Saturday, December 29, 2012

Flash fiction contest!

Let's get the New Year off to a ROUSING start with a flash fiction contest!

I just read RATLINES by Stuart Neville and it's a sox knocker for sure!

Winner of the flash fiction contest gets my copy of the ARC of RATLINES!

Usual rules:

Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

Use the following words in your story:


Contest opens on 12/30/12 at noon

and closes at 12/31/12 at noon. All times are eastern shark time.

Post story in the comments section of THIS blog post. (comments are closed till contest opens)

If you need a mulligan, delete and repost.  Only ONE entry per person.

All decisions by the judge will be highly subjective and not subject to any kind of review.

Prize is the ARC of RATLINES (or if you've already got that, we'll come up with something else)

International mailing unless you live on Mars.

Questions? Tweet to me @janet_reid

GO! Closed!

While you wait for the results, here's more about RATLINES by Stuart Neville!


Yvonne Osborne said...

Snake climbed the ratline and glassed the ocean. He wouldn’t be free until his bond was paid, and he was too young to pass time this way. Asylum in Cuba awaited if he could drift the rig closer and swim ashore. The captain was in his cups with the company lodger, and Snake longed to be free of the capitalists and their dangerous shortcuts. They’d confiscated his swords but missed the knife strapped to his inner thigh. He cut the anchor rope and waited. The island’s edge rose from out of the sea, and he silently slipped into the ocean.

Frankie Brown said...

Climbing the ratline and shooting the sailors who’d tried to follow him was the only way James escaped the carnage. The bloody scene on the deck was one a lunatic in asylum would spend days screaming about, with no one stopping to listen.

He’d listen. Now that he’d seen a true battlefield-- the bloodstained swords and twisted grimaces, guts, terror, shame. Shame strong enough to crush him.

James’ word was his bond. But he’d broken it. He’d promised to protect the captain’s daughter. He couldn't. James was a lodger, not a solider. He left her. And now she was dead.


This was fun :)

Carolyn said...

"What's this, now? In the witching hour of the night?"
"Three bonny lads, seeking asylum."
"Bonny do you be? And what proof of that?"
"We bear the Bond of Swords. It came straight direct from your last lodger, who passes on his good tidings."
"Did he now? Then gave you the seal?"
"Had no need of it, he said, on account of going abroad."
"Abroad? I heard he traveled six feet deep into yonder county's soil."
"Who said such lies?"
"Ten of his kin on the hunt for the rat who killed him. They're in a line behind you."

otin said...

“Give it up, Mister Ratline, no country will ever offer you asylum,” Super-spy James Bond yelled out, battling the SPECTRE menace high along the jagged cliff line, swords their chosen weapons.

“I knew you weren’t just another lodger at the inn, Bond,” Ratline sneered, jabbing at his nemesis. “You’ve been following me for months.”

Suddenly, James Bond spun around, knocking Omar Ratline off the cliff with his blade. The evil man’s body splattered onto the boulders below.

“That’s how I prefer my villains—on the rocks, shaken not stirred,” Bond said with a smile, tossing his sword over the edge.

Brent Salish said...

His blade flashes. I duck, slide through the lubber’s hole, down the dripping ratline, my assailant three rungs behind. We gain the deck, cross swords. He thrusts, thrusts again, until my back slams the fo'c'sle. He knocks my weapon aside.

“You gave me your bond,” I rasp.

“And you believed me? A lodger at the asylum?” He laughs. The bark plunges down a wave and slams into the trough. He stumbles forward. I grab his sword, ram the hilt into his stomach, draw the blade across his neck. Green water washes the deck that rises to greet his falling body.

simon lewis said...

We knew the waters off the coast of kenya were dangerous - but we never believed our small boat would be targeted. Now I'm drifting in the Indian Ocean with a napalm sun blistering me to oblivion. The ratline and mast were destroyed by the pirates who took my wife hostage and left me to die, slowly. I drift to the edge of consciousness, now the pirates have swords not AK47's. A big ship approaches. I wave frantically. Maybe I can claim asylum. Maybe they'll take me on as a lodger. More pirates. Help, I need James Bond.

Blue Sage said...

The sound of metal scraping on metal and the clanking of chains against wooden chairs deafens me. My nostrils burn with the stench of singed hair and urine. The mad cackling and screeching of every insane lodger of St. Stephens Asylum grips my rib cage, squeezes my windpipe, and pierces my brain like ten thousand hot thin swords. I am shoved to the wall, too raw and too stupid to see the imaginary bond the lifers have, cursed by the ratline bisecting the recreation room of Ward 32. I don’t belong here, I scream. I’m still alive. Or am I?

Anonymous said...

Looking down from my window ledge, I judged the ground fairly friendly, compared to the confused collage of my life. The fire department offered a ratline asylum, and as I slipped a bit, I clung to it. How could I feel so ambivalent? No job, no love, a petty crime sure to mean time. Betrayals, his and mine. No! I would no longer be a life lodger: with both the swords I had threatened my would-be saviors with, I cut the bond, and with a triumphant yell, I fell.

Buzz Malone said...

What men are these, who have donned the uniform and supped at the Führer’s table, only to shed their garments and sneak, no, crawl away, like rodents into this troubled night? Not men at all are these rats, scurrying away toward asylum, lodgers beneath the long robed dresses of the very clergy we had sworn to despise. No bond betwixt men and Gods have they left unscathed as they have sheathed their swords in shame and scampered away on their ratlines. Ratlines indeed! Save for two men, none at their posts remain, Mein Führer and I.

Anonymous said...

The ratline ran along the kitchen baseboard snaking into a raggedy hole in the wood. I raised an eyebrow and turned to my mother. She frowned.
“Your father belongs in an asylum. If marriage weren’t an unbreakable bond made before god I’d have a mind to leave.”
Just then my father entered wielding two knives, big as swords. He pecked my cheek as he passed.
“Good drive sweetie? I’m just hunting our verminous little lodger who thinks he can move in uninvited.”
I toed the metal wire and felt the electric jolt through my shoe. Another Christmas with the folks.
(It should be obvious that I didn’t look up what a ratline was until after I wrote this but I stand by my totally made up definition.)

ParanoidPencilPusher said...

She had forged delicate bond with the lodger. Their shared appreciation of antique swords was the icebreaker. She had known him as kind and gentle, so when he revealed that he was a fugitive in need of asylum she didn’t recoil, as she should have. Instead, she contacted an acquaintance with connections to ratline networks. Together they hatched an escape plan. She believed him when he claimed to be the victim of a witch-hunt, innocent of the charges against him.

After he had gone, she often wondered if she had done something terrible by helping him.

Chelsea Schmitt said...

It was a day like any other, or it should've been. I was on my way to RATLINE, a pub on the far side of Asylum Funny, I know, but whatcha gonna do? Rat's in a hole, as Johnny says, no don't mind Johnny none, Miss. Can't tell a sword's point from under-drawers and that's what's got him into such trouble.Like I said, I was goin' to RATLINE, when who do I see? Johnny, hangin' under Bottom Alley by six inch fingernails, Johnny old-monkey-lodger, says I, what're ya doin'?

"Toilet," says he, "gotta go Flick, dropped my bond."

Craig said...

After years of crossing swords the aggressors said oops. They had gone too far and had to search for asylum. They needed a place to run before hobnailed boots walked on them.

A stranger with an air of mysticism became a lodger among the aggressors. He dealt a hand with a promise sanctuary for a bond of arts and antiquities. The aggressors also had to return to the fold.

The road would be hard because a ratline isn't a railroad. They eventually reached a new promised land and became aggressors again. History always repeats itself.

Lauren said...

In the Ratline region of northern Burbia, Margery Bond, the innkeeper, welcomed a lodger on a wintry evening, despite news of an escape from the nearby asylum.

Beatrice huddled in front of the fire, in the parlor, waiting for the nightly toast. As she raised her glass, the lights flickered then darkened. Amid the tap of approaching footsteps, flames brightened the lodger’s scarred face.

“Nice night for a fire,” he said, “to enjoy among friends.”

“And a good meal, too,” Margery added, then pulled a sword from her skirt and severed his head.

“It’s about time. I’m starved,” Beatrice said.

Amanda Capper said...

All five tried to pull the swords from the sand. All five failed.
"No use," said Martin, the oldest lodger. "We're not one of the chosen."
Howard shook his head. "Then we must run. Hit the ratline and disappear. We can't beat the inmates without the swords."
They turned, one at a time, and headed back to the asylum.
Martin was the last. "C'mon, Bond," he called to his dog as he left. "We tried."
Bond wagged his tail. Grabbing the hilt of one sword, the dog pulled it from the sand and, dragging it carefully behind him, trotted after his master.

Rob Brunet said...

Three weeks in, Sherry ran out of cusswords for cousin Frank. Her “four-nights-TOPS” lodger had poisoned her nautical asylum. She craved dry land and the relative solitude of a subway car. His non-stop chatter—bugger talked in his sleep—kept her from writing one good page. Hard as she struck the keys, the Underwood couldn’t drown him out. Even now, tied halfway up the ratlines, he blathered about love lost and politics and how the right meds could fix all ills. Feeding a sheet of virgin bond onto the roller, Sherry wrote, “Sanity fled the day the sky spoke.”

Flute71 said...

“I’m going to be murdered!”
The message scraped by a corpse into the asylum wall was plain as day. The chilling words, like swords, cut through my very being. The asylum’s lodger, Miss Bunny Begonia, a soap opera star caught up in a web of deceit. She had been going insane little by little, since she had been brought up on the charges.
Picking up my sleuthing gear, I headed straight for the Ratline Asylum For Distraught Soap Stars. With any luck, I would be able to finally solve Miss Bunny’s murder.

jaimiengle said...

Across blimey seas sail the asylum of the dead; lodgers on a passageway to the gates of Hell. With heavy swords of bone, scabbards encrusted with the jewels of their sins, the treacherous brood fight and kill then rise again, each trying to break free of their own bond. The ratline is lowered at Hell’s gate. Hellhounds snarl and yelp at the fresh meat. With laden steps, they climb down the rope through thick blinding fog, only to find they are back on the ships’ deck ready to set sail, to kill and be killed; in limbo for all eternity.

Christine said...

Swords spent the space above the ratline, where she needed to trespass if ever she would reach asylum. Lodger he had never been, head hunter he begged to become. How stupid, and incredibly foolish of her to imagine that a bond, made with coupled flesh at midnight, translated into trustworthiness at dawn. She would have to kill again, and how she hated to dirty her knife first thing in the morning.

Ginger Mayerson said...

Just a room for a while; the lodger left his gold watch as his bond until he could get the local currency. He set his pack on the bed and drew the curtains aside to let the moonlight soften the darkness. Leaves shaped like swords on the tree outside tapped gently on the window of his temporary asylum, his refuge from memory, but not dreams. This tree would be his anchor for a few days. Its branches reminded him of a ratline on an old ship, but this one rose to the stars, if only he could climb it.

rmichael said...

What came before this could be any decent man’s story. Lodger clung tightly to the ratline, the icy water rising, piercing his skin like so many swords. Wrongly convicted, then forced to endure the cruelty of the asylum, was but a harbinger of the unmerciful darkness waiting beneath the violent waves.

As the storm howled, the sorrowful pleading of the others tossed from the ship intensified then suddenly stopped.

Lodger raised his head. “I share no bond, Lord, with this murderous lot. They’ve received their just reward, I ask only now for mine.”

The ship slipped silently beneath the waves.

Aimless Writer said...

I watch as the ratline crawls slowly forward, each twisted mind gathering its feed from the row of silver trays. Feeding time at the zoo. Just another day in this happy asylum. The courts decreed I spend my days under lock and key but it was no fault of mine. The Lodger is the crazy one, it was his sword that killed. He just used my hands. The Lodger needed new soul to steal. Mine’s all used up. He’s eaten it from the inside out. One soul, one bond within the Lodger and me.

SBC84 said...

Johann's head spun. He remembered his friends dared him to spend a night in the asylum.

The area was honeycombed with tunnels. Johann just finished exploring a ratline when he received the dare.Fresh from university he was a new lodger at the local boarding house.

His eyes were drawn t blood stained swords hung in the lobby. There was nothing on the first or second floors, but upon entering the basement he felt a chill then blacked out.

"Awake, good."
Johann's screams echoed as the cybernetic Mengele harvested replacement parts. A bond of flesh and blood forever linked them now.

Wry Wryter said...

Misery and madness mask the stillness of the Asylum on Sword’s Hill; it closed in eighty-two; in eighty-three I became a lodger. From the barred windows, yellow squares of light on the tile floor form a ratline of stepping stones to the dark places, the rooms where fear bathes memory, where the souls of the damned are buried. Thirty years ago I ran away from you and hid here. I am the shadow vandals see, the surreptitious flesh and blood ghost in the window. Remember me? Tomorrow I am getting out. Tomorrow I am coming home to bond with you.

BP said...

There were 42 beats along the German ratline; only one of them ended freedom. A few weren't good for anything more than a hot tip or leg up over the next border. The rest were traps; figurative insane asylums where the lodgers' military uniforms grew brittle with dust, phantom hopes of impossible escape and nostalgic tales of the glorious pre-war era. The fellows who ended up trapped were alike, I think. They had crossed swords by each others' sides and there was a special bond between them.

Josie D said...

The man wore black like a raven. He fled down quiet streets paved with moonlight, inconspicuous except for the swords clanking in their scabbards. He cursed softly in French, holding them tighter to his body. He’d left behind his Capitaine, tied up with the ratline from the ships’ shroud: a fitting bond for the bastard.

The Sanctuary Cross came into view, and with it, a sudden change of heart. He could never surrender his weapons or trust in return for asylum. He’d coins enough to be a lodger at an inn, so he turned away from the Church. For good.

Anonymous said...

Sinking Ship

Dreams of gilded swords and buckled swash are wasted on you. Fortified wine reveals my bloodied name at your feet—you, the feral lodger. And here am I, living alone in the asylum beneath my breastbone. My hackneyed poems fall on the deafened ears of incessantly screaming victims who can’t remember that they’ve already been murdered. A bond with Death scrawls emptiness on their walled-up diaries while red snakes slither through the jaundiced moats in their eyes. You stand there on the ratline to my psyche, weighing my last words in your hand.

Frank Atkinson said...

He was more than just a lodger, he was a permanent fixture in the asylum. Itching his arm, it menaced him, dreadful swords of addiction kept him aware that he was in a ratline, a mouse in a maze. Those who moved before him shuffled to the window with expectations of temporary memory loss. It was a bond between them making them all similar, and all separate. It was the search for the solution to the age old question. When will it all end? It would end now. The metal felt cool as he ate the end of the barrel.

Spike Cordiner said...

Swords, shields, chain-mail, ratlines, spells...

He was sick of hearing about them. All he’d needed was a room for a couple of months to work on his novel without any distractions. So when Alan had seen the ‘Lodger Wanted’ sign he’d ducked on in and chatted-up the landlady. She hadn’t mentioned the students. A dozen of them. All role-play enthusiasts. And not the fun kind of role-play but the one with dice and cards.

Swords, shields, chain-mail, ratlines, spells…

He’d have fled this asylum already but he didn’t think he could get his bond back.

P.A. Bermudez said...

Hoping escape, we ran through the tunnel. The lodger swore a bond granting me asylum as soon as we alighted his ship. I should have never done it; things are better left untouched.

Periodically, we listened for silence, but heard their rapid pursuit. Their footfalls splashed through shallow water, their swords clanked against the stone walls.

When we reached the tunnel’s end, he indicated his vessel, My Salvation. As we boarded, I glimpsed one of his men on the ratlines with a spyglass pointed toward town while pointing at me.

Kate Higgins said...

I love flash fiction. This is my story titled "Shanghaied"

It was risky to visit lodger Madam Shimza at night even dressed as a man. Madame’s Tarot cards were full of Swords and warned of bondage and foreign travel. Phillipa regretted taking the dare.
Port Townsend’s Union Warf wasn’t safe for a woman...or anyone, at night. The shadows of ratlines from the China Clipper merchant ships created eerie patterns in the gaslight and Pippa could feel the unscrupulous watchers.
She ducked into a dark passageway for asylum and held her breath. A hand clapped her mouth, a dagger in her side, “Sooo matey, you want foreign travel do ye?”

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Today I was telling the boss I was done mopping up after the firm's giga-buck clients. I had my fuck-you duffle of Benjamins and a one-way ratline to somewhere warm.

A conga line of black Suburbans with fold-down spotlights swarmed our street. Cops. Probably Feds. I hit the radio button.

"Prominent attorney Richard Martin arrested on a no-bond warrant."


The inmates had finally lost control of the asylum. I savored my future as a lodger on a no-name third-world beach.

He's your father.

I flipped a U-turn. One last legal mess. One last battle where words cut like swords.

stacy said...

The cocaine Flanders forced on me cut my mind like tiny swords. He called the final thread he made on my stomach his “ratline” - his escape from the ship of reality - and snorted it. He was rubbing the dregs on his teeth when we heard footsteps upstairs.

His lodger, and someone else. Neither was supposed to be here. Flanders grabbed his gun and followed the sounds.

I cut my left arm on its bond. Too numb to care. I stumbled into the street, naked and high, and eventually fell into a woman holding a cell phone. Asylum at last.

kregger said...

“When do the inmates get to run this asylum?” asked Jim as he gnoshed food.

The guard tapped his clipboard. “We run a tight ship.”

Jim glanced at the swords the guard wore on his collar, and then clutched his throat.

“No one climbs a ratline until I tell them to furl a sail.” The guard’s eyebrows scrunched. “Are you all right?”

Jim’s eyes grew wide and his jaw worked open and closed.

The guard keyed his mic, and said, “Cafeteria emergency!” He waited, listening. “It’s Bond, James Bond, he’s turning blue.”

His speaker crackled, “Asphyxiation?”

“That’s a lodger, dodger.”

Lauren S said...

Elysse had no intention of offering asylum. She was hungry herself, and cold, so cold. There was hardly any wood left, and another lodger would surely demand that she throw one of her precious logs onto the fire. No, it was no use banging on the door like they were now. She’d sooner pull one of her father’s rusted swords down from the wall and run herself straight through than invite another stranger into her house. Not after last time. Ratline or no, fascists or no, her property was her own, according to the bond she clutched in her hand.

french sojourn said...

She blew out the cigarette smoke slowly. It drifted toward the ceiling fan, drawn like a ratline to a crow’s nest. She glanced at the pile of Polaroid’s strewn on the bedside table, her asylum of intimacy. What was his name?

He was a lodger from another time and had no bond to her dreams. He got up from the bed and tripped on one of the dead soldiers, it clinked against one that was half empty.

He bent down to pick it up, as though a couple swords had been slid into his kidneys. Christ what was her name?

Sarah Gratton said...

Six inmates of seven out, down a ratline and past the guards, the first escape in the short history of the asylum.

But one...

"Why stay? Why not flee with the others?"

"Me?" His smile was placid. "Why, when I'm so happy a lodger here? No, no, I'll bide."

Then he turned his head to look on me square, and something in his eyes brought my hand to my sword's hilt. "You don't wish to escape?"

"No, sir. Not yet." His smile widened. "I feel a bond between us, you see. I won't be leaving you behind."

Shaunna said...

Geoffrey pulled himself up and peered into the crow’s nest. Three sodden men stared back at him. “Discount passage my arse,” he muttered, hauling himself and his weapons over the edge. “You too?” asked the redhead. Geoffrey nodded.

He had not expected this immediate bond with his fellow stowaways, but neither had he anticipated his scramble up the ratline to end in an asylum at nearly maximum capacity. His cargo afforded the lodgers a good defense, but it was terribly inconvenient.

“You know,” said the baldie, nursing the most recent gash on his thigh, “they really are two-edged swords.”

Rhen Wilson said...

In Lodger Asylum, we tiptoe the ratlines.

Follow the furries, we chant till it's clear. It's all in our minds is another we hear. We laugh and we gag and we spit on our faces. We fight dope-dipped swords that slash clean through the stasis. Then we gnaw through the bonds and the nurses misplace us. So we scurry through shadows and pray they don't waste us.

We've almost escaped but the trap grinds its gear. The white walls remind us we're permanent here.

Matthew Laffrade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Don’t look now, but there’s a lodger in your mind. Crazy Al, he’s called.

Crazy Al has scaled the ratlines of your mind one too many times. He’s swung swords in futile effort at slicing through your jungle of insanity.

Alas, it’s all for naught; he’s beat.

Crazy Al seeks asylum from the bonds you’ve imposed upon him, the ones that imprison him inside that pink-grey mass that mediates your thoughts, telling you whom to love, how to kill.

Crazy Al commands your hands to grip your throat, to squeeze till you turn blue.

At last, Crazy Al can rest.

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

Written quickly, and posted with my eyes closed so I wouldn't chicken out. I hope sharks like chicken:

His word was his bond, or so he said. He also said he wouldn't send me back to the asylum, but here I am. I shouldn't have expected him to put up with my company forever. We could only cross swords so many times. He was tired of following me up the ratline to haul me back to earth, and I couldn't blame him. He'd lasted longer than most. I thought he'd at least keep me until the new year, but instead I'm out in the cold. He already had a new lodger, slightly less insane, to take my place.

Keisha Martin said...

Lodger the S.S soldier yelled. “She’s a traitor.” The woman was wearing a tattered blue dress her face bloodied, Paul Jones a thirty five year old lieutenant had been sent to Germany to investigate the woman who was alleged to be part of the secret organization called the Ratlines, an organization that was also alleged to be conspiring to take out Hitler.
“Tell us what you know, or you will be kept in this asylum until you are sentenced to death.
Her voice was faint when she spoke. “Swipe my neck with your sword, my bond is my silence.”

Flo said...

Cassy smiled sword sharp as she served her lodger breakfast, her Ruger holstered under her unbuttoned cardigan. When John stood on her porch and begged for asylum, she hadn’t recognized him. It had been years since she’d seen the brat. Lines had turned his baby face into a terrified mask. The bonds of sibling love had never waned.

John knew he left a trail. He paid rent in advance, spooked at shadows.

She had gone to ground to save him. The danger would follow him to her front door.

When the Reaper showed, she would settle her debt.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

Her nipples, sharp as swords, grazed my chin and my back squeaked across the linoleum. She smelt like curry, and, outside, a crow squawked, fark! A bead of sweat found asylum in her jiggling navel, and again I regretted answering the advert, lodger needed. The bond was killing me.
Her enthusiasm slid me under the kitchen table; skin peeled off my butt and a pot of tea crashed to the floor. The tablecloth, sugar and a book soaked up the spilt tea. I tilted my head to read the spine—Ratline. Too late for that Mr. Neville, too bloody late!

Happy New Year, everyone. :)

Wendy said...

Bond frowned as he leans out to peer around to the head of the line.

"This will take forever."

A guy in the next line snickered. "Should have tried the roachline. The ratline is shorter, but the roachline moves faster. Those guys don’t eat as much."

The buffet at the asylum was an extravaganza when the humans slept. Bond eyeballed the aisle, drew his plastic martini swords and dashed across to cut into the roachline.

A huge shoe came down from the sky and mashed him to a pulp.

"Ugh. New lodgers always forget to mind the gap."


Beta Shy said...

Don't you have to close up all these holes before you lay the bait?

Nah- these fuckers can gnaw through anything. Even tried mixin' my own home-made bond for a job at the asylum a few years back. Shit just stank up the whole place.

So what's this?

Rat bomb. Go 'head. Lodg'er in there.

What's in it?

Zinc Phosphide. Other stuff.

Like what?



Don't worry 'bout it.


Jesus. Strychnine. Spam. Shark. What do you care?

So when'll we know if it worked?

Day or so. They'll be all lined up stiff, single file.

Ratline. Cool.

Sam B said...

Fred tromped down the stairs, stopped at the newel post, and proclaimed (in pirate speak): “Today, I be chartin’ a course ferrr love.”

Eve glared over her coffee. She never should have rented to a method actor. Sure, she needed the money, but this felt like a treachorous climb up the ratline chased by a drunk wielding plastic swords.

“This lodger be gettin’ some booty and watchin’ some Bond.”

Eve glanced at his laptop, expecting to see She didn't. Worse yet, Fred’s profile looked normal. Cute even. Never again would she seek asylum from life at

Laura said...

I stumble up to the deck and into the storm. My sniveling crew’s down below, and I fear Lion’s drowned. Hope he’s outsmarted death again. First time I met him, he was eating cheese off my table as we rocked through the Strait of Gibraltar. I grabbed one of my swords to rid myself of the new lodger, but he scurried off, finding asylum on my navigation book. We’ve shared the bond of friendship ever since.

Now, I’m praying for a miracle, and in the lashing rain, I get one. My pet vermin’s on the ratlines. A fearless joker, unlike the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Ferron 's annual thriller-fest was brilliant, pure genius: It started with Asylum, a creepy anthology of flashbacks told to a job-seeking psychiatrist by four inmates, one of whom was his predecessor; then Ratline, a feast of blood and gore starring a maniacal former Nazi officer pursuing a hoodo Swastika; last, Hitchcock's The Lodger, a man mistaken for—and lynched as—a London serial killer.
Amped up by the films, Ferron crept, sword in hand, toward the bedroom where his eighteenth flat mate lay. His New Year's Eve tradition would join them in an everlasting bond. Should auld acquaintance be forgot…

Regina Castillo said...

She slunk through the pitch black night with remarkable grace, her fluid manner keeping the armor she clad from awakening any other predators skulking through the forest. She came to an abrupt halt melting into the nearest tree and brandishing her sword. A flame lit a doorway in the distance and from the sconce hung the ratline from the allies sailing ships, a sign of the bond between their people. Asylum was within reach. Sliding from behind the tree, she made her way to the door and clanked the swords by the door signaling the newest lodger had arrived.

Eric Morgan said...

Katarina picked at the pomegranate, pulling bits of yellow honeycomb away from ruby seams…like a bejeweled Russian egg, or maybe passengers on a ship, like she had been on once.

Hannes, wearing one of his useless officer’s swords: so handsome. They had followed the ratline to Quito, seeking asylum. But to conduct oneself in a new language, in a different culture—exiled, they had broken every bond of identity. Aliens to their former selves, he ran off with the Andean lodger. Katarina ate the seeds one at a time, disregarding drops of red juice that fell on her blouse.

Ellen (Mullet-Braid) said...

The snarled ratline of testosterone-poisoned jerks between the airport and her apartment barely registered. Diane's new lodger, an unemployed chef, had promised gourmet dinners in lieu of rent.

Too excited to knock, she pushed inside.

Gene sprawled amidst bags of chips and empty beer cans, hypnotized by the Reality channel.

"Will it bond?" A manic glue spokesman waved a tube of Extreme Cement and two swords.

"Whoa. Where'd he get those?" Gene jerked upright, spilling beer.

She inhaled; dirty socks, overflowing garbage. "The same asylum that spawned you." She stepped back outside, punched 911. "I'm reporting an intruder."

Anonymous said...

I swing from a ratline onto the deck of the floating asylum. A guard charges me. Our swords clash. With a flick of my wrist both he and his weapon drop. Singing from the galley drowns the noise. I have no bond with carnage, but this vessel seeks to conceal a lodger who murdered my family in York. All my life, I have trained for this moment of justice. As I slide down towards his window, a musket rings out. My eyes darken. I see smoke from my target’s gun barrel. Revenge is my ruin.

David Castillo said...

He had been a lodger at the newest mountain resort in the Rockies when he was kidnapped and bound with ratline. He recognized the kidnapper as the individual who had escaped the asylum two nights before. The kidnapper claimed there was a bond between them but his ramblings made no sense. When the ramblings became mean and evil the kidnapper began to carry a sword. It was hard to sleep but it finally came. Two weeks later he was found in pieces surrounding his smiling bloody kidnapper.

Kristopher said...

Outside, men bond with swords, clashing in battle with the eagerness of lost friends rushing to embrace each other.

My lodger, an escaped woman who sought asylum in my penetrable inn, looks to me for a solution.

“A man might climb the ratline to the crow’s nest on a sinking ship,” I said, “but all he will afford himself is a better view of his own demise.”

“So what then? Die?”

I open the back door and wave to a verdant meadow.

“No need to look out a front window to hell if you have a backdoor to heaven. Run!”

Agua said...

Father Luka Tomasevich found shelter for the unnamed ‘Lodger’ along the San Girolamo ratline from Sterzing to Genoa at Saint Dismas Monastery in Merano just south of the Austrian border. The Vatican assisted war criminals unwilling to fall on their swords for the Reich and seeking asylum in South America. The next stop was Porto di Genova and then the Port of Mar Del Plata in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. Seven hundred kilometers away in the attic genizah of the Old New Synagogue, bail bond agent Rabbi Irwin Kaufman carved the letter aleph on the forehead of his bounty hunter.

Rivka said...

She tried to put them from her thoughts, but they climbed up the ratline of her brain like staring corpses on the deck of a ghost ship. Her mind was not her asylum, but their prison; and they were now breaking out of their bonds.
"Give me peace until morning," she cried in the dark. But they would not obey.

Silently she rose, as if in acquiescence; but fiercely she grabbed paper. As pen became swords, words spattered across the page like blood. The unwelcome lodgers of her mind spilled onto the pages, and she found her peace at last.

Bryan said...

May 1681 - Philippe reminisced over the last 6 months since Christmas Eve when he sought asylum from his creditors aboard the San Pedro. A tight bond had since forged with the ship’s crew, and now he dangled here atop heaving waves; his left hand gripping the ratline, his right holding a cutlass, and two more swords strapped across his back. At first he was just a lodger on the old boat, but now he was ready to shed blood for her, bracing for an assault by sailors who were fighting for the flag to which he once swore allegiance.

Moe Anani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim Velk said...

“No swords in church!” the deacon bellowed. The man unbuckled his scabbard, let it drop and swiped off his chain mail helmet. The deacon slumped.

“Didn’t you give me your word last time, your ‘bond’?”

The man nodded.


Another nod.

“You’ll have left a trail, a ratline. How far behind …?”

He shrugged. “An hour, maybe. Please Reverend. We’re all just lodgers, strangers here below.”

“Yes, well, some of us mean to keep on lodging.”

There was a commotion at the gate. The deacon sighed and pushed open the door to the vestry. “This is the last time Ranulf.”

KarinB. said...

“Whatcha doing?”

I turn, blocking her view.

She spins to the other side. “Wood glue makes a better bond.”

“Elmers is fine.” I roll the sailcloth, careful so the ratline doesn’t crimp.

“The scale of your swords is off. Cannons too. And rigging thread should be black.” She talks too loud. Another lodger wanders over, another behind him.

“White’ll do.” I measure the hull again.

“Mast got hinges I hope.” She peers at me through the bottle, breath fogging the glass.

“Say what’s on your mind why don’t you?”

“It ain’t gonna fit.”

Everyone in the asylum’s an expert.

Kathryn Leonard-Peck said...

Tap. Tap-tap. Morse code spreads through the cellblock. The ratline opens tonight.

The rogue lab assistant crossed swords again with the Mengelean research director. The director activated the Brazil protocol. Now they’re trying to grow blue human eyes on our shaved backs.

The pierced assistant, the artful lodger, is granting us asylum at her Loisaida squat. We have a bond of shared sympathy. The cage doors slide open at three a.m., and a rope of braided lab coats leads to a waiting van.

The herpetofauna are on their own, but tonight the mice run free.

Cynthia Ivers said...

She flees, this vagabond lodger of mine, into the sunken night. Who shrouds me with a warm embrace then shuns me from her sight. But cross words I dare not speak for fear of losing her. She knows my world is her asylum and I am but her keeper. So I watch her through the moonlit haze, windswept in her glee. She slinks among the blades of grass then turns to look at me. As if to say, she earns her keep by prowling for the best. She bares her teeth in one fell swoop and feathers her ratlined nest.

Christopher James said...

The ship’s magician borrowed our lodger and had an audience member bond his legs and wrists with black tape. We applauded. He helped him into a box and wrapped ratline rope around it. Our lodger was a former asylum seeker, and we could see he was afraid, but we whistled and clapped to let him know he was safe with us. The ship’s magician closed the box, and pushed swords into the sides. We cheered.

The magician left, then, and never came back. He wasn’t the ship’s. Nor was he a magician, and our lodger didn’t make it.

AP Diggs said...

Me and Smitty bonded during the zombie apocalypse. Our shrink would’ve been proud.

“Cut the ratline, Smitty.”


“Over there.”

He pulled out his sword, the one he got from the face of a lodger at the asylum and hacked at the thick rope.

I hopped on the deck now weighed down with half a lifetime worth of supplies.

“Almost got it,” Smitty said.

I pulled out the revolver and blasted him in the gut.

“You crazy bastard!” He yelled, blood frothing on his lips.

I laughed and put a bullet in his brainpan.

That’s what friends are for.

Scott G said...

He ran through the woods. Branches cut into his skin. Like swords. Blood streamed down his face from the scratches. He crossed the ratline bridge and stared into the icy depths of the river, fifty feet below. He kept running. Lungs heaving. Heart pounding.
He saw the cabin in the distance. A muddy trail trodden with leaves led to a small clearing. He pounded on the door. The weather-strip bond around the frame hissed; the seal broken.
“Help me!” he shouted when the lodger answered. “You must help me! They’ll take me back!”
“Back where?”
“Back to the asylum.”

Kimberly Hannah said...

“I can’t take you in as a lodger.” Michael says resolutely.
“I’m not asking for admittance to an asylum for the good-natured lunatic. I just need a place to stay. I’ll take you out. Get you some action.”
“You’re not James Bond.”
“I’m not saying I am.” Although I am Bond. “But pens are mightier than swords and you’re an accountant and alll. Some drinks, some ratlines and you’ll be batting them away.”
“Yeah, like pick up lines but smarter and sleezier.”
one more eye roll from Michael and I’m in, already thinking up some ratlines.

Marybk said...


Wrinkles on Dad’s face tighten like ratlines. “I’m calling the cops! They’ll haul your ass in.”

“It’s me, Dad—”

Nurses and Sunnyhome lodgers turn our way. Fabric bonds keep Dad pinned to his wheelchair.

“This is America. I’ll go home to my family whenever I want, dammit!” His words are swords.

I hold his face, whiskers scrubbing my palms. “I’m family.”

His jaw relaxes. “Abby?” Mom’s name. His asylum, his peace. “I knew you’d come, love.” Fogginess clears from his eyes.

I kiss his cheek, not mentioning she died when I was four. “I’ll always come for you.”

Just Jan said...

"Your brother murdered your father with a sword before committing suicide. Your mother spent most of her life as a lodger in an asylum. And now you try to burn down my house. Tell me why I shouldn't have you committed?"

I pasted on my best Bond girl smile and caressed his shoulder. "You could find a ratline and help me start a new life somewhere far away."

My guardian leered up at me from his wheelchair. "There would be a price, of course."

"There always is," I said, grabbing the fireplace poker.

And he paid it.

Salsa Girl said...

New Year's Eve, all the locals and winter lodgers packed into the bar like rats. A familiar pick-up line whispered just behind my shoulder. "Do you sense a certain bond between us?" I turn around. Nobody there.

Bartender hands me a drink I didn't order. Martini with an olive impaled on a miniature plastic sword.

Then Runaway Train by Soul Asylum starts playing from nowhere, and I seriously feel my hand begin to tremble. I mutter, "Happy new year," to the space by my shoulder.

Lights flicker. Power goes out. And I hear: "Not for me, darling."

Michael J. Kannengieser said...

The crazy man who named Ratline lived in asylum. He was an inmate who spent his hours poking vermin with a finger. Furry lodgers became victims and formed a defensive line against the wall; a ratline. Crazy man wielded finger swords at these pests and vented his anger.
Outside, he met his mistress, a wild woman, and they made madcap love. When their child was born in the infirmary, crazy dad rushed the doctors. He screamed and wielded finger swords and they stepped back. He peeks at his new son then looked again at his captives and whispered, “Ratline.”

Michael Seese said...

The bonds we forged over a lifetime of summers...

Playing pirate with swords forged from Christmas wrapping paper rolls.

Seeking asylum from our sisters in your treehouse (accessible only by a really cool, real rope ratline fashioned by your dad).

Finding a family of possums, lodgers under my front porch.

Games of stickball in the street.

Discovering what the girls in our class would look like in a few years, courtesy of my big brother’s Playboy collection.

All of that came unraveling in one horrible second when you yelled, “Police! Put up your hands, Bobby!”

And I drew first.

Sandra Cormier said...

"Don't speak ill of a guest," Katie insisted, scraping a carrot.

"He's a lodger," replied Braeden. "Anybody who'd be crazy enough to stay in this asylum shouldn't be paying for it." He took up a butter knife and played swords with his brother.

Katie took up a towel and flapped it at her sons. "Like it or not, we have a bond with the Ratline. He pays us good money. American money."

"Aye, but does he have to keep shouting 'Heil' from his bedroom? It's daft."

ccourt46 said...

The ensuing psychotic episode caused by doing a "ratline" - grounded rat bone dust that you bond with high quality cocaine - is a great way to become a lodger at the asylum. Tucked comfortably in her new cell, the War Board had no use for Shelly now. The only swords she would have to fight off were man-swords, which would be coming for her soon after the lights went out on her floor.

Debbie said...

He was a lodger in the asylum. Yeah, that’s what they all said, I told him – never going to be an in-mate, are you? Not with looks like that and swords that could cut a velvet bond as easily as old rope. The residents were – um – of a slightly different breed, you see. A straggling ratline of dropouts and in-breeds, queuing for daily rations of whatever swill they were serving that day. Better than the streets, though, he told me. Safer than waiting for the end out there. Because it was coming – the end. We all knew it was.

Lisa said...

It had been a long and dangerous journey via ratline through the war-torn borderlands and Preta was tired of running. Her guide, a young revolutionary she befriended in her escape, told her to look for asylum at the short cobblestoned inn at the edge of the village. As a lodger there, she’d receive new travel papers, a new identity, and a replacement set of swords. She pulled her cloak over her head and approached the door, knocking five times. An older man, with round cheeks and large blue eyes, opened it, sparking an instant emotional bond she’d cherish for years.

Colin Smith said...

"This is Ratline, how can we help?" the voice on the phone purred.
"Come quick, I’m going insane!"
"Yes--my house is an asylum with a loony lodger—maybe a hundred loony lodgers!"
"Calm down, ma’am." The voice was edged with excitement. "A hundred, you say?"
"A hundred, a thousand--too many of the furry pests. Come quickly! Bring swords, or James Bond gadgets, whatever—I can’t take this anymore."
"I need your address," the voice drooled, "and our best team—Tigger and Felix—will be there in an hour."
"Thank you!" Lassie hung up the phone, tail wagging.

Barrie Cole said...

Jill calls graffiti, "ratline."
She says, "You wouldn't believe the ratline I saw today. It was one word, "Swords," but all the letters were made to look like swords!"
Cool, I say.
Jill is staying here, boyfriend problems. I guess you could call her my lodger; especially because she keeps lodging herself in deeper. She's been cooking a lot lately and much of it is terrible. She calls it, "Culinary Experimentation."
She is incredibly grateful though and tells everyone how wonderful I am to have granted her asylum from her life. We've formed a bond. Also, I laugh more now.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's correct they made me walk a ratline holding two swords. They laughed at me the whole time and said if I fell I'd be a permanent lodger in their asylum. What could I do? It was do as they say or force my father to sell everything he owned to pay an outlandish bond.

Anonymous said...

John scurried up the ratline to escape the swords of the officers below him. Not since he was a lodger at the asylum on Nantucket had he been in such danger.
If only he could survive this encounter, he swore to himself he would leave the square-rigged ship at the next port. Then he would cash in the bearer bond his old Uncle Abraham had bequethed him, and never return to sea again.

York Lord said...

Cross my bond I will die by the sword for every lodger who tries to escape this asylum through the ratlines (or ratline - either way - I do this every year).

Anonymous said...

Lisa lived with a man until Ratline was five. Pablo had become a father figure but one day he vanished. Lisa didn't explain that Pablo had been taken to the Asylum. Ratline felt the bond between himself and the lodger had been strong, but now he was gone. Lisa was in the kitchen cleaning one of the swords. Ratline climbed onto the kitchen bench, something he had learned recently. His mother enjoyed talking to him while she did the dishes but today she was not so pleased. The water was a reddish colour and she was crying softly to herself.

Kate Outhwaite said...

I step down from the Ratline bus and drag my luggage to the asylum gates where I'm met by the same wrought iron angels with swords that were here when my mother and I visited my father.

I'm buzzed into the gatehouse, through airport-tight security but still the guard rummages through my bag. I smile tightly, sign in and set off down the long driveway listening to the voice in my head, my mental lodger, the indelible, inescapable bond to my father.

As I approach the building, the clinic director appears in the doorway and greets me, "Ah, Doctor. Welcome!"

Tannistho Ghosh said...

‘it’s meant to be the bond of love’, she said, handing me the swords.
Is it? I wondered, looking around for a ratline if there was one. But the walls were closed all around. It wasn’t really the end, that’s what she would say, it was just the beginning. Only, there would be no union. As the lodger in the white coat had said last time, she existed only in the mind. But the swords , not swords but razors really, that was real. And so was her voice inside my head, and so was the asylum and its walls.

Gregory Stenson said...

He was dreading going back to the old house, after the creak of the old splintered door opening there was an eerie silence. No screaming, no shouting of obscenities. The lodger went to the attic, his heart thumping. Last week the hanging rope broke, the previous week a gas oven, he’d even tried falling on swords.
All over a manuscript, ‘Pathetic’ he thought, ‘and why send a book to a shark? He’s really asylum material.’
‘You back from the ratline?’
‘Yes, the shark wouldn’t see me, again!’
Bond saw an empty bottle on the nightstand.
‘Tic-Tac. Huh,’ he laughed.

Durango Writer said...

The knotted sheet made a poor ratline to descend but Jolene couldn’t be picky. Boarding school had become an asylum, and she an inmate, not a mere lodger. She feared her true love’s bond had faltered these past months, just as her parents intended. In the frigid night air, Jolene inched her way down the sheet, keeping her eyes locked on the school’s coat of arms near the roofline: an angel holding two swords. Her muscles ached. Her brain whispered, “Let go. It’s a different sort of freedom.” The angel stayed with her until she met the stone courtyard below.

Andrew said...

That day, forty-three years, two months and six days ago, I stumbled down the ratline to the address Captain gave me, expecting only to be her lodger and instead found asylum from the storms. One glance and I was gone and no swords could sever our bond. She was the other half of me, the Siren I took to the seas to find.
I never longed for faraway islands. Even now, with her body cold to the touch, her eyes closed forever, the seas hold no allure. The stone bears both our names, the same final date. I follow.

cyclone88 said...

Augustine enjoyed the serenity of the asylum for seventeen hours before realizing she shouldn't be a lodger. The others had addictions. Alcohol. Drugs. Food. Augustine just liked a bottle of pink champagne in the evening and a romp with a handsome sailor or two. No way could she stay for twenty-eight days. She had no money, no phone, or even a belt. Nothing for a ratline except her extensions. She unpinned her braids, wove nautical knots, and shimmied down to normal. She’d cross swords with him for posting bond for the DUI as soon as she remembered his name.

Sherin said...

People often get irony twisted. Today I've stumbled on the ultimate example. In running from my stalker I found sanctuary with a psychopath—the duel meaning of asylum does not escape me in this.

In the hundred days since I've become insanity's lodger. His tortures are swords beneath my nails although he hasn't touched me once. Ropes slither 'round my wrists. I dream to twist my bonds into a ratline and climb out into the light. If not, I fear my mind will twist in upon itself and become more a prison than the iron box beneath his bed.

Michelle Kollar said...

Darien thrust a metal pipe forward as if it were a sword, although it couldn’t penetrate. A head of the ratline, I could see the lighted path to our safety but it was being block by our enemy. Darien lifted the pipe banging it on his head. He went for my hand trying to lead me, but touching royalty was an offence even if he didn’t know I wasn’t a lodger looking for asylum. I was a princess and our bond would be no more than monarchy and the guard. I noted not to speak to him ant further.