feel for this poor guy. Excellent!

    • Observer Tim says:

      Great story, don. I kept expecting things to turn supernatural. When they didn’t it came as a reverse shock.

      This story would make a great temperance tract.

    • Pattypans says:

      I love your last sentence, don. I do have two questions. I ask because these two points sort of distracted me, “took me out of the story”, as they say.

      1. How could the narrator have known exactly what was in the bag the man threw down? He could only make an educated guess, unless he opened it up and saw. This seems like a POV error.

      2. Why did the note say “You will not…”? According to the boy’s explanation, it seems as though it would have read “I will not…”, since it was the writer of the note who wouldn’t be going to work.

      • don potter says:

        The sound of an empty bottle is distinct from a full one; however, I should have made that clear. It is not a far stretch to assume the the old guy was drinking cheap wine, but I could have ‘lost’ the bag and solved both problems. As for the second question, I tried to use the alcoholic’s denial for his problem by blaming someone else. “You will not be working today” was his way of avoiding responsibility for not working due to the simple fact that he is a drunk. Based on your question, Pattypans, I may stated this in a far too subtle manner. Thanks for your read and helpful comments.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      I liked this don because I’ve done just what the MC did many times although I’ve never drank. (not even wine.)The realness here is perfect.

    • BezBawni says:

      This was so great! I mean, hardly anyone is able to actually finish a story within 500-700 words, but yours turned out to be a perfect anecdote. I might even tell this one to my friends))

    • This was a fine write, don. I think it’s always good to look back to where you were when you conquer a vice. It’s reaffirming.

    • Amy says:

      Good story, don. I like that you took the direction our minds were all going in and flipped it upside down on us. I actually found the true purpose of the note to be a little funny, with the drunk writing to himself everyday, though it is sad that he cannot climb up out of his own misery. The only thing that felt off to me was the narrator passing out after reading the note- how/why did this happen? I really like how you tied the bow on it at the end, with the story coming full circle from where he was to where he is now, and how thankful he is for it.

      • don potter says:

        I appreciate your read and comments, Amy. As for your question, the narrator thought the note was meant for him and was frighten enough that someone was making such a statement to him, along with the events building up to the moment, that the he passed out. It’s a little soft but the concept worked for me, more or less.

        • Pattypans says:

          I agree, Don; that part was clear for me. I thought the narrator took it so hard because he was wondering why he wasn’t going to work, as though someone knew and maybe was planning something awful to happen to him.

    • Toni Smalley says:

      I liked the setup of the story, which made me think something horrible was going to happen. Loved the true purpose behind the note.

  65. knightauthor says:

    I was a bit confused, not finding the boy once I ducked into the alley after him, but then I saw the neatly folded note and with a some trepidation, I reached for it. It would be the biggest mistake of my life…

    “Welcome to the game of tag. Now you’re it….ROFL”

  66. trumpt_up says:

    Man, he couldn’a been more’n seven. I figured he’d a been a little older, but you know how the boys do. I owe them boys, always hookin’ me up.

    I almost walked him right on by to the bus stop, didn’t think it was the right one. But he got those bright green trainers like they was talkin’ about. Gotta be the right one.

    He turned around, checkin’ it out to make sure nobody sees. Good boy. He know how it goes. Turned back to look right at me. I like them brown eyes. He a little scrawny in the face but that’s okay. I don’t judge God’s creatures.

    Gone down that alley way. I’ll meet him up and take ‘im to the bus stop. We go for ice cream or candy or somethin’. They always like the ice cream place. They’s a real nice Mexican works the counter, hardly don’t speak any English. They don’t talk about the boys. They know how to keep a mouth shut.

    I turn the corner. Now I’m in the alley way and there ain’t nobody. Now where the hell would a scrawny piss go?

    “Hey!” I holler for him. “Where you go, young’un? You wanna get ice cream? I got some place to get ice cream, they real nice. I know you like ice cream…”

    Nobody. Nothin’. Now I’m a little angry. He ain’t gonna run away, they’s nowhere to go. This just a dead end with a dumpster n’ somebody’s door with a stairway.

    “Hey young’un, where the heck are ya? Don’t be hidin’ now or I’m gonna get angry…”

    I step on a scrap a somethin’ and it crinkles. And what do ya know but it’s a goddamn letter. Looks all clean like somebody just drop it. Maybe the kid wanna go someplace else n’ leave me the address.

    What do it say now…

    “This is for my brother.”

    They’s a shiny bit in the shadows out the corner a my eye. Beautiful shiny. Just floatin’, comin’ closer. Brown eyes… bright green… God that shiny bit’s lookin’ long and pointy now. Not so beautiful. Dear Lord, I know I’ve made mistakes but I’m a good man… I never hurt nobody, I never hurt ‘em… They all sweet an’ beautiful… Jesus I’m a good man, I just got needs… A man got his needs…

  67. trumpt_up says:

    Man, he couldn’a been more’n seven. I figured he’d a been a little older, but you know how the boys do. I owe them boys, always hookin’ me up.

    I almost walked him right on by to the bus stop, didn’t think it was the right one. But he got those bright green trainers like they was talkin’ about. Gotta be the right one.

    He turned around, checkin’ it out to make sure nobody sees. Good boy. He know how it goes. Turned back to look right at me. I like them brown eyes. He a little scrawny in the face but that’s okay. I don’t judge God’s creatures.

    Gone down that alley way. I’ll meet him up and take ‘im to the bus stop. We go for ice cream or candy or somethin’. They always like the ice cream place. They’s a real nice Mexican works the counter, hardly don’t speak any English. They don’t talk about the boys. They know how to keep a mouth shut.

    I turn the corner. Now I’m in the alley way and there ain’t nobody. Now where the hell would a scrawny-ass bitch go?

    “Hey!” I holler for him. “Where you go, young’un? You wanna get ice cream? I got some place to get ice cream, they real nice. I know you like ice cream…”

    Nobody. Nothin’. Now I’m a little angry. He ain’t gonna run away, they’s nowhere to go. This just a dead end with a dumpster n’ somebody’s door with a stairway.

    “Hey young’un, where the hell are ya? Don’t be hidin’ now or I’m gonna get angry…”

    I step on a scrap a somethin’ and it crinkles. And what do ya know but it’s a goddamn letter. Looks all clean like somebody just drop it. Maybe the kid wanna go someplace else n’ leave me the address. I pick it up see what it says.

    Why it don’t hardly say nothin… just…

    “This is for my brother.”

    They’s somethin’ shiny in the shadow out the corner of my eye. I turn to it. Beautiful shiny. That shiny light just floatin’, comin’ closer… brown eyes… bright green… dear Lord, I know I ain’t been perfect, but a man’s got needs… a body got weaknesses… I’m a good man, I swear… I swear…

  68. wavescollide says:

    A boy about the age of seven followed ahead of me on my morning walk. This was my routine when I planned to head to see my parents. It was a long bus ride and the stop was at the end of the block. In this dreary-skied town, I clutched my backpack that swayed off one shoulder and couldn’t really think of much but the boy. This was the first time I had company at this hour of morning. That being said, it was hard not to notice the child. He seemed to be walking cautiously. This boy, orange tinged locks and a slightly freckled neck, he kept his head down to his feet and treaded slowly.

    We both neared a break between the series of shops and buildings to our left. I observed him beginning to branch off toward that direction. With his back now faced towards my side of the street, he had stopped. His freckled-neck turned to his left and right. My gut had a sharp pain as if instinctively I had to stop at this point. Then he preceded to take off unanticipatedly. My dormant maternal ways had came alive and I followed. Was he in danger? The pains of sickness I had felt washed over me and I looked into the nook amongst the buildings.

    There was no one. But off to the right on a lonely stoop, something caught my eye. There sat a neatly twined note. Almost as if it were a package with ribbon. Considering the vacant alley, I needed to see what it was. It might not have been meant for me but no one else was there. Maybe the boy had know all along I was a few strides back. Perhaps it was important that I or anyone see what this was.

    Moving towards the parchment, I bent and grasped. It seemed so assembled. I had no doubts it was left there for a reason. Then I gently pulled back the strands of twine to open it. Unfolding the paper back, it revealed a newspaper clipping.

    PREGNANT WOMAN STRUCK AND KILLED AT BUS STOP.

    I felt sick and sweaty. There was simply the headline and a picture. The picture made my chest sink. For it was a mangled bus stop – the one I walk to and wait at on every Saturday morning. The same one I was intending on waiting at before all this.

    My neck snapped back out at the alley way as I heard a car engine. Perhaps it was going a bit too fast. The sun was still making its way up. Maybe this person was making their way home for the quickly ending night.

    I fell back into the stoop as the car engine sound turned into a horrible, loud bang and debris flew out everywhere. Glass from what I presumed to be the car who was speeding or maybe…

    Rising from the stoop, I ran to peek around the alley way. Then nausea sunk in as I saw what happened. A burgundy pickup truck had came in impact with the bus stop. Only all the glass had shattered out of the makeshift walls and a falling frame was left. The front bumper and windshield of the truck were also unrecognizable. And then it all flooded into my head what had literally just happened.

    No one was waiting within the bus stop. It was always just me because its the earliest one out of town. My feet picked up speed to see the condition of the driver but my mind ran in its own circles. Reminding me of all the times I had thrown up this past week. Reliving the night I slept with Justin across my dorm. How his red tinged hair looked so much like the boy. The boy had disappeared.

    • itmitali says:

      Description could be used a bit more, but amazing overall!

    • Susan says:

      A moving tale – I take it the boy represents the spirit of Justin, who somehow has a premonition of what’s to come and manages to warn her (in which case, presumably, the newspaper cutting will now disappear, because the future’s been changed?)

      • wavescollide says:

        Was going for the child being HER child from the future. And making sure that this would even be a future. Maybe thats what you meant by spirit. Thank you for reading and commenting, I appreciate and enjoyed the response. :)

    • Observer Tim says:

      I love this type of ghost story.

    • don potter says:

      I had a problem with the boy “followed ahead of me” in the first line, “planed to head to see my parents” in line two. There are other such incidences throughout. I suggest you read the tale aloud and these will be apparent. These fixes will smooth out the story.

      • wavescollide says:

        Yes i cut out many sentences to try to be within or near 500 words — there was a great deal that smoothed out the beginning. I always read aloud in the writing process, the cutting out process and submitting process. If I didn’t care so much about the word limit, you probably wouldn’t have left that comment.

    • this was really cool. Notes seem to time-travel a lot these days. :)

    • Amy says:

      You have the makings of an engaging tale here, wavescollide. Your phrasing and sentence structure muddled the plot and I had a hard time getting through it. But I’m glad I did, because you brought it all around with your ending. You just need to spend some time working on grammar and sentence structure. Fragments and awkward word choices did not do your story justice.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      I got the just of this and I like it. Good it. I’ll be watching to see if you continue it so I can see where you go with it. Good job.

  69. snuzcook says:

    Memoradum

    I saw the boy while I was waiting for my bus to the clinic. Doc Saunders is a drag sometimes, but the court says I have to see him or the judge will put me away. This day I didn’t feel like going. It was one of those hot, restless days when “got to” or “should” just chafe and make me want to break away.

    The kid was alone, a good looking kid of about nine, minding his own business, not paying attention to the people on the busy sidewalk around him. He never looked my way at all when I started to follow him.

    I shifted into assessing the situation automatically. How close could I get without him sensing me? Did anyone notice me? Did anyone notice him? Did he seem nervous or comfortable? Did he shy away from people or walk right past them? Did he veer away from alleys or keep his course? What made him slow down? What made him speed up? And always, who might be watching, who might be noticing?

    I was about ready to break off and find a bus to make it to my appointment when he did something entirely unexpected. He slowed down at an alley, looked around, and went in.

    I walked past, glanced in and saw him bent over like he was looking for something. I walked on a few yards, then stopped to tie my shoe. No one had taken any notice of him. No one was looking my direction. I slipped invisible into the alley.

    I didn’t see the boy anywhere. I silent-stepped into the shadows, listening, looking. No sign of him. But where he had been bent over there was a piece of paper, pristine white against the gritty pavement.
    I picked it up and opened it.

    “Perv–We’ve been watching you. Follow another kid, and it will be your last.”

    Cold, heavy mercury filled my guts. The hot adrenalin rush of the hunt had thickened into cold fear. I felt like a hundred pairs of hidden eyes were boring into my secret self.

    With numb fingers, I wadded up the note and threw it away. I walked back into the light of the sidewalk, my footsteps echoing in the empty alley behind me.

  70. Janice says:

    The Letter in the Alley

    Today is Charlie’s fortieth birthday, and he has to work. Well, he doesn’t actually have to work, but Charlie is competitive. Working on a Saturday that is also his birthday, will earn Charlie points with the boss.
    Walking to catch the bus to the city’s financial center, Charlie spots a neatly dressed young boy look both ways before entering the alley that runs between the sporting goods store and the bakery. He reminded Charlie of himself in some way. Curious now, and after glancing around for a waiting parent, Charlie follows the boy into the alley.

    “Where did hell did you go?” Charlie says to the red brick confines of the alley. The boy has disappeared. Instead, there is a neatly folded note lying on the pavement
    .
    “You’ve been this way before, Charlie, you’ve just forgotten. Time to get back on track.”

    As the small white slip of paper floated to the ground at his feet, Charlie’s view was beyond his surroundings. Only a second or two passes, but seems an eternity to Charlie. He glances down with tear filled eyes at the note and watches with a deep sense of loss as it slowly becomes translucent and then . . . nothing.

    Charlie needs to sit, the energy sucked right out of him. He sinks to the asphalt, the brick wall against his back. Get back on track? Charlie asks himself.

    The two second eternity was full spectrum color and emotion, a 3D video of his purpose and reward. It is fading now, like the note, and Charlie knows he will forget . . . but not before getting back on track.

  71. JRSimmang says:

    Part two, continuation from last week’s prompt.

    Beamer hit Ctrl + P and waited for the printer to spit out the book of dreams he just finished translating. His name, plain as day, was stuck in the middle of the book, the cursor flashing under the B. He tapped his toe impatiently, eager for the workday to end so he could finally get home.

    Two minutes later, and he shoveled the papers into a file folder and under his arm.

    “How’s the ‘Book of Dreams’ project, buddy?” Tilly, Beamer’s boss, stood in the doorway.

    “Huh? Oh, that…” Beamer subconsciously hugged the book closer. “It was a total flop.”

    “Really?” Tilly slurped on the coffee in his World’s Best Boss mug. “That’s a shame.

    “Yeah, really is, but, you know, just one of those things, eccentric millionaires and their dreams…”

    “I guess so.”

    Uncomfortable silence.

    “So, I guess that means you can go home a little early today. I’d like a report on the book by tomorrow.”

    “You got it, Tilly.” Beamer shuffled past his boss, grabbed his briefcase, and left.

    The bus was late. Beamer hated when the bus was late. He was beginning to wonder if he should just swallow his pride and buy a car. He swore he didn’t need one in the city, but it was times like these it would have been nice to pull out of a parking spot and already be half-way home. He sat down at the bus stop and played with the click on his pen.

    A half-block down, he made eye contact with a child, who was turning into an alley. The boy looked the other direction, looked back to Beamer, and disappeared behind the walls of the building. Beamer stood up, not because the boy was walking down the alley, nor for the eye-contact the two made, but the child was Beamer at 11 years old. He recognized the auburn hair, the blue eyes, the freckles, the scar on his knee. He noticed the yellow and red striped t-shirt, the shorts with the rolled hem, the Chucks, the way the child walked with a limp. He noticed the ears that were too big and the eyes that needed glasses but he was too afraid of what the other kids would say so he swallowed it and barely passed high school because of it.

    He was propelled forward, almost running toward the alley. He could hear the air brakes on the bus, but they sounded miles upon miles away.

    He passed the Laundromat’s windows, the cycling dryers and sudsing washing machines, he passed the little Indian food restaurant, the smell of curry colliding with his face. And then he turned the corner.

    The boy wasn’t there. In fact, the alley wasn’t really there either. There was a small recess between the buildings, and a door at the end, which probably led to the kitchen of the Mexican restaurant on the other street.

    He pushed his eyebrows together, the scar on his knee throbbing, and tried to catch his breath. Just as he turned to go back and wait for the next bus, the letter on the ground danced in the alley-breeze. Slowly, partially out of fear, partially out of curiosity, he walked to it, bent over, and picked it up.

    He looked around for windows. None.

    Of course, he should be used to disappearing people by now. But, this was him. On the front of the envelope was his name, written as he wrote it thirty years ago.

    He put down his briefcase, put the book of dreams on top of it, and opened the envelope.

    He was expecting the code. Everything written since the Blackout is scrambled. But this was clear, crisp, legible.

    Francis, your mother didn’t die in a car accident when you were eight. I’d say ask your father, but he won’t tell you the truth. Just like you, he doesn’t want to remember her that way.

    Beamer dropped to his knees and closed his eyes. When he reopened them, the alarm on the side of his table read 3:18 a.m. He rubbed his eyes, swung his legs out from under the sheets, opened and closed the door of the bedroom as quietly as he could, and checked to make sure he brought the book of dreams home. There was an answer in there somewhere.

    Tucked into an interior pocket was the folder and the printout. He closed it, went back to bed, and kissed his wife on the cheek.

    -JR Simmang

  72. Najah says:

    “Got Ya!”
    A cold chill ran through me. My gut felt as if it was going to fall out. Why oh why, did my curiosity always get the best of me.
    Sweating, desperately I searched for the little boy. He was no where to be seen.
    Suddenly a cold wind blew down the alley and I stood face to face with the little monster.
    “Gimme all your candy or prepare to meet your maker” said the fiendish little one.
    “Why you little brat..”

  73. snuzcook says:

    Believing

    On my way to the bus that morning I passed the dead-end alley between the laundromat and the bar as I always did, eyes forward avoiding the temptation to stare into the smelly darkness. But when a boy about eight, wearing a too-small hoody with a hole in one elbow, walked purposefully into the alley’s twilight, he got my attention. He could be just looking for a place to pee, I told myself, but he could also be putting himself in danger.

    After a few minutes, I decided I could always catch a later bus. I retraced my steps up the sidewalk and peered into the alley.

    I should have been able to see him, but there was no boy-sized silhouette, no movement.

    “Hello?” A faint scrabbling sound came from behind a pile of black Hefty bags. “Hey, kid.” I entered the alley, one reluctant step at a time, ready at any moment for someone to object to my intrusion. “Kid?”

    The scrabbling sound resolved itself when a huge orange cat stalked away. As my eyes became accustomed to the shadows, I noticed a square of neatly folded paper on the ground. I read the childish scrawl:

    “Mom,
    I am at Miz Carmens house. She said I have to say there cause you’re not coming back, and if I don’t those men will take me away. But I told her you are too. I don’t like it there. Please come soon.
    Charlie”

    Touching. The alley was probably the last place he saw his mom, and this was like a letter to Santa Claus that might magically reach its destination. Most likely the note would just end up stuck to the wheel of a garbage truck.

    “Hey! Put that back!”

    The kid had been watching from some invisible niche and came exploding toward me. “That’s mine. Give it back!”

    “Hey, take it easy.” He started wind-milling blows with his little fists against my thick jacket. “Here, take it. Sorry!”

    He snatched it from my hand and pelted out of the alley into the daylight. When I got to the sidewalk, I saw him at the corner. An dark SUV had pulled up to the curb, and someone was talking to him. He took a step back but an arm snatched him into the vehicle and the car sped away.

    No one on the busy street seemed to have noticed the vacancy left by the small ragged boy.

    I realized suddenly that he and I had something in common. We both believed in the existence of someone who belonged to the shadow world of the missing persons.

  74. Jim L says:

    Fearing he may be lost or worse about to embark on some abusive and immoral act with a disgusting sub-human predator I stepped warily into the alley.

    I wasn’t going to get involved I kept telling myself, just a quick glimpse to let the “good guy” in my head know I did the right thing. But what I found was definitely not what I expected. The alley was empty.

    Garbage cans lined both sides their stench of rot strong because they had recently been emptied, a door half way down the alley had a screen door and the sound of pots and pans clanking and male foreign voices spilled out into the alley.

    The tingle arrived. The hair on my arms was at full alert, they were telling me to turn and flee, run. Run Jim. Run now. The pretty world you spend all day in where there is no evil and the only horror is the coffee has grown cold misses you and wants you back. This is something for the professionals to handle.

    My legs ignored my mind, they took slow cautious steps forward, maybe we was just peeing behind some garbage cans. Maybe it was all just my imagination. A couple of more steps. Shouldn’t there be a sound? The crunch of my steps a sound of life from somewhere, an alley cat? Anything but the voices and clanking of dishes getting washed.

    My brain finally found the correct path and pulled the stop lever on my legs, turning I saw the street was still reachable if I sprinted or screamed. I also saw “it”. It didn’t belong in the alley just like I didn’t belong. It was crisp, white and neatly folded and was at my feet.

    A slice of white paper that hadn’t been corrupted by the filth and goop that filled the alley. I would love to describe how I reached down and picked it up or tell you about its feel, but my mind had grown numb with fear and all I remember was looking at a piece of paper with nothing on it but a row of numbers.

    3 – 23 1 – 14 1 – 7,8 4 – 24 23.37 8595556745

    It made no sense. It was gibberish, a crazy homeless persons rankings about the alignment of the stars and his social security number. I had completely forgotten my surroundings until the gun went off and my bladder released.

    The next 30 seconds seemed like an hour, the gunshot was followed by one of the male foreign voices yelling at me to go to a bathroom and stop making mess in his alley. The owner of the voice was small in stature elderly, wearing the garb of a kitchen helper and he crossed the alley and was at my side before I could sense the danger. He snapped the note from my hands, looked me up and down and said, “You disgusting, this why city so dirty.” And he pointed to my now soaked khakis.

    Turning with a dismissive gesture he yelled to his counterpart that he had the note and to let lil Bobby know his mothers carry out order would be ready soon. When he entered back into his domain the screen door fired off another shot.

  75. Jim L says:

    Fearing he may be lost or worse about to embark on some abusive and immoral act with a disgusting sub-human predator I stepped warily into the alley.

    I wasn’t going to get involved I kept telling myself, just a quick glimpse to let the “good guy” in my head know I did the right thing. But what I found was definitely not what I expected. The alley was empty.

    Garbage cans lined both sides their stench of rot strong because they had recently been emptied, a door half way down the alley had a screen door and the sound of pots and pans clanking and male foreign voices spilled out into the alley.

    The tingle arrived. The hair on my arms was at full alert, they were telling me to turn and flee, run. Run Jim. Run now. The pretty world you spend all day in where there is no evil and the only horror is the coffee has grown cold misses you and wants you back. This is something for the professionals to handle.

    My legs ignored my mind, they took slow cautious steps forward, maybe we was just peeing behind some garbage cans. Maybe it was all just my imagination. A couple of more steps. Shouldn’t there be a sound? The crunch of my steps a sound of life from somewhere, an alley cat? Anything but the voices and clanking of dishes getting washed.

    My brain finally found the correct path and pulled the stop lever on my legs, turning I saw the street was still reachable if I sprinted or screamed. I also saw “it”. It didn’t belong in the alley just like I didn’t belong. It was crisp, white and neatly folded and was at my feet.

    A simple piece of white paper that hadn’t been corrupted by the filth and goop that filled the alley. I would love to describe how I reached down and picked it up or tell you about its feel, but my mind had grown numb with fear and all I remember was looking at a piece of paper with nothing on it but a row of numbers.

    3 – 23 1 – 14 1 – 7,8 4 – 24 23.37 8595556745

    It made no sense. It was gibberish, a crazy homeless persons rankings about the alignment of the stars and his social security number. I had completely forgotten my surroundings until the gun went off and my bladder released.

    The next 30 seconds seemed like an hour, the gunshot was followed by one of the male foreign voices yelling at me to go to a bathroom and stop making mess in his alley. The owner of the voice was small in stature elderly, wearing the garb of a kitchen helper and he crossed the alley and was at my side before I could sense the danger. He snapped the note from my hands, looked me up and down and said, “You disgusting, this why city so dirty.” And he pointed to my now soaked khakis.

    Turning with a dismissive gesture he yelled to his counterpart that he had the note and to let lil Bobby know his mothers carry out order would be ready soon. When he entered back into his domain the screen door fired off another shot.

  76. swatchcat says:

    This sounds good for a start up of a sci-fi style story. Did you try reading it aloud a few times? Once it is cleaned up it should do well to move on to what happens to your MC. Nice.

  77. itmitali says:

    Although I do not usually enjoy science fiction, I was well intrigued in your story. I really liked your description elements such as “right out of a science fiction movie” or “so bright my eyes refused to adjust”.

  78. Dani says:

    “What the hell?” I muttered as I turned into the alley after the strange boy only to find he had disappeared. It was a dead end alley with no doors into the surrounding buildings and no fire escapes to climb. There was only one place he could be hiding, so I checked behind and even inside the dumpster, to no avail. The boy had literally disappeared.

    I started out of the alley shaking my head. Why had I even followed him in the first place? There had been no logic to it, I had just felt drawn to follow him. Even now the feeling was fading, but a new compulsion was creeping up in its place. I needed to look at the ground – what did the boy climb into the sewer? – and I saw it right away.

    In this grimy alley a pristine piece of paper was laid on the ground. How I had walked by it before I had no idea. Now that I was looking at it there was no possible way I couldn’t have seen it. I was starting get a little creeped out by this whole thing, but the need to pick up the note and see what it said easily overrode the hairs standing up on the back of my neck.
    I bent over and gingerly picked up the note, and as I started to unfold it I began to feel lightheaded. I shook it off, dismissing it as symptom of my pregnancy, and opened the note fully.

    Dearest Sara—- Okay this is really weird now. First all these compulsions and now a random note addressed to me? I had to keep reading.

    Dearest Sara,
    We have been waiting a long time for you to come back to us. You do not remember us but we remember you very well. It is time to come home Sara.

    I was really struggling to focus now, my lightheadedness had gotten worse. I looked down at the paper and tried to continue reading but my eyes refused to focus. The last thing I remember before passing out was feeling like I was trapped in a wind tunnel with a bright light surrounding me.

    I came around slowly, surrounded by darkness. I had the worst headache I’d ever experienced in my life, and all that clicking wasn’t helping any. I kept my eyes closed and tried to figure out where I was because by the smell of it, I definitely wasn’t in the alley anymore. I was on a bed of some sort, it actually felt like a leather car seat, and it was very comfortable. So at least if I’d been kidnapped I had been brought somewhere nice. The light was bright wherever I was and that clicking – actually, the clicking, as I actually listened to it, was starting to sound like words.

    “Click click can’t click have to wait click click click regains consciousness”

    “Certainly can’t click click in this form click scare click.”

    “Yes well let’s take click a form she’s comfortable with”

    What the heck were these people talking about? From the sounds of it, it was a man and a woman. I tried to open my eyes and look to where the voices had come from but the room was so bright my eyes refused to adjust. When they finally did, I wished they hadn’t. To my left I saw something straight out of a science fiction movie. Two creatures seemed at the halfway point of transformation between being human and being some sort of alien creatures. At my gasp they both turned to look at me and the one that was turning into a female spoke.
    “Welcome home Sara.”
    I felt myself slip into blackness once again.

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