The Iron Writer Challenge #188 2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #9

The Iron Writer Challenge #188

2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #9

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Vance Rowe, Elaine Johnson, Emma Crowley, Zac Moran, Sozos Theofrastos, David Jobe 

The Elements:

‘And the people bowed and prayed, to the neon god they made.’

The setting is you are at a last place where you were hurt, for the first time since you were hurt.

A homeless child

A slum

Homeless

David Jobe

“You need to come now.” His voice cracks. It never cracks. 

“Am I coming to say goodbye?” I already know the answer. 

“I think you might be.” He starts to sob. He never cries. 

The first time he had said that, it hadn’t been true. The second time, the same words, had been pure gospel. The too few months that existed between those two held a nightmare of heartache and wretched waiting. Of doctor’s visits and house calls. Of hospice and homecomings.  More ups than down than a rollercoaster, with one final inevitable drop. Cancer starts with silence, and so too must it end. 

Standing underneath the halo of a streetlamp I take in the stark difference between the rolling green hills before me and the tattered rundown buildings behind me. I am not lost on the irony that the dead live in a better place than the living here. Once again I wished I had gathered enough money to have her buried in that place up north. I should have sold my car. Something. At least then it had been running. 

I steel myself against the cold and damp, pulling up my collar as I step across the broken cobblestone street into the Pastures of Eternal Paradise. My memory flows back to the last time I was here. We buried her that day. We buried a piece of me with her. The walk to her stone is short, as her eternal resting place is nearer to the road than I like. The grass is unblemished. Coming back here hurts just as much as that day, maybe more. At least then I was not alone. Tonight, my only friend is the darkness. My only solace is the silence.

Up on the nearby hill the church sits in all it grandeur. Marvelous in its splendor, the bright neon blue glow of their cross blinking as a beacon for the lost. The way the gravestones rest on the hill, makes me feel like I stand among hundreds of bowed bodies, praying to the glowing cross. Standing while they kneel, I am reminded of how much of an outsider I am. An only child to an only parent, we had been a team. Us against the world. Only, the world had defeated one of us. Perhaps both of us. Cancer kills more than its host. 

I kneel down to place the flowers that I brought, already wilting. Money is sparse and these were on sale. She won’t care. She never liked me wasting money on flowers anyways. Thrifty my mother had been. We existed on less than I manage now, and she had at least kept a roof over our head. I will never live up to her standard. I am not sure I want to try.

They say that home is where the heart is. What if your heart is buried in the fragile dirt, six lonely feet down? 

Is the graveyard to be my home then? Or am I truly homeless?

The Sound of Silence
Elaine Johnson 

She took a deep breath and walked into the bar, refusing to glance at the side table at the end, the one in the corner that was so private, where people could talk.  Their space.   

It was empty.  He was undoubtedly out, perhaps with another person.  Probably.  It was none of her business, was it?   Of course not.      

It was like riding a bicycle. You just get back on again.   And that was why she was here, waiting for the bartender to finish whatever he was doing so she could order a drink she didn’t really want.       

She pulled out her cell phone, so it didn’t look like she had nothing to do and no one to talk to, and flipped through CNN.com.   Homeless children. A bomb in a slum.   Refugees.  War.  She clicked it off, picked up the menu and flipped through the plethora of food choices.    And desert choices.   And beverages.   She’d steeled herself for this for days.    Here it was.  Just do it.    

Some guy with a guitar in the other corner was playing that old song.   What were the words?   She hummed along to the second stanza, “And the people bowed and prayed, to the neon god they made.”  

She idly swiped through the phone one last time, until the bartender came over.    She smiled and ordered white wine.  Chablis, then settled in her seat, crossed her legs, and flicked the stiletto heel.  Once she’d have pulled out a cigarette, but she’d quit and couldn’t smoke in the bar anyway.     

She kept reminding herself that she was an adult, a lady, and this all-consuming rage was beneath her.   She was an educated, cultured person in control of her emotions.   Fury did not belong.  Let the vindictive spirit pass.  Let the urge to ruin him forever slide off.   The slime ball.  

Two guys walked past her.    She evaluated both and dismissed them, then flicked a strand of hair back.     Twelve years in a relationship.   She felt a wave of panic.   

Instead of drinking her wine as a beautiful mystery woman, she gulped it and signaled for another.    Men.  They drive you crazy and take over your heart and mind and then they tell you they never meant it to happen.     

She lifted her chin.   You just have to keep getting out there, be available.   You never know.   Look at her cousin.   She nodded to thank the bartender and this time really did sip the drink.  She steeled her soul and studied the shimmer on the glass.   He never was coming back, was he? 

Another Victim of the Street

Emma Crowley

I knew I shouldn’t have come back here, but now my body is no longer under my control. It feels as if my feet are being pulled down the road by the devil himself, each step echoing against the crumbling buildings that surround me on either side. Even in the dim glow of the shattered street lamps, I can see long shreds of peeled paint and chipped bricks falling away into the darkness, threatening to pull the whole block into oblivion. Good. If I ever see this slum again, it will be too soon.

My fingers trace a path along the metal fence, one that they had travelled hundreds of times before. Finally, my feet fall still, and I am allowed to take a look around me, not that I want to. From the second the burnt stench of ash hit my nose, my heart had begged me to flee, yet some part of me asks to stay. It is time, that tiny part of me whispers softly, to face it once and for all.

Tears run down my face as I wrap my hands around the metal fence, surveying the charred skeleton of a house that lays just beyond. I can almost still feel the heat of the blaze, hear the screams. My hands clench around the cold metal, but can only feel the chill against my fingertips. Not only had the fire stolen my family from me, but it had also cruelly taken the feeling in my palms, scorched away like the rest of my life.

A sob escapes me, and I fall to my knees on the ashy pavement. Everything and everyone I loved now lay in the ashes that tickle my nose as I gasp for breath. I am alone.

Lights flicker farther down the street, melding from one color to another in an almost alien way. I wipe my eyes, getting to my feet. It seems to be coming from an open garage door a few houses down. Desperate to wipe the blaze from my mind, I go investigate.

Inside I find a drug induced wonderland illuminated by a criss cross of battered neon lights. And the people bowed and prayed, to the neon god they made, or at least their slumped bodies looked that way.  I weave my way through comatose bodies, some with needles still in hand. Something moves, a child. I crouch as I near her, so that my eyes are level with hers.

“Hey, it’s going to be ok. Let’s get you out of here.” I offer a hand, but she doesn’t move, regarding me with scared eyes. 

“Are you hungry?” I try again, but to no avail. “Are these people your family?” She shakes her head.

“Do you have family?” Again she shakes her head. I sigh, looking down at the ground. 

“Me either.”

When I look back up at her, she has pulled the blanket from her face. “I’m hungry.” Her voice is barely louder than a whisper.

I reach for her hand again, and this time she takes it. I’m not letting this street ruin another life.

Graveyard/Disturbed

Soz Theo

The unyielding, deafening, sounds of silence that slumber in this once sacred space hold no visible hint of the debauchery, hedonism and chaos that had thrived in defiance within her walls.

He had but only thought of this place for the last twenty years. Now, finally returning, Malcolm stands alone within this once teaming skeleton, long since abandoned and left to decay among the surrounding slums. 

Turning slowly, he absorbs as much as he can while reflecting on his surroundings, searching for remnants of himself, certain that they must be imprinted upon her walls. Even now, as in his memory, as in her prime, she’s a seductive siren. He had always loved this floor, without the roof they had rhythmically writhed, exposed, as the sun, and sometimes the rain, beat down on them in tandem with the hypnotic beat. 

Still she has managed to stand, a silent witness to the mischief and mayhem that were the psychedelic tapestry of a misguided youth. It was here upon her floor that Love had flowed, without boundaries, uninhibited, often induced; this place had encouraged mass elation and ecstasy.

This is where his heart had been broken for the first and last time. He has returned to face this place, to face her, to face himself. Closing his eyes, Malcolm succumbs, allowing the unedited memory to envelop him; reality unfolds around him, dissipating with each deep, slowed, deafening breath; venturing back to when he was an enslaved, entranced, water drinking wraith, ululating in time to the emanating energy and cacophony of sweat, bodies, smoke, alcohol and altered minds.

Their generation was one which had undertaken the meaning of life though ironic antonymy, Malcolm had been one of its most fervent followers, forcing music into submission and invoking unity through the sharing of consecrated chemical experience. But not even the most fervent follower was prepared for the realities of that day.

It had been a scorching summer, the blazing sunlight bore down upon the pulsating party, primed to create nostalgia. They prepared for the festivities with the ritualistic meticulousness which accompanied the style of the scene. Top to toe perfection, a mass of stories to be told, and all in attendance, players there to play.  

The day had been full of promise, the people had bowed and prayed to the neon god they had made, as torrents of enchantment emanated from the speakers and connected directly with their souls. But betrayal was brewing in the air, a love too long harboured, and a friend named traitor forever after, were about to destroy the sanctity of this spiritual home. It had hurt. Fort twenty years, through the tears and pain a promise was made and kept with the words, Never Again.

He has never returned to this place until today, a child without a home, having never faced his circumstance or actions, dead inside, never allowing himself joy, happiness, love. A single moment, a lifetime of pain, a symphony of monotony. With his eyes closed, locked in memory, his hand fastened tightly around the handle of the gun, Malcolm says “I love you and I want closure…”

Bloody Memoir

Vance Rowe

“I can’t believe I am back here again.”

“Is this where it happened?” the journalist asked as he scribbled something down in his notebook.

“Yes… it is,” he replied with a sigh.

“Tell me about it.”

“Look at this place. I can’t believe how much it changed. This place used to be a slum. I-I-It was the heart of the ghetto. Now it is luxury apartments. Unbelievable.”

“How old were you when it happened?” the journalist asked, getting somewhat impatient.

 “Look at these people around here. All dressed in suits and nice clothes. People like this used to get mugged and robbed here and now they own it,” he responded, interrupting the journalist.

“Is this the first time you been here since it happened?”

“Yes. It will be the last too.”

“Tell me about it, Jim. What exactly happened that caused you so much hurt?” the journalist pleaded. “This is an important story for your memoir.”

Jim looked at the building and remembered the hurt. He vividly remembered the night his father came home drunk and when his mother got mad, they fought. His father beat his mother like she was a bad habit. This wasn’t the first time either. Finally she had had enough. She pulled a large knife from a drawer and began stabbing him furiously. The floor where he lay was covered in blood. Her face and hands were covered in the crimson liquid as well. 

“I ran from the apartment and banged on my neighbor’s door. When she saw me crying and pointing at my apartment, she walked to it and was horrified when she saw my mother still stabbing the dead body. She ran back to the apartment and called the police. They came and took her away. I guess she went to some hospital because she had lost her mind.”

“Jim, that’s awful. I am so sorry.”

“I still can’t listen to the song the “Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel. It was on the radio when my neighbor answered her door. I remember staring at her radio when the line ‘The people bowed and prayed, to the neon god they made’ and wished there was a god to come and help me.”

“That is when you became homeless?”

“Yes, sir. The police tried to take me but I ran from them and hid for several days. I was twelve years old and was homeless for the first and last time in my life.”

“You eventually were found, right?”

“Yeah, the police found me sleeping behind some garbage cans one night. They brought me to child services and was soon put in a foster home. I prospered there and went to school and then college, determined to make a better life for myself. I did. I became a famous author and now here we are.”

“This is going to be quite a memoir. You will have to tell me about your life in foster care too.”

“I will but that’s another chapter for another day. I am whipped right now.”

“After reliving that part of your childhood, I completely understand. We will pick this up tomorrow, my friend.”

Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood

Zac Moran

Los Angeles, CA – November, 2061

A line of tarp and plywood huts lined the concrete river bank next to a set of rusted train tracks.

I run messages for a living. Not the best job for a thirteen-year-old, but it keeps a roof over my head. Not that the orphanage has much of a roof. There is one major downside of the job though. I’m usually getting shot at.

A boy climbed down from the second story of a caved in building on the other side of the tracks. He crept towards the hovels and a few small animals scattered.

This was home for a while, but I haven’t been here since my parents and I were caught in the soldier’s crossfire. My parents didn’t make it. Damn war.

The boy walked into the hut and sat down amongst the rubble. He glanced around the small room.

I’m surprised it’s still standing. There was a lot of explosions. Wait, is that my music player? These are easy to come by, but it’s hard to get one with music on it. Mine had all the best songs. I wonder…

“And the people bowed and prayed, to the neon god they made!” came a voice from the device.

“What was that?” said a voice outside.

Son of a-

“It came from over there!”

Multiple sets of heavy boot steps drew close to the shelter. The boy bolted through a small hole in the back, but was grabbed by his shirt and pulled up.

“I’ve got him. Looks like a runner!” yelled the man who had grabbed him. The guy was wearing a bulky vest and carrying a rifle in his other hand.

Great. Alliance troops.

Another soldier came around from the front of the shack.

“Well look at this. So what kinda message you carrying?”

A message for Nun’ya. Nun’ya Business.

The boy kicked the shack, which fell over in a cloud of dust. Then he pulled a knife out of his belt and buried it in the soldier’s arm. He was promptly dropped as the soldier howled. Without hesitation, the boy sprinted across the train tracks and into the building. 

He turned a corner inside and ran down the hall. Hearing the other soldier closing in behind him, he jumped, put one foot on the wall, and bounced off the wall towards a hole in the ceiling. He grabbed onto the ledge and pulled himself up in one fluid motion. He continued running and heard several bursts from the floor below, followed by holes exploding in the floor around him.

They always resort to bullets. Can’t ever have an honest race with these guys.

The boy sprinted to the end of the hall and dived through the broken window into the next building over. He then proceeded to the top of the building and made his way over several rooftops before he stopped, ducked down, and looked back. He saw the soldier exit the first building and go back to help the one with the knife in his arm. Shortly, a medical vehicle picked them up.

Yeah, get out of my neighborhood.

  

The Iron Writer Challenge #172, 2016 Summer Open Challenge #9

bridle

The Iron Writer Challenge #172

2016 Summer Open Challenge #9

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

  Authors:

D. Lee Cox, Harry Craft, Zac Moran, Amy Topol

The Elements:

A flaming spittoon

A herd of buffalo

An inscribed gravestone

A ancient gold horse bridle

Jim McLandry – Bronco Ridin’ DandyLee Cox

D. Lee Cox

He shuffled into the kitchen and flopped down into the chair, his arm draped over the table.

“I see you’ve spent the evening at the saloon?” Margaret said, turning to him, wiping her hands.

“Dear, the Flaming Spittoon is no mere saloon, it is a fine establishment for men of great character and daring.”

“Jim, its a saloon. Its a nasty, dank, smoked up saloon.”

“AAAAnnny way… so this fellah comes in, all dressed in black, bowler hat, little red feather stuck in the band. He comes up beside me and orders a scotch.”

“The Spittoon hasn’t had scotch in years.”

“I know, right? So I turn to the fella and inform him of his faux pas. He turns and smiles right at me – you know why?”

“I cant imagine.”

“He recognizes me from Bill Cody’s show! Can you believe it? Its been what, 20years? Says, ‘Aren’t you Jim Landry, The Bronco Breaking Dandy, from Buffalo Bill’s?’

“Now mind you I’m surprised, but I just stuck out my hand for a shake.

“So’s this fellow proceeds to tell me about how he followed the show for years and always wanted to meet me!

“We get to talking and he tells me this story about some Roman named Julius somethin-Tavius ridin’ broncs back in the day. Seems this Tavius fellah took a challenge from one of those gods they had and road this bronc, Abraxas, for 2 days. So’s this Julius somethin-Tavius fellah wins a golden bridle from the boss god.

“’Well, shoot,’ I says, ‘I once road a wild buffalo in its herd for seven days across the plains’

“Jim, you did not ride a wild buffalo across the plains…”

“Dammit, Maggie, I did, I tell ya!”

“Jim, you went on a bender in Sioux City and woke up in a livery car in Junction Flats.”

“AAAAnnny way… so’s this gentleman offers to by me a REAL whiskey and makes me a wager: that golden bridle against my soul says I couldn’t ride some pony named Phobos.

Margaret’s eyes got wide.

“Jim, you didn’t… I mean, surely you didn’t…”

“Why you know I did! I aint ever backed away from a wager!”

“Oh god, Jim…”

“Fella had me sign some paper. His pen musta had a burr in it cause it pricked my finger, got a little blood on the parchment.”

He trailed off, murmuring about saddles and beer.

Margaret put him to bed shortly after.

She sat down at the kitchen table and lit a cigarette.

She reached for the telephone on the wall.

“Laura? Can you get me Ted McLandry over in Brindly?”

A click, then a tin voice from the receiver, “Hello?”

“Ted? Margaret. Listen, remember how I went ahead and paid you for your cousins tombstone, just leaving the date blank? Yeah, well, go ahead and make it for tomorrow. I’ll explain later.”

The JokeHarry Craft

Harry Craft

As he sat on the porch, Luke lit his pipe. After the first couple of puffs, he tossed the match into the spittoon nearby. Instead of the match fizzling out in the spit, a spurt of flame shot upward. In a few moments, the spittoon was flaming. Another one of Zeke’s practical jokes, Luke thought. Zeke had probably poured whiskey into the spittoon to make the contents flammable. Typical.

After finishing his pipe, Luke walked over to the stable. He passed the family cemetery, filled with headstones of his grandparents and other kin. Luke arrived at the stable, saddled and bridled his horse, and rode off towards town. In the distance he could see a small herd of buffalo. Used to be lots more of ‘em. Shame.

After about an hour, Luke arrived at the trading post. He walked over to the counter to ask for some necessities when he noticed a gold-colored bridle hanging from the wall. “What’s that?” he asked the storekeeper.

“That, sir, is an ancient golden bridle, owned by Alexander the Great himself!” Luke glowered skeptically. The shopkeeper laughed. “Of course it’s not! It’s not even real gold—just cleverly painted. I keep it to dress up the shop a bit.”

Luke smiled slightly. “How much do you want for it?” At first, the shopkeeper was unwilling to sell it—“decorative”, he said—but finally after some haggling, Luke bought it for $2.50. He went out, placed the goods he’d bought in the saddlebags, and switched the bridle his horse was wearing for the “golden” bridle.

When Luke arrived home, Zeke was sitting on the porch, smiling. Luke knew Zeke was hoping the spittoon fire had annoyed him, but he ignored Zeke, instead slowing his horse down to make sure Zeke saw the shiny gold of the bridle. Slightly irritated that Luke hadn’t taken the bait, but noticing the bridle, Zeke said, “Hey, where’d you get that fancy bridle?”

“Ain’t nothing to speak of. Just saw it at the trading post and liked it,” Luke told his brother in a casual voice. Luke kept his face totally straight. He was naturally prickly and temperamental. Being low-key would immediate make Zeke suspicious. In fact, exactly this happened. Zeke came down from the porch and walked up to Luke as he took the saddle and bridle off the horse.

“Hey, is there something special about that bridle?”

“I told you—it ain’t nothing.” Luke hung the bridle on the wall.

“You’re actin’ funny, Luke. Is this here bridle something special?”

“Never you mind!” growled Luke in what he hoped sounded like real anger. He turned his back on Zeke and headed back towards the house. Zeke remained behind, staring at the bridle.

Luke could barely suppress a grin. He knew Zeke. Tomorrow he’d surreptitiously take the bridle to town, convinced it was worth a fortune. Luke could imagine his face when the shopkeeper laughed at him. Finally a payback for all Zeke’s jokes!

He Always Had a Plan

Amy Topol

We found the horse bridle next to a poisoned pond. We knew it was poisoned because a kerchief hung on a tree branch over the pond. Also, the dead horse was a giveaway. The bridle was still attached to its bones, but Joe was never squeamish about these things. He just took it off and held it up to let it catch the sun.

“It’s pure gold, Bill. We’ve got to sell it,” Joe said as we walked back towards town. Joe always had plans, mostly bad ones, but this seemed to make sense.

We went to see a short, squat toad of a man who bought and sold things. He looked over the bridle. “Fake,” he said and spit into a brass spittoon that had a herd of buffalo engraved on its side.

“Not,” said Joe, as if he knew. Right or wrong never mattered to him. He chose his side and stuck with it.

The toad raised an eyebrow and stared Joe down. He wasn’t going to give in to a kid. I saw a bead of sweat slide down the toad’s brow and that’s when I knew. This time, Joe stood on the side of right.

“Ten,” said the toad.

Joe put out his hand, “We’ll take our business elsewhere.”

The toad gripped the bridle tighter with one hand and put his other hand on his holster and said, “How about you move along, boy.”

You know that queasy feeling you get right before things go bad wrong? Well, right at that moment, I had it.

On account of Joe’s bad plans, I always had a backup. In this case, a kerchief tied around a piece of wood and some dry leaves in one pocket and a match in the other.

I lit my makeshift smoke bomb and tossed it into the spittoon. It worked fine, ‘til the toad messed it all up. The idiot stumbled through the smoke and knocked a kerosene lamp into the spittoon. The whole thing went up in a flaming mess.

I ran for the door and screamed for Joe, but Joe ran for the bridle. The last thing I saw was Joe and the toad in a tug-of-war with the bridle. The room filled with smoke as someone snatched me out of the store by the back of my shirt.

I went back after the crown left but before the ashes had a chance to cool and dug out what was left of the bridle. No one paid attention to a kids like us…well, like me.

Joe ended up in a potter’s field, since he had no family. I took the bridle and buried it on top of Joe while the dirt was still fresh and loose. Joe deserved better than what he got in this life, so I made a new plan. A better plan than Joe or I ever had, I think.

When I get older, old enough for people to take me seriously, I’ll dig up that bridle and sell it. Then I’ll get him a real headstone that says “Here lies Joe. He always had a plan.”

Overseers

Zac Moran

Valriya slipped on the virtual reality helmet, encasing her head in total darkness.

Screens in front of her eyes lit up. Images of blue skies filled her vision and the sound of wind harmonized with the grass around her. There was a snort nearby. She stood up and found herself surrounded by a herd of grazing buffalo.

“Menu,” she said.

A screen appeared in front of her. She tapped a button labeled “See Others.”

Ghostly images of her friends and the other people in the auditorium shimmered into view. They were all interacting with the scenery and buffalo.

Valriya tapped the button again and they faded away. Another button and the menu vanished as well.

“Two thousand years ago, in the year 1843, bison hunting was a booming trade,” said a disembodied voice.

Shots rang out and two buffalo toppled over. The herd didn’t react.

“Bison hunters could earn enough to retire after just a couple years of work,” said the voice, “Of course, they had plenty of help from the Sham’Kon. Our great leaders from Heaven.”

A large metallic ship flew into view above Valriya and the herd. The ship’s belly opened. Valriya and the dead bison flew up into the ship and the doors closed beneath her feet. She peered around and saw a painting on the wall of a golden horse bridal draped over a gravestone. Below the painting was an inscription.

PRETTY FALSEHOODS ENSLAVE YOU TO THEIR WILL

“What the hell?” said Valriya

“Well hello there little lady,” said a voice behind her.

She spun around to see a man leaning against a nearby bulkhead.

“Hello! This is a beautiful Sham’Kon vessel!”

The man shot a mouthful of brown liquid into a nearby spittoon, which then caught ablaze.

“Um, should that be on fire?” Valriya asked.

He walked over to her.

“You wanna tour?” he asked, his head twitching sporadically.
“Aw, man,” said Valriya. “The helmet must be glitching. Menu.”

The menu popped up, but the only option available was “See Others.” She tapped it.

The buffalo lying on the floor of the cargo hold shimmered as their shape changed to that of her friend’s corpses.

Valriya screamed.

The hunter grabbed her shoulders.

“We were not meant to be slaves!” he yelled.

Valriya struggled against his grip.

“The Sham’Kon are false gods! Wake up!” yelled the hunter, “Wake up!”

The helmet came off Valriya’s head.

“Val, wake up!” yelled Erixa, shaking Valriya’s shoulders.

“What’s wrong?” asked Ryliea, holding Valriya’s helmet.

Other people in the auditorium were murmuring.

Valriya grabbed onto Erixa and hugged her, tears streaming down her face.

“The hunter shot the bison, but you guys were the bison,” Valriya said between sobs, “And there was a painting and he said the Sham’Kon are false gods.”

“This helmet is clearly malfunctioning,” said a voice behind the girls. They looked to see a gray humanoid figure towering over them.

“We, the Sham’Kon, have been your benevolent caretakers since the dawn of time. Now, may I have that helmet so no others will be traumatized?”

No,” thought Valriya, but Ryliea was already handing it over.

TIWC members, please vote here.

The Iron Writer Challenge #160 – 2016 Spring Open Challenge #8

The Iron Writer Challenge #160

2016 Spring Open Challenge #8

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Maureen Larter, Zac Moran, Dani J. Caile, Emmy Gatrell

The Elements:

Main character is Ozymandias

“Do you need me?” (must be in the prose)

“What to you is worth killing for, and also worth dying for?| (Must be in the prose)

A mouse

Bravery Knows No BoundsMaureen Larter

Maureen Larter

“Do you need me?’ The question squeaked out rather tremulously.

Rasputin laughed. He looked around at the rest of his friends, standing behind him. They grinned and took a step forward menacingly.

“What an earth could you, Squirt, help us with?” Rasputin brought his head down and twitched his nose. His eyes seemed large and evil, but Ozy stood his ground. His meek demeanor had worked. The rats were nearly in the ambush zone.

“I didn’t call for you! ” Rasputin continued. “Just get out of our way!”

Ozy took a deep breath and stood as high as his tiny frame would allow.

“My name is Ozymandias!” he said, his voice getting louder as he dredged up every last bit of courage within him. “My home is under threat by you – I thought you might listen to reason, but I have every right to stand and fight.”

Rasputin flung out a paw and knocked Ozy to the ground.

‘Nothing!’ he stated. “Nothing is worth dying for!” The rats at his back enthusiastically nodded in unison.

“However,” he grinned maliciously. “To take over this part of the sewers I consider worth killing for!”

Ozy scrambled to his feet and backed up a couple of steps. He turned and scampered into the shadows.

Rasputin and his rat brigade advanced another few feet.

Suddenly, from all around them, jumping from the rocks and stone walls, they were besieged by thousands of mice. They crawled and kicked, scratched and bit. The rats cowered as if beaten, until with great reluctance, many of them, trying desperately to rid themselves of the insistent and annoying creatures, ran back into the depths of the underground tunnels from which they had come.

Rasputin yelled and swore.

“Come back and fight, you cowards!”

A small mouse stood before him and roared – his voice no longer a squeak of fear.

“All bullies are cowards!” He said. “But my home is worth defending unto death! Remember this name – Ozymandias – and know that I will vanquish you – so – never. never come back.”

Rasputin didn’t have any choice! Several mice clambered over him, and eventually, by entering through an unblinking eye, Rasputin was brought down!

Bram

Emmy Gatrell

Ozymandias looked over his bustling kingdom as he listened to the shuffled footsteps echoing through the vacant throne room. He could have shouted to his loyal servant and mentor, halted the old man’s agonizing path, but the rhythmic tap swish-swish of his cane and billowing robes gave the Pharaoh a sense of calm and peace he needed.

The room was adorned as a God’s should be. Incense burning in the four corners hid the scent of death in the air. Torches lined the walls highlighting the various artwork depicting his battles, victories, and achievements; but his favorite piece was a carved bust of Queen Nefertiti. She was beauty, intelligence, and grace defined; perfection itself bestowed upon the world and would soon leave it, and him, behind.

The thought of missing her inevitable last breath had Ozymandias turning from the window and hurrying to his servant bringing a smile to his weathered face and a sigh from his lips. He waited for Ozymandias to speak and grew more confused as it looked like for the first time in his life, his master was at a loss for words.

“Do you need me?” Ezekiel prompted meekly.

“More now than ever my old friend.” Ozymandias looked to the right of the throne where Nefertiti lay surrounded by their six children and her loyal servants.

“She will be welcomed by the Gods with open arms. Her tomb is the grandest I have ever seen, befitting the Queen of Egypt…” He hesitated to do what he wanted. No one dared touch a God among them, but he still saw the little boy and his brother that he taught to read, helped mold into men, and loved as his own. He lifted his claw-like arthritic hand, and gently placed it on Ozymandias’s shoulder. “She shall not suffer much longer—”

“What to you is worth dying for?”

“You,” Ezechiel answered without hesitation.

“Worth killing for?”

“I suppose I could whip up a poison.”

A rare smile crossed the Pharaoh’s lips, “No.” Ezekiel shrugged earning another small smile. “I want you to go with Nefertiti to the afterlife. I need to know she’s being cared for by someone I trust.”

“It will be my honor,” Ezekiel eyes filled with tears. “But, no killing or sacrifice. I want you to have Bram.”

Ozymandias raised a painted brow but, “Father,” was shouted from Nefertiti’s chamber before he could object. Instead, he nodded his agreement then ran to his wife’s side.

Ezekiel watched Ozymandias disappear within the room and took out a small hunk of bread he had hidden in his robes and held it in front of another hidden pocket.

There was a little squeak before a tiny gray mouse ran up his chest and then perched on Ezekial’s shoulder eagerly awaiting breakfast. Bram ate happily until a heartbreaking cry filled the chamber and time seemed to stop.

“He’ll need you now,” Ezekiel whispered before offering his prayer to the Gods for his fallen Queen.

Schemes of Gods

Zac Moran

“Son, do not mourn for me. I go to be with the gods, for I am chosen by Ra,” said Ramasses, his breathe growing shallow.

“You have taught me so much. I will miss you,” said Amun, sitting at his father’s bedside.

“I will watch over you,” Ramasses paused to breathe, “from the heavens.”

Ramasses’ eyes closed and his last breathe left him.

Amun exited the death chamber and addressed his people.

“My father, the great and powerful pharaoh, Ramasses II, has ascended to the heavens!”

Ramasses opened his eyes and sat up on his deathbed.

“Your people are quite upset that you’ve left them,” came a voice.

“I would never leave my people behind!” said Ramasses, “Who’s there?”

“Tell me, Pharaoh, what to you is worth killing for, and also worth dying for?” asked the voice.

“I would fight and die for the protection of Egypt and it’s people. Who are you?”

“Very good. Then I need you to steal something from the goddess Isis. She slipped a toxin into my drink and has offered the antidote in return for my true name. This would give her great power over me, but the poison will not harm me.”

A painting of Ra on the far wall moved to look at Ramasses. His eyes widened and he bowed.

“Great and powerful Ra, pardon me for not recognizing you.”

“All is forgiven. Now rise, Ramasses. Gods do not bow to one another. Will you do this task for me?”

“Why do you need me though?” asked Ramasses

“I do not wish Isis to know that her scheme failed and she has defenses around her quarters to alert her to the presence of other gods. But you are a new god and she won’t have prepared for you yet.”

Ra stepped out of the wall painting and shared his knowledge of Isis’ complex with Ramasses; telling him how to get in, steal the antidote, and leave undetected. Ramasses left his tomb and traveled to Isis’ palace. With no wall surrounding the grounds, Ramasses could see numerous guardians roaming the area, including a sphinx.

Ramasses stepped into the outskirts of the grounds and a large shadow loomed up behind him.     He turned around to see a one-hundred foot tall Isis standing over him. She laughed and the ground shook under Ramasses’ feet.

“You thought to come like a mouse in the night to fatten yourself upon my grains of wheat? Did you think it so easy to steal from me?” bellowed Isis.

“I am the god Ramasses and you will give me what I came here for!” he yelled up at Isis.

“Ooo, you’re the new one. I was wondering when you’d join us,” said Isis as she shrunk down to Ramasses’ size.

“I was sent by Ra to-”

“Yes, yes, the antidote. Here,” interrupted Isis as she handed over a small vial. She then proceeded to walk around Ramasses, looking him up and down.

“Take it back to Ra now. I’ll have use of you later.”

“I will not be used as a tool!” said Ramasses.

“Oh, you’ve just begun to learn the schemes of gods.”

King of KingsDani-J-Caile

Dani J Caile

Deep in the temple of Abu Simbel, the spirit of a long-gone Pharoah hovered over the rock floor of the vestibule, meditating.

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings…!”

He wasn’t alone. The spirit of a mummified mouse rested against a pillar.

“Yes, yes, king of kings. Whatever. How many times will you say that tonight?”

“I will say it as many times as I like because I am… king of kings! Look on my…!” he boomed through the corridors.

“Do you need me? Can I go?”

Through forces unknown to him, he was cursed for eternity with this rodent by the ignorance of his peers.

“Now I come to think of it, I guess not. When you’re alive, you don’t know the things you know when you’re dead, like gods are a figment of the imagination and fear, a conditioning construct of society to control and manipulate, a non-existent entity that…”

“You do go on, don’t you,” said the mouse, now scurrying about, twitching its nose.

“And especially animal gods. Why they thought a mouse was a god, I have no idea.”

“Why not? We are majestic creatures!” It stood on its hind legs, head held high.

“You’re a pest. Go away.”

“I would if I could but I can’t. Your people put me here, therefore I am forever linked to you.”

“My name is Ozymandias, king of…!”

“Why do you do this every night? No one’s listening.”

“What else is there to do?” he said, scratching his ear.

“Find a way out?”

“You do realise why my spirit, and yours, is stuck on this rock, don’t you?”

“Yes. The men you killed hold us here.”

“For my sins, yes.”

“You shouldn’t have killed them, then.”

“What else does a Pharoah do?” he asked.

“Needs must, huh?” The mouse went back to twitching.

“Exactly.”

“So you had to kill all those people?”

“Yes. For the life I received, the life of a king, a living god, it was all worth it.”

“Even though your spirit will now be stuck in here forever?”

“Okay, okay, with a little hindsight, I may have been a touch more merciful.”

“You could’ve joined your queens in eternity,” said the mouse, pointing to the paintings surrounded by hieroglyphs.

“Yes… Oh, Nefetari, dear Nefetari, she was one hell of a gal. Worth dying for.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really. A question to you, ‘mouse’. What to you is worth killing for, and also worth dying for?”

“Ooo, a deep one, I’ll have to think… erm… a lump of cheese.”

“Oh, please.” A ‘meow’ echoed through the temple. “Finally!”

“What was that?”

“Meet, Bastet, goddess of warfare.”

“What? A cat? Where has that been for the past thousand years?”

“She had nine lives. Guess it took her this long to die in the mummification process.”

The spirit of a cat entered the vestibule.

“Oh crap,” said the mouse, being chased by the cat.

“Have fun! Now where was I? Oh yes. My name is Ozymandias, king of kings…!”

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