The Iron Writer Challenge 100
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
White chocolate or dark chocolate?
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.
‘Yeah, I’m kinda proud of it.’
‘You made this?’
‘Gotta do something. You play?
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.
‘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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
“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!”
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.
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.”
“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!”
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.
“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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