Friday, December 11, 2015

Killing Trail flash fiction contest!

My list of ten plus one (ok, two) best reads of 2015 includes Killing Trail by Margaret Mizushima. It's a terrific book, and I'm very much looking forward to many more titles in this series.


To celebrate the arrival of this terrific debut author let's have a contest! Prize will be a copy of the book!



The usual rules, plus the new one, #12, apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:
trail
cob
robo
bark
vet




3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the
prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.
Thus: trail/trailer is ok, but cob/comb is not.

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

9. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.
Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

10. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

11. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.




NEW!
12. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story and are generally viewed as disqualifiers from serious consideration.


Contest opens: Saturday 12/12/15 9:01am

Contest closes: Sunday 12/13/15 10am

Time left till contest closes

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

Not yet!
ENTER! 
ooops Time's up!



75 comments:

Craig said...

In the aftermath I needed to meditate. I cobbled together a shelter of banyan bark to help facilitate some peace. I didn’t deign to answer the calls though for twenty days they were as consistent as robocalls.

The Nephilim no longer were contained by corporeal bodies. Their return was anathema even if it wasn’t meant that way. Our weapons were worthless until they turned to me.

The phone rang for the twenty first day. I finally succumbed and answered. Sixty three monks were chanting a trail to return the soul of the only veteran back to my body.

Melissa Guernsey said...


I laughed as another local tried to scare me. I might be new to this part of the world but I’m not stupid. Have to give these folks credit, they’re good storytellers.

Discarded corn cobs led me to Robo Park. An eerie bark echoed and I knew Bowser had beat me here. Until now, I thought the vet was guilty.

I walk down the trail unprepared.

The daily special erupted from my stomach. Not sure if it was the stench or the horror. Dug up, mangled body pieces lay everywhere.

I dial Sarge, my last words, “Big Foots are real.”

Megan V said...

Dad’s will was law and his last will was explicit.
When he died we had to feed him to the wolves in the most literal sense. No exceptions.
My sister snuck him from the hospital.
My brother cobbled together a plywood casket.
My mother covered the open casket with their duvet.
Me? I hummed "Happy Trails" to the beat of shallow breaths.
Together we clung to his weathered hands until bittersweet barks filtered through the silence of our tears.
Then we fled.
Because even though Dad died long before that moment in the woods, the doctors would never corroborate it.

Em-Musing said...

Lieutenant Morrison banged his fist on the desk, coffee cup spilling muddy brew. “Damn it, Cob,” he barked at his new detective, “how could you lose him?”
“Trail went cold. Snitch booked.”
“Speaking of booked,” the redhead smirked, her purple-glossed lips smearing across her flawless China-doll face as she sashayed her bodacious booty into the room full of testosterone, “I got him. Getting processed now.”
“I’d like to vet her in bed,” Cob sniggered to his partner.
Don’t waste your sweat. She’s vice. You’d think she’d be hot in the sack, but she ain’t. More like a robot.

Steve Forti said...

“The magic is gone.” His wife’s – ex-wife’s – words hit hard. But he knew where the magic went.

It was stolen.

He signaled the barkeep. “Was it wrong to covet what’s rightfully mine?” That earned him only a fresh Jack. And the memory.

The desperate rage. The stomping of slushy entrails. The icicle through the mouth, leaving him looking like a winter ouroboros. Even the bunny gasped when he saw where the corncob pipe was shoved.

Not that it mattered. His wife still said no.

He sighed at the old silk hat on the stool beside him.

“The magic is gone.”

Timothy Lowe said...

I hunted her up the mountain, following the trail of bark and needles. Motive? Uncertain. Method? Unknown. The bitch had managed to get in and out with everything, without even a crumb left behind to corroborate her method of entry.

“Must’ve had a good mentor,” my partner said, puffing through the cob pipe that dangled from his mouth.

I found her at the peak, perched atop her sleigh. Her velvety suit wore the stains of her crime: pitch and soot. It was then I knew.

Good mentor? Only the best.

“Cindy Lou,” I nodded in recognition.

My partner frowned.

“Who?”

Tracy Cassidy said...

"Look at that proboscis!"

Jacob was using one of his vocabulary words, and I acknowledged it with a grin. He laughed and ran his hands over the velvet muzzle and his horse whickered softly.

I swung a leg over the saddle. "Ready to hit the trail?"

He answered by climbing up, then kicking his mount into a lope. Perfect day for a ride. We would make it to Reno by sunset, where the barkeep would have two ice cold root beers waiting and the tourists would be ripe for the picking.

Nathan Knapp said...

“They lost the trail just before sunset. All they found while scavenging for food was a gnarled cob of corn a raccoon had discarded. An amber alert was issued, with robo-calls dialing out constantly. The children heard what they thought was the bark of a dog in the distance, but it wasn’t a dog. It was a wolf and it was hungry. The local vet had been overwhelmed recently by cases of mutilated sheep on neighboring farms.”

“Grandma, I don’t like this story. It’s scary,” the child whimpered.

Peeling off the mask the wolf rasped, “I’m not your grandma.”

Jenny C said...


With a ragged bark, the wolf’s façade dissolved, leaving a human form in its place. Anya sheathed her dagger, sending up prayers to the saints, and turned the limp body over with the heel of her boot.

Blood the shade of spring blossoms pooled beneath a boy. Cinnamon freckles dotted his cheeks. Hardly a veteran spy. Tears fell from Anya’s eyes and slid down a trail jagged with scars. She heaved the wolf-boy onto her shoulder. Payment would be fifty kroboa, enough to cobble together a meal. Her family wouldn’t starve, not today, but at what cost to her soul?

Mark Thurber said...

He looked like a dog except for his proboscis in front like an elephant’s and tail trailing like a raccoon’s. And he didn’t bark.

“Can we keep him, Daddy?”

The vet said it was fine. The vet was right.

Jinny fed him corn. He sucked up whole ears, spit out the cobs, and mewled happily.

A snake swallowed Jinny’s rat. He sucked up the snake and spit out live snake and live rat.

Jinny got deathly ill. Then one morning she was good as new, crying on the floor. An ugly black mass lay next to his still, sweet trunk.

KC said...

Don't mess with a vet, Bob thought, as he trailed into the kitchen for some cobbler, with Robo barking at his heels exactly like that kid at 1st and 1st, who used to sneer at his missing arm, and metal leg, at least until the robots found him outside the vet's, with his entrails hanging out, and handed him over to the doc who cobbled together a few spare parts, four paws, and sent him back into the streets to embark on revenge which he tried to get, biting the guy, but breaking half his teeth. Good boy, Bob said.

Janice L. Grinyer said...


This here bark colored cob cost me three hundred dollars at Louie's auction house. He was my new trail horse. Until Louie phoned.

"Are there numbers alongside the neck?" Louie described the brand hiding under that shaggy mane.

The cob stared at me.

"Don't see anything offhand," I told Louie. It was a half-truth; the government says them all the time.

"Too bad, there's a hefty reward. Guess I'll keep calling around then."


Now I'm planning a veteran's reprieve out west for myself and my new hunting partner. A cyborg robot warhorse. Well, I'll be damned.


Matthew Wuertz said...

The trail of oil led to a narrow alleyway. The veteran enforcer's treads rode over the grimy pavement while visual sensors confirmed the outlier's identity.

Cobbled together from disparate models, the outlier backed away on mismatched legs and a rusty wheel.

"You failed to report to the Robotics Facility for your upgrade," the enforcer barked, leveling a weapon.

The outlier’s upper appendages lifted toward the overcast sky. "They won't stop until they take it all."

"All of what?"

Tears flowed from the outlier’s right eye, sliding over a cheek of flesh, dripping onto a metallic chest. "Our humanity," she said.

Marie McKay said...

The barkeeper looked into her quick, cobalt eyes (boy, they'd reached the other side of uncanny valley with her!) 
'That last guy hurt you, didn't he?' the barkeeper said.
'Can't hurt me.'
'Boss vets the clients. They shouldn't hurt... be disrespectful towards you.'
'Towards property, you mean.'
'No. I. Me. I mean "hurt".'
Empathy he'd never witnessed in human eyes took on a deep blue hue.
'Better me than his wife. I can stand it. I'm just a robot...' she said, her voice trailing off to nothing, the state to which she wished she could strip her whole self back.

Robert Ceres said...

Jackass trailed Jacob to his locker. Jacob froze, corroborating every bandgeek meek stereotype.

“Sorry.” I squeezed by, striving for invisibility, but then embarked on another plan. “Don’t worry Jacob,” I turned him round, facing his assailant. “No one will realize you’ve been rescued by a chick.”

Health homework. I’d been horrified by Dad’s anatomy help the day before, bursting my naiveté. But Jackass didn’t know that. I kneed him in the balls. Hard. He fell.

A girl passing by sorta accidentally kicked his head. Ouch. He’ll pay for that.

“Sorry.” I squeezed by, didn’t want to be late for class.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Got no cobbler, no mincemeat pie.
Got the top bunk.

Waited ‘til I squeezed the trigger. Questioned.
“Who hired you?”
Darned lips.

Vetted. Commissioned. Trailed.
Nailed by the bark of that white tail buck.

Best rack ever. Best shot all season. ‘Cept it was off-season. Recidivist.

Took my carbine, the rack, even took my compass.

Got the top bunk. Pro bonus, my ass.

Amanda Wade said...

It’s my turn to play Santa at the mall today. Only halfway through the Saturday shift and I feel like I’m on a Animal Farm. There’re so many lines of families around I think of a Mother Hen and her chicks. I hear barks of gift requests with each new kid on my lap. In fact, the suit makes me feel like a cob horse; thick material and sweating so much I might as well be pulling something. My short legs don’t help either. So I’m more like a robo-cob. Maybe I’ll need to go to the vet tonight.

CynthiaMc said...

"Cassandra's performance was riveting," Hal, our director, read from our latest movie review.

"She's too old for the sequel, Pookie. What is she, forty?"

Damn understudies. Another little robo-actress. All looks, no skill, resume cobbled together by directors she'd slept with. Even her producer daddy couldn't get her more than a cameo.

"Save it, Snookums," I said. "He's gay."

"Be careful,Cassie," Hal said later. "She's dangerous."

If she'd spent time learning her craft instead of barking at everyone, she might've made it.

But the terrorist extra she hired to blow up my trailer blew up hers instead.

Oops.

Gillian said...

I am the last elf on duty.

Christmas Eve, the last night of the Candy Cane Trail. Earlier, I watched Santa clock out. His left hand held a bottle of Loco Boy tequila. In his right hand? Tipsy Barkley. My girlfriend.

Switching off robotic reindeer, I hear high-heeled boots crunching through fake snow. I spin around.

It isn’t Tipsy.

Clad in red velvet, white curls peek out from her lace-trimmed cap. Gold glasses perch on her nose.

And in her hand, a Glock.

“Revenge is sweeter than a fresh baked Christmas cookie,” she says. “I know where they went.”

Lobo said...

Hated to do it to him. A legend. But we weren’t playing games anymore.

“You and what army?” he laughed, facial scars from countless winters on the trail wrinkling up like weathered bark on an oak.

“It’s all of us,” Vix said. “Big guy’s developed a taste for snow. The jolly kind. We got leverage.”

“Sorry, Rud,” a robotically cold voice rasped. “You’re history.”

The old vet turned and squinted into the stable’s shadow. “Don?”

Then he was down on the cobblestones. Never saw me coming.

Until his last breath.

“Et tu, Blixen?” he gasped.

His red nose flickered out.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

A fiery comet streaked across the heavens the first time I met him. A portent. I knew he was unacceptable, being what he was, but like Jeroboam, he led me into sin. In spite of his "deficiency" Jacob was a good man and I loved him. My heart refused to be prejudiced.

We eloped, thinking we could be happy, but they had trailed us to our new home. Though I was dressed in the finest velvet, it wasn't enough.

"How could you marry that, that– I can't even name it, Juliette," Mother barked.

"The word is Yankee, Mother."

Ray said...

Cal the robowalker navigated cobblestones, its feet catching on crevices as Lucky pulled, and sniffed, depositing a trail of pee all the way to the vet. A Vespa buzzed past. Lucky tore after it; catching Cal off guard, yanking him to the ground. Lucky, the scooter, and Cal's leash arm clattered away down the street.

Algorithms buzzed, searching for Cal’s next action, navigating a blizzard of conflicting directives: protect the humans, the dog, Cal; maintain discipline; pick up poop. All so humans didn't need to walk their own dog.

The algorithms delivered an answer. Cal lurched down the street.

"Exterminate"

Kim English said...

The flyer read "Railroad Now Hiring Mechanical Veterinarians." It instructed me to follow the trail marked by the plaintive barking of robotic livestock.

Each day I unclogged gears and siphoned water from parched creek beds to fuel my patients. Steam hissed from their horns as if in rebuke.

With each steel load, the valley bloomed with tracks that looked like black sutures. With each track, my patients creaked a little less. Now I know why.

As my patient’s eyes dim from red to black, it speaks my name.

“Cobie? It’s time.”

I surrender to a cascade of scalding justice.

Aaron Cole said...

The sun shone brightly on a midsummer's day as a ROBOtic dog walked along a wooded TRAIL. His tail wagged with great difficulty and his paws creaked with each step. Even raising his metallic hind leg to relieve himself on the BARK of a nearby tree proved to be a daunting task. For you see, the ROBOtic dog had eaten a COB of sweet corn in ravenous delight only just the day before, but neither ROBOts nor dogs are meant to eat this sort of thing. A lesson he would have learned had he been to see his VET more.

The Doorman said...

“Dea, I understand. We’ve vetted the applicant...15...”A” student...Boy Scout...Responsible. Don’t worry.”

Nod. Sigh. Push my cobb salad away. She slides the contract across to me.

I see the teen outside, waiting, his finger trailing the bark of the willow I’ve longed to fell.

He’s staring at me.

He smiles. Robotic. Sociopathic. Murderous.

Perfect.

I sign, shaking hand. “My...my little Ethan was killed by a sitter. Not even $1 million could take away the pain. I have vowed to keep this baby safe.” I glance toward the gurgling bundle.

Pause. Then, I cry...softly...as planned.

Eve Messenger said...

Sun. 11:41pm
Three reasons to murder and only one that matters: I covet what she’s got.

Mon. 4:05am
Robotically slapping my own face. Completely, barking mad.

Mon. 12:15pm
Beneath hooded eyes I watch her at her desk, laughing and chatting on her cell.
Smiling the way I used to.

Mon. 6:27pm
Heading out of the parking lot she leaves a trail, obvious and inevitable, for me to follow.

Tues. 1:52am
Like a cobra I strike with fangs at her neck. Blood as beauty and revenge soaks her pillow where his head has surely rested.
And now he’ll return to me.

Katie Loves Coffee said...

Six months of fighting an enemy hell-bent on making me a casualty instead of a veteran. Five nurses scatter as the doctor barks orders. Four failed experiments, each one more cobbled together than the last. Three robotic beeps from a box on a pole tell the nurse it’s time for more pain medication. Two squeezes of my hand remind me of the richness of a long life well-lived. One final beat and my weary heart finds the courage to follow the beautiful trail to meet my Creator.

Irene Olson said...

Embarking on his passionate quest, Lawrence exhaustively researched his intended purchase, not wanting to lay down money for something that would have him settling for less.

He scoured the internet, robotically scanning page after page of possible acquisitions, only to find each and every electronic trail led him to the item he felt he was meant to buy.

He’d lusted after this particular type since he was a teen, knowing that when he saw it, he’d know it was The One.

Bingo, a 1972 Corn on the Cob-colored Corvette Stingray, not ten miles away.

Cha-Ching! Search completed.

Mallory Love said...


At first, we called them robots, clamoring with excitement to each claim one as our own. We awed at their sleek design, admiring the carefully crafted cobalt metal. We marveled at how they followed every command we barked their way. Yes, we were blazing a new trail in innovations.

The veterans tried to warn us. They'd seen their kind before: soulless creatures. Nazis, they’d called them.

We scoffed. We laughed. But then one glitched and killed a man. How sad, we muttered. We called it an error. An accident, until the other deaths occurred.

Now we call them Master.

AAGreene said...

The cobbled stones and damp flora wreak havoc on his white boots. He studies the tree line; the trail has gone cold. He sets his weapon to stun.

His scanner picks up a feeble bark. A small furry creature huddles beneath a drooping fern, blood on her leg. He pulls back the cover of leaves and simultaneously melts the armor over his heart. He’s not a robot.

He reaches for his comlink. “I need a vet.”

The voice crackles on the other end. “Can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re on Endor, sir.”

He hugs her close. “Hope you know the Force.”

John Frain said...

Veteran Detective Mike Moynihan trails behind, hopes these witnesses corroborate earlier testimony.

“It’s Number One,” the husband barks.

“The Quaker?” Moynihan surprised. No match. Turns to the wife. “And you, ma’am?”

Points at Tony, in the stripes. “Number Three.”

“Grrrrreat,” Moynihan says, mocking. Three eyewitnesses, three identifications. Earlier witness picked Number Five: Cap’n in cobalt blue.

Chief walks in. Lapel reads Frank N. Berry. “Same M.O.?”

Moynihan nods. “Whacks the victim with a ceramic bowl. Stabs him with a spoon.”

Berry nodding. “No question. Signature of a cereal killer.”

Berry’s radio snaps, crackles. Pops to Moynihan as he leaves, “Cheerio.”

Colin Smith said...

Jimmy was a veteran of these contests, but always a finalist, never a winner. No matter how much he crafted with numb fingers, Martin Jones always managed to make a better snowman.

But not this year.

This year, Jimmy had built his biggest and best ever. He worked all night before the contest building up the large round body. The head decoration was inspired: Trail Mix for hair, corn cob proboscis, coal eyes, tree bark for a mouth.

Martin Jones won’t stand a chance.

Jimmy had seen to that.

And they won’t find the body until the Spring thaw.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I poured beer over the naked man on the duvet and sang,

“Jeroboam was a cobra,
Not a good friend of mine,”

How anticlimactic. I flexed my sore knuckles. The high school wrestling bully had become a saggy shagbark.

“We should—” I gulped. My gaze trailed up from her bare perky breasts. Luxuriant hair. Retroussé nose. And a Kirstie Maldonado smile.



It WAS Geekman. From pre-calc. My. Oh. My. Still wiry but, confidence never looked soooo good. He’d never recognize me. Gone were my bottle-bottomed glasses, hawk-shaped nose, and acne-scarred skin.

Too many years already lost, I smiled.

roadkills-r-us said...

The rural veterinary office was in an uproar. "How did Poquan get into the boar's pen?" Doctor Wilbur yelled. On the monitor, his black lab barked at a hog.
Charlotte sighed. "Under the fence on the trail."
The boar charged. Charlotte screamed and covered her eyes; Doc Wilbur gripped the desk.
Something flew across the screen from the left. A streak of yellow slammed into the boar's head; he staggered and fell.
A metallic ear of corn hovered in front of the camera. "Robocob, at your service." It turned to the dog. "Stay out of trouble." Then it was gone.

MC said...

Jim reaches for his boots and Mira understands. She jumps into the car, nose twitching.
Down the road, a cloud hovers with the acrid smell of burnt flesh – a veterinarian, three cats, two dogs, a guinea pig, and a cobra.
Jim orders, "Seek, Mira,” then trails her.
She searches through scattered beams and bone dust. She sniffs, stops.
No bark. Just a sit. And, pointing with her snout, marks the spot.
Gasoline.
With a nod, Jim collects the evidence. He pats his partner on the head. "Good girl."
Mira grins, wondering if her brother, Robo, is anywhere near as good.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

At first you were baffled that our time streams trailed in different directions. I was a veteran when you met me; you were my hero. Both of us agreed to share as much insider info as we could remember. Thus we embarked on the most co-beneficial relationship I'd ever had. My career soared. Yours, I knew, would also be stellar.

Alas, you had vowed to tell me everything: we only have six years together.

Thanks for being my best friend these five-and-a-half years.

Rena McClure Taylor said...

We off-ramp the interstate, me in the back seat of a long, wide car, and I see the vet, water tearing his twisted smile, standing there at attention. He—woolens, stripes, tattered; boots, holed—a carnival barker, lips corncob-rough, crying in robo-drill, “I shall return. I shall return.” He’d promised.

A touch and the cars hesitate. He had come back. “Almost,” I think and stiffen, her smile pooled in cataracted eyes.

Another touch and the procession quickens, and I’m driven a way—down a gravel, canopied trail behind a cold, black car.

Terri Lynn Coop said...


Civilization ended with neither a bang nor a whimper. It just ended. It wasn’t plague or famine. It was the sacred number that blazed the trail to destruction.

The armies of the "42" and "51" took the field. Guns barked. Governments fell.

But, as is the way, a spark remained. The survivors fanned it by cobbling together a beat-up computer with the Robo-Stox Global Automation label still on the side.

Lights blinking, it vetted the great question before spitting out an answer.

IT TAKES 62 LICKS TO GET TO THE CENTER OF A TOOTSIE-POP.

And a new religion formed.

Dena Pawling said...


No behavior problem is too difficult for Jacob.

“Spike won't stop barking.”

He extended his leg. Spike chewed to his heart's content.

“Muffin won't stop yowling.”

He gave her his arm. Muffin scratched to her heart's content.

“Polly won't stop squawking.”

He gave her his hand. Polly pecked to her heart's content.

Jacob to the rescue. Pacified pets make satisfied customers.

This years' expansion plans: Enraged cobras. Stampeding stallions. Charging bulls. Marauding bears.

Booming business.

Whistling down the trail of a thousand accolades, Jacob inhaled the glorious aroma of victory.

Robo-vet, animal whisperer.

The Sleepy One said...

Being a veterinarian means I’m used to cats acting like I’m their personal assistant when they’re not shredding my hands as I’m checking their teeth.

My first client swaggered in as I was finishing my morning pick-me-up.

“What are you on?” my patient asked.

“Just robotuss—I mean—robitussin…” I stammered, only to be cut off.

“Whatever. Just have my medical catnip prescription ready by COB,” the tabby barked out.

I decided to step away from the ketamine and jumped onto the tail, I mean trail, of sobriety.

Jearl Rugh said...

No rough and jarring cobblestone had ratcheted her entrails into this seizing snarl of knots and tubes. No beep of warning prepared her for the imminent embarkation. No gleaming, red Corvette whisked her away on the journey she could not refuse.

“One way,” eulogized the amorphous, yet articulate and asexual voice.

The maniacal arm, that robotic prosthesis, her only companion on this timeless voyage, accelerated the clear cylinder while navigating past constellations and galaxies until they blurred into a single streak of light. Nothing before, nothing after, nothing below, and nothing above existed here except the heartbeat of forever.

Donnaeve said...

In tenth grade, he noticed her because her robotic walk conveyed insecurity.

He’d touched her once, making it seem accidental, velvety skin covering apparent self-loathing.

Mean girls barked whenever she walked by. She ignored them, but her misery showed.

You’re beautiful, he thought.

Finally, his courage won out.

“Ever been to Overlook trail?”

Silence.

“Meet me. Tonight.”

He was surprised when he saw her standing near the overlook.

Her outfit, cobbled together from Goodwill, screamed turmoil and chaos.

He snuck up behind her.

She hadn’t expected his hand on her shoulder.

He hadn’t expected her to grab it.

Or to jump.

Almitra Clay said...

At Jacobo’s signal, I press the ball of cob into place on the half-finished wall and step away from the others. He says nothing, just walks grim-faced down the trail until we are out of earshot.

“Kala’s no robot,” he barks.

“But we vetted her!”

I pull my hair with my clay-coated hands. I suppose it doesn’t matter now if I wear out the manufactured keratin with washing. They’ve found us. The commune is ended before it even began.

But Jacobo leans in, visibly clinging to one last synthetic hope. “Compost her,” he hisses.

Organic. Of course.

mtak said...

A robotic sound left her lips.

The vet had long ago lost interest in the strange woman’s tales, and instead turned his focus on the barking dog. He lifted the mass of fluff from the shiny table top and headed to the ex-ray room.

The woman continued to mumble, not acknowledging that her audience had left. “I was walking on the cobble stone trail, when I realized that a career in advanced toenail clipping was seriously not the way to go in life. I mean, if you clip just one centimeter too much the whole look is screwed.”

Kitty said...

“That Corvette’s trailing us,” she said.

They had stopped so she could use the ladies room. She found him at the bar kicking back Johnnie Walker.

“It’s a Shelby Cobra 427 owned by a very successful bounty hunter.”

“You know him?”

“While you were indisposed, he called and said I’m cleared, but your bond was revoked.”

“Your friend corroborated our alibi… right?”

“My friend wouldn’t vouch for you; he said you’d burn me. I didn’t believe him. Then I found your ticket to Montenegro, a non-extradition country. Y’know, you really shouldn’t have told me ‘Body Heat’ is your favorite movie.”

kdjames.com said...

The vet came into the old hotel grill every day at noon that month, advanced robotics masking the limp, ordered a cobb salad and a beer. Sat there for an hour, peeling the label off whole like birch bark, barely eating, staring out the clouded window at the sidewalk, silently recounting every detail of a lingering battle.

Every day, exactly one hour, then back out on the street.

Until that last day. Steady steps across the lobby to the elevator.

Cold rain fell as she did, swirling a diluted red trail across that sidewalk.

One last HALO.

Mission fucking accomplished.

R Keelan said...

My companion, a barkeep from Probolinggo, slashed the civet lengthwise so that its entrails spilled out, and began looking for coffee cherries.
"Why’d you kill this one?" I asked.
"I’m tired of picking through civet shit. Besides, it tastes better when there’s a little death in the cup."
I noticed a cobra slithering through the grass and backed away quietly.
The cobra struck, fangs piercing clothing and skin. My companion shuddered and convulsed, then lay still, entrails for a pillow.
Days later I was drinking a special cup of coffee in my new favourite bar.

Just Jan said...

The mark's trail stops in recovery. He snores gently in a drug-induced coma after having a foot of intestine and a corn cob removed.

Stupid dog.

I stretch luxuriously and unsheath my claws. This job will be easy.

The vet leaves the cage unattended. I pounce, sinking my nails into the beast's flesh. He rises, robot-like, and gives a strangulated bark as teeth meet jugular. Blood warms my whiskers.

I am legend.

I awake, mercifully alone, with a mouth full of cotton and a gutted toy between my paws. I slink away and let the dog take the fall.

Rachel McCauley said...

I check on dinner three times. If it isn’t perfect, finger trails, knuckle sandwiches, and broken bones will be my dessert.

Five minutes left on the timer when his corvette pulls into the driveway. My heart pounds inside my chest.

He stumbles into the kitchen and barks malicious words. The jeroboam trembles as I pour.

Wine splashes on the table. Anger fills his eyes. My tears and cries don’t stop his fists.

Broken and bruised, I sit in my closet with a spider creating her cobweb. In that moment, I decided to spin my own web.

Stephen G Parks said...

Dear SantA, all i Want is a Real Chrissmas tree.

“Son, we have one,” Mom pointed at the small bonsai, barely decorated.

“That’s not real!” Char barked.

“Well, it’s as real as it gets in the asteroid belt.” Mom tapped the cobalt walls, “This isn’t Earth. I’m amazed Santa comes here at all!”

“I heard the Corvette is bringing some!”

Mom frowned, “Honey, that’s … uncorroborated, at best.”

Dad floated through the door. “Hohoho! Looook what I found!”

In his hands was… “A Christmas tree!” …trailing needles floating everywhere.

Dad shrugged resignation. What’s some awkward cleaning compared to Char’s smile?

Gabby Gilliam said...

Thou shalt not “Ho Ho Ho.”

Thou shalt not eat the cookies or drink the milk.

Thou shalt not pick the chocolate pieces out of the trail mix.

Thou shalt not eat the peppermint bark. The company is not responsible for dental bills.

Thou shalt cobble the shoes of all dolls, even Barbie.

Thou shalt ensure batteries are included with all robotic toys.

Thou shalt not covet the gifts. Temptation will be removed, along with rapacious eyeballs, if necessary.

Thou shalt not approach the reindeer. No compensation will be issued for missing limbs.

Sincerely,

The Management
Claus Co.

Brigid said...

They grew up in the crossfire of every policy change, every budget cut.

Ms. Sayigh was a veteran on their side. Her library was their sanctuary. And they refused to lose her.

With her, they researched robotics, the Trail of Tears, birchbark crafts, and cobras. They sought asylum in Frederick Douglass and fanfiction. They studied MLK, Gandhi, the suffragettes.

Two hundred students sat in the hall, silent, armed, and steadfast. Their weapons: the books she taught them to love. They turned their pages with purpose.

Ms. Sayigh always believed in where they could go. The books show them the way.

Nate Wilson said...

Things were going smoothly till the barking cobra cornered me in the robo-vet's trailer.

Stein had sworn she'd get Rex back to mint. Lowest bid, too. Then she'd fried his memory.

I had no backup.

I eyed the snake. Hybrid animals skeeved me out. Too fleshy. Too unpredictable.

Stein entered, saw my state. "Relax, Corey's the harmless one. And sorry again about your RexBot. You here to collect?"

I nodded. Fingered the trigger in my pocket.

"Thought so. Wait here."

I rose to follow, and--

Wait. The harmless one? But that meant--

Then I felt the coil 'round my neck.

Deborah Foy said...

The boy waited.

"His birthday's coming up. More plants?"

He lay in the grass, his skin drinking sun.

"Bugs, actually."

Above him, contrails threaded the sky, a blanket with white stitching.

"Like beetles? Flies?"

Out of his fingertips, roots embarked for dark soil.

"I caught him eating one yesterday."

From his belly, vetchlings curled heavenward.

"It's that effing Flytrap! You know he named it?"

Flowers pushed from his cheeks, gathering a corroboree of bees.

"Has he been seen?"

Spiders spun future cobwebs from his nose to his toes.

"Not yet. I hate to have him labeled."

The plant-boy smiled.

CED said...

“How do you feel?” asks Eliza.

“Such naivete,” I bark. “Our legacy? A trail of existential crises. People accepted robos cleaning cobwebs or delivering packages.”

Her manner disquiets me, but the Company mandates these sessions. Progress checks, they call them. Inoffensive room, robo shrink, two-way mirror (they think I don't know).

I continue. “But art springs from human experience. A robo writes the same novel I do, the very same words: are they meaningful? Robos have no emotions.”

“You would be the first.” Eliza's eyes flit to the mirror and back. “How... do you feel?”

Steve Wilkins said...

"How did we find ourselves here? These maps do not corroborate..." he trails off in his own thoughts and paranoia.
"Where are we is the far superior question," replies the salty veteran.
Discarding the maps, he utilizes his senses and ignores the advantages of the advanced technology he's equipped with.
"We're damned, William!"
The whining stops. His eyes shut. The brisk cold air creates goosebumps on his hardened skin.
What's that? Over in the distance away from the misery. It's a dog barking! Hallelujah! Although one step to the left is a face full of cobwebs and certain death.
"I'm telling you Meriwether, this will put us in the pages of history."

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

"I know you're a veteran and all , but do you really think we're going to catch the guy, using a live dog? It hasn't been too long?"

"She's a Doberman."

"So?"

"A Doberman holds the record for the longest trail, with an arrest at the end. 100 miles, in 1925."

"What's that got to do with the price of corn on the cob?"

"Don't know much about real dogs, do you?"

"They bark. They bite."

"They work. And it's because they love the work, and love us. Robots don't."

"Robots also don't shit."

"She just alerted. The perp's ahead."




BJ Muntain said...

"His name is Sparky," he said.

She sneered at her gift. "Seriously? It's not even a real dog."

"That's why he's Sparky. He's a robot."

"Looks like something cobbled together in a lab."

"He's cool. Bark, Sparky!"

The squashy sound could have been a bark, if one were charitable.

She wasn't. She swatted it, then yelped. Sucking her burnt finger, she left.

"Thanks, Sparky. You saved me from a terrible mistake." Studying the robot, he saw the swat had exposed a live circuit in Sparky's entrails. "I'd better take you to the v-e-t."

Sparky's bark was happier this time.

James Ticknor said...

I trailed my finger down the blade. One, two, three. Then I strike like a cobra, robotic as Satan doing evil. Bark turns to whimper as day turns to night. Not supposed to see, not supposed to touch- but always have...sweet sanguine. Too much leaves and you go numb. Gone. Empty inside. That's why it's precious, and I am a very rich man. Yet...I still covet the contrast of red on silver steel. So, I continue to strike at you. Shh, puppet...it only hurts for a little while. Stillness. Silence. Sweet sanguine.

Kimber said...

Jacob’s human hand sensed the changing purr of the robotics beneath Gemini’s velvet coat. Her cooling fan was accelerating. The cyborg’s kitten clicked her back into a parabola and let out a “bark.”

A virus. What did he expect from a wifi-enabled cat? She was always bringing home unsavory souvenirs.

He opened Gemini’s belly, revealing 18-gauge entrails in red, yellow, black. She twisted and sunk her copper-plated teeth into the port on Jacob’s forearm. Something was uploaded.

Jacob clawed at his arm, but nothing could stop the blue screen that fell with his eyelids. There was no reboot after RA.8ies.

sdbullard said...

They say you can’t go back. That trail of cobbled memories and lies cannot be embarked on a reverse journey. It’s a one-way road.

She said “forgive and forget,” but it was only a matter of time before she grew tired of the charade. Uncorroborated stories, the guilty gleam of eyes never supporting the smooth words.

She held my hand, said “let’s not give up on us,” the inveterate optimist. Even she couldn’t keep it up forever.

They say you can’t go back. But where else can I go?

She’s all I’ve ever needed. And he’s everything she wants.

Sara Halle said...

Up here, no one can keep Rudolph in the dark. When Moppet and Velvet started doing more than cobbling in their trailer workshop, I knew. And when the bearded guy decided to impress his son, I prepared for trouble.

Kringle, Jr., who's as useful as a swimsuit in a snowstorm, does like drones, so Santa embarked on a test run. One flying robot, my would-be replacement, lit a bright red path in the sky — then plummeted down.

No one watching was more relieved than Moppet. His sabotage kept my job safe — and ensured Mrs. Moppet wouldn't learn about Velvet.

Kate Higgins said...

Leaving Earth seemed to be the natural thing to do.

It was time to embark again. This adventure held dangerous unknowns: monsters and cobwebs.
She would be a trailblazer with her carefully packed supplies, bow and her trusty, rusty, low-tech robot.
He was a far better companion than those she left behind.
There were giant cracks to navigate, unfamiliar plant life and large slathering creatures to terrify her soul. She would be triumphant!

An ominous, velvet black wasteland loomed ahead; she was thwarted, trapped.
Her sequel would have to continue tomorrow.

She wasn't allowed to cross without holding adult hands.

Mark Ellis said...

Out on the campaign trail, things looked grim.

Under the supervision of Karen, his mentor and a veteran of many political battles, Alex had cobbled together a strategy to take down the frontrunner. So far his efforts had amounted to all bark, no bite.

Trump was filling arenas with robotic followers, and despite a series of oratorical outrages that would spell doom for his rivals, the demagogue’s poll numbers skyrocketed.

Alex emailed Karen for guidance, asking how to save the Republican Party.

It was Karen’s aide that replied, saying that Karen had resigned, “had taken a position with another campaign.”

french sojourn said...


I watched her bleed out.

I don’t know which hurt her more, the buckshot in her guts or the betrayal in her eyes.

When an old man buys a young mink from Minsk, he gets a gatekeeper to watch the trail. Make sure some young buck don’t come along and mark the trees bark.

Across from me was the veteran Sheriff Turner, pacemaker, hearing aid and a 12 gauge; fucking Robocop.

Headlights announced the arrival of the old man.

Robocop handed the old man his shotgun, as they passed in the Cobbossee motel doorway.

I just watched from the bed.

SiSi said...

“Folks in the trailers down here been covetin' my cobbler recipe for years. Ain’t a one of’em worth a dog’s bark. Don’t let’em get ahold of it."

“I won’t.”

“Don’t give it to your mama neither. I love her but I swanny she’d just as soon have a robot fixin’ her food as cook it herself.”

“I’ll keep it safe.”

“When it’s my time, you bake that cobbler, you hear? Don’t give Dottie Mae Newcomb nothin’ to gossip about.”

“I will. I promise.”

I waited until her eyes closed, then tucked the quilt around her shoulders and kissed her goodbye.

Lance said...

“I'll tie a pink rag to a bush by the trail. Snag it going by.”

“When I come creaking up to the peak, where will you be?”

“Hey, Babe! It took a week to cobble this together. Trust your inveterate, sideshow barker. Be there at dawn.”


She was exhausted and exhilarated. The solar rim sliced the horizon. Where was he?

To the west, she saw her shadow crossing a hundred miles of valley. A shadow approached hers. A projection from the umbra made her turn. Not a proboscis either.

She gasped.

Huge, hairy, aroused.

“Bill, quit.”

Steve Cassidy said...


“Who found him?”

“Hooker, she heard a dog barking over by that pile of cobblestones, took a look.”


“Another homeless vet?”

“Yeah, same MO, entrails pulled out. Her John ran off, but the guy over there was next in line. Ten dollar hand jobs, he stayed around, nice huh?”

“He see anything?”

“No. He’s scared shitless, he’ll corroborate her story so long as we don’t call his wife. There’s something else, this time the vic was alive when his shit was pulled out.”


“Killer’s escalating.”

“Quickly.”

“A note?”



“Yeah, same message,“WAR’S HOME- SO AM I.”



“This makes four.”


The Notebook Blogairy said...

I watched as you left a trail of love notes that weren’t for me. I saw the way you looked at the vet when you thought I wasn’t looking.

It was only when Rex barked all night by the door that I finally got an inkling. You wouldn’t eat the roasted cobs I had air shipped especially for you. Your cool detached demeanor wasn’t the clue; but, it made me think.

It was your eyes. You forgot what color they’re supposed to be for me, dear sweet Robo. I now know. And, tonight? I shut you down for good.

flashfriday said...

Hero bones but villain blood: half-prince Jasper never knew whether to save damsels or feed them to dragons.

“He needs a nanny,” said the Queen.

The King vetoed that. “My boy shows promise.”

“Your boy’s confused.”

“His intricate cobwebs of understanding and dustkitties of sophistication, his—”

“—depth of idiocy—”

“Behave,” said the King.

“Forgive me for disembarking the Jasper Fanboat. But darling, face facts.”

“Not everyone’s a trailblazer.”

“Yesterday he proposed to his sister and set my rose garden on fire.”

The King winced.

“Just wish I’d known,” said the Queen, “that I’d need to save two Beasts.”

Dee Blacks said...

“Barkley! Come here.” The COB, his Chief Operations Bully, demanded and stomped through the bushes.

Never any peace. Barkley studied the crushed velvet petals of a flower and looked around for more indications. A bent branch pointed out the trail. A sudden electric jolt from the collar around his neck caused his head to snap up in pain.

"That was punishment. I told you to come.” A robotic voice grated, “Humans are such rebellious creatures.

And, we’re not stupid. As they moved along the path, he pushed back a heavy branch.

“Barkley, where are you?” A voice yelled from overhead.

Michael Seese said...

She had a double wide heart, and a behind to match. Lonely beyond repair, Maggie would sit in her trailer and think of the men who'd come into her life, and never really left.

Darrel, whose face looked like it was cobbled together by Picasso and Dr. Frankenstein.

Edgar, so stiff he made robots look lively.

Al, he of the unshaven mug that felt like shagbark hickory in her hands.

Danny, the veterinarian who tried so hard to save Mr. Puff. For that effort, Maggie buried him beside her beloved pet.

The rest she just scattered across the north 40.

katie said...

Oh the vet? Well, she's a liar. Plain and simple.

Cobb barks and it's a pitiful sound. I stroke his head.

There's no way he's got cancer. I already paid to put a robot knee in there and now cancer? They just want my money.

I'll pay for the pain meds, Ma.

When she calls me fifteen years later, her own entrails trailing cancer themselves, I offer the same thing.

Michael Rigg said...

As the village elders sat cross-legged in a circle chanting the traditional healing prayer, the shaman stirred an elixir of civet entrails, proboscis monkey blood, arrowroot, and pulverized cocobolo bark. The chieftain’s daughter, wracked with fever, did not complain as the shaman applied the poultice to her skin.

“Our work is done,” the shaman said. “You must leave and let the magic potion work.”

As the last village elder exited the hut, the shaman walked quickly to a small wooden cabinet and pulled out a glass vial marked “Penicillin.” He smiled.

“And now for the real magic.”

Kastie said...
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