The Iron Writer Challenge #202 –  2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #8

The Iron Writer Challenge #202

2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #8 

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

(Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.)

The Elements:

A sunrise

A revelation

A fairy tale

Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life? 

Sunshine on My Face

She clambered out of the window, dropped to the ground, winced at the noise, and waited.   

Silence.   

She ducked low, tiptoed to the car, and eased the door handle.   Locked.   She bit her lip and went towards the van.    A branch crunched underfoot.   She froze.  After a moment, she slipped to the driver’s side.   The keys must be in the house.    

Nothing for it.  

She wasn’t dressed for this kind of terrain.   She hunched into her shirt, shivered against the icy wind, and started down the driveway, listening, listening.     As soon as she rounded the curve, she moved into a run.   

She fell, and fell again, and slowed to a walk.   Breaking a leg wouldn’t help.    But the line of orange in the distance meant she didn’t have much time.  She got to the road, turned right and began jogging down the mountain, trying to follow the asphalt, but staying close to the ditches, just in case.  It helped that a pink glow cast eerie shadows over the landscape.

The whole mountain was silent.  The only sounds were her footsteps, her panting, and the rocks that skidded beneath her.    

A crossroad.   Which way?  

It was almost sunrise, one of the most spectacular she’d seen in her life.  A white fog on the low areas, a distant peak, and an orb of gold that bathed her face.     It looked like the background for an animated fairy tale: so perfect, so bright.   She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the colors.  The air was fresh and crisp with a faint whiff of pine.  

It came to her, like a revelation: she loved her life.   She loved life.  Even with the bumps and the hiccups and the bills.    

How could she have missed that?    How could she have taken it all for granted?  She felt a rush of gratitude for this moment, for this life, for this day, for the chance to breathe one more time.  

A truck was coming from the right.  Either her only hope or the worst thing she could do.    She couldn’t decide, then stuck out her thumb.   

It stopped.  The driver leaned over, “You’re a long way from home.”  His eyes were searching.   

“I was on a date that went bad.  I’m trying to get to Springfield.”    

“I can take you to the first exit off the interstate.”  

Just before she clambered in, she stuck her hands deep in her pockets, pulled out a folded paper, hesitated, and dumped the white powder in the dirt.  She did it low, where he couldn’t see.     

His radio was on.   It took her a moment to recognize the tune, “Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?”

Shard the Beast

The sun was rising over Coldwater. With his feet dangling in the water from the pier, Shard looked at his reflection. It looked back at him. It was a hideous beast that peered from the rippling water. There was no wonder that others feared him, or if they knew him, just made fun of him. 

Shard feared nothing.

Times were hard. Every available man was drafted to the war cause, and every resource was put towards the effort to keep the invaders out. Shard knew these people. He grew up sleeping his nights in the loft of Mr. Walter’s barn, but he felt the call to war just as any other. So, when Shard volunteered to wear the uniform, he felt there was no reason to be turned down.

Shard was wrong.

“We don’t need pigs in our infantry” the commander said to him.

And so, Shard farmed. And he chopped wood. And he put iron shoes on the hooves of horses. And nothing may have ever changed from that, except word had travelled that a girl had gone missing. The battlegrounds were pushed to the east, and her home was caught in the middle. Her father had sent his friend Walter word in desperation.

Walter knew of no able body to spare other than Shard. Walter raised Shard from a boy. Walter kept him fed and in the loft of his own barn. With years of farm labor, Walter made a man out of this beast. Now it was time for Shard to return the favor.

“I need to ask a favor” Walter spoke, but Shard could see nothing except for the blinding light of the morning sun.

Shard said nothing, but held a hand up to his forehead in an attempt to see more clearly.

“I need you to find a missing girl” Walter said.

“Yeah?” Shard asked.

“In the middle Andalusia” Walter explained.

“A girl? In the middle of a battlefield? To make me happy for the rest of my life?” Shard let go a belly laugh. “Why me?”

“Because I trust you.”

“And?” Shard pursued.

“And because there is no one else to send”, Walter replied.

“How could I find her?”

“The last anyone heard, she was at Blackheart Farms. You remember John we used to trade bulls with?” Walter asked.

“Yeah?”

“Looks just like him” Walter replied. “Well, except she’s a girl. Name’s Becky.”

“Why would I do this? No one ever trusted me.”

“John is offering a reward- a big one, a cabin and a piece of land at his farm if she is found safe. Besides, Shard, I’ve watched you become a man, like my own son.”

“Sons, don’t sleep in lofts. Sons help defend the land.”

“You can’t fight in the war son. Your blood is northern.”

“What nonsense is this?”

“You look like northerners because you are from the north- an instrument of war ever since you were brought here.”

“I am…” Shard voice trailed off across the water.

“You are one of the beasts we battle.”

A breeze blew ripples across the water leaving reflections distorted, but the anger distinctly clear.

A Fairy Tale Life

The morning sun shone through the bedroom window, warming Alexis’s face. Her lips curled up into a smile as she heard birds chirping outside. She slowly opened her eyes and stretched. She yawned as she sat up in bed and looked out of the window and stretched her arms out again. She slipped her feet into the slippers by the bed and walked out into the kitchen. The aroma of fresh-brewed coffee wafted by her nose. She was glad she set the timer on the machine the night before so now she only has to pour the delicious black liquid into a cup and go out on the deck. She sat down at the patio table and just marveled at the beautiful colors that the morning sun has painted the sky.

This is her idea of a fairy tale. No princes, no princesses, no evil queens, no magic potions. This is her ideal fairy tale. Writing novels and living in a cabin on a hill surrounded by nothing but forest and a big, beautiful lake a few yards from her place. The morning sun danced off the water in the lake creating little white sparkles that seemed to twinkle like the stars in the night sky. Alexis purchased this cabin after the sale of her first novel and wrote her second successful novel here. This is her happiness; her happily ever after.

Like in all fairy tales though, she does have a conundrum. Alexis hasn’t written anything for her next novel yet and her deadline is fast approaching. She has read magazines, watched television shows, and movies to try and get some inspiration but nothing has struck her as gold yet. After breakfast, she went into her living room, sat down on her couch and turned the television on. A talk show was on and they showed a special proposal a man made to his fiancée and he said to her, “Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?” This revelation struck the woman because she was not expecting this. She was a part of the show under another pretense.

She said yes and the audience applauded. The couple hugged and then cried on each other’s shoulders. This moved Alexis and she suddenly had the inspiration she needed for her next novel. It would be a romance novel and it would have a surprise proposal in it. She poured herself another cup of coffee and sat down with her laptop and began typing away. This is the happy ending to her very own fairytale. This is what makes her happy; and it will for the rest of her life.

Revelation

I sat there with her lying in my lap on the edge of the forest, watching the upper limb break the horizon.

On that night, with the drinks, the laughs, the fooling around and the amphetamines shared around the camp fire, forever warming our carefree hearts, I had a revelation. My mind, one moment wiped out with fun and wasted from the party came clear the next instant, and all seemed so elementary, so simple. Life became one flowing luminous spiral through the trap of time and I saw all. The uncaring, screaming creature that held the universe together was one with me, and we soured through a multitude of neutrons and protons in the dark matter soup.

Gone were my worries of not being able to get the rent together for next week, or fix the bike that seized up from lack of oil and funds, or stop the boys from smashing my kneecaps in due to not making the next payment on my amplifier. Gone were my troubles of dropping out of college, working in a supermarket stacking shelves and failing to keep up with the financial needs and desires of my last girlfriend.

But this girl, this girl… I felt the morning orange sun touch my face as it grew in sight, warming my cold skin and drying the cold dew which lay there. The sun stirred my heart, as she did. I could feel she was awake, eyes open.

“That’s nice,” she said. I stooped my head and kissed her on the cheek, feeling my lips caress her cool face.

“Yeah, baby, it is.”

“It feels like a fairy tale, like it’s not real somehow.” Her arms wrapped around my legs and she hugged them.

“None of it is. All we have is each other and nothing else.”

She sighed and we watched the movement of the sun, bringing fire to the earth and waking life once more. The shadows of the land, asleep in trees and hedges, stretched tall and long, running from their tormentor until they were finally caught and scurried back from whence they came. The fields of wheat and barley swayed this way and that as they grabbed what rays they could to escape the blanket of sleep.

“What will we do when we get back?” she asked. Her question meant nothing to me. There was nothing to go back to.

“Whatever we need to do,” I said, the words emanating from my mouth sounding strong and pure for once in my life. I knew what was to be done. And she felt it, lifting her head and meeting mine, kissing me. One look in her eyes told me all I wanted. She was the one. 

“Will you make me happy for the rest of my life?” she asked, smiling and resting her head on my shoulder.

“Well baby, I’ll give it a shot, but if I can’t, I’ll die trying.” I kissed her as the final slither of sun ripped from the horizon.

Growth

The seed squiggled under the moist warm loam. A sharp stab from bitter chill air stilled its movements. The heat generated from decaying foliage blanketed the seed, pulled at the seed’s outer wall, entreating entry. The seed pushed deeper into the soft soil. This foreplay between the soil and seed was their intimate copulation ritual which they performed for days.

Then one day, the seed’s wall began to crack under the gentle passionate pressure. The fissure was tiny at first, but it was large enough to allow penetration by the nourishing peat’s breathe. The tiny plant inside the seed cowered in fear, as the strong musky scent kissed it, inviting physical contact.

The plant grew bolder and pushed against its walls, breaking the opening wider.. The earth whispered encouragement and enticed it by carrying life giving gases as it caressed the yellow-white flesh of its lover. An appendage stretched out of the shell, twisting slowly, brushing against the wispy fibers of lost life asking to return. Small hairs suckled at the threads, pulling the rest of itself down. The plant’s tip finds the dirt, its tip presses against it. Finally, they have found each other, that instant of touch sealing their fates, forever intertwining them. 

The hairs branch out, growing, finding small tunnels, pushing into soft soil, penetrating deep. The root pushes deep into the ground, sending arm after arm out to hug the earth in order to draw into itself all which it needs. The soil gives all it has, it doesn’t mind, knowing the plant will return it in time. The plant digs deeper into the soil, the soil grabs hold of the plant, one taking, one waiting to take. 

The plant reaches for more. It needs more. The earth knows it cannot give what the plant needs. It is too yellow, too weak. It has to find energy. The plant points its head towards the ground, refusing to seek out what it needs elsewhere. The soil consumes the loam faster, sending its friends out. The soil cannot help it more. 

The plant’s body thinned, its coloring darkened, its flesh flaked. The earth sent a final burst of warmth. The plant lifted its head. Something strange pricked at its top. A new warmth, but also a coolness. A jolt of energy surged from the spot on its head towards its body and into its roots. The plant found the strength to stand straight. As it did, its head was bathed in a light.  It raised its head opened up, showing full petals to a round red orb on the horizon. The plant knew now this was what it needed. The hunger it had flowed away, its body changed color as it grew stiffer. It opened its many arms in thankfulness to its savior. Its head followed the orb as it moved from red to orange to yellow to white and back again. 

The plant’s roots tickled the earth in gratitude while it gazed upon the orb with a look which asked: Will you make me happy for the rest of my life?

 

The Iron Writer Challenge #200 – 2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #6

 The Iron Writer Challenge #200

 2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #6

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Dani J. Caile, Moira McArthur, Steven L. Bergeron, Bethany Totten, David Jobe

(Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.)

The Elements:

The Proclaimers: 500 Miles

A quest

Chocolate

The Evil twin

The Power of His Words

Steven L. Bergeron

Father Anthony Clousonetti scientologist, criminologist, he loved a good adventure about as much as spreading the good news. Christianity had been the rock which held St-Peters Christian United together. How can a simple chocolate covered Grail make such an impact?

His new adventure took us deep into the village of Baschurch England, the resting place of King Arthur. We must have walked 500 miles if not a thousand, Father Anthony’s philosophy remained in completion of our quest we shall be closer to God. As the proclaimers sang “we may walk 500 miles, but in the end, we will come back to you.”

The Grail as we know it, might be only a symbol, but being in the hands of my brother Joseph, that could only spell trouble. I was two minutes older than Joseph, and generally I can predict his every move. But since our Father’s death, it would seem that Joseph had ultimately followed in our father’s evil ways.

We where all pooped, dry and out of shape once we reached the end of the village. Smoke coming from a lonely hut indicated warmth, and quite possibly food. As we approached the door there he stood. He was dressed in black, with that evil grim in his face, he simply looked at me.

“Come in brother I been expecting you. I see you brought your entourage. Well hello Father Anthony. It’s been a while.”

“Cut it with the chitter chatter brother, you know why we are here. What have you done with it?”

“Whatever are you talking about.”

“The chocolate Grail, we know you have it.”

“Are you accusing me of stealing your precious cup. That is something our father would do” Joseph attention now turned towards Father Anthony.

“Father I’m surprised you of all people, would condone there thinking”

“I’m simply going with whatever your brother told me.”

“Enough of this Joseph what have you done with it?”

“Know, know brother relax, it is in it’s proper location. I buried it next to King Arthurs tomb. That is right I have put the power of the cup to rest, along with your precious Christianity.”

“See Father I told you he was evil.”  The look that Father Anthony gave me was one I have never seen before.

“You are so wrong Micheal, you see I gave your brother the Grail, and instructed him to bury it next to King Arthur.”

“You did what. You led me to believe my brother was that evil?”

“It was all part of my plan. Your brother could not do this on his own. I led you on your quest make sure you arrived safely to learn the truth. You see you all where so much involved with the Grail you believe it over powered Christianity. Which is wrong, for all that I been teaching you, your brother is the only one who believed the real power of Christianity. You see the Grail is simply a symbol, but Christianity is so much more.”

Charlie’s (an) Angel

Dani J. Caile

“But I will walk five hundred miles..!” screamed Charlie my twin as I pushed him down the dirt road in the only wheelchair we could find at the village we passed through three days ago.

“Charlie, you’re not walking though, are you?” I said, and regretted it instantly.

“There you go! Moaning about how you need to push me in this wheelchair! I twisted my ankle on that rock! I’m the one who needs to suffer constant agony! And I’m the one who has terminal cancer!” shouted Charlie for all the vultures to hear as the sun beat down on our heads. I stopped pushing and looked around for any sign of life. A strange sound made me turn back to Charlie.

“What was that?” I asked, noticing something which looked like a wrapper in his hand.

“What?” said Charlie with his mouth full. He hid the offending item into his pocket.

“That… that was a chocolate bar, wasn’t it? You said all we have left are a few slices of bread and some milk!”

“I need to stay alive, Craig! I need to finish my Bucket List before I die! How can you be so self-absorbed? I’m going to die, Craig! Die!” I shook my head and continued on pushing him along the road. This quest to ‘find himself’ before he ‘moved on’ was beginning to take its toll on me. I felt so tired. An urge appeared below and I had to go.

“I have to go.”

“What, here?”

“Over that ridge. I’ll be back in a minute,” I said, running up the slope and down the other side. There was a half-dead bush to pee on at the bottom.

“Don’t take too long! Those vultures look hungry! And you never know who’s driving down this road! Bandits, murderers, rapists!”

Rapists? As I finished off, my phone beeped. A signal? Since leaving civilization behind our phones hadn’t worked properly in days. Maybe there was a tower nearby. Fifty four emails, seven messages…wow… the messages were all from Janice at the company. The last one had a link to a news item. I clicked it. With only five percent on the battery, I slowly made my way back to Charlie. When I looked up from the page, shocked by the news, I saw Charlie standing by the wheelchair, having a cigarette.

“What the…! You can stand?”

“Oh! It’s a miracle! My ankle feels much better!” said Charlie, dropping his cigarette into the road. I held up my phone so that he could see it.

“Now I get it. What do you take me for?” Charlie squinted into the screen and smiled.

“A fool. As always,” he said, laughing.

“You bought me out,” I said, not believing my own words.

“Yep. I had to. You weren’t dying quick enough, so I had to spend a little money to get that deal of a lifetime from Havers.” He was evil, pure evil…dying?

“Die…dying?”

“I swapped the files at the hospital. You’re the one with cancer, Craig.”

My head began to spin and I sat down as he continued to laugh. I didn’t feel well…

If I Could Just Get a Minute 

Moira McArthur

I pick up my pen and start to write.

‘There’s an old mulberry tree in the grounds of the Abbey that I walk around three times widdershins.

An old chap sitting on a bench. He nods as I pass. Knowing the significance. High summer is when the mulberries fall. Ripe, fat and squashy.’

The door crashes open and a wet and dripping leather arm is waved in at me, then as quickly goes away. “It’s raining”, says husband from the hallway. “Hanging up my jacket.”

He comes in. “Not many at Ian’s retiral do tomorrow night, but enough there for the afternoon tea. ” He puts on the television. I start again, lifting my pen. “Just as well I had lunch before I went. Catering was awful. Tiny wee cakes.” He lapses into silence again, watching the tv. I wait..but that seems to be it.

This is like a quest. Can I finish writing before any more interruptions come my way? Told I had three hours in which to write, said goodbye to family and came home. Stuck at the newly erected traffic lights for the bit of road they keep digging up. Something to do with building of the new school on the opposite side of the road, no doubt. Lights changed and we were off again. All five metres before the bus stop. We waited in our single lane as the bus squeaked to a halt to let someone alight. Off again, we gained the roundabout. I turned left and joined the inexorable queue up the Main Street. I can see my house, clear as day off the other side of the dual carriage way. Just can’t get to it without the u-turn coming up. Around the island, wait and wait for a gap in the traffic coming down. Thank goodness this car is nippy. Judge and get round, indicator on right away and turn into my Street. Figure if other half is using Over 60s rail pass then won’t be home until after 6.

Alas and alack. Got a lift back from other side of the city to the Main Street. Torrential rain greeted him on exit from the car. Couple of hundred yards to home and he was drenched. Anyway, where was I..

“That’s some hill up to the department. Quite forgotten how steep. From the station too. Adds another hill.” I nod my head. Silence as he turns again to the television…

“Did I say the catering was bad? Should’ve gone to Costco. Got the lot. Maybe they had to go in-house though. Sorry, am I keeping you from something? You’re looking upset. Not your usual chirpy self.” I indicate the notepad and the list of elements. “Can I take you somewhere for a coffee, some dinner, cheer you up?” I give a sigh. Dang it, I’ll never finish at this rate. Interruptions. The Evil Twin of writing assignments.

Gathering my bag, I say ok, let’s go. Step into the car. Engine starts and my phone Bluetooths into life. “If I could walk 500 miles..”  Singing, we drive in search of a coffee shop with wifi and chocolate.

Into Your Heart

Bethany Totten

Although the house was empty, the house creaked and moaned from not only age, but from the wind as well.  It seemed alive, eager to tell its story.

“Man, this place is creepy,” Harper commented more to herself then her companions as she walked through the downstairs, casually peering into the rooms.  “I can’t believe these people just up and left.”

“I know,” replied Daniel, her boyfriend as he wandered around.  “This place is huge.”

Harper walked up the stairs, her camera light guiding her way.  She rounded a corner into what appeared to be a bedroom.  The wallpaper was peeling away from the walls and a single chair with a doll sat in the corner.

Harper snapped a picture and Daniel’s voice broke her thoughts.

“Yeah?” she called out to him and went into the hallway.

Daniel stood at the base of the attic steps looking at her with an eerie look to his face.

Harper looked at him with an irked look.  “What?” she asked him again.

Daniel continued to look at her.  He then turned and silently walked up the stairs.  Harper rolled her eyes, sighed, and followed him up the stairs.  She was met by an empty room.

“Daniel?” she tentatively called out as she walked around the massive room.  Nothing, she was alone.

She frowned to herself and walked down the stairs.  She started to head down to the first floor and was met by Daniel and their friend Josh on the landing.  Harper stopped dead in her tracks.

“How did you get down here so fast?” she asked him.

Daniel looked at her in confusion.  “What are you talking about?  I’ve been downstairs the whole time.”

“But, I just saw you walk up the attic steps,” Harper protested as she looked towards them in equal confusion.  “I swear I did.”

“He’s been with us the entire time,” Josh commented.

The three of them looked at each other in confusion as an eerie wail echoed down the hall.  The quickly ran out of the house to their car.  It was the last time they explored that particular place.

Mountain of the Dead God

David Jobe

Lore moved amongst the sprawling coca plants that would soon be turned into the delicious chocolate that made the Synti Tribe the richest traders in the south. Fields stretched from horizon to horizon, marred only by the lonely mountain that stood amidst their crops. Shaped like an inhuman skull with jutting horns that now haloed the setting sun, The Dead God Mountain would be the final destination on this long quest. Lore bundled tight her wolf-skin fur, making sure that it hid the markings of her tribe. While they were not at war with the Synti, they would find the mystery of her being so far from her lands reason enough to detain her. Five hundred miles as the crow flies is further than even the most brazen hunter might venture.  Lore had to know if the myth of the Dead God was true. She would not rest until she climbed down its gaping maw and discovered if the doorway existed.

She hustled through the rows of plants toward the gullet of the mountain. Just as the horizon turned a murderous red, she slipped beyond a napping guard between two teeth that towered as high as trees, the space between just wide enough to allow her thin frame. Once beyond she found the steep decline that shifted from red clay dirt to some form of rock that gleamed in the torches that lined the walls. Her deerskin moccasins made faint whispers on the hard surface, her form making shadows dance across the smooth rock walls. Soon she began to notice that the torches became fewer, though the light grew brighter. The smooth rock appeared to have lines of blue lights running like veins across it. She found her fingers longing to brush the surface, but as she grew close, she could feel a hum in the air that made her fearful. Onward and downward she snuck, the walls were narrowing in around her. At the end of the throat of the mountain, she found herself standing before what looked like the smooth surface of a still lake, her reflection staring back at her, though the water’s surface was vertical.

“What dark magic is this?”

Her reflection smiled back, revealing pointed teeth that did not belong in her mouth.

Lore raised a hand to her mouth, fearful that she would find herself smiling and having gained sharpened teeth. Her mouth remained a frown.

“I come seeking the way.”

“The way,” her reflection whispered back.

“Enough. Reveal to me the truth!”

Her reflection remained still, though its eyes watched her hand with muted fascination. It was then that Lore noticed that its eyes held a darker hue, the iris near eclipsing the white of the eye. Then the reflection stepped from the waters, emerging to the sound of a thousand voices crying out in fear. The odor of decay and sulfur filled theair. Her evil doppelganger spoke in hushed and measured tones. “You were meant for great things. Now, that future is gone. I’ll show them all the way. The truth.” It reached for her, a cruel smile on its face.

Lore’s scream announced the Return.

The Iron Writer Challenge #194 -2017 Spring Equinox Tournament Final Round

 

The Iron Writer Challenge #194

2017 Spring Equinox Tournament

Final Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

(Authors will be revealed next Thursday.)

The Elements:

Smokestacks at night

An unknown assailant 

A maze 

A chamber pot overflowing with radioactive candy bars from a parallel universe

Dreams of a Parallel Universe

Michael Cottle

Smoke stacks burning into the night. That was my last memory of a normal life.  That was when my father gave me the multi-verse cube. 

I didn’t understand it at the time. I was a boy of thirteen, what did I know of traveling through parallel universes? My father talked of it often, but there was never enough time to explain it. Bleeding of a wound from the traveler, he gave me the sequence that unlocked the six faces of the cube. 

Earth, Water, Fire, Breath, Life, Time.

“Be free my son…” were his last words. I had no time to grab anything. The traveler was coming for me and for the cube because we were not supposed to be in that world. I whispered the sequence to the cube, and the only world I knew vanished.

I was lost in a maze of blue aura- endlessly. I searched for a pathway of escape until I was utterly exhausted. I wondered if this might be the fate I would suffer. It was only me, the cube and the wild blue aura. I wept. I cursed the cube and threw it as far as I could. It only came back to me and seemed to mock my existence. Then it occurred to me, as if from the very aura I was in, to speak the sequence backwards.

I did, and a new reality came so fast that it took my breath away. 

I repeated this process through many new worlds. I don’t know how old I am now. I start from zero with each travel- hungry and tired. I’ve seen nothing of my father or the world that I knew, only shadows and images of who and what I’ve known. Sometimes it’s hard to keep straight who they are, and who they were.

The traveler searches for me constantly, for each world is not mine.  I’ve had to leave several worlds without goodbye. They almost seem like home. The last world I was in, they were headed for global nuclear war, but they made good candy bars- Zoobars. I wanted to save something from that world. I wanted other worlds to know that they at least contributed something worthwhile. I grabbed a chamber pot full of Zoobars, and spoke the sequence to the multi-verse cube just as detonation had taken place. 

Taking things out of parallel universes proved to be a bad mistake. Radioactive Zoobars overflowed the chamber pot while I was in the wild blue aura. I dropped the cube, and before it could return to my side, radioactive Zoobars filled the aura at a most rapid pace. The traveler easily spotted this disturbance, but he was overwhelmed with Zoobars before he could reach me. Miraculously, the cube returned to my side, and I quickly spoke the sequence. I found my new home with only a couple of Zoobars in hand. I had lost the multi-verse cube in the wild blue aura full of candy bars.

So, this is my home now. Somewhere, worlds leave at more than light speed. I dream of them at night when my thoughts are taken by a parallel universe.

The Chase

Dani J. Caile

I had broken our laws. 

And now I was living my own personal hell. If anyone knew, the consequences for the Congregation would be disastrous, catastrophic. No one, absolutely no one was to cross the border between our world and theirs without permission from the Ministry of Erudition. 

But I had. The urge was too strong, a parallel universe with untold treasures waiting for us beyond the Shards? A chance that had to be taken.

So, today, once reaching the chosen age, I used the briefest of opportunities, travelling there and back, grabbing what I could from the places and shops I happened upon and re-entering within the limits laid down by Doctor Everett so many centuries before. But it all went wrong. I was followed. How could I be so naive to think I could get away with it? A man, an assailant, shouting, verbally assaulting me as I ran from one universe to the other, chasing me through the streets, following me back. I could not lose him!

“Stop! Oi! Stop!”

At no point should he ever catch me! For the sake of the Congregation, for the sake of myself. But he was still on me, so I ran towards the safety of the city’s great smokestacks, churning out their pollutants into the night sky. Only there, in the maze of pipes and machines inside the factories of our illustrious leaders, would there be an escape. I looked down to check my haul from the raid, a chamber pot overflowing with radioactive candy bars. On the open market they would sell for peanuts but I knew an avid buyer who would pay a handsome sum. 

“Oi!”

He was so close, brandishing something in his hand, threatening me! I tried to weave and dodge through the factory floors, around machines, under pipes, up stairways and down ladders, but I couldn’t shake him! With one last effort, I sprinted ahead and for a moment, I was free. But at what cost? I could run no more, my legs were dead after the chase, and the radium seeping from the candy bars was surely the reason for me feeling weak and sick. A welcoming cubbyhole appeared between two pipes and I dived for cover, allowing my legs to rest.

For a moment I relaxed, gazing in wonder at my radioactive candy bar filled chamber pot. And then I heard it. On the gangway above there were steps, turning this way, then that. Someone slid down a ladder and landed nearby. I listened for another sound, anything, but silence filled my ears.

There was a touch on my shoulder! I knew right then it was the end!

“Got ya!”

I turned to face him, knowing what was to come, the arrest, the holding cell, the trial where I would…

“There you go!”

Something rested in my palm, and with sweat dripping down my neck, I looked into my open hand. A coin?

“You forgot your change.”

As I sat there losing my mind while staring at the copper-coloured metallic money, he walked away.

Like, Literally

Malissa Greenwood

Clair was in the kitchen rolling Rice Krispy treats into balls before dipping them in chocolate. She checked her watch and called out, “We’ve got to leave in thirty minutes, gang!”

The family had a big night planned; the kids were attending a big school party out by the old smokestacks for Halloween and Clair and her husband Ed had graciously volunteered to help.

Eric, their oldest son, was at the table playing a game on his phone. He was already in costume – all black with a sign reading ‘unknown’ pinned to his shirt. 

 Ed came down the stairs and looked at him. “What are you supposed to be, bud?”

“I’m an unknown assailant.” He responded without looking up. 

“I don’t get it.”

“We’re supposed to dress as characters from books and the unknown assailant is like, a staple in crime fiction. It’s like, literally the most popular character in books.” 

“But… you’re just unknown. So now you’ll have to assail. You’ll have to attack people all night in order for that to work.”

Eric shrugged. “Ok I guess I will, then.”

Edward sighed and moved on to assess the kitchen table covered in items they needed to take with them to the party. 

“Is that my antique chamber pot?” he asked, a hint of irritation in his voice. 

“Ok, first can I just say again how weird it is that you have an antique chamber pot?” Clair responded, turning around with a Rice Krispy ball in one hand and a chocolate covered spoon in the other.  “I mean, you do know what those were used for, right?”

“It’s history Clair!” 

“And second,” she continued “Yes… it is your fancy antique chamber pot. But the kids needed it. It’s the perfect container for their candy…” Clair stopped and looked at Joey who sighed and rolled his eyes as only a nine-year-old boy can.

“They’re radioactive candy bars, mom! From a parallel universe! Duh.” 

Clair smiled and shrugged at her husband. “Radioactive candy bars. Duh.” 

“Well my chamber pot better return to this house – in this universe – in one piece, got it?” 

“Yes dad.” Joey chimed. He was putting the last-minute touches on his costume, which looked like it was supposed to be some kind of wizard. 

“What sort of character from a book has radioactive candy bars, anyway?” 

“Literally tons, dad!” Costume building was obviously a stressful endeavor.  

“Whatever you say, bud.”

“What are we meant to be doing at this thing anyways, Clair? Just sitting around while the kids play games?” Ed asked as he grabbed a rice Krispy ball and began munching. 

“Basically. It’s going to be fun. There’s a corn maze and face painting, all kinds of activities you could help with.”

“You’re also supposed to be in costume, dad.” Eric added. “So, what are you supposed to be?”

Ed looked around, as though searching for an idea. He grabbed a piece of paper and in large block letters wrote ‘VICTIM’. Holding it up in front of himself and said “I’m the unknown assailant’s victim.”

Eric rolled his eyes. 

“Eric, it’s like, literally the second most common character in books.” 

Parallel Bars

Josh Flores

Willing my legs to pump, while keeping my left hand on the wall, I jog through the maze which magically sprung up around the Corporation’s headquarters. This morning it didn’t exist, like what I’m looking for, but here it is: looming and daunting while keeping me out. I’m not far from my goal. With luck, and as long as I keep my hand on the wall, I should stop Armageddon. 

I look at purple fog ripping through night-threatened skies as it seeks to color the grey pillows above. Time slips too fast. Soon the canopy will be consumed by a darkness other than from the settling night: the nebula spewing from the Corporation smokestacks, forever blocking out the sun and moon unless I can find and return that which shouldn’t exist. 

The air around me thickens with power. The small hairs of my exposed arms rise rigid. My skin reacts to the new coolness by forming rows of tiny lumps.  This is not good. I’ve learnt this means something else which shouldn’t be here, will be.  A sharp crack announces its arrival.  A loud roar confirms it. A sickening odor of rotting meat and death demands me to run faster or die. 

Hot breath warms the back of my neck. My body produces adrenaline which provides a burst of speed. The space I vacated fills up with a loud swish of air being sliced into pieces.  A disgruntled growl follows. I can’t risk looking behind.  

A few seconds passes and the building looms ahead of me. Finally, I found the exit! But not the object. Feverishly, I scan the landscape. A small dark oval sits to my right.  Pausing for a microsecond, fully aware of the thing behind me, I decide to chance losing contact with the wall and go after the item. 

Each step defines the object better. Its form sharpens and takes a familiar shape. I’ve seen one of them many times at my great-grandparent’s house in the country. I half-expect to smell excrement, but instead the scent which confronts me is sweet and… chocolate?  A glow emits from the top. Radioactive? 

I pick up my prize while running, not daring to stop as I can still hear the hunter. I need to get to my lab. 

I reach the entrance and pull on my pass card. Swing it over the infrared eye as I push the door open. I run to the stairwell, and go up three flights taking three steps at a time. I race into my lab. Dexter, my assistant, is frantically working at the control center of the machine. 

“What happened?”  

“I dropped my Snickers and it hit the go button.” 

I look into the glow from the chamber pot in my arm.  

“Crap! Is the machine ready to send this back?”

“Yes.” 

I place the pot full of what I hoped were radioactive unwrapped Snickers into the machine. Time to send it, and everything it brought, back to its parallel universe.

Wingman

David Jobe

“You’re a horrible wingman, Nos. The worst!” Sam crossed bare arms and leaned against a wall that may have been cleaned before the war, but not after. 

Nostromos shook his head but smiled. “Why, because I pulled you away from that handsy thing?”

“Exactly. She was into me.” Sam stomped a polished boot for emphasis.

“More like on. I’ve seen large ordinance cover less surface.” Behind him the door to the bar closed shut, making a loud click.

“But she was pretty, witty, and that beautiful white hair! Like that candy with the funny name and the silly jingle. You know, the one chock-full of innuendos.” Sam ran a finger through silky hair and eyed him from under a fine brow.  

“I know the one. And no. She was a chamber pot overflowing with radioactive candy. Nutty bars. And did you listen to her talk? I mean, really? I think we aren’t the only Reality Jumpers here, and the zone she came from was full of Dr. Seuss characters. You can do better. And, this is the third bar on our pub crawl. I promised you seven for your birthday and you know we can’t take her with us.” He had begun tapping on his smart watch as he spoke.

“You said she was a Jumper.” Sam pursed thin lips into a fine pout.

“I was implying she was el pollo loco from Batcrapcrazyville. Stop with the pout. Your charms are ineffective on me.” He averted his gaze. “As mine are on you.” 

Sam laughed. “I think you’re cute.”

“Hush.” He focused on the controls of his watch, letting his hair fall over his cheeks.

“Like a big furry bear with questionable manners. Where are we going next?” Sam looked toward the spiraling portal that opened up. Beyond they could see tall smokestacks billowing green gas into the night sky. “Bleh. Industrial. Pass!”

Nostromos tapped his watch. “I have this thing set on random.” The portal shifted color, and beyond an ominous maze of dark and dirty stone appeared, overshadowed by a cloudy skyline with a single blood moon.

“Oh, definitely a pass!” Sam shouted.

From the shadows a cloaked figure sprinted at them, arms outstretched. It lunged for Nostromos’ watch, but Nostromos sidestepped the attack and pushed the unknown assailant off. The shadowy figure stumbled and fell through the portal, landing with a thud on the stone walkway beyond. Nostromos wasted no time tapping the watch, closing the portal. A loud roar cut off. 

“What was that all about?” Sam looked from him to where the portal had been. “And was that a Minotaur? Like a real one?”

“I believe so.” His mouth felt dry. “Maybe we should just go back into this bar. We’ll go around front and pay the cover again.” He slid his shirt over his watch, looking around the alleyway a little more intently this time.

Sam clapped and jumped up and down a few times. “You are the best wingman. Let’s go find my little candy bar!”

Nostromos looked again at where the portal had been and muttered, “I think she may be otherwise engaged.”