The Iron Writer Challenge #174 – 2016 Summer Open Challenge #11

mine-entrance

The Iron Writer Challenge #174

2016 Summer Open Challenge #11

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

  Authors:

Richard Russell, Harry Craft, Geoff Gore, Vance Rowe, Bobby Salomons 

The Elements:

An abandon mine
Gold teeth from a dead person
Whistling
Main character is being pursued

Untitled

Vance Rowe

“Are they still behind us?” Charlie Gable asked his brother, as the turned their horses into the canyon.

“Little brother, they will follow us right to Mexico. I don’t think they took very kindly to us robbing their bank,” Frank Gable replied with a chuckle.

“Big brother, I think you are right,” Charlie replied with a laugh of his own. “Maybe we can lose them in these canyons.”

“I surely do hope so. I ain’t liking the idea of being sent to Yuma prison or being strung up neither.”

They soon left the canyon and started their horses up a hill to try and lose the posse. Near the top of the hill, they spotted an abandoned mine.

“Let’s go in there Charlie. We can bring the horses in and let them rest.”

The two men entered the mine and brought their horses as far into the mine as they could, just so they wouldn’t be heard. 

The two men decided to check out the mine and maybe see if there was another way out. As they walked deeper into the mine, they heard a whistling noise. They walked deeper into the mine to check out the sound and Frank tripped over something and fell to the ground. Charlie lit a match and they were shocked to see a skeleton of a human body.  Charlie used the match to check the skeleton out and was happy to see gold teeth in the head of the skeleton. After helping his brother up, Charlie pulled the teeth out of the mouth and put them in his pocket.

Suddenly the whistling noise got louder and when they turned to look down the mine, they saw a pair of yellow glowing dots in the darkness. They didn’t stick around to see what it was. The two men quickly ran back toward the front of the mine, They grabbed their horses and ran out of the mine. They spotted the posse on the trail below them and Frank shouted to them.

The sheriff and the posse hurried up the hill.

Frank said,”Please arrest us sheriff and get us out of here, There is a ghost or something in there with yellow glowing eyes.” 

Charlie Gable grabbed the bags of stolen money from the bank and handed them to the sheriff, The two men handed their guns to men in the posse and they mounted their horses.

“We’ll meet you back in town Sheriff,” Frank said as he kicked his horse and rode out of there, followed by his brother.

A deer walked out of the mine and the men in the posse laughed and hurried to catch up with the criminals.

Broken HillGeoff Gore

Geoff Gore

Ray Whitten was the last CEO of what had once been one of the most prosperous companies on the planet. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. BHP. It seemed fitting it should end here. For more than a century the Earth here had willingly offered its soul to the long line of men before him who had been only too willing to receive it, in exchange for cold, hard, cash.

That was before they discovered the artefact. Even then, at first, there were scant few people on the planet who knew the secret of its existence. That was before it poisoned the surrounding landscape and the minds of those who’d once lived there.

How many had died?

He couldn’t tell. All he knew was those who remained would hunt him down until they found either him, or the artefact itself.

He stopped the car and checked the mirror to see if he could catch a glimpse of his pursuers.

Nothing.

It wouldn’t stay that way for log.

He scooped the cloth wrapped relic from the passenger seat beside him, hugged it close and stepped out into the hot wind whistling across the dusty red earth.

Broken Hill.

Once there’d actually been a hill here. A modern day tower of babel, stretching upwards toward God. It wasn’t so much a tower of knowledge as a tower of money. When the mines had been prosperous the mining magnates had thought themselves God’s, but it was what lay hidden beneath that was the real source of power.

Broken Hill.

Broken men.

In the last years, under his tenure as CEO, the only gold extracted from this place had come from the teeth of the men who’d died here.

Broken himself, Whitten trudged across the open earth. Whatever parched grass remained turned to dust under his boots until he stood at the edge of a deep scar in the Earth where once a mighty mountain stood. To his right a huge grader lay silent, slowly being buried by the wind-borne sand. Mother Nature trying to conceal the evidence. An accessory after the fact. A skeleton slumped in the driver’s seat. One of the many who never stood a chance when they’d first found the object. The artefact still wrapped beneath his coat seemed to throb against him like a heartbeat. In the distance behind him another steady metronomic thud was getting louder.

Choppers.

They’d found him. Soon they’d be on top of him. He had to finish what he’d come to do. To return the cursed thing to where it had come from and where hopefully, it would never be found again. He kept going. Staggering on to the left of the main pit, until he found the abandoned shaft. A cavernous maw in the ground. Behind him the thrum of the approaching helicopters grew into a roar. He knew all that remained for him to do. He peered over the edge into the abyss. He stole one last look behind, then stepped forward.

James 4:17Richard Russell

Richard Russell

Soldat Friedrich Huber was simply doing his job. Assigned to a small convoy driving cargo from Germany to Switzerland, he had no idea what the cargo was. His wipers swished back and forth trying to keep up with the barrage of rain, but the hypnotic rhythm and anxiety of driving with blacked-out headlights was exhausting. When the deluge was at its worst, Friedrich took a wrong turn and drove many miles before realizing he was separated from the rest of the convoy.

While trying to turn around, his truck slid into a ditch and nearly turned over. Opening the back to check on his cargo, Friedrich discovered a crate had broken open.

He scooped up a handful of the contents. Astounded, he realized it was gold. As he looked closer, he was horrified. Friedrich was young but he was not stupid. This gold was certainly taken from dead Jewish prisoners in Dachau. But there was so much of it! How many human beings must they have killed? Thousands? Tens of thousands? More? Friedrich’s stomach turned sour and he vomited. His naive adoration for the glorious Third Reich – his own German government – came crashing down from its pedestal.

He would have no part in this … Except …

He thought quickly … There was something he could do!

It was in his power to return the items of gold he now had under his control.

He could turn it over to its rightful owners, the Jewish people.

He knew it would cost him his life, but it was the right thing to do.

Using the winch on the truck, he got back on the road and headed farther away from the convoy. They would soon discover his absence. He had to get far away and work quickly…

Taking the gold out of the crates, Friedrich hid the treasure in an abandoned mine.

He quickly penned a letter to a “Jewish Rabbi, Switzerland,” and gave the letter to a small group of refugees headed across the border. He refilled the crates to make the truck appear heavy and resealed them.

The SS caught up with Friedrich after he had spent several hours driving back into the heart of Germany. Pulled over, the truck was searched, but the crates now only held rocks.

Friedrich died a slow, horrible death as they tried to make him tell where the gold was.

The unopened letter was delivered 30 years later to a Jewish Rabbi in Switzerland. It simply said, “ ‘On a windy day you can hear the sound of toothless whistling underground; Rising up from all around for their lost treasure to be found.’ On behalf of the German people, I apologize for the wrongs perpetrated against your race. Signed, Friedrich Huber.”

Eventually investigations revealed the existence of an abandoned mine in the south of Germany where locals claimed the wind would make an eerie whistling as it blew through the tunnels. The World Jewish Restoration Organization found the mine and several hundred pounds of gold teeth and fillings taken from murdered prisoners of German concentration camps.

A Clipboard and a WhistleBobby Salomons

Bobby Salomons

My heart is beating in my throat, I can taste it. I can literally taste the pulse. It drones in my head with every beat of my racing heart.

I can hear the sound of crushing rocks and pebbles underneath the soles of my boots. My legs are on fire, burning more with every step up against the steep incline. The ground slips away beneath me, and my balance begins to shift, my knee crashes into the ground. I can feel gravel breaking the skin and piercing its way into the soft tissue underneath. Blood mingling with dirt. I don’t care.

I grab onto a protruding metal bar and pull myself up, everything hurts. I gasp for air as I straighten my leg and an intense pain momentarily overcomes the urge to survive. Faint voices, angry whispers, follow from the darkness behind me.
Warm tears running down my cheeks. Snot running from my nose. Mucus is obstructing my throat as I try to draw some oxygen in. It’s so hard to breathe.
I miss my family, afraid I’ll never see them, but worse is the crushing guilt that I’ll leave them behind. A weight heavier than tunnel collapse.

Nothing and no one was supposed to be in here. All I was here for was to inspect if it was safe for tours, all I brought was a clipboard and a headlight. Something grabbed my clipboard, I’ve broken the light. All I have to go by is going upwards and a faint light in the distance that I can only hope is the outside world.

The vaguest sound of a whistle haunts me, it may be the wind outside, or a draft from another tunnel. But it’s enough for me to try again. I begin to climb, with every step hurting more than the last. But I have to try, just a few more steps. Then another. Each one counts.
Behind me an overwhelming sinister is watching – following me shortly. I grab my tapeline and throw it at the darkness. A chilling cold creeps up my spine as it never hits the ground. It just disappeared into the void behind me, that is darker than night and my eyes can register. It hates me.

One final time the adrenaline shoots through every fibre still left, and I can tell that I’m about to be pounced. I throw myself forward and gain some momentum, my chest thunders like a drum to a point where I worry if it will suddenly stop. But it doesn’t matter, I’d rather die trying. Everything is in slow motion as I take bigger strides than I thought possible, my bones bending under the stress, but I’m doing it. Light is near, just a few more strides.

Behind me gains something, the whistle turning into a deafening scream, overcoming even my own. But then the sound escapes, into the open. I fall out onto grass and turn around to look back. Into pitch blackness retreats a twisted, evil face. The wail fades back into a whistling, coming from between a dead man’s golden teeth. I’m quitting my job today. I sob.

BequestHarry Craft

Harry Craft

As he came to entrance to the mine, Jack looked back. No sign of his pursuer; but he knew Lucian had not given up and would still be on his trail. Jack leaned against the jamb to rest a moment. Straightening up, he took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and entered the mine. Dangerous, to be sure; but safer than being captured.

As he turned on his flashlight and headed farther in, he thought about the time he and Lucian had spent as fellow students of the old man. He had taught them the esoteric lore that had been passed down for generations. As they progressed, learning more and more about the powers of the mind, he had promised them that one day they would be able to make full use of the arcane powers that moderns called paranormal, but the ancients knew simply as “magic”.

Jack carefully picked his way along the tracks and sighed, recalling Lucian’s impatience. The old man had said that to become a master one must be worthy. Moreover, one could receive final empowerment only by a free gift from the master. Lucian had actually laughed when the old man had said that.

Gift?! If we learn all the techniques and have the understanding, why do we need a final ‘empowerment’?”

“This teaching is sacred,” the old man had said. “The empowerment is to ensure that only the truly deserving attain full power. The master must give the final permission to the ones he deems worthy. Otherwise, he might be turning loose horrible evil on the world!”

On the last day of training, the old man had announced that he would give the empowerment to Jack; but not to Lucian. Enraged, Lucian had attacked the old man before he could give Jack the empowerment. Stunned, Jack tried to stop him, but the old man was already dead.

“If the old man can’t give me the powers, I’ll find a way myself!” Lucian had screamed. Jack had tried to bind Lucian with his power, but they were evenly matched. At that moment, Jack realized that Lucian would use clues scattered throughout their teachings to find another route to empowerment. He realized that he must beat Lucian to that route, lest Lucian succeed.

Jack had travelled for months, pursued always by Lucian. Now, the end was near. Intuition and a cryptic remark he remembered from the old man had led him to this mine. Lucian could not be far behind. One or the other would prevail. His reverie was broken when he tripped against something. A skeleton—the skull filled with golden teeth. He knelt, and saw the sigil painted on the forehead. Touching the bones, he could feel power flowing into him—the final empowerment!

Jack suddenly heard a tuneless whistling—a habit of Lucian. He stood up and saw Lucian aiming a pistol at him.

“It ends here now! The answer is in this mine and I don’t need you anymore!” snarled Lucian.

“Right on both counts!” said Jack. He waved his hands and in a flash Lucian was unconscious. Jack was the master now.

 

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The Iron Writer Challenge #172, 2016 Summer Open Challenge #9

bridle

The Iron Writer Challenge #172

2016 Summer Open Challenge #9

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

  Authors:

D. Lee Cox, Harry Craft, Zac Moran, Amy Topol

The Elements:

A flaming spittoon

A herd of buffalo

An inscribed gravestone

A ancient gold horse bridle

Jim McLandry – Bronco Ridin’ DandyLee Cox

D. Lee Cox

He shuffled into the kitchen and flopped down into the chair, his arm draped over the table.

“I see you’ve spent the evening at the saloon?” Margaret said, turning to him, wiping her hands.

“Dear, the Flaming Spittoon is no mere saloon, it is a fine establishment for men of great character and daring.”

“Jim, its a saloon. Its a nasty, dank, smoked up saloon.”

“AAAAnnny way… so this fellah comes in, all dressed in black, bowler hat, little red feather stuck in the band. He comes up beside me and orders a scotch.”

“The Spittoon hasn’t had scotch in years.”

“I know, right? So I turn to the fella and inform him of his faux pas. He turns and smiles right at me – you know why?”

“I cant imagine.”

“He recognizes me from Bill Cody’s show! Can you believe it? Its been what, 20years? Says, ‘Aren’t you Jim Landry, The Bronco Breaking Dandy, from Buffalo Bill’s?’

“Now mind you I’m surprised, but I just stuck out my hand for a shake.

“So’s this fellow proceeds to tell me about how he followed the show for years and always wanted to meet me!

“We get to talking and he tells me this story about some Roman named Julius somethin-Tavius ridin’ broncs back in the day. Seems this Tavius fellah took a challenge from one of those gods they had and road this bronc, Abraxas, for 2 days. So’s this Julius somethin-Tavius fellah wins a golden bridle from the boss god.

“’Well, shoot,’ I says, ‘I once road a wild buffalo in its herd for seven days across the plains’

“Jim, you did not ride a wild buffalo across the plains…”

“Dammit, Maggie, I did, I tell ya!”

“Jim, you went on a bender in Sioux City and woke up in a livery car in Junction Flats.”

“AAAAnnny way… so’s this gentleman offers to by me a REAL whiskey and makes me a wager: that golden bridle against my soul says I couldn’t ride some pony named Phobos.

Margaret’s eyes got wide.

“Jim, you didn’t… I mean, surely you didn’t…”

“Why you know I did! I aint ever backed away from a wager!”

“Oh god, Jim…”

“Fella had me sign some paper. His pen musta had a burr in it cause it pricked my finger, got a little blood on the parchment.”

He trailed off, murmuring about saddles and beer.

Margaret put him to bed shortly after.

She sat down at the kitchen table and lit a cigarette.

She reached for the telephone on the wall.

“Laura? Can you get me Ted McLandry over in Brindly?”

A click, then a tin voice from the receiver, “Hello?”

“Ted? Margaret. Listen, remember how I went ahead and paid you for your cousins tombstone, just leaving the date blank? Yeah, well, go ahead and make it for tomorrow. I’ll explain later.”

The JokeHarry Craft

Harry Craft

As he sat on the porch, Luke lit his pipe. After the first couple of puffs, he tossed the match into the spittoon nearby. Instead of the match fizzling out in the spit, a spurt of flame shot upward. In a few moments, the spittoon was flaming. Another one of Zeke’s practical jokes, Luke thought. Zeke had probably poured whiskey into the spittoon to make the contents flammable. Typical.

After finishing his pipe, Luke walked over to the stable. He passed the family cemetery, filled with headstones of his grandparents and other kin. Luke arrived at the stable, saddled and bridled his horse, and rode off towards town. In the distance he could see a small herd of buffalo. Used to be lots more of ‘em. Shame.

After about an hour, Luke arrived at the trading post. He walked over to the counter to ask for some necessities when he noticed a gold-colored bridle hanging from the wall. “What’s that?” he asked the storekeeper.

“That, sir, is an ancient golden bridle, owned by Alexander the Great himself!” Luke glowered skeptically. The shopkeeper laughed. “Of course it’s not! It’s not even real gold—just cleverly painted. I keep it to dress up the shop a bit.”

Luke smiled slightly. “How much do you want for it?” At first, the shopkeeper was unwilling to sell it—“decorative”, he said—but finally after some haggling, Luke bought it for $2.50. He went out, placed the goods he’d bought in the saddlebags, and switched the bridle his horse was wearing for the “golden” bridle.

When Luke arrived home, Zeke was sitting on the porch, smiling. Luke knew Zeke was hoping the spittoon fire had annoyed him, but he ignored Zeke, instead slowing his horse down to make sure Zeke saw the shiny gold of the bridle. Slightly irritated that Luke hadn’t taken the bait, but noticing the bridle, Zeke said, “Hey, where’d you get that fancy bridle?”

“Ain’t nothing to speak of. Just saw it at the trading post and liked it,” Luke told his brother in a casual voice. Luke kept his face totally straight. He was naturally prickly and temperamental. Being low-key would immediate make Zeke suspicious. In fact, exactly this happened. Zeke came down from the porch and walked up to Luke as he took the saddle and bridle off the horse.

“Hey, is there something special about that bridle?”

“I told you—it ain’t nothing.” Luke hung the bridle on the wall.

“You’re actin’ funny, Luke. Is this here bridle something special?”

“Never you mind!” growled Luke in what he hoped sounded like real anger. He turned his back on Zeke and headed back towards the house. Zeke remained behind, staring at the bridle.

Luke could barely suppress a grin. He knew Zeke. Tomorrow he’d surreptitiously take the bridle to town, convinced it was worth a fortune. Luke could imagine his face when the shopkeeper laughed at him. Finally a payback for all Zeke’s jokes!

He Always Had a Plan

Amy Topol

We found the horse bridle next to a poisoned pond. We knew it was poisoned because a kerchief hung on a tree branch over the pond. Also, the dead horse was a giveaway. The bridle was still attached to its bones, but Joe was never squeamish about these things. He just took it off and held it up to let it catch the sun.

“It’s pure gold, Bill. We’ve got to sell it,” Joe said as we walked back towards town. Joe always had plans, mostly bad ones, but this seemed to make sense.

We went to see a short, squat toad of a man who bought and sold things. He looked over the bridle. “Fake,” he said and spit into a brass spittoon that had a herd of buffalo engraved on its side.

“Not,” said Joe, as if he knew. Right or wrong never mattered to him. He chose his side and stuck with it.

The toad raised an eyebrow and stared Joe down. He wasn’t going to give in to a kid. I saw a bead of sweat slide down the toad’s brow and that’s when I knew. This time, Joe stood on the side of right.

“Ten,” said the toad.

Joe put out his hand, “We’ll take our business elsewhere.”

The toad gripped the bridle tighter with one hand and put his other hand on his holster and said, “How about you move along, boy.”

You know that queasy feeling you get right before things go bad wrong? Well, right at that moment, I had it.

On account of Joe’s bad plans, I always had a backup. In this case, a kerchief tied around a piece of wood and some dry leaves in one pocket and a match in the other.

I lit my makeshift smoke bomb and tossed it into the spittoon. It worked fine, ‘til the toad messed it all up. The idiot stumbled through the smoke and knocked a kerosene lamp into the spittoon. The whole thing went up in a flaming mess.

I ran for the door and screamed for Joe, but Joe ran for the bridle. The last thing I saw was Joe and the toad in a tug-of-war with the bridle. The room filled with smoke as someone snatched me out of the store by the back of my shirt.

I went back after the crown left but before the ashes had a chance to cool and dug out what was left of the bridle. No one paid attention to a kids like us…well, like me.

Joe ended up in a potter’s field, since he had no family. I took the bridle and buried it on top of Joe while the dirt was still fresh and loose. Joe deserved better than what he got in this life, so I made a new plan. A better plan than Joe or I ever had, I think.

When I get older, old enough for people to take me seriously, I’ll dig up that bridle and sell it. Then I’ll get him a real headstone that says “Here lies Joe. He always had a plan.”

Overseers

Zac Moran

Valriya slipped on the virtual reality helmet, encasing her head in total darkness.

Screens in front of her eyes lit up. Images of blue skies filled her vision and the sound of wind harmonized with the grass around her. There was a snort nearby. She stood up and found herself surrounded by a herd of grazing buffalo.

“Menu,” she said.

A screen appeared in front of her. She tapped a button labeled “See Others.”

Ghostly images of her friends and the other people in the auditorium shimmered into view. They were all interacting with the scenery and buffalo.

Valriya tapped the button again and they faded away. Another button and the menu vanished as well.

“Two thousand years ago, in the year 1843, bison hunting was a booming trade,” said a disembodied voice.

Shots rang out and two buffalo toppled over. The herd didn’t react.

“Bison hunters could earn enough to retire after just a couple years of work,” said the voice, “Of course, they had plenty of help from the Sham’Kon. Our great leaders from Heaven.”

A large metallic ship flew into view above Valriya and the herd. The ship’s belly opened. Valriya and the dead bison flew up into the ship and the doors closed beneath her feet. She peered around and saw a painting on the wall of a golden horse bridal draped over a gravestone. Below the painting was an inscription.

PRETTY FALSEHOODS ENSLAVE YOU TO THEIR WILL

“What the hell?” said Valriya

“Well hello there little lady,” said a voice behind her.

She spun around to see a man leaning against a nearby bulkhead.

“Hello! This is a beautiful Sham’Kon vessel!”

The man shot a mouthful of brown liquid into a nearby spittoon, which then caught ablaze.

“Um, should that be on fire?” Valriya asked.

He walked over to her.

“You wanna tour?” he asked, his head twitching sporadically.
“Aw, man,” said Valriya. “The helmet must be glitching. Menu.”

The menu popped up, but the only option available was “See Others.” She tapped it.

The buffalo lying on the floor of the cargo hold shimmered as their shape changed to that of her friend’s corpses.

Valriya screamed.

The hunter grabbed her shoulders.

“We were not meant to be slaves!” he yelled.

Valriya struggled against his grip.

“The Sham’Kon are false gods! Wake up!” yelled the hunter, “Wake up!”

The helmet came off Valriya’s head.

“Val, wake up!” yelled Erixa, shaking Valriya’s shoulders.

“What’s wrong?” asked Ryliea, holding Valriya’s helmet.

Other people in the auditorium were murmuring.

Valriya grabbed onto Erixa and hugged her, tears streaming down her face.

“The hunter shot the bison, but you guys were the bison,” Valriya said between sobs, “And there was a painting and he said the Sham’Kon are false gods.”

“This helmet is clearly malfunctioning,” said a voice behind the girls. They looked to see a gray humanoid figure towering over them.

“We, the Sham’Kon, have been your benevolent caretakers since the dawn of time. Now, may I have that helmet so no others will be traumatized?”

No,” thought Valriya, but Ryliea was already handing it over.

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The Iron Writer Challenge #151 – 2016 Winter Equinox Preliminary Round, Fahrenheit 451 Bracket

April fool's joke

The Iron Writer Challenge #151

2016 Winter Equinox Preliminary Round

Fahrenheit 451 Bracket

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Elements:

An April Fools Joke

Energy drinks

Yellow highlighter

The basement

The Authors:

Tina Biscuit

Laura Roberts

Wesley Kirk

Harry Craft

Quite Contrary

Tina Biscuit 

Mary woke up alone in bed. Peter was never first up. She stroked a hand across the space where he would usually be, as if he might magically appear. She looked at her mobile; the alarm was switched off. Then it dawned on her: April fool’s day – Peter must have turned it off as a joke. It was Saturday, and she was exhausted; maybe he was being considerate, knowing it had been a tough week, with the court case and everything. No, he would probably have been up early, preparing an April fool’s joke to catch her out again. She shuddered at the memories. 

Mary pulled her dressing gown from the hook on the door, hesitating as the door moved. No, people didn’t really do that bucket of water thing. Entering the bathroom, she remembered the trick with the cling-film, and checked under the toilet seat – now that was a messy trick. 

Downstairs, the kitchen was deserted. Everything was laid out like a suburban Marie Celeste: toast in the rack, tea in the pot, two cups, but no Peter. The morning newspaper was open at the centre pages. As she poured the tea, she noticed some yellow marks on the type. Closer inspection revealed a highlighter pen had been used to mark certain letters. Slowly she worked it out.

‘How lame, Peter’, she said under her breath. It spelt out the words: STUCK IN BASEMENT. She dialled his mobile and got the answerphone; she left a message – ‘Nice try, Peter. How can you be, if you were up here?’ Then something struck her, and she rang again. She walked into the hall, where the ringing was coming from. The trapdoor to the basement was half open; she pulled it up, and climbed down the steps. Peter was standing at the bottom. He pointed back up to the trapdoor, and shouted, ‘get the door’. It slammed shut, and they heard the catch lock on the other side. 

‘Now we’re both stuck’, he sobbed.

‘How long have you been here, Peter?’

‘Hours.’

‘Why did you leave a note, and then come down here? It doesn’t make any sense.’

‘I thought you had left that message, and I came down looking for you.’

‘Well, that was smart, Peter. You knew I was still in bed, because you turned the alarm off on my phone.’

‘I wasn’t feeling too clever after all that Vodka and Red Bull we drank last night. And I don’t know anything about your phone.’

‘This isn’t right, Peter. You think it’s one of the kids?’

‘Wouldn’t surprise me. They have learnt from the master.’

‘Yeah, you’re some father, tormenting your kids all their lives.’

‘I’ll phone them now. That’s probably Jonathan we heard closing the trapdoor.’ 

‘Jonathan.’

‘It’s your dad. Let us out of the basement. Your mum’s panicking, she’s got claustrophobia.’ 

‘What did he say, Peter?’

‘Just, “Good one, dad”, then he hung up.’

‘Phone him back.’

‘No answer. I guess I’ve cried wolf too many times.’ 

‘Say the words, Peter.’

‘It’s not a joke. It would be a good one, but no, nothing to do with me.’ 

‘So – who’s upstairs?’ 

One for the AgesWes Kirk

Wesley Kirk

This year my April Fools’ prank would be a joke for the ages. Some may call it obsessive, with notebooks full of scribbles, diagrams, and yellow highlighter markings.

I called it brilliance. “Evil genius going to waste on cheap gag”? There was nothing ‘cheap’ here.

While the plan had been birthed over a weekend of too little sleep and too much mountain dew, the real planning took place in my lair. Yes, it’s the basement of my parents’. But that’s not nearly as impressive when you say it that way.

I gathered the supplies over the course of months. One here. Another there. All of which were stored in a corner of the basement that not even our fat cats would traverse.

After I was certain that everyone had gone to bed, I crept down to the kitchen and began plan “Roadrunner.”

This year April Fools’ fell on a Friday. Fridays happen to be the day my mother’s class hold parties celebrating the week’s successes. After taking a test, the students get a long break, were they partake in a variety of snacks provided by volunteers. I volunteered this week.

I spent all night making cupcakes. By time the rest of my family was waking up, I had an army of ninety-six minions arrayed in their cases.

My mother cooed over the detail I put into each one. She swore she expected them to hop out and scream, “Bananna!” any second. I helped her load the car, and waved her off before heading to the bus.

I hurried to my mom’s class after school. From the hallway I could see the kids already in full celebration. All of them had hands and faces covered in yellow frosting.

The fun hadn’t started yet.

Things escalated quickly. One kid face planted and went straight into a coma. Another kid fell down to his knees like that lieutenant from Platoon. Again, completely out. I surmised these two were my mother’s ADHD children. Stimulants react differently with them.

Energy drinks are nearly pure sugar, they also contain massive amounts of caffeine. Plus, I concentrated it into a syrup before using it to make the cupcakes.

Simultaneously, the kids started losing their minds. So did my mother.

A couple kids started running around like the flash, and I’m quite certain one of them broke the sound barrier. Another kid went feral and climbed a bookcase. Perching on top, he started hissing and swiping at my mom, like a cat, as she tried to get him down.

Beyond the swarm of bees that used to be her sweet little kindergarteners, there was another of note. This one apparently reached Nirvana.

He sat there, looking around slowly, with an open mouthed smile, as he slowly waved his hand in front of his eyes.

The kid got to relive the seventies through syruped caffeine laced cupcakes.

Now I’m sitting here in the police station, while the police flip through pages for anything they can charge me with while Nirvana kid preaches from the chief’s desk and cat boy is hissing at everyone from the top of the bookcase.

Admittedly, mistakes were made.

WorkingHarry Craft

Harry Craft

Jack woke up, head throbbing. What a night! he thought. Another out-of-control college party—too much loud music, too much booze, too much everything. Rising slowly to a sitting position on the couch, he looked around his small studio apartment. Things were a mess, but he’d seen worse. At least no one else was passed out in his room. That always sucked, especially if it was people you didn’t know.

As he rubbed his head he noticed an uncapped yellow highlighter on the coffee table. Odd. Glancing around the room, he saw why—there was a large pattern in yellow on his floor. His vision was still a bit blurry, so he couldn’t quite make it out—some kind of star? And what were those at the points? Cans? He stood up a bit unsteadily and walked over to the nearest one. It was an energy drink can, and judging from the soggy spot on the rug, it had been poured out. The hell?!

As he collected the cans to drop them in the recycle bin, he could vaguely remember his friend Sam last night doing…now what was it? It had been late, Jack had long ago lost count of his drinks, most of the party-goers had drifted out, and Sam was going on about offerings and work—no, a working. What the hell did that mean? Jack had always thought Sam was a bit weird. Certain times of year brought it out more than others, to boot. This brought a thought to the back of his mind, but he could not quite grasp it.

As Jack stumbled back to the couch, the hair on the back of his neck began to prickle. Was someone else there after all? He looked around and cautiously drifted to every corner of the studio. Since it was in the basement, the only way in was down the stairs, and the door at the base of the stairwell was closed. He walked back to the center of the room and stood by his couch. Suddenly a grisly voice that emanated from—well, from everywhere and nowhere—spoke.

“Mortal!” it boomed.

Jack actually jumped slightly. Looking to one side, he saw a shimmer begin in the air. A cold fear descended on him, but he could not uproot his feet as he stared in horrified fascination. The shimmer condensed into a loathsome being with blood-red skin, horns, and pointed teeth. A demon. Its body was fully formed now and it stepped toward him, once more speaking: “Mortal!”

Jack’s legs finally obeyed and he turned to run. He was not fast enough—the demon easily leaped nearly eight feet, landing in front of him. Mere inches away, it stared at him. Jack cringed, holding up his hands, unable to speak from the terror.

“IT IS TIME!” the demon said in a voice even louder than before.

“Time for what?” sobbed Jack.

The demon paused for a moment, then grinning, spoke a final time: “APRIL FOOL!”

Pretty Girls Make GravesLaura Roberts

Laura Roberts

Gonzo Jofreshy bopped his way down the street like he had nothing to lose, whistling tunelessly, fingers a-snappin’ like he’d just won the lottery.

In a way, he’d hit the jackpot this morning, as he’d stood in front of the judge.

“Not guilty,” she’d declared.

There had been a lot of hugging, and some crying — but not from Gonzo. His lawyer had ushered him out into a Cadillac with dark windows, quickly, before the media vultures could descend.

Now his fingertips pressed lightly on a heavy oak door, easily pushing it inward and stepping into the afternoon gloom of an Irish pub.

“What’ll ya have?” the no-nonsense bartender asked. He either didn’t recognize Gonzo, or was doing a fine job of pretending. Either way suited him fine.

“Vodka and Red Bull,” he replied.

“We don’t serve that garbage in here,” the bartender growled.

“I’ve got it, Connor,” a buxom brunette purred, slipping behind the bar toward the Grey Goose.

Connor shoved off, grumbling, as he wiped the bar with a filthy rag.

“Compliments of the house.” The brunette smiled, setting the drink before him.

He remembered the way she watched him down the short glass, later, when he came to in the basement with a yellow highlighter strapped between his teeth like a gag.

He remembered the spinning feeling in his head, and his stomach.

He remembered the way she’d winked.

What he couldn’t remember was how she’d managed to slip something into his drink. After all, a pro ought to notice these things. And he was certainly a pro at these things, by now, wasn’t he?

“So, Gonzo, we heard you got off easy,” a deep male voice behind him rumbled, like a big rig firing up for a long haul.

“We don’t like easy, do we?” a female voice queried, this one equally rough, like the pit of a limestone quarry.

“Easy like Sunday morning, maybe,” the male voice countered. “But you ain’t exactly Lionel Ritchie, are you, then?”

“What the hell do you want?” Gonzo wanted to shout into the darkness, but the yellow highlighter prevented him. Somewhere, something was dripping ice-cold water, one drop at a time, onto the back of his neck. He shuddered instead.

“We warned you,” the female voice said, sharp as a razor blade. “Did you think this was just another one of our little jokes?”

“It *is* the first of April, dearie,” the male voice said. “Just to play devil’s advocate.”

“He already had one of those at the trial,” the female voice barks. “Not guilty my backside! He won’t get away with it this time.”

Gonzo’s brain strained for an explanation, groped for the name of the woman he was hearing behind his back. Somewhere in the mushy recesses of his brain, he caught snatches of familiar faces, darker places. He remembered his hands on her throat. He remembered squeezing. He remembered her legs kicking, and the smile he wore creeping wider as he squeezed tighter.

When the bucket of ice water drenched him, he howled for mercy. And the only two people on earth that could hear him simply laughed ’til their sides ached.

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