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    The Never-Ending Dream

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

    At an old bookstore, you find a book that helps you interpret your dreams. But something is strange about it. You fall asleep reading the book, and find yourself in a dream that you cannot wake up from. What is it? And how will you snap back to reality?

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    623 Responses to The Never-Ending Dream

    1. mle160 says:

      I imagine what it would be like to live in between – but I know it is the same feeling I experience now, the motionless sensation of complete surrender.
      I force myself to believe that I am spinning, that the empty space that surrounds me is only an entity that I have dreamt.
      It envelopes me, hugs the curves of my body, wraps it’s cold fingers around my throat and I choke – the water runs down my face in droplets – I can’t breathe.
      Why can’t I breathe?
      The water drowns me, keeps me from seeing what I hope is a façade, but my lungs are clear now. The air circulates through my body and I’m weightless – I’m floating and sinking in the same cyclic pattern.
      A whisper tells me that this will only be a dream.
      But I know this is real.
      With every lungful of air, the truth pulses fire into my veins, and the bones that have constructed my body feel like lead. I wonder if ligaments do more than create us – if they limit our capabilities – if in the end we are all cages of our own sweet insanity.
      I’m wrong again, and I stare blankly at what keeps me alive. The orbs that see a young girl trapped in between.
      He is so strong.
      He is too strong.
      I feel myself slipping and he pulls me closer – his body is shaking – I realize mine is too. His grip becomes stronger because he refuses to remiss, even though he knows it is the best for the both of us.
      We are wind chimes, I tell myself; for just a moment we are infinite.
      The air suffocates me, and I understand that I am weak – the cyclic pattern begins again and I sink lower and we swing forwards and then back. He’s straining – I can see it.
      In a void, time is immeasurable – the breaths hold me together and all the pain keeps me from believing I am dreaming – I don’t know how long our bodies have been separated, but I understand that all of the strength in the world could never fix this.
      A love could never be that strong –and so I wonder who will make the decision to let go.
      I promise myself not to remember.
      I promise myself to remain in between.

      All Rights Reserved

    2. VeronicaRWinters says:

      Autumn leaves crunched under my feet as I entered an old bookstore. A bell on the door announced my arrival. The scent of old books and a couple of gray cats greeted me before the wizened shopkeeper did. He directed me to a miscellaneous section of used books. In perusing the selection, I was able to find what I had been looking for: A Guide to Interpret Dreams. The book was an old, brown hardcover with black embossed lettering on the spine and yellowed pages. I paid for my purchase and gave a farewell pat to the cats before I left.
      When I got home, I changed into my pajamas and sat down in my favorite reading chair. I held the book in my hands, studying the cover. I had been having a reoccurring dream as of late, where I am alone on a dark night. The only thing I could remember about the place was a courtyard with a stone fountain. As I opened the book, I wondered if it would provide me with answers. After reading a few pages about symbolism, I began to feel drowsy . . .

      I find myself in the dark of night, in the courtyard of my dream, wearing only a white gown. I suddenly sense that I am no longer alone. I am frightened because I know a man is looking for me and what he wants from me. His seductive lure beckons me. I cannot escape him. Out of the darkness, he emerges. His pale skin is a sharp contrast to his midnight black hair and cloak. He takes a step towards me. I back away into a hard stone surface. I look behind me to discover it is the fountain. I look into the water and I suddenly see myself asleep in my home with the dream book.
      It’s only a dream! I tell myself.
      I attempt to open my eyes, but they feel as though they are glued shut! I look back at my pursuer who is closing in faster than humanly possible. Was he not just ten feet away? He is right in front of me! I will not run. That will only entice the hunter in him. Besides, I have nowhere to go. He will catch me before I can take one step. If flight is out of the question, the other option is to confront him.
      “Why are you keeping me here?!” I demand.
      He smiles and I can see the hint of a fang glinting in the moonlight.
      I attempt to open my eyes again, but I cannot. No, there’s another way.
      He reaches out to touch me. I tumble backwards into the fountain.

      I woke up in my chair, with the dream book in my hands. I went to the bathroom to splash water on my face. As I stood in front of the mirror, I discovered two small puncture wounds on my neck!

      • VeronicaRWinters says:

        Unfortunately, I lost some of my formatting when I copied and pasted, so please excuse some of the errors caused by that, like the book title and the thought not being italicized.

    3. Red Dress, White Suit

      The old wood floor creaked at the slight shift of pressure from Ryann’s left foot to her right. Worn oil coated fingertips grazed the bindings of several novels before dropping to her side. Disappointed that not one title jumped out at her, Ryann told herself to leave her favorite small town bookstore before she stayed past the closing time again.

      She was three steps from the exit when the book caught her eye. It was small enough, less than 150 pages and only slightly larger than her phone. The titled was scrawled across the binding in a font she couldn’t place and could hardly read despite her own sloppy writing. She didn’t remember picking up the book. She didn’t remember tossing her last twenty on the desk while chatting up the cashier. She couldn’t even remember driving home. All she could remember was the small book that caught her attention.

      She soon found herself curled up in her brother’s blanket with a cup of tea in one hand and the book in the other. Soft snorts of held back laughter occasionally escaped her as she read. Ryann had never been one for deciphering her bizarre dreams.

      Her tea was placed on the table as she yawned. The page number blurred as another yawn came over her as she snuggled deeper into the warm blanket. Across the room, her old clock struck midnight, her candle burned low, and a picture watched the book fall from weak fingers to the floor.

      The air was an indescribable cold that she had only felt one other time. Snow crunched under her bare feet. A blood red dress clung to every curve she had. Long tendrils of light hair fell into her face in the cold winter night.

      A familiar song filled the air. She placed the song as soon as she saw the truck. The tears on her cheeks sent warmth through her whole body as details hit her. The old truck door creaked open. A young man with a suit the color of the snow emerged. Those eyes, his short dark hair, it was him.

      He was in front of her the next time she blinked. That devilish smirk she missed warmed her frozen heart. Her brother caught her in his warm arms even before she fell. He remained silent as he picked her up and carried her to the truck. She soon found herself safely in the arms of her brother watching the night sky in the back of his old truck.

      “Before you go, look at the sky,” he murmured. She looked up and saw the lights. He looked down at her and said the words she didn’t want to hear. “You have to go back.”

      “Tommy.”

      “You have to let me go.” A tear blazed a trail down her cheek as blood trickled out of his temple. “Let go.”

      She woke with a start. Tears in her eyes, she looked to the picture. She felt alive again.

    4. Svapnaavasthaa,

      Hope you liked the idea for a writing prompt, is was strictly FYA. It had me in stitches while I was writing it.

      If it had been a real writing prompt, I would have (in a nutshell) first told the 911 operator (on my cellphone), “I know your not going to believe me, but…” Then I would have grabbed a loaf of garlic bread and fought them off while trying to unlock the trap under the counter.

      • Svapne says:

        It was a pretty fun idea- I honestly would never have thought of garlic bread, but now that you’ve enlightened me, I can’t picture it ending any other way!

        Ooo, and in the unlikely case that you have some holy water, you can ask them if they want a glass of water with their crust of bed as you garlic bread them to death! Corny victory lines are the best!

        • Of course, holy water… how could I forget! Maybe I had stopped at a church along the way. Yes, corny lines are best for simple comedies. I messed up on the reply, I used ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’. Rats!

    5. frankd1100 says:

      “You’re here,” he said.

      “No, I’m not,” she said.

      “But I’m holding you in my arms, your body melding with mine, like in the beginning.”

      “Sorry, Ren, my days of melding are over, at least with you.”

      “Molly, your tone is harsh like it was at the end.”

      “We are beyond the end,” she said. “That hasn’t changed.”

      “It was hard losing you,” he said, “and harder getting over losing you. Why are you doing this to me?”

      “I’m not there, Ren. I’m certainly not doing anything to you.”

      “Am I dreaming? Is that what you’re suggesting?”

      “No. I’m not suggesting. But if you think I’m there, maybe you are dreaming.”

      “It doesn’t feel like a dream,” he said.

      “That’s your problem. Figure it out. Get over it.”

      “It’s that book,” he said to himself.

      “What book?”

      “A dream book. I picked it up in the little shop in Harvard Square. The one we used to visit on Sundays after Mass.”

      She was quiet then.

      “You’re right,” he said. “This is a dream. We split months ago and nothing has changed.”

      He looked up and down and all around at shadows and spaces and little hints of thoughts and dreams he had considered over time. Too many had Molly’s scent on them.

      “OK, Molly.” He paused, considering his words. “OK, get out of my head and don’t come back.”

      “Ren, you sound angry. Let’s not go away angry.”

      His eyes opened. He sat up on the edge of the bed holding his head in his hands. She occupied so much of his heart, being without her in the conscious world was painful.

      Molly would be cruel the next time, as always, but at least he could be near her, feel her presence, and become angry enough to survive a little longer without her.

      **********************

      Showered and dressed by 6:45, he grabbed his briefcase from the kitchen table and headed out. As he opened the front door a white envelope fell from the jam and landed on the bluestone walkway.

      The envelope read simply, “Ren.” He waited until he was in the car before opening Molly’s note. He’d been anticipating this day and his heart pounded as he read.

      Dear Ren,

      I wanted to tell you in person but I just couldn’t, so this is the next best thing. At least you’re hearing it from me.

      I met someone and we’re getting married in Bermuda next month. Billy, my fiance, says June in Bermuda is nice. He owns his own company and travels a lot, so I guess I will be seeing the world like we used to phantasize about.

      He’s a good guy, Ren. Be happy for me.

      Hope you’re well,

      Molly

      He slowed crossing the bridge and tossed the balled up note through the passenger side window into the water below. He kept the envelope which he would pull out and study from time to time. Strangely, he never dreamed of her again.

    6. charlynchu says:

      I had always seen it but never had a chance to enter it. The bookstore had always been at the corner of Reddang street. Its dust-covered windows cast a misty glow to the outside world. If it was any normal day, I would usually rush past it without a second glance, but today something within pulled me to it, like a fish hooked at the end of the fishing line.

      As the door closed behind me, a cloud of dust poofed and slowly covered me all over. Instantly, I sneezed. This place was really dusty. I started to manoevere around labyrinth of booksheleves. Some of the aisles were so narrow I gave up trying to squeeze through. Surrounding by books was my greatest nightmare. My poor results in school were a testament to that fact. As I rounded the corner, a book caught my eye. Its blood-red cover framed the folk art drawing of a lady with long golden hair lying on the green ground. She was staring up heavens that changed from a cloudy blue sky to a silver starry midnight. “Reaching your dreams” was written in black courier ink at the top of the cover. Before I knew it, I was at the counter paying for the book and then heading out of the shop. “Goodbye and may all your dreams come true!” was the last I heard of the old cashier lady with a bandana wrapping her head, beaming her toothless smile.

      I kicked off my shoes and huddled on my reading corner. I hugged my pastel blue cushion and sat comfortably on the blue leather sofa. I felt like I was in a trance, desperate to start reading the book. The pages flew past in a blur, and the words started to sway in the dimming light.

      “Christine, you need to be standing here.” A pale young lady ushered my to the front of the row. Her onyx hair reflected the candlelights that floated in the air above. The people behind me all had that same similarity – pale white skin with dark or onyx hair. They looked so beautiful, yet alien. “We need to get rid of the other clan. Only one of us can live here!” The leader shouted. His raised fist drew loud shots of approval and enthusiasm. “This group will go there and annihilate them!” His hand swept over the front row’s heads. I smiled as we got ready for the onslaught attack.

      We ran in the black darkness and reached the other village, like an experienced and trained army. As expected, the other clan was hidden in one hut. Their shadows flitted through the slits of the wooden hut. With a signal, we all rushed in, baring our fangs and sharp claws. But the group inside was prepared; they came at us with their yellow beaded eyes and wolf-like teeth. The shrieks and growls were deafening. Surprised villagers clad in their nightwear ran out of their huts. Some became unexpected casualties as claws and fangs lashed through the air.

      My claws were swinging in the air at one young werewolf. He had tripped on the ground and was lying with one of his hands trying to cover his face. I smiled as I flung my claw at his chest. But just before I could slashed across his chest and feel the satisfying warm liquid on my fingertips, I was pushed sideways to the ground. A sharp pain laced across my shoulder as the young werewolf disappeared from my view. In an instant, the pressure on my shoulder disappeared, but the crippling pain started creeping across my body.

      Chaos still surrounded me, but I could feel or hear nothing except for that excruciating pain. I hurried towards the edge of the nearby forest and buried myself in the thick vegetation. I fell down on the ground on top of rotting brown leaves, screaming in pain. The pain seemed to last forever, but in an instance it disappeared. In relief, I gave a sigh, which came out as a howl. I got up, knowing that I could not return back to my coven. I was now an outcast – a hybrid of vampire and werewolf. If anyone knew of this, both the coven and clan would hunt me down for my demise.

      I started to swim towards the sky, knowing that somehow I was able to fly. But the height depended on my strength to propel myself up in the sky. Soon the tops of trees were at the same level as my body, and the village huts seemed like small triangles. But at a distance, I could see the whole coven rushing out from our nest. They were heading towards where I was at! At the other end of the nearby village, the clan of werewolves who had heard my howl also ran out at me. I quickly swam higher and further into the forest, knowing that both coven and clan were able to climb and jump but they could not fly.

      The castles were coming to me, and I swam harder and harder, until I could reach one of the pointing sphires. My body ached from the effort, and my breath came out in pants. I was much higher than anyone ever tried to be. But the vampires and werewolves were all coming closer to me. They reached the bottom of the castle and started to climb. They pushed each other off the walls and the lower sphires. I knew this meant that their hatred for each other was still there. But their eyes had the same determined gaze – they wanted me dead. Even though I was tired, I started swimming again, heading towards the moon. I heard the approaching shrieks and growls. They were starting to jump and climb even higher to get me! I kicked at the air hard, and felt the hardness. My eyes fluttered open for a second, and I saw the orange light that lit my reading room.

      This was just a dream! I had to wake up to get away from this nightmare. I tried to open my eyes bigger as my head screamed loudly “WAKE UP!” Just then, I heard a clear voice from below of me. “Why do you want to wake up? Aren’t you realizing your dream? You’ll never be able to escape from here!” And she started laughing maniacally.

      I swam harder towards the white full moon. It seemed to be running away from me. “Please… please let me get out of this nightmare!” I whispered desperately. At that moment, I started falling from the sky. I swam even harder and faster, but it was useless. It did not slow down my freefall, and now I was even closer to the vampires and werewolves. I knew what would happen if I landed in their hands; they would tear me apart. Instead of letting my death be so painful and out of my control, I pushed myself over to the highest sphire and flipped to my back. I knew that the sharp tip would spear through my body and sliced it into pieces. It was going to be fast and painless. I closed my eyes as a very sharp pain shot through my back.

      I screamed, and fell out of my sofa chair. I started gasping fearfully, as the throbbing pain in my back slowly subsided. I turned to lie on my back and stared at the white ceiling of my reading room. It was all just a dream! Beads of perspiration flowed down my face as I pushed myself up. The book had fallen on its side. I picked it up and read that particular page. I felt nauseous immediately. It was just like a sick joke. The title read “1. All dreams come true.” I threw the book at the wall.

      • Good story. Seems like a lot of the old Hammer Horror movies put together minus the ‘Phantom of Opera’ starring Howard Loe. I have to say that when I read the second paragraph I had to LOL because I at first thought it said, “with a banana wrapping her head.” Then it said, “beaming her toothless smile” and that made me think of Weird Al Yankovic’s song, “Toothless People.”

    7. Here is another idea for a writing prompt:

      You’re sitting at the counter of a strange café and you can feel that your knee is stuck to something under the counter. You try to push yourself away from the counter but your other knee gets stuck. Then you notice the other ‘customers’ are looking hungrily at you and you realize they are vampires. What do you say to the 911 operator? What do you do next?

    8. I posted the last one before separating the paragraphs. It’s been a few years since I wrote my last book and I am just getting back into serious writing again. Thanks for the tips!

    9. Wandering around the aisles of an old bookstore was old Mr. Johanson and one book title caught his eye, because it was called, “Clown Scripts.” He said aloud, “What in the heck are Clown Scripts?” Then he opened the dusty book from the 1930′s. It revealed to him that clown scripts were the comical sketches that clowns performed in the circus. He read the first one and laughed out loud.
      Going down the Self-Help aisle, he found an old dream interpretation book and sat down at a lunch table with a cup of hot coffee to read it. Old Roman and Egyptian dream stories lulled him into a deep sleep from which he could not wake.
      Once again he was Timmy, a boy of ten and sitting with his best friend under a big red and white striped circus tent with the crowd in the bleachers. In the center ring was a clown sitting in the middle of a candy store and a big phone sat on a table. “Ring, ring” went the phone, so the clown picked it up. “Hello, Candy Store. Wow, we have a bad connection… call back in a minute.” He looked at the audience and said, “You sir look tall and strong, come up here and help me out.” A tall man rose from the audience and the clown said, “Pick up this telephone line and hold it up over your head.” The man did so, then the phone rang again so the clown answered it. “Hello, Candy Store. I can almost hear you, call back again.” The clown looked at the audience and said, “Ma’am, come up here and help me out. “ A young lady walked up and the clown said, “Stand next to this man and hold the line up over your head.” She did so and the phone rang again. The clown picked it up and said, “Hello, Candy store. I can just about hear you… call back one more time. “The clown looked at the audience and said, “I need someone short. Hey kiddo, come on up here and help us out.” A little kid got up on the stage and the clown said, “Pick up the line and hold it up like the two grown ups.” The kid held the line up over his head and the phone rang. The clown said, “Hello, Candy Store… I can here you clear as a bell now. Lollipops? No, I don’t have any lollipops. But I’ve got three SUCKERS on the line!” The entire audience burst out laughing.
      A woman holding a tray of small cups said to Timmy, “Sir, would you like a mocha sample?” Then old Mr. Johanson woke with a start and saw a lady holding a tray of mocha samples in small plastic cups. “Yes,” he said with a smile, “if only time stood still.”

    10. Leinyjp says:

      A very strange dream

      Hi, I’m looking for a book on dreams, I said to the librarian. I had the craziest dream last night. I dreamed I was in hotel room. It seemed that every member of my family was there. But then something strange happened all the lights went off. I could hear thunder, rain and very strong roaring winds but everything was still dark. When the lights came back on I was alone in a flooded hotel room. I saw a floating device and use it to get out of the room. When I make it to the hallway I see a little boy floating in another floating device. When he saw me he started crying and screaming mom help me, I’m scared mom please help me. I felt my heart beating so hard I thought it was going to pop out of my chest. Without thinking I jumped in the water and swam towards my son. When I got to him he looked so scared. I asked him what happened, where’s dad? But he couldn’t answer me. All he could say was to help him, to get him out of there. So I started pushing the floater to an exit but before I knew it I was already outside with my husband a young girl and a man. We all got in a car and drove to town. There was chaos everywhere I looked, burning buildings, tires, houses. There where people fighting on the streets. I was terrified. As we approach a town the man says we need to get gas. As I’m looking out the window I see a sign that says free gas. My husband and the man stopped to ask. They told us to stay in the car and drive into a garage that had big blue doors and once inside they would give us our gas. I really didn’t like the idea but before I could say anything we were inside. Once the blue doors close someone pulled the girl out, I immediately got out of the car and ran towards the exit. I kept yelling get out, what are you doing get out. I open the big blue door and found the girl that was pulled out of the car hanging on a brick wall from big nails pierced in her shoulders. I pulled them out and she fell on the floor. At that moment the men came back with the car we all got on and I woke up. It was such an intense dream that I came to find out its meaning. The librarian was silent. She just points up and there it was a book on dreams all the way in the top shelf. I tried to climb but the more I climb the farther away the book was. When I finally reach the top a pair of hands grabbed my hands and threw me down. As I lie on the floor and open my eyes and realize I was still home.

    11. Perhaps this week’s writing prompt could be coming up with our own writing prompts? :P

      I’m in my lab right now, so my current inspiration is lacking for a really good prompt (seriously- the cinder block walls aren’t even painted in this dungeon of a workplace). The best I’ve got (because of the silvered bottle and ruby colored volumetric flasks on my desk) is:

      “You walk down the street, and suddenly stop next to a curiosity shop, transfixed by some odd glass bauble(s) in the window. You simply must have them, so you go in to purchase them. What are they? What happens next?”

      Lame, I know… but like I said, this lab is where dreams go to die.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        That’s funny, Svapnaavasthaa! Speaking of chem labs, we’ve been building about ten of them at OLLU. [Our Lady Of The Lake University.] Since Title One collapsed, we’re not planning any more. Don’t ask me about chemistry but I will talk about fume hoods and acid resistant piping.

        But never let your dream die, no matter where you are. Dreams are the fuel to keep us moving through life.

        How about we turn the baubles into an ancient glass bottle? We can start our own prompt and attach to this one.

        • The scariest part of fume hoods is that some people don’t know there are different types. Scary because if you have the wrong one and work on, oh, say, AIDS, it’ll blow back in your face. I hope you didn’t have to deal with any perchloric acid nightmares- I’ve seen pictures of the damage that stuff causes.

          Baubles, bottles… sure! There have been bigger liberties taken with prompts before. :)

      • jhowe says:

        That’s actually a pretty good prompt.

        The unpainted cinder block walls in your lab seem to have a negative effect on your job satisfaction. I hope they pay you well.

        • Oh, I’m glad you like it! I thought it had lots of pretty diverse places to go, which I thought worked really well for the diverse genres of writers we seem to have here.

          My job has a negative impact on my job satisfaction. Working toward a PhD is not fun when you don’t like research. But I’ve got my teaching and my writing to see me through. :) (The stipend is plenty to live comfortably around here- but it’s quite the substantial pay when you factor in the $30,000 per year education I get with it.)

      • MCKEVIN says:

        October 3, 2013

        Dear Svapnaavasthaa!, Kerry and Jhowe:

        I’ve found the most unusual little gift shop near Garfield Park in Chicago. The owner had hair the color of fire, skin the color of milk and eyes the color of water. Get this, she made me sign a “Confidentiality Agreement” to gain entry into the store. Strange I know, but I was curious and signed. The Sandalwood incense wafted in the air was so strong it could gag a maggot and there were bottles and baubles of every size, shape and color. The iridescence ones were capped and sealed to insure the contents wouldn’t escape. I think the stuff in these bottles is…. OMG! She’s coming. I’ll text you later. MCKEVIN Send.

        • MCKEVIN says:

          Change “Dear Svapnaavasthaa!, Kerry and Jhowe” to “Dear Forum:” everyone should be in on this….

        • Oh no, did the contract have any fine print!?

          (It may be the career path talking, but “the color of water” is a little ambiguous when you’ve seen some of our test samples. :) )

        • agnesjack says:

          McKevin, are you there? McKevin? Oh dear. Poor McKevin.

        • jhowe says:

          I have no idea where this response is going to end up. But I want MCKEVIN to know that despite his advice I often confused sex and love, at least I used to. If nothing else it got me more sex. Oh, and thanks for the compliment on my story.

          Kerry, your lab assistants started fading and vaporizing all over the place. Dang. Was Bridgete the young Bridgete, you know, with the bikini and all, or was she the older Bridgete, you know, the one that was okay but not quite as Bridgety as she used to be?

          Svapne, good luck at the seminar. We will hold the fort while you’re gone. Don’t lose your head and start talking about demons or anthing.

          I wonder if we will have a new prompt next week. Has this happened before when a week is skipped? I hope they don’t mind that we turned this forum into our personal playground while we waited.

          Agnesjack, good luck with the cats. I’m sure they’re cute and crafty. Someone asked me who N is. Can I tell them or is that between you and me?

          Observer Tim, You haven’t told me how you fill the bubbles yet?

          DMelde, the man responsible for introducing the cats. Keep up the good work.

          BezBawni, you’re responsible fro keeping order in here. Good luck

          Jhowe, wait, I’m Jhowe, nevermind.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            Bridgette in her glory when she made her first film, “And God Created Woman”. Same with the others. Lucky me!

          • MCKEVIN says:

            jhowe, are you aware it’s snowing the Dakotas as we speak? Seriously! Google the Dakotas weather today and you’ll see it’s snowing cats and dogs. Xmas will probably come early. That Shaft guy, do you have his number? What’s with all these name changes?
            Corrections: The “Catassins” belongs to DMelde friend Bob Civets. His parents are half cat and half human. Just between you and me, DMelde might want to open up her circle of friends. KC is not on crack but she is on jumper cables. I last heard OT using his weapon of choice, farting in the halls outside the door of the room I’m in. An old lady who brought my friends house owned a cane similar to the one he described. She tried to kill my friend with it.I do hope OT okay. Please share N with the forum. They need to know.

            • jhowe says:

              There’s a new prompt up now. This one has been fun. Time to put on our writer’s cap and come up with something about a disappearing child in an alley. Dang.

      • agnesjack says:

        Good idea, Svapnaavasthaa. Here’s mine:
        ________________________

        The colors draw you to the shop. They are nothing like anything you’ve ever seen — transparent gold, translucent green and iridescent lavender. You enter and are immediately overwhelmed by a musty, moldy smell. There is dust everywhere.

        Suddenly, there is a presence directly behind you. You turn and see a very small, withered man with cracked glasses staring up at you.

        “Why are you here?” he rasps.

        “Oh. I’m sorry. I, uh, just wanted to see the glass baubles in your window.”

        “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he snaps.

        “In your window,” you say moving to the front window. “Right here,” you say, pointing.

        “There’s nothing there,” he says, and you look at where your hand is pointing and the glass is not there. In fact, the window contains nothing but dust.

        “Now, get out,” he says.

        “Oh. I’m sorry …”

        “GET OUT!” he shouts, and you run out the door.

        You turn to walk down the street but something catches your eye. The baubles are back in the window. Why that little twerp, you think. You move to the window and try to peer in, but all you can see is shadows. From close up, the baubles seem to be changing color constantly, as if they are alive.

        You decide to sneak back in and see if you can see them from the inside. You quietly open the door a crack and slip through. Just as you are about to get close to the window, you hear a sound behind you. You turn. The little man is there with a rifle this time.

        “I told you to get out,” he says menacingly.

        “I just want to buy your baubles,” you say, standing your ground. “This is a shop, isn’t it?”

        “Not for you, it isn’t,” he says, and cocks the rifle.

        “Why not?” you say, but don’t wait for an answer when his first shot misses you by inches.

        That night, at home, you can’t eat or sleep. You decide to go back to the shop in the dead of night, break the window and just steal the baubles. You’ve never done anything like this before, but you are driven by some strange obsession.

        At 2:00 a.m. you leave your apartment wearing all black. You grab a brick from the back of your apartment building. The street is deserted and the shop is dark. The baubles are still in the window, only now, they are moving around — rolling, floating, twirling. You lift the brick and throw it at the window. It bounces off. The baubles gather together and float to the window. You suddenly feel an enormous sense of well-being and calm. You lift the brick over your head with both hands and smash it into the window again. The window resists for a moment and then disintegrates. The baubles float out and hover around you. They are whispering in your ear, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” Then they float away into the sweet night air.

        • MCKEVIN says:

          Svapnaavasthaa, I’m locked in a secret room in the shop. Its dark, cold and filled with more baubles. They glow in the dark and appear to be communicating with each other. Wait! I think I hear agnesjack voice. Tell her to ‘GET OUT NOW!” and don’t touch the baubles! Hurry! Call the police because I don’t think I can fight them off that much longer. OH NO! My phone just lost a power bar-,,, Send.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            MCKEVIN, I’m sending a battery for your phone. It’s between the lines I’m writing here, Keep rubbing you name here until it pops from the computer screen. KC

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Agnes, that’s such a marvelous response to a prompt that also isn’t there. Prisoned baubles. Where are the bangles? Where are the beads? Kismet.
          Movie: Howard Keel, Ann Blyth and Vic Damone. Splendid!

        • MCKEVIN says:

          Kerry, I’m rubbing that spot like a newly bought sex toy, it’s not working but the friction is making me hot and bothered. Please contact the others at the forum and tell them to help me. Also, tell agnesjack (bless her heart) the lady with red hair, milky skin and soulless eyes don’t have any bubbles and the little man is shooting baubles with his rifle. Help me PLEASE! Where is jhowe’s ass when you need him? Send!

          • jhowe says:

            Dammit MCKEVIN, you made me laugh at my desk. People are looking my way. That’s right, I’m supposed to be working. So what.

            • Kerry Charlton says:

              Hi Guys,

              This is almost as funny as the Keystone Cops!

            • MCKEVIN says:

              “So what?” I need your help is what! Ignore those staring, they’re future fans of the envious kind. Please tell me your working on getting help or at least tell someone else. jhowe I assure this is no laughing matter!. MCKEVIN. SEND.

            • jhowe says:

              I apologize for taking your dilema lightly. I thought for a minute there that you were jesting but I see now that you need help. I’ll get back to you.

      • “Oh yes! Yes, yes yes!” the lithe demon cheered. “We have them now!” The fat demon sulked, not partial to dancing with his partner. This lack of enthusiasm drew the lithe demon’s attention. “And to think you wanted to chase around that girl… what an opportunity wasted!”

        “I wouldn’t have wanted to if that damn faerie would’ve kept to her own business. I’ve been ripening up that Tim kid for years,” he grumbled in response.

        “Your plans are stupid. Too many humans respond to chain letters for the bad luck to keep going.” He smiled and looked through his tele-window at the gawking faces. “But those idiots can’t resist a good shiny!”

        The fat demon pouted. “The hot redhead was my idea.”

        The lithe demon whalloped him upside the head. “Yeah, and look at the attention that got us. That stupid, fat angel came down and tried to scare away our business!”

        The fat demon sunk down into the chair-like collection of the blubber flubbing languidly from his sides and grumbled something incoherent as the lithe demon turned back to the tele-window.

        “Now shut up and watch! It’s about to get good!”

        • MCKEVIN says:

          Damn! This shop got it’s own cable channel….

        • jhowe says:

          I can dig it. Nice exchanges between the demons.

          • jhowe says:

            The best part of my job, the only part I like, is the traveling. When I’m on the road and the business at hand is taken care of I like to roam the streets of whatever city I’m in. It’s a good way to learn your way around, a good way to see things you may not see anywhere else.

            I sip latte from a foam cup and browse the storefronts on Main Street. Many of the buildings have graffitied plywood covering the windows. This particular city in southwest Michigan is in the throes of financial disaster, which is why I’m here. I am a consultant for The State Senate Ways and Means Committee. Upon my recommendation, the city in question will receive an emergency manager until financial stability is restored. I am not a popular man.

            A faded wooden sign hanging from an iron pole catches my eye. A single red shoe stands out against a light blue backdrop. The words ‘The Ruby Slipper’ announce the name of the store. It is a pawn shop or a consignment shop of some kind. Through the window I see racks of clothing, a guitar, stereo equipment, books, jewelry in a glass case and a glass bottle that grabs at the left side of my brain
            .
            I drain my cup and set it carefully on top of the over heaped trash can on the sidewalk. Inside the Ruby Slipper a large gray cat jumps up on the counter and meows loudly. A small stooped woman immerges from a back room dusting her hands on her slacks. I say hello and immediately descend on the glass bottle.

            It is just a clear, plain bottle of no particular interest to me other than I can’t help myself when I pick it up, take it to the counter and pay fifty dollars for it. The woman wraps it in tissue paper and places it in a plastic bag. Her hand goes beneath the counter and she says, “Your instructions.”

            At my hotel room I carefully unwrap the bottle and take out the instructions. There is only one hand written line. “Open at your own risk.” What the hell, the bottle seems to be empty. Why all the mystique?

            I shrug and turn the cap. As I suspected the bottle is empty. I take a whiff. A strange odor assaults my nostrils and my head swims. I see a map in my mind with a large X in the upper corner. The map goes in and out of focus as blackness abounds.

            I awake in the hotel bed and the TV is on. A newscaster excitedly addresses the camera. “In and unprecedented turn of events, the city has emerged from sure bankruptcy to extreme wealth.” The camera pans to City Hall where a large chest overflowing with gold coins sits on the lobby floor. “A mysterious donor has apparently discovered the lost treasure of Ruby Beard, the infamous pirate of the Great Lakes.”

            I listened to the rest of the newscast and noticed my soiled clothing and the dirt caked in my fingernails. It looks as if I won’t be needed in this town any longer.

            • “I hate it when the angels steal our ideas!”

              “MY ideas,” the lithe demon corrected. “And it’s the risk you take being a genius.”

              “Just hand me the damned popcorn already so we can get back to the good stuff,” the fat demon said, slapping his overflowing belly so it jiggled for the next whole minute. “I’m wasting away here.”

              The lithe demon muttered something about “Gluttony” and “wasting away to nothing” so he’d be able to “dance on the deflated rug of flesh left behind” and obeyed. He sat his bony ass on a fold of his companion’s flab and relaxed, waiting for something good to come on the tele-window.

            • jhowe says:

              Svapnaavasthaa,
              I’m getting a nice viual of your demons. Good job in presenting the, By the way, does the name Svapnaavasthaa mean anything?

            • Svapne says:

              It’s Sanskrit for “the state of the mind in a dream.” I changed my posting title to Svapne, just so y’all have something easier to spell. That one just means “in a dream.”

            • agnesjack says:

              I do like a happy ending. Reminded me of an old television show called, “The Millionaire.” You never saw the millionaire, but he had an assistant who he would send out to anonymously give a million dollars to some poor needy soul. Of course, with inflation, it would have to be a chest full of gold these days.

          • MCKEVIN says:

            jhowe, is “dig it” code for getting help? Shaft, the detective from the 70′s used say he could “dig it” all the time and he was a bad motherrrrrr- Shut my mouth! Kerry is not a demon. However I do think she’s sleep texting again. I’m sorry to disturb you at work. …. Send.

            • jhowe says:

              MCKEVIN, Since today is Friday I can pretend to be filling out a bid or something with no guilty feelings. I’m free to help today so don’t hesitate to ask. Just watch out for Observer Tim’s bubbles. I hear they pack a punch. And Shaft was a pretty bad dude. We should leave his mother out of it.

            • MCKEVIN says:

              jhowe, it must be the strong smell of the Sandalwood here because things are not posting as they should or out of sequence at best. I’m starting to believe Svapnaavasthaa is on meth because she speaks demon dialogue so well. Kerry made a Freudian slip by suggesting I rub my spot. agnesjack wants to send me bauble bubbles, click my heels and speak with some woman who I guess travels by bubble. I’m not in Oz or Kansas. I’m in a room with a door marked “Danger – No Admittance” The shop keeps several types of baubles with different contents. I’m scared. The redhead milky white skinned lady with the water colored eyes said “She said she gets ugly after 12:00.” It must be a quarter to 1.

              I can’t believe you sent me your latest submission in lieu of help. However, since I’m not going nowhere no time soon, let just say this is one of the best pieces I’ve read by you. If you wrote this on the fly, you have talent you don’t even know about. It reminded me of something I experienced awhile ago. Please note it was not as eloquent as yours but it shared the same sentiment. You ready? Okay here I go…

              Friday night…
              He kissed my face. I sucked his… neck. He caressed my back. I rubbed his… heart. He pulled me closer. I rode him like the Lone Ranger rides Silver. It was a weekend whirlwind romance without the lies of love…………….
              Monday morning…
              I kissed his lips. He sucked my…neck. I caressed his back. He rubbed my…heart. I pulled him closer. He flushed another condom. I waved goodbye to government worker GS -11 Thomas Blasingame because he had a big one. He had a heart the size of Texas. I never called but the weekend wasn’t about love. He probably thinks his services are no longer needed but the government is on shutdown and I’m sure he’ll come through. Jhowe, remember always to protect your happiness and never confuse sex with love. Thank you for taking me back…
              MCKEVIN
              Send.

        • DMelde says:

          Jeeze guys, I gotta work. But having said that, I called up my friend Bob and you should be hearing from him any time now. (Meanwhile, I have to get back to my job as an egg inspector.)

          “Okay, I’m here MCKEVIN,” Bob yells out, “don’t panic. NOBODY PANIC! I talked to my landlords, Mr. and Mrs. Civet. They emigrated from a small European country under a cloud of scandal involving genetic cross-breeding between humans and cats, but that’s not important right now. What is important is they lent me their 23 cats and I’ve brought them along to help you. USE THEM TO ATTACK THE BAUBLES! Ooh, pretty baubles.”

          • jhowe says:

            Good idea to use the cats. Its nice to finally have a use for them.

          • MCKEVIN says:

            DMelde, Sorry its taken so long to get back with you especially since I’m the one who needs the help. I’m sorry to disturb you at work it’s just that I’m locked in this room…. Can I trust your friend Bob? Where did you meet him? Do you know his mother? Does he come from a good family?

            Update
            DMelde, you know I love you like a sister and there ain’t nothing you can do about it. However, Bob has 23 cats meowing outside this room’s door.23 They’ll surely wake the redhead milky white skinned woman with eyes the color of water from her beauty sleep. The last thing she said was “if you continue to disturb me, I’ll huff and puff and blow your damn face off.” DMelde, I don’t want to die. Is Bob’s landlords related to the same Civetsof the Pp perfume empire. They made millions selling Pather Piss. Someone’s coming. Gotta go! Send.

      • I get off the train at Sunnyside Station and walk down into Kensington. This is the part of Calgary where all the weird shit happens. I pass by the kite shop, the gummi bear emporium, and at least three ancient tea shops. There’s no time to stop and smell the rose hips right now, I’m on a mission.

        The little shop is back behind the old repertory theatre, where shiny new facades give way to buildings from the turn of the 20th century. It doesn’t take long to find the bauble shop. In fact, that’s what it says on the shingle – The Bauble Shop: B. Alzebub, proprieter.

        I lean on my “new” cane. It came from my father’s legacy, a three-foot oaken stick with a metal ram’s head cap and a shiny steel foot. Down the front are the insignias of the units of 1 Combat Brigade Group.

        I spend a moment planning my attack, but only a moment. There’s a freakin’ metacharacter hunting me, and if he knows I’m on this side of the fourth wall things could get ugly. I kick the glass part of the door and it bangs open.

        At first the shop looks bare and empty, but the eyes of a writer see things differently. Looking around the edges I see them. Baubles and bangles and little glass bubbles. I instinctively reach for a bubble. What could possibly be in here …?

        In a moment I realize it. What’s in these things is what I want to be in them. I never thought I’d ever willingly do this, but I fill them with the most noxious substance that has ever been in the world, something even worse that Mug o’ Primordial Soup. Now I’m ready.

        “MCKEVIN! IT’S ME, OBSERVER TIM! I CAN GET YOU OUT IF YOU KNOCK ON THE WALL OF THE SECRET ROOM!

        She steps out, flanked by two demons. Their look shows nothing but scorn.

        “You can’t rescue him,” the woman says, “nothing you have can possibly harm us.”

        I look her in the eye. “Oh, yeah? Try this on for size.” I toss one of the bubbles in the air and smash it with the the head of the cane.

        Their smug self-satisfaction turns to horror and they retreat quickly. “Ugh! What is that stuff?” shouts the bigger demon as the vapour curls up the carpet, melts the floorboards and causes the nails to glow red hot. I knew they couldn’t take it. Only the long exposure of growing up with it allows me to be merely disgusted.

        I advance on them menacingly. “Show me where you’ve hidden MCKEVIN, or I’ll let out another one of my dad’s farts.”

        • BezBawni says:

          I was sitting in one of those famous tea shops in Kensington, serenely sipping my Pu-ehr, when I saw a man passing by the window. The man looked so familiar, that my head started itching on the inside. I asked for a take-away tea and hurried out of the shop just in time to see the man turn round the corner.
          Looking at the pavement and absorbed by the torments of recollection, I quickly walked towards the street corner. “I know you from somewhere,” I was muttering and nearly bumped into a punky-looking guy with a high red Mohawk on his head.

          “Me?” the guy said in surprise.

          “Hell, no!” I said, startled by his appearance, and broke into a run, feeling his bewildered look on my back.

          Well, that might have been rude, I thought, but it didn’t matter, because I had turned round the corner of an old theater and saw the familiar man in front of the Bauble Shop. He was leaning on his exquisite cane, I couldn’t see much of it from afar, but the design of the cane was obviously very pretty. I stopped in a sudden fear of being noticed and moved closer to the theater wall.

          “Who are you?” I thought, taking a sip of my tea and then choked on the liquid – the man had shattered the glass door of the shop. The tea cup slipped out of my hand, as I started running towards the shop. I was almost there when the man entered, but as soon as the door closed the glass was whole again. I pulled at the handle – locked.

          “What the—“ I put my nose to the glass and cupped my face on both sides to see inside the shop. All I could make out were silhouettes of people. Or not people? Suddenly, there was this smell – I took a step back wrinkling my nose and out of the corner of my eye I noticed movements above my head. I looked up and saw another familiar man. He was fighting someone…some creatures… I squinted at him.

          “MCKEVIN????”

          • jhowe says:

            Bravo to you too BezBawni. I’m sorry you got caught up in the bubble gas thing. You may never be the same again.

            • BezBawni says:

              Well, if I’m never gonna be the same again, at least I’ll be something else ;-) Cheers, jhowe)

            • MCKEVIN says:

              BeZBawni, I’m so sorry you’ve gotten caught in my rescue. Yeah, let’s just call it that shall we? Well, I heard the red head with the milky white skin with eyes the color of water say to her cronies, “If you ever get the bauble/bubble gas in your eyes, rub a little panther pee on your face and it’ll clear that infection right up” I’m jus’ sayin’.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            HELP! HELP! Is anyone out there that can hear me?

            At 2:45 yesterday, the Electric Toilets space ship, “Low Boy” hovered over my office and beamed me aboard. We’re traveling in a north west orbit about six hundred miles above earth.

            I’ve been in a holding cell all night. Now six lab assistants have strapped me to an exam table that looks like a round bed. One of the assistants, Lana Turner, is running her fingernails gently across my chest. Donna Reed is sitting across the lab, praying for me.

            I need rescue. Can you hear me yet?

            Ava Gardner and Brigette Bardot are starting to hook up elecrical cables to me. I won’t tell you where. And then a red head showed up with a gleam in her eye. OMG , I think it Rita Hayworth. She’s dancing around me taking off some kind of veils from her body.

            Maureen O’ Hara, is stroking what little hair I have left, whispering.

            “Poor thing, poor thing.”

            Are any of you listening to me?

            Can you wait thirty minutes before you start my rescue?

            Kerry

            • jhowe says:

              In lieu of rescue. I’d like to hear the rest of the story. Insert Paul Harvey’s voice.

            • Kerry Charlton says:

              And now, ‘for the rest of the story’:

              Slowly the scene changes. Rita has faded into the seven veils laying beside the bed. The room changes color to a hideous purple haze. I notice that Donna has closed her bible and rises from her chair, leaving the room.

              Lana and Maureen walk hand in hand through the mist and I hear Irish voices in the distance, singing ‘Brigadoon.

              Bridgette waves goodbye to me and blows a soft kiss to Ava. She vaporizes in an instant. We’re alone now, just Ava and myself. She kisses me and asks,

              “Are you ready?”

              “If it’s for the good of mankind, I’ll manage through it.”

              She unbuckles my cuffs, rises above me and settles on my body. I close my eyes from the passion I feel. When my eyes manage to open, I’m looking in the face of the ‘grande dame’ of the movies, Margaret Rutherford.

              AAAAAGGGGGHHHH!

            • MCKEVIN says:

              KC, is this the rest of the of the rest of the rest of the story…

        • jhowe says:

          Bravo Observer Tim. Way to take action. How did you fill the bubbles by the way?

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            How come this post got in my way?

            Anyway, now for the rest of the rest of the story:

            Margaret wasn’t about to get off regardless of my screaming. The door to my exam room, flew open and 23 cats attached Margaret. Due to the size of her body, all 23 found a place. Finally,she rushed out of the lab, muttering to herself,
            “And just when I was about to say, ‘Hi – O Silver’.

            The cats surronded me, licking my body all over and them one by one, they morphed into 23 Playboy Bunnies from Miami Beach. We managed to subdue the rest of the Electric Toilets and reset the space ship on a two year journey to Mars.

            The ship was well stocked with provisions and I promised the bunnies I wouldn’t exercise any preference and told the girls they could expect at least three visit a week for each and everyone of them.

            I’ll be busy for awhile so take care of yourselves.

            Until the next prompt. KC

            • Svapne says:

              No, wait! Come back! I need a lift back to New York! The kielbasa smell is getting to me!

              …damnit.

            • Svapne says:

              …3 x 23 = 69…

              Did you do that on purpose?

              Also, certain parts might get warn out and fall off at that rate.

              Serves you right for abandoning me in Poland.

            • jhowe says:

              Ah, a use for cats. I suppose I could put up with those rough tongues if I knew they were going to turn into Playboy Bunnies. I hope this response shows up in the right spot or people may wonder. Peter would freak if it turned up after his.

            • MCKEVIN says:

              You all are aware the cats are “Catassins” ie mutant cat killer people? Are you saying these cats lick people to death? DMelde, are you getting this? Svapne, I think those are brats you smell.

            • MCKEVIN says:

              ATTENTION ALL! The Writer Gods have spoken and new prompt has posted. Good luck in your future writing endeavors.

        • Svapne says:

          “Oh, what is that stench!?” The red-haired vixen, who looked quite a bit more like an actual vixen now, cried. Tears streamed down her pallid face and out her nose and she looked a bit like she was melting.

          The lithe demon set a hand on the fat demon’s shoulder. “It smells like home,” he said, tearing up with sentimentality. The fat demon turned to him, and, suddenly, they were both quite unaware of the other goings-on of the place.

          The fat demon lifted up a roll or five and sobbed openly into them. “I wanna go home!” he wailed, rocking back and forth. “I miss the brimstone and the sulfur and all the rotting things!”

          “I miss the torture.” The lithe demon paused and blew his pointy little nose in a fold of his companion. “It’s so much more fun to torture the ones that know they can’t escape. The living have too much hope.”

          “Do you… do you think the boss will…”

          “All we can do is try to re-apply for our old jobs,” the lithe one hissed, becoming more determined. “Do you remember how we chained him to his desk to convince him last time?” Sentimentality twinkled in his eye again.

          The fat one flubbed in a funny sort of way and withdrew a hammer and four spikes from a sweaty fold. “Well, we were just children then. We’re much more creative now,” he said, steeling himself and regaining his menacing grin.

          The lithe demon looked around for a moment. “And maybe we’ll figure out how to get that Tim guy later on. He looks all old now… you think he’s messing with that time machine of his?”

          “Why do you think I wanna get him?” The fat demon suddenly looked very hungry. “Just think of it… we could paint it like a police box… get a sexy British sidekick… dye our hair red… wear long scarves.”

          The lithe demon shook his head. “Later then. That’s a promise. Now, let’s go.”

          “To Hell?”

          “To Hell!”

          They opened their gate, and a shriek like a harpy escaped from the bowls of hell. It was the last anyone there would see of the two demons…

          Or was it?

          • jhowe says:

            I suspect we may hear from the demons again. They are needed if we hope to get Observer Tim and MCKEVIN back alive. Do you have an emergency shower at your lab? We may need it to help remove the stench.

            Your writing is very good with this scenerio. I love the many uses of the fat demon’s folds.

            • Svapne says:

              The shower is out in the hall… it may or may not flood the floor though.

              I try not to picture the demons, but they appear before me anyway. My eyes are burning like one of those bubbles popped in my face. Ugh.

              We do need to rescue Tim from the vixen and MCKEVIN from whatever he’s fighting and Kerry from the very questionable sounding experience ongoing and… wait…

              WHERE DID THE CATS GO?

            • BezBawni says:

              Right! That’s it. I could see it clearly now. MCKEVIN was on the roof having the most hilarious rough-and-tumble with CATS. The little nasty bastards were hanging all over him, hissing and yowling.

              “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I whispered, “Aren’t they supposed to be our rescue SWAT?”

            • Svapne says:

              Now, I’m really, really bad at geography… but it occurs to me that I didn’t think Chicago was in Calgary.

              What did you do to space-time, MCKEVIN and Tim!? Is that why Kerry’s in trouble?

            • MCKEVIN says:

              Has anyone seen the little man with the rifle that was shooting a the bauble bubbles? Jus’ askin’. MCKEVIN. Send.

            • Svapne says:

              Crap… where *did* that old geezer angel with the gun go?

              He probably toddled off somewhere, following those persistent little baubley things. Or ran screaming from the rank terror of them. Or the cats got him.

          • jhowe says:

            I hope the cats don’t end up in Kerry’s story. That would create a whole new aspect to her feistiness.

            • Svapne says:

              You just *had* to suggest it, didn’t you? Jeez.

            • MCKEVIN says:

              I thought he was going to “He’d hope the cats don’t end up in Kerry’s (KC) soup. But, I’m sure if she can cook.

            • Kerry Charlton says:

              Too late now, they’re already here. One’s a little greedy and caused the next one to miss her turn. A huge cat fight ensued, causing the space ship to veer off course. We are heading now for never-never land.

              I’m hoping we have enough power the clear the wall surrounding it because I don’t have my flying shoes with me. I left them under my bed at our beach house at Avalon when I was six and never found them again.

              If you have my magic shoes please send them by post rocket as soon as you can. KC

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            Sorry to tag on here, but I’m brilliant at math and numbers, What do you think? Pi= 3.1416 not 3.14. KC

            • Kerry Charlton says:

              The answer above is for Svapne. KC

            • MCKEVIN says:

              Hi KC, I hope you are getting some more laughs by rereading this thread because I am. This was so much fun and a much needed distraction from the mundane routines of life. This experiment could easily be called “You had to be there” because no else would probably understand unless they lined up the postings by times. I got the chance to be with writers creating on the fly I got so many ideas from this. Lol. Well, I just wanted to say thank you to you and the others for making my day…..

              To be continued….

        • MCKEVIN says:

          Observer Tim, are you there can you hear me. I think the redhead lady with the milky white skin with the eyes the color sprayed something in the venting system and it’s not air fresher. Far from it. OMG, I going to be sick. What is that? It smells like death warmed over 2 times. Can you see DMelde’s friend Bob? He’s about so tall and ye wide with a lot of cats. Please note: Bob and his landlord’s pussy cats are here to help you rescue me. Ask jhowe who is “N?” Tell agnesjack I’m glad cats are her friends and that chicken wings are mine Be careful OT – DMelde swears pussycats are the worst kind of killer cats. Send.

          • DMelde says:

            still working, but i’ve been moved over to aardvark control…

            MCKEVIN, Bob is 216 (sweet!) years old and so he’s a little hard of hearing. You’re going to have to YELL for him to hear you. He attributes his long life to his lifelong diet of eggs; hard boiled, soft boiled, softly hard boiled, and hardly soft boiled. (He’s an Eggnostic.) The Civets adopted Bob because they’re under the impression that he’s a 12 year old boy. Other than that, the only thing I know about Bob is that he used to be a spaceship captain, but he got fired, and I’m not sure why. The Civets called, worried about their little boy. They said you should yell out the code word “MONGOOSE” in order to get the cat assassins (catassins?) draw their ninja claws and help.

            • MCKEVIN says:

              DMelde, why do I get the feeling you are really liking this thread. Lol. However, if Bob is the Civets little boy at 216, how old are the Cviets? Damn! Are you high? I looked through the peephole in the door and saw that the “catassins” had formed a circle around “Whyetta” the redhead lady with the milky white skin that had eyes the color of water. I opened my to yell “MONGOOSE” when I got a text from KC aka Kerry.

          • Svapne says:

            Wait… no! No! I have to go to a seminar in fifteen minutes! This is no good!

            Damnit, MCKEVIN and Tim! Your warped space-time is rippling outward! First Chicago is in Calgary and now my lab is suddenly in Warsaw! The lecture hall is NOT in Warsaw! I don’t want to be here! It smells like pierogies! Well, I guess that’s actually okay. But I have places to be, guys! Come on!

            I’m going to get in so much trouble over this, and I’ll see to it that the trouble finds you next if you don’t straighten this out!

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            I had every bit as much fun with it as you did,
            Thanks, McKevin!

    12. jhowe says:

      I’m tired of waiting. I used to tell my kids stories about the Lone Ranger and Aquaman. They loved them, but they were little kids, they love everything. Here’s a story I told once, in written form now.

      Tonto opened his eyes in the pre-dawn light and rose from the canyon floor. He shrugged off his course wool blanket which was damp from the morning dew. He spread it across some rocks to dry in the approaching sun. He picked up the coffee pot, turned it over and shook it. The Lone Ranger had not been pleased two years ago when a fully brewed scorpion ended up in his morning coffee cup.

      Tonto stirred the ashes from last night’s fire with a stick, coaxing some glow from the embers. He added kindling and blew the smoldering collection into a small flame. He added fuel and soon had a nice fire going. He walked down to the stream, filled the pot and washed his face and hands. The water was ice cold and it helped him shake the sleep from his mind. Tonto set the pot on a flat stone next to the fire, added ground coffee beans and waited.

      As the coffee heated, Tonto contemplated the day. His trusty horse Scout had been somewhat cantankerous lately. He had heard that many Indian ponies develop bad tempered habits from being ridden bare bask on a regular basis. He didn’t understand why this could be, but he wondered if it was time to buy a saddle. He dismissed the idea for two reasons. One, he had a reputation to uphold and two; he had no money for a saddle.

      The smell of freshly brewed coffee woke the Lone Ranger. He sat up and asked Tonto why he was brewing coffee in the middle of the night. Tonto said, “Kemosabe, adjust your mask.”

      The Lone Ranger’s mask had shifted during the night and the eye holes were not lined up with his eyes. After making the adjustment, he grunted in satisfaction. Tonto wondered once again about the mask. He had heard the story many times about the Lone Ranger’s quest to remain anonymous but it was getting a little old. He had recently heard about a masked chap in Mexico who was making quite a name for himself. He knew that this Zorro fellow would soon outlive his fame and would fade away.

      As the Lone Ranger and Tonto sipped their coffee and chewed on hard tack bread, Tonto once again detected the rift that seemed to have come between them. Ever since the Lone Ranger had read that Kemosabe, translated from Cherokee, meant a horse’s patoot, he had been surly. Tonto wondered how long that would be held against him.

      The Lone Ranger asked Tonto how close the nearest town was. “The town of Las Vegas is a half days ride to the west,” said Tonto. Las Vegas was a small mining town with little charm. The silver had ceased to flow from the neighboring mines and the lack of water was a constant hindrance. Tonto suspected the town had little chance of surviving let alone thriving.

      The Lone Ranger mounted his horse Silver and announced that they would head west to stock up on provisions in Las Vegas and started off. “Kemosabe,” said Tonto. “This way.” The Lone Ranger turned around and followed Tonto to the west.

    13. jhowe says:

      I logged on to see this week’s writing prompt, but alas, it is not here. I’m fired up for a new one. On the last two prompts I strayed away from the theme. This week I will be more vigilant and follow the prompt. Did I spell vigilant right? There’s no spell check in this response box.

    14. Walking down the aisle of an old store called “35,000 Books and Pawnshop,” John, out of work and depressed, found an old Psychology magazine that gave instructions of how to program your dreams and stay in the dream state. Then he found a copy of an old dream interpretation book that was very accurate, because years ago it helped to decipher his premonition dream of the spacecraft Challanger accident. As he sat down in the lounge to read newfound treasures, the Psychology magazine said to drink two shots of cold coffee and it would send you into a deep sleep.
      Then he thought, “Since I was warned about the Challanger accident 3 days prior, why can’t I program my dream to give me the winning lottery numbers?” So he drank two shots of cold coffee while reading the old interpretation book and thought “In a store, tomorrow night’s winning lottery numbers… in a store…” Then the next thing he knew, he was walking in a Ralph’s grocery store, down the Tupperware aisle. He looked up and saw a big green sign that said,
      “Tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers: 1-7-11-36-41-44”
      He had never seen a sign like that, so he knew he must be dreaming. He put out his arms and tried spinning around, but did not wake up. So he said, “I am dreaming,” and then woke up immediately and wrote down the numbers. He played the numbers again and again for two weeks, but the numbers did not even come close, so he gave up.
      Three months later, he was reading the newspaper and at the bottom it said, “Last night’s winning lottery numbers: 1-7-11-36-41-44. No one has won the jackpot of $22 million.” He screamed, cried and kicked himself repeatedly. But why did the numbers not win on the night they were supposed to? He suddenly remembered what his teacher, Dr. Nightraven said in Psychology 101, “The conscious mind and the subconscious mind use two different dictionaries. For the conscious mind, the word “Tomorrow” is defined as ‘The next day.’ For the subconscious mind, everything is metaphorical and the word ‘Tomorrow’ is defined as ‘The future.’”

      • starwatcher says:

        I was very interested throughout this story. Next time though, maybe you could put an extra line in between the paragraphs? It’s much easier to read it that way.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Nice reply to the prompt. Maybe he should set another dream sequence, get some more numbers and keep playing even if the prize wo’nt be announced till 2065!

          Another way to capture your reader easier is to slightly change some of your sentence structure. For example:

          “Then he found an old copy of a dream interpretation book…………..”
          Try it this way:

          “Stumbling across an old copy of a dream interpretation book……..”

          You would be showing how he found it, not telling. Makes it more interesting for your reader.

          Enjoyed your post, we should have a new one for you to work on in a day or so. Looking forward to your next post. Kerry

      • jhowe says:

        Nice idea for this prompt. I think a lot of people wish they could dream up those winning numbers. I agree with Kerry’s suggestion about showing instead of telling. I think the word ‘then’ is a word you should remeber to substitute with action or some other way of showing what’s going on. Great story.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        I really liked your story and I was hoping the MC would actually win the lottery. You used 357 words and gave us a complete story. I wonder if you pushed yourself and used the other 143 words how would your story have been different? I’m thinking Dr. Nighraven or the shop’s owner filed legal suit to get half of the winnings if John had won. John and Dr. Nightraven kill the shop’s owner, run away and get married and live happily ever after with their lottery winnings. Lol. I’m just sayin’. See you at the next prompt.

    15. jlv206 says:

      Resist

      It’s 5pm and I just left Mama Lola’s house. The beloved book is tucked away in my back pack. I can feel a strange heat emanating from the ancient text as I snuggle into my goose down coat. The rumbling of the subway car lulls me towards sleep and I feel my eyes grow heavy.

      After hounding her for weeks, she finally bequeathed our family heirloom. Every few generations, It gets passed down from the family matriarch to the Perez daughter that possesses “the gift.” Until recently, I hardly viewed it as such. Taunted constantly for being different, I grew up feeling cursed rather than gifted. Then the dream started.

      It always begins in the same clearing. Against a backdrop of mango trees, a small cottage beckons in the distance. Then the silhouette of a man appears at the entrance way. He’s cloaked in the early morning fog and his features are unrecognizable. Yet I know him. I feel a magnetic force pulling me towards him and my entire being hums in longing. I take a step forward and then I wake up. I was puzzled for weeks until I remembered the book. I always assumed it was a tall tale but now I knew it was time to receive my inheritance.

      Mama Lola was not so convinced. The first time I told her about the dream, a look of alarm overcame her usually placid features. She thinks that the man is a threat. Yet I reminded her that the dream is only for me to figure out. That’s how it’s always been. She smoothed down the worn leather cover and stared into my eyes “no matter how good it feels, resist.” She left me with those ominous words. I left her apartment and bolted towards the 6 train, terrified that she would change her mind. As I drift off to sleep, Mama Lola’s words echo in the back of my mind.

      I find myself in the same place, but this time it’s different. My body is looser. The silhouette appears and beckons me forward. I reach out to him and take a full step, then another. Oddly enough, I don’t awake after the first step. I can smell the wax of a candle burning and the heat from a small fire enfolds me in warmth. I feel closer to him but cannot see him. I sense his presence next to me and tremble in anticipation. I feel a tender touch brush against my fingertips. Then the whisper tickles my ears softly…resist.

    16. JRSimmang says:

      BLINK, AND YOU’LL MISS IT

      Beamer woke up to the gentle nuzzling of his wife. The blue early-morning light was just now beginning to filter in through the blinds. He checked his clock. Another few moments and he would have be up for work anyway.

      He rolled her off his arm, slid his legs off the bed, out from under the heavy brocade duvet, and stumbled into the bathroom. Funny, he thought, how frequently he’d been getting up on his own recently. Funnier still, he continued to think, how time moved forward.

      He brushed in silence, showered in silence, cooked and ate breakfast in silence, and left for work without kissing his wife goodbye.

      “Mornin’ Beamer.” His boss was standing in the doorway of his office. Francis Constantin Beamer. He went by his last name.

      “Good morning, Tilly.” He swiftly walked to his desk, set down his briefcase, and powered on his computer. He never got used to seeing his fingers without prints. He seemed to be the only one who remembered the time before the Great Settling. More and more frequently, he’s been finding himself staring at the odd symbols coming through his screen, deciphering the ancient texts, and wondering where it was it all went wrong.

      It seemed like a lifetime ago that the lights went out, then, inexplicably, came right back on again. At first, he went along with the crowd, pretending nothing had happened, but the longer he sat at his desk, watching the clock tic-tock, and trying to pull meaning from meaningless shapes and figures, he started to realize that he was the only one that understood what was happening. He’s tried conspiracy. It didn’t pan out.

      “So, pal, we’re a little behind on our quota. So far, the Bible, the Quran, and the Talmud are only half-way through. We’ve got some good classics, some not-so-good classics, and some obscure titles.”

      Beamer looked up to his boss. He wondered how long he had been staring at his fingertips, smooth and useless. His boss was really good at sneaking. “Yeah, sorry, I’ve been… distracted lately. Weird dreams…”

      “Dreams, you say?”

      “Yeah.”

      “Well, that’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. We just got a request from one of our community members. She’s paying us a pretty penny, and when I say pretty I mean pretty, to decode this one.” Tilly slid a flash drive into Beamer’s computer, and waited for the whirring to stop. A window opened up, as expected, and there was just one file floating there. The title was illegible.

      “She said it’s a book on dreams.”

      Beamer stared at the file name. “I guess I’ll give it a whack.”

      “Oh, don’t do that. These things are expensive!” Tilly belly-laughed. He always seemed to entertain himself. “But seriously, that’s wonderful.” He wandered away from Beamer and his desk.

      The filename: HR!R%$FDG?/>> was a new one. It certainly wasn’t one of the usual. Beamer double-clicked and opened thirteen hundred pages of gaps, lines of data, shifting gerunds (which took on a new meaning after the Blackout), and bolded/italic/underlined texts. This would be a long, long, work in progress.

      He chose a page at random and began decrypting. He was able to figure the Es fairly quickly, which led him to the Rs and As. One passage was beginning to take form, but it kept moving on the screen. He worked his fingers across the keyboard, simultaneously filling in gaps and chasing lacuna with the mouse.

      Bs, Ms, Ss, started scrolling through the document, the light outside shifting from twilight to dusk, the moon’s ever-present glow searching through the windows, the sun relenting. He rarely broke a sweat while working. Today was an exception.

      At clock-out, he finished. The cursor stood blinking on his name.

      Beamer. Thing. To dream of Beamer is to feel like your life is no longer in your control. You may be feeling like you don’t belong where you are, though your life feels pretty secure and you may be happy. Try finding some time to escape; take a vacation.

      Beamer, in correlation with clocks.

      Beamer, in correlation with flying.

      Beamer, in correlation with clocks.

      Beamer, in correlation with butterflies.

      He read through it carefully again, and his eyes landed softly on his fingertips. The office was suddenly empty. He was the last one there. The windows let in the early sunset and bathed him in the warm glow, gently suggesting he close his eyes.

      He took a deep breath in, let it out, and when he opened his eyes he was staring at his clock, alone in his bed. Reality, he thought, always seems to find me.

      -JR Simmang

    17. swatchcat says:

      It was a good story. I had difficulty reading it, but it was still good. The basis of the story reminded me a little of “Dream Scape”. Clean the double prepositions and a few commas then it may flow better. Sometimes in a fantasy/sci-fi story taking the time to explain a little about the MC like you did earlier here in the comment feedback may give this more strength.

    18. starwatcher says:

      Here I was, once again, making my bed. I don’t know why my dreams start with a bed: jumping on a bed, wrecking a bed, having sex on a bed (the best), or making a bed. The dream always morphs though.

      Now I’m sitting on my bed talking with my mother with her back to the door. Suddenly, her head whips around and a man is standing in the doorway with a gun in his right hand. He is heavy-set with short red hair. He then moves inhumanly toward us as we, at the time, fall backward onto the floor next to my bed, scared to death. What’s odd and mean is that my mother is keeping me in between her and the man. He stands only five feet away looking at us like we were toys and he was a dog. My mother screams.

      I look up and I am in New York next to the Twin Towers as papers and ash fall down to earth. What is odd is that there are no fires and no one around me. In my hands is a fireman’s ax. Because there was no fire, I don’t know which building had been hit. I guessed and went to the tower in front of me. As soon as I enter the building, the scene changes again, but not before I see someone in the reflective glass burning as they fall. I knew it was my dad; a firefighter. He seemed to be looking at me with his mouth open in a silent scream.

      I am sitting in the passenger seat of a black SUV. I look to my left and see my brother drive. He’s drunk or high laughing like I just said a good joke. Something moves in my peripheral vision. A 10-year-old kid is riding on a bike on the sidewalk to my right. I turn and see him. It’s 10-year-old me. My brother laughs and says, “Watch this!” he rides fast, hugging the sidewalk. Somehow Kid-Me is keeping pace. The Kid turns, laughs and points ahead. A train is crossing in front of us.

      Then I am on the train. I pass the car seeing myself, my brother, and Kid-Me outside. The car slams into the train. All I hear are screams.

      All I hear are screams.

      • This is a disturbing nightmare. The shifts of perspective help make it a bit disorienting, which I’m sure is the desired effect.

        Very nice, starwatcher.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          I was mesmerized by your story’s cadence. A very descriptive dis-jointed series of nightmares. You’ve done this extremely well, starwatcher.

        • starwatcher says:

          Thanks Tim, and yes, I tried to make it seem like a lot of thoughts and worries were put together to create a never-ending dream that would be disorienting because your fears and opinions never end. It doesn’t matter if you resolve them, your fears just change into something worse.

      • BezBawni says:

        Twists and turns, twists and turns – I like it. Also I like the way you managed to paint a picture of the MC looking at different scenes from different POVs, and looking at self at the same time. It seems like it’s easy-peasy when one reads your story, but it’s really a hard job to do. So, looking forward to read you in the new prompt comments.

        • starwatcher says:

          Thanks so much BB. I really appreciate the comment. I wanted to make the story seem like an actual dream with different POVs and with a disjointed/disorienting feeling. What I like was that story is able to continue on. So, I guess I’ll be seeing you soon then.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Nice. I pictured a teenaged boy sitting in a psychologist office and they both are trying to decipher the dream. If you wrote this in second person (change all the I’s to You) this would read like a Twilight Zone episode. Good job. I can’t wait to read more of your stuff in the future. See you at the next prompt.

    19. jake1126 says:

      # 3

      There I was, at an old Voodoo-themed shop in New Orleans, Louisiana. I was on vacation and decided to check out one of the many local shops that morning. There were all kinds of cool “magic” goodies: Voodoo dolls, shrunken heads, Tarot cards, spell books, and things of that nature. I made my way towards the back of the place and found a strange looking book with no price tag, titled Dream Catcher: Find Meaning in the Unexplained. Remembering the odd dream I had the night before, I decided to check out this book and see if there was any significance to the things that happened. It involved my ex-fiancé rejecting and running from me after proposing to her, which is kind of what happened in real life. I was madly in love with her, but she obviously didn’t feel the same way towards me. Oh what could have been.

      I cracked open the book and flipped to chapter three, conveniently titled Love. As I began reading, I started to feel light-headed and disoriented. Feeling incredibly fatigued, I just couldn’t resist the urge to close my eyes. So I did. Suddenly, I wasn’t in the Voodoo shop anymore. I was in the middle of the street down my old neighborhood. It was dark, cold, and rainy outside, with Christmas lights on all of the houses. I was on the phone with my ex-fiancé.

      “When are you coming home baby?” she asked me.

      “I’m on my way, but I have no clue how to get there,” I replied pathetically. “My phone has less than three percent! What do I do?”

      “Ask your neighbors for directions, love. See you when you get here,” she responded in that lovely voice of hers, right as my phone died.

      I felt a strange sensation of sorrow set deep in my stomach, as I proceeded to run through my neighbor’s houses. Running was impossibly hard to do–much like running underwater–as the case usually is with dreams. “Was I dreaming?” I thought to myself. “Of course not, it’s Christmas Eve and I’m on my way home to my beautiful girlfriend.”

      All of my neighbors’ faces were slightly blurry and undefined. I tried asking them for directions, but they just stared unresponsively at their phones. I ran in and out of multiple houses, getting wet, and feeling as though I was getting further away from home. Feeling defeated, I was surprised by the presence of my brother. I desperately called out as hard as I could for directions, to which he pointed down the street. There was hope! I began running with as much effort as I could, but my speed was not changing. I felt something in my pocket and pulled out the engagement ring I bought for my girlfriend. As I looked at it, I miraculously began to run faster and faster, until I reached a dead-end where my house was. Standing outside was the reason for my existence, my fiancé.

      “You’re home baby,” she called out to me as I became overjoyed. Right as I embraced her, my eyes were filled with sunlight, and I found myself back at the Voodoo shop. Squinting from the change of brightness, I was surprised by the shopkeeper grabbing my shoulder.

      “This book wasn’t for sale young man. I misplaced it,” he said. “But thank you for finding it for me. And oh yes, give her a call.” He winked at me. Did he mean my ex-fiancé? Of course he did. So leaving the shop feeling quite befuddled, I gave my ex-fiancé a call.

      • starwatcher says:

        I liked how the shopkeeper knew what was going on in the character’s dream; something like shared dreaming.

      • This story is interesting in that it focuses more on the unusual physics of dreams than on visual imagery. The result is captivating.

        And I personally enjoy stories where the reader is given at least a hope of a happy ending.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          A sunbeam among all these nightmares. Nice response to the prompt. You have portrayed dreams accurately and the frustration showing confusion and the slowness of the MC.

      • jake1126 says:

        Well thank you all for the feedback. This is my third story on here and it was a fun prompt. I find the most difficult thing about these short stories to be the word count. It’s hard to say exactly what you want in under 500 words. But of course, with practice and experience, this will become easier.

    20. DMelde says:

      **Downer Donkey says this story is a real bummer. He also says it was written to remember the forgotten children of the world. Reader beware.**

      Badria lay on the hard dirt floor of her cell and she cried softly to herself. The bruises on her small, thin body were turning purple from the beating her master had given her, and the welts on her back were slowly oozing blood.

      Earlier that evening, as the young girl was serving the men their supper, she had spilled some water, and it had gotten a man’s sleeve wet. Her master was outraged. “Tomorrow,” he had yelled, “you work in the fields.”

      She stared blankly at the mud brick wall in front of her, and before long, she fell asleep.

      In her sleep, Badria dreamed she was back at home and safe with her family. She helped her mother do chores around the house. She played sticks with her younger brother, Morad. She visited with her father as he worked in the field on a sunny afternoon. Later in her dream, in the calm of the night, her father un-wrapped the family’s most treasured possession, a well worn holy book, and her father read to her from it.

      Then the dreamed shifted. She was reliving the day her master had come for her. Her father had borrowed the money, to buy the seed, to plant in the field, but the crop had failed. With no crop to sell to pay back the loan, her father was forced into selling Badria.

      Badria pleaded with her father. “Pa-pa!” she cried, as her master dragged her away. Her father stared stoically at the horizon and he ignored her. She pleaded with her mother, but her mother hugged Morad tightly to her chest, and she buried her face and cried loudly.

      Badria awoke with a start, into the nightmare world she was living in today. She stared blankly ahead at the brick wall. Tomorrow, they would give her a dull knife, and they would send her into the fields to scrape the poppy head, and harvest the pod. She felt numb from the cold, and numb from her life. She didn’t know what was real anymore. Her whole life seemed but a dream, or was her memories of the family that she once knew the dream? She longed for the day when the dreams would end. On that happy day, she knew, death would come to release her, and she would die.

      • don potter says:

        Death seems like the ultimate gift for this poor soul. Disturbing story but well told.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          This is so graphic and mind twisting, I thought about the early slavery days in
          America. My mind wouldn’t go the present world we live and yet I know better. Where children are, there are monsters. It’s a well written piece, regardless of the subject. It should be a reminder to all of us, to be ever vigilant to needs of children everywhere.

          I doubt it was easy for you to write this but I thank you for it.

      • This is a very powerful and moving piece, describing in emotional detail something that is still far too common in reality. In my mind it reads more like a window on the human tragedy than it does a dream.

      • I agree with everyone else on how much sadness and pain is woven into your story. The last two sentences were beautifully written, a great ending line. It definitely made me feel sad; downer donkey was right…but I like your point, to not ignore the suffering in the world.

      • agnesjack says:

        Heartbreaking and, sadly, all too real.

    21. Jen says:

      Woman’s body lay undiscovered for over a month.

      The body of an Edinburgh post-graduate student was discovered in her Marchmont Flat, six weeks after her death, an inquest heard.

      Peri Arnold, 24, was discovered by Police Officers acting on information from concerned neighbours.

      Miss Arnold, who lived alone, has been described as a popular member of the School of Social and Political Science.

      Professor Thomas Fergusson said ‘The Faculty and Students are devastated. She had such a bright future ahead of her’

      Police are not treating the death as suspicious.

      You cut out the article from the Scotsman. It was buried on page eight but you had been expecting it. It ties up you work here in Edinburgh, and you are grateful that you can now hand your notice in at the bookstore.

      You reread the article, as happy with what it says as with what it doesn’t.

      The neighbours had raised the alarm over the smell. Their ‘concern’ was for their nasal well-being not Miss Arnold.

      Miss Arnold was described as popular ‘says mysterious unnamed source’. How is a popular student missed for what was, in fact, eight weeks?

      The Faculty and students are devastated. You’re sure they are. No one wants their university department in the paper for failing to spot one of their number has died.

      She had a bright future ahead; almost any 24 year old does.

      You remember when she came in to buy her course books, and that idiotic book on dream interpretation. How she couldn’t complete the transaction without referring to her phone on three occasions. Her high pitch giggling at something amusing and no doubt cruel sent to her by one of her virtual friends.

      Her books were paid on account, and that’s where you got her address. You went to her apartment that same night, dressed in your creepy crawl kit. It was a ground floor flat, too big for just one student but with no evidence of a flatmate. She was asleep; the idiotic book at her side and you took the syringe from your pocket. Your injection woke her but the drugs were already at work. She could not scream, move or fight. She stared at you and you saw her consciousness fade. Then her eyes were just open and vacant, so you closed them.

      You take the article, turn it over and apply the glue stick half a centimetre from the edge down each side of the paper square. Your scrapbook is open at a blank page, and you place the article two centimetres from the top of the page, aligned to the left side. You smooth it down, careful that there are no wrinkles in the article.

      You take your black sharpie pen and begin to write the page title.

      ‘Subject 39 – Deceased – Found 8 Weeks after Coma Induced’

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Chilling tale of a serial killer, demented, insane, his mind warped from perhaps an abusive father. Maybe he was born that way, a demon from hell. Sends a quesy, uneasy feeling to your reader, for he knows these stories are everywhere in the fragmented, non-caring world we happen to live in.

        You have written this brilliantly, Jen. I am in awe.

      • DMelde says:

        You see, this is why I stay away from scrap-bookers, with their little gold stars and cute little press-on unicorns, it’s just their way of lulling you into a false sense of security. Having said that, I thought you did second person really well. I really liked the glimpse you gave us into the mind of a serial killer, and how you drew out the thinking process from the newspaper article. Great job!

      • don potter says:

        The matter-of-fact observations made by the killer speaks volumes about how sick some people are. I wonder why we are so interested in these sickos? Nothing can be done to help them, and we don’t seem to be able to take them off the streets until it’s too late. Good job about a bad subject.

      • This is a very disturbing glimpse into the mind of an obsessive/compulsive serial killer. What scared me the most was seeing the organized way in which (he) examined her life an her death. I have a very thin streak of obsessive behaviour, and the story resonates perfectly with that.

      • agnesjack says:

        Jen – I liked the use of the second person. It made it more chilling because I felt as if I was right there with the killer — looking over his (her?) shoulder as he so casually and precisely placed the article in his scrapbook.

        Only nit: I found the transition from the newspaper article to the second person narrative a little confusing. If the second person narrative had been established before quoting from the article (e.g., placing the sentence, “You cut out the article from the Scotsman” first), it would have been clearer (at least to me).

        This one’s going to give me nightmares.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        I like sick stuff like this and you did a good job with the subject matter. It makes want to know the killer’s backstory. Good job.

    22. JR MacBeth says:

      “No Jim, I don’t think you’re crazy, but your drinking–dude, you’re out of control.”

      My best friend Aaron was the only person I had told. He was a good guy, he would patiently listen as I tried to prove that we, or at least I, was in a dream. I had bought a book that supposedly interpreted dreams, but soon, it seemed like I couldn’t wake up anymore.

      “Yeah Aaron, but my drinking only got worse with this dream book. And yeah, I know, I’m back to that circular reasoning shit, but it’s a recurring dream.”

      “I get it, but dude, I’m serious. You’ve got to lay off the booze for a few days. See if your brain fog, or whatever you call it, clears. Call it my ‘dream interpretation’ for you, if you want.”

      “I tried laying off. Last night. But I still woke up with a hangover, and I can’t remember a damn thing.”

      “It’s called a black-out. Remember? You have them all the time. I don’t know Jim, maybe it’s time for outside help again?”

      “Like AA, right? Recall, I tried already, with all that ‘higher power’ bullshit, and coffee drinking. It doesn’t work.”

      “OK bro. Just keep doin’ what you’re doin’, but like they say, you’re gonna keep gettin’ what you’ve been gettin’.”

      He left, like he always did. I checked the bottle again. Half empty. It’s always half empty. And then it hit me! What if I just poured the goddamn booze down the drain?

      “Aaron, I thought about it most of the day. In fact, this morning, I was almost sure things were going to be different, but they weren’t.”

      “So, you don’t remember pouring the bottle out, because you never did. Not a big mystery. You blacked-out.”

      “But why? Why is the bottle always half empty?” I held up the bottle.

      “Pour it out Jim. Pour it out, right this minute. While I’m here.”

      “I can’t.”

      “Why?”

      “Don’t know.”

      “Fine.” He took the bottle and then things went slow-mo. It was the dream again. The anxiety hit me hard, an attack like I hadn’t had in a long while. But wasn’t that why I needed to drink?

      “Stop!”

      “Too late bro. All gone.”

      “Damn! What am I going to do now?”

      “Don’t know, but the bottle is empty. Maybe it’s time to wake up.”

      “Don’t fuck with me like that. Not right now.”

      “That’s not what I’m trying to do bro. It’s sort of been your metaphor, hasn’t it?”

      “Metaphor?”

      “Being in a dream. Hey, before AA, I felt a little like that too. Maybe not as bad as you, but I sure remember waking up. One day, it was over. But it was probably a month before that happened, and that was one month I lived, one day at a time.”

      That night I went back to the AA meetings. Aaron was there, just like before, but it was different this time. This time the bottle was empty.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I liked this in depth description of your MC and his buddy. I’ve never been on an all month binge but this reminds of “Lost Weekend”. A movie with Ray Milland, an all consuming, self destructive alcoholic. Your dialogue is right on and so realistic, it jumps from the page, Excellent response and more on course with the response’s guidelines than any story here.

      • don potter says:

        Whatever it takes. Keep coming back. One never knows when or how the message gets through. Obviously, it did this time. Here’s hoping Jim stays continues to stay sober, one day at a time.

      • starwatcher says:

        I loved the way you interpreted the prompt, that living as an alcoholic was like a dream (or a nightmare). The dialogue was great.

      • I am eternally grateful that I have never suffered that kind of addiction. Wonderful metaphor, and I hope Jim’s efforts succeed this time.

    23. swatchcat says:

      One of my favorite hangouts is the Half Price Book Store. After checking on the availability of the books I can’t afford, I look around the rest of the store. When I find something of interest I hide in the back to do some light reading. Today was no different. The title: “What Kind of Dream Was That” by James Serta.

      I picked this one because I have been having weird dreams. My reasoning was to get any help possible but the preface put me right to sleep. I must have been really tired because I dozed off drooling and eventually dreaming.

      I was with some guy at a 7-11 just following him around. Oddly, the perspective would shift from hovering overhead to looking out of my own eyes, sort of like being in a big mascot costume.

      “Let’s rob the store,” he said.

      “No, it’s wrong. We’ll be caught,” I replied. “Besides, people can see.”

      There was a circulating display shelf with lunch pails off to one side. The guy walked over and grabbed a bunch of tin pails and stashed them under his raincoat. They clanged around ridiculously.

      “Put those back please. We’re going to get arrested.” I was gritting my teeth and looked like a squirrel jerking from side to side.

      Before either of us realized it, the cashier had come up behind us. “Put that back or I’ll call the cops.”

      This unknown guy grabbed my arm and yanked me toward the door. “Stop,” she yelled!

      I saw myself looking toward the glass windows at the front of the store, and it was just then, outside, a man floated from around the corner. He was peering into the store and it was then that a ball of flames appeared in one of his hands and he threw it right at me. At that moment a mutant superhero apocalyptic battle broke out at the gas pumps.

      You would think that I would have woke up by now but no, I just kept drooling in Half Price Books as mutants and lunch pails played over and over. I couldn’t wake up. I was stuck in this annoying dream that made no sense. Then someone poured a Super Big Gulp. I turned to watch the liquid pour into the cup and I had to pee like a race horse. I woke wiping my face, set the book on the self and headed for the restroom. Hmm, the answer to all dreams you can’t wake up from, wait till you have to pee.

      • Good one, Swatchcat! If only the answer was that reliable. Your bladder is your friend…

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Exctly like a weird dream is, fragmented, non-sensible, stealing ten dollar tin pails to water a garden of plastic, perhaps. I liked your descriptive idea of her looking at him from above and also with her own eyes. Half Price is a mecca for me. Nice idea for the prompt. Glad to see back, Swatchcat!

      • calicocat88 says:

        This was delightful, swatchcat :) I love how near the end you added the sudden mutant superhero apocalypse, lol! Awesome!! That had to be my favorite line. You did super with the description and MC voice. Great job!

      • agnesjack says:

        I have vivid dreams, sometimes, so I liked the illogical twists and turns that this took. I also liked the unexpected humor at the end.

        • swatchcat says:

          Thanks for all your great comments. I have been away dealing with a lot of shit, as well as fighting a serious case of zero inspiration/ writers block. Forced myself to sit and write something for this. Glad it was okay.

      • don potter says:

        You got me with the book author, James Serta, and then I just went along for the ride. It was a fun ride.

      • You definitely got the feeling of a dream-like setting here, a string of unrelated, incohesive nonsense–that on some deeper, Freudian level, means something…of course, even though I think Freud’s a freak, but I believe our dreams having meaning. Hope everything is okay, and good luck on crushing your writer’s block, seems like this is the best way to get over it, just sit down and write. I like the guy trying to steal lunch pails, LOL, that whole scene had me laughing!

    24. agnesjack says:

      (I tried something different with this prompt.)

      THE NEVER-ENDING DREAM

      She can hear the mourning dove cooing through the open window. The sound floats in with the first light as she stretches lazily in bed. He is sleeping next to her. The sun silently sifts through the dancing dust and touches the folds in the blanket. She turns and snuggles into his back and he, without waking, adjusts just enough to make the connection complete. The cooing of the dove flows in rhythmically like the waves of the ocean, like breathing: soft, gentle, soothing. The space between the cooing is still and quiet. She is grateful for the softness of the morning, where each sound is precious in its simplicity.

      The dream, however, does not last. She wakes again to her forever nightmare. The bed is empty beside her. It is winter always.

      She grabs the dream book that she purchased for fifty cents from the Escargot used bookstore. The woman told her it had what she needed. She has read it three times but can’t find the code, the hint, the secret. Her dreams are much more vivid than her waking world of weighted grays, sharp ice and fog. Perhaps she needs to understand the nightmare, not the dream. She opens the book and looks up fog, shadows and ice. It tells her only that she is confused, helpless and paralyzed.

      She begins to cry and throws the book against the wall. A yellowed page flutters out and lands on the bed. She picks it up. There is nothing on it. She lies back down and holds the page to her heart. She closes her eyes. She knows she can write whatever she wants on this page. It is her page to interpret. She drifts into a white, misty place. She hears a familiar sound from years ago when she was young and full of anticipation.

      Suddenly, she is standing on the beach looking out at the ocean. There are many sailboats anchored in the harbor. As the wind and waves sway the boats their aluminum masts sparkle and blink in the bright sun. The gentle rocking makes their stay wires clang metallically. The rhythm is lazy and unpredictable. She would know that sound anywhere. She would know it even if she were blind. She breathes deeply and the smell of the salt air invigorates her. He is standing beside her. They are arm-in-arm, leaning into one another and laughing as their bare feet welcome the cool caress of the incoming waves. It is a game they always play — a mutual balancing act where they must be in sync. If one moves without the other, one will fall. She hears faint voices in the distance. They are solemn and hushed.

      “Such a shame,” one says.

      “She never really recovered,” says another.

      She doesn’t understand what they mean, so she lets the voices drift away on the breeze and out to sea. He smiles at her because he knows her nightmare has finally ended.

      • jhowe says:

        Why you would name the bookstore Escargot, I have no idea, but I like it. Nice touch with the mourning dove as this seems to be about a woman who lost her husband/lover and can’t get over it except by dreaming. I think so anyway.

        • agnesjack says:

          Actually, the Escargot Bookstore was this fabulous used bookstore in Brielle, NJ, which, alas, is no more. I can see how a reader might wonder if the name had some significance to the story. It doesn’t. I just liked the name.

      • BezBawni says:

        What I like about this story is that not a single word more is needed, it’s self-sufficient and complete and wonderful in its depth. The slight details that are common between the dreams in the beginning and in the end make the narration into a perfect circle. I loved it, leaves a lot of room for thought.

      • Amy says:

        Beautiful imagery, agnesjack. I applaud your attempt at something different. Your word choices and sentence structures help the languid, smooth tone. In the fifth paragraph, I think you need a comma after the phrase, “As the wind and waves sway the boats,” because it feels like there should be a pause there. That’s my only nit-picky remark. Well done.

      • I love the view inside the mind of someone trapped in a dream. I get the impression her “outside-the-dream” self is catatonic or cataleptic, rather than being unconscious or comatose. In any case, it is a wonderful thing that she is transitioning to a good dream.

        She could be dying too, in which case she deserves her heaven.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          It was beautiful, Agnes. As soon as I read the words about the ocean, I thought Avalon. I knew you were describing the Jersey Shore. It seems I spent a lifetime at Avalon in the summertime but it was less than 10 summers. You really pulled all the stops out on this one. I’m going to reread it as soon as I finish this post. I love your writer’s voice, easy, gentle and vivid, expressive voice.

          • agnesjack says:

            Thanks very much, KC.

            I grew up in NJ and have spent quite some time “down the shore,” as we say (my in-laws lived in the Manasquan area), but my reference to the harbor and the boats comes from spending childhood summers in Mystic, CT. There is something about the sounds and smells of the ocean that has always given me a great sense of peace. I know exactly what you mean when you say, “spent a lifetime” at Avalon. Childhood summers at the ocean are magical.

        • agnesjack says:

          Thanks, Tim – the second comment is closer to what I had in mind, but someone who is grief-stricken can certainly seem catatonic or cataleptic (nice word).

      • calicocat88 says:

        You took me to the poor MC’s world. I felt her sorrow, her frustration. I died along with this character and I think you should pat yourself on the back. It’s not easy to get your audience to feel what your character is feeling and you did that perfectly. Love the description–it’s mesmerizing and tangible. I could practically taste the words you used to lay out this story. Also, the pace fit in nicely and went along with what was going on inside the MC.. Couldn’t have been better. So lovely and painful! This one will have my heart aching for a the rest of the day, lol! Great, great, great job!

        • agnesjack says:

          Thanks calicocat for your kind words. This prompt about dreams gave me the opportunity to touch upon the enigmatic power of loss and memory; both of which can be as surreal as a dream.

          p.s. I’ve been meaning to mention that I love your user name. I had a calico cat named Kimo. She was a sweetheart.

          • calicocat88 says:

            Yes, calico cats are awesome :) I’ve had two calicos (mother and daughter) in my life since I was young. The mama’s going to be 15 in a month and the baby is 11. Both are spoiled rotten, lol!

      • Beautiful imagery, Agnes. I really liked this write.

        • agnesjack says:

          Thank you, Doug. I’m very happy I found this site because it not only is a wonderful place to experiment, but a place to find inspiration. I love reading everyone’s pieces.

      • Did anyone else think of Buffy in that episode where she wakes up in a mental institution and she considers the thought that her vampire slaying life is actually a made-up reality she is stuck in? Probably just me being a nerd. I thought it was something like Observer Tim said with the catatonic state, but sounds like maybe she was dying? I LOVED this :) As soon as your MC fell into this beautiful place along the ocean with her loved one, I started to cry a little bit, it’s sooo sad, yet peaceful. The imagery and pacing is perfect. I really can’t think of any critique to offer, it just had such an effect on me.

      • Jen says:

        Really enjoyed this Agnesjack – the sense of sadness and loss is there.

        • agnesjack says:

          Thanks, Toni, who used to be smallster :) and Jen:

          I tried to capture the longing associated with grief. Dreaming seemed to be a perfect metaphor. I have had loss in my life, which is why, perhaps, this story is emotionally accessible — but I didn’t want to write about my loss. I wanted to paint a picture of the place where loss can take you — that ephemeral place of before and after, where the present reality and past memory blend into each other. I did want the feeling at the end to be one of peace and acceptance.

      • DMelde says:

        Well done. A beautiful description of finding inner peace inside of a real-life nightmare. Great story.

      • don potter says:

        Enjoyed the imagery. Since I was a id growing up in Philly, the Jersey Shore attracted me to it like a magnet scooping up a bunch of paperclips. The magic it performs on the senses is indescribable. Thanks for taking me back there. By the way, I live on the in LA now; and the beach (as it’s called here) is not the same. The sun should come up over the water not set there.

        • agnesjack says:

          Ah, yes, Don. I lived in LA for almost two years in the late eighties and the beaches are definitely not the same. The sounds and smells are completely different. Of course, I missed the east coast seasons, too. I like the variety.

    25. I’ve been pretty introspective the last couple of days, probably because of what’s behind my last post. Nothing breaks the somber mood like a romp, so please forgive my indulgence …

      I pick up the book like an ancient treasure. It’s large and thick, bound in oaken covers. Heavy too, over six kilos (thirteen pounds American). The title is “Conquering Your Dreams”; effing prophetic. I’ve been living this disjointed insanity for over a month now, and it’s time to get conquering.

      The book catches Steve in the gut; red and green powder flies out the window and scatters over the busy commons. For the next while Jennifer Nelson will be the most populous girl on campus.

      The book desn’t pass right through Brian. He tries to protest but I cut him off. “Your brother is haunting this house. Leave him alone!”

      The old guy’s skull cracks under the impact and he slumps. “Poe this! Getting up again? Nevermore!” I move on quickly before the big black dog comes for me.

      Smacking her in the chest knocks the wind out of Delilah. The beagle is chewing my leg but I ignore the pain; I’ve had worse. “You want peace? Put the damn dog in another room and let them kill each other. They’ll both come back anyway. And get a bigger bath towel!”

      I knee-cap Rob Edelmeier with the book’s spine and he goes down like a falling redwood. Then I turn to Farrah. “Run, girl! You don’t have to be faster than him, just faster than that gold-digging camera skank.”

      The newscaster makes a little ‘meep’ sound as the book’s spine finds his most sensitive spot. “Keep it in your pants!” I turn to the woman riffling through the script. “Didn’t I tell you to get a bigger towel?”

      The book-smack to the back of the boy’s head smashes his face into the contract; the impact nosebleed ruins it. “Get a new copy, and read it before you sign! It’s better to look like an idiot than to be one.”

      I don’t have to hit Tim as he lies on the pavement dazed; I just crouch next to him. “Don’t let your girlfriend solve your problems.” Then I boot it before Jenny arrives.

      I smash the window, reach in and open the car door. “Get up and run, dumbass. Zombies are freakin’ slow!”

      I splat the amoeba-thingy before it does something unconsciously stupid.

      Angela stares at me and I can’t move. “Get out of this dream before I get really angry. Your problem is over there, behind the fourth wall.” She points in a direction that doesn’t exist.

      I leave Tim alone. At least he’s solving his own problems. That’s twice I’ve spared him; maybe I’m getting soft. Nah.

      Finally, I’ve got him. Self-insertion: the writer’s biggest blunder. This ends now, Observer Tim.

      And then the old man looks at me. The old man who spent over seven decades dealing with every piece of shit the world could fling at him and came up smiling. This isn’t going to work.

      But I can see your hands on the keyboard through the fourth wall. I’m coming for you, Observer Tim. Somehow.

      • There. This references every story I’ve posted here, from the Reaction to present.

        If you want to go back and look, feel free. And I don’t just mean my stories; there are so many great writers and so many lovely takes on these prompts that you could be eternally trapped in there and die of enjoyment.

      • jhowe says:

        So this is how they do things in Canada. That was a lot of fun. You even managed to get the amoeba in there. I didn’t mind when Angela pointed in a direction that didn’t exist, but next time the script girl wants to wear a small towel, let her be.

        • Thanks, Jhowe. Books are usually used to defeat societies, but one that’s large and heavy enough can be used on individuals. We had an old lecturn bible at my church that was kind of like this, but it was only about half the weight I used here.

          Sorry to disappoint, but after seeing herself on the news, Delilah bought a terrycloth bathrobe that now hangs on the door of her shower room for just such an emergency.

      • BezBawni says:

        I couldn’t make head or tail of it, but it was so much fun to read)))

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Since I read all of your posts, I thought this really rocked! Pick up the pieces and move forward again. That’s all it takes. Rise up one more time than you’ve been put off your feet, that is the key. With all these characters in your story, how did you manage to keep them from bug-tussling?

          • The metacharacter is doing the “Stay Tuned” thing, jumping from story to story trying to find the writer, so only the one who is somewhat of a metacharacter herself (Angela) can figure out where he came from or why.

            Otherwise everyone would likely end up fighting zombies. Except maybe Slubloop, which would continue to enjoy itself in the aqueous medium – if it had known what enjoyment was.

      • calicocat88 says:

        I don’t know how you did it, but you did! You managed to take all of your posts and not only make one massive post about them, but you also wrote it out in a dream-like way. This is exactly how dreams are like–all this stuff jumbled together making one colorful storyline. Very creative take here, ObserverTim. I enjoyed this :)

      • This was a neat idea, Tim. Well played, sir.

      • agnesjack says:

        A wonderful way to shake loose from the doldrums — and fun, too.

      • This made me feel like I was on drugs…lol, I mean that as a compliment, it was different, edgy, and fast-paced. I caught some of the references, but a few things didn’t make sense, but it was, like everyone else said, fun to read and very dream-like, so it fit well together :)

      • Thanks for all the kind words, folks; it was terrific fun to write. I’m glad I did this now, it was a bit tight on the 500-word limit.

        And I seriously urge everyone to go back and look at the old posts if you have the time. Sometimes new stories magically appear! That was how I found Susan’s first story, and several others that were added after the fact. It looks like the “No News” prompt was hit by a classroom (all the 1314 id’s), but there are a bunch of good ideas in there, too.

      • Uh-oh… it sounds like you’re in trouble, Tim! (I have always wondered if all those characters I do horrible things to will come get me some day…

      • DMelde says:

        This was a fun read! I really enjoyed it. Thanks!

      • don potter says:

        I’ve read many of your posts, but I would have enjoyed this dream sequence even if I hadn’t.

    26. LET IT GO—IF YOU DIE, IT WILL NOT KILL YOU

      Along a deserted highway, a body lay in the middle of the road, crumpled in a heap of twisted limbs, blood, broken memories and hearts that cry within the clouds, from which black rain starts to pour. She twitches and rolls her head back. Screaming fills the air, yet her mouth isn’t open. I know who she is, but I can’t think of her name. So familiar, yet so distant.

      Oh, she is me. Brown eyes looking up into the sky as an invisible hand pushes the shirt up her chest. Beneath her clothes, embedded within the skin of her stomach is a face—the source of the screaming.

      I close my eyes and open my mouth, but can’t speak. I struggle to say the Lord’s name, but it’s as if demons are squeezing the air from my lungs, or maybe He does not want His name on my tongue?

      I stomp the ground in frustration, and pass the dying me on the road as I head toward an abandoned gas station. My insides tighten and I rush to the bathroom where I start vomiting up blood. It covers my hands, seeps into the cracks of my palm, and yet, I still do not heed its warning…I shove my hand down my throat and empty my insides. So much confusion within the blood, the water below turns to death as the heads of wild beasts surface within the toilet, gnashing their teeth at me.

      I rush from the station and collide with a man—yellow eyes, golden skin, no hair upon his head. He stares into my soul.

      “How do I leave this place?” I ask.

      His voice echoes. “The release from this prison is accomplished through death.” He points a long skeletal finger behind me. The wild beasts emerge from the building, covered in sewage. Next to my ear, the man whispers, “You will run, but you must let go.”

      The first beast jumps toward me and I take off. They nip at my heels, wanting to devour me, wanting to change me, wanting to take everything and make me bleed tears until I am drained of all hope and humanity.

      As I run past twisted, dying me on the road, the beasts ignore her, and I realize I must do the same. I don’t want to be scared anymore. In order to gain freedom, I must show them their torment doesn’t affect me. I take a deep breath and count to three.

      1…2…3…I collapse to the ground, and they immediately latch onto my limbs, pulling at my flesh. I see my blood, encasing me in a warm portal of release. I open my mouth and push my breath with all my strength, “Gawwwwwww…”

      “awwwwwd!” I shriek as I jump up in bed, clutching the covers with my fists. Tears fall, dampening the sheets as well as the journal resting on my lap—the journal holding all my nightmares, all the pain of the past, all the terrors of the night that have stalked me. I don’t feel scared. These are tears of triumph. I feel relief.

      I set the journal on the nightstand, then get up and throw the curtains open, sending clouds of dust into the air. The sun cuts into the room and starts to warm my skin as I revel in the triumph of the night. The only question now is will it last?

      • Hey guys, it’s me, smallster21 :) I changed my display name!

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          I’m so glad to hear your voice again on the written page, Toni. This is beautifully written and so much truth, does it contain. A story of spiritual growth and acceptence, at least that’s what I see in your words. The demons you describe are in our own consciousness and never seem to be vanquished, only subdued by our own strength of will. It is such a wonderful, moving prose. Kerry

          • Thanks Kerry :) Yes, you are right, accepting and acknowleding the troubles in our life is the first step in releasing the power they have over us.

            I have a dream journal I pulled some of this content from. I tried to turn it into a stream of consciousness that made some kind of sense, so it’s good to see nobody was like “What is this? There is no continuity or flow to this garble.” And, following someone’s advice, I did this one time–stopped fighting and let myself die within my nightmare. I woke up with renewed energy, it was refreshing to know I didn’t let the nightmare affect me. Not sure what that all means on a deeper level, but rest assured everyone, the adage that if you die in your dreams, you die in real life is not true! :)

            I know I’ve been MIA, my dad’s sick, and I have another part of the CPA exam coming up, never time to sit down lately. But, I can’t stay away too long! You all are awesome on here, and I look forward to reading your story as always!

        • Welcome back, Toni. It’s really great to have you around again.

          Exam time is hell, but the goal is a good one. Remember both John Cleese and Bob Newhart were trained accountants!

          I’m sorry to hear about your dad. I lost mine this week, so I truly hope it’s not that serious (maybe just Nash’s “Fuhrer of the Streptococcracy”). May he recover as fast and as well as possible. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

          • I’m sorry to hear about your dad, that must be so hard, and I know there’s nothing I can really say to comfort you. Luckily, I’m sure my dad will be fine, it is just hard to see him ill. I found out he had cancer. He has to wait to get treatment, because he doesn’t have health insurance (he’s self-employed). He is at a stage where he can wait, because it is slow growing. He can’t really get assistance, because he makes decent money, but he is going through a divorce, and he has bills, so all his money disappears pretty quickly. Oi, depressing stuff, but I am thankful he is here, so thank you for the kind words, and I send you and your family prayers.

      • jhowe says:

        This is a great story. Very vivid and filled with terror. How awful it would be to encounter a dying, twisted me. Now that she took the man’s advice and let the beasts catch her, I hope the release lasts.

      • Amy says:

        Welcome back, smallster. We missed your creativity around here. I enjoyed your story. Action packed and just enough weirdness to make things interesting. It felt like a real dream, something I would dream myself, no less. (Yes, I have crazy dreams like that!) Thanks for sharing.

        • Weirdness…thanks! Lol ;) Good to hear there are others with crazy ass dreams too! As writers, our overactive imaginations certainly contribute to the vivid dreams we tend to have sometimes, kindred crazy-night-terror-comrades in arms, lol :)

      • BezBawni says:

        The transition between the dream and the reality is just pristine. I’m new to the community and this is the first time I read anything of yours, but I can see why people are happy to see you, Toni Smalley :-)

        • Well, thank ya! :) I missed out on the last few prompts, and it’s great to see so many new people on here, who are actually participating! There are so many stories on here now, I’m excited to read through them this weekend.

      • agnesjack says:

        You’ve captured the night terrors, or rather, life’s terrors, so beautifully. I like the positive, defiant ending, especially the last words, “will it last?” It’s so human. It acknowledges that triumph over life’s struggles is never absolute.

      • calicocat88 says:

        Well, now I won’t tonight, lol! Very good with the pacing and the description. I can tell there is symbolism in this and I can think too many things to connect them to. Love that! Actually, I feel that this piece is poetic, really, and extremely relatable. Also, so many memorable lines:

        “I struggle to say the Lord’s name, but it’s as if demons are squeezing the air from my lungs, or maybe He does not want His name on my tongue?”

        My official favorite line. Great Job!!

        • Thanks :) When I used to have nightmares really bad, I used to wake myself up by praying, sometimes forcing it out and waking up screaming “God” like I showed in the story….other people do that right? I know, sounds kinda crazy, but aren’t we all ;)

      • Wow, what wonderful things to say :) I’ve been in a rut lately, so it’s nice to hear such kind comments. Thank you!

      • Dreams can be so primal and visceral, can’t they? This is a work of fine craftsmanship.

      • DMelde says:

        Hi Toni. I’m sorry to hear about your dad. Your family is going through a rough time and I hope it gets better soon, so hang in there, and remember you can always come to this forum and get away from it when you need to. Now, on to your story. I really like how you wove the dream together. The dream was aimless, as dreams are wont to do, yet it had a cohesiveness with events that stacked upon one another, as dreams are also wont to do. Great story!! I, too, keep a dream journal, but I haven’t written anything down lately. If you want to try something new in your dreams, try Confront and Conquer. The next time the beast chases you, turn around and confront it. Show it you’re not afraid, and by doing so, you conquer it. Then, always demand a gift once the beast is conquered. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you receive. And another thing you can try is when you meet a friend in a dream, ask for a gift instead of demanding one. Gifts in dreams are the bestest in the world!

        • Awww, you made me feel all warm and fuzzy, thanks! I’ll have to try the confront and conquer technique. I dream every single night and it gets tiring, maybe if I demand presents, my subconscious fiends will say screw this and go away lol :) Great advice!

      • don potter says:

        So it’s Toni, now. Whatever handle you use, I enjoyed dreaming with you. Hope your dad is felling better.

    27. CHIMERA
      ========

      Betty haunted what passed for downtown Dorchester. It was two in the afternoon on a bakelite-hot summer day. She had the whole crumbling sidewalk to herself. Any other soul not on prison business sought comfort indoors, handy to a fan or something better.

      The door chimes announced her entrance as Betty entered the bookstore. She was exhausted and had to stifle a yawn as the cool musty air filled her lungs.

      “Hi, Betty,” said the store’s matron from behind the counter. “Still not sleeping?”

      “No, I never sleep well when Andy’s on his stint, but this time the dreams won’t let me be. Thank Lord he’s home tonight.”

      Andy worked three-days-on and three-off at the prison. Ever since the kids left, Betty struggled with the isolation. A part of it was her husband’s job and part of it was the emptiness of her own motherly duties winding up. That the dying town held nothing for her weighed heavily.

      “You want some tea?” asked Betty’s helpful friend. “I have some bag-an-hour on the warmer out back.”

      Betty cringed at the thought of the metallic teabag stew. “No thanks, Marnie. I am just going to look around.”

      Marnie’s store was full of new and used books. There was almost always some new find. Sometimes it was rare and sometimes it was just odd.

      “Anything interesting?” she asked.

      “There’s a bunch of occult crap that Reverend McInnis sold off. He said it was for Sunday School supplies, but I think it was to replace the Communion wine that he’s been tasting.

      Marnie gave Betty a conspiratorial look and nodded to a ratty box in the corner. Most of it was typical God Warrior rhetoric, but a think tome on dream interpretation caught her eyes. It was a joint publication: Jung and Crowley. ‘Interesting’, she thought.

      “How much, Marnie?”

      “It’s yours if it’ll help you sleep.”

      “Thanks,” said Betty and left to make the jaunt from the store to her house around the bend of Shepody Bay. It was a good long walk and she continued to have only herself for company. Even the sandpipers were taking their siestas.

      By the time she for home. She was hot, sweaty and hungry. She was also exhausted. She found this state encouraging. She made a poor-boy from a tear of day-old and a piece of cheddar. She washed the works down with one of Andy’s waiting beers. ‘He cam Goddamn well share,’ she thought as she tidied up, before retiring to the cool den for a long-overdue nap.

      Betty lugged her new book and laid on her back, holding the text above her with both hands. For its size, the volume was light and easy to hold.

      The prose was crafted in early-twentieth century academia. The retired schoolteacher didn’t have any trouble with it and soon found herself lost in the strange exploration of dreamscape.

      In her dream, the dream she was now having, Betty was running through the woods near Memramcook, where she grew up. She was always out of breath, heart-racing as she fled an unknown fear. There would always be a stumble, a fall, an accident or obstacle that prevented her escape. She’d close her eyes and pray for a swift end. The dream would end and Betty would spend the rest of the night sleepless and wide awake.

      This time was different. Armed with her book, Betty turned to face her pursuer and opened her eyes. The demon’s red eyes pierced her soul but Betty did not lose her resolve. She met the beast’s gaze with the soldering coal of her own.

      She clenched her fist and closed her hand on Andy’s straight razor. It was a gift from her father to Andy as he laid dying in the hospital. The stench of cancer and death never left her. She greeted that foulness now as she swung the open blade across the beast’s throat.

      It howled. It bled. It died.

      Betty woke to find herself standing in the middle of her den, furniture and belongings in complete disarray. On the floor in front of her, in a rapidly expanding pool of blood, lay her slain husband.

      She looked at her hand and dropped the razor to the floor.

      • Ahhhhh! OMG! Just when I thought she’d conquered her nightmare and we had a happy ending, she woke up to a real-life horror scene. Great details as always :) Loved the nice steady pace, it was very warm and comforting, then you totally ripped out my eyes with that last scene! Eeep!

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          I felt comfortable with your style and story. I always feel at home when I’m reading you. And the end came slamming down on me like a truck load of worn bricks, plummeting my easyness. I’m looking for hints in the story about her relationship with Andy.

          I think at the very least, he was verbally abusive to her and her dreams reflected that. Somehow she got the courage to physically confront him this time. [The den being in disarray.] Very powerful and sad at the same time.

      • Fantastic turnaround, Doug. I know with you to expect the unexpected, and you don’t disappoint.

      • jhowe says:

        I knew when she picked up the razor that we were in for a gut wrencher. You set us up perfectly to be shocked. Great read.

      • BezBawni says:

        Couldn’t agree more, my jaw dropped somewhere along the the last three lines. Don’t worry, with those three lines in the end you made me forgot all the typos.

      • Amy says:

        Whoa, didn’t see that coming! Maybe Andy was some kind of demon or possessed or something, and her dream revealed the evil inside him. Or maybe she made a tragic mistake. Either way, an awesome write. Great language. It definitely set a tone.

      • agnesjack says:

        I agree that the end makes one wonder about Andy and her relationship with him.

        Mostly, I found the ending extremely unsettling. I did not see it coming. Shiver shiver.

      • calicocat88 says:

        Geez, Doug, talk about ending with a twist, lol! It was great! I love to be surprised in stories which doesn’t happen too often, so you nailed it! Great characters, great description and lines. I think it’s safe to say that this was a success ;) great job! Looking forward to more of what you got in that head of yours. Write on!

      • don potter says:

        I loved the paragraph leading up to the death of the beast followed by the simple, yet powerful, statement “It howled. It bled. It died.” Great story. Gave me the creeps.

      • DMelde says:

        So, the book store matron Marnie is an accessory to murder! “Your honor, my client would never had committed the act without the aid of the book…” They should have warning labels on those bookey things. Having said that, I liked the leisurely pace that your story took until you drove us all of the cliff with the “It howled. It bled. It died.” ending. Great story!

    28. don potter says:

      Weird dreams had become the rule rather than the exception for the past several weeks. I found this disturbing enough to search for a book that might help me interpret these dreams and allow me a good night’s sleep for a change.
      Rather than buy one at a big chain store, I went to an old shop in the Village. That way I might get some help from the proprietor without feeling embarrassed.
      The shopkeeper, a strange little man reminiscent of a character right out of a Dickens novel, seemed knowledgeable about the subject and took me to a rather dark corner in the back of the store. He reached to an upper shelf and brought down a dusty old book, which he ran a rag across before handing it to me. I leafed through it, but did not know what to look for. He told me the price, it seemed reasonable, and I took the book home.
      I started to read the book after dinner and continued through the evening. The more I read the more my fascination grew. I got ready for bed and took the book with me. Tired from two weeks of sporadic sleep, I dozed off.
      Next thing I know, indescribable dreams are dancing through my mind. I was aware it was a dream and expected to wake up any moment. At last, I seem to be awake. But after trying to get out of bed, it was apparent I was still asleep while dreaming I was awake.
      “How can this be?” I mumbled. Then I remembered the note on page one, which instructed the reader to finish the entire book before sleeping. This, I thought, was some kind of a tease rather than a warning.
      Panic set in. How was I going to wake up from this dream of me trying to wake up? I thought back to what I had read but could not recall what had been so enlightening just a few hours earlier.
      “Think!”
      The harder I tried the more disjointed and incoherent my thoughts became. It was as if I were dreaming.
      “You are dreaming,” I screamed.
      My shout woke me. The bed was soaked with my sweat, as if I had a fever and it broke. So I took off my pajamas and jumped into the shower. The digital clock registered 6:00, too late to go back to bed and too early to go to work. I dressed and went to the coffee shop on the corner for breakfast, taking the book with me. By the time I finished reading, it was time to go to the office.
      On the way to the subway, I had to walk by the book shop. It was open. The old man greeted me.
      “Did you read the book?” he asked.
      “I did but had a frightening experience between when I started and when I finished.” I told him the story of my nightmarish night.
      He laughed and said, “That’s why the title of the book is Never-Ending Dream.”

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        OMG! He’s having to go through this every night for the rest of his life. What a hook at the end. “The shopkeeper, a strange little man reminiscent of a character right out of a Dickens novel,” is a wonderful line, eliminating at least a paragraph to get the same description across to the reader. A wonderful piece of work.

      • I wonder if he’s really woken up or it’s just another level of the dream. Great story, Don, even moreso for being told in so few words.

      • jhowe says:

        Well written story. If Carrie is right and he has this dream every night, he’s going to have to invest in some extra sheets for his bed.

      • This was quite the frightening take, Don. It’s like Groundhog Day, but much much worse.

      • Amy says:

        I bet he’s still dreaming, even after he thinks he has woken up. Many layers of the Never-Ending Dream. Good story and good descriptions. Just a couple instances of tense shifting in the middle.

      • I love the Dickens line too, and the ending was like a surreal, mind-bending movie. Is he still dreaming? If so, what is the creepy shopkeepers role in this never-ending dream book. This is a good start to an interesting story :) I would have liked to have known what made the MC state “The more I read the more my fascination grew.”

        • don potter says:

          I wanted to let the reader know the MC was totally into the book. That way, readers could use their imagination and I saved a bunch of words. Having given this explanation, I must admit I had no idea what is was that he found fascinating. As for the shopkeeper, he was just a distributor of books. Or was he?

      • DMelde says:

        Great story Don. Well written, cohesive and seamless. I loved the ending. Your story has so much potential to go in many different directions. :)

        • don potter says:

          I never write these stories with an eye to expanding them in the future. Rather, I try to respond to the prompt by writing a tale that stays within the allotted 500 words (plus or minus 10%). As a novelist, this discipline is helpful; since it’s easy to get lazy and overwrite. When I finish my current project, I’ll take a look at the posts. Maybe it’s time to write another collection of short stories. Thanks for the suggestion.

    29. Dirty Toupee says:

      (The first post was a disaster. It didn’t come out right, so I’m trying one more time. I apologize for the mess.)

      Lumpy mattress or lumpy husband. He has gained a pound or 50 over the past year. Or, maybe it was the weird dream I kept having of being chased by an eggplant while simultaneously trying to catch an elusive stalk of celery. Something was keeping me from a restful nights sleep these past few weeks.

      There’s nothing like sleep deprivation to make you take a few wrong turns on the ride home and end up at an old bookstore, you never knew existed. Fate brought me here for a reason, so why waste the trip? Might as well pick up a low fat, low carb, low calorie, and low taste cookbook for my hubby.

      Later in bed that evening, I thumbed through the book while eating the last piece of chocolate cake. Better for me to eat it than you know who.

      “Wow, an entire section on the symbolism of food in dreams,” I told my husband. Just this morning we’d discussed my reoccurring dream.

      “Mmm hmm,” he sighed groggily and turned over, uninterested.

      “When food is either chasing you or running away from you, it represents a goal in your life that you’re striving for or a problem that you’re trying to avoid. In either case, never refuse a helping hand…”

      Breathless, sweat stinging my eyes, and calf muscles painfully burning from over exertion, I glanced down at my watch. Eleven o’clock in the morning. I ran through Death Valley with a huge, purple eggplant in quick pursuit, dumbfounded that something that size could nearly keep pace with me. I stole glances over my shoulder and saw that the heat was taking its toll on it too. It was beginning to rot.

      Dehydrated and dizzy, I checked my watch again. Five o’clock in the afternoon.

      “Six hours,” I panted, before stumbling and turning my ankle, sending a searing pain up my leg.

      “Ow,” I screamed as I fell to the ground.

      Within one heartbeat the eggplant was on top of me. Suffocating me with it’s sheer weight, it rolled and pressed me into the sand. I fought back, swinging and clawing at it’s skin, my nails sinking into the mushy rotten parts. The smell of mold was overpowering. I’d gotten the upper hand and regained my footing. On wobbly legs, and covered in sand, I ran for my life, the eggplant still behind me.

      There it was, up ahead. The elusive stalk of celery. Long, lean, crisp, and inviting. Something was different this time. The celery stalk reached back and held out a leaf for me to grab.

      It was morning now and I turned to find my husband. There he was in his tight, dingy undershirt, looking eight months pregnant. The love of my life.

      I smiled broadly, “Good morning, honey.” Seeing him still gave me a tingle.

      “Hey sweetie,” he said pointing to the cake crumbs down the front of my nightshirt. “You might want to do something about that. That’s just not sexy.”

      “Sure,” I rolled my eyes. “I found a few recipes I want to try. I’m going to turn you into celery if it kills me.”

      “What?”

      “Just ignore the morning breath, and kiss me already.”

    30. Dirty Toupee says:

      Lumpy mattress or lumpy husband. He has gained a pound or 50 over the past year. Or, maybe it was the

      weird dream I kept having of being chased by an eggplant while simultaneously trying to catch an elusive

      stalk of celery. Something was keeping me from a restful nights sleep these past few weeks.

      There’s nothing like sleep deprivation to make you take a few wrong turns on the ride home and end up at an

      old bookstore, you never knew existed. Fate brought me here for a reason, so why waste the trip? Might as

      well pick up a low fat, low carb, low calorie, and low taste cookbook for my hubby.

      Later in bed that evening, I thumbed through the book while eating the last piece of chocolate cake. Better

      for me to eat it than you know who.

      “Wow, an entire section on the symbolism of food in dreams,” I told my husband. Just this morning we’d

      discussed my reoccurring dream.

      “Mmm hmm,” he sighed groggily and turned over, uninterested.

      “When food is either chasing you or running away from you, it represents a goal in your life that you’re
      striving for or a problem that you’re trying to avoid. In either case, never refuse a helping hand…”

      Breathless, sweat stinging my eyes, and calf muscles painfully burning from over exertion, I glanced down at

      my watch. Eleven o’clock in the morning. I ran through Death Valley with a huge, purple eggplant in quick

      pursuit, dumbfounded that something that size could nearly keep pace with me. I stole glances over my

      shoulder and saw that the heat was taking its toll on it too. It was beginning to rot.

      Dehydrated and dizzy, I checked my watch again. Five o’clock in the afternoon.

      “Six hours,” I panted, before stumbling and turning my ankle, sending a searing pain up my leg.

      “Ow,” I screamed as I fell to the ground.

      Within one heartbeat the eggplant was on top of me. Suffocating me with it’s sheer weight, it rolled and

      pressed me into the sand. I fought back, swinging and clawing at it’s skin, my nails sinking into the mushy

      rotten parts. The smell of mold was overpowering. I’d gotten the upper hand and regained my footing. On

      wobbly legs, and covered in sand, I ran for my life, the eggplant still behind me.

      There it was, up ahead. The elusive stalk of celery. Long, lean, crisp, and inviting. Something was different

      this time. The celery stalk reached back and held out a leaf for me to grab.

      It was morning now and I turned to find my husband. There he was in his tight, dingy undershirt, looking

      eight months pregnant. The love of my life.

      I smiled broadly, “Good morning, honey.” Seeing him still gave me a tingle.

      “Hey sweetie,” he said pointing to the cake crumbs down the front of my nightshirt. “You might want to do

      something about that. That’s just not sexy.”

      “Sure,” I rolled my eyes. “I found a few recipes I want to try. I’m going to turn you into celery if it kills me.”

      “What?”

      “Just ignore the morning breath, and kiss me already.”

    31. calicocat88 says:

      (Sorry for the ridiculous word count. I’m sickened and ashamed. You can stone me if necessary.)

      Demons are seriously over-credited for human problems. I mean, never once did I actually make a human do anything that he or she didn’t already want to do to begin with. I don’t give them desires. I play with the ones they already have until they finally decide to actually do something about it. For some reason I was assigned an intern to babysit until he could be released out of Hell on his own without hanging himself over a bridge.

      “There are two kinds of humans in the world,” I said, taking a break to sip my Latte, “Ones who give in to temptation and enjoy it and those who give in to temptation and feel guilty.”

      “Which is she?” Raven sat in one of the orange bean-bag chairs pushed against the wall. He sipped at his first caffeinated beverage ever. I made sure I ordered him something mild, but regardless, I was eager to see his reaction to the energy spike.

      “This one,” I nodded to the girl across the room standing at the book shelves. She had been staring at them for the past twenty minutes, unable to make up her mind. She finally settled down in a large armchair in the corner by the fireplace. “She just doesn’t know what she wants.”

      “Right.” Raven furrowed his brows, jotting down notes on a black notepad.

      I took that time to lean back in my chair and scan the café. Through the dim lights and smoke I could make out the clumps of humans prattling about poetry and literature. One couple was in a passionate discussion about Dante’s Inferno—if only they knew. The Joint had once been a coffee shop ran by locals. Over the recent years it was turned into a coffee shop part bookstore primarily targeting teens and college students. Neither was on my list of favorite people. One of the barmaids passed by our area and I gave her a wink to watch her giggle and squirm. It was cute, like a puppy dangling from a hook, cute.

      “So what is it that we’re doing here again?” Raven used his pencil to swish back his mangled black hair from out his eyes.

      “We’re here,” I said, “To get into the mind of Rosezella Burns.”

      * * * * *

      She could feel him staring. The boy and his creepy friend sat on the platform overlooking the espresso machines, the light haired one leaning back chattering with his hands behind his head while the dark haired one scribbled in a notebook. Every time she glanced over the book the light haired one would give her sweet eyes.

      She shuddered and hid back behind the thick volume.

      The Magical and Mystical Realm of Dreams. Maybe the book she really should have gotten was the Psychology of Murderers and Rapists. But she needed answers. Her dreams were becoming invasive. She couldn’t so much as day dream without images of death and destruction marring her thoughts. It was tormenting like some creature had crept inside her body and was scraping its nails across her brain. A cartoon picture of Satan with his forked tongue and tail flashed briefly in her mind.

      As she read, Rose could feel a heaviness sweep over her body, weighing down her arms and slowing her heart. The sensation was dizzying, intoxicating. Her instincts were telling her to fight, but she didn’t want to. What was it that she was worrying about a minute ago? Maybe if she just rested her eyes…

      Blinding lights glared into her face, forcing her eyes open. Rose blinked though the darkness surrounding her, sitting up on a hard, wet ground. She could barely make out the neon lines on the road. She was on a highway.

      There were no signs, nothing but clusters of pine trees. Something like the sound of a freight train was gaining speed and quickly getting closer. Standing to her feet, her eyes connected with the grill of a massive eighteen wheeler, swerving, about to crush her when she was knocked down by something hard into the ditch.

      The big-rig zoomed by, nailing a sapling that was only a few inches away from where Rose had been standing. When she tried to sit back up her head connected with bone, knocking her to her behind.
      “Damn it!” A voice grumbled beside her. “I won’t be very happy if that turns into a bruise.”

      Rose focused on a lean, caramel haired boy. His neatly pressed collared shirt was half untucked from his jeans and there was something silver and glistening in his hand. He grinned down at her, revealing a perfect mouth of teeth, like a cat cornering a mouse.

      “What’s going on?” she said. In the vast sea of questions crashing in her brain, that one seemed the most logical, and the most obvious. She was dreaming.

      The boy flipped the silver object over in his hand and wiped it on his jeans. It was a dagger. “You tell me, cutie. It’s your dream.” He winked.

      Rose felt her mouth fall open at the sudden recognition. The boy from The Joint… “Get away from me.” she crawled backwards on the wet ground, one of her bow-tie flats getting stuck in the mud.

      He laughed. “I can’t do that.”

      “Why am I here—why are you here?”

      “You really don’t know?” he said. “You brought us here. I’m just along for the ride.”

      “I saw you watching me in the café,” she said. “You drugged me, didn’t you?”

      “Yes,” he drawled. “And now I’m going to ravage you and leave your body chopped up in the woods.” He stopped and stuck the dagger into his back pocket. “I’m not going to do anything to you. This is your dream, remember? I just saved you, by the way. You can thank me if you’d like.”

      Rose stared. She knew boys like him, the kind that were attractive and knew it.

      He raised a perfect brown eyebrow. “From a girl like you I’d expected better manners. Didn’t mommy and daddy teach you anything, Rosezella?”

      “You don’t know me,” she said.

      “You’re right,” he said. “I don’t. But I will. You want me to.”

      “No, I don’t!” Who was this guy? Why was she dreaming about him? Because it was only a dream. A stupid dream about a stupid, pretty boy with stupid pretty brown eyes—

      “Rose,” he knelt down and gripped her by the hair, forcing her face inches away from his. “Listen to me good. If you want this to be painful, I can make it painful. Personally, I think you could be of some good use. I think you’re different than the other ones, so make this simple for me and give up.”

      “Are you going to kill me now?” she whispered.

      “Not yet,” he said, running his knuckles down her jaw. “Or as long as I can get away with it.” He closed the distance between them and pressed his lips roughly against hers–

      The sounds of the café woke her, the book of dreams collapsed on her lap. She was back in the real world. Her heart was racing, a sheen of sweat on her hands and chest. Her lips tingled with the ghost of a kiss. Rose looked up, and across the room on the platform, the boy smiled at her and winked.

      • Nicely done. I’d love to know what happens next!

      • Great story, Calicocat. I would also be interested in where this goes; it’s a great beginning opening chapter.

        • calicocat88 says:

          Observer Tim, thank you! I got really excited by this idea and I had to work hard to control myself. I know I love using my “pre-made” characters, but these guys came from looking for a new idea to go with the prompt and it just made me happy.

      • jhowe says:

        I knew, as soon as I read the first paragraph that I was going to like this story. But I ended up loving it. Loved the POV shift. I enjoyed the conversation between the demons. As demon 1 said, he plays with the desires they alread have. So Rose wasn’t entirely disappointed by her little mind trip.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          I can’t call this anything but exciting, sexy, perfect and titilating. Talk about a turn on. Forgive me, I got carried away.

        • calicocat88 says:

          jhowe, your comments have just made my day. I am so thrilled you guys have enjoyed this. Like I said up above, these are new characters and they just sort of took off in my imagination. And I’m glad you paid attention to the “desires” detail. I was worried nobody would put it all together from faulty writing on my part. So thanks :)

      • don potter says:

        Wow! A great study in human nature and fun to read, too. Give me more.

      • BezBawni says:

        Never worry about the word count with a story as good as this. I read it in one breath and was left gasping for more. Also I couldn’t take a stupid blissful smile off my face while reading it, partly because Raven was so funny and partly because I wanted to be in the girl’s shoes. Keep writing, paper needs more of you.

      • You really had fun with this, Calicocat. In one little story, you created a whole world. I think you should hold on to this one for expansion. I bet you have a bunch of ideas in your head for this already. Write ‘em down.

      • agnesjack says:

        God, I hope she gets up and leaves the cafe! Very nice, calicocat.

        • calicocat88 says:

          Ha! Ha! agnesjack, I hope so too! I’m always finding myself in these kinds of weird situations so it was easy to slip in the creep factor for Rose. Bless her heart. Thanks!

      • OMG I looooooooved this story! You have a flippin new super cool idea every week! When are you going to expound on these and turn them into longer stories, or have you already? The first paragraph caught my attention right away, what a great concept–a demon training a newbie while sipping a latte in a coffee shop. I giggled at the end, because I was so excited. I love when stories entertain me like this. I want to read more of this, and I friggin mean it, if you write this story, I’ll be your beta reader, pleaseeeeee :)

        • calicocat88 says:

          Whoooa! Thank you, Toni! These words are…just…wow. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the encouragement :) I am actually wanting to expand on most of my stories. I have a problem of never being able to keep an idea from growing into something much bigger. I’d love to be able to write short stories like you guys–so amazed by the talent on this site! Yours is always great! Ecstatic that this entertained you so much. It always feels good when readers enjoy your stuff. If the next prompt seems to be a scene that these characters would end up in, maybe you’ll get to see them again ;) Btw, you guys would definitely be the first to know if I ever manage to finish anything into an actual novel. My writer’s digest peeps’ opinions mean a lot to me.

          • I hear ya on the trouble with growing your WIPs. I have several WIPs going on at once. I just finished my first WIP, a 20,000 word comedic sci-fi novella which I am editing right now. The most I have done with a project is 75,000 words on a contemporary fantasy series. It’s like I can’t focus on one thing for a long period of time. I have focus issues. I think you’ll probably know in your heart when you grasp an idea you want to run with, so good luck with the discovery process, and I wish you luck, because you are full of wonderful ideas.

            And if you even have just bits done with a project, maybe consider posting it on Book Country, it’s a writing community where you can workshop your WIPs, it’s run by Penguin. I looked into, because I was concerned about the whole ‘previously published’ concern, but they’ve assured me it is a closed community and it is not considered as such. I asked a few literary magazines as well, and they told me as long as it’s a closed community, they are fine with that. Anyway, I only go on there more now for the discussions, which are always active and full of great advice. Okay, I’m done rambling, I’m a rambler, especially when I’m tired, lol :)

      • Amy says:

        Let the stoning begin! j/k Really though, 1200+ words…? I think you come up with some amazing ideas and I love the way you twist a story in a direction I wouldn’t have gone, but I would love to read all that creativity packed into a shorter response. Don’t get me wrong… I was very entertained. I just can’t turn off the editor in my brain. Well done.

        • calicocat88 says:

          Yes, Amy, I have a tiny editor on my shoulder at all times, lol! There are some prompts that are super easy to keep to the minimum, then there are those that I firmly believe (after seriously trying to figure out how to condense) just can’t be cut down :/ It’s the novel writer on the other shoulder beating down the short story writer that keeps me at the lengths, lol! Glad you were entertained!

    32. Amy says:

      THE RED DRESS

      The grass is sparkling beneath the morning sun. I know there are no diamonds among the blades, but it glitters just the same. My feet are bare as I glide over the dew-soaked lawn to the edge of our gathering. The men are stoic, the women weepy. They look like pillars, dark and worn, surrounding the casket. Can she really be in there? Surely she must be dying to get out. But no, she is already dead. And she can’t get out.

      I see my father, holding tight to Aria’s tiny hand. She stares at the casket with sleep clouding her eyes. She does not understand. She still thinks mom will take us to the end of summer picnic next weekend; ride the Ferris Wheel like always and point out our house next to the big oak when we reach the top. But she won’t.

      I start toward them, but a movement catches my eye. Over at the edge of the trees, a red blemish on the perfect hunter green sways with the breeze. Her eyes sparkle like the diamonds in the grass, her hair a golden sheet that billows around her face. I feel myself being pulled toward her, the gathering growing distant behind me. I reach the trees and see she is wearing the red dress; the one daddy pretends not to notice. But everyone notices. I wonder if that’s what they are burying her in.

      She pulls me down into the grass next to her and strokes my curls. I notice I, too, am wearing red and my skirt is a perfect circle around me.

      “Are you really gone?” I ask.

      “Look how much they all miss me,” she says as she points to the circle of mourners. “Don’t you miss me?”

      “No.” I reply. I feel her hands tighten around my shoulders, her nails digging into the silk of my dress.

      “That’s not true. You miss your mama. Tell me you love me.”

      I pull away from her nails and shining eyes and stand to face her. The fear that sat like rocks in my stomach fades and I think of little Aria when she used to ask me why mommy never said “I love you.”

      “No,” I say again, but firmer this time. I watch her begin to fade, the red of her dress turning crimson and then brown.

      “You can’t leave. I won’t let you,” she says, her eyes hardening.

      I back away slowly, toward the sunlit grass. The last things I see before she fades completely are her eyes, a glassy black that shines despite its darkness. I feel my back hit something hard and open my eyes to the ceiling of my bedroom. Aria is curled up on the floor next to my bed, just like she used to do in our parents’ room. Mom didn’t want her in their bed.

      The dream book is flat against my chest, opened to the page on colors. I hear a soft knock and my father’s face appears in the crack of the open door.

      “Time to get up,” he whispers. “The church is two hours away. Quite a long road ahead of us.”

    33. (A paraphrased passage from one of the books of my Worldtree series.)

      The sun was barely peeking over the horizon and the twin moons had not yet surrendered the sky when the Elf that would soon ascend to High Priestess began preparing the ritual, explaining the process to her guest. She had desired to be alone, but she could not refuse the honor of participation to the One.

      The priestess laid out blankets and pillows for comfort and, later, sleep. Upon the altar, she laid out a burner and filled it with incense. She took out all the things for making tea; the leaves smelled of mint and earth. There was no food; this was to be a fasting ritual.

      At last, she took out the book. It was the High Priestess’ copy of the holy book of their people, filled with history and rites and spells. Her guest offered to heat it, and she nodded. She was not the Most High yet, and could not command all the elements. Fire would not obey her, like it obeyed her guest. From nothing, fire was summoned, and they soon shared their first ritual brew. They thanked each element in turn for its contribution to the tea: earth for growing the leaves, water for the brewing, fire for heating, and even the winds for carrying the aroma and metal for forming the boiling pot.

      Next, the fire-starter was instructed to light the incense. The priestess opened the book to the Rite of Oneness, and leaned in to breathe the smoke in deeply. Her eyes watered and a blush crept up her cheeks as the drug took effect; she gestured for her guest to do the same, and began chanting.

      Drunk on the herb, the chant drew them in, and they soon began to fall. Together, they plunged through the stone altar, into the ground.

      Past roots and into earth, through caves of hidden water, into metallic veins that held the molten life-blood of the world.

      Deep they traveled until at last they found themselves falling out of the world and into oblivion.

      They turned, and against the star-lit blanket of the sky, they saw the Worldtree, whole and in harmony.

      From great, entwined roots, the Worldtree stretched up through its twisted trunk, branching out and sprouting leaves upon which the world grew.

      Rain fell off the edge only to be caught by the roots and drawn up to the mountains, where the rivers were born.

      Sunlight caressed all of creation warmly, and the red-tinted moons added their pale glow to the sky.

      As they watched the world flourish, they began to fall toward it again, and the chant grew louder and louder in their minds as they plummeted through cloud and sky, two bright stars falling to the earth.

      When they awoke, it was sunset. They were slow to wake, if that is what they did; they could not be sure.

      Nothing would ever be more real than the Dream: not until the One was called, millennia later, to bring about the End.

      • “Her guest offered to heat it,” refers to the tea water, not the book. Ah, the danger of paraphrasing… my apologies. (My blog- linked in my name- has the revised version.)

        • jhowe says:

          I did notice the heating of the book thing, but I quickly found the tea was to be heated.
          Nice paragraphing. It makes it easy to read and to understand the ways of the elves. I gotta get some of that insense. Very well written passage.

          • Thank you! (Sorry again about the mis-type… it’s actually really embarrassing for someone that triple-checks grammar before posting.)

            I must admit that my intention in posting this was to see how someone might react to the concept of what my Elves are like. The elemental balance and connection runs very deep through the series.

        • calicocat88 says:

          This was so magical! I was instantly taken into another world within the first few descriptions. Love this! The way you told this story makes me want to find this place and live there myself, lol! Very nice :) Great job! I would definitely read this series :) Keep on!

          • Thank you!

            The Worldtree is my baby, so it’s great to see that it’s well-received.

            This takes place in the first book of the series, technically, but the details aren’t revealed until the third (and most awesome) book, so you’d have to be very patient in order to get to this part. :)

      • Wonderful images and dreams. It draws my mind to thoughts of Yggdrasil and Alfheim, but with a twist of your own to it. Beautiful.

        • Thanks!

          The Worldtree is actually, in my mythos, the third world in the cycle of universes (dominated by the ‘element’ of earth). First is water, then air, this, then fire, metal, and darkness. Each is plant-based, but has a distinct dominance by the element in question- something like Yggdrasil just made sense for the ‘earth’ world.

      • don potter says:

        Never met an elf I didn’t like. I enjoyed this whimsical excursion into dreamland.

      • BezBawni says:

        At some point I felt like I was reading a poem and looking at a picture at once, it’s amazing how different kinds of art merge in this piece. It reminded me of movies by Xavier Dolan (not the genre, but the way art is communicated). Wonderful.

      • Part of this, towards the end, read more like prose poetry. I like this a lot.

      • agnesjack says:

        I love the idea of the dream being more substantial than reality. Yet, it’s sad, too, if I understand the story correctly, because the growth and nurturing of the world seems to be the dream that ends when the One is called.

      • PeterW says:

        Yo, I love how everyone is very positive and supportive on this forum. And Ms. Svap, you are indeed a talented writer, but I need to show you all some tough love (one, cause I want some real criticism on my own prompts and two, what you’ve have written could be done better). You will be this week’s victim Ms. Svap. All apologies.

        First… Sentence One is a run-on and every sentence in Worldtree section is a run on. Sentence 2 has pronoun confusion: does “she” refer to “Elf” or “priestess;” and is the “One” the elf??? Work on sentence flow.

        Second… you need to have a concrete setting. Where the ‘f’ are we– a church, a house, Jamaica, a dark forest towering w/ under-shrubs and pluming umbrella-shaped trees? You need to be able to walk, like actually walk through the setting itself (ok in your head), than you need to get a reader situated well enough so they can ‘walk’ through it as well.

        Three… your blog is really freaking nice. What wordpress template did you use? I like your’s so much better than 2012 interface.

      • Oh, my… thanks for the love, guys.

        don potter: I too am a big fan of Elves… though this excursion, in its full context, is not quite so whimsical in the end. There’s a lot of missing subtext, but it does work as a nice, fanciful excursion as it is.

        BezBawni and Doug Langille: I have always liked being whisked away to some new mental image, so I try to write both poetically and very heavy on the imagery. I’m glad it works well!

        agnesjack: The dream reveals the true nature of the world; it would be the human equivalent of discovering solving all the mysteries of our world and our place in it. And yes, the One brings the end, out of necessity; a world consumed by life must also, like the living, die. It’s sad, but necessary… and beautiful, I think.

        PeterW: I always welcome constructive criticism, and since you’re interested, I’ll try to do my best commenting on your posts in the future. Tough love is good; it’s how we develop.

        That said… I know I have some fragments in here. It came across above, in comments and my replies, that the goal is to be a bit more poetic, and fragments ended up suiting my needs. Sometimes including a subject makes a sentence weighty. I’ve never tried getting published yet, so I don’t know if that is an acceptable reason for being grammatically incorrect or not (if anyone can answer that, I would be most appreciative!). I don’t, however, see the run on sentences. I’m pretty sure I follow all the grammatical rules soundly to make *long sentences*, not *run ons*. There is a difference.

        I see the pronoun confusion. “She” refers to the Elfin priestess, but her (Elfin) guest is the One (also female). I didn’t want to include their names, since this is from my novel, so I edited them out, and was apparently not 100% successful. As for the setting, we are in a graveyard/garden. The story, as per the prompt, focuses on the dream and I chose to spend my 500 words mostly on that, so as not to cheapen the experience. I had to edit the pants off of this passage, so I didn’t realize I had *no* setting context for the scene except the altar. I promise it is clear and includes far more detail in the novel.

        I just really wanted to share the dream and gauge people’s reactions to my usual style of writing, and I’ll endeavor to make it less sloppy if I do so again.

        As for my blog, I use the Dusk to Dawn theme, with a background I created in high school by dabbling with Photoshop.

        Again, thanks to all for the comments!

        • PeterW says:

          Hey, hey, I care about you and your writing; that is why you need to see the run-ons.
          Ok, maybe not every Wordtree is a run-on but they all have basic problems, and if you cannot see that your first sentence is a run-on then perhaps well…

          Let me rewrite your first sentences: “The sun barely peeked over the horizon, yet twin moons hadn’t surrendered the dark sky. The priestess began to prepare the ritual: for the Elf, who would soon ascend to her altar. The priestess desired to be alone, but she could not refuse the participation of him, the Elf, the One.”

          Also, never try to justify yourself to criticism either (I can give you references for that too). Take it with a grain of salt. If you feel the reader doesn’t understand your vision, than perhaps some of their criticism should be ignored. However you should also try and view things from their perspective. (ie. never create fragments to try to be more poetic… grammatical confusion over sentence structure is, like, never poetic.)

          Anyhow, I know very well I can be a nasty critic, and will certainly never give you advice or criticism or comments in the future; unless, of course, you ask for them.

          Yours. PeterW =D

          • So… to clarify: I see this as a friendly debate of style, no matter how stubborn and/or bitchy the following reads as. I am arguing my understanding of grammar, and if I’m unsound, I want to know. So I’m not trying to justify myself or convince you: I’m trying to learn to communicate more effectively. I tend to write long sentences (made longer in this case by having to explain the characters- you know them by this point in the book and I call them by name in the original draft). I also tend to include fragments, which I know is bad and I will work on editing those into proper sentences. So… to begin:

            I thought your original assessment a little unfair, because run ons, as I understand them, are generally a bunch of linked phrases that aren’t linked in a grammatically sound way; they’re missing the punctuation and conjunctions they would need. So the Tree’s description contains fragments, admittedly, but there aren’t run ons there. I might have missed one or two commas, perhaps… but that’s the extent of it.

            Long phrases can be awkward, yes (as mentioned by Amy below), but I don’t actually see the violations necessary to make sentence 1 a run on. But I’m willing to dissect it, and if you see a problem with my understanding of grammar, please let me know:

            If you replace the first part with “It was before sunrise” then the sentence condenses, and grammatically speaking, the substitution is valid. “The Elf” is the subject, and “that would soon ascend to High Priestess” is a modifier. We can cut that out, grammatically speaking, and retain all the same meaning. Then we get:

            “It was before sunrise when the Elf began preparing the ritual, explaining the process to her guest.”

            Perhaps a “all the while” or something would clarify the phrase after the comma, but it is grammatically sound, meaning that the original sentence was also sound, if a tad long and unwieldy. So do you still think it looks like a run on, or was it just *long*?

            And if you like suggestions for your own writing so much (some of this is undoubtedly influenced by my own style and intentions- but if I was going to break it up into sentences like yours, I’d do it this way):

            “The sun barely peeked over the horizon, yet twin moons hadn’t surrendered the dark sky.” [My point was that it was very, very early; the 'yet' defies this hint. 'And' serves this best. I am also stricken with a sense of not-caring. So what if it's early? If we put a "When preparation for the ritual began" at the beginning, someone might sympathize with how early that really is to be going about your day.]

            “The priestess began to prepare the ritual: for the Elf, who would soon ascend to her altar.” [This implies a distinction between the priestess and the Elf about to ascend, when they're the same person. She's an Elfin priestess about to face promotion.]

            “The priestess desired to be alone, but she could not refuse the participation of him, the Elf, the One.” [She's a she, but that's not important. Given that there are no humans in the book, I didn't see the description of my MC as an Elf to be necessary, which was an oversight when adapting it to this forum. I think "the Elf, the One" places too much emphasis on the race, when it's actually not all that special of a detail. Perhaps a better substitution would be "the Elf their race called the One". But that's picky, and based on my prior knowledge.]

            I’ve enjoyed our little debate, and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for long, awkward sentences, run ons, and fragments in the future.

            ~Jenny :D

            • PeterW says:

              Ugh, whatever, Jenny… you’re too stubborn. The way I split your paragraph has nothing to do with style; it was about logic. Writing is more like a f-ing chemistry formula, then what appears in your imagination. You better learn this fact; yes, darling, it is a fact: good writing is logic first, and all else second. Trust me, don’t trust me, whatever, but that was a secret, information for the privileged….

              Run-ons are not about grammar… They’re about starting in one place and ending in other, unrelated place. It doesn’t matter how many commas you add.

              And adding gerunds, participles, whatever the f they are called (that being -ing words) to an already tensed sentence is generally considered bad writing. Really, if you don’t believe me on this shit, pick up a book or an article in your local paper or anything published.

              The priestess and the Elf are the same, and this is based on “your prior knowledge.” Pleaseee girl… on your knowledge. And, and, oh and, oh, oh, oh, you must realize the writersdisgest.com prompts are written so you can invent new characters, and holy s, really, holy s, your old characters, who you created but hardly know, yes, you hardly know them though you gave them a name and life; your old characters, you can find them into a prompt, a very very specific prompt that has nothing to do with your characters, yet your imagination is so strong, so pure, you can carefully craft the prompt so it fits the characters you’ve created and know intimately, and then you reread, and all of a sudden you don’t know your character as well as you did; who, who, who is she/he/Elf; but no, you’ve got the characteristics, the character background, the character favorites, the character quirks, the character dying in the throes of a epic requiem; and but, but no, who is this person you are now writing about, this person/warlord you have accommodated for this certain and very specific writing prompt at writersdigest.com; and no, for fucking-cake-sakes, someone, a reader, an unsympathetic reader can’t visualize your characters, can’t even find the revise edition on your blog, can’t see them as you see them in your beautiful, vast imagination. So you type kind, understanding words to this reader, but really you disregard him, because you know in your head that you did a good job, and you communicated in an effective and understandable manner, not only your story, but your vision, your mantra, the dream you’ve dreamt since junior high, a novel vision, an original vision, and you held on to it for so long that when this asshole reader explains to you that it really doesn’t make sense, your instincts kick in, your flight/fight instincts, and you know you must defend your image, your dream, and so you make some very righteous, knowledgeable remarks, and you, a chemist, have no backing for these remarks, knowledgeable as they are; your editor is your pussy boyfriend (an academic), your source of knowledgeable is your indefatigable imagination, and your writing style. What… writing is not really a style, but more like an equation, like the ability to calculate moles and calculate change in G, and change in S, and to add O2 and H20 to either side of an equation? What… writing is only a style after you develop the skills to make the equation??? What… writing is not pure visual imagery straight from page to brain… oh excuses, excuses– I’ve written since I was child, I know I lot of words and can use a thesaurus, and by god, this rant has gone on for so long I don’t understand, I just don’t; it is all bluster, all unsubstantiated, unproven, unfalsifiable; it is nonsense, and by god, I swear I’ll write about Elfs and priestesses the rest on my life, even if a simple, 500 word prompts mentions realistic things: bookstore, etc, etc, and really it ok this week, this time if I just substitute this brilliance (wait I won’t call it that but…), because people want my best writing, the raw materials from my mind; they would rather see that, then see me crash and burn trying to, like, create something new, show something that hasn’t been decaying in my special, special mind for decades… And this is because I know I’m not really creative. Yeah, ok, really, you say to the editor bf as you stare intensely at the joint l-top.

              F that ok… Worldtree = death, Jenny. You are creative. You have a good vocabulary. Your sentences transition/flow is awful, so admit it. And honestly most of us, would rather hear about your obsession with cats (realness resonates,k,), then a poorly written realm of priests and Elfs and fragmented, “poetic” sentences.

              Can’t even believe I responded to this shttttttttt. But (check, my long, run-on sentences =D ), stop believing you know shttt about shttt cause you read a few books… Your sentence structure needs to be logical and that is that. Your sentence structure needs to be logical. Let me say that again: nothing matter unless your sentence structure is logical. Its logic first, human emotion second, and imagination third.. Logically structured sentences…………….then Worldtree…

              Feel free to argue, every single point I’ve made, because, god-knows, no one else does.

            • jhowe says:

              I’m a litle angry over this display. Peter W, you need to mellow out here. Nobody should speak this way about another persons work. Constructive criticism is one thing, this is another. I admit, I’m one of the nice people who perhaps is not as critical as I should be. I’m new to writing and I’m not always sure when my criticism will be correct so I err on the postive side. You, on the other hand get nastier as you go along.

            • …I thought this board had monitors? Someone’s not doing their job.

              Don’t talk to me about flow and grammar and run ons and making sense if you can’t even present your argument in a way that makes sense.

              I stand by what I wrote. I don’t need someone who can’t even write telling me I’m wrong.

            • PeterW says:

              I want to apologize to you, Jenny. I too wish there were monitors who could take what I’ve said down. I’m very ashamed and embarrassed. Not only do I have writing problem (false lolz), but also a pretty bad drinking problem, and even that isn’t a good excuse for being a jerk.

              Anyhow I think I will still post my responses to the prompts in order that I do them and continue writing, but I’m definitely done commenting. I understand that lots of you probably have no formal training, and I thought that since I have gone through some workshops, writers groups, and have been mentored by some published authors that I could impart some knowledge, techniques, tricks that I’ve learned. Clearly I cannot do this nicely, so as I said before, I’m done.

              I’d like to response to the assertion that “I don’t need anyone [PeterW] who can’t write telling me [Svap] that I’m wrong,” but today I’ll let it go and wish you, Jenny, the best of luck and happy writings.

            • Thank you for apologizing. I’m sorry too.

              I was very shocked and hurt (though my brain kept screaming obscene, who-the-hell-does-this-guy think he is comments), so I’m a little more than a little ashamed at myself for posting an angry response. I lost composure because I didn’t understand at all why you lashed out, when I made every effort to try to make it a discussion. I never said I knew I was right; I, in fact, asked you if I was wrong and if you would help. I wasn’t saying you were wrong… I just wanted proof that you were right. We’d all be idiots if we believed everything we saw on the internet. I’ve read papers in respected journals that are flat-out wrong, so just because something gets published- formally- doesn’t make it right.

              But that’s not the most upsetting part… you had to have gone through my *entire* blog just to find ammunition you used. You used personal details as a weapon. That’s probably why I lashed out in return, thinking about it. And I am sorry about that.

              I think, if you wanted to continue commenting, you should be very careful to read things, and re-read them. You can’t hope to help someone by giving a cursory glance to their work. “Do or do not, there is no try”: if you want to give suggestions, make sure you understand the written piece and any explanations made. If you aren’t willing to anymore, I respect that, and wish you well.

              As for “formal training,” how would you know if any of us had or not? Don’t make assumptions about the rest of us, please. It only gets people into trouble.

              Live and let live?

            • I just saw this. Please, can we all be civil and helpful on here. If you can’t, then hold your tongue. Didn’t know grammar could make one so angry. I’m surprised Brian didn’t comment on this.

              In regards to your first sentence Jenny, I thought it was for the most part fine, maybe it could benefit from a comma to join the two independent clauses before the conjunction. The only part that did not seem relative to the sentence was “explaining the process to her guest” which I might suggest nixing, but I believe that was grammatically correct to offset it with a comma. The length is fine. Creatively structure sentences provide variety among shorter sentences, which can get robotic…and there is nothing wrong with using these prompts to explore characters you have already created. Many people do that on here. Placing our characters in different situations helps us to learn more about them, even if we don’t intend to use the scene in our WIPs.

              And, I personally, would rather read about a “realm of priests and Elfs” than about your cat obssession. There is a reason the fantasy genre exists. People like it. We all have different tastes here, and we should respect them.

            • Thanks… I mention this on my blog, but I think it needs some explanation here too:

              I’m not going to pour a bunch of time into polishing something that anyone could steal from me at any time because it’s on a public forum. So don’t expect the very best… but I will be more careful about unnecessarily complicated sentence structure.

              As for the cat thing (I mentioned this in the comments to that post), that in conjunction with the tattoo I describe and the persistent day-dreaming makes that character, currently, a Mary Sue. It’s not quite blatant self-insertion, but it almost is. So that’s naughty anyway. At least if there’s an elf, it can’t be a Mary Sue.

              Anywho… I think this topic is thoroughly exhausted…

              Where’s the next prompt??? :(

      • Loved the line “…into metallic veins that held the molten life-blood of the world.” That’s one of those sentences that takes my breath away. Good job! My favorite part of this story is the whole falling through the earth and into the sky and watching their world take shape. I thought that was beautiful. I loved this scene, but I just wish I knew more about what is going on as far as who the One is and why they are worshiping this higher being if It is going to end the world…but, I felt this story was to encourage such questions, for it has a mysterious, archaic philosophical quality about it that I enjoyed.

        There are many beautiful descriptions here, though, I think it is rushed through too quickly, so I don’t get to immerse within the setting. The one sentence I thought was perfect as far as pacing with the sensory details was “…leaned in to breath the smoke in deeply. Her eyes water and a blush crept up her cheeks as the drug took effect…” I think this line made me feel more than the others, because it describes the direct physical influence of the atmosphere on the MC. In that line, I felt how these magical teas/herbs/drugs had on her. But, these are 500 word stories, so we can’t get too much into detail, so having seen that line and knowing that this is part of a bigger story (I saw the comment on how you condensed this), I’ll have to check out the full story! Enjoyed this!

        • Thanks!

          I find that it is actually a fun and challenging exercise to omit words from my vocabulary. As a scientist, I know about things like lava. When I see a fern or a quartz crystal or a deer, I call ‘em like I see ‘em. But the world here is not our world. So “lava” isn’t a thing; how then shall we describe it? It actually makes for some interesting, more poetic descriptions. I’d recommend it to anyone not writing from the perspective of our own society or our own world.

          As for the setting… If I use pre-written passages in the future, I will be sure to make room for some detail. If I had just added the two words “garden cemetery” somewhere, it would have given enough context for the reader to imagine it.

          As for the One… I would describe who she is, but… it sounds so preposterous when I type it out. Suffice it to say that she is responsible for the euthanasia of the world. The world has to be told when it can let go, because it has to wait until the seed of the next world is strong enough. It’s old and suffering, and everything has to die sometime.

          • I agree that these prompts definitely help me learn to condense and choose the most sufficient descriptions. And wow, deep stuff! That is so cool you are a scientist! My dad’s a geologist, he knows about rocks, he’s my geology consultant for my books, lol :)

            • I generally try not to write about real things so I don’t have to do research. It’s my job, and I want to stay away from it (I had a music teacher that listened exclusively to audiobooks because listening to music was too much like work: boy, wouldn’t she make a great addition to a book?).

              But at a university, I have plenty of people to consult with; I’m very lucky like that. I never really thought about it before. (Thanks for the inspiration!)

              I’m a chemist/biochemist by training, so I was thinking about making a story like O-Tim’s paramecium story, but from the standpoint of molecules and such. Just for fun, provided it fits the prompt.

      • DMelde says:

        Great story Svapnaavasthaa. I really liked the some-what archaic style of writing with its stop-start, stop-start cadence. I thought it set a great mood for an other-worldly experience. Great job.

      • Amy says:

        I like the overall, otherworldly tone you’ve presented here, Svapnaavasthaa. I did not see a problem with run-ons, but I did see a problem with some awkwardly long sentences that interrupted the flow a bit in the beginning. A couple of fragments toward the end were a tad jarring, but again, nothing that disturbed me terribly. I realize you were re-packaging something you’ve already done before and sometimes that can happen, but it could use a ten-minute tidy, in my opinion. It was definitely an interesting concept. I don’t think you need a concrete setting, especially in a dream. Your trippy, ethereal journey was enough to paint a picture for me. Like don, I have also developed an affinity for elves ;) Thanks for sharing.

        • Thanks!

          I’ve seen you ‘grammar the pants off of’ people before, so I was a little worried to see your comment.

          The book(s) this comes from are wordy and sometimes difficult- it’s an editing task I’m not up to quite yet. They’re daunting at times. So the long sentences abound, and so do fragments. I can see some of such things as elegant and necessary at times, but given the response to fragments here, I will stop taking such a leisurely, artistic approach to my grammar.

          I’m glad you didn’t think the lack of an original setting didn’t detract too much; it’s supposed to focus on the dream/vision, but I suppose the lack of detail followed by an overload of it is unbalanced.

          Also, Elves are the best. After dragons.

          • Amy says:

            Lol. ‘Grammar the pants off’ people. That is funny. Hopefully you don’t see me as the grammar bully, because, unlike some people around here, I’m not trying to bully anybody. I try to help people see things in their writing that they may not be able to see because they are so close to it. I think you should read through all the remarks you get and decide which ones will help your writing and use them. Leave the rest behind and don’t look back. In the end, you are the one that makes the decisions, crafts the characters, molds the setting, pieces the whole thing together, and then lets it go when it’s finished. Don’t let other people project their own insecurities onto your writing. Know yourself and know your limits and strengths and go from there.

    34. Susan says:

      Please ignore my last comment. It was intended as a reply to Observer Tim further down the thread – apologies for any confusion!

    35. Susan says:

      They sound an interesting couple! His little girl’s going to have an interesting life.

    36. Farseer says:

      I awake to the sound of power tools tearing away at something nearby.
      Very nearby.
      Not being a terribly handy man, I can’t tell if it’s a drill or a saw or some other device that I will never have the occasion to use, though I would be willing to guess that it involves metal against metal due to the ringing in my ears.
      I assess my situation and find myself in a large workshop, the noise seeming to come from the other side of a wall. I also notice that I’m clutching a book. As I read the title “Dreamscapes,” realization shoots through me. The last thing I can recall before waking here was opening this very same book.
      I had wandered into a musty old bookstore that I had walked past a thousand times without ever truly seeing it, as if it was hidden in plain sight. Oddly I hadn’t seen a shopkeeper within the store, despite its tiny size. I had simply picked up the first book that had caught my eye: a red leather bound text with a single word printed in silver on its spine. Dreamscapes.
      I drift from my reverie and immediately know something has changed.
      The noise is gone.
      I cast my gaze about the room and find a man standing over me, at least something that is mostly a man. His left arm is a stump with a socket for attachments, and considering his awkward stance, I would guess that one of his legs isn’t the one he was born with.
      As he watches me, he shoves a wicked looking serrated blade with a hooked end into the hole at the end of his stump, clicking it into place.
      He grins widely, revealing metallic teeth, before bringing his new toy in a swift arc that ends at my abdomen. I scream in agony before everything goes black.
      This time I wake in an impossibly long alley between two windowless buildings, still gripping the book in my hand. I glance down to find my stomach intact.
      I look back up just in time ro see a small axe descending upon my head, followed by another brief, but intense, flash of pain.
      As scenes flash by, Iit dawns on me that the only common elements are the bionic man and this infernal book. Something must connect them. That must be the key.
      This time it’s a trident coming toward me in a hospital room. I raise the book, causing it to be impaled instead of me.
      I awake in the bookstore, no book in my hand. I start to laugh, but I am cut off by the sound of footsteps. I search for the source but find only shelves.
      It only takes me a moment to notice that every book on every shelf is red leather with silver writing, and only a second longer to realize that one of the footsteps is heavier than the other.

    37. The book drops into my lap as I transition into the dream. I realize I’m no longer in my room, but behind my parents’ house. The mosquito netting around the little gazebo on the deck is still there, and my father is sitting on one of the lawn chairs with his after-supper coffee.

      “Dad?”

      “Would you like to set and talk?”

      “Sure. It’s good to see you again.”

      We talk of politics and finances, the local and national news, and the other things a father talks about with his adult son. We talk about his years of service in the forces, and he reminds me that nobody has to fear the Sergeant Major if he hasn’t done anything wrong. I still get a chuckle from that. He doesn’t talk to me about sports, because he knows I don’t have a clue there.

      It’s not that long a chat – at least it didn’t seem very long, but the sun has set when he stands up to go in. Somehow I know I can’t follow him.

      “Dad, how are you here? Why are you here?”

      “It’s just another chance to say good-bye, son. You know I’m proud of you.”

      “I’m proud of you too, Dad. It’s good to see you like this, not …” Not the way he died, his body withered by ALS, leaving him bedridden and unable to even breathe. They diagnosed it far too late, but I understand that even knowing beforehand wouldn’t have helped. Incurable and untreatable.

      “You have to keep on, son. You and the girls take care of your mother. The woman I love.”

      “I will, Dad. We always have to keep going.”

      “Good bye, son.”

      I don’t answer. Maybe if I don’t say good-bye he’ll still be here when I come back tomorrow.

      * * *

      In memoriam: Jerry Smith. February 15, 1935 – September 25, 2013.

    38. ShawnJohnson78 says:

      “Which Are the Children of an Idle Brain”
      The light is fading away…
      I’m sitting in a chair of glass and its cracking. Every shift in weight creates fissures and it hurts not moving. My arms are bleeding from the cushions on the armrest and I can’t make it stop. I try to stand but as I press up with my elbows the throne shatters and my crown falls. I’m left weeping at the wall. Something large grabs my collar and begins to drag me behind it. The glass is unforgiving to my back and I paint the floor with colors of life. I’m dragged to my feet and spun around on heels to face my father who’s yelling at me for getting into a fight with the local bully. I feel shame and pride all at once and I’m conflicted as to what act I feel each for. My fists are at my side and they shake until the world goes out of focus. The blood is pounding in my ears and I’m scared. I squeeze my eyes tightly until phantom stars take up space in my head. I jump. I land. I jump again, higher this time. There’s a streetlamp I want to touch. I jump again and it’s in reach, almost there. Not this time. I jump again and I’m reaching below me to grab as I’ve flown too far and now I’ll never make it in time for dinner and I promised her milk for the table. But I’m flying right now; if I stop I’ll never start again. Higher and higher: I worry I can’t breathe but I never suffocate. Higher again until I reach out grasp at air and stardust but it’s not real. Only now do I understand that it’s not real. The air is rushing at my face and the ground is speeding towards me in the slow motion of joy and sorrow. It spins and I anticipate the impact, I close my eyes again and squeeze the fear out of them and brace myself for the end and whisper goodnight into the ear of the air.
      I jerk and knock over the cup of coffee, that didn’t do its job (or just started to), with my elbow and send it to wet, cream-colored pieces to the applause and amusement of two people shopping. I apologize to the shopkeeper in the apron for my clumsiness and try to pick up all the pieces. Insufficient in my endeavors I make way for the lady with the broom.
      The book that had been the catalyst for such a nightmare was resting on the cushion of the chair, unable to affect anyone right now. I contemplate purchasing the book for study but decide to just exit with my coffee-stained pants and bad dreams. My shoes squeak on the linoleum as I leave and a bell above the door chimes my exit.

    39. Britni Danielle says:

      “Welcome back. We were starting to really worry about you.” The pixie-like girl with bright pink hair said. Somehow, I know her name to be Meri. The guy to her right looks familiar as well. There’s something about his eyes that make me feel like I’ve missed him.

      “What happened? Where am I?” I ask her. Looking around, I get the feeling that I’ve seen this place before. With an open window to the left of the bed I’m in, I can smell the fresh wild flowers outside the cabin. The smell triggers a memory of me, in this very same cabin, as a little kid playing outside in the field of those flowers with Meri. I get up to glance out of the window and, indeed, there is a field of purple flowers.

      My head feels foggy and I’m not sure how I got here. Only moments ago, I was in a bookstore in Brooklyn browsing through some old book about dreams on my lunch break. Without even thinking, I smack myself hard on the cheek.

      “Oh my, Nini! Why did you do that?” Meri squealed, concerned. The guy, Fil, rushes over to place his hand lightly on my cheek. His cool touch makes it feel better.

      I shrug, not wanting to explain to them that I was checking to see if this is all real. It feels real but something in me tells me it’s not. How do I know Meri is my best friend yet I also know I’ve never met her before now?

      “Meri, why were you worried about me? Where did I go?” I ask her. Fil looks away, a hurt expression on his face.

      “Well, you’ve been asleep.” She tells me. I stare at her. Fil places his hand on mine.

      “How long have I been sleeping?”I slowly ask, somehow already knowing the answer before she tells me.

      “About 5 years.”She answers sadly. “We weren’t sure if you were ever coming back.”

      I’m not even sure what to say. I close my eyes, forcing myself to wake up from this. I have to be dreaming; there is no other explanation for what’s happening. I give my other cheek a nice, hard pinch this time. Still nothing.

      Fil positions my hand so that our fingers are intertwined. Emotions and memories flood through me now. Fil and I fishing in the pond out back of this cabin. Us gazing at stars in the field at night. The feeling I used to get when we would kiss.

      “Nini, I’ve missed you so much.” Fil whispers, fighting back his tears. Only now do I notice my own tears running down my face. My mind is reeling from all the things I’m feeling and I still don’t understand what’s happening.

      “This is the realest dream I’ve ever had.”I tell them.

      “Don’t you see yet, Nini?” Phil looks deep in my eyes, “this is no dream. You just woke up from the dream. This is home.”

    40. ennova says:

      “Out for beer,” he said as he slid out through the window.

      *

      “Try it.” She giggled. Her eyes were wild as she slowly arched her body back. “Come on, baby,” she teased. “Read it.”

      I blinked. No, she is there. She only comes at night like a dream. She blinked, just like a cat do and then she smiled a slight sly smile. She must have known that although I resisted, I had to stare harder.

      The sprinkling system went off at exactly 11:55 p.m. We have stolen away and met here for the past two weeks. It was quiet and secluded, buying us the privacy that we craved. She leaned towards me and buried me with her kisses. They tasted as sweet as wine. That is, what I thought wine would taste anyway. She unbuttoned my dress. I swept her hands away. “Come on,” she teased. She slid away into the water. Down she went, into the water. Up she came, eyes blinked like nothing else mattered.

      The man next door took his dog out. Yes, each night he would kiss his wife and tell her that he loved her. He would wave goodbye, smile and be off with the dog on a leash. He seemed like a devoted husband. Perhaps one that I would marry happily, if I had not known his secret 30 yards down the street. A secret named Desire.

      She took my hand. “Come on.” She ran. I gave chase. This feels so easy, so natural, I thought to myself. How could it be a sin to love her? She ran and I chased. That was us, chasing, running, tumbling madly in love. She stopped and ran back for the book we found in Takayama. She picked it up, screaming, giggling, feeling free as a bird and she started to run again, this time to me. She held my hand in one and the book in the other, and all at once we ran.

      *

      “Want a lift?” I could not see his face.

      The door swung open and she jumped in. “Come on!” she said. I put a foot in and then I saw the shiny object. It shone, even at night. Even in the shadow, it shone and I saw it. I backed out as quickly as I could. The door shut and all I saw were her wet hair, her eyes and the book in her hand.

      *

      “I’m sorry for your lost.” He gently squeezed her hands. He offered incense three times to the incense urn and placed the book on the table. She thanked him for visiting at such short notice.

      At 11:55 p.m. I walked to the table. I needed to tell her that I loved her. I lifted the book, Yume. She read the book for hours and asked me to read it. I never did.

      In one swift motion, it was opened. There were no words, just a mirror.

      • LadyCatrina says:

        Some of this was a bit confusing, yet the entire feel of the piece came across beautifully.

      • A lovely bit of shoujo-ai with a tragic twist. I very quickly found myself caught up in the girl’s (Yume’s?) playful nature. The last two sections were very saddening.

        I notice some work is needed especially on verb tenses and the names of things, but that can all be learned. Nice story, ennova.

      • ennova says:

        This was actually a dream I had some time ago. Very different from other dreams, in the sense that it was very vivid, dark and a lot of it was dreamt as a third party observer, not a character in the dream. Took me several days to understand and conclude. It differed slightly from this version, due to the word constraint and tie in to the book theme.

        As mentioned, it took me a few days to conclude what the dream was about and who the characters were. The description is intentionally subtle, where a reader has to journey into the words and ask many questions. It is not in your face. There are clues laced into the narrative.

        I agree that it needs polishing. This story will require many revisions to create the delicate balance needed for this story to grow. More depth is necessary and more attention to the grammar. Thank you for your feedbacks. My intention was to find out if readers could piece the story together based on the format that it was presented – in 5 scenes.

        Thank you. I am encouraged.

      • don potter says:

        You said this was based on a dream you had. I can’t remember them. All that I can recall is if they were good or bad. Anyway, I enjoyed the tale.

      • there are some minor errors, but overall, I really enjoyed this story. Very creative

    41. tmcasler says:

      I dreamt I was in a meadow surrounded by friends all in the happiest of spring colors, mainly white and light yellow. I’m not sure what we were doing, but everyone was happy and laughing.

      The entire scene permeated with the essence of carefree innocence. No one meant any harm to another as they went about their blissful merriment.

      Then something, someone, dark entered the scene. They were dark both in clothing, emotion, and source. I saw them moving slowly around the perimeter of our gathering, yet no one else took any notice.

      Each time I turned to get a full look at them, they would retreat back to my peripheral vision – a mere suggestion of a dark character.

      The following series of events are quite a blur as dreams so often are. I only recall that another of the party turned and saw the danger and quickly made to snuff it out. Yet as it collapsed under his blow it spread out and into his eyes which turned beyond black.

      Then the first character, regaining whatever life it previously possessed, stood up and opened its mouth from which came little dark spurs. Wherever they landed they infected with decay and soon the host of my companions were turning to me with blackness in their eyes.

      Turning and taking notice of a few other survivors, I motioned for them to cover their faces and run with me. However, the landscape changed suddenly and we weren’t running but swimming in some giant pool.

      The dark creatures were standing along the edges hurtling their black shapes at our heads. Each spur took on a name in the air. If they landed near us they would attach themselves to our ankles. Soon our own fear and worry were pulling us down acting as weights.

      I was to the point of abandonment when I noticed a mere babe floating some distance ahead of me. Where self-preservation had been used up, the desire to save another took its place. I savagely kicked off my anchors and swam with the intent of rescue.

      Child in arms, I suddenly found myself stumbling out of a barn. Two others stumbled out behind me and one quickly pointed out a place of seeming security. Once there my fellow survivors declared intentions of war and procured weapons out of the air. As darkness began to seep out of the barn, they rushed forward with swords of names which directly opposed those of the spurs.

      Held back by the need to protect the child, I retreated further into the shapeless shelter we had taken. However, our side of the battle was being forced to retreat and one of the black figures managed to slip past and come directly towards me.

      Without notice of my decision I turned in search of a weapon and found what appeared a handmade crossbow next to sticks whittled down to sharp edges. As I took these in hand I was spotted by my adversary and he quickly made his way forward.

      Just as I was to be engulfed I managed to set the bow and send an arrow at his face. It pierced the cheek and for a moment all stood still. Yet, somehow the darkness healed itself and resumed its attack. Energy and strength I had never even guessed at filled me and I matched him full on.

      Blow by blow I found him retreated backwards towards a river and when he was a mere inch away from its bank I gave a hard shove. Landing loudly in the current he was pulled downward by his own black anchors, far more than any man could hope to throw off.

      I took no time to marvel at my victory but only developed a strong desire to get back to where the entire dream had begun. I saw a break in a row of trees some distance ahead and made for it, inherently knowing the meadow lay just beyond.

      Coming up to this entrance a sickly realization came to my mind. At some unknown point I had set aside the child to whom my arms had been protection. Looking back I realized there was no chance of reversing this abandonment for the fullness of sheer nothing was behind me.

      Blackness so complete it had the quality of a mirror. As I gazed upon my own reflection I watched in passive horror as my eyes flicked to black. I resolutely turned and passed through the hedge into the meadow.
      I was as a dark figure lurking on the perimeter, with only one girl in white taking any notice at first. She tried to focus on me but shame forced me to hide my face from this remembrance of childhood innocence.

    42. LadyCatrina says:

      I kneel over a cardboard box, my hands reaching for books and setting them on the shelf. My fingers caress the spine of a hardcover before gently laying it aside. I look toward the door and see the closed sign on the glass; busy people rush by and one of them looks kind of like you. It isn’t you though, that much I can tell. Morning sunlight turns into glitter in the dusty air and music hums in the background. I scan the titles as I touch each of them until I reach one that I do not remember reading. It’s a psychology book on dreams- on interpreting dreams. I think of you and set the book aside.
      When I finish it is almost dark and I spend my evening reading the book. My eyes scan the pages; coffee stains and stray hairs between blue ink. I don’t think that I’ve ever read this, but it seems familiar somehow. It’s like I should know something about it, but I don’t. I don’t. I am surrounded by pillows, the book on my lap; my eyes feel heavy and the words blur as I sink into the blankets
      ______________
      I saw you. I am surrounded by swirling neon lights that glare into my eyes. My bare feet stand on a smooth wooden floor and people that I don’t know are dancing in circles around me; it is so loud but at the same time deathly silent. People are talking, laughing; now they are singing, I don’t understand. Then the lights swirl faster and I see you again; your face is hollow and searching for me. Dark eyes follow mine and I suffocate from the tension held in that gaze.
      Now, suddenly, the people are gone and the lights dim; I must be dreaming. I’m dreaming and when I wake up everything will be the same again. I know what to do. Lights flicker randomly and my eyes snap to each light as it changes. I see those eyes and I don’t know what to do. A figure dances in the shadows and I know he sees me but he isn’t looking my way. I don’t understand because I know that he wants to see me but he isn’t looking. A shaft of opals descends on my still form and my eyes follow you. Then your eyes look at me again and in the glow I can see them. Those familiar irises, clear rings of pale blue light that have for too long been away from mine. This isn’t a dream, I know that know. You are here and I don’t know how that is possible but it is because I am looking at you. I take one step, then another; you do the same until we are just inches apart. I hear your voice, soft and rasping in my ear. Our faces come together very easily and I taste the moisture on your lips until we dissolve into one as though we were in a dream.

    43. nelleg says:

      Cherie looked over the valley of pixie stixs waving with the breeze. The cotton candy clouds floated by and grew darker with each passing minute. She could smell a faint scent of chocolate chip cookies in the strong wind. The lake of amber colored honey formed peaks from the mighty storm. She could feel the moisture in the air as she stood under the sugar plum tree.

      “Hey watch it!” Cherie looked down toward the squeaky voice at her feet. There stood a red little gummy bear.

      “Where am I?” she asked

      “You’re in the land of Pez!” the gooey little creature answered.

      “How did I get here?” Cherie questioned as the cocoa filled liquid stopped falling from the sky.

      “You came out of the Twizzler tornado.” The sugary grizzly spoke as it started to walk away.

      “Where are you going?” Cherie inquired

      “To Emerald Nuts City, you can come with me. You’ll just end up there Now or Later anyway.” The tiny treat continued toward a golden colored sidewalk.

      “Why are you going there?” Cherie questioned while following the red bear.

      “To see The Blizzard. I heard he could help me get more courage so I can stop getting eaten alive at work.” The bear’s legs were just as squeaky as his voice.

      “You think he could help me get home. I have a term paper due on dream interpretation tomorrow.” Cherie remembered the little book store she stopped at to get a book about the subject.

      “I guess it would be worth a try. All we have to do is follow the peanut brittle road.” The bear’s tiny hands pointed to crunchy path.

      “How do you know all of this?” Cherie tried to get a handle on the whole situation.

      “The Lollipop Guild told me. They also said that I need to watch out for the wicked Twix.” The bear looked down the trail one way and then the other way.

      “Well, lets go. Which way?” Cherie mimicked the little one’s actions

      “Toward the candy corn field.” The ruby delight began to hop down the pathway.

      The two traveled down the bumpy path until they were surrounded by giant yellow, orange and white candies.

      “Hey you two. Where are you going?” the new friends looked around to see a gingerbread man standing in the field of candy corn.

      “To the see the Blizzard so I can get courage and she can get home.” The gelatin bear told him.

      “Do you think that he could help me with my brain so I don’t feel so baked all the time?” the confectioned cookie asked.

      “Why not try?” Cherie chimed in.

      The gingerbread man agreed so the Three Musketeers head on their way.

      After a little while Cherie noticed a caramel apple tree and went to pick her favorite treat when it spoke and slapped her hand. “Hey you! What do you think you’re doing?” then she began to feel herself shake. At first she thought maybe she was trembling with fear but then realized….

      Cherie snapped awake to find herself in the bookstore. The store clerk stood there shaking her on the shoulder. “You can’t sleep here. Are you going to buy that book or not? We are closing.”

      “Uh, yeah I’ll take it.” Cherie wiped the drool off of her mouth and stood fumbling with her purse. She followed the store clerk to the register and thought to herself “I should never try to study on an empty stomach again.”

    44. jhowe says:

      Richard Spanker shifted in bed and expelled a substantial volume of intestinal gas. Chloe jerked from a half slumber and frowned. Surely he hadn’t done that on purpose? Richard answered by slightly fluffing the covers.

      Chloe rolled her eyes and turned to face the clock on her nightstand. Seven fifteen, no need to get up yet being the weekend. Richard turned, spooned her and cupped her right breast. She feigned a stretch, deflected his arm, swung her feet to the floor and got up.

      The book she had been reading, the dream book, she forgot the name, was not on the nightstand. She looked on the floor, under the bed, under her pillow, it was gone. No problem, she thought, the book sucked anyway. But there was a problem. Richard would never purposely treat her badly and she loved morning sex on the weekends. What was wrong with them this morning?

      “Where are you going?” asked Richard.

      “I’ve got to pee if that’s ok with you.” Chloe sat on the toilet, elbows on thighs, head in hands, eyes closed. She couldn’t pee. She sat a few more seconds, nothing. She flushed anyway, grabbed her robe and went downstairs to start the coffee. Why had she snapped at Richard like that? Was she even awake?

      At the kitchen table Richard sat with his head in the paper and Chloe sat, dazed, warming her hands on her coffee cup. “You’re a bit pissy this morning,” said Richard.

      “Look, Dick. Uh,” she shook her head. “I mean Richard, sorry.” Richard hated being called Dick. He had heard all the Dick Spanker jokes he cared to. He had considered changing his name at one time but he knew it would break his mother’s heart. “I didn’t mean that, I’m sorry,” she said.

      “I hate my mother,” said Richard.

      “You don’t hate your mother.”

      “Why would anyone with the last name of Spanker name their son Richard? Everyone knows people are going to call him Dick. ‘Hey Dick Spanker, why don’t you go spank your dick.’ ‘Hey Dick, spank me.’”

      Chloe said, “Your mother is so sweet, it probably never occurred to her.” She had never heard Richard talk this way. She wished they could go back to bed and start over.

      “What kind of a name is Spanker anyway?” Richard said. “I don’t even know what nationality it is. I could be French or Swedish or Russian, I have no idea, and my parents claim they don’t know either. What a bunch of shit.”

      “Why don’t you go on line and find out,” said Chloe. She wanted to get off this topic but it was as if her mind was setting its own path of destruction.

      “I bet those sites are a rip off,” said Richard. “You probably pay a nominal fee, they find out where you’re from, and they say, hey, give me a thousand goddamn dollars and we’ll tell you. No thanks.”

      “Whatever.” Chloe said.

      “Hey,” said Richard. Let’s do something tonight.”

      “Like what.”

      “Let’s go to the casino. Play some cards, have a nice dinner, listen to the band.”

      Chloe laughed sardonically. “So tell me, you’ll lose two grand at the blackjack table but you won’t spend a thousand bucks to find out your origins? Really nice Richard.”

      “Since when did I ever lose two grand? That’s horseshit.”

      “Shut up Dick.”

      Richard threw his paper on the table and stormed out the back door. Chloe knew Richard was not a big gambler but she had accused him anyway. Why? She went upstairs to look for the dream book. Maybe there was something in there that could help.

      • This is a really good description of the morning after, but only marginally addresses the prompt. I’m assuming this is the dream she’s trapped in, but I can’t quite tell. Perhaps a little less time on the name thing (though it was funny) would have allowed a bit more time for the dream thing.

      • I read the first two words, sighed, and said “Really!?” Then he ripped a massive one, and I thought to myself “classy.” Then I read Chloe’s reaction and wondered if she was really that prissy.

        Well done. The first paragraph serves well to get you intrigued about the characters.

      • Susan says:

        Loved this but, like Tim, I was waiting for the dream – I thought when she was in the bathroom and couldn’t pee, that was a sign she was actually dreaming, but then the rest of it reads as if she’s awake. Very entertaining, nevertheless.

      • HEY! I just re-read your take on The Contract and noticed something important. Did you re-use Dicky here because we all missed the joke first time around?

      • don potter says:

        In kid in my old neighborhood in Philadelphia was named John Koff. We all called him Jack. How cruel boys were in those days. Guess they still are, because Richard’s will life with this forever. See what your story did for me.

      • This was like watching a train wreck. The littlest things become the biggest issues in a marriage. Very realistic.

      • agnesjack says:

        I agree with Doug on this. It did seem like a train wreck and I wanted them to go back to bed and start all over.

        I also agree with those who said that the dream issue was not resolved. It can be assumed that this was Chloe’s dream, but it wasn’t clear.

      • Dick Spanker, haha! Love the line “I hate my mother,” I could see Richard sitting there frowning as he said it. And, if expelling gas in bed is considered treating one “badly”, then my boyfriend is a very abusive, lol :) Cute story! The opening was great, had me rolling my eyes and laughing. I agree with a few of the others, I was waiting to see what was going on with the dream thing, only because she kept mentioning the book, it was missing, and she feels like something’s wrong. I think this could be amped up more. Regardless, I found the story entertaining and it had me laughing.

      • Amy says:

        Oh Dick… haha. You really went there and gave us a taste of marital bliss, twenty years down the road. Maybe she’s dreaming, maybe it’s a metaphor. Either way, it was entertaining. One thing- with only two people talking, I don’t think all the ‘he said, she said’ is necessary. You dropped the tags by the end of the conversation, but even in the beginning, I think you have just a couple too many. When it’s a back and forth like this, we can figure it out. Good story.

    45. Kerry Charlton says:

      LADY MARGARET

      Rummaging through a stack of used books on a dust-laden shelf in ‘The Land Of Was’ bookstore, I had
      stumbled across ‘Dream Interpretations’. The leather binding, worn beyond recognition, covered a wealth of information from the early 20th century.

      “Two dollars,” the clerk said.

      “Here, keep the change,” I answered. hurried out the door before he had time to realize what he had sold. The author, Sigmund Freud had written instructions on the back leaf of the book, on how to use the power he had willed to the book.

      ‘To whomever uses this force, let them be aware of the dangers involved’, appeared at the top of the leaf. His instructions followed on how to enter the pages with the reader’s mind and to change the past.

      And even if it wasn’t reality, I had to venture to the quest. At the age of twenty six, burdened with the name, William Cunningham Bently IV, I had accomplished little in life. Living off a trust fund four generations back, left me with little incentive.

      Back at my beach condo, I prepared for my journey. I had set the date for February 15, 1682, the height of the Spanish Main.The location, the Palace of the Governor of Jamaica. Opening the book, I repeated the incant written on the leaf.

      I felt Freud’s spell onsume my awareness and I lifted off the floor and swirled in ever-increasing speed until I fell into the rush of dark wind, leading me back through centuries of existence. I became aware of a detachment of my physical being and then nothingness.

      As my eyes focused on the Palace in Jamaica, I saw a band of pirates, led by the rogue, Jamie Waring. They had attacked the front of the palace, engaging the infamous governor, Henry Morgan. I was dressed in the custom of the day and carried a large sword at my waist. ‘Thank God, I was captain of the fencing team at Yale’, I thought.

      I ran to the back side of the palace and climbed a rose trellis to an open window. I knew Lady Margaret, the former governor’s daughter, had been held prisoner by Morgan, for he intended to marry her.

      I encountered two guards on the third floor and quickly dispatched them. Hearing Lady Margaret calling for help from the tower, I kiched the door open and led her down the back staircase. I wasn’t prepared for her flashing Irish eyes, her Auburn red hair falling to her heaving bosom and her actually clawing at me in fear.

      Halfway down the last flight, I saw Jamie Waring, his sword drawn, climbing toward me. Lady Margaret stood behind me as our swords crossed. He was adept at the duel but I had been taught by the grand marter at Yale and quickly held my sword at Waring’s throat

      From the darkness surrounding us, came the words,

      “Cut. Cut for God’s sake before he kills Tyrone.”

      The light came on from the darkness, and the movie director, Henry King approached me. Three stage hands had pushed me to the floor.

      “Who the hell are you and why did you ruin our take?” he said.

      “I’m sorry, I’m confused. I thought I was saving Lady Margaret.”

      I heard rolls of laughter as King ordered me thrown off the set, but Lady Margaret intervened,

      “Where’s your sense of humor, Henry? He meant no harm.”

      “You deserve a reward for rescuing me,” she said.

      She put her arms around me and kissed me strong and tenderly and then everything faded to black.

      I woke up to an early dawn and walked into the den looking at the authgraphed photos my great grandfather had given me before he passed. On the left was a still of Jamie Waring from the movie, Dark Swan. The autograph read,

      ‘Thanks for the dueling lesson, Tyrone Power.’

      And on the right a still showing Lady Margaret,

      ‘To my hero, and the best screen kiss I ever had, Maureen O”Hara’

      • jhowe says:

        Now that, was fanciful. Your transitions from Jamaica to the movie set was flawless. I liked this a lot.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Thank you jhowe. I did struggle with the transition. Glad to know I might have gotten it right. I still have a thing for Maureen O’Hara. I think she was 92 on her last birthday.

      • Very nicely done, Kerry. That, of course, is the problem with basing your understanding of the past on movies. It’s likely the real event never happened, but the movie certainly did…

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Thank you Observer Tim. I’ve spent a lifetime studying movies. This one in particular is so camp it’s a fun watch. My favorite Swashbuckler is Captain Blood or maybe the Sea Hawk. Fun stuff.

      • BezBawni says:

        Oh my, I love Jamaica.

      • Susan says:

        A very neat little tale – like jhowe I love the way you draw us effortlessly from the past to the movie set, so we never feel the join. Very funny, too.

      • don potter says:

        You really let your imagination run wild with this one. Loved it. Maureen O’Hara, huh? Did you like her better in “Silent man” or “Miracle on 34th Street?”

      • This was an outstanding write, Kerry. Your settings were bang on. Maureen O’Hara was always a favorite of mine, from Angel and the Badman to Only the Lonely. Classy gal.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          I appreciate your comments, Doug. For some reason this was not an easy write for me. But then Maureen made it worth the effort. She has a fantastic web site that’s a jewel to look at. I found it my searching under her name. Some of her photos are glorious.

      • agnesjack says:

        Very inventive. I enjoyed this a lot.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Thank you, Agnes. I’m a product of the Swashbuckler era. Read every pitate story I could possibly consume and learned the names of sails on a ship, what draft the ship’s keels drew, all about the effects on the human body from lack of diet on the long trips and them exactly how to process and boil a whale into oil.

          All of which, were absolutely of no use to me!

          I love your stories.

      • Kerry, I loved this story sooooooo much. It’s one of your better ones, all of them are great, but in this one you managed to make me go “wow” there different times. You know that feeling when something happens in a book that makes you smile in awe, ya, that kind of wow :)

        The only part that threw me was when William set the date. I was curious how he did this. I know it is just a small detail, but I’m picturing this character equipped with a book and nothing more, wondering how he is able to go back in time.

        I like that you set the date to 1682, and you made me think that was where he went, but really it was to a movie set! Loved that twist! As always your attention to detail makes me realize my own writing needs work! Even the smallest of details pumps up the story, making it more enjoyable to the reader. Oh, and my favorite paragraph was “I felt Freud’s spell consume…” I felt myself being picked up along with the character, very magical.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          It’s always a delight not only to read your stories but for you to take the time to read mine and tell me your ideas. This particular story, I almost abandoned, half way through. I struggled with every word, even trying to figure out how to set the date.

          I was about to delete it and finally plowed through, let it cool and then rewrote. The second story I was lucky enough to have published, I rewrote it six times over a period of two years, consided it totally worthless, and then it published. Go figure.

          I write a lot of my stories, directly to you. You seem to be a goal-setter for me.

          • Very flattering, thank you, glad to be a good influence :) …and, you wouldn’t consider anything totally worthless that you kept around for two years rewriting :) That was your subconscious mind telling you it was something worth spending time on.

      • Amy says:

        What an excellent adventure you took us on, Kerry! You have made my morning! I love the nod to Henry King and the “golden era” of Hollywood. Who doesn’t have a crush on Maureen O’Hara?? And Tyrone, with his drawn on mustache that became his trademark. I think the movie was actually called ‘The Black Swan’ though, wasn’t it? Any rate, your story was awesome and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A truly dynamic tale.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          I’m very happy that you enjoyed my story, Amy. It is called the Black Swan. Where was my brain when I wrote Dark Swan? Probably remembering the kiss from Maureen. Oh, if only!
          I love your stories, keep them coming. Kerry

    46. BezBawni says:

      (So, here’s one more try)

      “I’m scared. And I’m cold.”
      “Don’t be scared. Come closer to me, I’ll read to you from your favorite Dream Book.”
      “You don’t read, you tell me from memory. How do I even know it’s true?”
      “Brothers don’t lie to each other. Would you ever lie to me?”
      The younger boy looked up contemplating the answer. He didn’t look eight years old – hunger and exhaustion had withered and shrunk his little body into a fragile diaphanous frame.
      “No, I’d never lie to you, Tob,” the little boy said finally, rubbing the grayish dent that was his cheek with his tiny finger. He crawled closer to his elder brother and pulled at the filthy cloth they were sitting on to make more room and to cover the damp dirt floor of the hole they’d been in for over a month. He rested his head against his brother’s chest and started playing with shiny flecks of dust floating in the sunlight that was coming down through the slits above them. Tobias was as thin as his little brother, and only the wider and longer bones and the firm look of a teenager grown old overnight were betraying his age.
      “Read to me,” whispered the little boy shivering with cold in his brother’s arms.
      Tobias hugged him tighter and leaned back against the slimy wall of the hole to calm himself and his shaking hands. He inhaled the cool smell of earth and roots, and water.
      “I saw a river half-covered in ice,” he started. “Its stubborn waves were pushing their way through the thin layer of ice refusing to be confined under it. The shreds of ice floated away and sparkled in the sun like diamonds.”
      The little boy’s breathing became even and his body relaxed.
      “The sun was warm on my neck and I heard my mother calling me,” Tobias went on. “I looked back and saw her smiling on the porch. She was holding a tray of chocolate scones. I ran towards her just as my brother turned up from nowhere, snatched a scone and shoved it into his mouth grinning at me and sticking his chocolate-smeared tongue out.”
      “But this was us,” protested the little boy raising his head. Encircled by the shadows of insomnia, his eyes seemed too big for his face. “It’s not a dream.”
      “Yes, it is,” said Tobias.
      “What does the dream mean then?”
      Tobias opened his mouth to answer and flinched violently as the sound of a shotgun exploded in the distance. Unwittingly, he pressed his little brother to his chest. The boy started weeping silently.
      “It’s ok,” said Tobias caressing his brother’s hair. His fingers started trembling again.
      “I’m scared,” said the little boy and Tobias felt the words vibrating against his chest rather than heard them.
      “Don’t be,” he said. “It’s… It’s just…It’s just a dream.”
      “No, it’s not,” whined the little boy.
      “Yes, it is. See?” Tobias pinched his brother’s bare shoulder slightly. “Did it hurt?”
      “No,” said the boy.
      “That’s because you’re dreaming and you’re gonna wake up soon. But you mustn’t be scared, because if you’re scared in your dream there won’t be any chocolate scones for you when you wake up. Don’t be scared.”
      Even as Tobias was saying that, the old wooden door serving as a cover for their hole was moved aside and strong merciless hands pulled the boys out into the sun.
      “No!” cried Tobias as his little brother was torn out of his embrace by force.
      “Don’t be scared!” the little boy shouted back, just before sacks were thrown over their heads and both of them were dragged somewhere and tied to something that felt like a tree.
      From somewhere close to him, Tobias heard a muffled voice of his little brother. “It’s just a dream,” the little boy said. “We’re gonna wake up and there’ll be chocolate scones.”

      There was a sound of a shotgun.

      • Wow. You made me feel for these characters in a very few words. Excellent job, BezBawni.

      • jhowe says:

        That was a powerful story. Well done. I’ve read a lot of comments about putting in a space between paragraphs and lines of dialogue. Personally, I don’t mind the lack of the spacing because I can spend more time reading and less time scrolling. But rules are rules. When I paste my story into the comment box, the spacing I had in the Word document disappears. I have to physically add the spacing again in the comment box. I’d be interested to hear if there is a better way.

      • …I have to go with Observer Tim on this one… wow.

        I really want to know how they got there and what happens next… but at the same time, I don’t. Poor boys. I hope whatever happens that they’re safe now.

        • BezBawni says:

          You know, Svapnaavasthaa, I read an article once, where an author talked about how hard it is sometimes to kill your characters. I didn’t know what it felt like until I wrote this. I may not be a proper story as it is, but to be honest, I don’t want them dead either, but the story went its way and I couldn’t stop it. So, I feel you, I don’t want to know what happened next.

          • My acting editor (enslaved boyfriend) would probably back this up:
            my most frequent saying is “I’m a bastard.”

            I kill everyone (figuratively, mostly, but in some cases literally) in my writing. I actually have a book that ends with the end of the universe. Making my characters suffer and die isn’t my goal or intention, but they’re the ones telling me the story.

            I’ve had to kill innocent people, and guilty people, and while you feel that pang of sympathy for all of them, nothing is quite so horrible as the death of a child. I actually don’t know if I have written the deaths of any children… I have written of babies that die in the womb, and even an infant sacrifice, but a child old enough to understand what will happen but not why… I haven’t done that yet. I don’t want to.

            • BezBawni says:

              Now you made me feel worse…

            • Oh! That wasn’t my intention. Actually, I think I might be unfair… it’s unrealistic that children would be the only ones exempt in my parade of death.

              I do love this piece… I think the fact that it’s children makes it far more meaningful and heart-wrenching. They’re so well developed in a short time (partially because most readers will have some idea of what a child is like to build from, whereas babies are clean slates and adults can be so drastically different that there’s no base to start from).

              Trust me, BezBawni, I didn’t mean anything I said as a bad thing.

            • BezBawni says:

              I didn’t mean you hurt me by what you said, it’s just the fact of killing children, if only in a fictional world, and the way you talked about it got me thinking and I realized how painful and sad it was. No offence taken.

            • Like I said, it’s a very powerful effect.

              Since it’s children, the instinct to try to help them or protect them or save them is so very strong.

              And whoever the villain(s) may be… they are such absolute bastards.

              I really hope their story ends in chocolate scones. (Also, I don’t think that line could have been more perfect- it captures childhood innocence and the denial/hope/prayer of one facing death.)

              This is probably my favorite response to the prompt.

      • nelleg says:

        You brought tears to my eyes. Very compelling.

      • Susan says:

        I agree with Tim and jhowe – this is a very powerful and moving story. The dialogue works well and we really get to know the characters and empathize with them, which is amazing in such a short piece. Excellent.

      • don potter says:

        A well told tale.

      • BezBawni says:

        Thank you, everyone, for such a great feedback.

        The boys didn’t want to leave me in peace though, and I couldn’t sleep for two night, because the story was just pouring out of me. So, if anyone’s interested in the whole story of Tobias and his brother, let me know (here’s my e-mail: simonamstell28@gmail.com).
        I’ll be happy to share.

      • this was a deep and layered write. The shotgun blasts sent shivers down my spine.

      • agnesjack says:

        Oh my. Tobias’ attempt to protect his brother from the reality of their situation is heartbreaking.

      • PeterW says:

        Nice job.

        Here’s some real advice. Never start with hanging dialogue (despite what some people on this forum may say). Perhaps a this could start: “There were two young boys in a hole. The smaller one said, “…”

        Give the reader an image first. One sentence is all it takes.

        • I agree with Peter’s advice, but that’s just my opinion. When I read a story that starts with dialogue, I usually go back and reread the beginning once I have an image to apply it to. Besides that, I agree with everyone else on the emotional depth of this story. I felt like you were squeezing my heart :( LOL, but that is in a good way, having an effect on the reader means the writer has done their job :) Great story!

        • BezBawni says:

          Thank you, PeterW, for good advice, as usual. Though I may use it in later pieces I do, I would never start this particular one any different, but I can explain. I wanted the reader to feel like he’s overheard some voices talking and gets interested who is talking and only afterwards give the image of where the dialogue takes place and who exactly the people are. You can imagine it like it’s sometimes done in a movie – they show a black screen and you can hear voices, and only afterwards you are shown the picture.

          And reading your comments I see you felt reading this story exactly like I did writing it, which means a lot to me. Gracias.

    47. I used the key she’d given me to get into Jenny’s room. The campus cops were gone, so now I could investigate. Girls like her don’t just suddenly lapse into a coma.

      The room looked normal: tidy with chaos around the edges. The only unusual thing was a book lying on her bed. Jenny hated reading in bed. The title was “The Eidolon”. I flipped through it. At first it was standard printed text, but the font morphed to handwritten script as I scanned further. I’d known Jenny long enough to understand that that meant magic. The last words were “come stay with us”.

      I’d been forbidden to see Jenny in the Infirmary. She was in a coma and they wouldn’t let some geek who claimed to be her boyfriend in. But I knew now that it wasn’t a coma, and it would take magic to wake her. I only had one idea, and it required me to get close. Really close.

      Science wasn’t up to the task, at least nothing I knew, so I would have to try magic. Jenny had been teaching me The Rules since we started dating, and I hoped I understood enough. I took a tiny pinch of Jenny dust – enough to transform me into her for a couple of hours. Now I needed something to make me look different.

      Jenny had told there’s power in names and I hoped she’d been right. She had a plastic bottle of baby powder. Jenny loved the scent, and rubbing it on her back was the closest we’d got to – other things. I mixed a few grains of powder with the Jenny dust, then touched the dust to my tongue.

      Everything except my shirt fell off. I uncovered Jenny’s mirror (she kept it covered for magical reasons) and the effect was perfect; I was Jenny, but a 14-year old Jenny. A quick rummage of her closet turned up a short green dress that almost fit. It would have to do.

      Getting into the infirmary was child’s play – literally. The gestapo nurse accepted that I was Jenny’s little sister Tammy, and soon I was by her bed. I kissed her; that was how you woke somebody magically. I hoped.

      I could tell something was wrong; it took me a moment to realize that I’d missed her mouth. Right. Jenny is normally nine inches tall. Luckily she had told me where her center was – right where her heart was in big form. I leaned over and kissed her chest, acutely aware of how perverted it looked.

      Her eyes fluttered open. “Tim?”

      “It’s me.”

      “Then you…?”

      I nodded. “The kiss of someone who truly loves you.”

      Tears of joy formed in her eyes. “I hoped… I prayed…Oh, Tim!” She all but fell out of bed kissing me – lips to lips this time.

      A playful smile crossed her face. “When you change back, I want you to rub me with baby powder – all over.”

      I am the luckiest man alive.

    48. PeterW says:

      Dream and the Bookstore

      (2nd person of course; should probably be in present tense, and what’s up, I’m back! =D)

      You entered the bookstore with good intentions: support your local business, sift through decaying books, educate yourself with said decaying books that you buy from the old man up front. So you entered the thin store front on Charter St. and walked thin stairs to the second floor. You entered below the crusted gold script, Cyr Books, New and Used, Antique and Aging. The old man nodded to you from the desk of wood and piled books. He held a leather-bound close to his crook nose. The copper cash register had a tongue of rolled receipt paper. The manuscripts were lit with hanging amber lights. There was no window, and you trailed your hand along a dusty pile, and then you entered the musk and dust of the stacks. The stacks went deep. The dust followed the in your wake. The old man behind you let his hand run across the pages, fanning them, and the pages whispered softly.

      You found the dream book. You fell asleep on a Persian carpet under an amber lamp. And you dreamed this:

      First a swirling river. Then a young girl urinating in a corn field. Then a father with a bent spine and lunch pail. Then a woman with a shaved head. Then a fingerprint on a silver coin. Then you were there. You walked through a forest of pines, planted in a row. You became a child. You played in a plastic pool on a yard and made a yellow circle in the grass and the hose sprayed cold water and you were in your underpants and it started raining, but you were already wet, and the rain took streaks of dirt of the white house and front the screen door a figure in blue held a coffee cup and watched you in the lawn and then you were older and it was night in the lawn and the white house was dirty again and you were smoking a joint with your friend and here the gold glow from the city covered the stars above and the light above the screen was broken and the figure in blue now slept alone. You walked through sets of red lockers and in your wake was an ok looking girl and the smell of locker-room sweat, and then her sweat slick across your ribs as the girl grasped you on the floor of her daddy’s trailer and more joints and more bottles. You walked through a lecture hall and a dorm hall. You walked down a street and the cottonwoods snow in summer and the seeds followed you up from bed to bed and from apartment to house and you walked in graduation gown and you walked behind a carried blue coffin and you sat behind a desk and stood behind a lectern and you managed to say your name and a hundred faces seemed to nod. You went down an aisle surrounded by a hundred nodding faces, and could only smell lavender and see white lace and taste the wedding cake on her tongue. You run now, through ammonia puff, baby skin, a name, a gurgle of joy, then soon, two more blue eyes turning brown, family dinners, laundry, kids at the park, kids at the national park, kids suddenly sprouting. You suddenly became strict like you said you’d never be, but still, a used condom found in a house trashcan, a beer can in the backyard, then movement, promotion, tenure, professor, stiffness, aches, and headaches, quitting jobs, quitting organs, cells, life, life, life and death, years and years, washed along the strong current. Swirl, swirl. Finally, a delta disseminating into sea. Sea, C, see.

      You woke. You were behind a copper register among piles of ancient and aging books. On your chest, leather-bound, was the book of dreams, mute. Your old eyes watched as young man (sift, educate) disappeared into the deep stacks, and the dust, the musk, and amber light followed in his wake.

      (Author’s note: It’s a puzzle! Figure it out.)

      • Interesting piece on cyclical time and lifetime. I love the imagery.

      • BezBawni says:

        I guess, the old man in the beginning was the one who fell asleep, and possibly, the young man who entered the shop conjured up in the mind of the old man memories of his own youth. Then, I imagine, the old man woke up and watched after the young one disappearing into the amber light and saw his young self disappearing and slipping away forever. And there he was, an aging human being, his whole life behind him, thinking wistfully: “I used to be like you, boy. You will some day be like me. And the life will always stay the same.” Any close? (P.S. the second person narration sends creeps down my spine. I’m not a man at all but reading your piece I felt (I almost believed) I was that old man.) Great, grate-grateful.

      • jhowe says:

        I had this dream last night; the men in white are coming up the walk. =D

        From swirling river to disseminating sea, what a great ride. I think BezBawni is on the right track. Maybe each customer who finds the dream book dreams his/her life and ends up behind the counter.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          This was hunting, daunting and beautiful A whole life went by and I realized life is but a dream and before we realize it, the glory of youth has fallen away and a lifetime of joy, sorrow, sucess and failure replaces the dreams of youth. But with the latter comes a sense of understanding, satidfaction and pride. Pride in the generation you have raised, and the generation your children have raised. With a little luch you get to see the third generation fight their own battles, and then it starts all over as you move from one dimension into another.

      • An allegory on the the continuity of life. Nice.

      • agnesjack says:

        This was wonderful. The fleeting dream that is life. Also, the use of second person gave it the atmosphere of a slide show. I really like your writing style(s).

      • PeterW says:

        Thank you for the comments! Looking forward to next week’s prompt!!!!!!

      • Amy says:

        I can see where you wanted this to go, PeterW, but for me it fell short. I found the lack of punctuation very daunting and had to really push my way through it. It almost feels a little pretentious in its allegorical condescension, like the narrator is talking down to me. Not sure if that was intentional, but for me it was a little off-putting. Also, and this is completely subjective, I’m not sure about the past-tense second person POV. Since you already mentioned it in the beginning, I won’t dwell on that. Toward the end, I did start to glimpse the pictures in my mind and it sped up, almost like a flipbook of someone’s life. That was kind of cool. I applaud your ability to take a chance on something very different. Thanks for sharing.

    49. snuzcook says:

      I almost missed the book among all the thick Jungian dream interpretation and symbolism tomes. New age philosophies had arrived at our community library in the form of crates and crates of discards from the estate of an eccentric old lady who, reportedly, had hoped to stick around and visit her books after her death.

      I noticed the small book more because it was a different texture, a warm, touchable fabric cover among cold, glossy book jackets. I sat down in an empty armchair in the reading corner to look through it. It was titled simply “Dreams” and it appeared to be a self-published item written by someone with the unlikely name of N.Mayre. I wondered if this was some kind of prank book that had made it onto the shelves by mistake. But skimming through the text I was surprised to find that it seemed a pretty scholarly work about the psychology of dreams and their implications as tools for healing mental and physical ailments. I was intrigued by some of the experiments the author described, including some self-hypnosis and controlled dreaming exercises.

      The last thing I remembered was reciting a phonetic litany described as an ancient method to induce a dream or trance state. Too late, I realized I had not read how to bring myself out of it.

      I was still sitting in the library armchair but I was in a dark room with a fire crackling in a fireplace. A fringed reading lamp provided the only light, and the rows of bookshelves had morphed into Victorian era display cabinets filled with “curiosities.” The book was gone, and in my hands instead I was holding a photo album.

      The ghostly figure of an elderly woman wearing an old-fashioned dress moved silently into the room. She did not stop, but glided past me. I heard her say, “Remember, every person in your dream is you.” Then she was gone.

      I looked at the photo album. There were pictures of people of all ages, all sizes and shapes. Sure enough, every person in every picture was an image of me—me as all the people in a family portrait, me in the uniform of a boy scout, an infantryman, a Navy officer, a doctor, a ball player. Me as a little girl with her dog. Me as both parts of a couple in an anniversary picture. Me as myself standing outside the library.

      Outside.

      I looked around. Hidden by draperies in a dark corner was a green-lit “exit” sign. Under the sign I found a commercial exit door with a push handle. I put my hand on the bar and pushed. I was blinded by a bright light as the door opened and I shut my eyes. With the sound of the door slamming shut behind me I opened my eyes to find myself again seated in the library.

      I was barely aware of people staring as I bolted out onto the sidewalk and down the street.

    50. wavescollide says:

      It was leather bound and thick. The only dream guide of its kind on the vacant shelf of the second-hand bookstore. Brown and smooth, majestic in every way a trinket of this sort could be. Even the embossed moon on the cover captivated me. It was a shock to come in contact with the wisdom I had rather needed. To gain closure on the reoccurring nightmare.

      A monster wave was chasing me.
      Water; so blue and transparent.

      No one was around and I plopped on the ground. Effortlessly, I turned through multiple worn pages with fancy greek’d type. This lasted until I was satisfied and in the T’s. Most particularly, ‘Tsunami and/or Tidal Wave’.

      ‘Water is your emotions and the depth of their complexity. To see a tsunami or tidal wave coming in your dreams: you have held your emotions in too long. They are bottling up and it is time to free them even if its scary…’

      My lucidity vacated me.

      On the shoreline I was standing now and hesitantly, I saw the view in front of me. A vastness of sand with dense areas of seashells spread down the sloped terrain. The scent of sea so strong in the air that the salt nearly burned my nostrils.

      But I could no longer evade my eyes from what was about to happen. For more of the sloped terrain emerged and the wave I was all too familiar with grew.

      It began to greet me as it grew in proximity and fell in size. Droplets of salty water stung my eyes and still I stood there. Then in a thunderous clap, it kicked me off my feet. Filled my lungs and knocked me out. It roared across the deserted beach into an uninhabited land.

      Within this uncharted territory, I was gently floated back to my beginning. Sitting on the wooden floor of the bookstore. Tears streaming down my face. They burned, just like how the droplets of salt water did. It was so relieving. This sadness did not worry me. Nothing possibly could.

      “Are you okay?” Asked a wrinkly, elderly woman. My fear soaked palms began to wipe away the tears.

      “I’ve never been better.” A smile grew cheek to cheek, followed by a laugh.

      I maneuvered off the floor with the book under one arm. The women’s expression grew in concern but it didn’t matter to me. There was no way I could ever explain what had just happened.

      I confidently put the book back on the empty shelf it belonged to and began to exit the store.

      Maybe I was crazy – or maybe I was finally letting the waves crash on me. Letting the sadness submerse me and take me. Because in the end, I was cleansed. The tears offered peace and hope, something I never realized how badly I needed.

    51. seliz says:

        The moment I saw it, I knew I had to have it. A leather bound beauty with the title in calligraphy, it was as old as it was beautiful. I could feel my hand trembling as I pulled it down from the shelf.
        “What’d you find, babe?” my boyfriend asked, breaking my trance.
        “It’s just an old book about dream interpretation,” I said, suddenly feeling strange.
        “Well, get it then,” he said. “Don’t just stand there like you’re brain dead!”
        I laughed and shoved him playfully, gripping the book tightly on my way to the register.
        
        Snuggled in bed that night, I delicately turned each page of the handcrafted book. Inside the front cover were the words, “Virginia Dare, 1588, Roanoke Colony.”
        My mind buzzing with excitement, I continued to turn each page, admiring the delicate writing as much as the words themselves. My head was heavy with the thoughts of the lost colony and its dream interpretation, as I fought the losing battle to stay awake.
        
        “You shouldn’t be here,” a child said.
        My head snapped up, and I gasped at the sight of towering trees around me. This has to be a dream, I thought, trying to rouse myself.
        “That won’t work,” the girl said, a smile creeping onto her face. She wore a dirty dress with an apron tied around her waist. Her long blonde hair was pulled into a tight braid. She stepped forward and offered her hand, “If you want to get out of here, you’ll have to come with me.”
        I hesitantly accepted, reminding myself that this was a dream–albeit a lucid one.
        “My name is Virginia Dare.”
        Of course, the book.
        I followed Virginia to a settlement hedged into the woods; a tall wooden fence the only barrier to the wilderness. I stared in awe at the bustling village with women outside cleaning and children playing.
        “Is this–”
        “The Roanoke Colony,” Virginia said solemnly. “But don’t let it fool you, it’s not what it seems. You need to get out of here.”
        “Why, what’s going to happen?”
        “Tonight is the night we die–again. You cannot be here. The spell must be broken.”
        “Spell?”
        “There’s no time,” she said impatiently, pulling me. “The colony was build near an Indian place of power. If you want to escape–alive–we must make it there.”
        I pinched myself, trying to wake up, but it was no use. I was still being led by the child. She stopped in front of a tall tree with golden leaves and placed her hand in the center. A loud crack rebounded from the tree, sending us both flying. The word “Croatoan” was now etched across the trunk.
        “Goodbye Virginia,” the girl said with a wicked smile.
        “But I’m not Virginia,” I protested, lifting myself from the ground. As I rose, I stared in horror at my now child frame.
      When I lifted my head again, the girl was gone, leaving me lost in Roanoke.

    52. wohisme says:

      I went to the bookstore with mom today, it was fun and she let me pick out my very own book. She got it for me because I am in 1st Grade. It’s a book with lots of stories; she said it’s a collection of short stories.

      I have a collection of baseball cards. My dad took me to a game when the Yanks played the Giants but they didn’t look like giants to me. It was very noisy and it smelled like cigars. The Yankees won.

      Mom cares about books, not Yankees. She told me the man’s who wrote my book is named Washington Irving. Washington, like the place where the President lives. The President is a great man. He is Irish and Catholic, like us. Mom loves him. He is protecting us from bad people dad calls Reds but they are not the baseball team.

      I like Superman, dad said his cape is red but it looks gray to me. I don’t know if Superman is Irish or Catholic; he is not a Red. He stands for truth, justice and the American way. America is great like the Yankees, the President and, my dad.

      I can’t fly. Only Superman can fly. I know because I jumped out a window at our house. Mom told dad, thank God we live in a ranch. Our ranch is not like the Ponderosa; there are no horses.

      I did a new drill at school today, not a fire drill. In fire drills we have to walk quietly and leave the building and listen to the nuns. In the new drill we don’t even leave the building all we do is go under our desks and pray but we have to keep our hands over our heads.

      I told mom I’d like to hit the Reds in their heads. She laughed and told that rhymes and maybe I’ll be a poet. But, I’m not allowed to hit anybody and I should pray for the Reds cause they are not free like us. I told mom I would pray for the Reds but, I might forget to.

      I am also afraid cause like the man in the story I can’t wake up. He did not wake up for a very long time. I am trying to think in my brain how to wake up.

      Mom said maybe I could be like the man who writes the stories. She told me that he wrote about the sleeping man 143 years ago! But, it’s like he just wrote it for me and he will always be alive, just not like us.

      My brain thinks that if I work hard and become a writer, I could write that I wake up, the bad people are gone, everybody is happy and the Yankees win all the baseball games.

      Now I’m awake and I’m daydreaming about being a great writer. I want to make people laugh, even after I am not alive anymore; I better write something funny today.

    53. peetaweet says:

      I once dated a girl who interpreted dreams. Each morning she’d wake up, her deep brown eyes dancing with her thoughts as she explained the significance of the purple crow who’d guided her out of the forest. Or maybe it was green. She also claimed that she could read auras. Mine was a bluish green hue which in her estimate represented honesty and valor. I joked that I perhaps I needed to shower.

      A few days before her birthday and I lucked into a gift while sifting through a closing sale in the basement of a downtown bookstore. In a wooden crate, I couldn’t help but chuckle as I discovered a leather bound book titled, A Guide to Illumination. Perfect.

      A teenage employee was busy smoking with friends on the sidewalk outside and merely shrugged when I inquired about the artifact. Ten bucks later I left with the book.

      I had the apartment to myself that evening. Dinner was two slices of pizza and a beer while skimming through the channels. Yawning, I turned to the old leather bound book I had tossed onto the coffee table. I sprawled out on the couch, leafing through the tissue like pages, the gilded edges flaked off onto my stomach as I read with acute skepticism.

      I awoke in the dark. Damp, musty air filled my nostrils. Reaching for the lamp my hand met the cold surface of cinderblock. The dark was impenetrable. I stood up and my shoes sank into the floor. Confusion set in. I called out and my voice clung to the dripping walls. I shivered as a presence entered.

      I shifted in the mud, or muck, or whatever had grabbed my shoes. The stench was a cruel, stabbing thing to bear. I felt alone, yet crowded, unable to tell if I was surrounded or abandoned.

      The voice prickled my skin. Raspy and wet, it was beside me, above me, inside me.

      “There’s only one way.”

      I knew what he meant, and that was what unnerved me. I leaped out of my shoes like a track star, my bare feet propelling me through the ankle deep sludge. I hit the wall with a thud, falling into the cool grime. I bounded forward, my arms waving in the dark as I felt my way, pushing until, a door. I entered into a corridor and felt a hand on my arm, his hand, “The only way out.”

      I swung my fist in the blackness, fighting the dark. I trudged forward, flailing and swinging, staggering towards the unknown. I fell, I ran, and stumbled into nothingness. The dark swallowed time…hours…days. I cried out for help, and each time only one solution was offered. He wore me down.

      I emerged into a flickering light, the presence awaited. My girlfriend shrieked, her eyes wide with terror as shackles claimed her limbs to the stone foundation of the bookstore. A knife lay beside her. “It’s the only way out.”

      I glanced back at the darkness, and then picked up the knife.

      The next morning I awoke in my bed to the glorious, golden sunlight streaming through the windows. I rolled over to find my girlfriend, alive and well and glaring at me. She tossed the book onto the bed, her other hand massaging her throat.

      “Seriously?”

      • jhowe says:

        That was action packed and well written. Good job. I’m thinking the guy might have cut the girls throat in the dream and she thought he was supposed to cut his own throat?? Now she’s pissed. Am I close?

      • Great work! Nice suspense! I can’t help but wonder if the opening of “I once dated a girl” implies that she left him over this incident.

        I loved the “surrounded or abandoned” part… there’s something very poetic about it.

      • BezBawni says:

        Wow, I’m actually awestruck…

      • seliz says:

        I really liked this. I liked that you told us a lot, while still leaving a few things for the reader to figure out. The last line was humorous, after the suspense of the story. I couldn’t help feeling bad for the MC. I’m guessing he probably had to sleep on the couch after that, or like Svapnaavasthaa suggested, perhaps he was single after that ordeal!

      • I really love the imagery in this. And the girlfriend’s reaction is perfect. I can see why he’s not dating her now.

      • Susan says:

        This is brilliant – love the narrator’s voice and I felt drawn into the story by your vivid descriptions. I thought you were a bit kind to us with the ending – I fully expected him to wake up next to his girlfriend’s blood-soaked corpse!

      • this was a bit of a heart-pounder. very fun to read and a great finish. ex-girlfriend, for sure. :)

      • I liked that the narrator had a distinct voice with personality, it’s always fun to read a story when you feel like the MC is talking directly to you. I held my breath at the end waiting for the dead girlfriend when he woke up, then you cut us some slack, which I think is good. You did the opposite of what we expected, and it keeps that light-hearted tone you started with.

    54. (With my post from The Contract, this may actually have to become something bigger if I get more inspiration. Right now, Lissa is a Mary Sue, albeit an exaggerated one, so I may need to work on that. Anyway, enjoy!)

      Excerpts from the Diary of Lissa Rowan

      6/24/2012

      It took a long time to gather the courage (and my ID), but I finally got my tattoo. It’s just like I said: Svapnaavasthaa, the state of the mind in a dream. Sanskrit is beautiful. I’m glad I ignored my secretive side and got it done, even though some of my Indian colleagues can read it. And why shouldn’t they? This is who I am. I am a dreamer.

      […]

      9/22/2012

      My favorite bookstore is closing. I’ll miss it, but at least I can stock up on cheap books to tide me over until I find a new bookstore. I’ve found some good old distracting fiction, some useful non-fiction, and –my favorite- even a few books on mythology and lore. Some of the covers are so clever: not Necronomicon clever, but clever enough to look the part.

      […]

      10/1/2012

      I loved the “Lucky Star Dream Book” as a child, but I love my new dream-book even more. It has a great depiction of Morpheus, Greek god of dreams, on the cover.

      The strangest part is its accuracy, even in simple things like stomach aches or being late to work. It says ‘to dream of a maiden’ is to dream of ‘great things to come.’ So, we shall see!

      12/4/2012

      I awoke from a coma three days ago.

      I dreamed- for months- of going through my normal life. I even dreamed I bought a car! I dreamed of dreams and investigating their meaning. I dreamed I wrote diary entries about them. It was all so… vivid… Could it really all be a dream?

      I can’t bear to write all those entries again; they hurt too much. But I can tell you that the world is coming to an end, just like it was predicted. There is no single doubt in my mind, now. I’ve double-checked the book. What’s more, it says to dream as though awake means that great death is coming.

      I wish I had never woken up…

      […]

      12/21/2012

      I’m not even sure I’m really writing this, but it feels good to go through the motions.

      The raised flesh of my tattoo never did settle back down; it refused to be ignored. The spring green leaves on one side fade to the dull red-brown on the other, and I always thought it symbolized that I would dream from childhood to death. I understand now that I will dream forever. It’s comforting, since that the world is ending.

      I know there’s no real way for me to know if it will or not, but the book was very clear. I don’t know how it will end, but I can dream. I can dream how my loved ones die, having shunned my warnings. I can see it 10,000 times in new and different ways, if I choose… Or I can dream of pleasant things.

      I suppose… I should thank you, Morpheus, for this gift you have given me.

      I will be your acolyte for eternity, and I will dream your praise.

      Thank you for sparing me… from reality.

      • BezBawni says:

        I like the way you give little hints about the character by subtle remarks (like getting an ID, or the knowledge of Sanskrit, the very fact that Lissa knows what the Necronomicon is tells a great deal about her). I think painting a character with swift brush works rather than drawing scrupulously every detail makes the characters much more fun for a reader. Thanks for the fun.

        • Thanks!

          The whole late in getting an ID (that and the car thing can be found in my post for The Contract, 2 prompts ago) and the Sanskrit tattoo are 100% me… hence the Mary Sue comment, but I’m glad they were an effective and efficient touch.

          I guess I just wrote it like I was actually her… operating under the principle of why I hate radio advertisements. No one would have a conversation with as much redundant detail as they put in ads, and no one would introduce themselves to an ongoing diary. Again, I’m glad it worked!

          (And, as a side, I do actually have an idea for making this into an actual project!)

      • I love the diary format; it allows for a long-term take on the story.

        Also, I am left wondering whether Morpheus will be saving more people than the MC, or whether that is going to become part of her job as an acolyte. An important consideration, considering the end of the world…

        • I currently don’t know. I would think he has to save more than one, and his god friends will do so too; they choose promising humans to save to become their acolytes, and maybe they can re-establish a world when they get around to feeling like it.

          It’s kind of funny actually… though this could be a good way to make a book in itself, if more developed, my idea is to use it in an Arabian Nights style as a way to liven up a short story collection. (If so, I can use my response to The Contract and a short story I wrote in diary format about another Ms. Rowan as personal narrations before the MC comes up with new stories to tell.)

          So… we shall see where it goes!

      • WordPress’s Daily Post had a prompt about a moment of stillness and the power to change any one thing today, so I turned it into a continuation of Lissa’s story:

        If I could have frozen time, for even a moment, and could change any one thing, I would have saved them. I don’t know why such a silly, impossible thought is going through my head, but I do know that… I would try. I don’t want the world to end.

        There are babies that haven’t seen the world. There are children that haven’t dreamed. There are young people that haven’t loved. There are old people that haven’t lived. It’s not fair. I would give my everything if I could save them.

        But the only stillness to come is the stillness of a world gone dead. It’s the stillness of empty space, the stillness of the vacuum. It’s cold and lonely and overflowing with sorrow…

        But with this loss, I remember that I have him. I have Morpheus, my dream-god, and he has saved me. And if I can’t regain what I’ve lost, I’m prepared to be grateful for what I’ve gained.

        • A moving bit of prose, pining for the loss of the world. Very poetic; I’ve felt this way myself from time to time, when not distracted by the weeds and tares of everyday existence.

          • Thanks!

            I am actually having a little trouble writing in 1st person. I have a distinct style, and I have trouble morphing that into someone else’s voice. This continuation sounds to me like I am writing it, not like someone else is. The diary does too, but that was also restricted to 500 words and isn’t what I’d call polished.

            Any suggestions (anyone)?

      • peetaweet says:

        Very creative, love how it builds with each entry.

      • PeterW says:

        Great writing. I loved it.

        However don’t use the characters you love for these prompts… these prompts are too specific, and you will be forced to bend them in awkward ways. If you want better way to create prompts for already established characters, then message me.

        • Thanks!

          Lissa was only just created (for The Contract- this is only her second showing), so I wouldn’t say she’s quite established at the moment. I do think I want to expand on the character in the future, though (I will need to change the name though… I have a MC named Listle in a novel I’m working on and needed a name under pressure, so I butchered it).

          As I mention above, I could use this tale in an Arabian Nights type story to put some short stories in a more interesting format (it would certainly need re-working first), so Lissa may or may not appear in a story here again.

          I would love to know your recommendations on using established characters- there might come a day when one of my novel’s characters will fit in perfectly. (I’d have to butcher it down to length, but I actually have something written that would have meshed nicely with this prompt.)

          On that note, someone commented on my blog recently that she likes putting established characters in weird situations to see how they’d react so she can develop them more.

      • Susan says:

        Hi – what a great idea to use a diary format – as Tim says, it’s allowed you to stretch the story out over time, which is a real challenge in such a tight word limit. I enjoyed the way you allowed the character to unfold and loved the ending.

        • Thanks!

          The diary format is pretty fun, and leaving it as excerpts allows you to skip passages and make the reader fill in the details. I like doing a little detective work and supposition when I read, and I’m glad it was well-received.

      • So, you definitely have the elements for a much longer piece. Don’t apologize for it. There’s nothing wrong with a writing prompt inspiring something grander. Write on!

    55. Susan says:

      It was an impulse buy on one of my regular forays into the musty, cavernous depths of Old Harry’s Bookshop. Goodness knows what it was doing in the cookery section, parked between Mrs Beeton and Delia, and I don’t know why I picked it up, but once it was in my hands, I couldn’t let go. “The Dream Decoder” by Professor Charles Cadogan promised to “decipher the riddle of your dreams”. For years I’d been troubled by a recurrent nightmare, in which I was stuck in a burning building, always waking with a scream as I leapt to my death to escape the flames. Perhaps this book would help me understand my nightly terrors and banish them for good. Its worn, faded leather cover was soft and warm to the touch and its fragile pages smelt of woodsmoke. I felt as if it had been waiting for me.

      As soon as I got home, I stoked the fire, made a coffee and curled up on the sofa with Professor Charles. But flicking through the pages, I noticed entire chapters were missing – the section on nightmares about snakes had been torn out, likewise the chapter about dreams of paralysis. I couldn’t understand how I’d failed to spot this in the shop – I’d never have bought it if I’d known it was so damaged. To my relief, the chapter on nightmares about fire had escaped the vandalism, but as I started to read it, the words appeared to shift, fade and blur on the page, becoming indecipherable. Smoke began to rise from the dissolving print, and I was paralysed by an overwhelming drowsiness, collapsing into a deep sleep, into a dream from which there seemed no escape.

      Walking through deserted city streets at night, I came upon a terraced house, ablaze. A woman screamed from a top floor window, “Save my boy, please someone, save my boy!” There was no-one else there, no fire brigade, just me. Panic gripped me by the throat and held me back; the house was a raging inferno, flames and acrid smoke billowing from its windows. I ran on, looking for help. But wherever I ran, I came across the same house, the same scene of terror. I knew I was dreaming, but I couldn’t wake up. I was trapped in an interminable nightmare.

      Then, as the mother’s heartrending screams tore at my soul, I realised – the only way out was through the fire. The next time the house appeared, I approached the door, which opened as if expecting me. I walked into the flames and smoke, but felt no heat. Climbing the stairs, I found the boy lying on the landing. It was Carl, my little brother, who had died in a fire with my mother, when I was 10. I lifted him up, carried him to safety, and awoke. I was still holding the book, but the chapter I’d been reading had gone – only the charred edges of its pages remained.

      • Mrs. Beeton! I thought I was one of the few people left on Earth who’d even heard of her! Tee hee!

        This was a very interesting take – it appears that the chapters of the book that had been “used” were destroyed. I especially enjoyed the notion that the way out of the dream was to achieve redemption.

        My only criticism is that the fragment “… into a dream from which there seemed no escape” isn’t really needed, since the next paragraph promptly describes a dream from which there seems to be no escape.

        Love it, Susan!

        • Susan says:

          Thanks so much for your feedback, Tim – and pleased you remember Mrs B!

          You make a good point about that redundant line – I agree it would have been better without it.

          Cheers, Tim :)

          • jhowe says:

            I’m pretty old and I don’t remember Mrs. Beeton.

            • Mrs. Beeton lived in the mid-1800′s; she wrote several homemaker’s books, but the one that is usually referred to with just her name is “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management”. It’s a classic in its genre, though not so directly useful 150 years later. I got a copy off Gutenberg a few years ago.

        • I enjoyed reading this. Your writing style is beautiful and you are very economic with your words, only choosing those that add to the story. Everything tied together nicely. Seems the MC was disturbed, because s/he had never found closure over the brother’s death, feeling like s/he should have done something, or maybe just wished it had turned out differently.

      • jhowe says:

        I just scrolled down from the top of the forum looking for something else and noticed I had not read this story. I’m sure glad I found it because I would have missed a good one. What a well written piece this is about confronting your fears and hopefully solving the recurring dream. I loved it.

      • BezBawni says:

        Good Lord, how could I have missed it? So much in so few words! The weirdness of torn out pages and the meaning of it revealed in the end just made my head go dizzy, so subtly and skillfully it was written. Three words from me: I. am. amazed.

      • This was a great clean write, Susan. I really liked it.

        • swatchcat says:

          Ditto! Smooth and clear, very enjoyable. I got that for each chapter read and used, it would disappear once it accomplished its job.

          • Susan says:

            Thanks, Tim, jhowe, Bezbawni, Doug, Toni and swatchcat,

            I’m new to this site and new to creative writing, so I’m overwhelmed by your kind feedback, which is greatly appreciated and very encouraging – thank you!

            Thanks, Tim, for your potted history of Mrs B :)

            And yes, swatchcat, you got the right idea about the vanishing pages – the book burns itself out as each chapter is used.

            Many thanks.

    56. BezBawni says:

      Nothing looked familiar. It wasn’t the first time Miriam had lost her way. She’d been having the same dream for over a month and became very absent-minded. She rolled her eyes impatiently, and was about to ask for directions, when a building across the road caught her attention. It was an ordinary building with an ordinary old bookstore on the first floor, but the rusty roof edge railing was painfully familiar. Every night, in her one and only nightmare, she would stand on exactly the same roof and want to jump off. She would wake up in cold sweat, clasping her blanket as if her life depended on it.
      Miriam hurried to the store, almost bumping into people on her way, and stepped inside – into the hot stifling air that smelled like old dusty paper and decrepit wood. There were rows and rows of books to either side of her, and a table piled with more books at the back. The seller was nowhere to be seen. The girl walked up to the table and, fascinated, ran her hands along the shabby covers. She picked one at random – a heavy old leathered band – and opened it.
      “Dream book,” she mouthed the inscription that was inside. Her heart skipped a beat. She leafed through the book and found ‘jumping off a building’. She paused and listened in – the store was silent and lifeless. She quickly scanned down the entry until she found the meaning she needed: “If thou knowest to jump and doest it not, woe unto thee. For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”
      Miriam closed the book slowly. The words that were meant to interpret the dream confused her even more. There came a muffled thump from above her head. Careful not to make any noise, Miriam put the book back on the table and stepped onto the winding stairs to her right. As she went up into the darkness, she imagined she was Alice falling upwards into a rabbit hole. Finally there were stripes of light and she saw a plain wooden door. She pushed expecting it to be closed and stumbled out onto the roof nearly falling over. Fresh and icy autumn air struck her, as did the familiar breach in the roof railing and the same eerie feeling she’d had every night for several weeks on end. “Oh, God, I’m dreaming”, flashed through her head. She hardly noticed herself approach the breach, and look down, her every muscle tight as a string with fear, her hands grasping the railing.
      “This has to end,” she whispered, “’A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again’.”
      Miriam braced herself. She knew she had to jump to stop her nocturnal torture
      “It’s just a dream,” she thought, closed her eyes and let go of the railing. The cool wisp of wind swept her hair off her face, but the next moment something jerked her back. Shocked and immediately aware she wasn’t dreaming, Miriam dug her fingernails into the hand that was holding her.
      “Ouch!”
      Miriam struggled herself free and twirled around to see a man sucking at the back of his hand where she had hurt him and looking quite offended. “Nice way to treat someone who’s just saved your life,” he said in a low soft voice.
      “Who are you?” she said clasping her shaking hands together.
      “One of the few you can trust,” he said and before she could utter another sound, he was holding a piece of cloth to her mouth. She gasped with shock and fainted.

      • Wow! I enjoyed this very much! It ended in a way that I wanted so badly to know what happened. This could very easily be turned into a full novel. If you continue this, please, please let me know. I’d love to read more!

      • Such good suspense to round off what sounds like a sudden sleep-walking twist!

        I’d also love to know what happens next!

      • I find myself a bit confused but hungry for more. This is the opening to a deep and involved story.

        Good job, BezBawni.

      • jhowe says:

        This was a well written supenseful story. I wanted to grab her myself when she started up the stairs.

      • seliz says:

        Very suspenseful, and as a few others mentioned, it left me wanting to read more. Good job!

      • peetaweet says:

        More please, wish this one was longer. Very vivid!

      • PeterW says:

        Very nice… I liked it a lot.

        Since you value feedback here is mine (perhaps a little harsh, but I do say what needs to be said).

        You have to, have to have the visual the setting in your head; then you must accurately communicate it to the reader. Example: Every many readings I understand “breach” to be a hole in the railing. Why would letting go of the railing make her fall… were is she positioned, how is she leaning to ‘make her fall by letting go’ (?) etc, etc. And further, if you have just entered a store, there cannot logically/spatially be rows and rows of shelves on either side of you and something behind you. And stripes of light from a door…vertical, horizontal (?); doorways in darkness usually make light against the ceiling and light against the floor…. Be there… as an author you have to somehow be there. Be there, be there, be there.

        Also give us a few hints of age, disposition, state of mind of the main character in the first paragraph!

        And hey I did think this was really good, and with a few drafts, I think this could be a really solid story. GL my friend!

        • BezBawni says:

          PeterW, I don’t have enough words to express how grateful I am. I’m quite an amateur as a writer and I’m hungry for any advice I can learn from. The funny thing is I skipped some of the details you’re talking about trying to squeeze the strory into the 500-words frame (which is no excuse, of course). I’ll work on my settings. thank you.

          • swatchcat says:

            I agree with PeterW, it was a good start to a possibly better story. Drafting, reading aloud to yourself, and/or having someone read it before submitting are few tips that help me. There were a few choice of words that left me questioning direction. I ended up rereading a few sections to make sense. One main part was when you changed from “her, she, Miriam” to “the girl” and back again.

      • Susan says:

        Hi – like others who’ve responded, I found this a little confusing, but very gripping and mysterious – loved the ending, which still leaves us guessing what’s really going on.

      • dammit! what a place to leave us!
        And then what happened?

        :-)

    57. It was the fifth night that Miles had dreamt the same dream. And he began to think that it had something to do with the old, shady looking book about dreams on his bookshelf. He had picked it up at the bookstore and skimmed through some of the pages but he hadn’t taken the proper time to read it.

      He would go to sleep and then find himself dreaming about being in Paris. He would be walking around the city when, all of the sudden, he would see a small slithering substance crawling on the ground in front of him. That same substance would then touch him once and disappear into his skin. It then would take over the dream and he was no longer in control. His body would just move around because something else was now in control of his body. He would scream out but no one would hear. He would try to take off in a sprint but his body wouldn’t physically allow. It was sleepless nights of tossing and turning. He had even noticed the day before that he would run in to something in his dream and get a bruise and in the morning, he would wake up with a bruise in the same spot. He began to believe he needed to go “see someone”.

      But this fifth night was the worst of them all. Normally, in his dream, the book he had on his nightstand would suddenly appear. And when whatever was controlling him saw the book, it would leave his body and he would regain control where he then could wake up. But tonight, that book wasn’t appearing anywhere. Miles felt trap within his own body, literally. He was still conscience and could think anything he wanted to but he had no control over his body and it really scared him. He decided that when he woke up, he would take that book on his shelf and burn it. He didn’t want this to curse him any longer.

      Hours went by, maybe even days, he wasn’t for sure. Finally they ran across the book and the substance left him and he awoke. Miles took his phone and looked at the time. It had been two days that he was there in his dream. He knew something was terribly wrong. Quicker than ever before, he raced out of bed and to his bookshelf. He ripped all of the books off, trying to find the dream book. But it wasn’t there. He turned his whole apartment upside down, trying to find the book. There is was, under his bed.

      He took the book out back with a box of matches and lit it on fire. He then, swept up the ashes and disposed them behind the concrete wall. He felt satisfied and went inside. That night, he was skeptical, hoping that the dreams would not come back. He fell asleep peacefully only to be awoken by a slithering black substance on his bed post.

      • BezBawni says:

        If Miles asked me to interpret his dream, I’d say the black substance was his Darker Side that he couldn’t control. Anyway, I like that the end of your story could actually be the end of it, because I can never manage in within 500 words. So, cheers for that.

      • I bet if the MC looks around he’ll find the book, surprisingly none the worse for wear.

        I am vaguely reminded of Lovecraft’s “The Color Out Of Space”, in which the creeping horror is an anolgy for cancer. Perhaps the black dust/goo is a dream-level stand-in for some darker and more insidious problem.

        Creepy story, Mallory Terry.

      • seliz says:

        I don’t know, if I were the MC, I’d be afraid to burn the book. It seems to be the only thing protecting him! Interesting story :)

      • Susan says:

        Hi – an interesting take on the prompt. Like BezBawni, I love the sinister ending.

      • You really picked up one of my secret fears with this one. I’m kinda creeped out. *shudder*

        • swatchcat says:

          Once I got past the stream of consciousness style of writing I could see and feel the concern for your MC. Because the style you chose to write with, a reader could be confused. I found myself stopping often and questioning what I had read thinking, “Wait, no you can’t write that.” I was stuttering along but I saw the consistent style and realized you meant to do this on purpose. If not than, oops.

    58. This prompt was written for one of my mains. I hope I got some of her personality across.

      The word limit was a real bugger this time around. Dreams are an excellent place for florid description.

    59. Angela stomped her foot in frustration and stared in the mirror. The white dress festooned with lace was beautiful, but against alabaster skin and white hair all it did was accentuate her pink eyes. Why didn’t they make wedding dresses in black?

      This was the third time she’d ended up back in the damned wedding dream. And that creep out there was not her Angus. He was another dreamshaper, like her. It was that book; it said it was about symbology and typology in dreams, but it should have been titled, “It’s a Trap.” She could feel the psychic remains of at least a half-dozen girls who had died in here.

      Angela skipped ahead to the vows. She had that much control, at least. She looked at his perfect smiling face – no worry lines, just quiet anticipation. Ugh. She whirled and drove a two-inch spike heel into his groin. The mask of loving bliss shattered and he cast her out of the dream again.

      This time she was under water. No problem; she sprouted gills and a sinuous fish tail. Her powers matched his everywhere except in the wedding dream. Predatory fish surrounded her. She turned them into guppies. Angela could feel his frustration as his plan failed.

      He switched her to a falling dream. Below was a rapidly approaching fairytale castle, complete with courtyard, chapel, and … jackpot! She let herself hit, impaling her body on a rose hedge with razor thorns. Blood and agony were her world. She stepped out into her natural habitat: a graveyard.

      Thorns clawed and tore at her flesh. She let them, and forced them to shape a scarlet and green gown of blood and vine. The rose in her hair was solely for looks. She smiled, showing off her tiny fangs.

      The dead began clawing their way out of the graves. She took them as thralls with barely a thought, forming a wedding party of her own. She planted the dead girls’ spirits in her zombie bridesmaids. For later.

      Angela looked at the pretty little chapel with its stained glass windows, its perfectly cleaned stonework and large oak doors. There was always a way back to the wedding dream. She regally processed toward it, bringing her entire entourage.

      As she neared the chapel, vines rent the oak doors from their hinges. The organ music stopped. The groom turned and stared.

      “It’s not a wedding without my family. Let’s do this.”

      Angela glided down the aisle with her grisly wedding party. He tried to dispel them, but Goth styling was too deeply ingrained in her soul. Eventually she stood beside him, staring into his eyes.

      She waited until the minister said the magic words.

      “If there be anyone present who knows just cause …”

      She smiled. “Your almost-dead brides have something to say.” The bridesmaids closed on him as he screamed.

      She woke up and stretched, knocking the book onto the floor. It had been a good dream. Maybe she could try it again.

      • The personality in this was great! It was a good take on the prompt, as well as an interesting MC. Good job!

      • BezBawni says:

        I really enjoyed it. The idea of two people having a dream duel reminded me a bit of Inception, but your story is surreal and off-kilter like a dream itself. Thank you for the time I enjoyed reading it.

        • O-Tim: I enjoyed it a lot too (though I was hoping for more Jenny, to be honest)…

          BezBawni: I think that’s the problem with writing about dreams now. Inception is just so popular that it is always the first thing we think of. We have to be careful to be extra-different. :)

        • Actually, I’ve never seen Inception. It’s on the “eventually” list. I’ll have to move it closer to the top. However, I find Hollywood very seldom gets mind-bending completely right. That’s the advantage of not having to deal with a special effects budget.

          Sorry there’s no Jenny. It may come later if I can think of a good – quick – story to wrap around it.

      • calicocat88 says:

        This was absolutely dreamy ;) I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen reading this. The description was awesome, the world you created just lovely! I can’t wait to find out more :) I would love to know who these people are and why they’re fighting in their dreams. Surely there must be some romantic tension between these two, or at least with the male character since he seems to be the one pressuring the wedding dream…of course there could be some revenge on Angela’s part because at the end she seemed to be willingly entering into the wedding dream. So many questions to keep me reading! Great story!!

        • My intent is that the “groom” is a magical predator who uses people’s inability to dream lucidly to steal their psychic essence. He sees it as a sexual/feeding opportunity, like an incubus.

          Angela, on the other hand, is a metahuman with the power to enter and manipulate dreams, or to draw dreamscapes into the real world. She is a main character in a few of the (unpublished so far) “Metahumanics” stories which I’ve been using to relearn the writer’s craft. They’re character pieces about superheroes (and some villains).

      • jhowe says:

        Great read Observer Tim. Battle of the dream shapers. I loved how she stepped out of the blood and gore fall into her natural habitat.

      • seliz says:

        I loved this. I have a feeling I would enjoy reading more about your MC. The story flowed well, and was easy to read as someone who hasn’t read more about your MC. Very well done.

        Also, they do make wedding dresses in black. And they’re cute :P

      • PeterW says:

        Yo dude, you have talent, and you can certainly….
        .
        But I want to make you a better writer, and this means stop recycling characters!!!!!!

        If you can invent a new character and play out the prompt in 500 words (or slightly more) then you have accomplished something. Create an entire story. Hemingway famously did in six words… or whatev…

        (The fantasy genre relies on simplicity/realism/ human problems: the setting is usual a nice facade btw).

        But really, fing fantasmal job tim.

        • Pout, pout (about the criticism). But then I promptly demonstrated how right you are in my second post to this topic. Can I eat that crow with barbecue sauce?

          In seriousness, one thing I am testing in these prompts is my ability to encapsulate a character I know well in a very constrained space, preferably without losing too much. It seems to have worked this time, so I’m taking notes. I doubt Angela will be the same should her story ever make it to publication.

      • Susan says:

        Very vivid and entertaining, Observer Tim – loved the idea of two dream-shapers slugging it out. The main character is very appealing – feisty, courageous and smart. I’m left wondering what “her Angus” is like because she’s obviously hot to handle, awake or asleep!

        • Her Angus is probably the most patient man in the world, so long as his six-year old daughter (from his ex-wife) is not threatened. Like Angela, he is a showman who lives for making grand symbolic gestures.

          I am considering redrafting a portion of their story for my website, but it’s way too long at the moment.

          • Susan says:

            Sorry, Tim – clicked in the wrong box and my reply to this went to the top of the thread, which is going to be very confusing. I was saying your characters make quite a couple, and Angus’s little girl will have an interesting life!

      • Crazy, dude. frickin’ crazy. Angela is one messed up chick.

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