The Iron Writer Challenge #141 – 2015 Winter Solstice Open Preliminary Round

The-Isolator 1

The Iron Writer Challenge #141

2015 Winter Solstice Open Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates Bracket

The Authors:

Mamie Pound, Christopher A. Liccardi, Mason Grant, Richard Russell

Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov Bracket

The Authors:

A. Francis Raymond, Tina Biscuit, Ericka Kahler, Danielle Lee Zwissler

Anais Nin

Anais Nin Bracket

The Authors:

Jason T. Carter, Dani J. Caile, Brett Paul

The Elements:

The Isolator

Something arrogate.

A ball of yarn

An appointment to be abducted by aliens that you are anxiously waiting for.

Click on image to see the stories in each bracket.

The Iron Writer Challenge – 2016 Winter Solstice Open, Joyce Carol Oates Bracket

The-Isolator 1

The Iron Writer Challenge #141

2016 Winter Solstice Open Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates Bracket

The Authors:

Mamie PoundChristopher A. Liccardi, Mason Grant, Richard Russell

The Elements:

The Isolator

Something arrogate.

A ball of yarn

An appointment to be abducted by aliens that you are anxiously waiting for.

Boldly GoMamie Pound

Mamie Pound 

The night sky was sweet with stars, twinkling and spinning, dotting the air far above him with promise.

A swing set lay at his feet like an unearthed dinosaur, poles and slide strewn across the Emerald Zoysia. Its chains were strapped across his chest, warrior style.

“They’re bad about takin’ stuff, Angie,” he said and went straight for the garage. The dog trotted behind, wagging its tail.

Steve piled boxes into his truck.

Angie got her mother and her sister on a three-way phone call in the kitchen.

“He’s wearin’ that thing again,” Angie hissed.

“What thing?” asked Donna, her sister.

“The freakin’ Isolator. Ordered it on Amazon. It’s all he does anymore. Talks about, ‘when they come for him’ and how, ‘he can’t wait’. But he’s scared they’ll take his guns, so he put them in a Yeti cooler and he’s gonna lower them to the bottom of the quarry, for when they bring him back.”

“You’re kidding,” Donna said.

Angie put the phone on speaker. “Nope. He’s gone. Wasn’t even gonna tell me.”

“You don’t know that,” her mother admonished.

“I found a hoard of beanie-weenies and beer in the garage, under his tool chest,” Angie said.

“I wonder if he’ll bring back souvenirs?” Donna teased.

“Even with the laundry and all, I’m gonna miss him,” Angie said.

“Of all people, they chose Steve…,” Donna continued.

“They need craftsmen, he saw it online.”

“Think they’ll tattoo him?” Donna asked.

“Wait, I’m getting another call.” Angie clicked over.

“Hurry, it might be Captain Kirk,” Donna cackled.

After several seconds Angie came back.

“Well, that was Steve,” she reported.

“And?” Donna said.

“He needs yarn.”

“What?” Donna howled.

“He’s gonna knit them an afghan while he waits,” Angie sniffed.

“What a dumb ass!” Donna yelled.

“Donna!” Her mother warned.

“He must be the love child of Martha Stewart and Rod Stirling,” Donna said, laughing.

“Do you have yarn, Angie, Honey?” Her mother asked.

“I bought some for that Pinterest thing I started, but I lost it,” Angie whined.

“You sure did,” Donna said.

“Shut up, Donna,” her mother hissed.

“You need to listen to how you talk to people, Donna,” Angie said.

“Your husband is knitting for aliens, Angie.” Donna persisted.

“Darlin’ don’t you dare get on that spaceship,” her mother cautioned. “Take him the yarn and just leave.”

“Okay,” Angie sighed.

“If she wants to ride the Starship Enterprise, so be it!” Donna cheered.

“At least I have a husband,” Angie jeered.

“Technically speaking…,” Donna went on.

“That wasn’t his fault!” Angie snapped.

“How does one ‘accidentally’ marry their cousin?” Donna asked.

“Shut up, Donna!” Angie yelled.

“Angie, Honey, I have a new ball of yarn, ‘sunshine yellow’…,” her mother continued.


At the quarry, he scanned the horizon for errant light, caught sight of a passing comet, and wished for the glare of metal that would mirror earth’s reflection. He lowered the air-tight cooler into the watery depths and turned back toward his truck.

The wind shifted. A cloud of bats scattered from a nearby cave.

Then a beam, brighter than magnifying-glassed sunshine, shot to earth.

And he was gone.

Hugo’s Code

Mason Grant

“I can’t make a dime’s worth of sense out of this.” Olivia said as she dropped the binder in front of her husband.

“How is this supposed to explain,” she continued gesturing at Chase’s passion within the binder, “why we are in backwoods Luxembourg, which I can barely say let alone spell? You told me that this was going to be romantic.”

Chase looked up smiling. “I finally put it all together. I got this room at this bed and breakfast because of Hugo’s code.”

Olivia was furious paced in front of the bed.

“I thought you were taking a break from your science fiction freakdom for a few days so we could reconnect. You told me that you were going to take me someplace special that only you and I would have. You kind of left out the whole ‘by the way, I’m planning to call Captain Schmirk to beam us up to the Century Falcon.’”

Chase stood and took his wife’s hands.

“Olivia,” he said. “It’s not the Century Falcon. It’s the Millenium, never mind. I pieced Hugo Gernsback’s code together while I was wearing The Isolator suit that he invented. The code was in his Amazing Stories magazines during the 1920’s. It’s remarkable because the code is pieced together with a hint in each issue over the years. Tonight is the night, and this is the spot where visitors from another planet will be coming to take us on an adventure of a lifetime!”

“Are you listening to yourself? You have completely gone off the deep end.”

A tear welled and streamed down Olivia’s cheek as she spoke.

She went on, “Whatever you think this science fiction guy said, it has nothing to do with us. I should be the most important thing in your life. Not this binder and these hugonauts or whatever it is you are waiting for to take you and abduct me. I can get more satisfaction out of a ball of yarn than I can trying to follow your insane fantasies.”

“Honey,” Chase pleaded. “Everything changes tonight.”

“You’re right. Everything changes tonight, Chase,” Olivia said as she gathered her shawl and the keys to their rental car. “Tonight is the night that you chose fantasy over me. You need help, but I am arrogating my life tonight and taking it back.”

“Olivia, please don’t go. Give me just a few more minutes, and you’ll see.”

“I’ve seen everything I need.”

Chase did not leave the cabin as the taillights of the car receded. As the lights disappeared, a new light bathed the secluded cottage from above.

Chase stepped outside and peered up to see the otherworldly craft that Hugo had promised.

“Greetings,” a disembodied voice said to Chase. “We have arrived at the appointed time and place to take whomever is present on a galactic adventure. Are you prepared?”

Chase looked down the road where the car had been just a minute before. He closed his eyes and nodded.

“I have nothing left here. I am ready.”

#3476Christopher Liccardi

Christopher A. Liccardi

“Number three thousand, four hundred seventy six, three thousand, four hundred,” her nasal voice was cut off by a strange little man who jumped in front of her window. Why do they always assume it’s okay to cut me off? And why did she always get the weird ones? She thought.

“That’s me.” Squeaked a tiny little voice. The man was just tall enough so that she could see the top of his brown bowler, level with the counter. Madge had to strain forward on her stool in order to see the round face beneath it.

“Ticket please.” She said in that dry ‘have done this a million times’ tone. Lunchtime was eleven minutes away, but she knew she would be going late.

The short man had to jump several times to get his hand, and his ticket onto the counter. Madge sat scowling at the top of his hat.

She took the ticket, looked at the numbers and tossed it toward the basket at her feet. The floor was littered with millions of those little red tickets, but cleanup was another someone else’s problem.

“Do you have the standard 43112C signed and stamped?” she asked.

The man pulled a stack of papers from his briefcase and once again began to jump repeatedly to reach the counter.

How in the hell did he drive here, Madge thought? He’d need a step stool to get to the toilet.

She sighed audibly and leaned forward again, snatching the papers before they could fall back down to the floor on his side of the counter. The wooden stool groaned under her weight. If the man heard her, he didn’t indicate that. He smiled the entire time.

Madge riffled through the papers. Everything was in order. She pulled the ancient metal stamp from its red ink pad. The CLACK sound echoed down to this man’s ears and she knew if she looked again, he’d be smiling so wide, his hat would fall off.

“Your wish?” Madge asked, it was now two minutes to lunch. She was never going to make it.

“Alien Abduction.” The man said. She heard eagerness in his voice.

“Raise your right hand and swear that this is your heart’s most secret desire.” She motioned out at the empty space in front of her window.

“I DO!” said the little man. More excited than the kids were on Christmas.

“Did you bring the required item? Madge asked, not caring really.

He reached back into his case and pulled out a ball of yarn. It was the color of no color at all.

“Do I keep this with me…” she cut him off. “Yes.”

It was one minute after lunchtime and all the other windows were empty now.

“Take a seat in Booth 13 please and put on the Isolator helmet. Do not forget to turn on the oxygen before you do.” She said, but he was nearly running now. He hadn’t listened and she knew she’d have to call for someone when he passed out, but that would be after her lunch. It was already 5 minutes after and she was starving.

Science With DaveRichard Russell

Richard Russel

Dave was a weasel. Everybody knew it. He never did any schoolwork of his own: Why should he, when he could simply steal the work done by others? He was also the worst science lab partner Billy ever got stuck with. Dave butchered five frogs before Billy took over dissection. Dave cracked ten cover-slips trying to focus the microscope before Billy stepped in. When Billy had to replant the bean seeds Dave had drowned, Billy began to despise Dave’s ineptitude. Dave was dragging him down. Billy resented Dave’s always copying his answers.

This seemed to work well for Dave until finals came around and he realized he didn’t know anything. He needed to get his hands on Billy’s science notes.

Dave saw his opportunity when he spied Billy walking home with an arm-load of cardboard tubes. “Hey, Billy, let me help you with that.” The two made their way to Billy’s house and carried the tubes back into Billy’s room.

Dave looked around Billy’s room in awe. There were consoles, radar screens, antennas, knobs, dials, and strange noises emanating from everything. “What’s all this?” Dave asked.

Billy smirked, “I’ve been searching for alien life in space, Dave.”  

Dave was incredulous, “Yer full of it!”

“No, seriously, Dave, and I’ve found some.”

Dave laughed so hard he doubled over.

“You’ve just lost it, haven’t you? You’re crazy!”

“No, Dave, really. Here, put on this helmet and I’ll prove it.”

Dave looked at the helmet and fell to the floor laughing. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”  

Billy’s shoulders slumped, “Well, suit yourself. If you don’t believe me, then just go home. I’ve got an appointment to meet these aliens tonight, and they’re going to give me technology that’ll make me rich.”

Dave struggled to his feet, “You’re crazy, man. You’re a frickin’ nut-case.” With that, he walked out.

But that evening Dave was too enticed at the prospect of arrogating some priceless technology for himself.

Stooped outside Billy’s window, he overheard Billy’s conversation with … someone on a two-way radio. “Roger that, Q4 Alpha. Rendezvous at Indian Mound in 30 minutes.”

Dave leaned back. “Dang!”  

Dave’s greed kicked in: He snuck around the house, slipped in the side door and jumped Billy from behind. He tied Billy up with a nearby ball of yarn and took off for Indian Mound.

To his surprise, a flying saucer suddenly appeared overhead and Dave was abducted into the ship by a light beam. Before he knew it, he was strapped to a table. Two aliens approached. One was holding a scalpel while the other made gestures indicating he should have the scalpel. Taking a step back, the first one stumbled awkwardly and fumbled the scalpel several times before accidentally cutting himself, dropping the scalpel again. The second one turned, shook his head, and shrugged his shoulders at Dave apologetically.

Back on earth, Billy easily got loose. Opening the package the aliens had given him the night before, Billy felt the trade was more than equitable.

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The Iron Writer Challenge #132

The Iron Writer Challenge #132

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Mathew W. Weaver, Mamie Pound, Christopher A. Liccardi, Maureen Larter, Jason T. Carter

Genre: Sci-Fi

The Elements:

An old, rusty, mysterious truck

Ding Dong Ditch (begins at 40 second mark in the video)

Story about a town called Gone, no one know where it is or how to get there, but everyone knows it exists.

A character who can reads thoughts

Family Vacation

Christopher A. LiccardiChristopher Liccardi

Family vacation – more like family from hell taking a yearlong torture drive across the unknown. The “new car” smelled like old crap and rust. Walter was stuck in it for another three months at least.

“Junior, get the map out and see where our next rest stop is. Gramps needs to stretch his wooden leg a bit.”

“You mean drain it. Sheesh. We been drivin’ for near on five hours without a single stop.” Gramps spat. His teeth were in a jar in the cup holder. Walter had been watching them slosh around for nearly an hour.

“None of that sass, Gramps.” Dad shouted over the 8-track playing sounds of ‘Doorbells from Around the World’, a dismal collection of doorbell sounds he’d found on Intergalactic Shoppers Network. Dying cats would have sounded better.

“Sass this. Some of us is old as this bucket we’re tooting around in and leak just as often.” Gramps said. “Can’t we just translocate to where we’re going and get this over with?”

“No Gramps. Walter wasn’t around when people used to take actual vacations. Now it’s all holographic phooey. He’s never done anything but warp velocity space travel. Besides this “bucket” is a classic from Earth’s history.” Dad retorted.

Walter sunk in to his bucket seat in the back. The Jitney could hold 20 people, but it was just him and Gramps this trip. His father had been so proud he found this old thing that Walter didn’t have the heart tell him the junk dealer could read minds and had taken his father for twice what this battle jitney was worth.

Walter pulled the map out, remembering his father had asked him to look for the next stop. Even the map they used was old fashioned, wrinkled dingy paper. Walter knew his father had a fervor for antiquities, but paper?

“What’s the next town we’re going to, Dad?” Walter asked, mostly not caring what the answer was. He wanted to be back home with his friends playing battlefield games or talking to his girlfriend, not sitting in the back of a Herkimer Jitney from the early 1950’s. Looking at this wreck made him wonder how humans ever got in to the space age.

“It’s an old town called Gone and it’s somewhere up ahead. Do you see it on the map?” Walter’s dad asked as another track from “Doorbells” began to clang inside the metal cab.

Walter scoured the map, looking at the old markings but not finding anything that said Gone. He pulled out his micro computer and booted it up. The comforting chime of his modern-age technology made him smile.

“Son, that’s cheating. This is supposed to be an old fashioned family vacation.” His father said.

But Dad, it’s not a real place. The intergalactic google search shows that nobody’s ever been able to find Gone. It’s a myth.” Walter said.

“That’s the challenge, Walter. If we can find it, we can play Ding Dong Ditch, like Gramps used to when he was a kid.” His father pleaded.

Walter closed the computer, knowing it was going to be a very long family vacation.

A Bedtime StoryMathew W Weaver

Mathew W. Weaver

“Grandpa, you forgot something!”

The old man paused. Two faces peeped from under the thick blankets, eyes bright and beckoning.

“I believe so,” he said. He closed the door and walked back to the beds.

“Wass it gonna be this time, Gwampa?” the boy grinned.

The old man settled in the chair.

“Well, how about the one with the town called Gone?” he suggested, “The one that…”

“…evvybody knows about…” the boy interrupted.

“…and no one knows how to get to,” his sister finished, “You told us that Captain Yealster story last week.”

“Did I?” the old man’s brow furrowed, “Hmm.”

His eyes cleared.

“I bet you haven’t heard about the one where we captured the Ding-Dong-Ditch bandit?”

The girl sat up straighter.

“Well, Captain Yealster and I tracked him down to an abandoned planetoid,” he began, “And his Transdimensional Train had crash landed, and was nothing but a worthless, rust covered engine that wasn’t going anywhere…”


“Give it up, Dong, you’re beaten!” the Captain called.

“Or so you think, Yealster!” Dong screamed.

The blaster fire lanced past us.

“How long till his ammo runs out?” I muttered.

“I’ve crates here, boy!” Dong hollered, “I’m set for months!!”

“He reads minds, I warned you before we landed,” the Captain frowned, “Don’t think of a plan.”

“Then how are we supposed to…?”

“Wing it.”

The Captain leaped around the rock. Plasma blasters in each hand, he ran at the cluster of crates, spraying fire.

I followed him, my blaster drawn.

Then… noise behind me, heat searing across my leg, incinerating it from the knee downwards. I screamed and fell, even as Dong laughed, the traces of teleportation halo still flickering around his body armor. We’d messed up.

Captain Yealster spun around. It was with deliberation that he aimed and fired, point blank.

Dong choked in mid laughter. He stumbled back, eyes wider than they had ever been.

“But…” he gasped, “You… you never kill…”

The Captain fired again.

Dong hit the ground, eyes wide, a hole smoking in his chest.

Dropping the guns, the Captain scrambled to my side, his face betraying his fear.

“You’re gonna be alright, kid,” he said.

“It burns…” I whimpered.

“You’re going to be fine,” he promised, “You’re going to be fine,”

“So Captain Yealster tackled him, and tied him up,” the old man smiled, “And that’s how he went to prison.”

“Don’t be silly, Gwampa!” the boy giggled, “You’re leg’s right there!”

“This?” the man smiled, “It’s a bionic one I had fitted on. It’s designed to look human.”

“You’re lying!” the girl protested.

“Goes to show how well it works,” he winked, “And now, it’s time to sleep.”

He paused at the door.

“Goodnight, kids,”

“Goodnight, Grandpa.”


Absent mindedly, he walked down the passage. His left leg spasmed abruptly, forcing him onto one knee. An insistent whining interrupted the calm, very much like the grinding of a reluctant gear.

“Damn it,” he muttered.

The whirring ceased. Cautiously, he stood and tested his weight on the malfunctioning limb.

“Running out of spare parts,” he sighed, “Only a matter of time now,”

He descended the stairs, and there was silence.

Robots to the RescueMaureen Larter

Maureen Larter

The huge truck drove slowly along what appeared to be some sort of a road.

Jan scanned the landscape of this forbidding place. The truck had been a huge find, but it reminded her of the ancient movie ‘Mad Max’ they had seen when they were on their home planet. Now, all they had was each other.

“Do you think we’re anywhere near the town?” she asked her sidekick. Shirl glared out of the scratched windows.

“We know there’s a town somewhere on this godforsaken planet – don’t know where tho’. We’ve got to try and find it. “

Jan grimaced.

“Who’d be stupid enough to call a town ‘Gone”?” she muttered.

Shirl shrugged.

“We know it exists, just don’t know where! Hey – look! Maybe that’s it!”

A line of huts appeared to the right of them.

“Stop.” Shirl said.

As the truck slid to a shuddering halt, she jumped out, raced over to the nearest building and knocked on the door.

Jan saw her step back hurriedly then raced back to the vehicle.

“What did you do? Ding dong ditch the place?” Jan was puzzled.

“Drive!” Shirl yelled. “You should have seen the thing that was coming to answer the door – I couldn’t get out of there fast enough! Just keep driving!”

Jan shuddered. “Do ya’ think it was one of those creatures that can read your mind?”

Shirl shook her head.

“Nope! It looked like a cross between a dragon and a werewolf! This planet’s creepy! I wish we could find the town – maybe it’s got a spaceport and we can get out of here!”

Jan kept driving!


The rust on the bumper bar and the front of the half-buried truck was eating its way towards the cabin.

Greg turned to the contingent of rescue robots and grimaced.

‘Pity they never found the town,” he mumbled as he looked at the skeletons slumped over the huge steering wheel. “Maybe they would have survived!”

GoneJason T. Carter

Jason T. Carter

The screams echoed throughout the junkyard. We followed the sound all the way to a rusty hunk in the middle of the heap. Using anything we could find as levers, we pried open the door and found dad inside the Herkimer Battle Jitney. Covered in sweat, when the light from outside fell over him he shut his eyes tight. “Dad, it’s okay, we’ve got you.”

We pulled him out of the dilapidated machine and took him to the hospital, where they ran test after test. “Dad, where have you been?” For five months we searched, never giving up hope. But there was no sign of him anywhere until the junkyard owner called the police.

Dad turned his head away from my voice and trembled. “Not tonight,” he said. He needed rest.

I slept in the chair next to his hospital bed. Annette wanted me to come home, but I could not leave him; I didn’t want him to disappear again. I knew where he went, even if he didn’t want to tell me. I had heard the stories growing up, but never wanted to believe them. No one really knew where it was or how to get there, but if you went, you didn’t come back whole, if at all.

After lunch, I broached the subject again. “Dad, where were you?”

This time his eyes locked onto mine, making me want to turn away, but I couldn’t. His periwinkle eyes pierced into mine, forcing me to stare back. “Gone.” He trembled again, but kept his grip on me with his eyes.

“How? Where?”

He shuddered, pushing his words out with force. “They rang the doorbell. Twice. But there was no one there. I thought it was those punks down the road, playing ding dong ditch again. On the third ring, I stepped out onto the porch, but I wasn’t on the porch anymore. I was somewhere…else.”



“For five months?”

“No, it didn’t feel like five months. It felt like five minutes. But I knew where I was.” At this, he broke his visual connection with me, looking off into a corner.

“How did you know?”

“Your mother was there. She looked just like she did the day she disappeared, eleven years ago. I mean, same clothes, same hairstyle, same everything. Hadn’t aged a day.”

My heart sank. I knew she didn’t want to leave us, and that she would come back if she could. I just knew it. And dad knew it too, even if he didn’t want to admit it.

“How did you get back?”

“Why don’t you ask the other question? I know what you are thinking. Why didn’t I bring her home?”

“Well…” I started, but he cut me off.

“She’s not your mother anymore, Charles. And I’m not your father. This is his body, and this is his mind, this isn’t his heart.”

“Then, who are you?”

Diesel and Burning SugarMamie Pound

Mamie Pound

“He’s got something real bad locked up in his mind,” she said, “darkness follows him like a stray dog.” 

“You’re drunk, Delilah,” Earl said. “He paid his debt to society. Leave him alone.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Earl,” she hissed. “I know things.”

“You better watch out, old lady, or they’ll come for you again,” he said. 

She shuddered. 

Not even Earl believed her story about the dogs disappearing into the night sky.

She spent three years in the state hospital in Gone, Alabama, before they cured her of her delusions. She was scared to leave, anyway. At least there, people were always around, watching, ready to pull her back to earth should she fly away. She figured Earl would let her float  off into space.

That same night she had the delusions, there were electrical surges, doorbells rang and no one was there, strange music played on the television and the man’s wife disappeared.They never found his wife, just her clothes scattered across the backyard, her husband’s footprints nearby.

People testified that he was crazed, unstable.

He spent ten years in prison for felony evidence tampering because he refused to testify, because he couldn’t speak a word.

People said guilt would do that to you.

But after being home a few months, neighbors forgot his past. They came to think of him as a regular guy. Few believed him capable of murder. He planted a garden, painted his house, joined a church. 

Then a child disappeared

Police searched his house, his car, his property. Cadaver dogs found a doll in the muddy field behind his house.

But there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him, and some talked of taking matters into their own hands.

“Something else got that child, not him,” Delilah said.

A vigil was held. People prayed, lit candles, posted pictures.

The ex-con got death threats. Someone firebombed his car.

Fear and guilt taunted him. Until one night, he turned off the porch light, set a bottle of beer on the railing and leaned a shotgun against the wall. He took a seat in the rocking chair and cradled a second gun in his lap.

He scanned the sky.

Delilah watched him from her kitchen window.

She closed her eyes. “They’re coming back for him, and he knows it,” she whispered.

Sometime after midnight, the hair on his arms stood on end. A blinding spotlight appeared above the trees. He stood, cocked his rifle and aimed for the sky.

At that same moment, Delilah awoke from a dream. His thoughts, memories of his wife’s disappearance, played in her mind: 

Darkness eclipsed the noonday sun. 

A violent shudder rattled the pine trees. Then they stood stock still, in mute deference.

Emmaline’s long, blonde hair flew straight up, as if someone had turned her upside down, but her bare feet still held to the cool, damp earth. The air smelled of diesel and burning sugar. She heard him scream and turned to see him running toward her, calling her name, reaching for her, falling into the soft muddy field.

Silence overtook him. 

And she flew farther and farther away.

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