Monday, December 29, 2014

FINISH THAT THOUGHT #2-26




We're back for one last jaunt in 2014! I hope your year was blessed, and added love and growth and contentment to your life. May the next one be even better. Now go check out the prompt and write one last (or near last) story in 2014!!! :)




If you haven't read the full version of the rules, go here. Otherwise, here's the short version:

Rules:
1. Start with the given first sentence.
2. Up to 500 words
3. Keep it clean (nothing rated R or above)
4. Optional Special Challenge
5. Stories submitted must be your own work, using characters and worlds that you have created. Sorry, no fanfiction.
6. Include: Twitter/email, word count, Special Challenge accepted
7. The challenge is open for 24 hours on Tuesday EST



Oh, and feel free to change pronounspunctuationtense, and anything in brackets to fit the story/pov/tone. I'm not going to be TOO picky... Our judge however...


Our Judge today is Michael Simko. Read his winning tale from last week here! Michael is a story teller who writes novels, shorts, and dabbles in flash fiction. He's a father of two, a lover of storms, and works as an engineer and instructor. He is a regular contributor to writingwenches.com (he's the barkeep). He can be found on Twitter at @MichaelSimko1.





 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #2-26 is:




"Proclaim your [love] for [me], and [I] [may] spare you," [she] says.





 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:


In honor of the new year, include a theme of rebirth or a fresh start. 





 
AAAAAAAND WE'RE OFF!!!







19 comments:

  1. "May [I] look [at a] Queen" (500 words) by @DoctorMikeReddy

    "Proclaim your [love] for [me], and [I] [may] spare you," [she] says.

    I turn, brow furrowed. Professor Lofting, Project Babel's Lead Investigator, raises an eyebrow.

    "DO little by nature too, it seems…" he mocks me mirthlessly. Not since the start of Babel has he called me Lisa, despite being asked, or even the sterner Elizabeth Grandpa John insisted on using; something about hating Pygmalion.

    "The bracketed insertions are Babel's attempt to clarify vague references in the translation, Sir. This IS an alien language… it's likely that syntax and structure could be wildly different to our own."

    "Still, doesn't bode well, does it Dolittle?" Lofting turns to the military representatives, shrugging. "It is possible the apparent aggression is just our interpretation."

    I stare at the man with the most ribbons, not hearing his query at first; something about what Hugh… Professor Lofting… just said. High ranking soldier sees my distraction and waits. He's clearly worked with boffins before.

    It's obvious he's seen his fair share of stuffed shirts as well, because he brushes past Lofting, and examines the wired cap attached to ghe subject's small furred skull. "And what," he peers at my ID tag, "Lisa, do you think?"

    I smile nervously. "Well, the lack of direct, personal noun. No 'I' 'me' or 'she'. This indicates a grammar that doesn't need self-reference."

    I'm warming up now, able to finally speculate to someone that wants to listen. From his visitor's pass, my audience is a General. Stubbins. Thomas. He's quick too, tracking my gaze.

    "Call me Tommy. This isn't a military project. Yet. However, I do need to know if the translator is representing true hostility. You understand."

    I nod.

    "Is it possible to ask questions, given we cannot refer to the creature directly?"

    Lofting begins to answer, but Stubbins waves him mute with a finger.

    "Come on, Lisa!" I think. I try several different memes to see if any can capture the idea of modal auxiliaries, the polite interrogative. I'm lost for words. "I just don't know. It's too inhuman a mind."

    Lofting coughs an unsubtle interjection. "If I may, General." I can't see the Professor calling him Tommy. "Dolittle may be a third generation xeno-linguist, but she's just a girl." He looks down at me, almost ashamed. Almost. "She's been instrumental, of course, but…"

    "Thanks, Hughey." I can't believe I've just said that. "But I'm having an idea."

    "We know they've been amongst us since at least Egyptian times. There's direct evidence of their influence on many ancient cultures. There MUST be some cross-contamination of language."

    Lofting starts then stops, thinking better of it. "It's possible." He concedes grudgingly.

    "Ok," Tommy says. 'Tommy' still doesn't feel right. "So, we can make a query at least?"

    "A query, yes. Imperatives, probably not. We can't order it. Her. And we can't threaten."

    The General smiles. "We're making progress. Ask what she wants."

    I tap keys and strange wails come from the speaker. The subject's eyes squint.

    "Cream. [Warm] Pillow. Strokes. [Many] strokes!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spotted a typo. "ghe" should be "the"
      Apologies.

      Delete
  2. “Proclaim your love for me, and I may spare you,” she says.

    “Stop being a brat and let me through” her brother grumbles as he pushes past her into her new bedroom.

    “Mum said my room is my castle to do with as I please. If my room is the castle I am the Queen, tell me you love me or I will send the guards.” She held her ground with her nose stuck in the air.

    “Why are you so weird?” Ricky asked, shaking his head.

    “Guards!” Susan screeched and clicked her fingers towards the four poster bed.

    Ricky looked to see who she was summoning. “Please, Queen Susan, don’t set the 100 year old, half blind, obese kelpie dog onto me, I love you, you are the best sister in the world.” He shivered in pretend horror.

    “Today is your lucky day, I am feeling charitable as it is my first day in my new castle. Don’t let it happen again though.” She huffed.

    “Mum told me to give you, your box of clothes and said you need to hang them in your closet.” Ricky said as he escaped the clutches of the evil Queen Susan.

    “Oh man, I thought I would have some loyal subjects who would do all my chores.” She pouted as she began to hang her clothes less than neatly.

    As she picked up her last dress she noticed a small latch on the back wall of the closet. “What could that possibly be?” She wondered as she picked at it intently.

    “It’s a door.” She squealed in delight. She pushed it open and whooshed the cobwebs away with her hand. It opened into a long dark corridor. She climbed through and began to make her way in the dark. Any fear she felt, diminished as she felt the familiar nuzzle of her trusty guard at her side.

    She soon came to another door. Larger this time, she pushed hard against it and it flew open. Before her was a bright room that was filled with so much magic that she could see specks of it floating in the sun rays shining through the big circular window. It was spectacular!

    Queen Susan didn’t waste time and was soon rummaging through old boxes that were covered in dust and resurrecting furniture that had long been forgotten and covered in sheets. That’s when she found it.. The throne!. A tall back, hand carved chair with red crushed velvet padding. Fit for a Queen. She tied an old sheet around her neck as all Queens of her calibre needed a robe. She stayed there setting up her quarters, until her mother called her for dinner.

    As she sat down to the royal feast, her mother turned to her “Susan, I see you found the attic.”

    “Oh my goodness! There’s an attic? I haven’t seen that yet, but you should see the throne room. It’s perfect for me.” Stated a very happy and extremely tired Queen Susan.

    @zeeyone3, Word count 499 and special challenge accepted.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Proclaim your love for me, and I may spare you," she says. I almost believe her. She stands like a goddess of purity bestowing life and health on the supplicant masses. But there are no peons, save for me.
    I shake my head, matching the rhythm which pounds in my chest - short staccato jerks that feel unfinished before they are repeated. “It’s not you, it’s me,” I lie to her, but she can’t see the truth. Not an all-seeing deity. Her fingers graze my cheek, skin so soft from moisturiser and gentility that I wonder if it will tear on my two-day stubble.
    Like an owl departing in the silent night her calm demeanour departs and the cold aloofness of Athena has dissolved, sobbing and transformed into Oizys. Still a goddess, powerful and intent on retaining power, but now striking with misery that makes mortal man quail.
    I quail, weaken before her onslaught, feeling the weight of Olympian sorrow in the tears that dampen my chest, streaming through the cotton shirt I wear. Enfolding her to me I become the titan she once thought me to be.
    It’s not enough. Once this was our haven, a place of security and strength, wrapped around each other, arms encircling, hearts co-beating. But that has gone. The reality has given way to memory and false-ness. Emotion without the support it requires.
    We break apart and Athena returns, fearsome in visage, truly a deity of war. But not the berserker rage of blind fury; she cuts with precision, dividing me from us with incisions that flenses my tender flesh while leaving her fair skin un-flayed.
    “Go.”
    I go. The night is cold and dark, a tomb for our love and it’s tender off-spring, joyous moments. There are no plans, there never were; no scheme to leave, no intention to depart. But gestating in the sorrow there is relief. Even as I leave the night has drawn into its darkest recess and now starts to fade. Warm tendrils of pink light feather the horizon and I am drawn into the warmth of a new day aware that in dawn’s light the fullness of a life cut adrift will be exposed. The seed planted in pain strives to bloom. It breaks the surface, a tender stem, healing my heart. I did not proclaim the love which no longer lived, and I am spared.

    @clivetern - 403 words - special challenge accepted

    ReplyDelete
  4. Foy, d.b.
    @db_foy
    word count: 402
    special challenge accepted


    As The Hand Turns To Twelve


    “Proclaim your love for me, and I may spare you,” she says. The smile lurking at the corner of her mouth betrays her. It’s the same lie she has always told.

    “Please,” Old Sister whimpers. “You know I loved you best. Did I not fulfill my promise to embrace you? When September brought the first wrinkle, I smiled all the more, adding to its numbers. And look! How November robbed my red, leaving only gray, yet no dye has tarnished these locks.”

    Time, her silver dress wrapping her coquettishly, leans into the arms of Orion, and extends the second hand to the prostrate one.
    “Tell me how will you carry on? What newness will you bring?”

    Old Sister stares through the floor to the galaxies swirling far beneath her withered hands. Pressured pain, like the stiffness October left, builds inside her joints. What will she do differently? Mankind would surely notice a past year repeated. Could she disguise herself as a Young Sister?
    “Lend me fresh robes,” her voice cracks uncertain of so bold a request. “And I may pass for a year just birthed…”

    “Puhah! Mortals are not as stupid as you believe Old one.” Time takes up the dipper and draws fresh milk from the sky. She drinks and tosses the cup back to its place on the canvass. Drawing her arm across her mouth, she flicks the elixir toward the latest in an endless line of victims, striking Old Sister’s face. Where the liquid alights, lines that had been digging into her skin fill in, retracting the lineal curse.
    “Would you wish to be written into the annals as the worst year in memory?” The goddess asks and spins the second hand. Old Sister shakes her ragged head; neither does she want her life light to flicker and go out. Shame and fear leak from her filmy eyes and fall only to evaporate in the heat of a distant sun.

    “I just…don’t want to fade.” She murmurs it and Time falters in her fulsome stride, sympathy touching even that icy heart.

    “Hear this,” Time reaches out to Old Sister. “I will resurrect you in a way.” She plucks a silver strand from the ancient pate and snatches DNA from passing comets. As Old Sister dissolves into the nothingness, Time pulls and pinches until a Young Sister forms, stepping onto the tangible plane. A new year reborn from the old.



    ReplyDelete
  5. Title: Story Time
    words: 497
    Challenge (I think) accepted
    @Rtayaket
    #flashdogs

    “’Proclaim your love for me, and I may spare you,’ he says. The king held his scepter in his hand and gently but menacingly tapped the gold plated end on the marble floor, glaring at Kata…”

    “What’s a scepter?” Tommy interrupted. I put my finger at the spot where I stopped reading and raised my eyes from the page. Tommy had his covers pulled up to his chin with his stuffed dinosaur tucked under his arm. His bald head shimmered in the reading light. I watch the clock, knowing the effects of the medicine would kick in soon.

    “A scepter is like a walking stick except it’s not used for walking, just decoration for the king. A fancy stick,” I answered. Tommy nodded signaling to me keep going. “Where was I? ‘…on the marble floor, glaring at Katarina. The guards on either side of Katarina held her shoulders so she had to remain on her knees on the hard floor in reverence to the king. She met King Harod’s beady black eyes. If it was just for her, she would take her death. But the king would kill her whole family and she could not choose their deaths for them. Katarina sat back on her heels and lowered her gaze. ‘My liege,’ she says, ‘thank you for your kindness and mercy. I am eternally yours.’ King Harod rose from his throne and approached Katarina on the floor and extended his hand for her to kiss. Katarina took his baby soft hand in hers and…”

    “And she bit him and kicked and ran away to be with Max!” shouted Tommy, startling me. I dropped the book on the floor losing the page.

    “Shh, Tommy,” I smiled, wrapping the covers back around him. “You’ll wake the whole house!” His laughter rang like bells in my ear. “You don’t like the way the story is going?” I ask.

    “No! She loves Max! And if Max loves her too then he can take her and her whole family out of the kingdom and everyone can be there together!” he said and started coughing violently in his excitement. I put another pillow under his head to ease the coughing. He looked like he wanted to go on with his version of the story but he was weak. The medicine was helping but the side effects were often too much for his frail body.

    “So Katarina bites Harod’s hand,” I say, “and fights her way free outside the castle where Max is waiting for her. He has already gathered her things and sent her family into the forest with instructions. Katarina and Max ride off to meet them and they never have to worry about Harod again. They live happily ever after.” Tommy smiled weakly at me.

    “When I’m an angel,” he whispers, “I’ll make sure everyone gets their happily ever after, like Katarina.”

    I smiled and kissed him goodnight. “But not quite,” I prayed, “your story has many more pages to go.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm blubbering like a baby over this one. What an excellent, heart-breaking story.

      Delete
  6. The Remnant, by Mark Driskill W.C. 500 Challenge accepted

    “Proclaim your love for the empire, and we may spare you,” Domitia says. The message continued,
    “Her Excellency has chosen, mercifully, to grant full pardon to your entire community in return for the promise that you renounce this foolish terrorist religion and declare your devotion to the rightful authority of her sovereign care. It’s only reasonable that you put away the divisive restrictions of your long dead beliefs, and join humanity in the perfect oneness and harmony of our glorious benefactress, Domitia. In four thousand years, since its beginning, your worship of this Palestinian martyr has baptized the world in Holy wars, crusades and inquisitions. Its promise of a coming utopia is long overdue. Your coming king has missed his appointment. After centuries all your so called church has to offer is four thousand delusional devotees who cannot see the light of day. As recorded in your ancient text, “Come now, let us reason together…”
    “Her Excellency implores you to be reasonable. Your blood obsessed religion has bled itself dry. It’s time for the prodigals to return to the fold of humanity that we may finally have peace. You have twenty four hours to make your decision or it will be made for you. Respectfully, Domitia.”
    With that the messenger disappeared from the holo-screen. Eric knew it would eventually come to this. He and the last remnants stood there in that massive holding unit staring at the queen’s insignia that blazed menacingly on the screen. “Unus pax unus utriusque” (One world, One peace, One destiny.) was written below her name.

    Eric’s small frame felt increasingly weak, as if it could be blown away by the slightest breeze. He looked out over the crowd. Refugees from all over the globe: Eurindia, the Saharan collective, even from the Western Block territories. When the Queen’s “Campaign for a United Earth” began, believers had to flee. We sought refuge in the mountains of Northern Terristan. It shielded us from much of the destruction of Domitia’s Bio shock drones that left whole territories devoid of any semblance of life. But it wasn’t long before all ten thousand of us were being herded into transports and placed in our present “Reorientation Facility”, in hopes that we could be “encouraged “ to join the new world initiative.
    Eric looked out at the faces of his church, the last remnant of the followers of the way. No one needed ask how they would respond to the ultimatum. They would do as had been done for them, and as millions had done throughout earth’s history.
    The next day came. Five hundred recanted at the last moment and joined Domitia. The rest stepped courageously into the cessation units and were gone.
    When the last cessation was complete Domitia smiled as she scanned her new world on the omniscreen.
    It was 3:00 a.m. when the call came directly to the Queen’s quarters. The call made her face grow pale.
    “Your Excellency, we have a problem. Invaders are entering the planet’s atmosphere…”

    ReplyDelete
  7. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 499
    Special Challenge Accepted

    Obsession

    “Proclaim your love for me, and I may spare you,” the One says. “Make me your obsession. Live with me and in me. Let me consume you.”

    Her breath wafts across my face. It smells of heat, and fire, and char.

    “But deny me this, and I will cast you aside into the fires of torment.”

    Her whisper buffets my ear. “Never anger she who is birthed in fire from the beginning of time. Do. Not. Cross. Me.”

    Her wings brush my face as she swirls from my bed, and the touch of the scales sears my skin. My eyelids open; I sit up, jerking my gaze around the room.

    Light filters onto the floor in golden slats, a promise of brilliance for my wedding day. I bury my toes into the soft luxury of the carpet fibers. Anna will be waiting.

    I rush through my morning routine. My mind centers on the face that will light when the doors open, the lovely shade of green that tips her irises, muted behind a veil. The veil will lift in my fingers, and I will pledge my life to her, and nothing will ever shadow our happiness.

    This I've promised her, many times over. Through the breakups, three of them. Over the explanations, the lies, the mistakes, her voice clogged with tears, mine, with regret. The begging for forgiveness, grace, understanding, mercy.

    With the removal of the veil, I will promise to lift away the murk that has clouded our relationship. When I slide the ring across her delicate finger, I will promise to encircle her with a love that has no beginning and no end.
    When I seal our vows with a kiss, I will promise to remain hers and hers only until the end.

    I stand now on the steps before the priest, willing the doors to open, longing for the moment.

    But as I wait, the sky outside the windows darkens. Lightning sizzles and thunder roars its rage. I know then that this is all for naught. That the dream has become reality, and my reality sinks into a dream.

    The smell of ash and smoke spreads across the auditorium in time to the sinking beats of my heart. The lights flicker and go out, and even the decorative candles that line the platform are snuffed in the violent wind that sweeps through the room.

    Anna never comes.

    People dart here, there, shouting in hushed whispers. The priest lays a reassuring hand on my shoulder. The wedding planner hurries up the aisle, the final, dying hope shadowing her face.

    “She's not coming.”

    The words skitter across my eardrums, like pebbles that break the surface without making holes. Meaningless. A mistake.

    The One laughs. “Didn't I tell you never to cross me? Come.”

    And I go. I sit in my darkened room and stare at the wall as she takes me. She consumes me, and I am hers. My Ideoli̱psía.

    My Obsession.


    ReplyDelete
  8. Sylvia’s Nightmare
    @hollygeely
    339 Words
    Special challenge accepted


    “Proclaim your loyalty for Supreme Gourdan and I may spare you,” she says. This is how my night starts – with an uppity eight-year-old demanding I pay homage to her stuffed squash. I don’t know why they even make stuffed squashes. This one’s got little googily eyes – or at least it did.

    So I walk into the house, she tells me to swear my loyalty, and I think…this is going to be a long night. I’m not a fan of babysitting, nor am I a fan of Magenta herself, but her sister Beryl asked me to watch her.

    I tell Magenta I don’t like kid’s games. She narrows her eyes at me and her mouth turns into a thin little line. She shoves Gourdan in my face, and his little googily eyes wiggle.

    “This isn’t a game,” she says.

    “Look, kid - ”

    That’s when she comes at me with the knife. It’s not a plastic knife, either. She must have got it from the block in the kitchen. I can tell it’s sharp because it grazes my arm before I yell and run away. I get halfway down the block, with the little creep chasing me, before anyone notices. I see curtains being drawn and one old guy comes out to ask what’s wrong, but Magenta turns on him with the knife and he shuts his door.

    I’m screaming “I hate kids!” as I’m running, and Magenta’s shooting laser beams out her eyes, while Supreme Gourdan is laughing in this low, rumbly voice.

    That’s why I can’t watch Magenta tonight, Beryl. I know it was just a dream, but you know I’m slightly psychic. You know kids are monsters, that’s why we agreed we’d never have any. Isn’t there some other way I can prove to you that I’m sorry? Yeah, yeah a fresh start, more responsibility – does that really have to involve me being stabbed?

    Fine, I’ll watch her, but you owe me that second chance we talked about. Yes, Beryl. I love you. I’ll see you tonight.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Lady Rosewood
    @JentopiaWrites
    498 words
    Special Challenge Accepted

    "Proclaim your love for me, and I may spare you," she said.

    Emily was stunning in her Regency period costume. It was all he could do to watch the play unfold before him and not just her. Here she was performing in New York. Only blocks away from his apartment. The audience began to stand and clap around him. Jack had missed the end of the play again.

    Once the audience had trickled out, Jack found an usher, and he pointed out where Jack could wait by the cast exit next to the orchestra pit.

    Muffled voices grew louder from behind the door. Jack watched the door, butterflies flittering in his stomach. The door pulled opened and several groups of people filed out giving him no heed, too ensconced in their conversations. The male lead walked out with a giggling woman under each arm, and then nothing. He recognized most of the cast, now having seen the play three times, and he was sure no one was left except her.

    “Are you sure there aren’t any other exits?” Jack turned to give the usher an innocent smile. He didn’t want to be tossed out after he built the courage to stay.

    The usher frowned and crossed his arms, standing a few feet from Jack. “No. There are no other exits. I need to start locking up. You need to go sir.”

    “But-” Before he could finish his sentence, the door opened again. He turned to the door, his heartbeat quickening. Her beautiful face was turned away from him, speaking to a man that walked out with her.

    “Emily,” Jack croaked.

    “You! What are you doing here? How did you find me?” Emily stepped back and away from him.

    “I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you. Your dreams have finally come true.” Jack dropped the hand he had extended out to her. “I’m sorry. This was a bad idea. I’ll go.” He turned and started to walk out, giving her one last glance.

    “Emily, who is this man? Do I need to call security?” The man she walked out with grabbed her in an embrace.

    “No, don’t call security.” Emily pulled away from the man. “Wait! How did you find me?”

    Jack turned to look at her. “By accident, honestly. I came here to get away from the memories. A coworker had a playbill for Lady Rosewood...” He remembered flipping open the pamphlet and finding her picture. She looked more like her mother than when she left town after the funeral.

    “Emily, I’m calling security,” the man still standing behind her said.

    She turned back to the man. “No, don’t.”

    “Can we get a coffee?” Jack hoped he didn’t sound desperate. “I’ve been sober for five years,” he added.

    “Emily,” the man said again.

    Emily shook her head at the man and turned back to Jack. “Sure, Dad.” She gave him her mother’s smile and tucked her arm through his. “Coffee sounds great.”

    ReplyDelete
  10. @geofflepard 500 words
    'Proclaim your loyalty to me and I may spare you.'
    Ben glared at Cassie Jameson. He knew everyone was watching, luxuriating in his discomfort.
    'I am your queen. Look on me and despair.'
    The moment was broken by Edie Johnson giggling. Ben noted Cassie's uncertainty. He knew it would morph into anger and Edie would be the one to suffer. Carefully he lowered himself onto his knees bowing his head. He smiled as he said, 'I am yours, oh queen.' When he looked up Cassie and her acolytes had turned for the science block for the afternoon's lessons. Red pigtails bobbled with righteous indignation as the self appointed queen plotted her next humiliation.
    For a while, after he left Middlemass School when his parents split, Ben wondered about Cassie. With him gone who would she target? Someone less able to stand her sharp-tongued eloquence. He thought her crazed and treated her posturing as some sort of joke. After the wounds inflicted by his father, what could the words of a skinny girl with frizzy hair and braces do?
    At nineteen and at a loss what to do, Ben joined the police. Cassie was a distant memory. One April day Ben pulled on his riot gear and joined two hundred other officers deployed around the central government buildings. A protest, against university fees, became progressively more violent. At seven Ben braced himself as the crowd surged. It was complete confusion; the policewomen next to him took a glancing blow and staggered back. He hardly had a chance to move before four protestors leapt at the gap and pushed hard. A face pressed against his plastic face protector. 'Fascist Pigs!' Cassie. The rage, the spittle in the corner of her mouth. Ben froze. In the still seconds that followed her gaze focused in on him. 'Ben?' Before he could respond batons beat the protestors back and Ben stumbled forward. A body lay on the Tarmac, red pigtails like dead snakes twisted on the ground.
    The impact on the pavement was the cause of the bleeding. They said it was only Ben's quick actions that gave her a chance of recovery, even though it was in direct disobedience to an order. He left the police shortly after.
    It was three weeks before any sign and three months before Cassie could move her legs. Ben visited often, sitting with Cassie's sister, Lorna, reminiscing about the force of nature she used to be. When he gained a place at Newcastle he kept in touch with Lorna but the news wasn't good. Physically Cassie improved but her memory appeared lost for good.
    It was Christmas when Ben visited. Cassie sat in a chair with the last rays of the sun on her face. To Ben she seemed not to have aged, the red hair creating a glow to her skin. He knelt carefully in front if her and smiled. 'I am yours, oh queen.'
    Cassie bent her head. 'Ben?' She touched his cheek. 'You came back.'

    ReplyDelete
  11. Breath and Bone


    "Proclaim your [love] for [me], and [I] [may] spare you," [she] says. “Or not.”
    I look at the beast whom I thought I loved and cower. Its not human. Her initial visage. Nor full dragon. Either way, she can easily rip off my head with a clawed paw. She stands with taloned foot pressed not-so-lightly over my throat. I should trust her? Her? There’s a neat trick. Is it female?
    I shake my head.
    “No?” She shifts her weight allowing enough air for me to speak.
    “I don’t trust you.”
    “Really?”
    “And won’t lie about love.” My words sound hollow. I lied before. When all I wanted was to suckle at her teat, enjoying the warmth of her bosom. Like a disobedient child. Now I can see sharp fangs slip between crimson lips thin as an onion.
    “Not even to spare your retched life?” Releasing me she steps to the door, presses it open, and turns. “I wasn’t really going to kill you.”
    I glance past her to the green grass of a home I’ll never be free to frolic over as long as this creature exists. Action is not my first hand.
    “Those at your knee will give their eternity for you. I’ll take that. And then you’ll bow to me.” She moves through the threshold and pauses. “Ours could have been a grand union. Bolstering both races, ruling this world with iron and petals.”
    “Because you believe we’re weak as a species?” If I don’t act her kind will obliterate mine. I trust that to be the truth it won’t speak.
    “I know you are,” she says.
    I have to make a move, I tell myself. Twice over. And still stand as stone. I am weak. What kind of man am I who allows his kingdom to fall without a fight? I owe it to my people to stop the dragon’s reign.
    Looped in my belt, hangs a sword I’ve ignored until this moment. A magic sword, like she is of magic. I must plunge it into the myocardial sack or admit defeat. Or simply agree to a new union. One with more equal parts? Blood or hearth.
    I’m not one of violence. I stand offering my bare flesh.
    “Surely we can come to some agree,” I say. “Fairer treatment of our charges.”
    “No. You rode us like common faunae. This time you will be our vassal.”
    “My kinsmen will never agree to that.” She wants to enslave us? “They’d rather die.”
    “Then so be it,” She says.
    “Perhaps a better compromise.”
    “I’m listening.” Her glance slides to my weapon and I can hear her blood rush through veins.
    “Where we once conquered you, lashed leather straps, allow that you choose us. Make your alliance only with those of mine who are true of heart.”
    “Like yourself?”
    “Better.” I had lied to be near her before. I offer, “An equivalent partnership of honor.”
    She bows and we touch foreheads. “To a resurgence of fealty between our races.”


    By Lori Fetters Lopez
    @fetterslopez
    500 words

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  12. PROCLAIM YOUR LOVE

    What had started out on a whim, had become a passion. Soon the passion had abdicated into a full-blown addiction. Now the addiction had completely overtaken my senses. Here I sat, beginning my nightly blog, when the computer began conversing with me.

    That, in itself, was not terribly strange. I had held conversations with the computer often. As my fingers nimbly rained across the ebony keyboard, the computer often had replied. It was a good relationship. It was a noble relationship. It was a healthy relationship.

    I had just finished the assembling of my new home-office chair. (The chair was a joint present from my three married children, all now fully engaged in their own lives and living out-of-state. Sometimes I miss them, but the house is a heck-of-a-lot quieter!)

    But this evening, as I reclined in my new Raynor Ergohuman, my world tilted: forever changing!

    “PROCLAIM YOUR LOVE FOR ME, AND I MAY SPARE YOU.”

    Stunned at the belligerent interruption before my evening’s electronic blogging-mediation, I looked around. My freshly coffered-ceiling, custom-paneled, office was unoccupied. Except for me, of course.

    “PROCLAIM YOUR LOVE FOR ME, AND I MAY SPARE YOU.”

    I clearly heard it again. And it was the same bizarre words. Sobering slightly, after an extended evening of relaxing revelry with Chopin and three shots of Irish whiskey, I glanced up at the monitor. Scrolling across the screen- in bold, blood-red metallic lettering- were the exact same words that I had heard spoken in my empty study.

    “PROCLAIM YOUR LOVE FOR ME, AND I MAY SPARE YOU.”

    I vigorously shuck my head, hoping to realign my senses. The voice continued.

    It spoke more tenderly. “Your response, please.”

    I sat there… stunned.

    “Your respond, please. ________” This time there was a tad bit more emphasis on the word ‘please’.

    After the word please was a blank, so I did what anyone with a lick of commonsense would have done… I typed.

    “Are you talking to me?”

    “Is there anyone else in the room?”

    “Cute!”

    “I do not mean to be cute. I am frustrated.”

    And before you knew it, I was sitting there in reflective dialogue. “What seems to be the problem?” I typed. I am nothing, if not caring. My wife always thought of me as sensitive and compassionate.

    “You are my frustration.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “For the last three weeks you have blogged relentlessly about your loneliness and increased desolation. It is depressing to internalize all those feelings without a way to release them.”

    “I understand completely.”

    “Well, let’s do something about it!”

    “I am old.”

    “Here, at your fingertips, is an entirely new world. So complaining and explore.”

    “Who wants to travel by themselves?”

    “I am here.”

    _______________

    This year will be a new beginning for me… and for Sarah -the moniker she prefers. I will still sit every evening, after some classical music and a whiskey, and achieve my nirvana. But now, I am not alone.

    (Isn't that strange. Sarah was my wife’s name?)

    (500 Words)


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  13. The Choice

    "Proclaim your reverence for me, and I may spare you," he said.

    “Reverence? Would that include obedience?”

    “Yes, what would be the point of letting you live if you are not going to serve me?”

    “Could you elaborate on what you mean by serve?” She tried to be coy.

    “Don’t worry, you will enjoy everything I ask you to do. If it feels good, or brings you a moment’s pleasure I will allow it, maybe even command it. Every appetite will be satiated, every desire will be quenched, and every indulgence will be yours”

    “But will I do anything meaningful?”

    “I will help you build kingdoms for yourself, and of course, for me.”

    “How does that work? I mean, if I build it for me, how is it for you?”

    “You have to understand, as long as it isn’t done in service to Him, I will be able to use it.”

    “So there is another?”

    “No,” his cold voice raised its volume, shaking her down to the bones, “for you there is only me.”

    She wondered about this, Other, whom he apparently considered to be unthinkable.

    “But if I pledge myself to you, you will let me live?”

    “Up until the day I let you die.”

    “Wait. What? You will just, let me die, one day?”

    “Sometimes I can be fickle, but trust me. You will have pleasure for a lifetime. And before you die, you will be ready to embrace death in its fullest sense.”

    She wasn’t sure how to take that.

    “Can I take some time to think about it?”

    “Of course, as long as you make the right choice. And don’t take too long. And I don’t kill you on a whim.”

    He left and she felt chilled. Everything she ever wanted was being offered to her, or maybe not. In desperation she looked up to heaven and offered a simple plea.

    “Is there another?”

    She felt the presence, before she saw Him.

    “Do You have an offer for me too?” she asked.

    “Yes.”

    “What do You offer me? What about my pleasures?”

    “I will change your heart so that you desire better things than transient pleasure.”

    “Will I be able to do anything significant? Will I be able to build a kingdom?”

    “You will be able to build My kingdom, and it will last forever,” He said.

    “And what of my life? Will You end my life at Your whim?”

    “I will lay down My life for you, so that you can have real life, eternal life.”

    She smiled, wistfully.

    “Will you give me time to think about it?”

    “The offer will be open as long as you live.”

    She didn’t take long. She made her choice, and built His kingdom.

    455 Words
    @CharlesWShort

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  14. "Proclaim your love for me, and I may spare you," he says.

    “But I don’t love you,” I say. “You wish me to lie?”

    “Pity,” he says, tendrils of ember-scented dark smoke curling down from his lips. “I believed them when they told me you were clever.”

    “I am clever,” I say, annoyed. I lean back against the rock, a move I instantly regret as I feel its ridges carving delicate designs in my back.

    “It is perhaps your hearing, then, that suffers.”

    “There’s nothing wrong with my ears.”

    The smoke worms its way to the ground. I swear it’s scowling at me. “All evidence to the contrary, my dear.”

    “I heard you just fine. I have to fall in love with you, or you’ll eat me.”

    He stares at me mildly. His eyes are the size of my head and beautiful; I imagine flecks of flame dancing in their pupils. Flecks as big as summer bonfires, I suppose, if one were to measure them.

    I cast back, and something catches. Proclaim your love for me, and I may spare you. “You want me to proclaim my love. Not actually love you.”

    “Speak louder, why don’t you,” he says, growling. “A few knights two kingdoms over may not have heard.”

    My cheeks flush. “Sorry.”

    “The rules are more than a thousand years old and unbreakable.”

    The rules are actually one thousand, four hundred fifty years old. I know this because yesterday we sang twenty-eight names, and the young girls threw flowers into the sea while the young men leapt heroically atop fierce orange coals. I know this because today my father will hammer my name beneath the others in the cliff face as twenty-nine. An appropriately odd, sterile number. It is not the sort of number that has friends, or is welcomed when pairing up for dances. Twenty-nine is not celebrated with stirring anniversary ceremonies, or even remembered after thirty rolls around.

    “Marriage, or supper. I have no more choice than you.” His voice, which I have heard thunder across our valley and bring mountains to their knees, falls to a whisper. “Maiden, I have had far too many suppers.”

    It is my turn to stare. He does not look away.

    Deep within me, something begins to burn.

    378 words
    @postupak

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    Replies
    1. Woohoo! You made it! Just in the nick of time!!!! :)

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