The Iron Writer Challenge #142, 2015 Winter Open Championship

boy watching television

The Iron Writer Challenge #142

2015 Winter Solstice Open Championship Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Danielle Lee Zwissler, Richard Russell, Dani J. Caile

A boy watching television (see image)
“Come here, she said. Where are we going? The darkness, she replied.” (must be anywhere in the story)
A “magic” pill
A terrible mistake

Time to go Home…Danielle Lee Zwissler

Danielle Lee Zwissler

Jesse was watching the picture tube again, keeping his eyes rapt on the ad for the magic pills. His mother was watching from the kitchen doorway, careful not to disturb. She watched for what seemed like hours, but was only probably minutes. It always seemed that way. Jesse kept his eyes ahead, unflappable.

“Come here,” she said.

Jesse turned fast, eyes wide. “Momma?”

His mother nodded, and a tear slipped down her cheek.

“Where are we going?”

“The darkness,” she replied. She held out her hand and Jesse started toward it, tripping over a small container on the floor.

“You’re here,” Jesse cried.


A smile crept across Jesse’s face. “It worked,” Jesse said, smiling softly.

“It did.”

Jesse took his mother’s hand and they walked down the hallway and then out the back door of the house. They walked toward the darkness, and didn’t stop until no light was visible. Jesse was scared, but since he was with his mother, everything was all right. “Momma?”

“Yes, honey?”

“I’m scared.”

“It’s okay; I’m here.”

Jesse nodded, and then leaned in to his momma. “Where are we?”

“Your new room,” she said quietly.

“It’s cold here,” Jesse muttered.


“It’s dark.”


“Will you be here with me?” Jesse asked, hopeful.

“Right beside you.”

Jesse felt immeasurably better. “What do we do now, Momma?”

“We rest,” she replied.

“And then?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do we do after we rest?” Jesse asked.

“We wait.”

Jesse nodded, somewhat relaxed, and then spoke, “What do we wait for?”



“Who do you want to see?” his mother asked.

Jesse’s eyes lit up and then he grinned. “Daddy?”

His mother smiled. “Then we’ll wait for him.”

“Here?” Jesse asked. He crossed his arms one over the other and rubbed. Goosepimples pricked his flesh.


“Okay, Momma.”


“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Jackson Evers said to the psychiatrist. He put his hands up to his face and cried into his palms. “I’m an absolute mess. All I see is him, and those pills, the ones from the TV ad, they were scattered all over the floor.”

The psychiatrist nodded. “It’ll take some time, Jackson. I’m sure he didn’t understand.”

Jackson wiped a tear from his eyes and nodded. His throat felt clogged. “I… I know. I should have… I shouldn’t have encouraged him. I didn’t know he’d… I…” Jackson’s shoulders shook and the tears kept coming.

“It’s not your fault, Jackson.”

“But it is. I left him alone most days… I had to work, but I should have had someone there with him. I knew how upset he was over his mother’s death. I shouldn’t have…”

“Nobody would have believed he’d have been able to get the pills himself, Jackson. It was a terrible mistake.”

Jackson heard the same thing over and over from all of his doctors, and friends, even his own parents. It didn’t matter. He was still gone. His little boy was dead.


“Momma, do you think daddy’s okay?” the boy whispered.

“He will be.”


To Brighten Up Your Day

Richard Russell

Seven-year-old Danny Staffer stood alone behind the big front doors of the primary school and peered out at the dreary, cold, rainy evening.   He pulled his coat together and scrunched his shoulders as he stepped outside wondering, all the way home, why the school uniform had to be short trousers?

Pressing his way through the heavy doors to the flats, Danny sighed and began plodding his way up four flights of stairs; the same dark, boring stairs that lead up to the same dark, boring flat.   He lifted the doormat and retrieved a key. With a heavy clunk the lock opened and Danny stepped into the quiet, empty flat. His father had left them several years ago so his mother worked late in the evenings now. No one was ever home much. As he walked through the unlit hallway past his brother’s room, Danny realized his big brother was in there with some friends. Danny paused to listen as his brother was talking.

“Yeah, Man, I have several kinds. You can drift in a purple haze, bask in an orange sunshine, do amazing needlepoint, or gaze through a crystal window pane. What’ll it be?”

“What’s this like?”

“ Oh wow, one of these micro-dots will brighten up your whole day.”

Danny moved on to the living room, switched on the lights, opened the window and put a few coins in the telly. He grabbed some slices of bread and a glass of milk then sat down to “Watch with Mother” as “Andy Pandy” was coming on. He seemed to identify with Looby Loo. She never came to life until she was alone.

About then, Danny’s brother and his friends left the flat without a word. Danny smelled some weird smoke in his brother’s room and went to investigate. He turned on the light and looked around briefly. That’s when he spied the pills his brother had left on his bed. He wondered if these were the pills his brother had mentioned. Danny took one and swallowed it. He could use a little brightness today. He turned off the light and closed the door before returning to his perch in front of the telly.

After several minutes Danny began to feel … different. The images on the telly were now in color and the telly looked as if it was melting. He reached out to touch it and saw a trail of ten hands follow shortly behind his own. About the time the walls started swimming in paisley patterns of purple and he could hear the bamboo leaves of the wallpaper growing larger, he spied the porcelain cat at his feet, smiling and whipping her tail back and forth.

The cat strolled over to the window and hopped up onto the sill.

“Come here.”she said.

“Where are we going?”

“Into the darkness.” she said.

Then she turned and sprang out the window.

“Wait for me!” he cried, and into the darkness he went.

On Standby

Dani J Caile

Tommy was a nice boy, attentive, happy, plopped on his little stool next to her. He occasionally laughed at the musings of her mind, listening, watching. He’d been there since as far as she could remember and had never left her side. He gave her purpose and she was glad to have his company. The others she’d seen before Tommy ignored her, sitting far away, reading or talking with each other. Tommy was different, captivated by her presence. He was there for her, and now they were alone, together.
She felt it again, a yawning gap deep inside, an emptiness which would not cease, an itch through her entire form. It was growing more profound than ever. Was this the end? Tommy, dear Tommy, had given her medicine to stop this black shadow from closing in many times before, but now he did nothing, looking on, watching her every move. She had to speak to him, otherwise the blackness would take over, and she would be no more.
“Tommy,” she called over the constant murmur. She noticed at first he wasn’t sure, turning to see whether someone else had called his name. “Tommy,” she called once again. Now he surely realised it was her who had mentioned him. He was not afraid, this fine boy.
“Yes?” he asked back, touching her tentatively.
“Tommy, please, another magic pill. Please, I need another,” she whispered through the interlude.
“Magic pill?” he asked. “What magic pill?”
She had seen them, held in his hands like precious jewels as he sat there accompanying her in her ramblings, the sweet child. But now there were no more.
“Please, Tommy, help me. I can feel it, an abyss of blackness filling my soul.”
She saw him looking over to her side, presumably examining her condition. Could her state be seen? Was it that bad?
“Oh, THOSE ‘magic’ pills. I don’t have any more, I’m sorry,” he said. A tear ran down his face. “Are you going? So soon? Mother isn’t back.”
“I don’t want to go.” She felt time slowly ticking away, parts of her numb with fear, foreboding her end.
“I know! Maybe Mother has some more in the kitchen!” Tommy jumped up from his stool, the gas mask in his shouldered box rattling as he ran away. She watched his image diminish and her life drain away, the warmth dissipating.
“Quick, Tommy, my end is near,” she whimpered. She was close now and needed him, needed his company. With her last effort she spoke again. Without him, she was nothing. “Tommy, we are together now, perhaps for the last time. Our moment is short, we are going. Come, come here,” she said.
“Where are we going?” asked Tommy, running back over to her.
“The darkness,” she replied, feeling remorse. “Oh Tommy, it’s… it’s all such a mistake, a terrible, terrible mistake…” The blackness took her over as she heard Tommy’s cries of sorrow and felt his little fists beating against her cooling 15″ screen.

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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, Vladimir Nabokov Bracket

The-Isolator 1

The Iron Writer Challenge #141

2016 Winter Solstice Open Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements


Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov Bracket

The Authors:

A. Francis Raymond, Tina Biscuit, Ericka KahlerDanielle Lee Zwissler

The Elements:

The Isolator

Something arrogate.

A ball of yarn

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

Now ServingA Francis Raymond

A. Francis Raymond


Martha looked up over her the rim of her glasses and sighed. She was number 48. 

The disturbance caused her to lose the rhythm of her needles and when she looked back down, the ball of purple yarn she’d been pulling from fell off her lap and rolled to the other side of the waiting room.

The ball stopped at the feet of an older gentleman who Martha noticed had been sitting here since before she came in.

“Please show up at least 15 minutes before appointment time,” the note had said.

The man picked it up and brought it over and took the empty seat next to her.

“Thank you,” she said and continued her knitting.

“Name is Harvey.”

“Martha.” This time, she didn’t lose her rhythm.

“They like to keep us waiting, don’t they?”

“Well, anyone who arrogates themselves any medical facility, let alone the most important one, is going to do that.” Martha figured she’d use her college learning on him. He could either keep up, or head back to his side of the room.

He simply chuckled. “Why are you here?”

Martha stopped her knitting and really looked at Harvey. At first, she assumed he was old enough to be her father until she regarded her own wrinkled hands and remembered that she, too, was really gosh darn old.

And they both knew damn well why they were there.  They’d won the appointment lottery to see the Overlords who would be able to do something about their impending death. Anyone over the age of 80 was allowed to apply. Rumor had it that less than one percent of one percent of those who did made it this far.

No one could confirm what happened next. Everyone believed that the Overlords stole them away to their own planet. Abduction in exchange for a new life. Most anyone 80 thought it was worth the chance.

“It wasn’t my plan,” Martha said. “My late husband left me a letter.” She didn’t want to elaborate any further.

Harvey smiled reassuringly. “I guess he passed before 80?”

Martha was a little uncomfortable. She loved her husband, but didn’t enjoy talking about his death. She couldn’t forgive the suicide.

“Yes,” she said, not wanting to seem rude. “He was a writer. But he could never get the voices out of his head. The Isolator is what finally did him in. He didn’t hook it up right and it killed him.” She left out the part with the note and that it was quite intentional.

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

“What about you?” Martha figured she’d try to turn the attention off her.

“Me? Well, I want to do it all over again. You see…”

“48! Number 48!”

“Oh… well, I guess it’s my turn.” Martha gathered up her knitting utensils, stuffed in into a bag and turned to Harvey holding out her hand. “It was very nice to meet you.”

Harvey smiled again. “See you on the other side!”

Rattling China

Tina Biscuit 

Dorothy clenched her fist, tapped lightly on the door, and pushed it open. The skylight shed dusty rays into the attic study.

‘Another visitor, Hugo’, she ushered the scrawny man into the dank room.

In the dim light, he could make out two figures at the desk, one with an unwieldy, felt helmet masking his features; the other, his host, walked over to greet him, carefully picking his way across the room – piled high with electrical contraptions.

‘Nikola, so nice to see you.’ Their hands touched, their minds met.

‘Some tea please, Dorothy.’

‘For three.’

‘No, four, we are four today.’

The door closed behind her; Hugo sat down.

‘Who else is coming?’ asked Nikola Tesla.

‘You’ll see him soon enough.’

‘And who, or what, is that?’

‘It’s your old friend – Edison. He can’t hear you; he’s wearing my “isolator”. Needed to relax, poor fellow.’

‘Well, I hope you’ve got the patent for the “isolator”. He’ll arrogate it to himself – he did with most of my stuff.’

Hugo switched off the oxygen, and removed the helmet. Edison blinked, facing his old adversary. 

The rattle of porcelain broke their stares as Dorothy placed the tea tray between them. She turned towards the door, reaching for some switches, ‘Do you need some more light, Hugo?’

‘Not that one’, cried Hugo. She flicked the switch, a metal teaspoon flew across the room, followed by a pen, a pair of glasses, and finally, the metal tip of an umbrella turned and was sucked under the desk – sticking to the electro-magnet, its black material following like a wet bat. Tesla nodded in reverence to the induction coil. She switched it off, and tried the other switch; an orange glow filled the room as the incandescent bulb heated.

‘Before you say it, Thomas: No, you didn’t’, Tesla quipped.

‘The patent says I did’, Edison smiled.

‘You changed the lightbulb, Thomas, but didn’t invent it’, Tesla smiled wider. 

Hugo picked up the spectacles.


Herbert Wells emerged from his invisibility cape.

‘I thought “the invisible man” was a story’, Tesla muttered.

‘They start as stories,’ said Herbert, replacing his glasses, ‘I thought that’s why we came here – to create stories for WRNY.’

‘I brought you here’, interrupted Edison, ‘I have a problem. I have an appointment to be abducted by aliens today.’ He held out a small card, ‘I need help.’

‘No kidding’, grinned Tesla, looking at the appointment card, ‘3.30pm, we’ve only got five minutes.’

‘My time-machine isn’t ready yet’, added Herbert, somewhat ironically.

‘I think I have a solution’, Tesla proclaimed, raising a hand.

‘If you don’t mind, Hugo’, he tugged the rug from under Hugo’s feet, ‘and that ball of yarn, please.’

Hugo handed it over.

‘Lie down, Edison’, barked Herbert.

They rolled him on the floor and bound him tightly with the yarn.

They lifted him over their shoulders; he cried out: ‘What about the aliens?’

Nikola Tesla patted his chest: ‘Europe.’

HG Wells tipped his hat: ‘England.’

Hugo Gernsback put on his ‘isolator’: ‘Luxemburg.’ 

The three aliens walked out into the streets of New York, silently composing a new story for the launch of WRNY. 

On the Lam

Ericka Kahler

The proximity alarm inside my IsolatorTM helmet beeped.
“Crap. There’s a ship in this solar system,” I muttered. I twisted the display dial disguised as part of an oxygen tank. Gernsback, he did good work. He kitted out an IsolatorTM to hide my advanced tech from the locals before he left.  He never mentioned my little monitoring system to anyone, or if he did they thought it was something out of that sci-fi magazine of his. Either way I was golden.
Until now.
I fiddled with the dial to adjust the picture. Might be nothing, some yacht flying by, or it might be the “fuzz.” Earth idiom – so cute. But it wouldn’t seem cute if I got caught hiding out on a primitive world. There were laws against that sort of thing. The display snapped into clarity.
Damn, the fuzz. A whole fleet of ships, enough to mount a freaking invasion, hiding behind Jupiter. They sent an entire fleet after me because I copied a few classified files? OK, it was a brilliant hack. Must have been something more important in them than I thought.
So I had to get off this planet.
I lifted the bulbous IsolatorTM hood off and tucked it under my arm. Gernsback should be close enough to come get me before the fuzz got here. Coords, coords, how do I…
“Finished working?” Lorna sat knitting by the window with my poodle Fluffy laying across her feet.
“Just taking a break.”
“I’d need a break from that thing, too. Want some tea?”
Lorna put her knitting in a basket and got up. I tapped my fingers on the IsolatorTM’s hood. How to calculate the vector to send Gernsback a message? My eyes rested on Lorna’s knitting basket. I blinked, then grabbed the IsolatorTM and a ball of yarn and headed outdoors.
In the yard I put the IsolatorTM back on and called up an image of the night sky. I superimposed it over my goggle openings and knotted the yarn to match each star. A few calculations, then I lay down over my star map to angle the IsolatorTM. I flipped on my recorder by tapping the oxygen (not really) tank.
“Gernsback. I need a ride. There’s a fleet here to arrest me.” I tapped to send it and hoped he was awake.
The IsolatorTM beeped. “You arrogate your own worth. They did not send a fleet just to arrest you.
“No, look.” I attached the visual and sent it.
When his image appeared again, he looked scared. “I’ll be there right away. That’s not the fuzz, that’s a Corbian invasion fleet.”
Slavers, massing less than a solar system away. There wouldn’t be anyone left on Earth by the time they got through with it. I stood up, keeping the IsolatorTM on in case Gernsback messaged me again. I could barely see through the goggles, but I had to get Fluffy before he got here. I hoped Gernsback’d be willing to bring my dog.

The Force AwakensDanielle Lee Zwissler

Danielle Lee Zwissler

“Georgie, you need to pick up your toys! They’re all over the place!” George’s mom yelled.

“They’re not toys, Mom! They’re models.”

“For what? I swear, Georgie, you’re 34 years old!”

“It’s for a film, Ma.”

“Sure, sure.”

Two Hours Later

“Oh my word, what are you wearing?” George’s mother asked him as she walked into his room. She was carrying a big ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles. George was sitting at his desk, fingers poised over the typewriter keys. He was wearing some odd looking contraption over his face which had some sort of corrugated pipe to God knows where.

George didn’t say anything.

“Georgie!” his mom yelled once again.


She knocked on the side of his helmet.

George turned, took the helmet off, and there was a slow expunged sound of air. “What in the world was that?” his mom asked.

“Oh, it’s called the isolator. It helps writers, Ma; it’s soundproof.”
“The things they come up with these days. Are you hungry?”

George shook his head. He had a huge smile on his face. “Na, can’t stop now. I have a meeting with an alien, I’m about to be abducted.”

“Come again?” His mom looked worried as usual.

“My story. It’s so good, Ma. I think this one’ll be a hit.”
“I’m sure it will, honey.”

“Well,” George said as he picked up his helmet, “have fun with your knitting.”
“And good luck with the abduction, Georgie.”

“Thanks, Ma.”

“May the force be with you,” his mom said, and she went to the door.

George’s eyes widened, he put his helmet back on, and his fingers flew away at the keys. “Ma, you’re a genius!”

In a Galaxy, far far away, there was a man. He was something arrogate, and he had an appointment with a crew of a new ship, an alien that his crewmate, Han Solo, called a wookie.

Hmm, what’s a wookie? George typed. “A wookie is a big hairy creature—tall, carries a blaster, and this particular one’s name is Chewbacca.”

George scribbled down a few notes, then got back to his outline. He looked up to the ceiling and grinned. “May the force be with you! That’s gold!”

George took a deep breath, really into his story now, and could hear the sound of his breathing. Kkkk shhhh kkkk shhhh. His eyes widened once more. George typed: Darth Vadar- Dark Lord, Sith, darkside, evil, wears a helmet like the isolator, has a funny breathing sound to it, menacing…. Luke Skywalker’s dad! “Holy crap, people will eat that up!”

George smiled at his words, and then looked to the right of his desk where his drawings and models were. He’d made a few of ships—one that wasn’t a particularly difficult design. It was a basic model in the shape of an x. “Think like an 11-year-old girl,” George said to himself with a grin. “I think I’ve accomplished that.” George looked down at his drawing of the girl with the buns in her hair and smiled. Perfect. Every little girl likes a princess.

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