UPDATED WITH WINNER: LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: September Edition

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Flash fiction: A style of fictional literature marked by extreme brevity.

Welcome to LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown. This shall be a monthly bout of writing prowess, in which you'll be challenged to thrill us in 250 words or less.

How It Works

We give you a picture. You write a flash fiction piece, using the picture we gave you as inspiration. Put your entry in the comments section. One winner will be picked, and awarded a prize.

The Rules

  • 250 words is the limit (you can write less, but you can't write more)
  • Any genre
  • Give it a title
  • We're not exactly shy, but let's stay away from senseless racism or violence
  • One entry per person
  • Editing your entry after you submit it is permitted (though don't start changing the whole thing)
  • We'll pick a winner on the last day of the month
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate

All stories submitted on or before September 27 will be considered. We'll run the winner on September 28.

This Month's Prize

The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous & Obscure. Here's the description from Amazon: 

The turning points, revelations, epiphanies, dramatic changes, the opening or closing of a door—in a life, a career, a love—can occur in a single glorious, terrible, unpredictable, serendipitous, crucial, calamitous, chaotic, amazing . . . Moment.

The creators of the enormously popular Not Quite What I Was Planning and Six-Word Memoir series now offer stories of the Moment—the one-time chances, unexpected coincidences, and sudden catastrophes that made all the difference in the story of one life.

The results are triumphant, outrageous, heartwarming, heartbreaking, embarrassing, illuminating, and inspiring—life-changing moments from contributors Dave Eggers, Diane Ackerman, Elizabeth Gilbert, Bill Ayers, Jennifer Egan, A. J. Jacobs, Judy Collins, and many more.

Your Inspiration

And the winner is... J.Y.!

I love the brevity, the cadence, and the language. Most of all, I love what it brushes up against. 

Flies Also Like Beer

Rot-flower spilt among the black rocks of Malta. It wouldn't be this way.

The curse once believed inane proves legitimate. Masked in understanding, the crowds disperse, engaged in an egg-hunt, walking on dragons' teeth. Maleficent.

I'm caught between the sand and the sun. This sounds too much like a commercial. What could I advertise? Answer: The last three years of your life. It blocks 99.9% of all rays. It coats as evenly as you want.

There are still options left open to you.

Flies do more than clean up after destiny.

Image of The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous & Obscure
Author: Larry Smith
Price: $11.66
Publisher: Harper Perennial (2012)
Binding: Paperback, 368 pages

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Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK September 5, 2012 - 2:01am

Goodbye

Sand fills my mouth. Since they buried me the tide has drawn closer, gently teasing me, running back and forth, a child taunting a dog. The shade brings welcome relief from the burning sun, a courtesy unwarranted. I suppose I deserve this.

Rope holds my arms to my body. Not that they could tunnel free, the sand is packed tighter than a whore’s refund policy. I feel a tooth loose; my tongue pokes at it, investigating. Man always pushed his boundaries, how else would you know where they are? Apparently the Captain’s wife is beyond mine.

I requested a gentleman’s death, a single shot pistol. They declined. The spit is still dripping down my forehead. The surf is inches away now. My foot itches. If I could write I would leave a note to my sister. She waits back home for news, always waiting. The debts pile up when I am away; I fear she will not cope this time without me. Maybe I should have thought, but my head is not always in control. Tomorrow the sun will rise without me. I will never see home again, never hold my sister in my arms, kiss her child. I am the dead.

The salt water laps at my lips, there is not long left. The waves run a noose around my neck as I welcome the inevitable. What a terrible death for a woman.

Bryan Oliver's picture
Bryan Oliver from Michigan is reading the back of a shampoo bottle September 17, 2012 - 10:46am

A Big Deal.

Jeff wiped a tear from his eye and grabbed a stick from the warm sand.  It was the perfect shape, long on one end with a handle that resembled a gun.  Jeff headed in to the large mouth of the nearby cave and took a seat in the sand.  He began to dig.  “I bet they won’t find me in here.” he said. 
“Davey is gonna wanna play with this stick and I won’t let him, even if Mom tries to make me.  I found it and I’m gonna keep it.  He thinks just because he got money from Grandma for his second birthday he is so big and can have anything I have.  I’m five years old now and he has to do what I say!  I TOLD him not give that shell I found to Dennis! He did it anyway and now Dennis threw it in the stupid ocean!”
As Jeff relived the experience the hole he was unknowingly digging grew darker, as he uncovered moist sand.
“He didn’t learn about shells in his stupid fifth grade class.  Liar!  He put it in the water just to be a bully. That’s not even a hermit crab shell, it was flat!  I HATE stupid Dennis.  They are going to be sorry when they can’t find me.  I am going to throw all of Dennis’ toys in the ocean when we get home.  Oh no, here comes mom, she found me!”
Is that…Superman ice cream she has?  Awesome!

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like September 7, 2012 - 4:10pm

Flies Also Like Beer

Rot-flower spilt among the black rocks of Malta. It wouldn't be this way.

The curse once believed inane proves legitimate. Masked in understanding, the crowds disperse, engaged in an egg-hunt, walking on dragons' teeth. Maleficent.

I'm caught between the sand and the sun. This sounds too much like a commercial. What could I advertise? Answer: The last three years of your life. It blocks 99.9% of all rays. It coats as evenly as you want.

There are still options left open to you.

Flies do more than clean up after destiny.

Kelby Losack's picture
Kelby Losack from Texas is reading Muerte Con Carne; The Summer Job; Bizarro Bizarro September 8, 2012 - 7:35am

Pillow Talk

You've been in the bathroom for a while now. Are you okay?

You're missing beach volleyball. You're missing me teach her how to surf.

While your eyes speed-read the labels in the medicine cabinet, looking for a skull and crossbones or all-caps letters shouting "DO NOT TAKE WITH:", while you're studying the no-no list on the bottle, my hands are on her waist, showing her how to move with the waves.

When you remember my iron liver and wonder if crushed OxyContin in a glass of Captain Morgan would be enough to do the job right, you'll second-guess yourself. You'll pout, slam the medicine cabinet, and join us again before I help her with her wet suit.

But first, you'll notice the sliver of light bouncing off a sharp blade in the dish drainer. You'll take the handle of the carrot cutter--yes, when you know how to cook, there's a knife for everything--and you'll admire its light weight, perfect size, and above all its cut. A red ruby will shine on your fingertip when you slide it gently along the edge of the blade.

This carrot cutter, you'll conceal it in your pillow case on your cot in my living room.

Then you'll come outside again, join us on the beach. You'll see her smile at me.

You will smile at me. You'll say, "Hello."

I'll smile back and ask, "How's your stomach?"

David G's picture
David G September 8, 2012 - 3:17pm

The Sound of Losing

What was it about the sound of the waves hitting the shore that relaxed him so much? Gary had felt that way ever since he was 10 years old and went to the Jersey shore for the first time. It calmed him, made all the troubles of life fade into the background.

How could I be so stupid? He thought to himself for the thousandth time. How am I going to explain this to Pam?

But Gary was so sure he had finally figured out how to beat Blackjack. He just needed some money to get the ball rolling. At first he was worried that Pam would find out the $4,000 she had managed to save while he was in jail had disappeared. But his system was working and after an hour he thought he was on his way to winning back everything he had ever lost.

But now it was gone and he would have to tell Pam what happened.

He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t do that to her again. She almost broke last time he had vanished with the rent money and he wasn’t going to put her through that again.

Gary stood on the sand, the glow of Atlantic City behind him, and walked to the edge of the ocean and let the water hit his shoes. He took a deep breath, wadded into the water and started to swim, the sounds of the shore soon fading as he went further out into the darkness.

Janey's picture
Janey from Canberra, Australia is reading Unnatural habits (by Kerry Greenwood) September 9, 2012 - 12:10am

Why graffiti is important

Groups of worshippers trail along the beach and cross the threshold into the great spirit cave. Just as they should.

Spirits can live anywhere, of course—shrines, carved rocks, sacred springs, temples, churches, endless woods or deep still lakes. But this grand cathedral is something special. The voices soar and echo, the salty waters sing as they rise and fall, sun, moon and stars shine through. And the walls record tributes down the ages, scratched drawings of beasts, of the glorious sun, of rivers and fish and hunting, words and patterns of life.

And if they don’t? If they don't, this rock wall is cracked and unstable. Nothing easier than to dislodge a few boulders, or even a whole rockslide, to encourage a bit more awe and respect. Or even total catastrophic collapse as the final punishment if that doesn’t work. Spirits can always move on.

SuziO's picture
SuziO from Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia September 9, 2012 - 3:00am

Leave Me Alone

Why can’t they just leave me alone? I have been living here for longer than they have been in existence. This place is mine, my home. Only, I can’t put up a “Keep Out” sign to say so. That would be too obvious.

Sure, you could say that I could leave, find somewhere else to live. There are caves on beaches that are never visited by chattering human tourists. Or at least, not very often. But I can’t leave. This place is my home; to leave it would mean my death. That’s what they told me, the Old Ones. Not that I’ve seen one of them for a very long time.

I wait until the sun goes down. The humans leave then, scared of rising tides and slippery rocks. Then I can be alone. I am all but nocturnal these days, though I wasn’t before.

Standing in the moonlight, with the waves churning around my legs. I feel exposed outside of the cave.

There’s a giggle and a scream, and I realise the beach is not as deserted as I thought. It’s not the kind of scream that makes me think someone has seen me, but it’s the kind of scream that makes me want to run back into the safety and solitude of my cave.

I can see them. The humans. A male and a female. Their bodies are intertwined on the sand, all passion and excitement.

I am so lonely. Why can’t they just leave me alone?

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland January 24, 2013 - 12:59pm

Removed.

This piece will be published in the February Edition of  Parable Press the sneak peek is up now.

Thanks,

Jonathan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suzie Howson's picture
Suzie Howson from Ramsgate Kent is reading Cloud Atlas September 11, 2012 - 6:18am

Day's End

I burrow my feet into the warm sand as I watch my girls splashing and jumping in the shallows, and I savour the sensation of the grains between my toes. I love this place, we’ve always been so happy here; long, lazy summer’s days, sunburn and sand castles and long walks in the evenings cool. Real life doesn’t intrude here; we can pretend, for a while, that this is all that matters, us, here, together.

The top layer of sand, caught in the breeze, draws arabesques and serpentines that undulate to the water’s edge, a corrugated panoramic as far as I can see. If I didn’t consider it to be such a saccharine notion I would say I am finally at peace. A laughable sentiment really, but a sense of inevitability has finally found me, as I knew it would.

That’s why I had to come here; I couldn’t have done this anywhere else and I had to do it now, before there was nothing left. The pen is heavy in my hand, my wrist aches with the monolithic challenge of translating the hue and colour, the texture and emotion of my thoughts. The paper is such an unfriendly recipient, greeting my loving words with a cold, hard finality that scares me. The heat of the day is receding; the clouds begin to crowd the sky, the day is reaching its conclusion, the pen glides with the last, the most important words, 

Never forget how much I loved you,

Mummy

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On September 11, 2012 - 11:11am

A View of the Water

          “They’re coming, baby,” Jeremy said.
          The first boatload emerged from the cave. Loud, vulgar, arm-chair explorers grasping into the sunlight.
          Noticing his wife’s fetal, sleeping form ghosted in the kitchen window, he now wished he’d kept silent.
          He looked down the cliff again at the shoals that spat up from the maw the waves had burrowed into the sandstone plinth, now at low tide and offering a fleeting artery through which the Spring Break leavings could churn through unabated.
          They’d been told the beach was inaccessible—continued to be told so even as the cottage went up overlooking the lagoon. That had been four years ago.
          “I know,” Stephanie murmured from the bed at length.
          Jeremy nodded. Each year around Easter she would withdraw, as if for some inexorable cold.
          He looked at the sand and water, inviolate and pristine only ten minutes before, now roiled and wrecked by madly flailing limbs and the gurgling wakes of jet-skis they’d hauled in.
          Their first nine months here had been the lifesaver they’d so sought. They’d sit on the beach and gaze out at the teething coral as gulls cooed and rode the breezes above, and they felt a little less tethered to the void that still pulled at their souls.
          “Lily would’ve loved this,” Stephanie would say to the sun swelling the sea’s end.
          “The water never scared her,” Jeremy would always reply.
          In time, he joined his wife in bed and listened to the frenzied cries lapping from below.

swordfighter's picture
swordfighter September 11, 2012 - 11:23am

The Eighty Seventh Day

Started as a dream, will end in a nightmare!

They said “Take a cruse, have fun, see the world.” Glad I did,

The waves egos throughout the cave as the white foam sprays over the ivory sand and the Kids playing in the sand and water. Some run and jump into the waves. Clouds pass over like dreams across the mind. A perfect day. I turn, rub my face, gazing at eighty seven scratches on the wall. Day eighty seven. Paradise, it’s not, it’s coming, every one knows. Know one says a word. Like ostriches.

Four hundred seventeen of us.

I turn, bill thrust a stick through a fish

“This ain’t no porter house.” 

“You ain't get-en any more of them” said the wild-eyed red-head. Bill puts the fish over the fire.
Bill likes her. I told him to say something. No time for shyness.

I put my shades on and walk along the sand, waves rush over my feet the sand squishes between my toes, love that feeling.


I”m going over to Cynthia Connor's, the quiet, big bone blond. But not over wight. (No relation to Sara Connor’s,) She sets on the rocks same place same time every day. (I like her, I’m telling her.) Throws sticks into the waves as she keeps watch. For others? May be praying?

No one knows how it started. Does it matter? It happen. We will all die only a matter of time. The radiation coming. Have mercy Lord!
 

La Emme Nikita's picture
Class Facilitator
La Emme Nikita from Los Angeles is reading Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory September 12, 2012 - 11:24pm

Adrift

She shook her head, delicately, so as not to upset the coif that had so carefully been sculpted that morning. The sand beneath her one bare foot was cool; she looked down and saw she was missing a shoe.

There had been a boat, an old vintage thing with peeling paint. They’d assured her it was artistically distressed. She’d stood in the boat, in the water, holding her bouquet...adrift in a sea of love. Yes, that was the theme. Adrift in the blue waters, framed by the natural rock formation while the photographer stood in its shade, moving an inch and then snapping. The clouds were rolling in...

There was a tangle of seaweed at her feet, punctuated by spikes of white-painted driftwood. My Jimmy Choo bridal flip-flops. Her hand instinctively went to her ring, its five carat weight solid and reassuring under her fingertips.

She hiked up her skirt, that train that had been so lovely in the boutique proving just as impractical as her mother had said it would be, and picked her way back down the shore toward the resort.

A smattering of people on the beach but none of them would look at her; typical.

“Excuse me, have you seen my other shoe?” Her voice cracked.

The sun rose above the cliffs ahead, its light dispersing what few atoms of her remained, sending her back to the grey space between worlds. She’d be back again the next morning, 11:52 as usual.

 
Kevin Maddox's picture
Kevin Maddox from Melstrand, Mi is reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut September 13, 2012 - 9:24am

     In the Eye of the Beholder

     No place like it on earth. Paradise. Whatever makes you happy or could make you happy rises with the sun every morning in this place. Golden fields of dreams, leading to white-sand beaches of ecstasy. Warm nights with lovers together under blazing beautiful stars.

     The true beauty is the fragility in it all. Mechanical birds laced in gold and silver. Flying over rivers of blood, and forests of fire. Columns of black smoke rise as pillars to the gods. Every body washed up on an ocean shore or found dredging a lake is a sacrifice to the true beauty of this world.

     Miracles performed everyday are found in ones ability to look within, seeking beauty in the darkness. To enjoy a meal with family within your crumbling home of a third world country. To die for the ones you love.

     This is the reality they give us to know. As they shave our heads and strip us of our worldly possessions. Here at the resort, we are on vacation from guilt. We are marched in unison and filed away to merely exist in beautiful nothingness.

David B's picture
David B from San Diego, US via London, England via Heidelberg, Germany is reading "The Long Earth" by Terry Pratchett September 13, 2012 - 10:05pm

98….99….100!

Timmy loved to play hide-and-seek.  The other kids (so many 12-year-olds here – cool!!) he had met at the hotel were looking for him around the bushes further down the beach, but he was far away, inside Cathedral Cove, in the shadow of a big boulder, and had buried himself up to the neck in the cool, refreshing sand, his salty, blonde hair darkened by the wet sand.  Outside the cove, turquoise waves and locals in the early afternoon sun were outstaring each other.

Nobody could see Timmy.  Fun!

Something just stung Timmy in his left arm.  It wasn’t very painful, Timmy stayed quiet; he didn’t want to be found.  Urgh.  Another sting, in his right arm.  He stayed quiet.  The pain passed, as did any sensation in his arms. Timmy couldn’t feel them.

The waves were loud, nobody would hear him.  Nobody needed to hear him.

Or did they?

Another sting, to the side of Timmy’s neck.  Now he saw it, Tityus serrulatus - a Brazilian yellow scorpion.  Timmy knew about arachnids.

This one and the two other yellow buggers, which presumably had nipped his arms, scuttled off, turned, and seemed to leer at scared Timmy.  He wasn’t stuck in a well, but Lassie would’ve been great right now.

Timmy’s neck was pulsing and tears started to stream down his cheeks.  He tried to scream, but his throat was closing up.  He was wheezing.  The three venomous Stooges came back for more.

Jose Chaves's picture
Jose Chaves September 14, 2012 - 4:32pm

The Fin of the Shark


“La Aleta Del Tiburon,” the rock was called by the locals, referring not only to its shape, but to the sharks that infested the waters that eddied around its base.  The girl met the young man on the boat ride with her family.  She liked his accent, and the way he steered the boat.  She agreed to go with him to a beach party in the tunnel.


The tunnel was completely dark, except for a bon fire that blazed, illuminating dark figures as they danced in circles. He introduced her as his American friend.  She took a drink of tequila, hoping it would calm her nerves, but it only made her numb. She told him she didn’t know how to dance. “It’s easy,” he said. “I lead you.” He grabbed her wrists tightly, then pushed and pulled her arms, making her body move like a mannequin’s.  He was drunk, looking her in the eyes, but not at her, and suddenly she felt very alone and afraid.  She yanked away her hands, and turned before she could see his face.  She ran all the way back to the hotel, and could hear him yelling in the distance, “Come back baby! I love you!”


When she got back to her room, her family was sleeping.  She wanted to climb in bed beside her mother and father like she did as a girl, but she was too old for that now.  Instead, she lay down beside her little brother, and put an arm around him as he slept. 

 

 

Heather Constantinescu's picture
Heather Constan... from Indianapolis, Indiana is reading Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman September 14, 2012 - 6:51pm

Dodge a Bullet


Meribelle met Chad in Cabo San Lucas one afternoon collecting seashells. Now three nights later, he’d taken her to a night club. The lights swirled to the beat of the music. He pulled her in for a kiss.
“Let’s go to the beach,” he shouted. She nodded. The quiet  and cool air would be a relief. She waved at her friend Kelsey, who stopped talking to Andrea and gave her a worried look.
They strolled down the beach until they came to a pier. She ran her fingers through his hair, but he seemed distracted.
“What’s been the best part of the summer for you?” she asked.
“Meeting you,” he said. She heard a motor and looked up. A boat? It carried two unshaven, dirty looking men as passengers.
“They’re going to take you somewhere,” Chad said.
“I don’t want to go.”
He gave her a cold smile. “They paid your fee.”
A car screeched its brakes in the parking lot. When Meribelle looked, she saw Kelsey and Andrea and two unfamiliar men. They piled out and rushed towards the pier.
“Damn,” said Chad. He jumped off the pier into the boat. The man who was driving revved the engine and the craft started moving away. Meribelle was left alone.
“What are you doing here?”
“Meri, Dominic told us Chad’s a bad guy. He sells drugs and…maybe even women.”
Meribelle felt faint. 
“You weren’t going to get in that boat?” Andrea asked. She gave Meribelle a hug.
 

mcgi11y's picture
mcgi11y from Sydney is reading The Riders September 16, 2012 - 1:08am

A Warm Place

I love you she whispered softly in his ear as she calmly twisted the bowie knife deep into his chest, the finely crafted steel sliding effortlessly through his sternum, penetrating his heart, piercing his soul.
He looked up at her, a pained surprised look on his face. Tears welled in her heavenly brown eyes as she smiled despairingly.
"Why" he managed to croak as the blood burbled in his throat. He felt the hot vital fluids pooling around his wound, trickling down his body to stain the crystal white sands of the beach. He lifted his head and looked down at the black handled grip protruding from his chest. He tried to lift his arms but lacked the strength. He slumped back into his makeshift sandy grave staring up at her beautiful face. Tears like pearls streamed down her cheeks.
"I'm tainted" she sobbed quietly. "The two of us were never meant to be."
He tried to open his mouth but she put a finger to his lips shaking her head sadly.
"No" she said choking back tears. "Just lie quietly, it will be over soon."
He felt her fingers stroking lightly through his wiry hair as he regarded the brilliance of the bright blue day beyond the entrance to the cave. Wisps of clouds drifted by on the light northerly breeze. The ocean sparkled under the hot pacific sun. He could hear the waves gently crashing ashore as memories of his true love faded with his last dying breath.

Kring's picture
Kring from Tampa, FL is reading Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler September 16, 2012 - 4:36pm

Rebirth

We emerged from the cave on shaky legs, shielding our eyes from the sun we had feared we would never see again. Fingers gingerly stroked wrists rubbed raw by restraints.  In the darkness of captivity, in those moments we had thought might be our last, we had huddled together and spoken in hushed whispers of past regrets and present fears, of loved ones we would leave behind.  Now free, our voices gained strength, making promises of reunions we knew we would never plan.

Three weeks earlier we had been strangers setting out as eager explorers. “Looking for adventure?” the ad had beckoned.  Twenty-two of us had answered, each with our own reason for taking part in a journey that promised to “change our view of the world”. 

We had certainly changed.  I thought of my life back home, of the guys back at the plant and how they would react upon my return: “Fucking pirates, Travers?  You invest your life savings on some crazy ass trip and then go and get yourself kidnapped by pirates?”

Perhaps sensing my thoughts, Marguerite sidled up to me, gently resting her hand on my arm.  “Nothing will ever be the same after this, you know,” she sighed.

As I caught sight of the ship that would carry us back to the lives we had led before, I prayed she was right.

AM Gray's picture
AM Gray from Australia is reading The Book of Blood and Shadow, by Robin Wasserman September 19, 2012 - 12:25am

Coffin bay
The bay was only accessible from the sea. And it was from the sea that the invaders came.
They knew the day. The wise men had warned them. ‘If they touch us, we will sicken and die.’ They believed them; they had proven themselves before.
The tall ship with the white wings approached. The canoes met it. They waved, as if at friends.
The women manned their boats. The wise men said the invaders did not value women warriors.
The invaders were pale and weak. Too long at sea. But the wise men had said they would kill them all.
The invaders did not speak the same words as they did, but they were careful to be friendly and smiling. They led it into the shallow bay. The tall ship stopped; the invaders swarmed up like ants to close the white wings. They shouted to each other.
A smaller boat was lowered and rowed to meet the women on the shore. Only one craft had landed, but they did not notice that.
Inside the cave, the creature’s eyes opened. It blinked extremely slowly. One of the women saw. She motioned to the others and they turned their boat so that it faced out into the bay.
The creature was enraged.
A rival. With white wings. Loud. Disrespectful.
It exploded from the cave in a flurry of black leathery wings and fire.
The women ran and paddled for their lives. The invaders did not recognise the creature.
Fire cleansed them all.

Naomi Mesbur's picture
Naomi Mesbur from Toronto, Ontario, Canada is reading Burn Baby Burn Baby by Kevin T. Craig September 20, 2012 - 2:29pm

When Icarus Listens

“Mommy, those are stratus clouds!”

He’s still enthusiastic for something he learned three long years ago.

“How did the clouds get up there again?”

Given the scientific abilities of his mind, why create a fairy tale explanation?

“But the water can’t be in the sky. The water is on my toes.”

He imitates a ninja kick he’s seen on television towards the oncoming wave.

“Does the water fly up to the sky using its wings?”

This same argument has been used for centuries to justify the existence of religion.

“Don’t look directly at the sun, Mommy. It will hurt your eyes.”

He can recollect rules better than he can follow them.

“So Mommy, does a cloud feel like water?”

The simple questions are the hardest to answer.

“Does a cumulus cloud feel different than a stratus cloud?”

Using the word impossible will crush a few dreams.

“Is the water trying to be like a stratus cloud on the ground?”

Such complex logic from such a simple premise.

“Can a shark swim in the sky?”

There’s the spark to make his imaginary world concrete.

“Remember, Mommy, yesterday in the morning when we woke up, and you told me the clouds were touching the ground and it was called fog? See, Mommy!  Water is like a cloud on the ground. That means a shark can swim in the clouds!”

He is laying the groundwork for his future.

“Swim up, you sharks! Swim up to those stratus clouds!”

debradaumier's picture
debradaumier September 21, 2012 - 12:47am

No Perfect Murder....

“This is the last photo she took,” said the constable, showing his superior Dulieu the picture. Dulieu let out a deep sigh. Murdered tourists were not only bad for local business and tourism, but also made life complicated.

A local couple looking for a secluded spot had found the body of a woman, obviously a foreigner. They immediately called the local police station (damn those cell phones!). His constable had promptly called him, interrupting a tryst with his married lover.

The body was identified as Sarah Kemneley from London. Dulieu despised the Brits and wondered why they could not bump off their spouses in their own country. Ah bon, nothing to be done, he had to solve this murder tout suite.

“You loved your wife?” Dulieu started the interview with the husband. “Of course”, Kemneley replied, silently cursing the insolence of this frog cop. “Why do you think that she photographed you walking away?” asked Dulieu pointing at the figure in the bottom right corner. He could tell by the look in the count’s eye that he was guilty as hell.

“She was a pain in the derrière, non?” offered Dulieu giving his most beguiling smile. “Yes”, answered Kemneley, involuntarily exposing himself. It did not take long to get his confession. Combined with forensic evidence, the local court sentenced Kemneley 25 years.

In his prison cell, Kemneley wondered what had gone wrong; he had counted on the incompetence of the local police to get away with murder.....

onmytangent's picture
onmytangent from Charlotte, NC September 23, 2012 - 6:17pm

White Walls and Blue Skies

I sat on the crunchy white paper and slowly lowered myself until I was fully horizontal on the bench, my eyes looking straight up at the ceiling. The room was cold and the sterile sheet beneath me crackled with every movement. They tell me to ease up and feel comfortable, but how can you in a place like this? Hospitals are made to be uncomfortable, so talk to me about the irony in that. The nurse comes over to me and tries to explain the upcoming procedure. Her words move in and out like waves. I’m too focused on willing myself to be warm that her words become jumbled impressions of Charlie Brown's teacher. All I can feel is the frigid air course over, under, and through my body, chilling any heat that I may give off. I can feel the hairs on my arms stand up as goose bumps ripple over my flesh. I close my eyes and a tiny salty tear forms and rolls down the side of my face into my ear. The nurse squeezes my hand and says, “It’ll be all right. Just… think of a happy place. This will be over before you know it.” I kept my eyes shut and nodded. I thought of smooth, sandy beaches and bright blue water. I considered vacationing in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, New Zealand. I told myself: when I get out, I’ll go anywhere but here.

Michelle Brooks's picture
Michelle Brooks from Bay area, CA is reading Outliers, The Magicians, Bleaker September 26, 2012 - 1:03am

An Entrance

"7 car pile up on the Southbound 5, police are on the scene..."

"Momma? I don't want to go in there." 

The four year old grabbed his mother's hands and dug his tiny velcro-locked shoes into the sand in a troubled stance.  His mother, a small-framed young woman grasped his hand in return. She was just as frightened as he was, but knew she wasn't allowed to show it. 

"Come now, see the others?  They are all going in, it'll be fine."

"...expected casualties, we don't have an exact number yet..."

The mouth of the cave was hooded with mist, and contrasted the bright sunny beach, and yet the small stream of people were headed straight inside.  No one straggled to enjoy the oceanside setting.  It was an afterthought, a window-dressing.  The young woman was tempted to pick her son up as they made their way towards the mouth, but instinctively knew that each must walk in of his own accord.

"... the weather is thought to be a contributing factor to the accident..."

“Momma, are we going inside to stay?”
“I don’t know, baby.  We’ll see, won’t we?”
"Momma, it's not raining no more."
"I know love.  With any luck, after today, it will never rain again."

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tobygibbons87 from Liverpool/London is reading Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman September 27, 2012 - 10:24am

Waiting Alone.

He collapsed at the mouth of the cave alone and wouldn’t get up again. When we found him his face had gone the colour of white sand and his eyes were glass. A storm was forming above us and Clara had grabbed at my hand and told me that we should leave. I shook my head, transfixed by his prone state. I knelt by him and cupped his face and ran my hands through his hair. In a few hours, he would be underwater, ensnared by seaweed and dragged out to sea. What had once been a personality was now just a slowly dissolving mass of cells. I told Clara that I couldn’t leave him here, that I couldn’t lose anyone else to the sea. She whispered that she knows about my past and that I don’t need to remind her of anything but that staying here and trying to rescue a corpse would be stupid. I tell her she can leave as I stare into his eyes. I’ve put myself forward for hopeful resurrection alongside him and I can’t abandon him now. As the skies thundered I heard her walking back through the sea, leaving me alone with him and waiting for the inevitable. I took both his hands in mine as the water swirled about us and as rain began to lash my back he opened his eyes and his fingers clenched tight. A smile broke across my face and the winds beckoned, absolute.

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HB Rad Lee from California. I usually live in the mountains or a car or out of a backpack... right now I have a flat in Germany is reading READY PLAYER ONE September 27, 2012 - 11:26am

Honeymooners

I loved him. I really did.
I thought about this as I watched the salt water foam and swirl around his handsome face. Every time the water lapped up and over his dark wet hair it left little deposits of sand, like more freckles on his face.
He hated swimming. He hated being cold and wet and salty, and I felt a sudden twinge of sadness at the thought of him spending an eternity in just that way.
The ocean had washed the blood off the beach, but I still thought the sand beneath him had a hint of crimson, damn spot. I thought of the sand sculptures I used to make when I was younger and how we would add things like coloring or flour or coffee for splashes of color and texture. Nothing we’d ever used came close to that crimson stain.
The water washed up and completely over him this time with a slightly bigger wave and I thought perhaps it might take him, but it receded again and there he was, as still and lifeless as before.

It was nothing in particular really; all the little things just added up. I’m not sure what I'd meant to do, or even what he’d said exactly, but now that it was done I wasn’t really upset by it.

As I turned to walk away, the reality of things struck me suddenly and I laughed a little. I suppose the honeymoon’s over.

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Natale Anne from New York is reading The Morningstar Strain September 28, 2012 - 1:25am

The End.

Three hundred million people are in a panic. They know the bombs are going to be dropped, but nobody knows when. These bombs don't take prisoners, or so we're told. They're big enough to wipe our entire country off the map. The news footage is showing me the mobs of people screaming and crying; they're calling for preemptive revenge. I don't care though, not really. There's nothing to be done about it.

It's time to turn the television off. I'm going to the beach. I always told myself that I would revisit my childhood, and now is a better time than any. I want to enjoy that hot sand and cool sea once more; I just hope I make it there in time.

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Kring from Tampa, FL is reading Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler September 28, 2012 - 8:03am

Congratulations J.Y.!  Well done!

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jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like September 28, 2012 - 8:40am

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Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On September 28, 2012 - 8:42am

Excellent job, J.Y.! Great work:)

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Class Facilitator
La Emme Nikita from Los Angeles is reading Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory September 28, 2012 - 10:48am

Congratulations, J.Y. Nicely done.

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Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland September 28, 2012 - 11:11am

Well done. J.Y. Congrats.

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swordfighter October 4, 2012 - 12:40pm

congrats J.Y.