Saturday, 14 December 2013

Best Laid Plans

Alas, my desire to get to winners and words early was a bust. That's what happens when one has a day job. Also what happens when it snows quite a bit and someone runs you off the road into a ditch. I have managed to make it home, only a little worse for wear.

Judging the entries from last week has been really difficult.  There were so many good stories. I am truly grateful to all of you for coming here each week (or as you're able) to share your stories and give feedback to your fellow writers. This was a robust week, and I appreciate your enthusiasm.

Edging out the competition this week is Zaiure, with Twice-Born. The world building in so few words is impressive, and the whole thing was both beautiful and disconcerting.

A most honorable mention goes to John Xero for his latest installment of (rise). I want so much for this to be a full-length book some day, so I can find out what happens to Olivia and George, et al without waiting.

The Tome has offered up these words for our perusal and delight.

Erupt
Varnish
Cold

The usual rules apply: 100 words maximum (excluding 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 and stems are fine. You have one week. I can't wait to see what tales you tell!

52 comments:

  1. Many congratulations, Zaiure!
    Hope you're OK, Rebecca, no damage to you, how's the car?
    My grandmother had a saying, oft repeated, don't tell the devil your plans. I have found that to be sooo accurate over the years!
    Thanks to everyone for some great reading this week.

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  2. Wow, thank you! :) And congrats John! So many great stories last week. And glad to hear you're ok Rebecca, after being run off the road. Yikes!

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  3. Omen Tree [2]

    Two of the twice-born lay broken at the base of the Omen Tree, its trunk varnish-black from years of reverent fingertips. Their hair was shorn, eyes burned from their heads, but DeSata was uncertain if it'd been the power, or by the Hands of the Machine. The earth was torn by the soldiers' ursa mounts, and she could smell the cinnamon oil from their leather armor; they'd definitely been present.

    DeSata's breath caught in the cold air, and she felt anger erupt inside her belly, burning fierce and black. No more hiding. She would bring death to the Machine.

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    1. And all power to DeSata! I especially enjoyed the reference to cinnamon-oil, tickled a sense I too rarely remember to employ, and was horrified at the description of the twice-born. Eagerly await the next episode

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    2. Curiouser and curiouser! I am hooked, so much I want to know. Excited to see where DeSata's anger will take us. =)

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    3. There are some nice descriptive flourishes - 'cinnamon-oil' and 'burning fierce and black', which help heighten an intriguing narrative. It will be interesting to see what comes next.

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    4. this builds up a scenario which makes me want to know more, and soon.

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  4. The Rot [2]

    “Eva, listen!” Erik held up his hands placatingly. “The Rot is coming. Here.” He picked up the axe again, but Eva didn’t seem to notice.

    Suspicion, fear, and rage stormed inside her unblinking eyes. ”You’re lying,” Eva said, though her voice lacked certainty.

    “I killed two Stranglers.”

    She seemed about to protest, then abruptly slapped a hand against her chest, body convulsing violently. Guttural pants of pain fled her lips, and she looked past Erik to the west. “Dead. They’re dead!”

    Dirt and torn wood erupted beyond the western hills, and Eva staggered again.

    “We must leave,” Erik said coldly.

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    Replies
    1. And I don't have a clue what comes next here!

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    2. Something wicked this way comes... Nice tension between the pair, and a bigger threat looming over them both, great set-up to something longer (I hope! =D ).

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    3. Wow, now that's how to conjure a cliff hanger!

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    4. oh yes, cliff hanger indeed! Superb build up, giving us just so much and no more.

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  5. Means to an End

    My magic threatened to erupt. “Pull over.”

    Nate ignored me.

    “Pull over, or I fry the engine.” Energy balled between my shaking hands.

    He complied. “Why not threaten to kill me?”

    “Unvarnished truth? You wouldn’t care as much.”

    “Look, Seth…”

    “Call Kaia. There has to be another way.” I slammed the door, walked away. Magic released left a blackened crater.

    “Feel better?” Nate asked when I got back in.

    I opened my mouth to answer. He popped a cold stone onto my tongue. Both muscles and magic went dead.

    “I’m sorry. Really.”

    Unable to answer, I began devising suitable retribution.

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    Replies
    1. There are times when Nate deserves everything that Seth sends his way; this is one of them.

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    2. Definitely not going well for Seth! I liked the shift of power in this piece - starting w/ Seth needing to expend his extra energy/magic, then losing it completely at the end (for now). Several great lines - 'unvarnished truth', 'both muscles and magic went dead' and 'I began devising suitable retribution'.

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    3. Really like the understated nature of the trick, can imagine him there, body dead, brain whirling.

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    4. There are some lovely lines here, such as 'energy balled' and 'unvarnished truth'. I'm intrigued about the magic and power, and the energy created between these two characters.

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    5. it's the fiery (in every way) dialogue between these two which sustains this and makes me want to know just what is going on behind the facade these two are presenting to each other most of the time and the world the rest of the time!!

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  7. Congratulations to Zauire - well deserved indeed, and I second the wish for John's 'rise' to become a book, sooner or later.

    Dish of the day?

    The shape of his head, more visible as my eyes became accustomed to the gloom, was reminiscent of an Elisabeth Frink – stone Tribute rather than bronze Aggressor.
    Solid column of throat the same for either. His sweat-varnished, black against soft white cotton.
    I stepped inside.
    Behind me, a collective intake of breath, part-suppressed; a single eruption of protest, immediately silenced. From Julian, who I hadn’t yet learned to trust.
    His hands lifted slightly, a thin rattle of a chain.
    He whispered again, lips rimed with light, eyes lignite glittering.
    My blood ran cold.
    From behind me, silence. Avidly awaiting entertainment.

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    Replies
    1. So much excellent wordplay in this! Really loved the description of his head/face in the beginning, as well as 'solid column of throat'. You definitely are skilled at describing things in new and interesting ways. :) Excellent threat at the end and 'avidly awaiting entertainment' is simply delicious. :)

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    2. Thank you Zaiure - the opportunity - sometimes necessity - to eke out new meanings is one of the huge benefits of this challenge.

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    3. This is tantalising; the descriptions provoke and evoke in equal measure. The last line is simply brilliant - understated yet powerful.

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    4. Love the title, the sly humour in the question. And I completely agree with AJ about that final line. In fact, the final few lines. =)

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    5. oh this is so good, so meaty, it's the only way I can describe it. Solid reading.

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  8. A change of focus [67]

    Far off, a cavalcade of flashing blue.
    Vanessa, slipping inside, screeched as a black shape erupted, slithering around her ankles before disappearing.
    Jack Divine appeared, silhouetted against an inner door. ‘Never had you as a back entrance sort of girl... lost the key again?’
    ‘Where’s Dolly?’
    Involuntarily, John sniggered.
    Cold eyes appraised. ‘Policeman, there’s a body in the hall...’
    ‘Jack, you fool, you didn’t need to...’
    ‘She made me a laughing-stock.’
    ‘You made her unhappy.’
    Pettinger, quietly, ‘Vanessa, you’d better come.’
    Naked but for her nail varnish which, purple, matched her tongue, Dolly Divine gently swung from a first-floor chandelier.

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    1. So many excellent lines in this piece. Loved the imagery of 'a cavalcade of flashing blue', and the final line, horrible though it was. The piece carried along rapid-fire and then suddenly there's a stillness to capture the scene. Also, I couldn't stop laughing about Jack's line to Vanessa 'Never had you as a back entrance sort of girl'. :)

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    2. yes and yes, racing along, then stop to consider what's really happened. I'm reading a Jack Reacher book, in it he says 'the room went silent.' With this dialogue, rapid fire as it is, there is no need to state the obvious, it just happens, we go silent, we view the gently swinging body.

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  9. Well done Zaiure! And to John for his honourable mention. I shall return to comment tomorrow.

    Hush, Baby

    It wasn’t his fault.

    He couldn’t help it, couldn’t help the rage. It would erupt at the slightest provocation, like a demonic mist to shield the demon in his eyes. A mask; to protect him.

    The veins in his knuckles throbbed. Alcohol fizzed in his mouth. Streaks of blood smeared his fingers, still warm.

    But it wasn’t his fault. The shrilly noise of her screams had been too much to bear. He had to shut her up.

    She lay at his feet, her cold complexion, like cracked varnish, still visible in the dull light.

    She was barely six months old.

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    Replies
    1. Did you hear my muted scream at this? Truly horrific. Because oh so possible.

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    2. Oh.

      Oh.

      Powerful, painful writing, each line showing something more, and then, when you think it's bad enough, real enough, the final line destroys you.

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    3. Wow. John pretty much summed it up. Very powerful and painful piece. 'Her cold complexion, like cracked varnish...' was an excellent descriptive line.

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  10. Congratulations Zaiure, a worthy winner. And thank you, Rebecca. =)

    (alpha)

    They slammed into the ground and the impact jarred Adam's bones but he felt the fierce grip loosen and fall away as the corpse-thing went limp, out cold. There was no blood, no visible damage. Whatever the varnish of blue whorls was – alien parasite or biotechnology or something else – it had made the body incredibly durable.

    He could hear sirens approaching, and military choppers. The government would have to figure out some way to confine it, a normal cell wouldn't work.

    He lifted himself up, wary, but not wary enough. The blue throbbed and a powerful punch erupted from below.

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    1. Ah, yes, those wonderful blue whorls and Adam, as you say, not wary enough. Eager to hear how he gets out of this.

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    2. Really love the description of the corpse-thing, and it's 'blue whorls'. Excellent mix of more story (government etc), followed by another gut-punch cliffhanger. :)

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    3. vivid descriptions here, John, setting up the scene so well I can almost see it.

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  11. I definitely plan to keep writing Rise. I have notions of certain events to come, though not everything that's going to happen, or what will happen to any individuals... =)

    Thanks for the support. =)


    (rise)

    They ran, her hand in his, and between breaths he told her about the dog lords.

    "I ain't gonna varnish this, Olivia. Just the brutal truth. They're a bad crew, erupting onto the streets from below, some place in the sewers, and by the cold light of the moon they hunt. If they catch you, they might just eat you. But they might drag you back to the den.

    "We get caught by them, best we can hope for is a quick death, 'cause anything else is worse. They like to play with their food, and they play real nasty."

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    Replies
    1. Glad to hear you're continuing with Rise! :)

      You always manage to use the challenge words so effortlessly. Loved how you've differentiated their voices in this - each voice unique, and conversation always flows naturally. Really intrigued by these dog lords. :)

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    2. you HAVE to continue with Rise!
      this is a great instalment.

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  12. (rise)

    Dusk painted the sky purple as they raced through twisting alleys and back streets until Olivia was truly lost. Charlie, Harry, Ruth were ahead of them, the dog lords still behind.

    "The people they don't eat, they break their minds, turn them, run them with the pack, leashed and savage, forgetting what they were, all varnish of humanity stripped away.

    "I been witness to that evil. Makes your blood run cold, seeing an animal in your friend's skin, their goodness ripped away till that beast at the pit of every person erupts with an inhuman wailing and hunger and bloodlust."

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    1. There is the merest twitch of "be careful what you wish for" in asking for more of these. 'like to play with their food' is all the nastier for normally being addressed to children, and ain't gonna varnish this' delightful. And George's words at the end of the second episode truly chilling.

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    2. Wow, I'm constantly impressed by all the layers and pieces you've been weaving into your story. The description of the dog lords 'captives' is horrible and awesomely written! So many great lines - 'all varnish of humanity stripped away', and 'seeing an animal in your friend's skin'... and pretty much the whole thing. :)

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  13. Calculated Risks

    I patted Seth’s shoulder and grinned widely at him.“Sit tight, little brother.”

    I kept my visit with Kaia short by necessity. She told me what I needed to know and warned me about the cold stone. Truth was, there was going to be no varnishing Seth’s ass with logic on this one.

    In the car, I leaned close, and whispered, “Do me a favor, hold off on murder long enough to just listen, OK?”

    With that I leaned him forward and slapped him hard on the back.

    The stone popped neatly into my hand and the world erupted red.

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    Replies
    1. Wow, what a turnaround! What next for this fearsome duo?

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    2. Oh, for goodness sake! Why red? Who's done what? Have I to wait a week (at least!!) to find out? This is such a vivid, fluently told episode - it really is a considerable feat for you and Rebecca to keep it going for so long.

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    3. He should have done his talking while Seth was still as a stone... I wonder what he's done...

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  14. The Captain is here...
    Infinity 36
    From nothing to gales. From breeze to erupting storms. Now we fly before the force of nature, every inch of sail exposed to the coldness of the night. This be sailing, this be what I be born for! Them’s as deplore the storms want to varnish over the rough side of being at sea, but not this captain. I delights in it.
    And at last I found a way to turn the tables on the First Mate. He be on the wheel this night from the depths of Hell and there he stays until dawn. The captain has spoken.

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    1. Don't know why, but I invariably see the captain as a shorter-than-average, strutting sort of man - he certainly fulfills that here. Nice use of varnish, especially.

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    2. Ha! Can't help getting caught up in the captain's enthusiasm. Sounds like a wild ride. =D

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  15. And in keeping with this week's post title, I came home from a shopping trip and dinner with a delightful cabal of ladies and completely forgot to come in and close the gates. Consider it done.

    I will have winners and words up this evening....I hope.

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