The Iron Writer Challenge #166 – 2016 Summer Open Challenge #3


The Iron Writer Challenge #166

2016 Summer Open Challenge #3

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements


Amy Kasim, Jason T. Carter, Casie Blevins, Malissa Greenwood

The Elements:

Occam’s Razor

Damocles Sword

A Bombay Duck

This question must be used in your story : “If you found the Fountain of Youth, would you drink?”


The Curse of the Bombay Duck

Megan Cypress

Megan CypressSir David stopped in front of a six-foot round marble fountain that had a tree in its center; a sword dangled like mistletoe from one of its branches.

“If you found the fountain of youth would you drink?” David asked me.

“Why? Do you think this it?” 

He nodded and reached into his satchel to pull out a goblet.

I grabbed his arm. “Wait. Don’t you think that sword might be a warning?”

“Nonsense. I’m sure someone just hung it there for decoration.” He bent down to fill the goblet with the water from the fountain. A lizardfish leaped out of the water and knocked the goblet out of his hand. The goblet sank to the bottom of the fountain. “You stupid fish!” David shouted. He climbed onto the ledge of the fountain and reached above him and untied the sword from the rope that held it above the water. He held the sword in one hand and reached into the water with the other. “I’m going to get my youth!” The fish leaped at him again. David swooshed the sword in the air and struck the fish, which landed on the ground several feet away.

I approached the fish and bent down beside him. His tailfin flipped against the grass. He transformed into a young human boy.

“Don’t do it,” the boy said. “Don’t drink from the fountain of youth. Or you’ll be cursed to spend your rediscovered youth as a Bombay duck.”

“Is that what you were? A duck? But you looked like a fish.”

“It’s a bit of a misnomer, much like the fountain of youth, which promises you’ll be forever young…but at what price?”

I turned around to see David pulling the goblet away from his lips. He convulsed and dropped the goblet into the water before shrinking down to a lizardfish. He landed on the ground just outside the fountain.

“David!” I shouted as I ran to his side. “What have you done?”

He repeatedly smacked his lips together as if he were trying to talk, but no words came out.

I picked him up and dropped him into the water. He swam frantically around the goblet, which now lay on the fountain floor. 

I heard coughing coming from behind me. I turned around to see an old man in the young man’s place. I ran back to his side. “How do I stop this?”

“I’m afraid you’re too late. The curse can only be lifted in death.”

“You’re dying because of my friend. You tried to warn him by blocking his way into the fountain. But he didn’t know. I’m so sorry.” 

“Don’t be. He did me a favor. I’ve spent countless years swimming alone in a fountain. I’d grown tired of seeing the same walls and being trapped inside them. I can finally rest in peace. Feel sorry for your friend instead.” He took his last breath.

I returned to the fountain and watched David swim frantically around the shallow water. “I’m so sorry, David.” I hung the sword back on its branch to serve as a warning to others. Then I walked away. Never to return again.


Amy Kasim

Let me tell you a story. The story of the woman I lived all of my life with; for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, till death did us part. Don’t get it twisted; the Lady was not my wife. I call myself her faithful friend, much like a dog with its master, I was her chief butler. 

The lady Naa Adoley Mensah was a woman made of both fire and ice on the inside. These are typical characteristics of a woman from the coast of Ghana, a Ga woman to be precise. She was tall with chocolate skin so flawless and what I did love about her? Those piercing brown eyes that was as bright as the sky and how she would munch on her favourite meal, Ga Kenkey with shrimps and a Bombay Duck at the side.

Everyone that assumed they knew her felt her life was all peaches and roses. Ha! Have them ask me to my face and I would tell them the exact truth. The truth of what it really was. Naa was one of the loneliest people I’d ever met! She had parties four times a week to while away time and spent the other days with a “friend”. Naa changed men, she claimed were “friends” like she would her clothes. Whenever she was tired of one, she would rid herself of him and find herself another one to make up for the emptiness.

Naa knew danger was looming with her promiscuous lifestyle yet she never cared. Whenever I looked at her disapprovingly after one of her many “partners” left, she would giggle, shrug her shoulders and say, “no more assumptions should be made about something than are necessary Adjetey. They are just friends”.

I remember vividly that day. The time was 8:44pm. I, the only friend she ever had, sat beside her sick bed.

“Adjetey…” she hiccupped. “…I have something to ask you.” Now where I come from, should a person hiccup when seriously sick, it could only mean one thing… death.

I clasped her hand tightly in mine replied with shaky breath. “Yes Naa”

“If you found the fountain of youth, would you drink?”

“Why that question Naa?” I asked her, looking at her as if she had lost her mind.

“I would you know? I would make few friends, love my family and be happy…” she paused “…but I can’t” she whispered “I sat on life’s throne and felt I had it in my grasp. I was ignorant that it would cut the thread to the sword over my head and pierce my soul. Go live your life; I have held you prisoner for too long. I love you…” she left me.

Naa died on Wednesday, July 22, 1998 of cervical cancer. I do not know how saying she loved me was going to make me any free because to the best of my knowledge, I am still her slave and I doubt I will ever be free.

A Dab Will Do You

Casie Blevins

Last night–rough. Tom tried to roll over but found that he couldn’t move at all. What a bender. He really needed to stop going out with the Davis Brothers, Thorne and Jack. He couldn’t possibly out drink those two. The headache, oh man.

Jack had yelled,  “If you found the fountain of youth, would you drink?” and Tom’d lifted his drink and said something about wasn’t that what they were doing? And then laughed, so much laughter. A little hard on the ears if he was honest. A little overdone.

What had Thorne said? Drinking it was like drinking off the devil’s tongue. He’d said, only a sip will do you, but had Tom listened? Did he ever?

He was paying for it now. He couldn’t even turn his head, couldn’t open his eyes.

He could hear though, the sounds of voices. A lot of them, but subdued. Maybe he was on the floor of the bar. He didn’t remember making it home last night. Maybe the TV was on.

What had possessed him to drink so much? Oh, that’s right. Jack’s wife left him, that ballbuster. Tom’d felt a kinship to him having been tossed by the wayside himself. Together they’d toasted their new lives, their freedom. Jack’s wife had wanted a taste of the good life without him. Hook up with whoever, that Brent guy probably, they all knew that. She’d wanted to taste the wine, sit in the Queen’s spot. Well now she had it, didn’t she?  Along with a misogynistic playboy with a penchant for battery in a trailer with no AC in the middle of July. It was almost funny, if you had that kind of sense of humor.

“I’m so sorry, Jack.” Tom could swear he heard Bella. “It was just a stupid accident.”

You don’t leave somebody on accident, Bella. If Tom could move his face, he’d be sneering. Stupid woman.

“It’s my fault, Bella.” He heard Jack say and Tom wanted to shout–never admit it man! Don’t let her back in! “I brought the drink.” He could hear Jack’s tears, the man was bawling like a lost three year old.

Tom was confused. Bella hadn’t left him over booze. That was more Tom’s wife’s problem.

What the hell was going on?

He was feeling nauseated now. If he didn’t get it under control he would be revisiting the Bombay duck he’d eaten. Don’t swallow, that was the trick. Tom found he couldn’t swallow anyway. His mouth was too dry.

More voices. He was really tripping. He could hear his mother murmuring, was that his sister? What was going on here?

“I’d like to say something.” Who was that? It was so familiar. “All of us who knew Tom knew he was capable of anything–he had so much potential. He just had demons to fight. Unfortunately, I was one of them.”

Was that Marissa? Anger bubbled in his stomach. Who let that wench in? The woman who, at the divorce hearing, swore to never look him in the face again unless he was– dead?

Oh no.

Pursuing happiness…vanity.

Jason T. Carter
Jason T. Carter

“If you found the fountain of youth, would you drink?” she asked me.

“If you were offered the highest office in the land, would you take it?” I shot back.

We played this game often; there are no easy answers. Sure, it may be nice to be young forever, but who wants to live in this rotten world longer than he has to? And who really wants all that power, along with all the peril that comes with it?

She picked at her fried Bombay duck. “You don’t like it?” I asked.

“I had a big lunch. I’m sorry.”

Sorry. That was a word she rarely used. A concept she rarely even acknowledged. Something must be wrong.

“Which is worse,” she asked, “failing, or never trying?”

I pondered the question, smiling. “What are you afraid of? Failing? Or missing out on something that you never tried?”

“I’m not sure. I want to be more than I am. But I’m not sure what I want to be.”

“Okay, here’s a question for you. If happiness were the national currency, what job would make you rich?”

Her face turned white at the question, as if she had never considered the possibility of happiness in her life. It has always been about acquiring more, doing more, being more…never contentment or joy. The very thought that one’s state of mind could bring peace seemed to floor her.

“Are you saying that I can be whatever I want to be, and that’s all I have to be?”

“Life is not a contest,” I said. “You are not competing against him or her, you are only here to fulfill your own destiny. If you can be content, why not?”

The concept was so simple, but she had never considered it before.

“The simplest explanation is usually the correct one,” I said.

“That seems like an oversimplification of Occman’s Razor.”

“Perhaps, but it is true. Why do you want more money? To buy more things? Why do you want more things? To have more than someone else? But why? What’s the point?”

“That’s just the way it has always been.”

“Break the mold. Be yourself. Be content, be happy even!”

She put down her fork. Her food was cold.

“I don’t know how,” she whimpered.

I frowned. “Neither do I,” I conceded.

That’s the problem, I thought. No one really knows how.

A Simpler Life

Malissa Greenwood

“If you found the fountain of youth, would you drink?”

The young man responded with a shrug and a chuckle. “Who knows?”

“Oh sure, it may seem like a silly, theoretical question, but think about it. Think about it now and decide, because you’ll need to know how you feel about this should you ever be placed in the situation. I tell you my friend, it is out there. And the moment for debating is now, not in that room.

“I spent most of my adolescence in the village I was born in; began working with my father at the fish markets hawking Mackerel, Ribbon Fish, and the occasional Bombay Duck. It was a fine life for people in those days. But I had loftier goals, grander plans for my future. I would plot and scheme ways to make extra money so I could leave the village and move to the city. But my father would find out and put an end to my ‘senseless behavior’ saying things like, ‘the road to prosperity is simply son. Hard work and integrity. Be mindful of excess.’ His philosophy was that the simpler explanation is always true, and the simpler way of life is always better.

“Though I admired my father I didn’t always heed his advice – I eventually found my way to the city and into a much more lucrative industry. By the time I hit thirty I was surrounded with powerful, wealthy people and boundless opportunities were unfolding before me. Incredible opportunities, the kind most men only dream of.

“I eventually had a choice to make. At the time it was simple – drink from the fountain, remain young and vigorous for as long as you can, enjoy the party. My ‘friends’ were all very quick to partake. And thus, so was I. 

“The first few decades passed in a blur of money, sex, drugs, and authority. I amassed fame and fortune while remaining handsome and energetic.   It was simply glorious… until it wasn’t. Eventually the friends I once had, those who had not been privileged to the fountain, had moved on with their lives, growing old and passing away. I lived in constant fear that I would be found out and killed. A “Damocles Sword” was ever present, always threatening.

“Eventually I got tired of it – the fear, the inevitable loneliness you feel after you’ve isolated yourself for safety. So I walked away. I packed a few of my favorite things and slipped away in the night. I travelled around for a while, stowing away on ships, hopping on trains. Went anywhere I could and found odd jobs to sustain myself. I spent a great deal of time wandering in search of a fulfilling life until one day, over a hundred years later, I realized what I wanted.”

“And what was that? What do you have now?” the young man asked.

I smiled and said, “A simpler life, in a small village, hawking Mackerel, Ribbon fish, and Bombay Duck.”

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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, Anais Nin Bracket

The-Isolator 1

The Iron Writer Challenge #141

2016 Winter Solstice Open Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements


Anais Nin

Anais Nin Bracket

The Authors:

Jason T. CarterDani J. CaileBrett Paul

The Elements:

The Isolator

Something arrogate.

A ball of yarn

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

It’s the Thought That CountsJason T. Carter

Jason T. Carter

I bought him “The Isolator” for Christmas last year, because he said he could never concentrate while writing. I never considered his claustrophobia.

He bought me a sewing instructional kit, complete with a VHS tape, needles, and a single ball of yarn. He never considered my arthritis.

We arrogated to ourselves the ability to choose the best gifts for each other, without consulting our carefully crafted wish lists. When he asked for a new laptop, I bought him an antique typewriter. When I asked for a new set of pots and pans, he bought me an outdoor grill.

They say it’s the thought that counts, but I’m not sure how much thinking either of us did in the past. But I have found the perfect gift for next year.

An “alien abduction” retirement package: a one-way trip for two to the Binhinnian system in an authentic extraterrestrial transport vessel. The spacecraft is scheduled to depart from earth the day after Christmas, so those who make the purchase are able to spend one final holiday with their loved ones.

I will start dropping hints soon about what he can buy for me; there are several things that could be useful on another planet. Perhaps a case of canned Cincinnati-style chili and spaghetti, because I will miss that taste so much. And books. I doubt anyone in the Binhinnian system has the collected works of Lovecraft or Poe. And music. How can I go to another planet without Britney and Frank? I would absolutely die if I never heard “New York, New York” again!

This retirement package is the perfect gift really. I just know he will get over his fear of flying before then.

DeniedBrett Paul

Brett A. Paul

All preparations had been made. My collection had served me well, beginning with the formal instructions arrogated from my friend Clancy. How he was able to get the attention of the aliens I will never know. But he did, and so let’s just say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 

I assembled my Isolator unit out of an old trash can lined with egg crate foam. The colorful outside cover was knitted by hand by me – no easy feat for someone who has eleven cats, and who did not know how to knit a week ago. I held the last ball of yarn in my hand and regarded it with the delight of one who has completed his work. It was also regarded by my young tabby Roger. I skritched his head and then tossed the ball aside. It was immediately chased after by him and several other cats. 

I reread the instructions. “Place the Isolator on your head and walk to the park, arriving at precisely eight o’clock in the evening on Monday the fourth.” 

It seemed an odd thing to make me do, but I was not going to miss my ride to the stars. I placed the Isolator on my head, feeling the insulating foam all around. I could see through the two small eye cups. Roger meowed at me but I could not hear him. I turned the valve on my canister, and a hole between my lips and nostrils supplied oxygen. The two block walk to the park would take no more than three minutes, even as darkness engulfed the town. I left a generous helping of kibbles in the various dishes in the kitchen and walked outside, leaving the front door wide open. 

I reached the park and kicked off my shoes. As my bare foot touched the grass, my phone vibrated softly once, letting me know I had arrived precisely as ordered, at 8:00. Across the green, I saw Clancy, wearing his lucky yellow Hawaiian shirt, stepping toward me, a similar contraption on his head, covered in pipe cleaners and duct tape. He walked in ten paces through the grass and sat cross-legged. I did the same. 

Then the moment we were waiting for. Through the eye holes I could see a bright light saturating the grass. I craned my neck and looked overhead in time to see the flying saucer hover over the park. The light had engulfed Clancy, and in a moment, he was gone. It was my turn. I stretched my arms to both sides. The light fell on me. My breathing quickened. This was my time! 

Then darkness came. Inside the Isolator, I couldn’t tell what had happened. I pulled the contraption off my head and looked up in time to see a note fluttering to the ground. The flying saucer was gone. I grabbed the note and angled it to the streetlight. Scrawled with unkempt writing, it said, “You have already been enslaved by our race. Return to your home and care for your masters.” 

The CompanyDani-J-Caile

Dani J Caile

This was my first day and I was told to report to the Boss. I met him at the main lift and we entered together. He was a good looking man, with a perfect haircut, wearing the best suit I’d ever seen and smelling of Armani.
“Welcome to The Company. Your credentials show you’re in our Writing Department, yes?”
“Yes, sir.”
He pressed for the 6th floor and the lift began.
“Please, just call me ‘Boss’.”
“Yes, Boss.” The lift beeped. It was fast but smooth.
“Good. Come this way and I’ll show you the ropes.”
“Thank you, Boss. I’m sure I’ll like it here…” The double doors opened up to a huge warehouse floor with row upon row of people at desks writing with pen and paper. They had strange helmets on their heads.
“As you can see, we don’t believe in computers. We call them ‘preoccupiers’. In the same vein as televisions, really.” He stopped at a desk and picked up some writing. The person at the desk continued on, oblivious. “Mmm, the new Clancy novel is coming along fine.”
“Isn’t Tom Clancy dead?” I asked.
“Yes. And?” He moved to an empty desk. “Here’s yours.” There were pens, paper, a ball of yarn and one of those helmets waiting for me. “The helmet’s called an Isolator, invented by Hugo Gernsback, an excellent contraption which eliminates all distractions so the writer can concentrate on the subject at hand.”
“Oh,” I said. “What’s the string for?”
“One end is attached to your desk, the other to yourself. So you don’t get lost.”
“Right.” This place was beginning to sound a little creepy.
“Do you have your passport and driving license?”
“Yes, I do, but I don’t see why I need to show…hey!”
“I’ll take those.” He ripped them from my hand and passed them onto a weasel-like man who quickly shuffled away amongst the desks.
“What? You can’t do that! That’s ‘arrogation’, that is! That’s illegal!”
“I arrogated them from you? Oh, don’t be silly, I merely took them back. Who do you think gave them to you in the first place?”
“The government!”
“Pah, you’ve a lot to learn, and here, you can. If you do well, there’s a chance for promotion.”
“But…” He put one hand on my shoulder and gave me a well-practised smile.
“Here at The Company we control the masses through the media: television, cinema, games, news, music, magazines, papers, books… you name it, we have our formula.”
“But that’s… ludicrous. For a start, there’s so much choice out there. How can you control people when there’s so much choice?”
“You think that’s ‘choice’? Then we’re doing our job well.” He looked up at a large wall clock. “Oh Lord, is that the time? I have an appointment to be abducted by aliens at 11am that I can’t miss. I’ve been waiting for this since last Thursday. Now, sit here, put the hat on, tie on the yarn and start writing Patterson’s new Bestseller!”

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