2015 Spring Equinox Open- Preliminary Round, The Allen Ginsberg Bracket

The Iron Writer Challenge #108

2015 Spring Equinox Open

Preliminary Round

The Allen Ginsberg Bracket

 

The Authors:

Geoff Gore

Brett Paul

Tina Biscuit

M.D. Pitman

The Elements:

Artemis

Artemis
A Dilettante
Jello Wrestling
A Moon Rock

Artemis ReturnsBrett Paul

Brett Paul

Artemis made her way around the studio, taking care not to step on any of the piles of discarded clothes and trash. Her flowing robes snagged the corner of a pizza box, pulling it open to reveal sickly-colored crusts. She exhaled in disgust, tugged her robes free, and positioned her bow tight to her body.

She paused to look at sketches tacked to the wall at odd angles. There were women in various states of undress, with blotches of blue and red haphazardly applied.

These are terrible,” she said, glancing up at the ceiling. “You want me to play muse to a hopeless dilettante? How am I to do that?”

Over the insubstantial blare of distant drunken cheering, she heard the hollow sound of an empty can bouncing off the wooden floor in another part of the apartment. She sighed and headed down the apartment hallway toward the sound.

Though the studio she left was well lit, the rest of the apartment was in shadows. In the living room she located the source of the noise: the television. Here it was unbearably loud, the drunken cheering joined by distorted club music. Light from the idiot box flickered across the living room, and across the man sitting on the couch, alone, watching intently. He gulped from a can of beer, belched loudly, and cheered, vicariously joining the scene.

Artemis stepped into the room unseen, and crossed to see what was so enthralling. On the screen, the camera panned across the crowd of drunken revelers, then focused on two scantily-clad women in an inflatable pool filled with red and blue gelatinous chunks. They wrestled awkwardly against each other. Artemis turned away, disappointment showing deeply.

Is this pale imitation of a man why you sent me here? If I am to be his muse, this will take something extreme.”

With an arm reached skyward, Artemis concentrated. “Stone of Luna, come to me!” Light flickered at her palm, and she closed her hand around a summoned stone. From her belt she withdrew a sling, loaded the moon rock into it and spun it at incredible speed. With one last glance at the waste of meat and his drunken half smile, she loosed the stone and destroyed the television.

Sparks exploded out from the pulverized electronics. A buzz built up, culminating in a pop, and the room went dark. The man stood up from the couch, unable to comprehend what had just transpired. Into the silence, Artemis giggled at his Spongebob boxers. He spun around, trying to take in the whole room at once, trying to make some sense of what just happened. He looked near her, through her, but she was invisible to him. Then as though waking from a dream, he seemed to see the state of his apartment for the first time. He picked up the empty beer can and took it into the kitchen.

Remind me never to kill your prize buck again, father,” said Diana, looking up once more.

Zeus’s face appeared above her. He smiled, nodded, and vanished.

Shoot the Messenger

Tina Biscuit

Artemis pulled the bowstring taught. The feathery fletching grazed her cheek as she released the arrow. Deadly, and paradoxically straight, it thrilled skyward. Winged feet crumpled as her prey landed.

The clouds over Mount Olympus parted as Zeus awakened; scattering lightning bolts carelessly, he approached his child.

You’ve killed Hermes.’ He boomed.

What’s the message?’

Artemis teased the scroll from the messenger’s fingers, and unfurled the parchment.

It’s all about the mortals, sounds like the world’s gone to Hades in a handcart –while we were sleeping.’

We’ve been asleep for a few brief millennia, merely a nap. What could the mortals have done in such a short time?’ He threw another petulant bolt.

Well, Jello wrestling seems popular,’ Artemis was reading the scroll, ‘and the victorious Nike is selling sports clothing.’

Zeus took the scroll from his daughter.

Dad, can I take Pegasus? I’m going down there to remind the mortals who their true gods are.’

Zeus dropped the scroll, and thumped his mighty fist. The stars cascaded and converged; Pegasus emerged from his constellation.

Artemis adjusted her lunar tiara.

Every time you do that, my moon rocks ­– which reminds me…’

She packed some moon rocks into her saddlebags, and threw them on to Pegasus’s back. She mounted the stallion, and soared.

The sulfurous fumes burned her nostrils as she approached the underworld. The Styx was bubbling below her. She dropped four moon rocks; a hoof alighted on each floating rock. She passed Cerberus, who nodded three heads in recognition as she drifted downstream. Her loathsome host greeted her.

Ah, my beautiful moon. Have you come for eternity, or just a visit?’

Just a visit, Hades, you’re looking bad.’

Thanks. Who do you seek?’

A champion, someone heroic to wrestle with the mortals.’

Greco wrestling.’

No, Jello, they wrestle in big barrels of it.’

I’ve heard it’s a bit messy.’

Not to mention: immoral, and unchaste. Would Sisyphus fight for me?’

He’s a bit busy.’

What about Icarus?’

He can’t swim, but I’ve got some Italians in.’ He clicked his heels, and three figures appeared.

This is Debutante; she’s just arrived. And this is Vigilante, a law unto himself.’

What about him?’ Artemis waved her bow.

That’s Dilettante, a sculptor in the making.’

Could you organise a Jello wrestling match, Dilettante?’

Not my usual medium, but I did a weekend course in Event Management.’

Artemis nodded, realising that she was the only possible champion.

The next day, a large crowd gathered on the beach. A huge oak barrel was being filled with liquid for the challenge. Pegasus landed, his huge wings folded as Artemis dismounted; the crowd parted as she walked up the beach. She approached the barrel, caught sight of the lettering on the last container, and grabbed Dilettante by the collar.

What’s this?’ She pointed at the container.

Jelly. I got it from the quarry; I barely scratched the surface, they had loads.’

Gelignite: you’ve filled the barrel with gelignite. In the name of Zeus, you’re such an amateur.’

Zeus heard her taking his name in vain. The lightning bolt sparked as it hit the liquid.

The TestMichael Pitman

M. D. Pitman

Mary felt her stomach over her sweatshirt as she stared at the several options of pregnancy tests in the aisle of the convenient store. She felt the clerk’s gaze. She chose a pregnancy test and placed it on the counter followed by two crumpled ten dollar bills she from a jean pocket. She pulled her sweatshirt’s hood over her head, and swallowed as she kept her eyes down. She made sure to come to this store – an out-of-the-way store several miles away from where she lived with her parents.

The clerk looked down at the blue, pink and white box and at Mary. She didn’t ask the usual, “Is that all?” line most clerks give to customers, or offer any dilettantish advice – another clerk trait. She just smiled as if she’d been in Mary’s spot.

The clerk bypassed placing the box in the store’s semi-opaque plastic bag, instead pulled out a plain brown paper bag and gave Mary an “I’ve been in your position before” smile as she handed her the purchase. Mary flashed a sheepish smile at the 20-something clerk before jerking toward the exit.

She pushed open the door, ignoring the giant Jell-O wrestling poster on the door’s window pane.

With her keys in her right hand, squeezing the moon rock keychain, Mary sat in her car and stared at the plain brown bag as if it held her future. Mary noticed the clerk, straining her neck as if she was checking on her. The clerk raised a hand to wave. Mary returned the gesture.

In her room, Mary laid the bag on her dresser, avoiding the mirror that hung over it. Instead she looked at the poster that hung beside it of Artemis. While she was the goddess of childhood, she quickly averted her eyes remembering she’s also the goddess of virginity and childbirth.

She sat on her bed, but as she did caught her eyes staring at her in in the mirror. She was entranced by her eyes, her face, hoping to see a glimmer of her life with a baby.

In a burst of determination grabbed the bag and went into her bathroom.

The kit’s instructions directed to wait until the morning. She couldn’t wait. She wouldn’t wait. She took a test and then placed it on the sink. She leaned against a wall, gazing at the oval that will show either a plus or minus. At first she hoped for a minus sign, but a small piece of her wanted to be a mommy – though the thought quickly dissipated.

She imagined her entire pregnancy in that ninety seconds.

Mary looked away as the shape formed. She hyperventilated. Her mind flashed to one thought: “No plus. No plus. No plus.”

She took a deep breath, turned and looked at the stick. Mary clutched the white plastic stick tight in her hand. She inhaled and exhaled several times to stop herself from crying, though a couple tears escaped and flowed down her cheeks. She rubbed her face.

She opened the kit’s second test. Ninety seconds later an identical blue plus sign started to appear, as was the third test.

Ah, dammit!”

RejectionGeoff Gore

Geoff Gore

Artemis was awoken by the sound of parchment being slid under the door. Mercury had delivered the morning post. She glanced at the sundial. It was nearly lunchtime. Unlike her brother Apollo she’d never been much of a morning person. Lately she’d been in something of a rut. It had been Apollo who had suggested she borrow one of the muses and dabble in the fine arts.

Why don’t you take a break from hunting and do something creative?’

She’d been working on her manuscript late into the previous evening. That muse he had left was hardly any help at all, spending the whole time complaining about penal rates and meal money for working so late, but Artemis preferred it that way, she’d always done her best work at night. Nonetheless Mercury’s early delivery was something of an unwelcome intrusion.

She roused herself from the chaise and walked to the front door where she collected the papyrus. She glanced at the inscription on the outside, the mask symbol of Momus’ Publishing. Unlike her previous failed attempts at painting, perhaps this could be promising news.

She took a hunting knife from the kitchen drawer and slid it underneath the seal.

Dear Diana…’ She was already having second thoughts about sending unsolicited work using a pseudonym.

We regret to inform you that we are not in a position at this time to accept your work Jell-O/Goodbyethe story of one woman’s quest for gender equality in the world of jello wrestling.

While there was a degree of originality in the prose itself, we see little demand among readers for contact sport romances. The plot, based on an androgynous central character struggling with her own sexual orientation and ‘hilariously’ being mistaken as a young boy, was little more than a thinly disguised erotic fantasy, most likely born of the author’s own repressed desires that even Cyclops could see through. My dear, if we wanted elaborate social misunderstandings, we would’ve stuck to Jane Austen.

Were we to publish this manuscript in its present form we would risk alienating a significant demographic of our existing audience. Our recently published autobiography of Palaestra was hugely popular and it is almost certain that your poorly executed script would be deemed to be offensive by both the author and readers of this publication.

Also, for your future reference, we do not accept manuscripts formatted in modern fonts such as Times New Roman, but prefer submissions via papyrus only, in Hellenic script, double spaced.’

Regards

Momus

Artemis folded the scroll back up. Who did that Momus think he was? She decided not to take it to heart. He was known for it, after all he’d already been banished from Olympia for bad reviews. ‘Haters gonna hate’, she sighed. As for offending Palaestra? Please, she was a total diva.

Artemis took the scroll to her studio and placed on top of the pile beneath the moon rock with the others and consoled herself by compulsively scrolling reviews on Godreads.

 

Challenge 106

 The Iron Writer Challenge 106

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements 

Challenge 105 Champion

TBD

The Authors:

Tina Biscuit, Vance Rowe, Maureen Larter

The Judges:

Dani J Caile, Steven L. Bergeron, Christopher Liccardi, Tony Jaeger

The Elements:

tumblr_nbl3ga9Q8K1rvi7nzo1_500

Young Woman with a Book

If I were God

A terra cotta soldier from China

The last line must be: “Who do you think you are?”

Post your guess who will win in the comments

(and tell us why!)

 

MemoriesMaureen Larter

Maureen Larter

I wandered across the meadow, my notebook clutched in my arms. A tall piece of grass caught my attention, and I broke it off, fiddling with the stalk, not really aware of my reasons.

I walked over to the only tree beside a fence looking into the neighbor’s farm, and sat down, letting my thoughts travel as my body had travelled some 6 years before.

Xian is a magical city, in a magical country. I remember the feeling as a leant against the rail of the archeological wonder that has made Xian a tourist Mecca. There in front of me was the crowd of warriors that were dug from the ground. Neat rows, now two the same, all sheltering under the modern roof put there by the powers that be. The archeologists still worked at more excavation. However vast these discoveries were so far, there was even more to find.

We shuffled along the walkway, Chinese tourists as well as visitors from all corners of the world. I mused – If I were God, would I be game to make one of the statues come to life? Maybe then we would know the secrets of this place. Why so many soldiers? Why would an emperor commission such a colossal job? Why did he need so many men around him? Would the soldier appreciate arriving suddenly in the 21st century? Would he be manly and strong? Or would he wish to kill? Would he be someone I could respect and love?

I must have said something out aloud, because the man in front of me turned and glared, and then, in perfect English, spoke.

“This is a sacred site,” he said “Why would you want to ruin this perfect scene? Why would you want to steal the heart of a warrior?

I could do nothing but stare at him.

Now, sitting in the shade of the solitary tree, my back against its comforting bark, I opened my book. Once again I saw that terra cotta warrior that had entered my dreams. I began to scribble the memory down as the sun began to sink, and I pulled my cardigan closer around my shoulders.

I knew I would have to go home soon, as the chill of the evening air began to seep through my clothes and into my heart. As I wrote, I was back there again, and the Chinese man was near, almost threatening in his attitude.

His last words always haunted me, for when I tried to explain, he spat out a word which must have been obscene. I remember it well, because I have thought on it so many times since. How can we achieve peace and vanquish racial hatred when this is in the minds of others?

He looked me in the eye and said, with some disgust.

“You are white – you have no concept of our beliefs – Who do you think you are?”

Courage Under Fire

Vance Rowe

Annie woke up to the sound of her parents fighting…again. She grew tired of the yelling and screaming from the short twelve years she has been on this earth. Most of the fighting was about her mother who worked two jobs because her dad wouldn’t. He just drank whiskey all day.

It was the middle of the summer and as most kids were happy with this, Annie dreaded it. School was her only escape from the constant bickering and arguing.

With tear filled eyes, Annie looked up on her dresser and stared at the Chinese terra cotta soldier statue that her aunt bought for her when she went on a trip to China. The statue was made of terra cotta, and was pretty heavy. It was her only friend and she talked to it all of the time, although it never talked back, she was just glad to unload her feelings on it. She named it Zing Zang for no other reason than that name just seemed Chinese to her and was easy for her to remember.

She looked at the statue and whispered, “Please make it stop, Zing Zang. Please.”

Moments later, the arguing had stopped and she smiled at the statue, as if it had something to do with it.

Annie finally got out of bed, grabbed her journal and went downstairs into the kitchen and ate the breakfast that her mother had made for her.

The arguments soon began again when her father walked into the kitchen and ordered his wife to go to the liquor store to buy him another bottle. When she refused, he got angered and began berating her again. Annie grabbed her journal and bolted from the table and ran outside. She ran and ran until she came to her favorite place. It was a meadow surrounded by woods and she felt at peace here. She felt safe. She picked a weed from the ground and twirled it in her fingers as she walked through the peaceful meadow and began to think.

“I wish I was God,” she began to say to herself, “If I were God, I would make him go away. I would make him go away and never come back.” She then began to think of all of the things that she would do if she were God and this brought a smile to her otherwise forlorn face.

When Annie finally went back home, she saw her mother on the floor, huddled up in a corner with her father standing over her with a belt. She yelled at him to stop and ran over to him and pushed him away from her mother. The father then hit her with a big back handed slap that sent her across the room. Annie got up, ran up to her bedroom, grabbed Zing Zang and slammed it across her father’s head, knocking him down and just about out. Annie then called the police. When they arrived and handcuffed her father, he looked down at Annie and asked, “Just who do you think you are?”

Trouble in Paradise

Tina Biscuit

Helen looked down at the beach from the rocky promontory she had climbed. Cradling her diary in one hand, she teased a blade of grass through her cold fingers – too cold to write with. She thought of the entry that she couldn’t write:

‘Adam has brought me metal-detecting again. It’s his hobby, not mine. This is the last time. I thought it was interesting, it is I suppose – for him.’

She watched the head-phoned figure course the soft sand at the top of the beach. He turned and waved; she raised a numb hand.

He was lifting something, putting it on a pile next to where he was searching. He waved again, beckoning her.

She clutched the book, jumped down from the rocks, and slid down the dunes towards him, cursing her obedience.

‘I’m getting a strong signal, but all I’m finding are these pots.’

He put one on each arm.

‘Bill and Ben.’ He chirped.

‘I’m not old enough to remember them.’ Helen lied.

She tapped on one of the pots.

‘It’s terracotta.’

‘Like your cardigan.’

‘The colour yes, but I mean like a Terracotta soldier. The clay models they made in China to bury with their Emperor.’

‘To keep him company.’

‘Well, that, and to show their god how important their emperor was.’

‘If I were God, I wouldn’t be fooled by a bunch of flowerpot men.’

‘Well you’re not, are you?’

She rummaged through the pile; he put on his headphones and started swiping his beeping detector. He didn’t hear as the sand rushed from beneath her feet. He didn’t see her descend in a grainy vortex of pottery and peril. As the sinkhole opened, the beeping increased. He turned to share his discovery, to realise, too late, that he was also being sucked through the untimely hourglass.

Her blue linen dress was hitched up and crumpled; he landed next to her, closer than had been comfortable recently.

‘Wow, some ride.’

‘Really, this is all just fun for you.’

‘Kind of exciting, no.’

‘No. How are we going to get out?’

‘Get out. This might be my big find, the thing’s beeping for base metal. Could be gold.’

As their eyes grew accustomed to the dim light, they noticed an opening behind them.

‘This might be a way out, up to the cliffs.’ He squeezed through and Helen followed. Shafts of sunlight, from the rocky ceiling, polka-dotted the twelve clay figures, which now surrounded them; jeweled eye-sockets shone from each guardian. In the centre was a stone sarcophagus; a gold death-mask adorned the head.

‘Don’t you see, Adam? It’s a necropolis, a city of the dead.’

Precious eyes glared at him. Oblivious, Adam grasped his trophy. Helen turned back, just as the rumbling started.

The light changed as the figures rocked, sand closed the holes in the rocky canopy, dousing the light. Helen scrambled back through the entrance; a falling rock eclipsed Adam’s escape.

‘You have to help me.’ He pleaded.

‘You’ve made your choice. Treasure your prize, Adam, then ask yourself: Who do you think you are?’

 

Challenge 100

The Iron Writer Challenge 100

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements 

Challenge 99 Champion – A. Francis Raymond

The Authors:

Aaron Gord, Danielle Lee ZwisslerDani J Caile, M.D. Pitman, Tina Biscuit

The Judges:

A. Francis Raymond, E. Chris Garrison, Mary FletcherJason T Carter

The Elements:

this conversation The Above Image

Anhydrous Ammonia

White chocolate or dark chocolate?

A Flagpole

Knight’s Gambit

Tina Biscuit

I regarded my sleeping skipper. The grey hairs of his beard quivered as he wheezed. The windless, motionless, doldrums had nursed tranquillity into boredom. His woollen gansey hugged his belly as he stirred and stretched.

The brass bulkhead clock teased the afternoon; its companion barometer was stuck on high pressure. He rose, swaying the boat, as he tapped a yellow finger on the glass, then turned to me.

‘Whatya doing there, son?’

‘Just passing the time.’

‘Bored?’ He opened up the leaves of the table between us to reveal a parquetry chessboard. I ran my hands over the squares.

‘It’s exquisite.’

‘Yeah, I’m kinda proud of it.’

‘You made this?’

‘Gotta do something. You play?

‘Yeah.’

In the centre was a brass finger-pull. He put a finger in the ring and pulled, revealing a sunken compartment. He withdrew a small box.

‘Woah’, I recoiled. A stench of over-ripe cheese caught in the back of my throat. He opened the hatch above our heads to vent the fumes. He emptied out the chessmen from the box and closed the lid.

‘It’ll go; it’s the anhydrous ammonia. I use it to stain the black squares and pieces. It reacts with the tannin in the oak giving it that dark chocolate colour.’ He cupped a pawn in each hand.

‘White chocolate or dark chocolate?’ His lip rose in half a smile. I tapped his hand, it opened, revealing the chocolate-brown pawn. He opened the other, showing its white counterpart. We set up the board.

‘I like the horses.’ I stroked a finger down its wooden mane.

‘They’re knights.’

‘So why are they knights, not horses?’

‘You ever tried carving a tiny man on a horse? The horse enables the knight, not the touch of a King’s sword.’ We advanced pawns and the game developed. He reached under the table and produced a bottle. He eased the cork and splashed whisky into two glasses.

‘Care for a wager, son?’

‘I don’t have anything.’

‘Everyone’s got somethin’. I got a boat, you got your whole life.’

We considered moves and slid the pieces. The bottle flowed. He picked up his knight and playfully tapped it on the table, placing it in a fork between my King and Queen.

‘Check! Looks like Lancelot’s come between Arthur and Guinevere.’

I reached for the bottle this time. I had presumed I would win, and the wager would be forgotten. What was I betting anyway – my life?

Carnage ensued as we frantically captured and exchanged pieces. Eventually the bottle was emptied. Arthur vanquished Lancelot, leaving two Kings.

Stalemate.

I drained my glass; he fell back in his seat.

A loud crack came from above.

‘The flagpole’s down’, I shouted. He jumped up.

‘Flagpole? That’s the mast.’

We looked at the sinking sail, the mast collapsed in the water.

‘Full sails and we get hit by a line squall.’

The boat heeled over with the weight of the sail, the chocolate-brown gunnels dipped into the ocean, darkening more of the dry oak with every tug.

The Commitment of Sir Jacob the Farmer

 M. D. Pitman

Jacob was never the same since the fertilizer explosion of 2008. He doesn’t remember his friends or family, and has lived alone since the explosion. Oh, and is the only farmer in southeast Kentucky – and for that matter the country – that wears either knight’s armor or chainmail while working his farm. And after the explosion he stopped farming crops in favor of chocolate Hershey’s Kisses, both white and dark.

But that’s not why five government agents would be coming to arrest Jacob Newton. Just a couple days earlier another explosion happened, which killed several hogs and cows in the barn he stored toxic levels of anhydrous ammonia-based fertilizer. The smell of a country barbecue still hung in the air. The wood planks that lay where the barn once stood still smoldered, despite scores of gallons of water used to extinguish the fire.

A flagpole marks the start of his driveway. Before 2008, the flag displayed was Old Glory, but now it’s Jacob’s personal heraldic flag – a white field with sort of a Templar cross. Two black Cadillacs turned onto that dirt and gravel driveway.

As if nothing happened, Jacob worked his field, watering his chocolate “seeds.” The two vehicles parked in front of the farmhouse. Jacob turned off his tractor and climbed down. His chainmail clinked with every movement. Four men in sunglasses and black suits – two in each vehicle – exited their vehicles. They walked toward Jacob, the front man with a gray leather folder in his hand led the group.

The followers cocked their heads at Jacob. This wasn’t the first time; however, the first agent met Jacob. “Mr. Williams!” Jacob yelled as he approached the foursome. “Last time I told ya’ll I didn’t have no ammonia in the barn.” He pointed to where his barn used to stand. “See, no barn!”

“I heard. What happened?” the agent asked, knowing the real answer and Jacob’s.

“Fire,” Jacob said. He shook his head. “Horrible fire. Lost all my animals.”

Williams looked toward the cars and waved a hand. A rear car door opened in the one closest to the field. A woman appeared wearing a suit – matching the style of the four agents. She walked with quick-paced intent.

“Mr. Newton,” she yelled as she entered shouting distance, “you’re coming with us.” Her voice eased as she walked closer. “You’re still using that illegal fertilizer.”

“First, it’s Sir Newton,” Jacob replied. “And second, I got to get that chocolate to grow, ma’am. That regular stuff ain’t cutting it.”

“You’re trying to grow chocolate.” Exacerbated, she said, “That… doesn’t… grow.”

“So says you,” Jacob said defensively. “They’re going to be buddin’ any day.”

“You’ve said that for years.” She pursed her lips. “You’ve wasted your savings and destroyed this farmland with chocolate and toxic fertilizer.” She motioned to the agents. “Collect Mr. Newton.”

“I don’t think so,” Jacob reached for his hip, but realized he didn’t have his sword. He bowed his head. Two of the agents grabbed Jacob and led him to the cars.

As they left, Williams asked: “So he didn’t recognize you at all, Mrs. Newton.”

“He hasn’t remembered me since ’08,” she whispered.

Renaissance=Reborn

Danielle Lee Zwissler

“Why was it always a question of whether the favorite was white chocolate or dark chocolate?” Lisa asked as she looked down at the picture of the lone survivors from the Renaissance fair back in 1978.

“Well, as simplified as that is, it really was. Do you want to hear about it?” Carrie asked.

Lisa nodded as she looked down at the delectable plate of chocolates.

“Great. It all happened thirty-six years ago… 

“So, what’s in the container?” Jack Fetters asked as he walked down the steps of the Eichert Corporation. The flagpole carried the golden ‘e’ proudly. Eichert was the top chocolatier of the decade. They had the best flavors, the most impressive clientele and unique ideas of the business. Their chocolate bombs were their greatest seller, and the slogan was next to none at: our flavors will explode in your mouth!

“It’s anhydrous ammonia, the secret to our next success as chocolatiers,” Dr. Jonas answered.

Jack’s eyes lit up. “Really?” Jack was the business man of the two, while Jonas was a world class chemist.

“Oh, yes. This baby will change the world.”

Jack looked at Dr. Jonas and laughed. “Change the world? I mean, we are just talking about chocolate.”

The Doc’s eyes widened. “Just chocolate? Dr. Jonas queried. “Was it just chocolate when you presented the O’Reillys, extra dark to your girlfriend, Laura, and she accepted that lame proposal of yours? Was it just chocolate when Mr. and Mrs. Layton agreed to 10,000 chocolate centerpieces to be made up for their display at Macy’s? Was it…”

“Okay, okay, I get your point. So, how does the AA tie in to all of this?”

Jonas tipped his head back and took a deep breath. “I’ll think of something. You just tell me whether you want the AA in white or dark chocolate.”

“What about milk?” Jackson inquired.

“Milk chocolate?” Jonas roared. “I…”

“Okay, okay. Don’t get your suspenders in a twist. Dark chocolate sounds fine.” Jonas had been stressed out ever since he learned his wife, Marie, fell in love with a street performer from the town’s Renaissance Fair.

Jonas’s eyes widened. “Fine?”

“Wonderful, Jonas, wonderful.”

Jonas blew out a breath that he was holding and tapped his clipboard with his pen. “I’ll work on this.”

***

“So the AA was put in the chocolate?” Lisa asked.

“Yep, and all those people died because of one person, well…two.”

“Two?”

“Jonas’s wife had the affair, and well…that stirred the pot. And, the Eichert Corporation, is no longer in business. Now the giants in the industry are Galaxy, Kit Kat—Cadbury…”

“What happened to Jonas?”

“He ate the chocolate after it was distributed?”

“Why would he do something like that?”

“He killed his wife, the mother of his only daughter, and he realized that the fumes from the gas were making him a little nutso, but it happened too late.”

“Wow…”

“Yeah,” Carolyn said sadly.

“And how do you know all this?” Lisa asked as she took a piece of the proffered chocolates.

“Jonas was my grandfather.”

Lisa looked up into Carolyn’s eyes, then spit out the confection.

“Should have picked the white.”

Carry On Up the Flagpole

Dani J. Caile

I watched the small brown stink bug creep along the inside of the embrasure. Its noble and treacherous journey across the great expanse of stone that was the outer wall, filled with endurance, endeavour and resolution, was soon to be halted by my…BANG…fist.

Oh, how dull it all was, Embroidery and harp lessons to look forward to today. And now? How I wished there was something better to do than staring down into the town, gazing over the peasants with their dirty, drab clothes and insignificant little lives…Sir Grabalot and his guards were down there with a captive right now. It was a particularly smelly one with a large flag protruding from his breeches saying ‘Cleanpiece’…

“We found him in the undergrowth, sir, trying to hide!”

“What? With that dirty ruddy great banner sticking out of his arse? I guess he wasn’t so hard to find, eh?” growled Sir Grabalot.

“For nature! For life!” shouted the captive.

“Foul knave! Philipos is scarred for life, thanks to you!” Grabalot slapped him across his pigshit covered face.

“I did my duty, for King and country! The use of Anhydrous ammonia as a fertilizer is an atrocity against nature! What is one man against such a barbarous act! Organic fertilizer forever!” The captive punched the air.

“You are sick! May you burn in hell with all your other green tree hugging long-haired hippy friends!” Grabalot wiped off the shit from his hand on one of the guards’ tunics.

“I am not a hippy! Unhand me this instance!”

“Never!”

A guard broke the exchange. “Sir, we were able to close the valve on the tanks and restore the appropriate pressure.”

“Excellent, Kronos! Nice shine to your helmet, there, man. Duragloss?” asked Grabalot.

“Horse manure, sir,” replied Kronos.

“Ah, yes…”

The captive butted in. “Excuse me, but how is Philipos?”

“What? What is it to you, you snivelling, smelly worm, you?” Grabalot went to slap him again but thought better of it. The guards gave a sigh of relief.

“He’s a third cousin on my wife’s side, twice removed.”

“Mmm. Small kingdom. Well, for your information, we’re hosing him down with some water from the moat and filling him with copious amounts of dark chocolate. For the pain, you know.”

“Quite.”

“No thanks to you! Take him to ‘the Sheriff’!” Grabalot gestured to the guards to move the captive over the drawbridge.

“No! Not ‘the Sheriff’! Anything but ‘the Sheriff’!”

“Oh, yes, ‘the Sheriff’! If he doesn’t clamp you in irons for this heinous crime, he’ll no doubt read you some of his love poetry! Run that up your flagpole and see if anyone salutes it!”

“No! Mummy!”

The guards dragged the screaming captive through the main gate with Sir Grabalot at the fore. Oh goody, some afterlunch entertainment! I haven’t seen one of Daddy’s wonderful literary tortures since Sir Weaver passed through with his Dragon Slaying Knight Epitaph! Oh, this will be such fun, I must put on my best dress for such an occasion.

Bad CinemaAaron Gord

Aaron Gord

“White or dark chocolate?” Amber said holding the two bars out before her.

Jason closed his eyes and thrust his hand out. “Surprise me,” he said with mock sincerity.

Amber dropped the white chocolate onto his upturned palm, knowing that it wasn’t his favorite. “Enjoy,” she said under her breath before turning away.

“You know what?” Jason grunted. “We’ve been stuck in this building for almost a year now. Ever since that damn plague hit. Sometimes I wish we’d gone in the first wave with everyone else. “

“Yeah, because it’d have been so great to have been eaten alive by zombies, right?” Amber groaned. “Now give me a hand with this regulator,” she added while munching on her outdated dark chocolate bar.

“Well at least we wouldn’t be cooped up in this old theater!” Jason snorted while tugging on valve of the fertilizer tank. “And how’s this stuff supposed to grow anyhow? We don’t even have enough light to get the seeds to germinate. And we can barely keep the lights on with you running that stupid Sir Galahad movie over and over again. I mean, those diesel tanks are almost dry. And I don’t wanna make another run for fuel after what happened last time.”

Amber bit her tongue. A year ago, she’d helped her father drag the old anhydrous ammonia tank inside moments before the first wave of undead had crashed against the building. It was his idea to bring the tank. He’d thought it might come in handy in some way.

Jason’s voice broke her reverie. “Think we’ll really be able to get something to grow?” he said, gentler this time.

“I don’t know. But we have to keep trying, right?”

A moment passed as the two stared blankly at each other.

“I’m going upstairs and turn that damn movie off,” Jason said at last. “I can’t believe we got stuck in a theater with only one stinking film on hand.”

“I’ll go with you,” Amber said.   She’d been terrified of being left alone since the outbreak.

Heading up from the basement, the two could hear the wind blowing hard against the building.

“Sounds like a storm’s brew’n,” Jason said, peeking out through the window slats. “The flagpole is swaying like a willow,” he added, his voice trailing off suddenly.

“What is it?”

“Get back downstairs!” Jason shouted, throwing himself against the barred front entrance.

Hearing the terror in his voice Amber ran for the basement.

Behind her erupted the sound of splintering wood, followed by Jason’s agonizing screams.

Slamming the thin basement door shut she backed into the corner, tucking herself behind the ammonia tank.

Above her, the rumble from hundreds of undead feet thrummed like buyers at a Wal-Mart Black Friday sale.

A moment later the fragile door gave way.

Amber’s eyes grew wide as she spun the valve open on the rusted fertilizer tank.

The decaying beasts lunged across the room, their jaws snapping like piranhas.

Striking her lighter, the teenage girl lit a final cigarette before the horde engulfed her.

….The glow from the massive fireball could be seen for miles.

 

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