Friday, December 02, 2016

Holy moly it's December writing contest!

Where the hell did the year go? And can it go faster?

Let's celebrate the almost end of a pretty bad year with a writing contest! The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:

hope
next
year
alot
better

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: hope/hopefully is fine but hope/shopkeeper 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.

8a. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

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.

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.


Contest opens: 7:42am Saturday 12/3 (Eastern Shark Time)

Contest closes: 9am Sunday 12/4 (Eastern Shark Time)


  what time is it in NYC?



If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's
an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

Not yet!
GO! 
Rats! Too late!


55 comments:

Steve Forti said...

“Ho ho ho, people! Big S is on da house!”

Scout Three to Kringle Central. We got a Code Red.

“Whoa, yer little. Oof!”

Jolly face is face down. Better send in Green Team. “Sir, how much cocoa did you have?”

“Heehee, alotta cocoa. Cocoa yummy.”

“Smells more like Frizzle’s moonshine eggnog to me.”

“It’s useless Chief. We can’t lift that bowlful of jelly. Green Team Six can transport him back. Let’s get these next houses done ourselves.”

“What about him?”

“Don’t worry. Mrs. Claus will give him a mighty earful when he wakes up.”

Mary Kathleen Mehuron said...

“Mom—five kids were killed and they say they’re all from here.”

Our town is so small we don’t even have a traffic light. “Honey, call me back if you hear anything else.”
“You too.”

The teenagers were coming home when a driver crossed the island of the highway and headed right toward them. Flames exploded, propelling their car into the air.

It was December twentieth. We lost my father the month before.

My phone rang. I made myself answer it but my son was too choked up to speak. Finally he said, “I hope next year gets alot better.”

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

The ugly beast has a menacing countenance which strikes fear in the hearts of men and women everywhere. Children don’t see the creature that way. To them he is a lovable giant and huggable. They are too young to know he is not a right kind of fellow.
Uninformed adults, who do not seek to better themselves, live as the unlearned. Youngsters are simply na├»ve regarding the creature’s rightful self and are forgiven.
Hopefully next year, all will learn the truth.
The dreaded alot is not a four letter word, he is of two parts.

Sherry Howard said...

BRIGHT FUTURE

“Alotta good it did me to send you to that fancy-schmancy school. Was it an annex to the Mother Teresa Emporium for Do-Gooders?”

“I can't help it, Dad.”

“You better listen to me, kid. That's a dead-end job.”

“I hoped you'd understand.”

“Understand, schmunderstand. Next you'll be telling me you've joined the Marines. I expected more from you.”

“Dad—”

"The Family needs you. You gonna let us down?”

“Dad—”

“What good are those degrees gonna do in Africa?”

“It's the Peace Corps, Dad.”

“I’d rather see you in prison.”

“And that's why I'm going.”




Heather Wardell said...

March 26, 1911

Cara Mamma,

(How do I write this and crush her hope?)

You may have heard of yesterday's fire.

(If she hasn't? Her next breath will be torture.)

I am fine, but I'm not getting married.

(She was to come over to meet my Giovanni this year.)

Please, don't worry. I'll find another man.

(Another man who would save alot of girls like Giovanni, God rest his soul?)

You'll see New York some day. I'll keep sewing until you can.

(If I'm not dead before my burns are better.)

Oh, and I'll also find a new roommate.

Margherita

Deb Smythe said...

Sleet pierces my thin coat and bites skin, but the sight ahead offers hope. I stumble through the gate into the halo glow of garland-strung lights and Christmas trees, and smile at a man next to a balsa fir. He rushes away. My ears redden, as I know I reek of garbage.

Head down, stomach cramping, I sidle toward a family noshing pretzels, hoping their reaction will be better. Small, mittened hands extend. The father frowns.

"He only wants food," Little One says. "It's not a lot."

"It is." He sighs. "Look at its face, its coat. That's alot."

Steph Ellis said...

I am the zealot burning the hope from under you, gifting instead my advances in the betterment of human health to the few, the select few.

You call me scavenger. I prefer reclaimer, taking only what I know you won’t miss. You never move, always drunk.

Hush, hush. What’s an arm or a leg to you?

I know you yearn to live but I must take the next step. Send you into darkness so others can prosper. My theatre is ready, my scalpel gleams and it is time for my performance.

Hush now, hush-a-bye. Close your eyes and sleep.

Susan said...

"Stand down, soldier. I said stand down."

Five, four, three, two--

"You don't want to hurt no one, son."

No. Not no one. Just me. Escape from this hopeless place, our disgrace, where year after year I fall into the cracks and crevices we create...

I was once better than this.

Picked from a lottery, there was no next choice. Just listen to the words, they said, and not the voices in your head.

"That's an order, soldier. You obey your lieutenant."

It's a crazy world, this one now. Everything so upside

"Stand down, soldier. I said stand--"

down.

Megan V said...


The sky is not dark, and yet it does not glitter on the frigid cusp of midnight. It glows.
“Ten!”
Phones illuminate the world below, stealing time with unheard snaps. Click. Click. Tic.
“Nine!”
The crowd laughs.
“Eight!”
I inch toward them, but I’m too alone, and they’re so sure that twelve strokes and a cheer will change everything that they don’t notice.
“Seven!”
The wind speeds up with numbers. SixFiveFour
“Three!”
Hope rises in my chest, hope as strong and welcoming as the pavement.
“Two!”
Next year will be a lot better than this—
“One!”
Everyone screams.

Jeanette Lee said...

“Maybe we should keep one or two, just in case we need them.” She tapped a tooth thoughtfully.
“Or we could just wait four years. This is wrong!” he wailed.
“Hope is never a crime,” she replied, gripping the baseball bat harder. “Besides, there are still a lot of lawyers left. Where do you think most of them come from in the first place?”
“We’re going to jail,” he moaned, dragging over the next one.
I opened another jug and poured it into the tub. There had better be enough.
“They have to catch us first,” I replied, stirring.

David S. said...

Before my ass can even hit the sand, my pup grabs his seat in my lap. I hang on to hope he won’t stomp my junk, but he does, and I nearly spill my beer. A bottle of Halo Top amber that tastes better than it smells.

I rinse away the remainder of the year by singing my momma’s favorite Billy Ocean tunes to her favorite actual ocean, the Atlantic. Tears come, waves go, the next morning sets the sky on fire.

“Adios, Momma.”

The walk back to the car doesn’t feel half as long as the trudge from it.

french sojourn said...


There was the faintest scent of hope and decay buried within her perfume. His nostrils flared and his heart fluttered as he looked into her limpid eyes.

He tilted her head slightly, “There, that’s a lot better.” As she lay still, he gave her a long soulful kiss. She couldn’t resist.

His heart lunged as he thought he spied motion from the coroner, slumped behind his desk. False alarm, he turned back to her. He smiled, humming his mama’s lullaby.

“Just imagine darling, with my promotion, we’ll get a huge air conditioner next year, and move you to my place.”

Dena Pawling said...


Sixty-two million people believed in him.

Untold millions more were counting on him.

Or not.

Sure it was the biggest company he'd ever run. But he could handle it.

Piece of cake.

He was, after all, no apprentice at this.

He turned, hair unruffled in the breeze, and faced the future. The next four - no make that eight - years would be a lot better.

January 20, 2017

He raised his right hand. “I do solemnly swear....”

He'd make this place great again.

He hoped.

Or 128 million people would gleefully say

“You're fired.”

Amy Johnson said...

December thirty-first

Oy, early polling was so promising. A request to lift my spirits: Regular commenters, lurkers, et al., Other than the election, share something noteworthy about this year, plus something you’re hopeful about for next year.

***

Comments:

Colin: Bought a house this year. Very nice book deal next year?

Donnaeve: My debut. Even better sales next year.

Colin: Unpacked all boxes. Significant book deal?

french sojourn: Escargot. More escargot.

Colin: Hung all pictures. Major book deal? That makes three comments. Happy New Year!

Amy: Risked using humor. Cheers up queen/doesn’t get booted off blog?

***

The queen laughed.

Toni said...

Hope was the first one. Found by the tyre swing with no undergarments on. Caught their lad. Plucked him out of class by his short trousers and put him up high in the dock. Acquitted in the court of public opinion and returned to town raised up on shoulders. Killed again and quick to do it too. The zealots still proclaimed it was someone from outside gettin' in. They all agreed but not their boy. Better not delay in saying it. Next birthday sixteen years could fit him out for a noose. "Guilty," he said.

Colin Smith said...

We embrace, her wet cheek next to mine, a lottery ticket crushed in her hand against the folds of my coat.

There's an eruption of noise around us. Cheers. Party blowers. Fireworks.
"Happy New Year!"

We kiss. She holds me tighter.

I look over her shoulder. The crowd can't conceal the men in black. Waiting. They'll take good care of her. After all, she is one of the Ten. Humanity's last hope. Our better, brighter future.

As she walks away, I cough. Phlegmy, metallic. Similar coughs ripple through the crowd.

It's starting, just like they said.

Happy New Year.

Craig F said...

Hope-a-lot floated on the airs of summer. She practiced her dance and made it better but Sugarplum faeries are rather carefree for most of the year. Then the summer sun faded and the wind turned cold.

It was time to report for work. She looked for friends on the way but only saw first year faeries cavorting. The guard gave her a sad smile and pointed to the next door. It was already open so she walked in. She found her locker and opened it. Her heart sank. She had grown up and was now a ghost of Christmas past

Lennon Faris said...

When my baby was a month, he colicked.
Exhausted, I held him.
Did she?
When seven, he broke his arm skateboarding.
I rushed him to the hospital.
Did she?
High school freshman year, he washed his hands, over and over.
I found him help and hope.
Did she?

Tonight, University phone call: ICU, critical. I’m flying, hating her, praying.
My baby: ashen exterior, IV lines everywhere. Only the attacker dead, news blasts. A lot better than expected.

My hatred moves. After all, mine’s still alive. Exhausted, I hold him.
Hers isn’t. She can’t.

I weep.
I’m sure she does, too.

Michael Seese said...

They named her Hope, because they had nothing else. Everything had been stolen from them. Their home. Their lives. Their dignity.

She would not be next.

Their shattered faith promised a better life. They’d begun to doubt. Until He sent an angel.

The girl with the kind smile and the pushcart of rotting fruit discarded by the soldiers wasn’t like the others. A child herself, perhaps 13 years old, she'd have to do.

"We don't have a lot of time," she whispered, burying the baby in the hay. The winter, and the boots, approached rapidly.

Hope would not survive either.

Beth said...

She was his wife, his lover,
the sharer of his secrets,
the mother of his someday kids,
the keeper of his heart.

The times were hard; they struggled.
The next year would be better.
An interview, a lottery,
he had to make it right.

She was his hope, his future,
the bedrock he could build on,
his anchor in a stormy sea.
But now she’s just his ex.

jenny said...

“Hope springs eternal,” they say.
“Youth dries faster than a shallow puddle,” they don’t say.
Lines become canyons, brightness dulls.
There are new clefts in my chin and the tip of my nose, new freckles everywhere (beauty marks one year, a lot of unsightly spots begging for a laser the next.) I have yellowed and curled.
I press my brows up and back. What would it cost? I wonder. How much would it hurt?
“She better not be crying again.” My husband opens the door, slumps against the wall, says in a hopeless voice, “Jesus, Jenny. You’re only turning 35.”

Ellie Firestone said...

I sit down and open my story document. 24,328 words and a blinking cursor stare back. I hope that today will produce something. I'm already way behind.

Nothing. Just a big, fat void of NaNoNothing.

I bet Teresa's already won. Last I checked, she was at 48,763. Sure enough, she's at 51,246 now. And still going.

My sister is a lot more creative than I am.

Four days left to write 25,672 words. That's a lot.

Too much. I give up.

Maybe next year.

Robert Ceres said...

Satan scratched a horn. “Hell of a race.”

“Fuck you.”

“You’re being a sore looser.”

“Pass that gin.”

“I see you’ve stocked in alot, Some long days ahead for you.”

God poured, splashed vermouth, and stirred. “The Martini. Your greatest invention. The proffered olive, my creation. Congratulations.” They sipped. “I still don’t see how he won.”

“Yours went low, mine went high. Called him everything but an orange Oompa Loompa. We pulled the elementary school ploy, ‘I know you are, but what am I.’ Made you look like shit.”

“Well, I hope next year’s better.

“Ha. Good luck with that.”

Zoe Marzo said...

The world is in pieces, but maybe things need to break to be made whole again. Hope put down the needle and thread. She held the shimmery spandex up to the light. Next to her, Pounces-the-Cat purred as if anticipating the peace that would fall over the world like a blanket. They would not spend another year in a world overflowing with criminals and zea lots. Pounces bared her kitty fangs in a non-threatening yawn. “It will get better,” Hope insisted as she scratched the super soft tummy, feeling power sizzling out of her fingertips like electricity.

ejsmith3130 said...

She breathed deeply, the mask pressed against her face. The pinch of elastic straps only a minor nuisance as the halothane coursed through her bloodstream. It had been a rough year. Catching her husband tangled with his assistant had only been the start. She had hoped he would forgive her for setting his car on fire. His restraining order said he didn’t.

“Your next patient is here”

“Thanks.” She said, removing the mask and swinging her legs off the chair. She turned off the valve to the gas and lifted the dental pick. She felt much better.

DeadSpiderEye said...

If they're telling our stories, to what given extent might one find a stray ear. Rush open the door and may see how she sought better than mere--malfeasance in office, be it pubic or not. My god it's too much let's forgo the dog's snot for there's a lot that can go passed in one year.

Marie McKay said...

We were buddies, all three. For years, side by side, except on the narrower sidewalks where I'd drop back a pace; a natural volunteer.
We were close, but we'd hang out on Tuesdays, and I'd a lot of Tuesday shifts; the guys understood.
If one of us couldn't pay the next bill, we helped each other.  I was the lucky one, always had work.
They were each other's Best Man. I'm not one for speeches. I'd hoped they wouldn't ask me; the guys knew that.
Nothing else for it. They've kids now. l'd better take the rap. It is Christmas.

Timothy Lowe said...

“Hope doesn’t pay the rent, Tom.”

Meg searched my face for the answer. We’d wanted a better life. But being an extra in the zombie apocalypse was the best I’d been able to do. Some of those people were Walking Dead freaks, zealots. I did it for the nonexistent paycheck. That, and the makeup.

“Maybe in a year I’ll land something,” I said.

She smiled, pressing the latex scar-tissue onto my forehead. “You and your undead patience.”

We shambled into the bank, groaning. Wide eyes. Nervous laughs. Then gasps.

“Empty the drawer into the bag,” I said to the teller.

CynthiaMc said...

Havana 1962

"Come with us, Ramon," Mama whispered. "It's the last plane out."

"Someone has to stay and fight."

"Not you."

"Yes, me. I'll meet you next year in Miami if I have to swim."

Castro put Papa in prison.

Mama cried.

Miami 1966

"He's probably dead, Maria. Get on with your life," people said.

"Hope springs eternal," Mama said.

Miami 1968

"Papa's here!"

"Uncle Jorge?"

"Death by firing squad."

We held Papa tighter.

Havana 2015

Mama and Papa showed me our old house...our old life.

Miami 2016

"Se murio Fidel," Papa said. "It will be better...alot."


Cipher said...

Been three weeks since I visited the Wall.
A lot of jagged barbs and rough-cut wire, it stood ten feet tall against hazy foreign skies. It felt taller, I think, if you stood on the soft hope of your dreams.
They’d rolled it out four weeks ago. Felt like years.
Separate the strikers from the scabs.
Stay away from your betters, management said.
Workers on one side, ungratefuls on the other, management said.
Next to my side, I picked up a squat metal box.
I flicked the switch, chucking my gift up and over, smiling.
Who’s ungrateful now? I said.

leah reynolds said...

Ole Smokey's lined with rockers. Guy strums Cohen’s, So Long Marianne,
yearning for better days.
Bowie, too. I raise a whiskey. Goes down like Gatlinburg.
“Like he matters,” a voice echoes above the melody.
I tuck my head, rough skin, a shade darker than the bar.
Like I matter.
Gloves spoon - lovers next to my empty glass.
TV's mute. Images scroll across the screen: Vengeful Zealots;
Day of Judgement; One hell-fire missile at a time.
Screen fades. Custom orthopedics. Sad souls to happy soles.
“It's time that we began to laugh
…and cry and laugh about it all again.”

Kathryn said...

The old man shoved crumpled paper into Prent’s chest.

“I’m trying!” Prent protested.

The man scowled. “Trying’s not enough if you hope to replace me! I have a reputation to uphold. Trying gets you caught. Now,” he said sliding fresh paper toward the boy, “Do it right.”

Prent gripped his no. 2 and slowly formed rows of jumbled letters. “SFPDALOT…” The clock ticked. Sweat beaded. After a year of tensed silence Prent slid the paper back. The feeble creature eyed it carefully. A smile slithered across wrinkled skin as he nodded approval to his next-in-line.

“Much better, Zodiac.”

JD Horn said...

A plot, a lot of land.
Split in two.
Broken peace pipe. Next smoking pipeline.
Scorched earth.
A better year for dragons than hope.
Lying for gold.
Lying on gold.
Soft, pale belly pressed to coin.

Mallory Love said...

These were supposed to be the best years of my life: traveling the world, spoiling the grandkids, finding my zeal.
But then the diagnosis came.
The losses were insurmountable.
First, the ability to move. Next, the ability to speak.Then, the ability to hope.
Getting better wasn’t an option.
My husband couldn’t bear it. He silently begged me to let go, the truth in his eyes too hard to ignore.
Celestial otherworlds called to him.
I couldn’t watch him die. I made sure the pillow covered his face.

“How does the defendant plead?”
My attorney rose.
“Guilty.”
But not regretful.

abnormalalien (Jamie A. Elias) said...

Dearest Sweetcakes,

Hot cross buns are my thing. I mean that literally. I’ve won a lot of County Fair Awards for my baking.

This year, little Hope Merriweather’s pushing her luck. She sabotaged my bake sale batch and stole my ribbon. If I let her live to see the fair, she might not have hands to knead with.

Since everyone loves her so much, she might be my next secret ingredient. Forget raisins; I’ll jazz up a better recipe.

Don’t call the law yet, darling, I’m just joshing.

Love,
Your smooth criminal
P.S. No one would believe you anyway!

Dee Blackshear said...

Snuggles banged on the front door.

"I hope you know, it's cold out here "

Next, she let out a mournful cry, pleading to be loved again.

Begging a lot, she promised, "I 'm back, won’t run off again. I'll do better next year.

The door opened and warm air blew in her face. With a self-satisfied meow, she strutted in.

AAGreene said...

War was always a lottery. But this year was supposed to be different. Better.

The Resistance had a secret weapon. They had hope. They had me.

But, alas.

“I’m not your judge or jury,” he said, tying the rope.

“Comforting,” I snapped. “Because I’m sure as hell not your guardian angel.”

He stepped aside, avoiding my eyes. “Long live the Resistance!”

The crowd cheered. The noose tightened.

This was no trial; it was an extermination. And I was the pest. I was going to fall for someone else’s lies. The ground beneath my feet gave way.

Long live the Resistance.

Karen McCoy said...

It happens every year. We meet, exchange pleasantries, and buy our respective dying evergreens. This time, she invites me over.
Borborygmus.

We talk about better days, when not every toy was plastic, or wrapped without batteries included. We share a lot of wine.
Crapulous.

Is there hope this holiday season? Neither of us know. I ask her why she buys the brownest, most nonextant trees; she’d rather Death scythe them quickly instead of watching them suffer.
Disconsulate.

A strike of lightning outside—all the tree’s needles drop to the floor at the same time.
Shadenfreude.

lizosisek said...

I climb into the costume, sweating buckets before the thing is even zipped. Screw propriety; next time I’m going commando. I can’t walk in the thing, so I get Marty to pull me around in a wagon. The latex suit smells like the rest of the hospital, minus the sick.

The elevator dings, and we ride to the seventh floor. Marty pulls me into my six-year-old godson’s room.

“Mommy!” He screams, pointing at the “Hope you feel alot better soon!” sign draped around my neck. His smile makes the sweat and the stink worth it. “Look! It’s a real alot!”

Kregger said...

Santa rang a bell for salvation outside of Save-Alot.

Nicotine stained his nose hairs and tracks strode his arm.

He glanced at his Wal-Mart four-wheeler and hoped his frozen beer hadn’t burst.

The judge said jail was warmer, but the dry hoosegow sucked.

Bell ringing was better than time.

The kettle lock broke in two, his high assured.

A thug approached to steal.

Santa pointed at the Elf-on-the Shelf packing Smith and Wesson.

“Better luck next year,” he said. “I may be bad, but I’m not evil.”

The Army will get its share.

God smiled on the fallen St. Nick.

Greg Scott said...

“Mom, I found a lot! Right next to a baseball diamond!”

“And you think that’s better than what your father and I picked?”

“I hope so.”

“Next, I suppose you’ll want a uniform.”

“You betcha. I want to play for the Minnesota Twins in a few years.”

“Who will practice with you on that field?”

“Will you play catch with me?”

“You said I throw like a girl.”

“You do, but that’s okay. I still love you.”

“Go away! Stop tormenting me!”

“Mom, it wasn’t your fault.”

“How will I live with you gone?”

“I’m still alive in your memories.”

S.D.King said...

The next-to-last gift was wrapped. She bought Jeremy everything on his list this year – except the cats.

Weird list.

She’d hoped Roger would be understanding, but no.

“You indulge that kid too much. You okay’d glee club, then drama club. Sissy stuff.”

Didn’t matter. She bought a whole case of Spam and individually wrapped each tin. The Mormon Bible was on Amazon. Easy. But she better not let Roger ever see the last request. Luckily she knew just where to buy them.
Pleased with herself, she rechecked Jeremy’s scribbled list:

X Spamalot
Cats
X Book of Mormon
X Kinky Boots

Just Jan said...

I’ve just informed my wife that I’m leaving for Belize on New Year’s Eve. With my secretary. She’s taking it a lot better than most women would. She plucks an envelope from our Christmas tree and hands it to me.

“You shouldn’t have.” I hope she can return it.

“I didn’t.” She looks me in the eye. “It’s for Darren.”

Darren, my best friend, lives next door. “You got him a gift?”

“Open it.”

I slide a finger under the flap and remove a black and white glossy. “What is it?”

She smiles and pats her stomach. “A girl.”

Kae Ridwyn said...

Maybe those zealots on the TV had it right all along. Go out in a blaze of glory. Grab fifteen minutes of fame before the fickle public demanded the next story.

People, huh? So untrustworthy. So unreliable.

What about his own dreams? He just wanted a normal life. Some stability. Not too much to ask, surely? His hopes crushed with each passing year; each new place.

But not this time.
He would be remembered.

Those fools in his class had better not laugh at him today.
He hid the gun in his bag then hurried to catch his school bus.

Scott G said...

Sitting next to Grandfather’s hospital bed, I watched the monitor blips grow stronger with each beat of his new heart. We’d hoped and prayed for the better part of a year.

Now, fate had intervened.

A tearful man walked in, paused when he saw the kippa, then put a hand on Grandfather’s chest. “My father. Good man. Now you. Good man.”

No monitor blip for ten seconds.

Grandfather caught his breath and, with fingers knotty like chalot, grabbed the man’s hand. “My honor,” he whispered.

The man nodded, wrapped the turban of his kufiya around his neck, and walked out.

Celia Reaves said...

Everybody knows the Macgregor place is haunted. Nobody cares except a smarmy TV host. And me.

Ten pm. The moonlight is dismal, otherworldly, casting the shadow of a long-ago knife. Footsteps echo peculiarly in my ears, then the TV lights flare. Cliff Pryce adjusts his hairpiece.

"This is where Coira Macgregor was stabbed and hung on a gibbet. Terrible." He makes a sorrowful face. "But is there really a Macgregor ghost? I'll be staying here alone tonight. Watch my report tomorrow!"

Everyone else leaves. I grasp my knife, will my arm to solidity, and step behind Pryce.

An ex-TV host.

Kate Higgins said...

She used to imagine the year as a complete circle.
However there were so many circles this year: a typhoon breach in the sanctuary of home, a void once occupied by a tumor, a deep dint in the highway brimming with malice, the family crown missing two of its younger and shiny gems. And a ring of gold, once forged in the spiritual otherworld of "for better or worse" cratered now by wear and weary. 2016 – life and loss encircling a core of hope.

She would imagine next year as a straight line, not a sobering, circuit of circles.

Nate Wilson said...

His foot taps non-stop. He won't meet my eyes.

I get it.

Hope fled the room the moment we entered. After the scans a day earlier, it's obvious what's coming next. The silence has become something almost visceral. Others would plow ahead, but if delaying makes him feel better, I can wait.

He adjusts his wristwatch. Scratches at his beard.

"Whenever you're ready."

His head snaps up. "Of course."

He futzes with my folder. "It's what we feared. Inoperable." He turns away. "I'm sorry."

I nod. An ocean of calm washes over me, and I am adrift.

I am free.

Debbie Dorris said...

“Being the winner of the bunny HOP Entitles me to $10,000 a month for the NEXT YEAR.”

“But you didn’t win, Barbie. You’ll need to think of another way to pay it back before Mr. Tannish discovers your embezzlement.”

“What do you mean I didn’t win? Why, I’m the only real bunny in the contest!”

“Sugar, you are the only Playboy Bunny in the contest. You’re not an actual bunny rabbit. You do realize that, don’t you?”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right, huh? Well, in that case, I guess I BETTER buy A LOTtery ticket and pray.”

Myra King said...


No Hoper, her sister calls him. Her father. Slumped at the melamine table, bottle next to his lips, the year draining away with nothing better than rage or semi oblivion. For him. Hell for them. Although she too holds the rage.

Between the binges, between the blurred lines melded by blood. Father and daughters. And more. She never wonders where her mother is.

Her blue eyes his, her father's, like a Nazi zealot's advert for purity. The chosen race. One she knows she will never win. Impurity. She sees it in her sister's eyes and knows where her mother is.

John Davis Frain said...

Home from court, I walk hopelessly through our house – my house – taking inventory.

An outline of dust where a wedding picture once showed a moment of happiness we never reached again.

Springy carpet where the sofa had sat. Forever the place I saw too much of our next-door neighbor Lawrence, a lothario who charmed Susan out of her clothes and out of our marriage.

Sterile kitchen, where I conquered Lawrence’s better half one year later.

Deafening echoes greet me upstairs. Two empty kid’s rooms.

The master bedroom, where she left everything - including the king-sized bed where we would both lie.

sdbullard said...

Snow fell noiselessly. Soft wisps of white against a black backdrop. The blanket lay pristine on the ground. On the house’s roof.

Silent night.

He’d had such hopes. He’d kept it suppressed almost twelve months: the primal other. But now it was waking, tearing at him again.

He flicked his thumb against the lighter. Soon, it would be assuaged.

Orange flames broke the darkness. Ash fell noiselessly. Soft wisps of gray against a black backdrop.

The primal other settled.

All is calm.

For now.

He walked away.

Maybe next year would be better.

He glanced back once.

All is bright.

RKeelan said...

A lot of us gathered at the edge of town every year to mark the anniversary of my wife's disappearance.

"I hope nothing happens," my son said.

"You better get ready." I handed him a hatchet. "Next part's always the same."

The sun slid toward the horizon. We lined up across the meadow.

A figure emerged from the woods, rotting and stinking and putrid. It was followed by two more. Then dozens. Hundreds.

They had my wife's face. They all did.

We only noticed the scratch after we got home. My son still had his hatchet.

"Wait! Let's wait—"

Mark Thurber said...

“For the betterment of humankind,” read the post-it on the chest.

“Hah,” thought Dora. “I know a lot about strange boxes.”

“No really,” added the post-it.

“Fine.” She cracked open the chest. Scalding air blew her back, withering everything inside and outside her.

She cried a year. “I promise I won’t open the next box.”

“But look inside,” the post-it beckoned.

With nothing more to lose, she did. There was a round stone at the bottom labeled “hopelessness.”

When Dora picked it up, thunder cracked, rain fell cool on her skin, and a tender shoot pressed out through parched earth.

Michael J. Craft said...

Our first day in the city ended with a chill. This evening, outside of Hamilton, a wild-eyed oracle told me the future. I’m writing it down on the off chance that it should come to pass.

When the Year-One Aqua Lottery begins (this sounds exciting!), the fate of the world rests in three accomplishments. First, put all hope in government. You’ll never have to worry or think for yourself. Next. . . .

Uhmm, actually, if the first accomplishment is achieved, I bet terms two and three won’t matter.

Huh.

“Love?”

“Yea?”

“Still think you shouldn’t’ve given that guy money.”