The Iron Writer Challenge #162 – 2016 Spring Solstice Open, Preliminary Round, There Bracket

balloonfest

The Iron Writer Challenge #162

2016 Spring Solstice Open, Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Brackets/Authors:

There Bracket

C. S. E. Greenberg, Peter Lusher, Jennie Richmond

The Elements:

A Sky balloon festival

Trash talk

Hot Dogs

A Bow and a single arrow

One ShotJennie Richmond

Jennie Richmond 

Shirley Knott shivered, pulling her coat closer around her small frame as she watched the hot air balloons float gently in the sky for the annual festival – bright colours against a cloudy grey background. The aroma of hotdogs and donuts wafted across to her from the food van. She turned away. She’d been nauseous a lot recently, lost a lot of weight. She was always so tired, too. She knew she was dying. The chemotherapy hadn’t worked, the tumours had ravaged through her system causing all sorts of problems. Realistically, she had a week left at most. She didn’t particularly want to be here, but it was making her family happy, so she smiled and turned to watch some of the activities going on around her to distract her from her morbid thoughts.

“Nanna! Daddy entered the archery competition; can we go and watch him?”

Shirley nodded and smiled, wrinkles lining her face, and took the child’s hand. They walked slowly over together. Her son, Graham, had already shot 4 arrows. All of them had found the target – 2 piercing the blue section, 1 a red, and 1 a yellow.

“Just one arrow left, Graham!” the organiser, also serving as the judge. “You need another yellow, otherwise John stays in the lead.”

“Oh we all know Graham won’t hit the centre again. Beginner’s luck, that’s all!” A tanned, lanky man with unruly hair crowed.

“None of your trash talk, John. Let the man concentrate.” chided the judge.

Graham was ignoring both of them. He lifted the bow and pulled back the string, feeling the growing tension. Ensuring the arrow was exactly on the nocking point, he let it fire. It flew through the air with a swift grace, plunging precisely into the centre of the board. He grinned. John scowled.

A scattered applause broke out from the small crowd that had gathered to watch, led enthusiastically by Shirley and her granddaughter, Marie, and Graham took a mock bow before walking over to join them. Instantly, his look of triumph was replaced by concern.

“Are you alright, mum?”

“I’ll be fine, love. Just need a sit down, is all.” In truth, Shirley was beginning to feel a little breathless and lightheaded.

“Of course, can you make it to this bench over here? Marie, go find mummy.”

Wide eyed, the little girl ran off towards the craft stalls, and he assisted his mother to sit down, Shirley leaning on him a little more with every step. She slumped onto the bench, wheezing. Her chest was beginning to feel tight, her breathing becoming noisy. There was a distinct rattling sound with every breath that Graham hadn’t noticed earlier – had it been happening long?

“Mum? Mum!” the panic in his voice was evident now. Shirley eyes had glazed over, mouth slightly agape – she was staring at something, but didn’t seem to be aware of her son anymore. She slouched further to the side, all of her weight now resting against Graham. He just knew.

“Mum it’s… it’s okay. I’m here. I love you.”

He held her hand in his and watched the light leave her eyes.

Balloons at Eighty PacesPeter Lusher

Peter Lusher

“The archery competition at the 5th annual Midwest Medieval games will be concluded in a sudden death shoot out!”, the announcer bellowed through the P.A. System at the Indiana State Fair-Grounds.  “Our final two shooters are William Granprix and Robin Lepich.  Our sharp-eyed sharp-shooters will have one arrow a piece,” he continued waving an arm at the range, “first at the mark will be Robin Lepich.”  Lepich with his family and friends watching on, leading the cheer from the stands stepped to the line, drew, and loosed his arrow down range, hitting the target in the bull’s-eye.  “My goodness! Folks that is a magnificent shot!  Even our fair William will have a tough way to beat that marksmanship.”  And so did William Grandprix step to the line.  All eyes were on the lone arrow in his hand.  They watched it draw back.  This single arrow would determine a bout that had lasted three days between the men.  Ending the trash talk between them, and their families, determining once and for this year who really was the best with a long bow.  William loosed and the single arrow flew down range.

A few months later the Grandprixs and the Lepiches were in Brooklyn, to cheer on and talk trash about the others’ family.  The families were competing in Nathan’s Annual Hot Dog Eating contest.  The competition only a few hours old had already inspired quite a lot of lines about your mother this, and your auntie that.  The Lepiches reminding the Grandprixs that no one could possibly be hungrier than they.  The Grandprixs suggesting that the Lepiches never had the intestinal fortitude to handle what was going to happen, and that if anything maybe they should instead be in an air breathing contest.  That the father couldn’t shoot and the family wasn’t hungry enough.  The Lepiches promised to show them.

“Welcome to the tulip fields, William.”  Robin Lepich remarked upon seeing William Grandprix.  “Are you hear for the race?  To get beaten just as thouroughly as your family did at Nathan’s?”

“By no means, Lepich.  We are here to enjoy the tulips and the hot air balloon festival.”  Grandprix responded.

“Well.  We are competing.”  Lepich said.

“Well have fun, maybe you’re better at flying than you are at shooting, or your sons at eating.”  William remarked.  “Trivet’s balloon festival is a big deal to win, hopefully the ladies won’t carry the team again and you can have a little glory.”

The men parted ways, looking back at each other only rarely.  

It wasn’t until later in the day, when the  men caught sought of their children walking arm in arm did they speak.

“Your family dishonors mine, Lepich.”

“And what do you think they are doing to mine, Grandprix?!”

“I propose we settle this like men.”

“A duel?”

“A balloon duel.”

“Fine.”

So the men found two ballooners to act as their seconds and reconvened to agree to terms, which were, a blunderbuss, balloons spaced at 80 paces and sent aloft to 100 yards, there to shoot at the other man’s balloon until a victor, and the end of talk were decided.

An Arrow for a Hot Dog

C. S. E. Greenberg

The hot dog glistened, nestled in puffy bun. Bits of beef, surrounded by reddish brown chili, topped with bright yellow cheese, and peppered with jalapeno slices. I bit down, enjoying the blend of flavors as they floated across my tastebuds.

The Balloon and Airship Festival continued around me, voices of passersby and hawkers blending in an indistinguishable meld. Floaters traveled in packs; their affiliation recognizable by checkered bandanas, patterns mimicking the balloons of their gangs. Empty quivers hung on their backs; no gang would break the festival peace. A bright yellow, blue, and emerald checkered pattern passed me; The Floating Fancies had arrived. I hastily swallowed to check their quivers. Their leader, towering over me, gave me a glance that would have sizzled bacon, but made no remark. They had been beefing with the Basket Burners of late. One of the Floating Fancies had even threatened to puncture the airship of the head of the Basket Burners, an act which would cause gang war to rage across the sky. The Marshals of the Sharp had strict orders to give both gangs extra attention, and it would have been just my luck that a ranking Wind would have passed by and seen if I hadn’t properly checked their quivers. The Winds of the order would not hesitate cutting me loose if they thought I wasn’t holding my weight.

A roaming Burner walked by just afterwards, his uniform a bright patchwork design of blue, white and red. His bright blue bow was strung and secured on his back, resting against his scarlet quiver filled with the required ten arrows. He nodded at me as he passed, his eyes continually scanning the crowd, looking for small knives, pins, even sharpened belt buckles. After he strolled by, I sighed. I looked down at the dull patchwork of faded colors I wore. Ballast were the bottom of the basket, disposable at need. We weren’t given anything that wasn’t imperfect or used; clothing discarded by older, more respected Baskets or Burners, food that was overcooked or stale.

I clutched my hotdog greedily and took another large bite, savoring the flavor. Near the balloonfield, I noticed a clutch of Basket Burners drifting near the Floating Fancies section. One of the Basket Burners quickly pulled the bow off of his back, and yanked a bright red arrow from beneath his tunic. He quickly lit a rag and tied it to the arrow. He pulled the string back, aimed towards the top of the Floating Fancies’ sole airship… and fired. The arrow whizzed through the air, crimson in the sun, until it hit the airship…. And exploded.

I’d always suspected that the Floating Fancies used a hydrogen mix. 

Shreds of fabric streamed from the sky like confetti. All the other Marshalls ran towards the scene, freeing bows from their back, trying to stem the coming violence before it washed over them like a wave.

Not I. I sat next to my booth, savoring another bite of that perfect hotdog, my patchwork clothes littered with bright cloth shreds, nine scarlet fletchings protruding over my shoulder from the quiver on my back.

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The Iron Writer Challenge #162 – 2016 Spring Solstice Open, Preliminary Round

balloonfest 

The Iron Writer Challenge #162

2016 Spring Solstice Open, Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Brackets/Authors:

Their Bracket

G. L. Dearman, Mamie Pound, Keith Badowski, Michael Cottle

There Bracket

C. S. E. Greenberg, Peter Lusher, Jennie Richmond

They’re Bracket

D. Lee Cox, M. D. Pitman, Richard Russell, Emmy Gatrell

This Bracket

Tina Biscuit, Vance Rowe, Dani J. Caile, Malissa Greenwood

The Elements:

A Sky balloon festival

Trash talk

Hot Dogs

A Bow and a single arrow

The Iron Writer Challenge #157 – 2016 Spring Open Challenge #4

tobor

The Iron Writer Challenge #157

2016 Spring Open Challenge #5

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

 Zac Moran, Jennie Richmond, Mikaela Prestowitz, Michael Cottle 

The Elements:

Tobor

A Frying Pan with a flaking nonstick finish

Roller Derby

Peanut Buter sticking in the mouth

The Museum of Recent History

Mikaela Prestowitz

Her sister’s roller derby skates were sweaty and beat up, but they would have to do. Diane jumped once, and sure enough the hover capabilities were in full working order. With one last glance over her shoulder at the locked house, she raced off down the deserted street.

At first, Diane was able to easily navigate the inactive city. The moon, small as it was, reflected off the mirror-like finish of the road and lit the pathway ahead. But farther away from civilization, the street turned rough and unpolished. Without reflected moonlight to guide her, Diane was forced to deactivate her stolen skates and walk.

It must have been miles before she saw the building she was looking for. The door was barricaded against intruders with a standard government seal, but that was quickly remedied with a quick kick to the ancient glass.

Inside, objects on stands lined the walls, protected by cases of—plastic? It must be. She ran her finger along the top edge of a box and watched as her retina display confirmed her theory. Shaking her head with wonder, Diane moved down along the rows of artifacts and let her display lens fill her in on the details.

The rest of the displays were equally anachronistic, all relics of a time long gone.  A perfectly preserved leaf. The rusting string of an acoustic guitar. An old frying pan flaking from decades of prior use. She tried to imagine how it would feel to cook with such an antique contraption, feeling the inconceivable weight in her hands. Mystified, Diane let her hands drop.

“Strange place,” she said aloud, breaking the dusty silence. Her voice sounded too alive for the ancient—

“…A classic example of…predictions…Tobor…completely revolutionized…”

At the next display over a tinny speaker unexpectedly sprang to life, accompanied by a flickering display where a poor mockery of a robot zapped its way through a classic example of the average 1950s house and—

“The MemChip!” Diane had nearly forgotten why she came. “Come on, stupid, you have to find…”

With a renewed sense of purpose, she combed the museum for the only display she had come to see. Eventually, she found it in the position of honor at the head of the hallway, lying exposed on a bed of velvet. Under the faint moonlight, Diane could barely make out the engraved plaque, but she could read enough to confirm her hopes.

The earliest surviving MemChip, containing the memories of a beta tester for the new memory-saving technology…

Her mind buzzing with possibilities, Diane excitedly scooped the chip up and slotted it in the port behind her ear.

I absentmindedly snack as I watch the newsman report on the latest crisis’s. A water treatment plant is contaminated. A war on the other side of the sea. Riots in the streets. A determined new political party. People dying everywhere. 

“Mm!” My mouth is sealed with peanut butter, and I have to try again. “Mum! Are you seeing this? I can’t believe

Diane ejected the chip and held it reverently in front of her.

“Got you.”

After all this time, she would finally have answers.

Hairyhiney 16’

Michael Cottle

“Good evening Americans and welcome to this special edition of Decision 16’. I’m Tom Brokesaw, and tonight we look at a presidential candidate that is taking the nation by storm- not as a republican or democrat, but as a new independent party called The Cast Iron Party. A party that has been described as heavy and quite durable. It is my pleasure to welcome to you Mr. Tubor Hairyhiney.”

“Woof!”

“Did you just bark at me?”

“Woof! That’s how we say absolutely on planet Yourhiney!”

“Yourhiney?”

“Woof! Much bigger than Uranus.”

“Mr. Hairyhiney, as a nation, we face an uncertain future. As a candidate, what can you offer Americans for these numerous problems on the horizon?”

“Tom, I am the problem solver in this election. Why just this week, I have resolved one of the most profound problems your world has ever known.”

“Really? Go on.”

“The problem of peanut butter sticking to your mouth. Peanut butter is basically peanut butter anhydrous- because it contains no water to mention. It’s quite a sticky business Tom. However, if you mix a 30% solution of peanut butter and water, then you have solution.”

“So your solution is a solution?”

“Woof!”

Tom rubs his forehead while going over his notes. “Mr. Hairyhiney, tell us about your party- The Cast Iron Party.”

“Well Tom, I am a space monster. When I first arrived on earth, I saw an ad for non-stick cooking ware. I tried it. It was crap-the worst experience in all of my traversed galaxies. The coating contaminated my eggs. This is not the omelet that I travelled lightyears to create! Tom, cast iron was, and forever will be the ultimate cooking experience.”

“You believe this?”

“Woof! I do Tom. I am a Cast Iron cook.”

“Why should Americans vote for you rather than Trump or Hilary? What sets you apart- other than there is a fish bowl on your head? ”

“Tom, I shoot lightning from my fingertips! Can Trump do this? A Clinton? Can you Tom? How about a demo?”

“No, that won’t be…” Zap! “…umph! Why did you do that?”

“Woof! Shocking isn’t it Tom?”

“That’s certainly…” Zap! “…umph! Stop that! Really? You shocked me again?”

“Woof! I’m the only one with lightning Tom!”

“Please, don’t ever do that again.”

“Tom, you are weak.”

“What is your greatest weakness Tubor?”

“Tried roller derby one time. Those girls about killed me.”

“You are aware that as a space monster, you aren’t exactly a US Citizen?”

“Woof! I have my birthrights here. See? Says here I was born in Kansas.”

“That document says Toto. I’m not sure this will work…” Zap! “…umph! Stop that!”

“Woof! I think it says Tubor Hairyhiney! Read it again.” Tubor holds his hands up ready to spark.

Tom nervously, “Yes, I think you are right.”

“Tom, sing Soft Woofie for me?”

“Soft Woofie, warm woofie, hairy ball of fur, if you become the president, purr, purr, purr.”

“You’re okay Tom.”

“I’m Tom Brokesaw, goodnight.”

Contrasting Perspectives

Zac Moran

“I cannot, yet I must. How do you calculate that? At what point on the graph do ‘must’ and ‘cannot’ meet? Yet I must, but I cannot,” said the alien robot.

“Conthra, do you truly believe it possible to learn more about the humans by watching these archaic entertainment broadcasts?”

“The humans call these movies, Sinthra. And do you question my methods? I should remind you that I am to survey any intelligent species we come upon. I must learn their history and cultures. Those you captured have been a great aid in that, but I’m certain these movies will tell me more. They are the windows into what their societies hold dear.”

“I simply think we’ve idled long enough, brother. The movies you’ve shown me thus far have told me that they would wage war on us. They cannot stand the differences which exist amongst themselves, let alone an entirely new species from beyond their lonely planet.”

“You don’t suggest we destroy them, do you? And become what they so clearly fear?”

“I do not see the tactical advantage of that. We would meet staunch resistance to harvesting the resources on their planet. Resources which are plentiful elsewhere.” Sinthra said.

Conthra chuckled.

“Always eager to prove your worth in combat. In that, the humans are very similar to yourself.”

“Maybe so.”

“They have other movies as well. They don’t care only for war. There are numerous others depicting a variety of stories and emotions. They’re also entertained by putting something called peanut butter in the mouths of their pets or by wearing wheeled shoes and racing around a track. They cook with these metal discs that apparently don’t stick to things. Strangely, I think these are more than simple class one beings. They have a certain…tenacity about them. Even now, one is holding a gun to your head. He must have escaped your restraints.”

Sinthra spun around to face the man who had entered the chamber.

“I know you can understand me, so you better let us go before I kill you!” shouted the man.

“Are you going to deal with this? Or shall I?” Conthra asked his brother telepathically.

Sinthra didn’t reply, but held up his hands and bowed his head.

“We meant you no harm, human. We merely needed information and our studies of you have shown that you would be…less than receptive of us,” Sinthra said.

“What? Are you trying to find our weakness? So you can invade?”

“No. Though our military would find that an easy matter, we have no need or desire to invade your planet. It holds nothing of value to us that we couldn’t obtain elsewhere at a lesser cost. We are akin to your scientists.”

“Then why don’t you let us go?”

“Very well.”

Sinthra reached for a device wrapped around his arm.

“Hold it!” yelled the man.

“Do you wish to be returned home, or not?”

“Well, yes…but-”

Sinthra pressed a button and the man popped out of existence.

“They’ve been returned home and won’t recall their encounter with us,” stated Sinthra.

“We should monitor this species further, I think,” mused Conthra.

AmbitionJennie Richmond

Jennie Richmond

Michael Weyder grinned. The game he had created, Roller Derby Robots, played on the screen in front of him. He’d spent every day for the last six months developing it, ironing out all the flaws. His boss hadn’t liked it, saying it was too much like ‘Mario Kart’ – a race between characters using powers to get ahead in the game. Bullshit. He had almost been fired for neglecting his other work, but last night they had managed to come to an agreement. One bottle of wine and everything was back on track for Michael. He looked across at his boss, in the other chair.

“See? I told you it would be good! Watch!”

He turned back to the screen and chomped down on a cracker smothered in peanut butter, the creamy mixture sticking to the roof of his mouth. He hardly noticed. In fact, he hadn’t noticed very much at all recently. He’d even neglected doing the washing up. Dirty crockery stood in a large pile by the kitchen sink, crusted with days-old food and beginning to give off a foul odour. Michael didn’t have time to wash them. Too busy, he reasoned. He was a genius, and geniuses didn’t have to follow the usual rules of society. Let the tower of plates grow. When this game was released and made him rich, he’d hire a maid. Until then, though, cleaning could wait. The crackers were being eaten over a large frying pan, the non-stick surface flaking from years of overuse. He hadn’t noticed that either. All of Michael’s waking moments were focused on his ambition, his one big dream: to design a game that would be a worldwide hit.

On the screen, a large robot shot bolts of electricity out of his hands at the droid in first place, reducing it to a blackened hulk. It would take just a few seconds to regenerate, more than enough delay for the next in line to pass. This was the chance it needed to get ahead. Michael stared at the screen intensely, unblinking, until the letters ‘TOBOR!’ flashed across the screen in bright blue, surrounded by yellow stars. Very retro.

“Yes! Tobor always was my favourite!”

Michael turned back to his boss. Shards of glass still glistened against the wound, the sleeve of his shirt stained a deep red by the tainted wine. Somehow the pallor of his skin made the dried blood adorning his head look more dramatic, far more than he had ever looked in life. Shame. Everyone had known how overdramatic he could be, especially when it came to his work. Obviously death suited him.

“So, now I’ve finished this… What do I do with you?”

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