Sunday, 16 March 2014

And a good time was had by all

Last week's challenge brought such an incredible bounty of excellent (and disturbing) tales! Thank you all so much for sharing your great stories and also for commenting. One of the things that has always set The Prediction apart - from its start at Lily Childs' Feardom through its tenure at Phil Ambler's place (anyone know his new blog address?) and into its new home here - is the great feedback and support of all the writers. Thank you all so much for that.

The winner of last week's challenge is Colleen Foley with Honey's Cooking Tonight. There was such a sense of playfulness that made the horror of the ending that much more impressive.

Runner up is Zaiure, whose Archive created an entire world in 100 words and left me wanting more.

In truth, every story had something to recommend it, and I read them all multiple times. I can't wait to see what you do with this week's words!

Concert
Shake
Broken

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 until Friday evening.

Feel free to post links to your stories on Twitter or Facebook or whichever social media best pleases you and, if you like, remind your friends that we are open to new and returning writers.

99 comments:

  1. Thank you! I LOVED writing that piece. It was great fun!

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  2. congratulations Colleen, and Zaiure, brilliant writing from you both.
    Oh, such intriguing words...

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  3. Congrats Colleen, and thank you for the runner up nomination. :) So many great stories last week. I love to see what everyone writes for the prompts. Looking forward to another great week of imagination!

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  4. Lots of congratulations Colleen and Zaiure, wonderful stories!

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  5. Congrats to the Colleen and Zaiure! Your stories were amazing.

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  6. Another blow for Johnny.

    Dad Writes Erotica

    The book’s title, “Naked” kindled Johnny’s curiosity at once but even more the author’s name; it was his dad’s. The boy shook with shame and rage. The image of his father so gravely seated in the family bench at church crossed his mind. Everyone would find out and comments would flow like an endless concert till he died.
    At supper Johnny was so nervous that he broke the glass.
    “You look tired, better go to bed,” his father said and smiled alluringly to his wife.
    The thought that his mom could be the source of dad’s inspiration made him cry.

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    1. But that's so wrong!! Everyone knows parents don't have sex, and certainly nothing erotic. Ugh!!

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    2. Ha! A special, personal kind of horror. As long as he never gives in to that curiosity...

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    3. such a crystal clear look into a child's mind, perfect writing!

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    4. Haha definitely a child's fear and horror come to life!

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    5. This taps into our primitive fears so well, the fact that we couldn't possibly imagine our parents doing anything like that!

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    6. This made me laugh and cringe at the same time. Fantastic.

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  7. I feel bad for Johnny. I really do. The horror that such revelations can bring to the mind of a kid is universal and you've captured it beautifully. Thank you.

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  8. Well-earned recognition Colleen and Zauire!

    Question of mortality

    Roughly shaken from exhausted sleep, pulled to sitting, I’d forgot I’d given birth.
    He held its head, fragile as a Christmas bauble, within his prize-fighter palm.
    I heard a thin relentless mewling; thought of a broken-hearted Siamese kitten, seeking its mother.
    ‘Feed it, before it dies.’
    He pushed down the sheet. I was naked. Watching dumbly, as he placed it in my arms, attempted to coordinate mouth and nipple, I remembered it had been those self-same hands which undressed and spread and handled me. Which had conducted the bloody concert of its birth.
    ‘It will die?’ I ask.
    ‘In time.’

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    1. Love that final line so much. A fascinating pairing, these two. He grows in complexity and depth all the time.

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    2. I agree with John, that is a wonderful final line. There is such depth and such agony in this short piece.

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    3. Impressive images, loved the "bloody concert" and the final line has the strength of an everlasting sentence.

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    4. Oh, Sandra, what a horrible trap you've woven here. Antonia has it right. Agony is the only proper descriptive for how even reading this feels. This is a beautifully woven piece. Thank you.

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    5. Definitely can't think of a better word than 'agony' as Antonia and Colleen mentioned. Beautiful and powerful writing with a shocking and grabbing final two lines. Many great phrasings as well like 'fragile as a Christmas bauble' and 'prize-fighter palm' -- say so much!

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    6. I particularly liked the analogy of the Christmas bauble and the child's head - creating the image of something delicate and fragile, all set against the fear and dread of the narrative. Excellent stuff.

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    7. This just gets more and more tense. The creature's actions are both tender and frightening, and I have no idea how it will play out.

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  9. Congratulations Colleen and Zaiure. =)


    Fractured

    Everything was broken, wrong.

    Marvin looked through his fingers, slatted blinds, letting in angles of the world.

    Bits of light slid down the walls like paint drips. The ceiling shook and crumbs of amber sunset dusted gently down, settling on everything, on him, piling into softly glowing dunes.

    All sound capsized into a sublime concert: traffic percussion underlining ornithological woodwind; a brass section of men playing football in the park.

    The death throes of the world.

    The window swallowed itself and Marvin climbed through, falling between layers of universe, looking for someplace new. Someplace safe. Away from his broken world.

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    1. this is rich with imagery and touches all senses, the amber sunset, the traffic percussion, so much here. I read it through twice and found it as rich both times.

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    2. Gorgeous descriptions, rich and disturbing and vey very visual.

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    3. So many wonderful images! "The death throes of the world" is so impressive. Reading the story made me feel enriched.

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    4. I simply have no words. This is beautiful and terrible and so intricate. The last paragraph is stunning. I've read it no less than six times and I cannot stop reading again and again. Thank you!

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    5. Hitchhiker´s Guide meets Inception! Perfect =)

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    6. I absolutely adored the rich imagery in this piece! So many evocative phrases and I loved how the story slow unfolded. The beginning was packed with so many wonderful descriptions I can't pick out my favorites. :)

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    7. This is so packed with imagery and description it lifts the words from the narrative and transports the reader entirely. Superb writing.

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    8. This is just amazing - gorgeous and heartbreaking, all encapsulated in the line: The death throes of the world.

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  10. Scenter [2]

    Odd she would attempt a lie; the shape of her eyes and shaking hands suggested she knew what he was.

    Flaring his nostrils, Dragas distilled another breath. He smelled sweat and fear, and the stench of her deception, but there was strength as well, a resistance to being broken. ”Have you ever attended an Itharakian concert, my little archivist?”

    The woman blinked, seemingly unbalanced by his question. “I have not.”

    “So many delicious scents. A harsh cacophony of truth and lies. Noise to most, but a Scenter smells each separate, clearly.” His pupils narrowed. “Are the Star Lords alive?"

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    1. and the story proceeds, leaving as many questions as it answers. Beautiful writing.

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    2. Two fascinating and enthralling protagonists, told with insight - can't wait to see how this pans out.

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    3. Another great description! The characters are alive, unique and subtle just as their dialogue.

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    4. Great writing and interesting characters building a genuine sense of intrigue in the people, the world and the truths behind it. =)

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    5. Such a darkly enchanting piece! Beautifully written I cannot wait to find out more about these characters and this world. Thank you!

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    6. This shows how character driven narrative can work well. The action/reaction of both characters is well observed. Very intriguing to what lies in store...

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    7. Such a fantastic dynamic between these two, revealing and tense. I love this.

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  11. Infinity 48.
    We been berthed here now for three long days. Crew’s ashore, what will be broken by the time they get back, I do wonder, what state they be in too, I do wonder. First Mate didn’t go, made a concerted effort to hold some back, but they went. He cooks a reasonable meal; I have no worries about starving. First Mate seems to have shaken off the curse, wish to God I knew how, I could rescue the others then. He says they be biddable and asks no more than that. I ask for a crew to rely on.

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    1. I love it when the Captain gets introspective and am impressed by how clearly you enable us to see this scene without a word of description of his surroundings.

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    2. Characters, actions are so vivid and the curse keeps hovering sinister... A very suggestive scene.

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    3. There's a gentleness to the pace of these and yet it manages to hold my attention as well as anything else, and always has me looking forward to more. The Captain's voice is so well captured.

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    4. I love how seamlessly you weave such emotionally charged thoughts with more mundane ones. His musings about First Mate's ability to shake off the curse, flow beautifully into "He cooks a reasonable meal..." Thank you!

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    5. I agree with John, the Captain's voice always comes through very well and I recognize his narration. :) Sandra also caught the other thing I noticed - giving us a good sense of his environment without needing to describe it specifically.

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    6. Agree with the others - a softness of pace and an introspective hint, like reading someone's diary, yet we're invited to be present.

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    7. This is a softer side of the captain, but it's not surprising as much as rewarding. His care for his crew has always come through, even as he curses them.

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  12. Well done Colleen and Zaiure, congrats to you both.

    Reflections

    Sounds; a melodious, ethereal concert seeped from the delicate folds of stillness that draped the hallways and rooms of the manor house each night.

    Echoes dallied like butterflies caught on a breeze.

    They danced every night, ensnared by rapture and delight, twirling across the wooden floors, their laughter crackling through the air and shaking the foundations.

    The fun never seemed to stop. Nights were long, days short.

    But they couldn’t see the rotted staircases, crumbling plaster or broken windows, or the moss creeping across the floors. Couldn’t see reality.

    They were mere reflections. Dead. They just didn’t know it.

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    1. Fantastic descriptions, and a great transition from the eery opening line to the haunted house reveal, making it feel both unreal and real in perfect proportion.

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    2. I agree with John and Sandra. This is a beautifully descriptive piece. I often feel sorry for the ghosts. However, in this case, the final line brought a sense of relief instead. I like that they can live our their afterlives in blissful ignorance. Thank you.

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    3. A beautifully written piece with a nice surprise towards the end. Loved the imagery of the first sentence, and the second, and the final line was perfect. :)

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    4. Absolutely poignant. The descriptions are so ethereal and delicate; the word "reflections" at the end captures them all and perfectly leads to the sadly strong one that follows.

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    5. Echoes dallied like butterflies caught on a breeze. Such a beautiful, evocative phrase that leads us gently into the decay. And yet, I find comfort in the fact that they're are blissfully unaware.

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  13. Technical Difficulties
    I feel the catwalk shake under my feet, but don’t slow down. Some news must be delivered in person. I reach the manager’s office just as he closes the door. “Sir! The Proscenium… it isn’t working.”
    He ogles at me like I’m speaking gibberish. “What?”
    “It’s broken, sir.”
    “We have hundreds of saints working in concert to keep it up at all times, it can’t just break!”
    “Nevertheless…”
    He bounds out onto the catwalk, but I already know what he’ll see. Thousands of feet below, seven billion souls are looking up and seeing the sky drawing back like a curtain.

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    1. This gets scarier with each re-reading - such a wonderfully original idea and so well put.

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    2. All the world's a stage... ;)

      Fantastic punchline that immediately demands a re-read, and rewards it, too. =)

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    3. I cannot even begin to describe my delight in reading this! It's smart, and funny and terribly frightening all at once. The last line is brilliant. Thank you!

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    4. Brilliant job transporting the reader into a unique and interesting world. Loved the imagery and anticipation of the final line.

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    5. Impressive final images. Loved reading it.

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    6. The pace and immediacy demands attention and fascination. Loved that last sentence.

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    7. This is astoundingly well done. I love the build up to the ultimate reveal.

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  14. I know what I know

    First time Ciara woke up with a broken bone, Father demanded to know who had hurt his baby girl.

    “Happened in the dream place, Pop-Pop.” She wouldn’t recant, even for a chocolate shake.

    Sixth time, she came into the den dragging her leg. “Oakmen disturbed the King’s concert. They trampled me.”

    Despair filled Father’s eyes. He already had a bed in the psych ward on standby.

    That very night, They came for their Queen, and I watched my little sister disappear through the wall.

    Nothing you say or give me will make me recant, but I do appreciate the bed.

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    1. Whoo! This has left me ll discombobulated. But fascinated. Thank you.

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    2. Oh that is dark. Disturbing. Great edge of fantasy and depth of helplessness to it. Excellent.

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    3. Superb description of the child's "dream place" and so wonderfully disturbing. Loved reading it!

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    4. I admit that I had to read this a couple of times to get it all sussed out, and I'm still not quite sure I've got right. Here's the thing, though...the fact that I'm not quite sure I've got it all...is one fantastic hook! Seriously. If this was the first page of something I picked up in a book store, I would HAVE to read it! Also, the dream place is fascinating! Thank you!

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    5. Definitely dark and disturbing but oh so intriguing. I love when dreamworlds bleed over into the 'real/conscious' world in a story. Definitely a little curious about the sibling's seeming indifference/unconcern. Would love to learn more! :)

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    6. Whoa, that's a metaphorical slap across the senses. So dark and full with perceived fear and well chosen words that make something childlike so disturbing to us adults. Great last line, it stuck in my mind long after I had read it.

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  15. A change of focus [79]

    Shaking his head, trying to calculate the optimum quantity of regret, John Pettinger murmured ‘I’m already betrothed, for reasons of territory; succession –‘
    ‘Make me your mistress?’
    Bugger: too much. Eyes widened, appalled: ‘Impossible!’
    ‘She would not allow it?’
    Piously ‘I’d not allow myself.’
    ‘You love her?’
    ‘I –‘
    ‘Can’t this... this troth be broken?’
    ‘Only upon death –‘
    ‘Hers? A concerted effort could arrange it –‘
    Sharp-eyed: ‘Yours and mine?’
    ‘I was thinking of Quintain – after all, you’ve both done it before –‘
    ‘You’re fantasising –‘
    ‘Only as much as you are, about your inheritance.’
    Pettinger cursed. In Khakbethian.

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    1. Love the back and forth, to and fro, lexical fencing so often present in your dialogue, exemplified here. Clever and fun to read.

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    2. As always, smart and truly entertaining dialogue, Sandra. The pacing is perfect. And I must reiterate, I feel quite sorry for poor Pettinger. Great reading. Thank you!

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    3. You're definitely a master of rapid-fire, intriguing dialogue. :) Definitely feels like Pettinger has lost control of this situation. ;)

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    4. Ha! She has him cornered and I don't know how he's getting out of this one.

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  16. It's Gonna Be A Great Show

    “Adam, you can’t let those idiots play a concert here just because they named themselves Broken Mind. The townies don’t call it that for nothing. There have been more than thirty cases in the last decade of people disappearing, committing violent crimes, or going bugfuck insane after breaking into this place."

    “Shake it off, Meela. You’re the care taker. Get it ready.”

    I started to reply, but he’d hung up.

    I looked at the stage, imagining the five young men playing there, as soft whispers began echoing through deserted hallways and rooms.

    The patients were spreading the news.

    “They’re coming…”

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    1. Creepy, and so insidious, after such an innocent opening line.

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    2. I love how many possible interpretations there are for what's happening in this story.

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    3. A good week for haunted houses this week.

      Well-structured and cleverly revealed. I like this. =)

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    4. Deliciously creepy. At least Meela tried to warn them. ;) Great intro with the first paragraph.

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    5. Such a vivid and subtle description and a very suggestive final line. I would go on reading it over and over again.

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    6. Agree, there's a creepy vibe here, veiling the obvious dread that's about to happen. Very effective last line.

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    7. You know that mental institutes are a gigantic no-go place for me - even in story - but I find myself desperate to know what happens next. Well done, indeed!

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  18. (rise)

    A tremble threatened to steal through Olivia’s limbs and she pushed at George, not wanting him to feel her shaking. He resisted for a moment then let her roll away.

    She lay on her back, bringing her breathing under control. It took a concerted effort not to panic at the not-quite-human not-quite-animal turbulence of the dog lords and their pack rioting past the closed hatch.

    Twice in a day. She was flung back to that very morning and her claustrophobic hiding hole, the rioters raging through her broken home, stealing her papa away.

    Only stubbornness kept her from crumbling.

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    1. So GOOD to see Olivia again and such clean and beautiful prose. Thank you John

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    2. Olivia feels so very real and I love how you've captured her fear and vulnerability, but also her strength. She's a surviver. Beautiful and sad final line.

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    3. Yay! Olivia is back! Second paragraph is beautifully, frighteningly, descriptive. The last line is so evocative. Everyone knows that feeling. Thank you.

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    4. Olivia is so strong for such a young girl, and you capture the trauma of her situation beautifully. I feel scared for her and yet hopeful she will find a way to some kind of safety.

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  19. (Cosmic Discord)

    We slipped from our asteroid and broke for the centre of the system, a mouse skittering from the skirting boards, cats already bearing down on us, or in our case – the three assault ships.

    The calm of our cabin belied the tension I was sure boiled within each of us. I dared not remove my hand from the console for fear the others would see it shake.

    Harriet’s fingers flitted around the controls. She was as much a marvel as our ship, conducting the Symphony as though she were a solo piece and not an intricate concert of advanced technologies.

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    1. So wonderful to see skirting boards, and 'I dare not remove my hand' so telling. Brilliant final sentence.

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    2. The calm before the storm... feels like peeking at one of those staged scenes where everyone has caught their breath and is waiting, waiting. Loved this. :)

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    3. The tension here is palpable. Skillfully written. I love the final line. Can't wait to read more of this! Thank you, John.

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    4. Amazing sense of place, tension building, and that last beautiful image combine to make this a really strong episode.

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  20. This World has Come to an End


    There´s nothing I won´t tell you, nothing I won´t show.

    I shake the bottles with their sweet remains and they rattle like sand, like stone, like dust. It´s all I´ve got left and it´s beautiful I think: cry-mascara! My lashes gone dark.

    Did you hear this song; “Dumb ways to die”? This is it and I spin, out of orbit, impossibly broken.

    A hundred years ago we could have saved each other. Fifty years ago, maybe. Now it´s a final concert by those long gone depressed Russians.

    “Prokofiev!” I cry and run. That´s it. Curtain.

    Promise you won´t look back.

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    1. Beautiful and sadly poignant. Loved the imagery of the bottles - 'their sweet remains and they rattle like sand, like stone, like dust'. Two of my favorite powerful lines were 'A hundred years ago we could have saved each other' and 'promise you won't look back'.

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    2. Heavens, an entire novel in one hundred words, I echo Zaiure's liking for 'promise you won't look back' , but stand out for me was the first and 'Did you hear this song; “Dumb ways to die”?'

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    3. Good to see you back asuqi. I feel there's plenty of layers yet to be revealed in this story, and the word that stood out for me was the metaphor, 'Curtain'. That one word said so much.

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    4. I keep coming back to read this, so lyrical and gorgeous and terribly sad.

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  21. All right, my talented friends. It's that time. The gates are closed for this week. I shall return with winners and words on the morrow. Please feel free to continue commenting!

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