The Iron Writer Challenge #188 2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #9

The Iron Writer Challenge #188

2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #9

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Vance Rowe, Elaine Johnson, Emma Crowley, Zac Moran, Sozos Theofrastos, David Jobe 

The Elements:

‘And the people bowed and prayed, to the neon god they made.’

The setting is you are at a last place where you were hurt, for the first time since you were hurt.

A homeless child

A slum

Homeless

David Jobe

“You need to come now.” His voice cracks. It never cracks. 

“Am I coming to say goodbye?” I already know the answer. 

“I think you might be.” He starts to sob. He never cries. 

The first time he had said that, it hadn’t been true. The second time, the same words, had been pure gospel. The too few months that existed between those two held a nightmare of heartache and wretched waiting. Of doctor’s visits and house calls. Of hospice and homecomings.  More ups than down than a rollercoaster, with one final inevitable drop. Cancer starts with silence, and so too must it end. 

Standing underneath the halo of a streetlamp I take in the stark difference between the rolling green hills before me and the tattered rundown buildings behind me. I am not lost on the irony that the dead live in a better place than the living here. Once again I wished I had gathered enough money to have her buried in that place up north. I should have sold my car. Something. At least then it had been running. 

I steel myself against the cold and damp, pulling up my collar as I step across the broken cobblestone street into the Pastures of Eternal Paradise. My memory flows back to the last time I was here. We buried her that day. We buried a piece of me with her. The walk to her stone is short, as her eternal resting place is nearer to the road than I like. The grass is unblemished. Coming back here hurts just as much as that day, maybe more. At least then I was not alone. Tonight, my only friend is the darkness. My only solace is the silence.

Up on the nearby hill the church sits in all it grandeur. Marvelous in its splendor, the bright neon blue glow of their cross blinking as a beacon for the lost. The way the gravestones rest on the hill, makes me feel like I stand among hundreds of bowed bodies, praying to the glowing cross. Standing while they kneel, I am reminded of how much of an outsider I am. An only child to an only parent, we had been a team. Us against the world. Only, the world had defeated one of us. Perhaps both of us. Cancer kills more than its host. 

I kneel down to place the flowers that I brought, already wilting. Money is sparse and these were on sale. She won’t care. She never liked me wasting money on flowers anyways. Thrifty my mother had been. We existed on less than I manage now, and she had at least kept a roof over our head. I will never live up to her standard. I am not sure I want to try.

They say that home is where the heart is. What if your heart is buried in the fragile dirt, six lonely feet down? 

Is the graveyard to be my home then? Or am I truly homeless?

The Sound of Silence
Elaine Johnson 

She took a deep breath and walked into the bar, refusing to glance at the side table at the end, the one in the corner that was so private, where people could talk.  Their space.   

It was empty.  He was undoubtedly out, perhaps with another person.  Probably.  It was none of her business, was it?   Of course not.      

It was like riding a bicycle. You just get back on again.   And that was why she was here, waiting for the bartender to finish whatever he was doing so she could order a drink she didn’t really want.       

She pulled out her cell phone, so it didn’t look like she had nothing to do and no one to talk to, and flipped through CNN.com.   Homeless children. A bomb in a slum.   Refugees.  War.  She clicked it off, picked up the menu and flipped through the plethora of food choices.    And desert choices.   And beverages.   She’d steeled herself for this for days.    Here it was.  Just do it.    

Some guy with a guitar in the other corner was playing that old song.   What were the words?   She hummed along to the second stanza, “And the people bowed and prayed, to the neon god they made.”  

She idly swiped through the phone one last time, until the bartender came over.    She smiled and ordered white wine.  Chablis, then settled in her seat, crossed her legs, and flicked the stiletto heel.  Once she’d have pulled out a cigarette, but she’d quit and couldn’t smoke in the bar anyway.     

She kept reminding herself that she was an adult, a lady, and this all-consuming rage was beneath her.   She was an educated, cultured person in control of her emotions.   Fury did not belong.  Let the vindictive spirit pass.  Let the urge to ruin him forever slide off.   The slime ball.  

Two guys walked past her.    She evaluated both and dismissed them, then flicked a strand of hair back.     Twelve years in a relationship.   She felt a wave of panic.   

Instead of drinking her wine as a beautiful mystery woman, she gulped it and signaled for another.    Men.  They drive you crazy and take over your heart and mind and then they tell you they never meant it to happen.     

She lifted her chin.   You just have to keep getting out there, be available.   You never know.   Look at her cousin.   She nodded to thank the bartender and this time really did sip the drink.  She steeled her soul and studied the shimmer on the glass.   He never was coming back, was he? 

Another Victim of the Street

Emma Crowley

I knew I shouldn’t have come back here, but now my body is no longer under my control. It feels as if my feet are being pulled down the road by the devil himself, each step echoing against the crumbling buildings that surround me on either side. Even in the dim glow of the shattered street lamps, I can see long shreds of peeled paint and chipped bricks falling away into the darkness, threatening to pull the whole block into oblivion. Good. If I ever see this slum again, it will be too soon.

My fingers trace a path along the metal fence, one that they had travelled hundreds of times before. Finally, my feet fall still, and I am allowed to take a look around me, not that I want to. From the second the burnt stench of ash hit my nose, my heart had begged me to flee, yet some part of me asks to stay. It is time, that tiny part of me whispers softly, to face it once and for all.

Tears run down my face as I wrap my hands around the metal fence, surveying the charred skeleton of a house that lays just beyond. I can almost still feel the heat of the blaze, hear the screams. My hands clench around the cold metal, but can only feel the chill against my fingertips. Not only had the fire stolen my family from me, but it had also cruelly taken the feeling in my palms, scorched away like the rest of my life.

A sob escapes me, and I fall to my knees on the ashy pavement. Everything and everyone I loved now lay in the ashes that tickle my nose as I gasp for breath. I am alone.

Lights flicker farther down the street, melding from one color to another in an almost alien way. I wipe my eyes, getting to my feet. It seems to be coming from an open garage door a few houses down. Desperate to wipe the blaze from my mind, I go investigate.

Inside I find a drug induced wonderland illuminated by a criss cross of battered neon lights. And the people bowed and prayed, to the neon god they made, or at least their slumped bodies looked that way.  I weave my way through comatose bodies, some with needles still in hand. Something moves, a child. I crouch as I near her, so that my eyes are level with hers.

“Hey, it’s going to be ok. Let’s get you out of here.” I offer a hand, but she doesn’t move, regarding me with scared eyes. 

“Are you hungry?” I try again, but to no avail. “Are these people your family?” She shakes her head.

“Do you have family?” Again she shakes her head. I sigh, looking down at the ground. 

“Me either.”

When I look back up at her, she has pulled the blanket from her face. “I’m hungry.” Her voice is barely louder than a whisper.

I reach for her hand again, and this time she takes it. I’m not letting this street ruin another life.

Graveyard/Disturbed

Soz Theo

The unyielding, deafening, sounds of silence that slumber in this once sacred space hold no visible hint of the debauchery, hedonism and chaos that had thrived in defiance within her walls.

He had but only thought of this place for the last twenty years. Now, finally returning, Malcolm stands alone within this once teaming skeleton, long since abandoned and left to decay among the surrounding slums. 

Turning slowly, he absorbs as much as he can while reflecting on his surroundings, searching for remnants of himself, certain that they must be imprinted upon her walls. Even now, as in his memory, as in her prime, she’s a seductive siren. He had always loved this floor, without the roof they had rhythmically writhed, exposed, as the sun, and sometimes the rain, beat down on them in tandem with the hypnotic beat. 

Still she has managed to stand, a silent witness to the mischief and mayhem that were the psychedelic tapestry of a misguided youth. It was here upon her floor that Love had flowed, without boundaries, uninhibited, often induced; this place had encouraged mass elation and ecstasy.

This is where his heart had been broken for the first and last time. He has returned to face this place, to face her, to face himself. Closing his eyes, Malcolm succumbs, allowing the unedited memory to envelop him; reality unfolds around him, dissipating with each deep, slowed, deafening breath; venturing back to when he was an enslaved, entranced, water drinking wraith, ululating in time to the emanating energy and cacophony of sweat, bodies, smoke, alcohol and altered minds.

Their generation was one which had undertaken the meaning of life though ironic antonymy, Malcolm had been one of its most fervent followers, forcing music into submission and invoking unity through the sharing of consecrated chemical experience. But not even the most fervent follower was prepared for the realities of that day.

It had been a scorching summer, the blazing sunlight bore down upon the pulsating party, primed to create nostalgia. They prepared for the festivities with the ritualistic meticulousness which accompanied the style of the scene. Top to toe perfection, a mass of stories to be told, and all in attendance, players there to play.  

The day had been full of promise, the people had bowed and prayed to the neon god they had made, as torrents of enchantment emanated from the speakers and connected directly with their souls. But betrayal was brewing in the air, a love too long harboured, and a friend named traitor forever after, were about to destroy the sanctity of this spiritual home. It had hurt. Fort twenty years, through the tears and pain a promise was made and kept with the words, Never Again.

He has never returned to this place until today, a child without a home, having never faced his circumstance or actions, dead inside, never allowing himself joy, happiness, love. A single moment, a lifetime of pain, a symphony of monotony. With his eyes closed, locked in memory, his hand fastened tightly around the handle of the gun, Malcolm says “I love you and I want closure…”

Bloody Memoir

Vance Rowe

“I can’t believe I am back here again.”

“Is this where it happened?” the journalist asked as he scribbled something down in his notebook.

“Yes… it is,” he replied with a sigh.

“Tell me about it.”

“Look at this place. I can’t believe how much it changed. This place used to be a slum. I-I-It was the heart of the ghetto. Now it is luxury apartments. Unbelievable.”

“How old were you when it happened?” the journalist asked, getting somewhat impatient.

 “Look at these people around here. All dressed in suits and nice clothes. People like this used to get mugged and robbed here and now they own it,” he responded, interrupting the journalist.

“Is this the first time you been here since it happened?”

“Yes. It will be the last too.”

“Tell me about it, Jim. What exactly happened that caused you so much hurt?” the journalist pleaded. “This is an important story for your memoir.”

Jim looked at the building and remembered the hurt. He vividly remembered the night his father came home drunk and when his mother got mad, they fought. His father beat his mother like she was a bad habit. This wasn’t the first time either. Finally she had had enough. She pulled a large knife from a drawer and began stabbing him furiously. The floor where he lay was covered in blood. Her face and hands were covered in the crimson liquid as well. 

“I ran from the apartment and banged on my neighbor’s door. When she saw me crying and pointing at my apartment, she walked to it and was horrified when she saw my mother still stabbing the dead body. She ran back to the apartment and called the police. They came and took her away. I guess she went to some hospital because she had lost her mind.”

“Jim, that’s awful. I am so sorry.”

“I still can’t listen to the song the “Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel. It was on the radio when my neighbor answered her door. I remember staring at her radio when the line ‘The people bowed and prayed, to the neon god they made’ and wished there was a god to come and help me.”

“That is when you became homeless?”

“Yes, sir. The police tried to take me but I ran from them and hid for several days. I was twelve years old and was homeless for the first and last time in my life.”

“You eventually were found, right?”

“Yeah, the police found me sleeping behind some garbage cans one night. They brought me to child services and was soon put in a foster home. I prospered there and went to school and then college, determined to make a better life for myself. I did. I became a famous author and now here we are.”

“This is going to be quite a memoir. You will have to tell me about your life in foster care too.”

“I will but that’s another chapter for another day. I am whipped right now.”

“After reliving that part of your childhood, I completely understand. We will pick this up tomorrow, my friend.”

Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood

Zac Moran

Los Angeles, CA – November, 2061

A line of tarp and plywood huts lined the concrete river bank next to a set of rusted train tracks.

I run messages for a living. Not the best job for a thirteen-year-old, but it keeps a roof over my head. Not that the orphanage has much of a roof. There is one major downside of the job though. I’m usually getting shot at.

A boy climbed down from the second story of a caved in building on the other side of the tracks. He crept towards the hovels and a few small animals scattered.

This was home for a while, but I haven’t been here since my parents and I were caught in the soldier’s crossfire. My parents didn’t make it. Damn war.

The boy walked into the hut and sat down amongst the rubble. He glanced around the small room.

I’m surprised it’s still standing. There was a lot of explosions. Wait, is that my music player? These are easy to come by, but it’s hard to get one with music on it. Mine had all the best songs. I wonder…

“And the people bowed and prayed, to the neon god they made!” came a voice from the device.

“What was that?” said a voice outside.

Son of a-

“It came from over there!”

Multiple sets of heavy boot steps drew close to the shelter. The boy bolted through a small hole in the back, but was grabbed by his shirt and pulled up.

“I’ve got him. Looks like a runner!” yelled the man who had grabbed him. The guy was wearing a bulky vest and carrying a rifle in his other hand.

Great. Alliance troops.

Another soldier came around from the front of the shack.

“Well look at this. So what kinda message you carrying?”

A message for Nun’ya. Nun’ya Business.

The boy kicked the shack, which fell over in a cloud of dust. Then he pulled a knife out of his belt and buried it in the soldier’s arm. He was promptly dropped as the soldier howled. Without hesitation, the boy sprinted across the train tracks and into the building. 

He turned a corner inside and ran down the hall. Hearing the other soldier closing in behind him, he jumped, put one foot on the wall, and bounced off the wall towards a hole in the ceiling. He grabbed onto the ledge and pulled himself up in one fluid motion. He continued running and heard several bursts from the floor below, followed by holes exploding in the floor around him.

They always resort to bullets. Can’t ever have an honest race with these guys.

The boy sprinted to the end of the hall and dived through the broken window into the next building over. He then proceeded to the top of the building and made his way over several rooftops before he stopped, ducked down, and looked back. He saw the soldier exit the first building and go back to help the one with the knife in his arm. Shortly, a medical vehicle picked them up.

Yeah, get out of my neighborhood.

  

The Iron Writer Challenge #187 – 2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #8

The Iron Writer Challenge #187

2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #8

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

M. D. Pitman, Josh Flores, Malissa Greenwood

The Elements:

Laughing older couple

Crepey Skin

Gingham material

Last sentence: “I’m sure they think we’re aliens.”

 

Lucky Logic

Josh Flores

The man was magical, mysterious, and malicious. Malo Fortuna was a practical joker to anyone who crossed his path. His cruelness was hidden under a teddy bear façade–a lovable, huggable, balding grandpa.

The woman was equally magical while outgoing and cheerful. Buena would always pick up after her husband’s messes. In contrast to Malo, looking at her confirmed exactly who she was: a warm, loving, caring grandma who had baked some cookies. 

They had grown old together over the millennia, acquired crepey skin, gained a few pounds, lost some hair, paled in coloring, and shrunk a few inches and yet their love and need for each other stayed true.  One could not exist without the other.

Favian knocked on the Fortunas’ door.  He cried in pain as a splinter dug deep into his knuckle. “I should have looked before knocking.”  He was a chess playing stoic who wasn’t wont to emotional justifications. His appearance relayed his logical fortitude: simple, navy blue slacks and polo, with sensible walking shoes and his hair neat and short. 

Malo chuckled. Buena shook her head in resignation. 

Athena came up behind her husband. “You should have looked first.  Pull that thing out and bandage up. Here’s the first aid kit.” She was a match for Favian in logic, stoicism, and chess mastery. Her visage harmonized with her husband, same outfit and haircut.

As she handed him the kit, a black cat ran out of nowhere and climbed up her pants, scratching and clawing. She dropped the kit. The jolt of hitting the ground split it open, and all its contents spewed across the porch of the old wooden cabin. 

Malo’s evil laughter echoed in the cabin.  Buena tsked him.

Before either of the visitors could react, Malo and Buena opened the door. As they looked at their guests, they couldn’t help but let out a hearty laugh. Favian and Athena smiled. There is logic in humor too, and this was funny.  

After retrieving the kit and bandaging Favian’s hand, the young couple noticed the black and white gingham curtains. That reminded them of why they were here.  They asked directions to the hotel where a chess tournament was to be held. The Fortunas obliged.  

Buena stared at Malo as the couple drove off. “You’re subdued today. You are going to let them go like that?” 

“Well, did you notice them? They aren’t normal folk. Strange-like those two were. I don’t think anything I would do to them would faze them whatsoever. Seems like they’re the type to think everything through and find a reason how THEY caused it. No fun in that. Nope, not if they don’t start to wonder at the magic around them and through them. Doesn’t do my soul any good to waste my time on folk like that. Best to leave them be. Strange people. The way they looked at us, I’m sure they think we’re aliens.” 

Generational Integration Day

Malissa Greenwood

“Martha? Watchya makin’ over there?”

“Huh?” 

“I said, What Are You Making!? With the yarn!”

“Oh. I’m fine, it’s fine. Fingers are a little stiff. But that’s ok…”

Martha trailed off, either fully aware that the afternoon’s activities weren’t nearly as necessary as the nursing aids would lead us to believe, or indifferent to the idea of carrying on a conversation. 

Today was Generational Integration Day at Meadow Winds Assisted Living. Some cockamamy outreach program designed to keep the residents active while promoting the facility’s “wonderful activities” to the community – you know in case there were people nearby thinking of sending their elders to this god forsaken hell hole. 

Myself and ten of the other residents were positioned around the courtyard awaiting the arrival of a group of elementary schooled children. Martha and myself were seated at a picnic table where Christine, our glorified babysitter was tying down a brightly colored checkered table cloth. As if some simple gingham fabric could lighten our spirits by about thirty years.  

“Well you just keep at it Martha. I’m sure the kids will love to … learn how to knit.”

Who was I fooling? You can’t teach a kid to knit in an hour. And even if you could, the kids these days wouldn’t be interested. To be honest, the kids these days probably aren’t interested in us at all. With our hearing aids, wheelchairs, our thin and wrinkled skin… we’d might as well be from another planet. 

“Okay ladies! Today’s the big day!” Christine said to me, in that sing-songy way she talks.

“Sure is. How nice to be out here in the fresh air and sunshine?” I’ve learned to always stay positive with the aids – much less hassle. 

“It is nice, huh Joyce?! The kids’ll be here any minute and you’re my main gal – you up for frosting some cookies with them?”

“Sure, I suppose I could do that.”  I always got roped into extra activities. Course, I was much more mobile than some of these other old geezers. 

“Here’s an apron – wouldn’t want to get that pretty dress dirty.” Christine winked at me as if we were old chums. 

I tied the dingy white apron around my waist and attempted to arrange the frosting and sprinkles on the table when old Marty Mathieson walked over. 

“Hiya Marty. How ya doin?”

“Better now I seen your beautiful face Joyce!”

“Oh, hush now. You know I ain’t buying what your sellin!”

Marty chuckled and nudged me with his elbow. “Sneak me one a them sugar cookies, sugar! I need the energy for these children comin’ in.”

“Oh, like you need more energy.”

“Sure I do. These youngins look up to us. We gotta entertain ‘em, ya know? They think we’re som’pin special.”

The kids were getting off the bus now, and every one of ‘em had their head down playing with some electronic gadget. They were probably confused by anything that didn’t fit inside their touch screens. 

I looked at Marty – stained white shirt, overweight and old as all get out. Something special indeed.

 “Oh, don’t kid yourself Marty. I’m sure they think we’re aliens.”

The Secret to a Long Marriage

M.D. Pitman

Sonia carefully unfolded the red and white checkered table cloth as George brought out the potato salad and glass pitcher of lemonade. As he sat the dishes down on the freshly covered extra-long picnic table, he leaned into his wife of 53 years and kissed her cheek. He’s always stealing a moment to kiss his bride.

“Oh, George,” said the pudgy Italian woman. Her sun-kissed face grew redder, just as it always did when George stole a kiss, or gave a little slap on her backside. She always took offense but her indignation eventually melted into a coquettish smile. She touched her crepey cheek, covering each wrinkle kissed.

George’s broad shoulders always bounced as he laughed when Sonia started her overzealous objection. The 76-year-old tanned burly man knew she liked the attention. And she knew he knew.

Their love grew stronger every year, which is something their three children admired as they grew, married and eventually divorced. They looked for that perfect partner. They didn’t exist for them.

“Ewwww, Grandpa,” said the youngest of their five grandchildren, who was also the only boy of the bunch. He was playing in the yard with his trucks.

“Itsa okay, Bambino,” George said in his broken English. “You’ll like that stuff one day.” He flashed a smile and gave a wink to the six-year-old boy who returned to play.

The other grandchildren and the couple’s kids rushed out of the back door with the rest of Sunday’s supper –rigatoni, oversized stuffed meatballs, garlic bread, green beans and Italian cookies.

The family of 10 sat around the extra-long picnic table. George filling Sonia’s plate with exactly what she wants – two spoonfuls of rigatoni, one meatball, no potato salad and three spoonfuls of green beans. He kissed the top of the 74-year-old’s more salt than pepper woman’s hair. Sonia smiled.

The gingham tablecloth barely covered the ends. The couple’s oldest son, whose two daughters sat on either side of him, asked a question he always asked, “So how do you two do it? You’re like a couple of teenagers.” 

George and Sonia always said honesty and church were what kept them together. This time, however, George and Sonia gave a different answer, which forced the kids and grandkids – except for the youngest as he tackled his giant meatball – to lean in.

“Well we do have our disagreements,” Sonia said.

All eyes grew wide (except for the youngest pair of eyes who was still staring down his meatball).

“And,” the kids and a couple of the grandkids said almost in unison.

“And we always fight in private … you guys didn’t need to see that,” said George.

Sonia looked at George and her husband winked at her as he gave a single nod. “In fact we had a fight last night, but we always make up.”

“Yes,” George said. “But I think we fight just so we can have makeup sex.”

The rattle of silverware on ceramic plates was the only noise, except for the youngest asking, “What’s makeup sex?”

George and Sonia looked at their family, and George turned to Sonia to say, “I’m sure they think we’re aliens.”

The Iron Writer Challenge #186 – 2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #7

The Iron Writer Challenge #186

2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #7

A Steven L Bergeron Challenge

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

E. Chris Garrison, Vance Rowe, Sean Bracken, Michael Cottle, Reiven West

The Elements:

One hot summer day

A deserted island

Buried treasure

Chicken with its head cut off

Fred on Island Adventure

Reiven West

Fred was running in the whitewater in what seemed like an endless summer day on this deserted island. The wind blew his hair off of his face and drew tears from his eyes but he loved it. Joy seemed to emanate from his body and his grin was infectious.  He slowed down to a walk to check out what treasures the ocean had washed up for him. Every day it was something new and amazing. Yesterday a huge turtle had lumbered out of the sea and made it’s way to the cover of the jungle.  Fred followed it for a little while but left him alone when he realized the turtle was not after the treasure he had buried. 

Up ahead he saw something he hadn’t seen since his best friend had left him here alone.  He couldn’t believe his eyes. It was a small boat! Not sure where it came from or who it belonged to Fred approached it cautiously. No one was around and the boat was completely empty. His heart was beating  furiously and he began to run circles around the boat and jump into the air and spin around like a chicken with it’s head cut off!  A boat! A boat! 

Fred was so excited that he didn’t hear the people approaching. All he could think about was going home and sleeping in a nice soft bed. And Phoebe! And food, oh glorious food! He didn’t know how long he had been here but he hadn’t been able to catch anything edible and he was so tired of eating fruit. He was still circling the boat when he heard her voice. 

“Fred! Oh my God, Fred! I thought we would never find you!” His best friend Becky ran toward him with her arms wide open and she fell to her knees as he jumped all over her, covering her face in  kisses.  She laughed through her tears as he wiggled and barked in joy at seeing her. Fred ran from her to the boat and back again. He looked at the boat and back at Becky. Becky laughed and said “yes Fred, we are going home!” and before she could finish the sentence he was already in the boat waiting for them. 

Fred sat on Becky’s lap with the wind whipping up his long tan and white hair and a grin on his face. Becky was holding him tight and had just given him some chicken jerky, his tummy was comfortably full. He couldn’t be happier.  He was going home, his best friend had found him, and his island adventure was over. He couldn’t wait to get home and tell Phoebe all about it. She would be so happy to see him. She was too old for adventures now, but she loved to hear his stories. She called him her little escape artist and her biggest fear was that one day he wouldn’t find his way home. But he always did. He was fierce for such a little guy, but after all he was a descendant of  royal wolves chosen to be sentinels for the monks in Tibet. 

To Build a Boat

Michael Cottle

Johnny lifted the pickaxe for the last time. Time calloused his hands and toned his muscles, but left his mind free to think. Maybe there was a life somewhere- away from the orcs. Free of the mine. 

“Time’s up Johnny Elf” the warden called. “It’s day 60, and I’m letting you go a half-day early.”

“You can leave your pickaxe there.”

Johnny set the axe down at the base of the mine. He took one last look around before he started walking. The warden followed behind Johnny as he headed up the shaft.

“You know Johnny, your kind are pretty rare these days. The wood elves never were a match for orcs, but they put up some fight.”

Johnny paused and looked at the warden before walking on.

“Where will you go?” the warden asked.

“I don’t know. Galone I suppose. It was once our land.”

“Galone?” the warden reflected. “That Island? Place is in ruins. Ain’t nobody been there for years. How will you get there?”

“A boat I guess. Got to start somewhere” Johnny said.

“Well better you than me boy” the warden patted his hand on the elf’s shoulder. “Don’t come back here. Understand?”

“Yes sir” Johnny nodded and walked outside the mine.

He squinted his eyes nearly shut as he locked his gaze on the sun. The light blinded his eyes until they hurt. Johnny didn’t seem to notice. The light was a long-lost friend, and he had missed it as if they were once lovers. It was hot, and Johnny soaked up every dab of warmth that he could. It had been awhile since he had seen a day this good.

Johnny caught the next carriage to Navarre- a coastal town not far from the island of Galone. He earned the fare playing cards in the mine. The trip left him little coin, but it took him away from the Rio Grande and away from the band of orcs. He spent the first of many nights camping outside of Navarre under the stars. His dreams were more lucid and vivid than ever.

There was but one job available in the whole town of Navarre- the headsman at a chicken slaughter house. The first day spent on the job was the worst. Johnny turned more shades of green than he knew existed. But he promised his Momma that he would earn an honest living, and so he did. And for many days that passed, so he did.

Navarre was close enough to Galone to be within rowing distance. The rumors and superstitions about Galone flowed through Navarre like water. There were a few who disagreed whether or not wood elves still lived on the island. Some say the island was haunted by the living dead. And still, a few spun rumors of hidden treasure deep in the forests of the island- blind to everyone save for wood elves. Johnny could never afford a boat, but it would cost very little to build one! 

Johnny knew nothing of building boats or working wood. But Johnny longed for the vast sea, and all of the immense endlessness that it offered. 

My Thought Process

Vance Rowe

“Why the heck was I tagged in the Iron Writer group again? Someone else taking offense to my presidential candidate? Let’s see. Nope, I am in a challenge this week. Okay so we have one hot summer day, a deserted island, buried treasure, and a chicken with its head cut off as the elements. Nice. These are rather easy this week. Of course, there is an obvious story here but how do I change it up so it’s not so easy?”  

“Steven L. Bergeron came up with these elements, huh? He must be tired or just lacks imagination this week. Let’s see…Michael Cottle, Sean Bracken, Chrissy Garrison and Reiven West are in with me. I am not very familiar with the writings of Sean, Chrissy, and Reiven too much, but I am very familiar with Michael’s drivel. I’ll bet his buried treasure will be an Algebra textbook or some crap like that. At least stupid Mamie isn’t in this challenge. So, how can I make mine different? I could have my protagonist wake up on a deserted island after being shipwrecked…have him run around scared like a chicken with its head cut off…have him trip over a buried treasure chest…hahaha…maybe my buried treasure will be an Algebra book and beat Michael to the punch, and of course, he will be shipwrecked on a hot summer day. No, dammit. I have to be different in my story, Ouch that hurt a bit. Shouldn’t have slammed my hands down on the table so hard. Idiot. Okay, a story…a story…come on story…appear.”

“Curses to you, Steven L. Bergeron for making the elements so easy that it is hard to write a good story and be different. You just made the list. Come on, Vance. You can make a compelling story out of these elements. Think, idiot. Think. I can throw some comedy in there and have my castaway think about making a two-way radio out of a couple of coconut shells and some vines like the professor on Gilligan’s Island. I don’t know, I need a break. Let’s see what is happening on Facebook. Oh look, Mathew W. Weaver stopped playing a video game long enough to pop in and make a stupid comment…let’s see…hahahaha Roger Campbell has a comment for everything. I think he stalks me because he has to comment on everything I post. The new king of controversy. I picture him sitting at his computer and wondering who he can piss off today. Apparently everyone. Okay, I need to go into my slot game and collect my free coins. I will get back to writing in a bit.”

“Okay, back to the challenge. I hate these freaking things. I don’t know why I sign up for them. They just cause me undue stress. Stupid Brian Rogers…coming up with this idea in the first place. He just made the list too.”

Dr. Princess and the Soldier

E. Chris Garrison

Dr. Victoria Princess sunned herself, seemingly unconcerned. Massive waves threatened to wash over the tiny beach island she lay on. Each time the surf struck, a little bit more of the island sloughed away with the tide as it rolled back out. 

Victoria wondered idly whether the shadow of the island’s lone palm tree would move to cool her sooner than the island eroded to reach her toes.

Through her nearly opaque  owlish green plastic sunglasses, she watched as the bucket-like lifeboat sank into the water with a sucking sound. There went her only other clothing, as well as any hope of getting off the ever-shrinking island. Victoria’s face remained cool and impassive, the hint of her trademark smile unchanged.

The cloudless sky darkened. Something blocked the sun. The something grew larger; a whisper grew to a scream as it tore through the air, right toward her island.

Victoria peered at it through her shades, but remained perfectly still as a small airplane crashed into the ground nearby, scattering sand in all directions. Almost instantly, water filled in the crater it left.

A soldier clawed his way from the wreckage, with no time to spare, as the plane exploded. Bits of debris rained down all around, hot metal sizzling in the salt water. The palm tree was knocked to the ground, away from Victoria.

Victoria sprang to her feet. “Oh, are you hurt? I am a doctor, let me examine your wounds!”

The soldier raised his grizzled and craggy face and said, “A doctor? That’s okay, I’m fine, I’m too tough to need a doctor.”

“Don’t be silly, everyone needs doctors sometimes.”

“I don’t. I eat shrapnel for breakfast.”

“That can’t be good for your digestion. Here, would you like a cup of tea?” Victoria produced a small plastic tea set out of nowhere. She sat on the ground, next to his prone form, and prepared the teacups.

His face betrayed no emotion as he snorted. “No! I am here to seek buried treasure, not to drink tea, lady.”

Victoria made no visible reaction, but said, “Buried treasure? Is that why you crashed here?”

The soldier sat up suddenly. “Yes! I was shot down by enemy agents, they don’t want me to find the treasure.”

“I haven’t seen any treasure,” she said, looking past him at the new lagoon that had been dug by his plane’s impact and explosion.

“That’s ’cause it’s buried,” he said, refusing the teacup she offered.

Victoria sipped at her own tea. “Well, how will you dig for–”

A shrill shriek shattered the air, and a giant’s foot, wearing a flip-flop pushed them both deep into the sand.

“Moooom! Aiden just ruined my island party!” cried a voice far up in the sky. “He’s running around like a chicken with its head cut off again, make him stop!”

The surf lapped at the foot-shaped crater, and Dr. Princess and the soldier stared up through the water, the smiles on their plastic faces unchanged. 

The Island

Sean Bracken

“Watch my back, Nick,” I whispered, from behind a stack of empty crates. “I’m going aboard. She looks deserted, but you never know, someone might be on guard duty below decks.”

I waited for the moon to duck behind some clouds, before I made my move and ran in a crouch to a gangway tethered to the yacht. Keeping low, I sprinted up and onto the deck of the Silver Tassie.  Still seeing no signs of life, I made my way to the main hatch. It was secured with a stainless steel padlock, confirming that the boat was deserted. I beckoned to Nick to join me on board,  before pulling bolt cutters from my backpack.Seconds later the lock was only fit for scrap. Nick was busy pulling the boarding ramp onto the deck as I made my way below.

I’d spotted the crew leave that afternoon. A man carrying a young child and a woman. It was obvious from the blotches on their faces that the woman and child were infected. The man’ appeared healthy, but after being in such close contact with the others, he was doomed. They were probably looking for medical help. They hadn’t got a hope. Ninety percent of the world’s population were dead already and there was little hope for the rest of us.

For my son Nick and me, stealing this boat was a matter of survival. We’d avoided all contact with others for weeks and so far our luck held. Now we needed to find a deserted island and hide away for as long as the disease, K9h5, continued to spread.

A week later we found the island. Five hundred miles out in the Pacific, it would become our refuge for the foreseeable future. The Silver Tassie was well stocked, with provisions to last us over a year. The island was unspoilt, with fresh spring water and wild game inhabiting the dense woods. There were even wild chickens in abundance, probably a legacy of some earlier attempt at settlement.

Life on the island was pleasant enough. A couple of women and some booze, it would have been Paradise. As the days rolled into months, radio stations disappeared, until eventually, the airwaves fell silent.

One bright sunny day, six months into our stay, I was cutting the head off a chicken, to prepare it for dinner when Nick came running up from the beach, shouting “Dad, Dad, come and see what I’ve found.”  I dropped the chicken, who ran off, leaving his head behind, and I ran down to see what all the fuss was about. He pointed back the way he’d come, yelling “It’s treasure Dad, it’s treasure.”

The tide had exposed part of an ornate chest, like a pirate treasure chest. Using our hands, we scooped away the sand and opened the lid.

Inside we found a scroll. “A treasure map?” I wondered. I opened the scroll to read “Congratulations! You are the winner of  ABC Television’s Secret Island Quest. Contact 085-085-085 to claim your prize.”