The Iron Writer Challenge #179 – 2016 Annual Championship

The Iron Writer Challenge #179

2016 Summer Solstice Challenge Championship

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Alis Van Doorn, Mamie Pound, Dani J. Caile, Daniel J. Sanz, Tina Biscuit

The Elements:

Halloween Night

Apostrophe as an literary device

An orchard (you must state the type of orchard: apple, pear, peach, etc)

Metal doors on a school building

DuskMamie Pound

Mamie Pound

The invitation was hand written and wax sealed, slid under her door.

            “The pleasure of your company is requested.”

                               Halloween Night           

The directions led her down a twisting, wet trail, along the thick of the bayou. A late hurricane near the Keys bewitched the air, sent her hair flying all around, like one of the long-dead apparitions that appeared in the windows of the ruined hotels.

Tupelo Trees, standing knee-deep in in the brackish water, looked like skirted, gnarled, old women, sprouted from the underworld.

And the behemoth, orange moon seemed complicit.

Chills danced along her spine. A dark forboding tinged her every thought.

But just as all seemed lost, she spotted a small cabin at the edge of the water.

She knocked on its metal doors.

No one answered.

She drew her velvet cape closer and knocked again.

“Who’s there?” Said a voice, low and smokey.

Instead of answering, she shuddered, imagining the beasts swimming under the dock,

and banged again. The sound reverberated past her, into the wading trees, who swallowed it and zippered shut.

And now stood silent, watching and waiting.

The door slid open. Before her was a man with the blackest eyes she’d ever seen. Darker than the depths of the Mississippi.

“Hello.”

His accent reminded her of the dock traders and the bearded pirates that sailed into the harbor, their tongues, a music of French and Cajun.

His teeth were brilliant, white and pointy. And while his smile was wide, his eyes were solemn, arresting.

She couldn’t find her voice.

Behind him, three other men sat at a table, holding cards. A haze of blue smoke hung above their heads.

She blushed.

“Most people say ‘trick or treat’,” he said.

“I must be lost,” she stammered.

His house was dark, only a blazing fire in the hearth and candles, even at the card table.

“I must be at the wrong house. Are you…?”.

His dark beauty,…she was unable to look away.

“Leopold Lessinger.”

There was a razor nick just under his jawline, so beautifully placed, it almost seemed purposeful.

He raised a hand to cover it.

“Maybe I’ve made a mistake,” she said.

Electricity crawled across the sky, silhouetting the orchard of Spanish Moss hanging from the Cypress. Thunder rattled the glass.

“You got my invitation?” he asked.

“So it was you?” she said.

“I’ve been watching you for so long. I can’t believe you’re actually here.”

“Watching me?” She felt faint.

“I meant waiting for you…” he whispered and kissed her hand.

And she found herself unable to think of much of anything, except his beautiful mouth. She wanted to draw closer to this complete stranger. Wanted to inhale him.

Her mind raced with fear and an insatiable hunger, unknown to her before now.

“Oh, blackest night, what trickery have you played? What spell must have you allowed the moon, that I hunger for this madness, surrender to its will?”

Without any other word, he slipped his hand behind her neck.

And she did not try to stop him.

In the darkness, a Screech Owl’s desperate cry echoed across the water, disappeared into the night.

Little HyenasDaniel J. Sanz

Daniel J. Sanz

It was Monday morning and Conrad Brown’s fingers were already bleeding. He grimaced and clutched the ratty sponge in one hand and a can of mineral spirits in the other. His knees ached from the tile but the obscenity of the black marker had about scrubbed away.

He straightened under the protest of cascading crackles in his spine and wrapped a towel around his wrinkled fingers.

“Brats.”

His voice echoed between the lockers of the school hallway. He relished the graffiti free-wall while he could. Any moment these halls would be a stampede of self-entitled, ungrateful larvae and he could foresee himself scrubbing the wall again before the day’s end.

Flinging the towel into the trash, he gave the receptacle a satisfying kick before shuffling back to his custodial cart.

Pushing it past the scribblings of ghosts and jack-o-lanterns that adorned the walls, he stopped to pick up a black and orange streamer that had freed itself from its scotch-taped binding. He cracked a frown realizing today they would be dressed up as the little monsters they were, on a sugar high.

Conrad looked ahead to a giant cartoon mural sprawled across the yellow bricked wall. “Arlington Park Little Hyenas” arched overhead the titular mascot, adorned in a cowboy hat and a beaming grin.

“Oh how you mock me!”

Conrad glared at his imaginary adversary. “How you laugh at me! Judge me! Watch me waste away into this servitude!”

He used to love that hyena, years back when he bounced around these halls, but now he couldn’t stand its sight. It reminded him of a fonder time in which afternoons were spent riding bikes, playing stickball, and picking apples from Montgomery’s Orchard.

Conrad scoffed at the memory. “The only apples kids appreciate these days are made of plastic and glass.”

He leered at the hyena.

“I’ve had enough, I’m done!”

He looked down the hallway towards the exit.

“Why do I stay here? I should have quit a long time ago!”

He drew in a deep breath. All he had to do was walk through those doors and he was free.

But it was too late. They kicked open against their metal frames and the thunderous boom rolled over him chased by the hollers of the incoming hoard.

A flock of waist-high goblins, trolls, and witches flooded in, reeking of insubordination and Butterfingers. He closed his eyes and waited for them to pass. His only solace was the thought of freedom as he exited that door and ignored the sea of candy wrappers that was surely waiting for him.

Suddenly he felt a small tug on his arm. He glanced down and a little ladybug stood before him. A hyena-like smile spread across her red painted face. She held a box of mini cupcakes. Orange frosting with black sprinkles.

“Happy Halloween Mr. Brown!” She handed him one of the cakes and scrambled off.

The bell rang and the halls fell quiet. Conrad stood there, staring at the cupcake. He looked back at the mural and sighed.

“Well what’s the hurry?” he asked, crouching down to pick up a candy wrapper.

A Story of O

Tina Biscuit 

O bountiful orchard, flourishing well. We furrowed your rows, in days that have gone. We planted your seeds, and built three strong walls; the gates of the school completed the square. Now, they are rusted, remember their squeal. The burgeoning children, who poured out to play, they tended your whips, and nurtured your heart. The whips spread out branches, a new ring each year – so did the children, absorbing the light. They played in soft snow, which melted to blossom. They knocked off your buds, with frolics of summer. Soon came the autumn, you offered them fruit. Before apples fell, was Halloween time. First it was strange, you thought it was dark; faces were painted, so frightful, yet fun. Your halcyon days had barely begun. O orchard, you were so young. 

The river was filling, the reservoir full. The clouds were so black, obscuring the sky. The lightning discharged, forks tearing through gloom. Your fibrous roots trembled; the rumbling began: your trees were predicting, the deluge to come. The riverbanks burst, collapsing the church, torrential cascades tumbling through town. Houses were spilled, as though they were toys. We thought of the children, marooned in their class. Helpless we watched, and prayed for their lives: twelve children perished; twelve spirits lost. 

We buried small caskets, in your tender care. You were our last hope, which wasn’t enough. We left you as pasture, for travellers’ succour. We still come to visit, the graves of the past; we still bring you flowers, to show that we care. They brighten the spot, where nothing else thrives. Your walls are entwined, with ivy and moss. Our bodies are old; the trail is so long. 

O orchard, we miss them, on this hallowed night. We feel the dead rising, no longer with scorn. Those twelve, tiny mounds, rustling with leaves: the quilts you provided, keeping them snug. Their bones are so heavy; they struggle to run. They dreep from your branches, their cold fingers warm. Halloween songs purge water from lungs; cries become laughter, and pain becomes sun. They dance through your avenues, spreading joy as they go. Children cavorting, under canopies green, reclaiming memories, they laugh at the moon. The metal doors drum, as they bang them for fun. The teachers are gone now, and so is their school. Of course they don’t know that; we’re sure you won’t tell. Give them their night, to play in your boughs; shelter their innocence, and don’t tell a soul. 

The peduncle snaps; your last apple falls: no longer forbidden, forever unpicked.

Hell, Yeah!Dani-J-Caile

Dani J Caile

Me and the gang were having a good ol’ get together for Halloween night, just like when we were young. Tom couldn’t make it, he was on duty at the Police station, tonight of all nights, but Arthur, Dave, Andy and Josh filled the living room with their noisy, rowdy behaviour. Except Josh. He’d taken a seat by the window and stared out at the night sky, looking forlorn. Thankfully, there were no plans to revisit any apple bobbing like we did back in ’99 after stealing a basketful from Mr. Wilson’s apple orchard down on Church street, but we were going Trick-or-Treating.

“Eh, Bob! I’ve got your costume here!” said Andy, throwing a Wonder Woman top into my face as I entered from the kitchen. Arthur and Dave had already chosen theirs; Batman and Robin, respectively. Andy was Superman, of course.

“Why do I get to wear the girly costume?” I asked, throwing them a few cans of beer. I attempted to pass one to Josh but he was oblivious to what was going on around him. A crumpled Spiderman outfit lay next to him on the sofa.

“Because you’re a girl!” screamed Andy, accompanied by laughter from the other two. The boys chinked their cans together and drank. Josh broke their silence.

“Oh, Moon, rise and let your cooling light douse my burning heart of pain; if you pity me, seize my desires, my hopes and smash them to the stars of the night!” whined Josh.

“What’s his problem?” I asked. Out of the five of us, Josh was the smartest, but unfortunately looked like a monkey’s arse.

“He fell in love with ‘you-know-who’,” said Dave. He wiped beer from his mouth and chest bumped Arthur.

“But she’d never go out with him,” I said. Andy dived on me and forced a long, black wig onto my head.

“Tell him that,” said Dave.

“Oh great, that’s all we need on Halloween night, a bleeding heart!” said Andy.

“Quiet, he might hear you,” I said, swapping my costume for his. Before anyone objected, I was Spidey.

“So? Are we ready to go out on the town?” screamed Andy.

“Hell Yeah!” we cheered.

*****

I counted four, including myself.

“Where’s Josh?” I asked. Something was bashing the inside of my head with a sledgehammer. “Anyone seen him?”

“Not me,” said Arthur, a hollow voice coming from the bowl of the toilet.

“I thought he was with you,” said Andy. Dave was still zonked out on the sofa with some green vegetable stuck up the back of his trousers. A mobile phone rang, it was Andy’s. After searching, we found it under a pile of empty cans in the corner.

“Yeah? Uh-huh? Oh. Right.” Andy dropped his phone in his pocket and headed for the door.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“It was Tom.”

“What does he want?” asked Arthur from the bowl.

“He wants to know why Josh is dressed up as Wonder Woman, completely drunk, moaning on about some ‘moonrise’ and chained to the metal doors of our old school building. Anyone coming with me?”

Oh, Brother!Alis Van Doorn

Alis VanDoorn

“Lily, hurry up!” called Lily’s mother, voice just this side of pleasant. Lily gave a final twirl to her hot pink troll hair point, pleased with her adorable troll dress, creatively shortened a bit, the matching tights, gave her pointed troll slipper boots a blissful smile, and her mind full of Sam’s reaction, sailed downstairs, all fetching troll glory.

“Lily! Now!” Her mother’s voice now on the other side of pleasant.

“Coming!” She troll pranced onto the front porch, stopped short. “Riley! Where’s your troll costume?”

An eight year old scary clown puffed out his chest and said “I’m too old for that. I’m a killer clown! I’ll scare everybody!”

“Well, where’s your candy pail?”

The small killer clown slapped his forehead and raced off to get it.

“Lily, I know you planned on meeting your friends after trick or treating, but you’ll need to stay with Riley afterwards, answer the door.” “Daddy’s working late, he won’t be home till about nine.”

“But why can’t you be here? It’s Halloween! It’s not fair!”

“I’ll be at the rectory, tomorrow’s All Saints. Just catch up with them after the bonfire.”

Realizing argument was futile, Lily sighed dramatically, the sigh of put upon 16 year olds everywhere.

Joining the neighborhood trick or treaters, a sixteen year old troll doll, a tiny killer clown, walked hand in hand.

Dark fell, and soon they were home, diving into candy, answering the door.

By nine thirty, still alone; Lily was getting anxious. She’d have to catch up with everyone by short-cutting through the old apple orchard to the abandoned school. Not her favorite way, spooky even on clear summer nights. If she didn’t leave now, Sam wouldn’t get to see her costume. Which was the whole point.

Lily looked at Riley, currently on a sugar high.

“Riley, I need to leave now, I’ll barely make it even cutting through the orchard. Promise you’ll stay here, not answer the door until Daddy gets home?”

Riley nodded, Lily turned off the porch lights, locked the door and took off running, never noticing the tiny killer clown following.

As Lily reached the orchard, the moonlight dimmed. “Come on, don’t be such a baby.” Lily told herself, trying to ignore an increasing dread. Lily picked up the pace, certain she heard branches moving.

Suddenly she stopped, hearing something behind her. To her left she saw a pair of glowing red eyes, shrieked, took off running.

Just then she heard a desperate little voice choke out “Lil, wait!”

Lily turned, a tiny, terrified killer clown running, sobbing into her arms. “Lil, there’s something back there, something bad. We gotta hide.”

Picking him up, Lily ran for the school, hoping to make it around the side to the open field and bonfire. But the bonfire was out, the field deserted. Frantically she looked for a hiding place. Suddenly she saw a pair of metal doors in the ground leading to the basement. Dropping Riley, Lily yanked hard to no avail. They were stuck.

“Lil.” Riley was pointing behind her, finger shaking.

Lily turned around slowly.

Something was there, impossible to see, equally impossible to miss the menace that seemed to shiver the air.

“Leave us alone! Whatever you are, you are not getting my brother or me! Now go, go back to the cemetery. I banish you in the name of all that’s holy, good and true, go now or face your due.”

Suddenly, the air was clear again, the moon came out from the clouds and Lily and Riley ran.

They took the long way.

#TIWC members, please vote here.

 

 

 

The Iron Writer Challenge #146

Stinging_tree

The Iron Writer Challenge #146

2016 Winter Solstice Challenge #4

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Geoff Gore, Mamie Willoughby PoundDaniel J. SanzDwight WadeWende Walker Whitus

The Elements:

Dendrocnide Moroides

A prenuptial agreement

Watch Fob

Skinny Jeans

Taking a RideDwight Wade

Dwight Wade

Screams filled the back of the ambulance. A young man, barely more than a boy, covered in sweat fought against his restraints as a paramedic tried to calm him. After a short moment he calmed again, releasing a harsh gasp as his muscles relaxed.

A young woman at his feet reached up to caress his calf.

“You OK sweetie?” She asked.                                                                     

“It comes in waves” he croaked, his voice destroyed by repeated screams. “That was a bad one.”

“Gympie Stinger’ll do that to ya.” The paramedic’s Australian accent was thick, hard to understand for the young couple.

“Gympie Stinger?” the girl asked.

The paramedic pointed to the welts on the boy’s chest. “Big green plant with pink fruits?”

The girl looked concerned. “Yeah, he dropped his fob watch while we were hiking. Went in after it.”

The paramedic nodded. “Gympie Stinger. They’re covered in stinging hairs. Potent neurotoxin. Not deadly if ya get treatment. But he got one heck of a dose.” He gestured again at the beet red welts covering the boy’s torso.

A low groan started again, deep in the boy’s throat. His back arched, slightly at first, then more violently.

“Aaaaggh! Son of a….” he screamed, or at least tried to scream. The last words cracked into a whisper as his voice finally gave way. He strained against the restraints, fighting convulsions as the girl stroked his legs.

“Hold on there big fella,” the paramedic said. “We’ll be to the ‘ospital right soon enough. They’ll fix ya up with some proper pain killas.” He turned to the girl. “Your husband, was he shirtless when he went in?”

The girl looked up, he eyes watering. “What? Oh, um, yes. Well, he’s my fiancé. He got hot and took his shirt off. I guess he should be glad he kept those stupid skinny jeans on.” She tried to produce a brave smile..

“Right. Don’t need that mess on his bum.” The paramedic smirked. “Or worse.”

The ambulance jolted to a stop. A few seconds later the driver flung open the back door. The girl jumped out, allowing the paramedics to slide the gurney onto the pavement. The boy had calmed significantly. His breathing was more regular than any point since the incident.

She grabbed his hand as they wheeled inside. He squeezed her hand, caught her eye. “Just had to be Australia didn’t it?”

She smiled at him. “You know this was my dream trip. I feel awful.” Tears started to roll down her cheeks.

He squeezed her hand tighter. “Don’t worry babe. Could have been worse. Could have stumbled on a nest of funnel webs.” She tried to smile, but failed.

The paramedics handed him off to a team of nurses and doctors, barking out medical terms neither the girl nor boy understood.

A nurse gestured the girl to the admittance desk. As he rolled away the boy raised his head. “Just know, I’m putting ‘No more Australia’ in the pre-nup.”

She smiled as he disappeared behind the emergency room doors.

A Painful BrewWende

Wende Whitus

She hustled through the mansion with intensity of purpose. A whirlwind of emotions – anger, bitterness, fear and determination – all competed for center stage in her brain. He lay unconscious in the den, shades pulled down to block out the sunlight; the sound of snoring told her he would be out for quite a while. Enough time to do what she’d finally decided to do.

As she passed through the winding corridors of their enormous home, images of happier days flashed through her mind. She’d been instantly captivated by the rock-star’s good looks – long hair, leather jacket, skinny jeans – and overjoyed that he’d chosen her of all people – a naïve blonde young thing from Tennessee. She got swept up in his passion for living large and partying hard, and before she knew it, they were married. She’d signed the pre-nup without hesitation, knowing they’d be together forever – he was crazy about her, he’d said, she was so amazing, so different from his first wife: that bitch was a lunatic. She chuckled bitterly to herself. Maybe I’m not so different after all. 

Her thoughts flashed forward in time. When did she start to realize that passion could be a poison? He was obsessed with collecting things – weird things, like objects of torture and antique fob watches; bizarre plants and spiders. At first, she was charmed by his quirky hobbies, like his affinity for brewing his own Kombucha teas. But even this became an obsession – he would spend hours searching online for exotic ingredients collected from remote islands. And over time, she’d discovered that his true passions included a dark, twisted, evil side. The objects of torture no longer remained innocently in their glass cases – instead, they were frequently used on her, to brutally inflict pain. Her screams of suffering seemed to bring him sick pleasure.

She shuddered violently in an attempt to physically shake away the dark thoughts. She finally reached his “study,” a room filled with junk that he’d collected over the years during successful worldwide tours with his heavy metal band. Cages stacked against the walls housed mice, tarantulas and pythons. She bypassed these, and strode with purpose towards a terrarium containing a rather innocent-looking plant. But she knew better. He’d discovered it during a tour in Australia, and it was his prize possession. She remembered him showing it to her after their first date. It’s a dendrocnide moroides, also called a gympie-gympie plant, he’d said, and when she’d laughed at the name, his face had grown dark. It’s nothing to laugh at – it’s the deadliest, most painful plant on the planet. The stingers on these things are like hypodermic needles. Horses jump off cliffs when they brush against them. She’d been secretly fascinated. Wow, I wonder what it would do if you ate it? She’d wondered aloud. He’d chuckled morbidly. I wouldn’t want to be the one to find out. 

Soon he would.

With fierce determination stamped across her face, she pulled on a pair of heavy-duty work gloves and removed the cover of the terrarium. It was her turn to brew a new batch of Kombucha.

Vampire WeddingGeoff Gore

Geoff Gore

I look around the church. Pale faces stare expectantly from the pews. Quillian draws his pocket watch from his waistcoat and flicks the clasp. He squints, holding the watch at arms-length as if playing the trombone, until he can read it. Even eternal life it’s seems can’t cure hyperopia.

“She’s late,” he declares, returning the watch to his pocket.

“We’re immortal, what’s a few minutes? Anyway, she’ll be here. She has to be, it was part of the agreement.”

“We’re running out of time.” Quillian paces in front of the altar.

Outside there is a hollow clunk of car doors before one of the watchers enters the atrium and gives the signal.

“About time.” Quillian murmurs.

Somewhere within the bowels of the church the organ wheezes into life, then through the doors she enters. Francesca looks resplendent in a pair of ripped skinny jeans and a white corset that shimmers in the reflected moonlight through a shard of stained glass. Two attendants, their arms linked with hers, stand either side, in equal measure both supporting her and ensuring she doesn’t escape. Her own hands are clasped together around a Moonlighter bouquet. Small purple berries poke delicately from among the thick green leaves.

As she reaches the front of the church, her attendants unlock their arms and take a step toward the pews. Francesca looks over her shoulder, perhaps considering her options of escape, then thinks better of it.

“You look ravishing my Dear,” I say, stepping forward.

“I won’t do this,” she spits between clenched teeth.

“It will be over soon…they say the first hundred years of a marriage is always the hardest.”

“I won’t become…one of you.”

“But you have no choice my Dear. Perhaps you don’t recall?” I draw the parchment from my mourning suit. “I considered a human bride might get cold feet. That’s why I took the precaution of drawing up a contract…a prenuptial agreement of sorts?” I hold the paper in front of her eyes, then read aloud. “I Francesca Delarosa hereby pledge the sum of one mortal soul for eternity in exchange for my brother’s life.”

“You tricked me.”

“We need to get on with this.” Quillian interjects.

“Very well,” I sigh.

Quillian removes the bouquet from her hands and tosses it into the handful of guests. There is a screech from one of the girls in the second row. Her face wells painfully with tears from the stinging neuro toxins, or maybe it’s just the excitement.

Quillian rapidly recites the criteria for the union.

“Do you, Silvano Pellegrino, take this human to be your bride, through all eternity?”

“I do.”

“And do you Francesca take Silvano to be your husband and keeper for all eternity.”

“Never!” She hisses.

Quillian nods to me. “You may kiss your bride.”

I lean toward Francesca. She recoils, but her two attendants assist. But as I swoop to taste the virgin flesh of her shoulders, the first rays of morning sunlight stream through the stained glass windows above.    

The GreyDaniel J. Sanz

Daniel J. Sanz

Edmund Kaye slipped on his frayed coat and placed the creased fedora over wispy white hair. Low murmurs of weary workers rolled across the factory floor. Each face was as ashen as the next as everyone shuffled towards the doors. Ghosts in a concrete sea. Edmund hobbled to catch up. His fingers cramped from clutching circuit boards and a dull ache beat behind his eyes. The old clock hung from its chain above the exit, swaying hypnotically like a pocket watch in the gusts of personnel scurrying out the door. Edmund was almost to sanctuary when a voice called out to him.

“Mr. Kaye?”

Edmund clenched his eyes and reluctantly turned back. It was the young floor manager, Jean Hardy and her sycophant, Jean Monroe. Known as “the two Jeans” these corporate drones stood before him with their slender frames adorned in power suits and wielding clipboards.

“Mr. Parker passed away this morning and I’m afraid you’ll need to take on some of his load tomorrow,” Hardy stated.

Passed away. Edmund scoffed. Nice way to say he threw himself off the roof. An unfortunate rising occurrence that had earned the factory its “Suicide Plant” nickname. Edmund didn’t want to admit he had often considered the same. The measly paycheck certainly was no deterrent to the thought.

At least the benefits are good.

He sighed in submission and rejoined the herd shoving its way back out to the pasture.

The orange splash across a crimson sky greeted him as he stepped back out into the color of the world. His lungs drew in the first dust-free breath and the warm hug of the simmering sun ran gentle fingers on his wrinkled skin.

The walk home each day was therapeutic. He watched the veil of night slowly drape over the city as the daylight sizzled away, each step carrying him further away from the factory.

By the time he reached his stoop his shaky knees could barely carry him upstairs, though it was better than his stiff back from the hard metal stools. He fumbled with the keys and tottered inside.

And there she was, his favorite moment of the day. Valerie rose from her faded emerald armchair, and with her cane shuffled her way towards him. He took her into his arms and held her frail stature against him. Her bandana slid and revealed the sparse tufts of chemically ravaged hair. He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead and she smiled feebly.

She would always ask him how his day was going.

“Better now,” he always replied.

Edmund gazed into her eyes, which somehow remained as youthful as the day he married her. Prior to their nuptials they made an agreement to fight for each other. Always.

For Valerie it was worth suffering the factory. As long as his health plan kept her fighting, he would battle with her. For her.

He held her close and they swayed. Edmund ignored the throbs in his feet and aches in his back, catching one good dance before it was time to do it all again tomorrow.

Gulf of Mexico Blue. Those were Her Eyes. Mamie Pound

Mamie Pound

He only bought charcoal and ice.

“Remember our pre-nup?” she smiled, “grocery store failure is grounds for divorce.”

“Does this mean I don’t have to back to the store?”

She’d reminded him about the cookout and the steaks and how they had to have salt for the ice cream maker. But he’d forgotten. When he grabbed his keys and said he was headed to the store she asked him had he seen the dog.

“He was here a minute ago,” he’d said.

“You gotta go look for him, he’ll run away,” she said, chopping lettuce and tomatoes and dropping it into a big wooden bowl.

“Here, Sambo, here boy!” He called into the backyard and the dog appeared from around the corner.

“The gate was open. I got him inside,” he said and left for the store.

“You lock it?” she asked.

“He’ll be fine until I get back.” he said.

“Everyone will be here in about an hour,” she called as he headed for his car. A gust of wind ruffled his shirt. He rolled down the windows.

When the tornado siren sounded he turned up the music, drove a little faster.

Twenty minutes later, he was on his way home from the store with the salt.

Wind whipped street signs around in circles. A patio umbrella twirled down the street.

The sky was lake water green.

His driveway was blocked by a fallen pine tree.

He drove around it and parked sideways in his yard, with his tail lights pointed toward his neighbor’s house. With a crack of thunder, he froze for just a second, then ran when he saw his front door open, the plate glass window shattered. Shutters flapped.Shingles peeled off, flew away like frisbees. The whole house seem to be coming apart.

He yelled for her but he was drowned out by the locomotive wind and the torrents of water pouring in the front hall.

At once, the outside quieted.

He yelled again and this time his voice echoed in the hallway. The rain slowed a bit. The wind was less punishing. He walked outside, still calling her.

The neighbors walked out onto their little front porch, wide-eyed.

“Y’all okay?” she called.

“I can’t find her,” he said.

She looked at her husband and then back at him.

“Right after the siren went off, the dog got out” she said.”She asked me if I’d seen it, about thirty minutes ago.”

He walked toward the back yard.

He started to shake.

“Your car’s still running,” the neighbor yelled.

He called her again, “Cheryl!”

He heard a jingle. The dog ran around the corner and jumped on him. And he knelt down, relieved.

That’s how he saw it. The darkness shifted further, allowing sunlight to reflect from the stinging bushes. It was a locket, a tiny pocket watch on a silver chain, caught on one of the needly stinging bushes.

She hadn’t taken it from around her neck in ten years.

Bluejay feathers, broken bottles, tattered jeans and cars were strewn across three counties.

It didn’t rain again for weeks.

#TIWC members, please vote here.

The Iron Writer Challenge #119 – The 2015 Summer Solstice Finals

The Iron Writer Challenge #119

The 2015 Summer Solstice Finals

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements 

Challenge #118

The 2015 Summer Solstice Preliminary Champions

Kara Kahnke, Daniel J. Sanz, Mathew W. Weaver

The Elements:

A Hapi drum

A strange, odd spirit takes you to the past and the future where you meet your successful self and your failed self at the same time

A paper crown

Survivors guilt

Sweet WilliamKara Ann

Kara Kahnke

Julia sprinkled pink petals on her husband’s grave. She tried hearing echoes of his guitar strings that bound him to her rather than the sickening crunch of glass and metal that stole him. One month earlier, she insisted on eating wings at the place where they fell in love. On their way home, a drunk driver slammed into William’s side of the car. He died. She emerged unharmed, living with the guilt of life.

The flowers were called Sweet William. “I’ll always bring Sweet William to you,” William said each spring when he delivered bouquets to her. “That way, you’ll never forget me.” The flowers she carried to his grave were this spring’s last. Next year’s flowers wouldn’t be the same without him. She feared she’d begin to forget the way her harmonica blended with his guitar, or the way his sapphire blue eyes warmed her heart.

Suddenly, an old woman materialized on the grass before her. “You have such sad eyes,” the woman’s raspy voice remarked. “Take my hand.” Before Julia could reply, the woman’s gnarled fingers curled around hers.

#

Julia and the woman flew into the sky. They arrived at Henry’s Wings. The woman raised a crooked finger to her lips, motioning silence. Julia gasped, noticing herself with her husband four years ago. She couldn’t comprehend this sorcery, but chose not to question the gift of William’s presence. She gazed at his dimples remembering her failure. They had tried to study Chemistry together, but she studied the curve of his smile and earned a D on the midterm.

#

The woman squeezed Julia’s hand. They flew to the library where she watched William quiz her on molecules for their final. He never failed. That time, neither did she. They succeeded together. Now, she was supposed to go to medical school. How could she? She couldn’t protect William. She couldn’t protect anyone.

#

With another squeeze, they landed on the street outside Henry’s Wings. The chill in the air signified a future day. Julia noticed herself tapping a tiny steel drum and wearing the red apron of Henry’s Wings’ employees. Is this all I am without sweet William, she thought. The lonely twang of steel resounded through the night. She’d seen the Hapi drum online, and thought about ordering one. She thought the ringing notes could cure her ache for William’s guitar, but the twangs sounded like sobs.

They continued down the street, seeing a small boy with downcast eyes. “My mother’s always sad. I’m always sad,” the boy said to no one.

Julia opened her mouth, but remembered she wasn’t allowed to speak.  They flew again.

#

Now, the boy’s happy eyes faced her. She knew one other person possessed those blue eyes. The boy wore a paper crown. He grabbed her white doctor’s coat. “Mommy!” he squealed to her future self, “Look what we made at school! I’m a prince!

She heard herself say, “Yes, my sweet William!”

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she watched the scene. She thought, I’ll carry and protect our sweet William, darling. And I’ll never forget you. 

ChoicesMathew W Weaver

Mathew W. Weaver

I looked so young. And so, so very sad.

In one corner of the gym, I sat alone, a yellow paper crown on my head, a picture of utter misery. My friends had given up calling me to dance along with the rest of the partying animals.

I remembered. I’d barely made the cut to transfer out of that crapped up school, but Nate, who’d been dreaming of getting out all his life, hadn’t made it.

I was leaving, and he who should have been with me was still stuck back here. It wasn’t fair.

I walked up to myself and sat down, careful not to make physical contact. Like the rest of them, he couldn’t see me; and even if he had, the survivor’s guilt was so strong, I doubted he’d have noticed me, let alone recognize himself from the future.

“Hey,” I said, “Dude, it gets better. I know I thought I was a screw up back then. But I grow up, I get a job, I publish novels, man. And I fall in love. It gets so much better. You aren’t the failure you think you are. Not by a long shot.”

Time’s up, the voice chimed, The future awaits.

The eerie blue mist-creature was back, hovering just above my right shoulder. I took a last look at myself, turned back to the mist and nodded. The blue light brightened, and the world faded.

The first time it had done that, I’d vanished from my room and landed in the past. This time, I embraced the gas, the feeling of travelling at a hundred miles an hour while standing still.

Light flashed, something crackled, and then the picture came back into focus. This time, I knelt at the center of an immense, luxurious office, one side of which was nothing but glass panes, opening out to soaring skyscrapers just beyond.

Standing by the glass was a man in a rich, navy suit. Even from the back, he gleamed of success and power.

Me.

He can see you if you touch him, the voice reminded me, you can talk to him. Unlike your past self, this will not alter the time stream.

“But why?” I asked again, “Why give me this choice, of all people?”

We shall see.

The same reply it had given me the first time, before it had taken me to the past.

I walked up to myself, and marveled at the specs of gray in my beard. I… he… was staring at the sky, eyes vacant as he… I… silently contemplated something.

I’d be rich, I realized. I’d be standing in this office someday, staring out at that view. And here was my ticket to finding out how.

I reached out.

I swallowed, turned around and walked away.

Why?

“I’d rather find out on my own,” I replied.

Now, I know that the mist entity, didn’t have a face, but I’d have sworn that right then, it was smiling.

You have passed your test

“This was a test? Why?”

The picture began to fade. We were moving again.

“Where to, now?” I asked.

Beyond.

Whitemoon Lounge Daniel J. Sanz

Daniel J. Sanz

Explosions ripped through the Hummer as the blast lifted and spun it broadside into the dirt road.

The scene replayed in Raymond’s head as he sat in the Whitemoon Lounge. The establishment reeked of incense and was empty, save for himself and the young man playing the Hapi steel drum.

“It should have been me,” he said to Shelly, the bartender, dropping another bourbon down his gullet. “Those guys had families…yet I’m the one sitting here. If I dropped dead tomorrow no one would miss me.”

Shelly raised a suspicious brow. “That’s not something you’re planning is it?”

It was almost as if she sensed his despair and the gun under his coat. With eyes down, he nudged the glass.

“One more.”

Shelly paused, then disappeared into the back. She reemerged with a small black decanter. She tipped the strange bottle and an odd blue spirit poured into the shot glass. “House special, it’ll give you the kick you need.”

He leered at it, then shrugged. Barely getting the elixir down the stars hit him. Raymond clamped his eyes shut and gasped. The room spiraled as blood rushed into his ears.

He opened his eyes ready to ream Shelly out, but she was gone. The room took on a grey tone and he turned to the rowdy party to his left. Raymond froze at the sight. Before him was himself, five years younger celebrating the success of Army graduation. He remembered his excitement.

Young Ray returned the shocked gaze, and after a moment asked, “What happened to you…to us?”

So Raymond told him about the war, and how he thought he was fighting for something noble but realized he was just serving a financial empire ruled by false kings in their posh designer suits and paper crowns.

Young Ray thought quietly and then said, “I still intend to serve my country.”

“Even if you end up like me?” Raymond responded.

“Yes Sir. Even if we end up like him.” He nodded his head past Raymond.

Raymond turned to his right and met the old man. He was feeble with empty, faded eyes. Startled, Raymond recognized himself, many years from now. The man slid over a scribbled note.

The attempt failed.

Then he pointed to the gun under Raymond’s coat. Raymond stood horrified and watched as the man pulled out the prosthetic jaw and moaned painfully through his sagging face.

Raymond’s stomach wrenched and felt the blood pull from his brain. The room spun and he fell backwards into blackness.

“Ray! Are you alright?”

Raymond opened his eyes, the lounge had returned back to its earlier empty state. He stood and brushed away the shivers that danced at his arms.

“I… I think so.”

Shelley studied him. “You want another?”

Raymond’s hand brushed over the bulk of the gun. He paused, and then looked at her sincerely.

“No, I think I’ll be OK.”

He placed cash on the bar and made his way towards the door. Before leaving, Raymond looked over his shoulder. “I’ll see you tomorrow Shel.”

With a smirk she replied, “I’m glad to hear that Ray.”