Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Tome Ate My Homework

Hi!
Well, that went well, eh?   This morning, as promised, I wrote a post for winners and words and emailed it RR.  She never received it, nor can I even find it now.  I'm so very, very, sorry I dropped the ball gang.

OK, so...winners and words.

You are all still making it very difficult for me to decide.  Judging this week has been as challenging as ever.

However, without further ado:

First place goes to Phil Ambler with Dare You.  This is such a great little story, Phil.  Reading, I knew something was going to happen, but I had no idea what or to whom, until the last line.

Our runner-up this week is Matt Farr with Just Hanging Around: Matt, I still can't stop chuckling at that last line.  And it was a brilliant notion to let us know what it feels like to be a scarecrow!

Congratulations to the winners, and many thanks to everyone of you who posted and entertained me so much!  I can't tell you how helpful reading your work has been this last week when everything's been so hectic.

I do not recall the words the Tome provided this morning, and so, after much pleading on my part, it has begrudgingly spit out some new ones.  Just let me peel them off my shirt...

There we are!

Herbs

Altruist

Wary


The usual rules apply: 100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above in the genres of horror, fantasy, science fiction or noir. All variants and use of the words as stems are fine.

You have until 11:30 PM (Eastern Standard Time) Thursday, March 7th, to get your entries in.  Winners will be announced and new words will be posted by 3:00 PM on Friday, March 8th.

Again, I am so sorry for my email gaf.  Here's hoping this weeks words stir your creative juices!





90 comments:

  1. many congratulations Phil! loved that piece from you and Matt, great writing and insights... creepy stuff.
    Good words this week, let me see if the zombie can make use of them. This has gotten really dark and so involved that I am hardly away from it.

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  2. Congrats Phil and Matt! Loved reading the stories as always. :)

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  3. Continuation of last week's story...

    Good Enough

    Her face burned where she’d cut away branded flesh, but the herbs were doing their work. There was an advantage to playing the victim. One look at her bandaged cheek and the bus driver merely nodded her aboard. He wouldn’t take her money; hurray for altruists.

    Not the back. It says you want to hide.

    She took a seat in the middle, smiling warily at the old woman leaning against the window.

    “Greta,” the woman said. Her broken teeth were stained dark.

    Say ‘Hansel’. Diego’s laugh burned warm inside her belly.

    “Kensi.” It was a good enough name as any.

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    1. WHAT a wonderful phrase: "Diego’s laugh burned warm inside her belly" and a thoroughly absorbing tale. More please. Lots more.

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    2. I love that Diego continues to help her from beyond! And I must agree with Sandra; great turn of phrase there!

      Very much looking forward to seeing what "Kensi" does next, and how she got to this spot.

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    3. Thanks! I think she will be an interesting character to explore. :)

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    4. Great second part. I think Diego may haunt her for a while yet. I look forward to learning more about her and her situation. =)

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    5. like this, it has some intriguing possibilities. Be keen to see where it goes.

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    6. I am completely and utterly hooked on this tale and desperate to know more about 'Kensi' - what the brand was and why, what sort of world she's in, and what she is going to do next.

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  4. Gosh, why thank you Colleen - really thrilled to have won when there were so many great stories to compete with. Not sure if I will get time to play this week but hope that everyone has fun with the words; they look like they'll spawn some fantastic tales!

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  5. Well done Phil and Matt - never fail to come up with something awe-ful and inspiring.

    Tao steps from frying pan to fire

    Carrion Jack presented little threat: Tao knew him of old, they’d fought but also thieved together, once shared a cell.
    Jack understood Tao’s abhorrence for altruism; appreciated that receiving payment for his letters necessitated ‘dealing’ with the woman he’d appropriated, but insisted Tao promise not to hurt her:
    ‘Unwise to kill one who understands the use of herbs, e’en though a witch; necessary you deceive.’
    ’Witch?’
    Tao, imagining old crone, cross-finger swore his oath, only to be instantly made wary when, stepped from the shadows, comely, young with knowing eyes of lichen green, she asked: ‘Had you a brother Gabriel?’

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    1. Loved Tao's expectation of the witch and her actual appearance! Favorite description - "eyes of lichen green". I also liked the intro to Carrion Jack, the mention of history in that they fought, thieved and served time together. So much interesting history!

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    2. "...eyes of lichen green." That's good stuff right there. LOL. I'm very interested to know more about Carrion Jack, given his history with Tao. And in truth, I'm ALWAYS curious when a witch is brought into any story. I too, like that you made her different than what Tao, and most folks, would imagine.

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    3. I'll echo Zaiure and Colleen in liking the 'witch switch.' Wonder where this next twist will take us?

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    4. what a good mixture going on here! Carrion Jack is a superb character and coming alive through some superb writing.

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    5. Oh, I like this witch. She seems like a no-nonsense sort, and already has him off balance.

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  6. Yay! First and last stories, it seems :D Grats all...

    Anyhow, here's the latest installment (I am keeping going, even though I feel so very far behind everyone else...) There'll be another "Flashback later as well...

    Bring me the head of... (is this part 4 or 5 now?)

    Gonzo almost had to drag Ame out of the building; trance-like, she meandered like one smoking illegal herbs, half-shut eyes leaking bloody tears.

    Being impulsively altruistic tended to invite trouble, he remembered bitterly: he was wary about treating the kid's symptoms without yet another fuck-up.

    Mumbling something about bones in Japanese, Ame promptly threw up over his boots.

    "She'll bring a riot down on our heads if anyone sees her like this," he sighed. "Conrad, can you do your invisibility again?"

    Conrad signalled: ***OK. For three?***

    The medic looked about, realised that 'Nina' had already melted away, and nodded.

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    1. Every sentence another gem in this tale, and I can't decide whether three or four is my favourite. Keep going Zoe. Please.

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    2. "Impulsively altruistic", I can see how that could cause problems! Really loved your description of becoming invisible in this - "... realized that 'Nina' had already melted away". Lovely!

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    3. I love how quickly this is moving! Such a fun read, Zoe. I'm having a grand time trying to keep up and I can't wait to find out more!

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    4. Enjoying this. And it's true, unfortunately, that altruism can sometimes bite you in the arse.

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    5. I'm enjoying it too, wonderful writing and it moves along so quickly, too, carrying the reader with it.

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    6. I like the way this team works together, aware of each others' strengths and foibles. They didn't get far physically, but the story is moving along at a great pace.

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  7. Fly High

    We were four by the time Milika arrived with the herbs. Him? She asked with a flick of one gilt eyebrow.

    I shrugged, felt my shirt slip and pulled it back to cover my tattoos. The presence of the altruist made me self-conscious; he preached acceptance but I smelled his discontent when his eyes fell on me, caught on my ringed lip and ridged nose. We couldn’t all be purebled.

    Wary, Milika handed the newcomer an amethyst bud; gave me my own with finger to my tongue and we shared a private smile.

    “Saddle up, boys,” I said. “Let’s fly.”

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    1. Like Colleen and Rebecca, the way you conjoin perfectly ordinary words to create perfectly extraordinary and exciting imagery is wonderful to behold. This is lovely.

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    2. I have to agree with Sandra. Your weave words beautifully!

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    3. Curiouser and curiouser, down the rabbit hole they go. ;)

      Lots of little details that bring this to life. The gilt eyebrows, the 'purebled' (which is a fantastic mash of pureblood and purebred), the ridged nose. Love the last line, too. =)

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    4. agree with John here, the blending of words and the image building last line, great.

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    5. Love, love, love the feel to this. So much done with description that sets the stage, creates the world. You have a gift for that.

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  8. A change of focus [25]

    Smear of menthol modern-day equivalent of herbal nosegay, Pettinger questioned his uncle in the most malodorous interview room he could find.
    ‘Rights of entry are granted for reasons of diplomacy; not altruism. Yours has been revoked.’
    ’I killed no-one.’
    ‘Why Gunita?’
    ‘She’s a Dubnovaski.’
    ‘But... her tattoo?’
    ‘Fake. I fucked her to find out.’
    Small smile. ‘How much did she charge?’
    Reciprocated. ‘That’s when I produced the gun. She became wary, fled before I could kill her.’
    ‘Was it you killed Sally-Ann?’
    ‘She had no tattoo.’
    Raptor smile, ‘and no, Yanno, I sent her to you. Now let me go.’

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    Replies
    1. I'm sure a malodorous interview room is great for interrogations! Great back and forth between Pettinger and his uncle.

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    2. Twisty, twisty turns! This is lovely. There's a smoothness, bred of familiarity, in the dialogue. I like that.

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    3. And we weave our way deeper into the tangle... =)

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    4. natural and yet sharply portrayed dialogue. A joy to read

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    5. Superb dialogue that not only moves the plot forward but indicates a level of comfort with their hostile relationship. Holidays must have been fun.

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    6. Thank you all for your encouragement to keep writing and the example you all set to strive to match and entertain.

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  9. will be back later to comment, but jumping in here to share my news,
    Sirens Call Publications want to read all of Skullface when it's done. They said the book was fun and fresh and they want to read the entire thing. I am SOOO pleased!
    the book is at 38000 words and getting very, very dark. The back story is quite horrific at times.

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    Replies
    1. Brilliant news Antonia - well done indeed.

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    2. Congrats! Very exciting. :)

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    3. Congratulations, Antonia! What amazing news!

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    4. Excellent news. Congratulations! =D

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    5. thank you!
      too deeply involved in the book to play, but I am racing through it, 40000 words and counting, so when it is done, I will be back!!

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    6. PS: it may look like we're rushing but it is being planned very carefully, as well as instalments going out to 3 beta readers, 2 horror writers, 1 film director... all telling me they like it so far and have no criticisms.

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    7. Congratulations! I am so happy Skullface has garnered such interest! Keep us posted.

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  10. And here's the promised flashback...

    Flashback(2)

    ...she eventually fought her nausea down; grabbing some of Sako's Lagundi she waved them in Jiro's face, outburst on her lips.

    "You weren't here for herbs," the crimson-skinned Oni pre-empted her. "Mother
    knows: I... we'd've lost you if she hadn't..." he frowned. "It followed you here..."

    "My brother: the altruistic bodyguard," she spat; angry at being insulted, Jiro grabbed her wrist.

    And got a Stunbolt in the face.

    Jiro staggered but held firm, immediately regretting instinctively backhanding his sister; she glared warily at him as she nursed a split lip.

    Dumbfounded, he watched as the wound reknit itself.


    "Magic..."

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    1. I love the intro of magic and/or technology in this! Curious about the stunbolt. I love the second to last line - "watched as the wound reknit itself", and the imagery it conjures.

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    2. Like Zaiure, I was entranced by the wound reknitting, and the relationship between brother and sister. And wondered for a while about 'Lagundi'

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    3. Nice ending. You definitely feel his confusion.

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    4. Ah, the dreaded moment when your family realizes you can use magic. The surprise and fear comes through here.

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  11. errmmmm... and also another one...

    Flashback(3)

    Jiro escorted her home in wary silence; his "working things out" frown made his tusks protrude and discouraged conversation.

    After suffering Mother’s admonishment-laden hugs she retreated to her secret room. Only now could she finally mourn her brief liaison with the Filipino herbalist.

    Her grief gave way to cold rage, cursing her lot: in keeping her 'safe', her family's loving altruism had become stifling. She’d only felt free when she escaped their gaze; learning about the wider world (and kissing) from Sako, or discovering the kami on the island and acquiring their gifts.

    And now Mother knew her secret.

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    1. bugger, it was supposed to be in italics...

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    2. So many twists and turns, and colourful characters, this has a dream/nightmare-like quality - one I want to keep dreaming.

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    3. Nice touch of description with the tusks protruding, and a good hook with the last line. =)

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    4. hooks are essential and yet difficult to write. This is well done.

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    5. This deepens the tale and leaves me wanting to know so much more!

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    6. I agree with John, love the "protruding tusks" and I really like the line mentioning her "brief liaison" with the Filipino herbalist; like the choice of words. This piece conjured so many questions as in "what next?" and I'm looking forward to it. :)

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  12. Tao tries to fight fire with fire

    Tao’s stare was red-black accusation, Jack’s innocence opaque: ‘I never said! I never! But I told you to treat witches wary...’
    Tao, adamant, to her: ‘My brother’s dead.’
    Disbelief: ‘His wife?’
    ‘Also.’
    Eyes tried to slide but hers were pennyroyal effective in aborting Tao’s claims.
    ‘Herbalists deal with truth not altruism: you left her for dead. I saved her. He near died of grief, survived only upon her living. I’m one of many who’ve sworn revenge on you.’
    Tao gathered strength. ‘As I swore to deal with you.’
    Jack, mistakenly forgotten: ‘Both of you have first to answer unto me.’

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    1. Carrion Jack becomes a force to be reckoned with. I'm starting to like this guy. As always, Sandra, this is really well crafted. "...treat witches wary..." That's really nice.

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    2. The plot thickens, not unlike blood...

      Jack certainly has become a force, and in so few episodes. =)

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    3. yes, he has, hasn't he? I get the feeling you like him very much and it shows. I like him and want to see more.

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    4. Is Tao the brother of the Blacksmith in your former tale? I keep seeing connections, but it's been a while since I read that. Still... Matthias, Gabriel, the dead wife and also an interesting allusion to the end of a pregnancy. Either I'm seeing shadows where none are being cast, or you are the most clever of writers. And if I am seeing shadows, that means she's alive. Whoa.

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    5. Well done Rebecca! Ten out of ten for observation - Tao is indeed Mathias, brother of the blacksmith, but I'm not sure where or when or even if they'll meet - or in what state the blacksmith's wife now is, but yes, she IS alive.
      And Carrion Jack inserted himself into the tale, as did the green-eyed witch - that's the magic of these Prediction prompts ;)

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    6. As always, love your word pairings - "innocence opaque", "pennyroyal effective" (interesting reference), and "mistakenly forgotten". Perfect final line and love the shock factor now that we know the blacksmith's wife is alive! So many interesting characters. :)

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  13. Anatomy

    There’s a hand in Briohny’s herb garden. Poe, her one-eyed cat, unearths it while I’m lying on the grass and watching sweat pool in the fish-white curve of my belly. It’s been a long week.

    “Mrow?” Poe says and stares at me pointedly.

    “Ew.” I know it’s a human hand; I’ve taken anatomy. “One of yours?” I say.

    He responds by licking dirt-tipped claws.

    “Well it wasn’t Briohny. She’s an altruist.”

    My phone rings and I check it warily. “Speak of the devil.”

    “Amy!” she says, voice cherubic.

    I can’t help myself. “Need a hand?”

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    1. Oh! This perfect little gem of a tale makes me wish I wasn't addicted (lazily) to serials. Love it all from Poe the one-eyed cat to the final line, and the tone is wonderfully laconic

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    2. This is just brilliant in so many little ways! Poe is a character unto himself. And I must agree with Sandra. The laconic tone is perfect.

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    3. That's fun. An excellent first line and Amy's apathy at the hand is interesting. =)

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    4. Thanks! Love to see reactions to my little stories as always. :)
      @ Sandra - I have so much fun writing little stories for the Prediction but nothing very long! I think I need to start working on that. :)
      @ Colleen - Yes, I have a soft spot for Poe.
      @ John - I was curious what everyone would think about Amy's apparent lack of concern. Very curious. ;)

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    5. This made me smile. I think it's the laid-back way Amy takes the discovery of a hand, and her black humor at the end. Made for the perfect counter-balance to my day.

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  14. No Pain, No Gain

    Sunitra had left me to wait for Seth with a bottle of whiskey and an altruistic smile. Her parting shot had been whispered, almost sadly, against my temple.

    “Go see one of the pretty ones.”

    Seth had come and gone. He’d stunk of herbs, and a need darker than anything any of the “pretty ones” was going to fix.


    Sunitra opened the door, stared warily at me.

    “What do you…?”

    I stepped in, turned her around, and pinned her against the wall.

    I stared at the bindings, considering.

    “Let’s see if I can do it without pain, pretty one.”

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    1. Dirty, wicked and bloody addictive ...

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    2. There's an excellent ferocity and intensity in these brothel-based episodes. Great writing.

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    3. Seems Nate has recovered well (or well enough to play...). Glad he's come back to play. I'd wager Sunitra is, too. I would love to read an extended version of this encounter, but I'm sort of bent that way.

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    4. I agree with John, the intensity definitely comes through here. I really liked the line "I stared at the bindings, considering", as it suggests a variety of possible (dark) outcomes.

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  15. (Rise)

    The front door hung from one hinge, angled and open. Olivia peered into the street, looking for the steam-driven crabs that ranged the city, fearful of the mob that had dragged her father away.

    She dashed to the alley opposite. The wide sky above made her nervous, the cobbles beneath her feet felt wrong.

    At the sound of footsteps she dived behind a pile of sacks. The scent of herbs assailed her nostrils as she pressed herself against the hemp.

    Papa's voice sounded in her head: No man is truly altruistic, be wary of all.

    The footsteps stopped beside her.

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    1. Horror - crabs and fear of being followed, of being found - instantly signpost by the one-hinged, angled and open door. Racked further by the final sentence.

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    2. Her awareness of the sky and street, the smells and sounds, makes it clear how sheltered she'd always been. I am afraid for her, but also sure she's very clever.

      But what do the crabs do??

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    3. Great opening with the first line! An angled and open door generally does not imply good things, and it sets the tone for the rest of the piece. I agree with RR, loved to experience the world through Olivia's senses. I'm also very curious about those crabs!

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  16. OK, here we go again, slipping this one under the deadline.

    The Last Kindness of Friends

    I am, of course, a simple altruist. I can see from the pain in your eyes that you wish this to be over, that the burden of a life grown hollow has become too great. There is no need to be wary of my intent, for I only want the best for you, and this concoction of herbs will allow you to pass on without fuss or discomfort.

    We have been friends many years, and now you should let me do this last thing for you. Then your life’s burdens, the riches, the women, the base politics, will be mine.

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    1. "slipping this one under the deadline" as easily and apparently innocuously as the concoction of herbs is slipped to the friend. The horror in this is deceptively understated, but attacks one across the back of the neck, with a sweaty, creeping sensation.

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    2. So very insidious, the tone of this, a real sense of the narrator being "doctor death." I get the sense that the friend's illness might also have been concocted, perhaps slowly, so as to escape notice. This is delightfully dark.

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    3. I can't believe his intent is anything but nefarious! I thought the flow worked very well, leaving the reader to wonder what his true intentions are, and then ending it with such a deadly final line. Loved the narration and picture it paints. I too think the illness was probably his doing. Am I the only one who heard maniacal laughter at the end? ;)

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  17. Thank goodness for later posting times! I was on vacation all week. I'll try to get comments to those I've missed. In the meantime, have a bit of Seth:

    Two Steps Forward…

    Sybil watched, wary, as I plundered her storeroom. Packets of herbs joined powders, stones, and bones.

    “You’ll bleed me dry,” she said without rancor.

    “We still wouldn’t be even, though as spell ingredients go, your blood is top-shelf.”

    “Don’t threaten me, boy.”

    I gave her my true smile. “We both know that isn’t necessary. Times have changed.”

    “I could tell you how it all ends.” A brittle offer.

    “I’ll pass. You’re no altruist, so I’ll save my question for something I really want to know.”

    “Like how to kill your father?”

    “Did that.”

    She laughed. “Never so easy. He lives.”

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    Replies
    1. This is so vivid: I can see their shadows on the wall as they talk, as Seth reaches to the shelves. Dialogue so finely balanced allowing us to understand the shiftings of their relationships, and has that ... well, I don't really know, but that quality that sets a fizz of delight going in my head.
      And what a final line!!

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  18. Excellent dialogue as usual! You always have killer lines; my favorites were "your blood is top-shelf" and Seth's response to her question about killing his father. Also love the surprise at the end. What does this mean for the story? :)

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  19. It's 11:30 here in New England, and it's time to shove the gates closed for the week and let the snow pile up. I'll shovel out tomorrow around 3 PM with words and winners! As always...every entry was fabulously entertaining and well crafted. Sleep well tonight. The Tome is snoring and grunting from beneath my bed, where it has taken to spending evenings. Good night, all!

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