The Iron Writer Challenge #175, 2016 Summer Open Challenge #12

clown

The Iron Writer Challenge #175

2016 Summer Open Challenge #12

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

  Authors:

Tina Biscuit, Maureen Larter, Steven L. Bergeron, Roger Campbell

The Elements:

A clown, numbers, A barn, Rabbit Stew

Fired

Tina Biscuit

‘I’m funny how? I mean funny, like I’m a clown? I amuse you?’

‘Well, yeah’, Connie agreed, ‘but right now, I need to use the bathroom, and don’t be using all my lipstick’, she continued, her head slumped against the other side of the door.

The door opened.

‘How do I look?’ Colin asked.

‘Funny.’

‘Funny how?’

‘Don’t start that again; we need to get going. I’ve arranged to meet with Marvin before the show.’

‘Alright, Connie, but why have we got to meet him?’

‘I’ll tell you on the way. I’ve got some news.’

‘Sounds ominous. I’ll get my shoes on.’

He was still lacing up his shoes when Connie came to the door of their trailer.

‘So, what’s the news, Connie?’ he said with a broad grin.

‘I’m going to need a bigger box, Colin.’

They walked over to Colin’s car; he stepped in, and opened the door for her.

‘I’m not going in your ridiculous car’, she turned, and started walking.

She walked in silence. Colin drove next to her for a minute, until they arrived at Marvin’s office.

‘Are you finding it harder to get into the box, Connie?’

‘Kind of, but I’m going to be getting a lot bigger’, she said with a whimper. ‘I want to ask Marvin for a rise, or see if we can get you a new job’.

‘What’s brought this on, Connie?’

‘I’m pregnant, Colin. We’re going to hear the patter of tiny feet.’

‘Big feet’, Colin corrected her.

‘Can’t you be serious for a minute?’

‘No.’

‘Unless our numbers come up on the lottery, we have to play this one sweetly’, she chided.

Marvin came out of his office, pulling a gold pocket-watch from his garish waistcoat.

‘Well, if it isn’t my favourite contortionist and clown; to what do I owe this pleasure?’ he said, ushering them inside.

‘It seems we’re asking for a raise’, Colin blurted out.

‘Or a new job’, Connie added.

‘How about a knife-thrower? That’s a fine act’, Marvin offered.

‘Yeah’, said Connie, ‘a clown that couldn’t hit a barn door, throwing sharp things at the pregnant lady – that’s going to pull in the crowds.’

‘How’s your balance, Colin?’

‘You’re not going to get me up on the high-wire again, Marvin, unless you fix those safety nets’, Colin replied.

‘I’ll have a word with Mephisto, maybe he can help’, said Marvin.

‘I can’t do magic’, said Colin.

‘No, but I was thinking he could keep you in rabbit-stew for a while’, he said, wryly.

‘You do know that he uses the same rabbits every night, Marvin? He doesn’t really magic them out of his hat’, said Connie.

Marvin stood up; the show was starting.

‘We’ll talk about this later, guys. I think Bobby’s about to do his big entrance.’

They startled as the explosion resonated through the canvas walls of the big top. The gasps of the astonished audience accompanied a three-second flight. The lightning-bolt atop Bobby the human cannonball’s helmet pierced, and ripped, into Marvin’s office. The spent shell of Bobby crumpled to the floor.

‘Looks like your career path has taken a new trajectory, Colin.’

What Am I Observing?

Roger Campbell

He stood motionless. His eyes opened to the point they hurt. His mouth opened to the point it hurt. What he was seeing was not possible.  Slowly Brian scanned the street in both directions. 

All the structures along the road were barns. While a rich assortment of styles and colors, they were barns.  Barns situated so tightly together as if to imitate row houses.  And it seemed as if each had a different hue.

“What the heck?” Brian slapped his face, opened and shut his eyes several time and pinched himself. “This ain’t possible.” The barns did not go away. 

“What the heck yourself. I’m late.” As the clown hurried past Brian, it tipped its very under size top hat and honked a crimson nose.

Before Brian could react another clown approached. After tipping his hat and honking his nose it asked a question. “Pardon me. Do you know where barn 21 is?”

After looking at several barns’ numbers, Brian replied. “Well, this one is number 19, so the next one should be number 21.”

“Huh?” The clown wiggled his mouth and eyes. “Ah no. The next one is 42.” 

“Than that’s 21.” Brian turned to the opposite direction and pointed. 

“No, no. That’s 13.” A doubting clown stared at Brian. “Are you sure you know your numbers?”

“Hey, why ya’ll standing there looking like a couple of statues?” A third clown asked as he walked past. “The rabbits just announced their stew’s ready. Come on.” He waved for the pair to join him. “Heard a rumor they actually put some real food in it this time. None of that green stuff they like.” With a tip of his hat and a spin of his tie the clown hurried off.

Brian took a deliberate look at the street in both directions, the barns and the clowns. As he did so all the barns slowly changed colors and numbers. It did not surprised Brian when he noticed a rabbit looking clown standing beside him.

“You’re the same clown I’ve been talking to, aren’t you?”

“Oh, I say. That is a most rude question. Of course I am the same one. Do you think I changed my looks?” It held up a finger. “ Do not answer that. A clown never changes their appearance.”

Brian took another look around. “This ain’t real. . . .  Where am I?”

“The question to be rendered is not, Where am I? That is very clear. You are there?” The clown pointed at Brian’s feet. “A question which would be more appropriate would be, What am I observing?”

“Okay, What am I observing?”

“You are not only observing, but are also participating in a dream. One which could be define as a very strange, perhaps even weird, dream.”

“How does this end?” Brian watched the barns change again.

“When you wake up.” The clown began moving his arm in a circular motion. “Which will not happen until you go back to sleep.”

WHAM! A fist slammed into Brian’s jaw. 

Harold the GreatSteven Bergeron

Steven L Bergeron 

“Ladies and Gentlemen for your viewing pleasure we have, what’s clearly our top ten entertainers this company has ever produced. We present to you Harold the Great.”

With that introduction, it will surely going to be my last. My little car barrelled it’s way out the pearly gates hitting every barrel insight. Harold the Great had become this companies bubbling fool. The entire crowd was roaring in there seat at my antics. Well almost everyone, this old man in the top row sat there motionless, his eyes fixed on all my moves.

I ‘m a Stewart and this was the end, I was all clowned out. I proceeded to my trailer to pack up my life. As I poured my last ounce of JD,a knock suddenly appeared my door . I ignored it thinking it was the ringmaster with my last pay check.

“Mr Great, I would like to have a word with you?” That voice so dead, it took me back to our last talk.

“What can I do for your old man?”

“I have a proposition for you.”

I opened the door looking him straight in the eye.

“After all of these years , why should I listen to you?”

“If not for me, do it for your mother. You know every Sunday she’s been cooking her “Country Corn bread with rabbit stew” with the barn windows wide open, hoping the aroma would call you back.”

“So you come crawling back, hoping that I forgive you.”

“Something like that, it was your mother’s idea that I come tonight. She threatened me to make amends tonight or she would be gone by the time I get back. Can I come in? We can talk better in private.”

He took the couch as I finished my last swig.

“I’d offer you some but this is all I got left. You know I saw you in the bleachers just staring.”

“Well I never been much for rodeos or clowns. But if it’s any consolations you were good.”

“Thanks too bad it’s going to be my last.”

“Oh”

“I make a fool of myself out there tonight. It’s the first time back here since I left. The crowd made me feel like a fool. I’m a Stewart and should be proud of it.”

“Yes you are a Stewart , and like all of us a strong head on your shoulders. What you are doing leaving all of this behind, takes guts. I was wrong all those years ago calling you a fool. I learnt something to tonight, it doesn’t feel all that bad to admit when you are wrong. Come on let me gives you a hand with all of this?”

For the first time in my life I understood where my father was coming from. And that folks was the last anyone ever heard of Harold the Great. The Stewarts were a family again, till our next big outburst.

HavenMaureen Larter

Maureen Larter

They sat, huddled together for warmth, in the barn. They hoped no-one had seen them sneak across the field at the back of the lonely farmhouse. Fortunately it had been cloudy and the moon had only shone filtered light to ease their escape from the soldiers.

Aaron spoke first. His voice was muted but sounded loud in the tense silence of the barn.

“We need food.”

Ester stood and looked outside, her eyes scanning the field for anything that moved.

“The soldiers might search here in the morning – we have to keep moving.” She looked at her husband, registering his tired eyes and hunched and troubled stance. “We have to get Abigail somewhere safe to have her baby.”

Joseph nodded.

“The rabbit stew we had two days ago,” he said, the sadness permeating each word, “won’t sustain us for much longer. We will have to ask the owners of this farm for some food.”

‘But what if they are Nazi sympathizers,” Lamar hissed. “They may turn us in. We will be shot!”

“I’ll go.” Abigail said quietly.

They all shook their heads.

“You can’t, my love.” Aaron clung to her, yet knowing the desperation would change their minds.

“I must,” she said. “Look at me – eight months pregnant. Surely they wouldn’t turn me away.”

She twisted away from Aaron and slipped outside just as the moon shone brightly through a break in the clouds.

The family shrank back into the shadows as Abigail made her way toward the farmhouse. The wave of fear followed her, but she moved purposefully on. The knock seemed to echo across the valley, and Aaron jerked forward, ready to run for his wife, but the door opened almost immediately and Abigail disappeared inside. The family, hidden still, and anxious, took a collective breath and waited.

Although it felt like hours, it was only some fifteen minutes later that Abigail re-appeared.

She beckoned.

“Do you think she’s being forced to get us?” Lamar whispered, dread breaking his voice into a whimper.

“Don’t be a clown, Lamar,” Aaron spoke harshly filled with the same fear. “Your sister wouldn’t put us in danger. She’d have thought of something to warn us.”

The family crept out of the barn and carefully moved to the shadows near Abigail.

“Is it okay?” Ester whispered.

“Yes – come!” Abigail grinned with relief. “I knew we were safe when I noticed the man of the house reading ‘Numbers’ in the bible.” She held out her hand as her family hesitantly stumbled towards her. “Come in, come in,” she repeated. ” Levi welcomes us.”

They had a safe haven … for now.

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The Iron Writer Challenge #164 – 2016 Spring Equinox Open Finals

The Iron Writer Challenge #164

2016 Spring Solstice Open, Final Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

Authors:

Mamie Willoughby Pound, Richard Russell, C. S. E. Greenberg, Tina Biscuit

The Elements:

Around the Campfire

The Blue Star Kachina

Fossilized remains of a three-legged fruitbat

Main character grandparent was executed

It’s the End of Our World … As We Know ItRichard Russell

Richard Russell

Five teenage boys gazed into the flickering campfire as Alex continued, “And still today you can find the fossilized remains of the grossly disfigured three-legged fruit bats right here in this valley. Some say they still live here, looking to drink warm blood… from their victim’s eye socket.”

Dave shifted, “Okay, Alex, first, fruit bats don’t drink blood. And second, there’s really not much blood in an eye socket.”

Dave turned to the others. “Guys?”

The vote was unanimous; sentence was passed. “Alex, your story is LAME, so you must drink the poison.” Alex threw back his “punishment” and shuddered; bourbon was NOT his favorite.

Sam rose. “Okay, it’s my turn, but be forewarned, this is as gruesome as it gets!”

Several eyes rolled in disbelief as a few more beers were opened.

“This happened right here in the valley, just over there by that oak tree. My grandparents were living in the cabin on the ridge with no electricity, no running water, and no internet service …”

Bob shuddered, “Your weirdin’ me out, Sam!”

Sam smiled and continued, “and the family was starving. So Grampa takes his gun and comes down the river to shoot some dinner. Well, this side of the creek belonged to them Jacksons that lived in the holler, and they caught Gramps huntin’ on their land, so they tied Grampa to that old oak right there and executed him; cut him wide open and all his guts fell out. ‘Course, they were starvin’ too, so they took his body home and ate him. But here’s the thing; this happened just a few weeks ago and I can prove it.” Sam jumped up, ran to the oak and shined his flashlight on an old, dried-up pile of intestines.

They all vocalized their objection to Sam’s tactics emphatically. “So, we’re camping right here with that old stinkin’ pile of deer guts right there!?” Sam, a bit crest-fallen, retorted, “Hey, ya gotta give me credit for creativity!”

Dave conceded, “That’s gross, but he’s got a point. Nobody else has used props. I vote ‘approved’!” The others concurred, and sentence was passed. All but the storyteller had to “drink the poison.”

Spying the blue rays of an LED flashlight working its way through the woods toward them, Bob quickly began his story.

“Have you guys ever heard of the Blue Star Kochina?”

“No.”

“Well, it’s the Hopi Indian spirit of doom; that comes to earth as a blue star to destroy the world due to rampant human corruption. And guys,, I think Kochina’s fixin’ to rain doom down on us … RIGHT NOW!”

They turned in time to see the blue light crashing through the woods as several outraged parents burst onto their camp-site.

“Samuel Thomas Jenkins, you’re GROUNDED!”

“David and Daniel, how could you DO this to your mother?!”

“Robert William Wakowski, you LIED to us!”

“Where’d you boys get this alcohol?”

Bob glanced sideways at the others and whispered, “True story.”

The Coming of Saquasohuh

C. S. E. Greenberg

Hanai tapped his bound feet against the kiva wall. It was difficult for him to keep the rhythm of the sacred dance. Grandfather stood beside the fire, blood dripping from the feathers that Grandmother had carefully woven into his hair. The fire popped and crackled as the Katsina mask that he had worn burned next to the pieces of his Pahos.

“Mighty glad we caught this heathen trying to magic up trouble.” said their captor, his beady eyes reflecting the firelight.

He removed his hat, and turned to the parson brooding near the fire. “Not to say that I’m afraid of injun magic, mind. I’m a good Christian, and ain’t nobody got power over me. But who knows what sorta evil that redskin was trying.”

The parson stared through the hole in the roof into the night sky. His eyes refocused, and he turned to the man. “Shut up, Whittaker. The Lord hates a Christian liar worse than an honest pagan.” He snorted. “Hopefully, the injun’ll see reason before we hang him.”

Whittaker kicked the leather pouch that lay at Grandfather’s feet. Hanai yelped in protest, and Grandfather glared at him. Hanai smoothed his face and remained silent. He knew that white men could not be allowed to defile the fossil of the sacred sawya, the three-legged bat that Saquasohuh had gifted the Hopi as a symbol of their stewardship over Túwaqach, the fourth world.

Hanai kept tapping. Hopefully, Grandfather would find a way to continue the ritual of the Kachina dance, and help guide the sun back from it’s winter slumber. Grandfather shifted his feet slightly. Whittaker kicked him in the stomach, and turned to the parson. “You know the sheriff’s gonna say that he’s gotta hang; why don’t we just kill him now?”

The parson looked over at the man. “You’re right.” He pulled out his Winchester. “Mr. Medicine man, do you wish to confess your sins before you meet your maker?”

Grandfather did not reply.

“Alrighty, then. Boy, cover your ears if you can.” The parson fired. Grandfather, unbowed before any taqaa, toppled. Blood speckled Hanai’s face as Grandfather whispered, “Don’t… let… Saquasohuh… dance.”

Hanai stopped tapping his feet, and instead began to chant. “Oh Kachina of the Blue Star, hear my plea! This world is koyaanisqatsi, corrupt. Use my body to dance before these unitiated fools! Remove your mask and destroy Túwaqach! The ceremonies have ended! No more shall we dance for Soyal, to return the Sun from the slumber of winter!”

Whittaker looked at the parson, confused. “What in tarnation is that youngster going on about?”

The parson turned back to Whittaker and shook his head. “I don’t rightly know, John. His grandfather must’ve turned him injun. Once he’s safely home, I’m sure I’ll be able to bring him back to Christ.”

Hanai stared through the hole in the kiva, out into the star-spotted sky. He smiled as a bluish dot on the western horizon became a streak, then a blur, as Sasquasohuh danced across the sky. Blue fire rippled through the atmosphere as he came to dance the world away.

Big Kachina Burger

Tina Biscuit

The last smile of the moon dropped below the invisible horizon. The campfire flared as chicken fat ignited in violent plumes. As I walked back, I could see my father’s face – telling his story.

There were eleven more faces around him – some of my friends, some of the scouts. We were recreating a battle against Mexico, for the centenary, but apart from the hats, it was an excuse to camp out. I listened to the end of my dad’s story:

‘… and when he chipped out the last piece of stone, we saw’, he paused for a few seconds, ‘a third leg!’

I joined the circle. I saw a light, and knew Billy was on his phone, probably looking up “three-legged fruit bats” – hoping to dispel another urban myth. Unperturbed, my fossil-hunting father stepped over to the fire, and picked out some chicken legs.

‘Anyone still hungry.’ He offered the cremated legs among the group.

‘Only three left.’ He glanced at Billy, who was shaking his phone, still looking for a signal.

‘I’m good’, mumbled a few of the boys in unison.

Tired bodies slumped; shoulders eased onto bedrolls. My father sat cross-legged and alert. We were his soldiers, his platoon, and he was taking first watch. I sat next to him, trying to keep my back straight.

‘Do you remember that, Jim?’

I looked up.

‘Is it Orion?’

‘Yes. Can you still find Sirius, son?’

I traced the line of Orion’s belt, like he had shown me. It was so bright; I didn’t need Orion’s help.

‘It’s almost blue, dad.’

‘I know’, he put a finger to his lips, ‘it’s changed’.

‘Blue Star Kachina.’

We startled, even though the voice was soft. His footsteps had been silent on the sand. His silvery hair shone in the firelight. Everyone sat up, waiting for him to speak.

‘This is the last sign. When the star you call Sirius turns blue, the purification begins’, he announced, and drew two fingers down each cheek.

The boys looked up; I looked him in the eyes; my father answered:

‘We’re heading down to El Paso.’

‘Celebrating another battle. My grandfather fought there. A lot of the Hopi tribe helped you down at Camp Cotton. He was put against a wall, and shot, by order of Pancho Villas himself.’

‘I’m sorry’, said my dad.

‘Not your fault, my friend’, our guest continued, ‘you need to worry about camping on a riverbed; the stars are disappearing’, he gestured with an open palm.

‘Do you mean the Kachina thing?’ I asked.

‘It means the clouds are covering the stars’, he answered.

‘He means it’s going to rain’, my dad explained.

‘It could be the Kachina’, the group gathered around him, ‘the Hopi see it as an apocalypse, the cleansing of souls. It could be water; it could be fire.’

A raindrop stained his palm. The blue star flickered, obscured by cloud. The rumbling started in the hills.

*****

My father pulled up the last of his platoon; the flash flood extinguished the fire, spreading argent rivulets across the desert.

The Hopi chief stroked a finger across his brow, and smiled – again.

Distant FireMamie Pound

Mamie Pound

The desert highway was nothing more than a stone river running through a silent night. The battered Chevrolet sped toward the rising moon.

Slow down. Turn there.” She pointed toward a trail of potholes.

No one will see us,” she said. “Looks like a good place to sleep.”

He gathered sticks and piled them in the clearing.

You hitch-hiked all the way from Baton Rouge?” he asked.

What?” she said. “No, Birmingham.”

You could’ve been murdered,” he said, breaking the brush limbs in half, dropping them into a pile.

Give me a break,” she said.

He lit the dry brush, poked it with another stick.

It went out. He cupped his hands and blew on the embers until they caught. Once the fire was going, their silhouettes danced on the canyon wall.

We could sleep in the back of the truck,” he offered.

I like it out here,” she said.

Scorpions and rattlesnakes,” he began.

I’m not scared. The Hopi say this place is sacred,” she said.

That doesn’t mean the snakes won’t bite,” he laughed.

You know, my great-grandaddy was an indian,” she said.

Hopi?” he asked.

Creek,” she said.”On my mother’s side. A white man took his daughter as his wife, burned his house. Shot him dead. My grandmother, his daughter, buried a three-legged fruit bat under the white man’s house to curse his family. ‘So they would always wander’. Unfortunately, he was also my grandfather. She was pregnant with my mother at the time.”

The fire crackled, smoke tendrils snaked toward the glowing stars. Coyotes’ barks echoed throughout the canyon.

He stared at the expanse of sky.

Why did you pick this place to camp?” He asked.

“I don’t know. Time stands still here,” her eyes found the Milky Way.

“Look at the stars,” she said, waving her arms overhead. “They’re so beautiful. And what better place to see them?”

Except that it’s a million miles from Alabama,” he laughed.

Where’s your sense of adventure? What happened to the guy I skinny-dipped with, in January, all those years ago?” she joked.

What happened to just hanging out downtown? It’s worked for a decade, “ he smirked.

“I’m different now. Something in me wants to be here, where things are real and wondrous,” she said. “Like the Hopi way of life.”

You realize that the Hopi believe that people will be sucked underground when the Kachina shows up? And you’re Southern Baptist. They probably won’t even let you on their spaceship,” he said.

I don’t care about that, or the blue star or the fifth world. I just want to slow time in this world. I want to jump naked into the Cahaba River. I want to go back,” she said. “Just for a while.”

And there she was, standing before him, the girl he’d known all those years ago, before kids and marriage and life, stars blazing in her eyes.

It had been so long.

Yeah. I get it, “ he whispered.

The light of ages past burned as if it had waited forever for this night. The desert sands stilled.

And somewhere beneath them, the earth shifted.

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

balloonfest

The Iron Writer Challenge #162

2016 Spring Solstice Open, Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Brackets/Authors: 

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

Hot Dogs and Hatred

Malissa Greenwood

Eric balanced a plate of hot dogs and chips in one hand, a soda and magazine in the other as he weaved through the crowd of other hot air balloon aficionados. It was the first day of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – the morning rides had gone smoothly and now they were meant to relax and participate in festivities until the evening challenges commenced. Eric was starting to feel confident about his balloon this year, though the doubts were always there.

Last year he was sure he’d win the Accuracy Competition but a rather unfortunate group of birds found their way into his envelope resulting in one panicked, poop covered human and a few dead birds. Eric had felt shaken and disappointed. Word spread quickly and by the end of the day he was the butt of many jokes, most of which originated from Rob Scheele. Eric hated that guy.

But this was a new year; a new chance to get back in the game and prove that he was a great ballooner.

Eric found an empty spot at one of the many crowded picnic tables and squeezed in, smiling and nodding at the other occupants. He had brought the magazine to avoid small talk, lest he introduce himself and be remembered as the poop covered bird killer.

As Eric finished his second hot dog a roar of laughter erupted behind him and he knew instinctively that he was about to be annoyed. He was opening the chip packet when someone knocked into him, sending the contents flying.

“Oh hey, sorry bud.” A familiar voice. Eric turned to see Rob Scheele with an ape-like grin plastered to his face, surrounded by several other obnoxious looking men.

Eric attempted to simply nod and turn back around to no avail. “Eric Manning! Well, how are you bud?! Surprised to see you back this year.”

“Surprised? Well. I’m back, same as you.”

“Well hell, of course I’M back. I’ve got a record to keep after all!” The table laughed in agreement, a few men whooping their support. “But you… after that unfortunate event last year… we thought you’d be out of the game by now. Leave the sport to the real men, ya know?”

Eric listened to the callous laughter behind him and tried to remain calm. He had never mastered the art of talking trash. Usually he just listened to it and thought about all the things he’d rather do. While Rob sat there telling the bird story to anyone who would listen, Eric began picturing all the ways he could hurt the bastard. Set his balloon on fire. Hire someone to push him out of his own basket. I could shoot him. Not with a gun per say… I’ve got my archery equiptment in the car; all it would take is a single arrow. No one would know it was me. I’d say I –

His thoughts were cut short by a slap on the shoulder. “Oh don’t fret there, bud. Things couldn’t possibly get any worse for ya.”

But all Eric could think was well they could certainly get worse for you “bud”.

Festival Scare

Vance Rowe

The air was thick with cigarette smoke and the smell of stale beer permeated the air as the bartender announced last call. There were just a handful of people left in the bar and the bartender was lad it was time to close. The bar was very busy tonight as it was every year at this time. It was the weekend of the hot air balloon festival and it gets bigger every year.

Only a handful remained in the bar and a couple of them watched the goings on at a table where four men were seated. They were drunk, loud, and boisterous. Two of the men were trash talking each other while the other two men laughed and egged them on.

“Frank, after tomorrow, you will be going back to flying kites,” one of the men said to the other.

“You talk a lot of crap for someone who can’t get his balloon up even if the fire is fueled with Viagra, Victor.” the other man retorted. The trash talk and raucous behavior continued for a half hour more until the bartender finally kicked them out.

The next morning, the old airport where the balloon festival is taking place began to come alive. Food and souvenir vendors began to set up, balloonists made final checks on their equipment, local radio and television news outlets set up at various places and hundreds of spectators began to arrive and mill about. The organizers of the event set up their tables with various trophies, medals and awards placed on them. There is even a hot dog eating contest about to take place as well. There is definitely a sensory overload today with all of the things to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.

When it was time for the balloonists to get ready, Frank went to his balloon and found a bunch of kites inside of it. He growled with anger as Victor howled with delight. Frank then walked to his truck as Victor fired up his balloon and began to rise in the air, still laughing.

However, Victor stopped laughing as he watched Frank pull a bow and a single arrow from his truck.

Dragged Away on Unseen Strings of Universal ElasticityDani-J-Caile

Dani J Caile

A bow and its single arrow aimed directly at my soul scratches my sweating skin, leaving the scar that never healed, cutting through to my aching lust until my boiling blood turned to streams of thick, diseased desire: the pain reached the bubbling marrow within my crumbling bones, a gratification of the reason above any ever felt or will again.

“I am the best: you will never know better, I will defeat your pathetic, yearning narcissism and discard your empty, lifeless bag of flesh dripping through the splintered cracks of your spirit.”

“Please, do not leave me like this, I beg you…”

Through the void of vitality, the upside-down vision of droplets on the shattered pane reflecting the waking dawn light, a prism of colours, a festival of hot air balloons dragged away on unseen strings of universal elasticity, induces the affliction of the night before, a thousand years ago, to flood and muddle my mind, sending me into fits of self-reflection and inanimateness.

“You are nothing but a worm! I will rip you apart, scoop out all remnants of essence and substance, leaving but a shattered shell of monstrosity!”

“Do it! Do it! Without this, what is there? What is there!”

Steps in the street, spaces squeezed between coats, faces hidden by hoods and ‘brellas. The pinball machine: it issues forth and fades as the headless crowds wither and die, leaving me beaten, soaked, alone, standing in a barren city of shadows playing dodgems with hearts, spinning in the delight of paper and lights, making the meaningless worthwhile, ignoring the truth seeping from their veins, slipping past shallow attention and repressed awareness. Cheap hot dogs without buns.

“When… when…?”

“Why?”

The wind cuts through, I sense its edge but not its force: to feel is a luxury no longer pertaining to the carcase which is my form, disfigured and maimed by my foolish naivety, my broken impeccability. Blank. Squeezed, crushed, hope shone, only to be trodden in the last moments of opportunity, tiny fragments burning, incinerating under the pressure of power, the affliction of humanity, a monster rampant. Any purpose has been lost, gone with the last tick of time, the next, the now.

“Never, never again! How dare you, how dare you! Pig! Nothing but a pig! I am a god, you are nothing!”

“Once… once more…”

Clouds turn grey, a soothing blanket washing through the foul stain of intelligentsia, conquering the obnoxious academia of meaningless knowledge and bigotry of the supreme.

“Come! Follow me to your doom! Follow! Now!”

“Yes! Yes, I will follow! Only lead, please! Please lead!”

Darkness. Silence. From the nothing of the murky depths comes the incomparable. Optimism is born a myth, confidence its dumb cousin. The box is opened. Faith has flown with the chariots of Charlatopia and rested amongst the flocks of the blessed. To love? To live? Again, again, the stone it rolls, tearing, cutting, persistantly pushing against the slate of conscience and duty.

Punished for trying… for caring? Punished.

Bodkin Brothers

Tina Biscuit

Ian’s bow was slung tightly across his back. Douglas crawled behind him; he had the quiver. Ian raised a hand; they both stopped. They nestled into the heather; Douglas winced as it scratched his arms. They dropped flat, slowly raising their heads to look down the cliff. The balloons were already rising close to the boys. A crimson sphere of silk appeared below them; in a few seconds, the people in the basket would see them. They pressed themselves down deeper. The balloon rose, but the people were looking down at the hot-air-balloon festival: watching the other balloons; looking to see if they could see their friends.

‘I love hot dogs’, Douglas exclaimed.

‘What are you talking about, Douglas?’

‘There’s a hot dog stand.’

‘You can’t make out a hot-dog from here, idiot.’

‘I can see that one.’ He pointed down at a hut, with a huge fibreglass hot-dog on the roof.

‘Can we get one, Douglas? Please.’

‘We can’t walk in there with our weapons.’

‘You always treat me like an idiot, Ian. I meant just one of us go.’

‘You are an idiot, Ian. I don’t know why mum always makes me take you with me. Oh, yeah; it’s because you’re my wee brother, and I’m responsible for you.’

‘You’re hardly ­responsible. Firing arrows at hot-air-balloons. Very responsible.’

‘Shut it, small fry. And I’m not going to do it, Douglas. I just want to point one at Mr Sutherland to give him a fright.’

They watched the balloons rising; they knew that Mr Sutherland had a bright yellow one. Ian’s stomach started to rumble.

‘You’re hungry, too, Ian. Now you have to go.’

‘I don’t have to go, but I will.’

‘Thanks, Ian.’

Ian slipped the curved piece of Yew from his back, and passed it to Douglas, before snatching it back out of his grasp.

‘Don’t use it’, he said.

‘You’re always slagging me that I’m too much of a weakling to fire a bow. Please, Ian. I know dad gave you some money.’

‘Alright’, conceded Ian, ‘I’ll be twenty minutes; keep an eye out for Mr Sutherland; I’m still going to do it.’

Douglas waited until Ian dipped below the rise. He could smell the cedar of the arrows’ shafts as the breeze came over him. He reached behind him, teased his fingers through the fletching, before unsheathing a single arrow. The Bodkin point glinted as he revolved it in his fingers. A huge, yellow sun appeared in front of him.

Douglas grasped the bow. The yellow balloon rose as he nocked the arrow in the string, and started to pull. The bow yielded as he strained to pull it taut. He breathed slowly, just like Ian. Mr Sutherland was so close, he could see Douglas. His face contorted. The muscles in Douglas’s arm started to twitch under the strain. The string slipped slowly from his youthful grip. The bow buckled as the string was released. The point travelled straight, while the shaft twisted and contorted into its paradoxical flight.

A cry rang out, echoing around the cliffs. Two hands rose; two hot-dogs fell into the heather.

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