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


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.”


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.

#TIWC members, please vote here.

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


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 #155 – 2016 Spring Open Challenge #3


 The Iron Writer Challenge #155

2016 Spring Open Challenge #3

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Peter Lusher, Charles Greenberg

The Elements:


Social engineering

A Chance or Community Card from Monopoly

Abandoned apothecary


Pirates as Game Pieces

Peter Lusher

The Monopoly board was laid out for four players, though there were only three left.  The fourth had just been knocked out.

Six players had started the game and had been whittled down to three over time.  They were pirates.  The pirates were unassociated with any of the major guilds in that quadrant of space and had taken it into their heads to attack a science vessel.  The vessel had recently returned from a trip down a gravity-well, hunting artifacts of previous civilizations and trying to map geological changes that may have caused these civilizations to go away.  On their route back home, spotting a pirates’ vessel on their long-range scopes, an anthropologist decided that a a game would be played.

Allowing the pirates to approach, board, and “commandeer” the ship was the easy part.

Eight pirates were captured and a social-engineering experiment was begun.  Two were locked away into two padded cells with a screen and a pair of buttons.  Red and blue  They were told that they could control the outcomes of events to be displayed on their screens with the red button for a positive outcome, blue for negative.  They were told that a null response from them would result in their immediate termination from the experiment.  The thinly veiled threat of ‘Do it or get tossed out of the nearest air-lock’ was so thinly veiled that one wouldn’t call it a veil so much as a tattered, very worn, and very lightweight fishing net trying to shadow a mountain.

Onto the screen was projected a similar room, although this one had a table in its center and six seats around it.  On the table was a Monopoly board.  Each time a player rolled, they were told, they could choose to help or hinder their cause with either the red or blue button.  They wouldn’t know which the other had selected.

The players at the board had been lectured at about, while their compatriots had been set up in their cubbies, social-engineering.  How you could change the way societies behave without the society ever being aware that a change was happening.  And so, there would be a game of Monopoly.  A game that was intented to last as long as possible they had been told, without a null response being on the table, the scientists said.  The null response being that they couldn’t choose to just roll die and not play, they were required to purchase property, etc.  Each time, they were told, a player went bankrupt or couldn’t make a trade they would be thrown out the nearest airlock.   And so the game began.

As the players were ground down, and the experiment took it’s toll over days and weeks, players were thrown into the nearest airlock, which just so happened to contain an artifact.  The artifact translated the player through the ether and into an apothecary’s shop, long abandoned, approximately in 1347ce Wales.  The Welsh apothecary was attached through thaumaturgical and arcane means to a pocket universe, from which there would be no escape.  Unless…

“I wonder if a ‘Get out of jail free’ card from that game would help?”….

The Somalian Experiment

Charles Greenberg

William scrabbled amidst the brown and green vials, imperfect shapes projecting glimmering shards of color across the dull brick walls. His eyes glimpsed his target; translucent orange plastic in a perfect cylinder, the baby blue cap looking out of place amidst the misshapen, capless glass bottles dully glinting around it. He seized the bottle, his ragged, dirt-covered nails obscuring neatly printed text against a bright white background, leaving only “uspar” visible as he brought his hands towards his pockets. His hand’s progress halted suddenly as a hand grasped his forearm. A voice came from behind him.

“Did you think we wouldn’t notice?”

William quivered slightly as he turned towards the source of the voice. Pearlescent teeth gleamed from the dim light, as the flitting shimmers of light illuminate by turn ebony lips, furrowed brow, and eyes of slate. Absame glared down towards the pasty chemist. In his free hand he held a pitted AK-47, muzzle unwavering. 

“I… I don’t know what you mean, Absame.” William shook slightly, but looked directly into the captain’s eyes; pirates have no respect for the weak. “I’ve compounded every drug you’ve asked of me.”

Absame sneered, releasing the chemist to carefully pluck the plastic bottle from the chemist’s unresisting fingers.  “Busparin, eh?” He jerked his head back and forth. “That’s no recreational substance.” His sneer widened into a grimace, scarlet gums bared. “You’ve been drugging us!”

William straightened, his fearful persona dropping like a cloak. “So I have.” His words became meticulous, almost scientific in their precision. “Testing hypotheses on live subjects is impossible in most civilized countries.” His lip curled. “As if progress was made without sacrifice!” His eyes refocused on the pirate. “My sponsors wish to see what impact various medications would have on … “abnormal behaviors”. Intervention by military force is so… 1980s.”

“And you?” Absame’s words came out as if every phrase was bitten off at the end. “What did you get from dosing us? Diagnosing us?”

William smiled. “Original thesis topics are so hard to find these days.” He pulled a leather pouch from his pocket. “ They told me that I should have bribed you from the start, but I thought you were too ignorant to notice. I guess I’ll have to bribe you after all.” He extended the packet to the captain. Diamonds gleamed, shimmering in the shifting light.

Absame dashed the pouch from the chemist’s hands. Diamonds spilled across the floor, tinkling against discarded bottles. “We may take a man’s treasures. Sometimes, we even take his life.” The pirate rose to his full height. “But a man’s mind is his own.” He stepped back, raising the AK-47 from where it had drooped during the conversation. 

William’s eyes widened. “Wait! We can get you more than diamonds!”

“You Americans are so arrogant.” Absame aimed his gun. “You think everything can be made right for a price. Well, to bastardize an Americanism,” his smile returned, William’s dawning fear reflected in the pitiless reflection from Absame’s ivory teeth, “Go directly to Hell. Do not pass Go. Do not complete doctoral thesis.”

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