The Iron Writer Challenge #152 – 2016 Winter Equinox Finals


The Iron Writer Challenge #152

2016 Winter Equinox Finals

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Dwight Wade, Tina Biscuit, Dani J. Caile,  Alis VanDoorn

The Elements:

A spider
A Trampoline
An Earthquake

Can’t Make This Stuff UpAlis Van Doorn

Alis VanDoorn

William drag- pushed- hefted, the last of Abbie’s roughly 10,000 lbs. of gear into the back of her uber cool ‘research vehicle’; Mercedes G class SUV.

“Still can’t believe research scientists are paid so well.” teased William, nodding towards Poindexter.

“Poindexter was my Daddy’s. Now help me load this last thing.”

“What last thing and where is it?”

“In the back yard. Self-explanatory.” Abbie had a way with words and spiders. And William.

“A trampoline?”

“A mini tramp is invaluable in the field.”

“Wish you’d wait. I’m worried”

“I’ll be fine.” Abby said with her usual lack of concern. “Only thing I’m worried about is you and William Tiny eating crap for two weeks.”

At this William Tiny, hearing his name, danced out, looking adorable, vulnerable and bereft.

“Alright, I’m off! Love you both!”

Abbie breathed deep, missing her Williams, but to document her Ph.D. thesis; that an American wandering spider of the genus Phoneutria located in a specific cave system existed, she had to go. Red haired fangs, deadly venomous bite, causing long painful erections in men, previously found in South America. Abbie knew she was correct in her theory; only about twelve hours, and some zig zag bits from Salt Lake City, before deep in her cave, at the border of Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, she could prove it.

Days later, in his lab, Williams’s seismic equipment went crazy. But it wasn’t in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, as expected; it was at the very east of the Wasatch Fault. Exactly where Abbie was.

“Let’s go, WT. Now!” roared William.

Driving faster than his ancient SUV would go, portable seismic equipment hooked up and riding shotgun, with a satellite connection to his lab, his colleagues keeping him up to date, William raced. He had 17 hours to get 15 hours plus, locate Abbie’s unknown cave. Didn’t have to be a genius to get the handwriting on the wall of this disaster.

16 hours later, using every piece of technology available, William (and WT) screeched into Abbie’s campsite, grabbed her keys, cranked Poindexter, made sure the tow rope was on, and using the GPS, barreled towards her, tremors starting, earth starting to shift.

He raced to the GPS directed location, screamed “Abbie!”, just as she exited the cave, triumphantly holding a bagged specimen, her look quickly turning to terror.

“Grab onto me!” screamed William, having looped the tow ring around himself. Abbie grabbed William, he looped the tow line around her, just as the earth started dropping away in front of them. Abbie screamed.

“No! I’ve dropped my specimen proof!”

And at that moment William Tiny leapt from the SUV, dashed passed Abbie, falling off into the quake abyss.

Abbie grabbed WT’s tail, screaming “Don’t let go William!”

“I won’t!” ”Urrrph!”

William hit Drive on the key remote, and slowly they were pulled to safety.

“My specimen”, moaned Abbie. “The cave is gone, I’ll never get proof again.”

Just then Tiny William pushed his wet nose, holding Abbie’s Specimen bag, intact into her hand.

“Oh! William! You are my hero!” Both Williams smiled with pride and a chest puff.

Cat On A Hot Twin Roof

Tina Biscuit

‘It’s a big cat; looks like it’s turned turtle.’

Robert passed the binoculars to Phil, who steadied himself against the forestay.

‘Can we get closer?’

‘Sure, we’re drifting that way. Hit the plotter; mark the position.’

‘Do you think there’s anyone in it?’

‘Possibly, but alive – I doubt it. Get the dinghy out, Phil. It’s like a mill pond, we can row over.’

Phil pumped up the dinghy, and dropped it overboard. The catamaran’s hulls gleamed white, like two featureless whales sleeping on the argent ocean. Robert pulled on a dry-suit, and they climbed into the dinghy. Phil started to row, while Robert cleaned his diving mask. They bumped gently into one of the upturned hulls. Phil grabbed the nearest rudder, and steadied the dinghy.

With the handle of his knife, Robert tapped hard on the fibreglass; it vibrated like a drum. They listened, in the vain hope of a reply.

‘I’m going down, Phil. Keep an eye on the horizon: if the sky goes dark, there’s a line-squall coming through – maybe that’s what got these guys – If you see anything, bang hard on the hull.’

‘OK, Robert, how long will you be?’

‘As long as I can hold my breath.’

Robert started cutting through some webbing between the hull and the cockpit.

‘Do you think they got caught in that netting, Robert?’

‘No, that’s the “tramp”; a trampoline for the crew to walk on. I’m cutting it away to get closer to the cabin.’

‘Well, be careful there’s not a big spider in there, luring you onto its web.’

‘Not funny, Phil, I might find some unpleasant stuff inside, but it won’t be spiders.’

With barely a splash, he slipped into the turbid waters. Phil set his stopwatch, and peered at the black figure descending into the gloom. Every thirty seconds, he looked again: he looked at the horizon, which hadn’t changed; he tapped his watch; he leaned over, and looked down. Eventually, some bubbles surfaced, then a waterproof bag, and finally, Robert. He clambered into the dinghy, and removed his mask.

‘Anyone in there, Robert.’

‘Not a soul, and the sails were rolled away, so a line-squall didn’t flip them. The life raft is still there, and I found their grab-bag. Let’s get back to our boat, and have a look.’


Back on the boat, Robert dried himself as Phil emptied the bag onto the table: some food sachets, water, a knife, and a first-aid kit. Then he saw the book: a small, leather-bound notebook, wrapped in clear plastic. He ran his fingers over the foil-blocked lettering: F.U.K.…

‘Any clues, Phil.’

‘It’s the logbook of the “Fukushima”, Robert. I can’t read much of the handwriting, but this doesn’t look good.’

‘What is it?’

‘Their marriage was in the doldrums; she doesn’t sound happy.’

‘I know that feeling’, said Robert.

‘She says the water is bubbling all around them.’

‘I’m trying to read the last line, the writing’s really shaky.’


‘Yeah, real shaky, Robert – earthquake shaky.’

Phil passed the book.

‘They must have known what was coming. I can’t make it out either, Phil.’

‘What would your last line be?’

Spiders and Earthquakes and Snakes (Oh, My)Dwight Wade

Dwight Wade

The sun hung high over head as the muscular figure cut his way through the dense jungle foliage. Sweat ran freely down his forehead, flooding his eyes with stinging saltwater.   The jungle seemed to fight back harder with every swing of his machete. His shoulders burned and ached at the hours long effort to clear a path.

How many days had he been in this cursed jungle? He’d lost count through his exhaustion but it had to have been more than a week. Seven or more days sweating off weight faster than he could eat it back. Seven or more nights of fitful sleep amongst the ants and the snakes and the spiders on the jungle floor. He could have sworn there was a minor earthquake yesterday too, but that could easily have been delirium. Or exhaustion fueled vertigo. Or both.

Two more hard swings and he pushed his way through and especially gnarly tangle of vines. He stepped out into a clearing. Well, not exactly a clearing in the traditional sense, more of a small hole where the foliage wasn’t completely enclosed. Regardless, his shoulders would welcome a respite from their vine induced torment.

As he stepped past the twist of vines and brush his ears immediately drew him to the glassy trickle of a stream. He turned to see twisting curls of crystal clear water, no more than a meter across, snaking along the jungle floor. He strode to the bank and fell to his knees, sinking an inch or two in softened earth at the waters edge. His left knee creaked against the sudden motion, stiffened from days of effort on top of a traumatic childhood trampoline injury.

He reached for his pack and in one motion pulled out a canteen, twisted the cap and plunged the container into the water. The water, factually warmer than his tap at home, felt like ice against his overheated skin. He withdrew the canteen, dropped a purification tablet inside and swirled it around before taking a long pull.

The water, cold against his hand, felt like heaven as it cascaded down his throat. His whole body tingled as a cold pleasure encompassed him. He often found it amazing how an activity, so mundane in his “normal” life, became so extraordinary in extreme circumstances.

His thirst quenched, the man placed the canteen back in the water, dropped another tablet inside and placed the newly filled vessel in his pack. He stood again, knee aching all the way up, and cuffed the mud from his pants. He reached to the other side of his pack and brought out a folded yellow parchment.

The centuries old handwriting had faded to a dull grey, as had the crude diagrams. Faint as they were, both were still discernible. He perused the markings for several minutes, trying his best to orient his current location to those marked on the decayed document. After several minutes he re-folded the paper, placing it back in it’s pocket.

It was here. He was close.

His shoulder screamed as he raised the machete once more.

He was close.

Evil GrandmaDani-J-Caile

Dani J Caile

Some kids have great grandparents. They go to this big, fancy house, meet this old but ’oh-so-happy’ couple who shower them with presents and praise and feed them the best food like pizza and chips and stuff, and then they take you to the mall and buy you tons of cool things, and they’ll play Xbox with you – they’re terrible at playing, of course – they’re old, what do you expect? But that’s not the point, they’re happy to do it. And when you leave, they want you back as soon as poss!

Not me. I have one grandma who lives with us. She’s a mean old witch who’ll steal your food from your plate without a second thought. Literally. I caught her sneaking down to the kitchen the other night and eating two liters, yes, two liters of chocolate ice cream from the freezer. Then she blamed it on me the next morning. Mum and Dad didn’t believe me when I told them it was her. You see, she’s wheelchair-bound. Apparently. We even had to install a chair lift on the stairs. I hurt my feet on that damn thing almost every day.

“What do you call this, Billy?” Oh crap. Here she goes. “Looks like some spider just walked all over this paper.”

“What?” My school essay! Someone scribbled all over it!

“Your handwriting’s atrocious, boy!”

“Did you…?” Mother’s appeared. Damn. And off the witch goes, cackling away in her electric chair.

“Billy! Leave your Grandma alone, she needs her afternoon nap. Go and play in the garden.”

“I’m not eight anymore, Mum, I’m twelve.”

“Go outside and read, then.”

“Okay.” At least I’ll get some peace from ’her’… Ouch! What was that? Would you believe it, I got hit by a plastic pellet! That’s Grandma again, with her catapult. She’s so mean and nasty. And heartless. The only time I ever saw her showing anything related to ’love’, if you could call it that, was when she was frightened of the earthquake last year, holding onto Mum for safety. She was shaking like a leaf. Any sudden movement can set her off.

But I’m out of range now and the sun’s shining. Glad Mum told me to go outside. I might even have a jump on our outdoor trampoline, it’s so nice…

Hang on, I’ve got an idea! Is she asleep? Yes, I can already hear her snoring. It doesn’t take her long. Quick…wheel her out…unzip the flexinet…can I lift her?…yes, she weighs almost nothing! Gently…now, I’ll get in…stand at the edge and jump… and…she’s up!

“Earthquake! Earthquake! Ahhhh!”

It worked! There she goes! Off the trampoline, through the net, and down the garden on her scrawny little legs. Wow, can she move! This is so funny!

Oops, Mum’s out, she’ll see everything. Maybe they’ll believe me about the ice cream now.

“Billy! What are you doing? What the hell? Mother? You can… you can walk?”

This is so much payback, I can tell ya!

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The Iron Writer Challenge #151 – 2016 Winter Equinox Preliminary Round, Citizen Kane Bracket

April fool's joke

The Iron Writer Challenge #151

2016 Winter Equinox Preliminary Round

Citizen Kane Bracket

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Elements:

An April Fools Joke

Energy drinks

Yellow highlighter

The basement

The Authors:

Richard Russell

Dwight Wade

Zac Moran

Vance Rowe

Steven L. Bergeron

Just Foolin’  Richard Russell

Richard Russell 

Holding the monoscope to his eye, Billy complained, “I don’t see a chimp!”

Robert grabbed the scope back and laughed hysterically, “HA! Maybe not, but I see a chump!”

Billy wasn’t impressed. “You’re weird, Robert.”  

Ignoring the black, sooty ring around Billy’s eye, Rob quickly turned serious.

“Hey, Billy, did you know that if you soak the absorbent pads from yellow highlighters in buttermilk they make a kick-ass energy drink?”


“Oh yeah. I made some the other day and was awake all night! I got all KINDS of stuff done.”

Billy was fascinated. “So, how did you do that, Robert?

Knowing he had Billy hooked, Rob continued, “Well, you cut the highlighter open with a utility knife and pull out the pad. It takes about, oh, ten or fifteen pads to a quart of buttermilk. Ya just soak ’em in buttermilk for an hour or so; maybe squeeze ’em a bit.”

“Is that plain buttermilk, or low-fat?”

“Jiminy Cricket, Billy, that don’t matter!”

Rob smirked at Billy’s gullibility as he thought, “April first was made for people like him!”

He slapped Billy on the back, saying “Hey, I gotta skedaddle, Bill. See ya around.”

Later that night, Robert was out walking through the neighborhood when he spotted an ambulance outside Billy’s house. Going closer, he could hear Billy’s sister in hysterics as she roamed from room to room. Billy’s father was talking to a police officer, and his mom was standing next to a gurney weeping as two paramedics administered CPR to Billy.

Rob was shocked.

“What happened, Mrs Hanson?”

Sobbing and barely able to speak, Mrs. Hanson somehow managed to tell how she found Billy in the basement amidst several disassembled highlighters and an empty bottle of buttermilk.

Realizing he was to blame for this tragedy, Robert came unglued. “NO! This can’t be happening! I mean, highlighters are supposed to be non-toxic! How could this happen? I didn’t know! How could I have known?!” He began to weep, too.

As the paramedics pulled the cover over Billy’s dead body, Robert crumpled against the gurney and wept bitterly. After about five minutes of Rob’s heart-wrenching remorse, the paramedics pulled him away from the gurney to load it into the ambulance. Rob surged forward and pleaded, “Let me look at him one last time.” Relenting, a paramedic stepped back, allowing Robert to gently fold the sheet back from Billy’s face. There in the midst of his placid expression of infinite serenity were the scars of Robert’s cruelty; Billy’s black-ringed eye, and his yellow-stained mouth.

Robert came unglued, “Billy! Oh Billy, I’m so sorry for taking advantage of you and treating you like a fool! I didn’t mean any harm! I didn’t know this would happen. Oh, Billy, I swear I’ll never pull another practical joke on anyone ever again.”

“Really?” Billy’s voice inquired.

Rob jumped back about five feet from the gurney in surprise.

Billy sat up and smiled. “Gotcha!”

At that, everyone at the scene burst out in hysterical laughter.

Three Men and a BasementDwight Wade

Dwight Wade

Cool, dank air filled the basement. Bill was slumped in the corner, unmoving.

“Hand me the highlighter,” Jason whispered, extending his hand behind his back.

The third man slid the yellow marker into Jason’s palm. “Is he out?”

“Yeah Chuck, he’s long gone.” Jason could barely suppress a laugh as he spoke.

Bill rolled to one side, taking in an enormous, snort filled gasp of air. The other men jumped back, Chuck stumbling slightly over a box of magazines. Deep, wet, retching sounds escaped Bill’s throat, followed closely by a gush of vomit that splashed against the concrete floor.

“Maybe we should move him,” Chuck said, his voice tilting slightly into an almost question.

“Yeah, good idea.” Jason grabbed Bill’s ankles, pulled him away from the wall, away from the pool of foul liquid. “Grab that blanket.”

Chuck quickly returned with a pink and yellow afghan. It smelled of mothballs and mold. Chuck raised Bill’s head from the floor, sliding the ancient linen under the unconscious man’s head. Jason spent the next few seconds drawing something on Bill’s forehead and cheeks. As he pulled away Chuck noticed the frown on his companion’s face.

“What’s the matter Jason?”

“Yellow highlighter, can’t hardly see what I drew.”

Chuck looked down at the unconscious man’s face. From four feet away he could barely see any of what Jason had drawn.

“Oh well,” Jason shrugged. “Still gonna be funny as hell when he wakes up down here.”

Chuck smiled. “Yeah, that’s one heck of an April Fool’s joke, slipping all that extra Jager into his Red Bull.”

Jason laughed. “Yeah, that lightweight didn’t know what hit him! Let’s finish up.”

The two men spent the next several minutes cleaning up the mess Bill had made on the floor. They then arranged various items from the basement around their unconscious friend. When they were finished the menagerie of collectibles; a three foot tall stuff bunny, four porcelain dolls, multiple handfuls of Beanie Babies and other assorted items surrounded Bill, created a surreal audience for Bill’s alcohol fueled nap.

Jason and Chuck stepped back to admire their work. They pulled phones from their pockets, taking multiple pictures from multiple angles, uploading them to multiple social media sites with the requisites tags and captions.

Jason smiled and turned to Chuck. “That ought to do it. When’s his wife get home?”

“Eight o’clock or so. It’s four now so we’re clear by four hours or so.”

Jason nodded and headed for the stairs. He laughed at his handiwork as he climbed the flight. He twisted the knob at the top, or tried to.


“Yeah,” Chuck replied. I locked it when we came down in case she got home early.”

“It had a lock twist on the other side?” Jason asked.

“Yeah, turned it when I shut the door.”

“You have the key right?” Jason asked.

There was silence for several seconds more than Jason would have liked.

“There’s a key?”

I’m Not Sorry

Zac Moran

“It’s not your fault. I’m sorry,” he wrote with the fading yellow ink of a dying highlighter.

Jack stood in the middle of the entertainment room, which used to be the basement. Electronics and tabletop games were everywhere. The trashcan was overflowing with empty energy drink cans from his kids and their friends.

He left the note and his plain gold ring on the table before grabbing his car keys and heading outside. The warm sun hit his skin and a breeze floating through the air.

It wasn’t long before he pulled up to a heavily wooded park.

He wandered through the trees until he came to a weather-worn bench next to a creek. He sat down and listened to the flowing water and the small forest animals scurry amongst the trees.

“Hello there,” said someone behind jack, “mind if I join you?”

“Sure,” replied Jack.

An older man eased himself onto the bench next to Jack and sighed,

“This is my favorite spot in the whole park,” he said.

“Same here,” said Jack.

The two made small talk for a bit before silence fell between them.

“Ya know,” said the elderly man, “I think this is my favorite place because I feel closer to my wife here than anywhere else.”

“Why is that?” asked Jack.

“This is the last place she was alive. Ya know, she didn’t say goodbye? I mean, she said goodbye in the note she left behind, but that’s not the same. I always wonder if there’s anything I could’ve done.”

“I’m sure it had nothing to do with you.”

“She said it wasn’t my fault in her note, though I still can’t help but wonder. To this day, I hope she’ll pop out somewhere and say, ‘April Fools!’ She loved April Fool jokes.”

Silence fell again. After a while, Jack looked over at the other side of the bench, but the man was gone. His gaze returned to the brook for a moment before he got up and made his way back to his car.

Jack drove around the outskirts of town for a couple hours until he came to a bridge. He pulled over and walked out the bridge’s railing, gripping it so hard that his knuckles turned white. His eyes locked onto the river raging beneath him.

He reached into his coat and pulled out a small revolver. His gaze went skyward and his eyes searched the heavens.

“I miss you. So much. How can I keep doing this without you?”

His eyes clenched shut and his breath stuttered when he exhaled.

He inhaled deeply, cocked his arm back, and threw the revolver. It shot through the air and vanished beneath the white foam of the river below.

Jack slid back into his car and sat still for a moment. He filled his lungs and closed his eyes. His lip started to tremble. He slammed his fist into the passenger seat and bit his lip.

“I won’t be sorry today.”

With a shaking hand, he fit the key into the ignition and drove away.

The Joke

Vance Rowe

“You know you are drinking bull semen, right?” Tom said to his friend.

The friend suddenly spat the energy drink from his mouth and asked, “What?”

“Bull semen. You didn’t know one of the ingredients of that energy drink is bull semen?”

“No,” the young man replied as he scanned the contents of the can.

After carefully reading them, he said, “There is nothing on here about bull semen.”

“Well, it’s not going to say bull semen, it will say something like hydrogenized caribeener.”

“Hydrogenized caribeener? What the hell is that?”

“It’s nothing. Just a name I made up that reads like an ingredient.”

“There is no bull semen in here.” He replied, still reading the can.

“Keep on drinking it and then when you have an urge to make love to a cow, you call me and tell me there is no bull semen in there.”

“Come on. You can’t be serious.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I can’t be serious.”

Finally, the other friend tossed the rest of the drink into a trash can.


“Wait…what? Today isn’t April Fool’s Day. It’s a couple of days off yet.”

“True, but if I told you that on April Fool’s Day, you wouldn’t have believed me.”

“You’re a dink Tom, you know that?”

When they arrived at the “prankster’s” house, they went down into the basement to play some video games, but on the wall was a piece of paper and written in yellow highlighter:



The two friends were shocked when they read this and Tom is a little scared.

“Tom, I told you those pranks were going to be the death of you and now you have someone after you.”

“Well, I just won’t leave the house until after April Fool’s Day.”

“Tom, whomever it was, walked into your basement to write this. You don’t think the killer will do the same thing to kill you? I am outta here. I don’t want to become a casualty.”

The friend hurried from the house and when he was out of sight, he called another friend and said, “Thanks for doing that for me, Jim. Hopefully, this will teach him a lesson.”

For the next two days, Tom worried about being killed. Finally, the day arrived, and a few minutes before the day ended at midnight, Tom heard the cellar door creak open. Scared, Tom pulled a hand gun from under the couch as the masked man appeared in front of him and said, “It’s time for you to die.”

Without a word, Tom raised the pistol and fired it at the man. Tom pulled the man’s mask off to reveal his friend and with his last dying breath, the friend said, “April…Fool’s…Tom. B-Boy, …I…really…got…you…this…time. You should see the look on your face.”

“Yeah, you damned idiot, you got me.”

With a smile on his face, the friend closed his eyes and the last of breath of air escaped from his body.

With tears in his eyes, Tom said, “You really got me with this one.”

Sleep TightSteven Bergeron

Steven L Bergeron

The ground level to Herb Overkill lair was like any other basement dark and creepy. That didn’t bother Stuart Minion one bit. It gave Tim Minion the hives.

“Come on Stuart, let’s just grab Kevin and get our asses out of here?”

“Relax Tim, This is going to require a little patience and ingenuity to pull this off. Besides this is sure to make our enemy go nuts”

Stuart want ahead to extinguish his plan. Herb Overkill was never too fond of practice joke. This night was to drive him crazy. Stuart had replaced his Red bull as well as taken care of Kevin. They want to the closet to await their visitors. They finally arrived.

“Well my little green monster tomorrow shall be first day of the rest of our life. If everything goes to plan all your little friends shall be under my spell. Go fletch me a Red Bull I need all the energy I can get to full fill my evil plan to take over your miserable world.”

Stuart looked at his watch to calculate how long his Red Bull concoction would take into effect. Five minutes had passed when they heard a thunderous boom. They opened the closet door a bit only to see Herbs body lying down flat, and Kevin panicking as usual. Kevin looked in the direction of the closet door only to find a parade of Yellow highlighters stricking him on his noggin knocking himself over. Before he regained his footing he was bagged and brought to safety.

“Where on earth did you get that?”

“It’s simply another one of my many weapons. It sure did come in handy.”Stuart replied as they made their way back to their hideout.

It was now April 1 and Stuart Minion swore he could hear every little creature in their home land of Antartica laughing their heads off at the plan that Herb Overkill had fell for.


Meanwhile in Westminster Abbey the sun was so brilliant it could wake up anyone from a deep sleep. Herb Overkill woke up fresh with no recollection of what the minions had put him through. He glanced to find his little green monster was still asleep.

Herb had been up for hours now, and ready to complete his plan to make all of Kevin’s little friend part of his army. He waited patiently for Kevin’s arrival, they needed to put on end to the little minions that alluded him for the last time. His patience finally got the best of him.

“How can anyone sleep in a time like this? Kevin you get your sorry ass in here this once?” Finally after no response he decided the only way to wake him up was a good shaking. It was them that he discovered his monster was no more than a stuffed doll.

He suddenly realized it was April 1 there was only one solution to what had transpired.

“ Damn you minions all to hell! This is not over you shall all feel the wrath of an Overkill.”

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The Iron Writer Challenge #146


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.

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