Archive for category Group Fiction

Remaking the world

The woman smiled. She had conquered the Phoenix, ruler of all other birds, and forced her to masquerade as Jujak, the Vermillion Bird. The Azure Dragon, Cheongryong, had helped her capture the Phoenix and had given her the power to control it. She stood between Cheongryong and the Phoenix in front of a crowd of people. The plan was in motion.

Cheongryong had come to her as a girl, had read her heart and given her the power she desired. It corresponded with the portents that had surrounded her birth. She would rise to greatness and ruination, they had said.

She had the combined might of the East and South at her disposal. Cheongryong was dealing with the actual Jujak and would return in time, once the bird was ready to be conquered. She was free of the direct influence of the gods and was ready to move on her own.

The West was next, where the White Tiger dwelt. He was clever among the gods and his priests were clever among men, though she refused to count herself among men any longer. She was something more.

“Please,” she begged. “I must speak to him directly.” She knelt in supplication before the priest of the White Tiger.

The priest frowned at her. “He knows that your Phoenix is not the same as the Jujak of the South, though he knows not what you have done with her.”

She lay down on the ground, prostrate. “The Dragon came to me when I was a child. He said he brought my destiny. Who could spurn such an offer?”

A white tiger, Baek-ho himself, came from behind a screened panel, huffing through its lips. Twice the size of any living cat, he passed the priest and sniffed the air above the girl, drawing his lips back. “Rise,” he said, the whisper filling the room. “You speak the truth.”

She stayed on her knees, vulnerable to the god. “I come to ask for help,” she said. “His plan would have me conquer the gods, I ask instead for your help in defeating him.”

Baek-ho sniffed at her again. “What boon would you ask from me, and what would you give in return?”

“I ask half your power. I have no boon from Jujak, I have only the aid of you and the Hyeonmu to defeat the Dragon. I have nothing to give you but an oath that I will never seek to harm you.”

Baek-ho laid his head on top of hers and conferred his blessing. With it was the inability to use his own powers against himself, but her heart had spoken true. She meant him no harm.

Her meeting with the Black Turtle, Hyeonmu, was next. He was more cautious, but the fact that she already had the blessing of Baek-ho swayed him. The pieces were in play, now she had but to wait. Cheongryong would return at the end of winter. His powers would be in ascendancy. Jujak would still be weak. Until then she would learn about the powers she had gained. Hyeonmu was a wellspring of strength and protection and she learned spells that drew on this energy to keep other attacks at bay. Baek-ho was fierce but silent, waiting for the perfect moment to spring out of the grass and attack its prey.

The days were still cold when Cheongryong returned. “It is time,” he said. “We must strike now before she gains any strength. Take my power, strike her down.” He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead, imbuing her with nearly all of his power.

The Turtle within her stirred, drawing excess power to hide in its shell. The Tiger hid away, waiting to pounce and restrain the rest of the power within her. She climbed onto the dragon’s back, Phoenix at her side, and rode him to the Other Place where Jujak waited and railed against her captivity.

She stood before the bird, flanked by her immortal friends. “Why do you fight so hard?” she asked. “Is it not easier to rest? Save your strength. You will need it for when you escape.”

“You will never let me escape,” the bird screeched at her.

“I cannot live forever,” she pointed out. “Surrender. Give me your power willingly, we will save a long fight that neither of us wish to have.”

The bird puffed up and fluttered her wings before realizing the truth this girl spoke. She bowed her head and tore off one feather from a wing then passed it to the human before her. “Rule well, mortal. Pray for your death before my escape.”

She could feel the power surging in her. She turned on Cheongryong and threw him into the cage as well. He could no longer draw his power back from her.

“What are you doing?” he cried. “This wasn’t the plan!”

“This was the plan,” she said. “Your other friends will join you. You won’t be here long.” She climbed astride the Phoenix and returned to her home.

Sending the two remaining gods to the prison was simple, neither could withstand her might. She had not gone back on her word, imprisoning them caused them no harm and she only planned it as a temporary captivity.

As a child she had seen bodies lying in the streets. Murder. Rape. The world was broken. When the Azure Dragon had come, whispering in her ear of power and destiny, she embraced it. She had learned his weaknesses the same as she would for any other enemy. She had exploited him and usurped the powers offered, following her human nature. And now she would do as all other humans seemed to do: destroy.

Her reach was vast. How long it had seemed for her plans to come to this. She cared not for the power to remake the world in her image. She was of this Earth, after all, and if it burned she would burn with it. And so began the destruction.

She had been true to her word, the gods had not been mistreated or imprisoned for long. With nobody to believe in them they were weak when the bars fell from their prison. Their world had been destroyed, there was nothing left for them.


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A Pigment of Your Imagination Challenge

Pick a color.

Use it in a flash piece.

Less that 1000 words.

This will be due on the 11th of October and we can discuss it on the 18th.

Also, we are meeting in West Port on the 18th as well.

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Butcher Your Own Cliche

Pick a cliche.

Butcher it to the best of your ability in less than 1000 words.

Post it privately or publicly here before the 13th of September so we can play the game the 20th.

Edit: A little help suggested by Carolyn:

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Sometimes You Have To Kill Your Darlings

You’ll find Ramona first. A porcelain doll holding a maple ukulele alone in the first subway car. Skin painted and cold, the paleness will contrast the dark color of her stained red lips. The chiffon prom dress straight from the fifties will be as white as her now lifeless skin. Bloodied lips, a large belted sash, and her shoes will scream a red so fierce your ears will ring. The ringing will almost keep you from noticing the little cuts, the hundreds of little pale cuts, no longer bleeding, that made her scream for so long. I digress. This story starts earlier than what remains of Ramona’s lifeless body.

I put the dead body in the first paragraph. I was told to do it. There are rules that must be followed after all. Introductions must be made. Attention must be grabbed. Beginnings are more important than most people realize.

The urge will come upon me slowly. The desire will be masked at first. I won’t notice the little things. I’ll be easily irritated, overly emotional. New hobbies or crafts will start to appear shiny. Food, exercise, and sex won’t satisfy. The longing, a craving, I won’t be able to satisfy it without creating. And suddenly I’ll know that it is time to kill again.

Once I know it is time to to create I will start looking for ideas. I might flip through old notebooks to review past ideas or look for new ones elsewhere. I’ll hang out in interesting places and watch engaging people. I’ll read some new books or maybe see a movie. The key at this stage is keeping my mind open to any ideas that might be worth pursuing. Eventually though, an idea will grow. It will stick.

I don’t like to think of myself as having a type, but I must have one. I can’t even say that I understand what it is I’m looking for. It might be the way she smiles, a look, or maybe a particular turn of phrase that finally catches my attention. I do know that when I find her she’ll have a sparkle, an energy. She’ll be ripe with potential to change the world.

I’ll want to know all I can about the particular idea I have chosen. I’ll learn all the general and topological information. Then I’ll learn the history and patterns that led up to it, but that won’t be enough. I’ll dig deeper. I’ll want to know intimate information, sensory details that will bring the story to life when it is read.

Ramona Darling busked the dirty sidewalk of 39th and Pine just outside the entrance to the subway. She plucked and strummed that maple 6 string ukulele and sang with all she was. Lullabies, chanteys, pop songs and 80’s ballads fought the cacophony of that intersection struggling to live for just moments in the air above the noise. Dirty dollars and loose change would find their way into her case as the people walked by. They heard the music but they didn’t see her. They didn’t see the story that I saw.

Once I am satisfied with my research I start playing with the structure. I try to figure out what message I am trying to get out of my mind with this particular work. I discover the parts of the plot, the theme, and the characters and work to put them in an order that makes sense, that tell the story I can see and feel in my head.

Getting started can be tricky, but getting all the way to the end and finishing I believe is the hardest part. It wasn’t hard to get Ramona alone. When she woke in the room of the abandoned subway she was already bound and helpless. It took me days to carve the words into her flesh.  Just keeping her alive long enough to get all the words carved into her skin was a challenge, but then arranging her in the subway car without anyone seeing the show too early was also trick. I worked to get everything set up exactly as I had envisioned.

You don’t have to get it exactly right the first time. This is very important to remember, especially if you are new to this. I remind myself of this often. Don’t cripple yourself with self-doubt and fear. You can tweak the process as you learn more and gain experience. You can start fresh and rework this story as often as you like. Revise and edit it until you are satisfied.

I really just wasn’t satisfied with the way Ramona’s story turned out. Something was just not right. I feel like maybe there was more to her story than her skin allowed, more than I managed to tell. Maybe it was her eyes. I think they should have been blue. I am just not sure.

Be confident in yourself. I have a long way to go in my craft before all the parts come together. I’ll find the right story and the approach that works for me someday. I’ll just keep at it until I do.

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State of Gray

I froze on the sidewalk while Tyler kept his eyes glued to his phone, halfheartedly pulling me along. Out of a mixture of stubborn defiance and fear, I refused to move. I raised my arm and pointed but Tyler wouldn’t look up to see what I was pointing to. “There…Th” I pushed through my chattering teeth and shaking lips. A dark skinned man, puffy locks of hair covering his face, lay on the ground motionless. The air around him was cold. “Come on, it’s probably some passed out drunk” Tyler says in an annoyed tone and yanks me harder to make me follow him. Did Tyler really not think he was dead? Or did he not care?

Tyler was the type of man that didn’t like to be inconvenienced, so after working a 12 hour day, he wasn’t about to let some “passed out drunk” stop him from going home sooner. I knew this about him, hell, I even enabled this behavior, but something about it today disturbed me to my core.

I decided I wouldn’t say anything though, I never did. I knew how to behave, how to walk on eggshells, not to ask too many questions, not to express my feelings, not to ever cry out loud. I knew how to do all of this long before Tyler.

There was a night I will never be able to piece together because I was so young when it happened. Maybe 4 or 5? Screaming, yelling, broken glass, my sister and I being drug into our bedroom, door slamming shut.  I remember crawling into bed, arm screaming with pain, knowing I needed to cry but had to cry silently. I remember just wanting the darkness to swallow me whole so I didn’t have to feel this pain but instead I shook violently as I choked on sobs. “Shut up!” my older sister said in a harsh whisper. She was eight and already learned how to shut her emotions down. I let out another shake and felt a foot kick me hard in the back

“Owwww” I wailed, pain and sadness spilling over. Another hard kick “SHUT. UP!” and with that, I choked back everything.

Maybe that was the first time, I don’t know. But I do know that over the years I perfected the art of crying silently, just laying on my back, letting the tears fall into my ears, without even so much of a sniffle. So by the time I started dating Tyler, it was nothing new.

Except that night when I went to sleep, there was a new feeling in me. I tried to shake it off by numbly going through the motions once we got home. He took off his jacket, I followed him in the bedroom. He motioned for me to give him head, I obeyed. It was never anything I liked to do. But I could zone out a lot easier giving head than I could with sex. So I got on my knees, and entered that state of gray, a place with no emotions, a place of minimal existence. Suddenly, he aggressively pulls my head away from him. I look up and I can tell that he’s frustrated.

“Fuck it, I’ll do it myself. God, I could have gotten better head from that dead guy” He stomps off, pushing me aside, and I hear his laptop snap open.

He knew??? He knew that guy was dead? And he didn’t care?? Swirls of emotions I had constantly been pushing down came rushing back nearly knocking me back. Though I suspected this all along, this moment brought me crashing back to reality. This man was nothing more than a fucking jerk.

That night hit me hard as I went through the motion of a silent cry that was all too familiar. As soon as the tears hit my ears, I was done. As if a string was hastily pulling me upwards, I sprung up, threw off the covers and began to grab a suitcase and stuff my clothes in it

“What the fuck? What time is it?” Tyler said in a groggy, sleepy tone but I didn’t answer. I could only concentrate on what I needed. I didn’t give a shit about leaving some clothes behind. I could buy more clothes later. Cell phone, charger, pants, shoes, all sloppily thrown in the suitcase. I wrapped my laptop in a shirt and was off.

“Wait…what…Where Are?” He said, now springing out of bed. I was almost at the door when I felt a pull at my arm.

“Hey, hey, you gonna leave me?” He gave me this enraged look that normally I’d cower in fear of, but I’ve seen it so much that in this moment it didn’t phase me.

“Well fine, fuck you, go!”

I was used to this tactic as well.

There was something about knowing, about being able to predict his moves that helped me find solid ground. With one hand clutching my suitcase, I looked deep into his eyes, wishing I could burn these words into his skin.

“Tyler, you will never find anyone to treat you as well as I did.”

And as if sealing his fate, I spun around on my heels and slammed the door behind me.


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Storms over the Wildlands

Storms from the Magic Wastes were common, Mags and Edwin didn’t pay them any mind. Storms that dropped bodies at the house, that was different. Especially when the bodies were familiar. They were dead, of course, but not as dead as they should be. Edwin’s wife Anna had been nearing eighty when she died and had been buried five years ago. The body on the ground was young. The other was Edwin’s former employer, Lord of the Hills. He and his wife were interred decades ago, and yet here he was, fully intact.

“Well,” Edwin said, “this is strange.”

After the incident last year with a Mage summoning and capturing a god, the Magic Wastes had been much more active.

“Should we send for the Kings men?”

Mags shook her head. “Can you confirm they are who they appear to be?”

He pulled the man’s shirt up. There were several scars across his torso. “This is what killed him,” he said. “It appears to have healed quite well.”

Despite her advanced age, Mags made it down to Leah’s house in record time. “We need the god,” she said as she approached.

“He lives with Bruce, further south. What happened?”

“Bodies in the storm. Fresh ones. But we buried them years ago.”

Leah scribbled a note for her apprentice. “Can you keep going? Only another half hour.”

Mags nodded and they headed out again.

“These bodies, they were friends of yours?” the god asked.

“Of Edwin’s yes. His former master and his wife. Both dead for several years. The injuries that killed his Lord seemed to have scarred and healed, yet he doesn’t look a day older. Anna is decades younger than when she died.”

He sat in quiet thought. “Were they talented in the magical arts?”

Leah answered. “Anna was one of the strongest witches around. I don’t know about Howe. It was his son who trapped you here.”

Sev shuddered at the memory. He was exiled from his home and trapped in a body that ill suited him. “Let me try to speak to my father. If it is what I fear, this may be just the beginning.”

The heavens had opened and deposited another body outside Bruce’s home while Sev meditated. He came back from his hut pale. “It is as I feared,” he said, examining the body. “My home is falling apart.” He had lived in what these people called the Magic Wastes, the source of magic. His family had ruled there for eons. Many had died or disappeared, becoming enamored of this mortal world. By the time he had been trapped here, unable to return home, the realm was unstable. “Those with a strong connection to magic, when they die, come to my realm. They are given form according to their wishes. Many of them keep the forms they had in life, though often at their prime rather than with the infirmity of age.”

“Anna,” Mags said. Sev nodded. “So it truly was her?”

“Yes. But since I was trapped here and my brother exiled for his retribution the family cannot sustain it. Some of the dead from this realm feel they can return. Their bodies survive the journey but their souls are trapped. My family is trying to rein in the free souls and keep the magic under control. That takes more who are supposed to rule over the dead. More escape which destabilizes the system further.”

“Is there nothing we can do?” Mags asked.

“Unless you can find a way to relesase me from this form, no. I must return home to do any good.”

There was a squawk outside the door. Mags stepped outside. Her familiar was there, a raven. “What is it, Daniel?” He hopped around and croaked a few more times. “Alright. Did you hear our conversation?” The bird nodded. “Good. Go tell Edwin.” Daniel flew away and she went back inside. “Bodies are piling up. It’s all the birds are discussing.”

“You speak to birds?” Sev asked.

“I speak to Daniel. He speaks to the birds.”

Bruce invited them all to stay over for the night. It was too late to return to Leah’s safely.

There was an obvious solution to the problem, Leah could see it. She understood Daniel well enough to know that he had told Mags the same thing. It seemed heartless, but Sev was easily the strongest magic user in the entire world. If he were to die it would free him from this body and send him back to his family where he could help stabilize the realm.

Mags caught her eye and shook her head. Sev was here. He was doing well here. There was no call to murder him on a possibility.

The problem hung in the air. Sev could see the silent conversation between the women. He had come to the same conclusion they had. This body must die soon. He couldn’t arrange his death, those who did so weren’t allowed into the realm. “It is as you suspect,” he said to them. “I will take a potion and sleep well tonight. I trust you to do what must be done.” He headed to his own hut.

“What’s he talking about?” Bruce asked.

“He has to die,” Leah said. “Free him from this body, send him back to his home.”

“Not in my home.”

“He has his own hut,” Mags pointed out.

It was done quickly as Sev slept. A quick slit to the throat by Mags. Before dawn she slipped away for the long walk home.

Late that afternoon she saw a golden stag following her. She stopped. “Sev?”

It approached her, bowing its head and nuzzling her neck.

“You’re welcome,” she said. “Be well, Sev.”

The stag faded from existence as she continued along the path. There would be plenty to explain to Edwin when she got home.

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The Death of Harry “the Biter”

Jane trudged into her apartment with sore feet from a day of waitressing and headed straight for the bathroom. She wanted nothing more than a shower to rid her of the grease coating and to take her hair down. The dead gerbil lay in place of the soap, and its blood dried in the crease along the edge of the sink. Her scream filled the room and echoed off the shower tiles and rang in her head until it deafened her. She stopped because it hurt her ears and wouldn’t change poor dead Harry “the Biter” from being dead.

Three breaths later and a room away, her brain started to work. Someone killed her pet. Someone was in the apartment to kill Harry. She checked every window. All closed. She checked the front door. No damage. Someone with a key was in the apartment and killed Harry. It must have been her roommate.

Jane marched down the hallway and knocked on Chandra’s door. No one answered. She got out her cell phone and called her. No one picked up. She texted Chandra and watched the little bubble to see when the text was read, but even though she waited ten minutes, Chandra didn’t read the text or respond.

This was the last straw. Jane no longer cared that her and Chandra had been friends since elementary school. So Chandra stopped the school bullies from picking on her, that didn’t give Chandra the right to push her around. Who cared if Chandra got Jane her first job. She could have gotten the stupid dish washing job all on her own. And what had Chandra done for Jane lately. Nothing.

The free-loader roommate had to go. Chandra started it by killing Harry. Now Jane had to return the favor. Jane stomped down the hallway and slammed Chandra’s bedroom door open. She turned on the light and saw the collage wall of all their friends.

Their friends, right? Well, Jane never had a crush on Chris Hemsworth. She ripped the magazine page of actor off the wall. Katie hated her. The only things they had ever done together was hangout in the same room when Chandra was there. She stabbed Katie’s picture in the eye with a push pin. Grabbing a marker from the desk, Jane drew blobs over the faces of their best friends: Meg who stole the boy Jane crushed on, Christy who blamed Jane when their high school security found marijuana in her locker, Chrissy who only talked to Chandra, and Jessica who told Jane she was stupid and ugly any time Chandra wasn’t around.

Jane kept the picture of Tonito. Chandra was the one who stopped Tonito from hanging out with her, Tonito never did anything to hurt her. Even if Chandra bragged that Tonito and her had sex, that was Chandra’s fault. Tonito was hers. Chandra was the whore.

Jane ran back to the bedroom and grabbed the gerbil and dragged his body across the comforter tracking blood.

“Take that you stupid bitch. Whore.” Jane cleared off a big piece of wall directly across from the door and wrote “whore” in big bubble letters. She chopped up the pictures of their friends and glued them inside the letters. Using Chandra’s precious cheerleading poster supplies, she added glitter to the letters. It wasn’t enough, so she opened all Chandra’s drawers and pulled all her clothes out until she found a sparkly thong with a ribbon on front. With the push pin she stuck the underwear on the wall and then tied the gerbil up with the bow.

From the closet, Jane yanked out Chandra’s stash of weed and sprinkled it all over the floor. It still wasn’t enough. Jane stormed out of the apartment. She knew where Chandra worked. She’d find her and cut her open like a gerbil.

Chandra stopped outside her apartment. The door was open and she remembered closing it when she left. She’d checked twice. She always checked. It was part of her therapy. Mary Beth told her to make all her actions deliberate. So she checked the door twice before she left.

“Green County Sheriff’s, how may I help you?”

“Someone broke into my apartment,” she told the operator.

“Are they still there?”

“I don’t know. The door is open, so I haven’t gone in.”

“Can you see any damage or anything stolen from where you are at?”

Chandra peered around the door. “No.”

“What about the door? Is it broken? Does it look forced?”

Chandra stared at the normal door frame. “No.”

“Do you live with anyone?”

“No. I live alone.”

“Is there somewhere safe you can wait?”

Chandra glanced around. She could stay with the superintendent probably or in the complex office. “Yes.”

“We’ll send a car around.”

“Thank you.” Chandra ended the call and stepped into the apartment. Nothing looked out of place. She moved from the living room to the kitchen to her bedroom. From the hallway, she saw her room and sank down the wall. Her hand shook and her stomach heaved. Dialing the next number took more concentration and will than lifting a semi.

“Green County Mental Health. This is Angie.”

“Hi, Angie. This is Chandra Willman. Can I talk to Mary Beth?”

“Hi, Chandra. No she’s in with a patient. Can I take a message?”

“Tell her, Jane’s back, and she’s not happy.”

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Captain America and the American Way

The air was thick with smoke from a building burning off in the distance. Steve followed several feet behind the fleet of policeman as they marched to- well, he didn’t know what exactly. With each step he took, his feet became heavy. An itch in the back of his mind told him to turn around. He couldn’t shake that there was a missing piece of information about this mission but seeing the city in distress made him carry his heavy feet on. These people needed him and he would not turn away.

Steve hears dialogue from the police CB radios but it’s just white noise in the background to him. Suddenly, the inaudible voice speaks in a rushed, forceful tone and panic floods into Steve’s body. The fleet of officers who were moving so smoothly and in unison before begin to rush forward around the corner. Steve braces himself for the unseen threat lurking around the corner while his feet betray his ready stance, feeling like they want to melt into the ground.

As the officers disappear around the corner, he can hear increasing screams and chants in unison, though he can’t make out the exact words. The thought of staying where he is burns a hole in his mind.

A woman’s scream breaks Steve out of his stance and his protective instincts kick in. He rushes around the corner only to come to an immediate halt, shocked at the scene before him. A large man gets kicked in the gut by an officer, while another officer grabs the same man and sends him flying to the floor. Another man keeps his hands raised in surrender while an officer chokes him from behind with his baton. Another man starts screaming profanities at a group of officers. Without a hint of remorse or pleasure, the stone faced officer extends his arm to the man’s face, spraying pepper spray. The man is brought to his knees, crying out. He tries to keep his hands up, but his arms are shaking as he is weakened by the pepper spray.

The attacks seem to continue for miles as Steve watches, feeling betrayed. But nothing makes his heart drop more than seeing, out of the corner of his eye, a Captain America poster that has clearly been spray painted with huge letters “Black Lives Matter”

He knew in that moment he had been lied to and used. He was told they needed Captain America to save the Country from “terrorist action”. He knew now he was just a ploy in the media’s plan. He was the poster boy for keeping the protestors’ quiet. Steve felt guilty that his eagerness to help had lead him to agree to do something so horrible.

A woman’s scream takes him out of his trance and he watches as she gets knocked to the ground. The officer grins and raises his baton high as the woman curls up to protect herself. Steve throws his shield knocking the officer out with a quick clunk. He rushes over to the woman and extends his hand down to her. She is still shaking, big black frizzy hair mixed with blood. She looks at his hand and looks at Steve and he nods. Steve could see the fear in her eyes as if she were asking him “aren’t you with them?” As he helps the woman to her feet, she has no words but in her eyes he can see the gratitude. She begins to open her mouth to say something, but then suddenly her pupils shrink and she points over his shoulder. Steve turns.

A young boy, possibly no older than 10 stands alone as a group of policeman circle him, guns drawn. The young boys’ eyes are puffy and red from crying and he is drawing in sharp breaths in between sobs. His face is wet with tears. To Steve, the young boy looks like somebody’s son, innocent and free. But Steve can tell that the police aren’t taking into account this boys’ age. To them, all protesters here tonight are a threat. The young boy is trying so hard to stand still and keep his arms raised, but his sobs betray him and he jerks back a bit, almost like he is being punched in the stomach. That’s all it takes for the police to make that split second decision.

But before the gun can go off, Steve leaps into action, throwing his shield near the arms of the trigger happy officer forcing him to drop his firearm to the ground. Almost instantly Steve is face to face with the officer, knocking him unconscious with one fatal blow. The officers direct their attention to Steve and aim to shoot him, but it only takes a few effortless kicks and punches before the entire squad is unconscious lying in the street.

There are hundreds of people staring but there is a dead silence. Steve looks out at the crowd of people stretching out for miles. Faces that look back at him with a mixture of confusion and amazement. It’s possible they assumed Captain America was on the side of those working to silence the protesters

A blinking red light catches the corner of Steve’s eye and he notices a news camera, possibly broadcasting live. He imagines the nation, comfortable and safe on their couches, watching, mouths dropped to the floor. Steve imagined the chief of police, tearing his hair out, his plans now blown to bits. But then Steve pictured in his mind, the mother of the slain boy behind the protests, eyes glued to the screen, teary eyed, feeling relieved for the first time since her son had been murdered. Thanking him, in her mind, for making the world see that her sons’ life, and the lives of all black people, matter.

Steve smiled and with a flick of his hand sent his shield to smash the camera and interrupt the feed to all.


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The challenge was to use a sentence from the list below in a story:
Bonus challenge: use more than one of these sentences in the story.
The sentences are:
“The mysterious diary records the voice.”
“The stranger officiates the meal.”
“The shooter says goodbye to his love.”
“A glittering gem is not enough.”
“The memory we used to share is no longer coherent.”
“The old apple revels in its authority.”
“Rock music approaches at high velocity.”
“Sixty-Four comes asking for bread.”
“Abstraction is often one floor above you.”
“The river stole the gods.”


“Today marks the anniversary of the founding of Harmony. There will be a celebration on Saturday. End recording.”

The mysterious diary records the voice and saves it all to the central computer system. All of us are required to record our entries vocally rather than connect with the computer cybernetically. Tradition, the elders say.

“What’s for dinner?” Twenty-Seven asks. He is my partner, chosen by Harmony itself due to the high convergence of our memories. Much of our youth was spent in the same digital realms, we’ve known each other for years.

I check the storage units. “Unknown.”

Twenty-Seven comes to stand by my side. He reaches into the unit and removes soup base and lab-grown beef. “We will have noodles in seventeen minutes.”

I look at it. “How?” The food deliveries are not scheduled until tomorrow.

“Sixty-Four comes asking for bread. Every day. Fifty-Two is adept at making noodles. She is bringing a batch to us as payment today for all the bread we give her.”

Sixty-Four is a traditionalist. She and her partner rarely connect themselves to the computer. They attended the Old School, the kind with actual books and teachers. They read. And their homemade food, when it turns out well, is amazing. Neither of them have been able to perfect bread. It turns out what the founders of society referred to as the Barter System is still alive and well.

Twenty-Seven begins cooking the soup. “Don’t forget your entry,” he says. “You haven’t made one all week.”

We are required to make at least one diary entry a week. Most of us make more. The system has split us all into enclaves and sends ten new students to each enclave every year. We have no names or locations, we have numbers and partners. Our enclave in particular is apparently designed to test foodstuffs and improve recipes for society as a whole. Ours is a luxurious life, no real work to be done.

There are rumors, especially among the younger students and the traditionalists, that Harmony is not what she once was. The system is breaking down. With this in mind I plug in as little as possible. It is dangerous to think of evil coming to Harmony, she will read the thoughts. Some say she can overwrite them and implant new ones. I say that’s terrifying. If we can’t trust our memories, what can we trust?

“Begin recording, Enclave B19E384, unit Thirty-Two. Happy anniversary, Harmony. Forty-five thousand years ago today society as we know it was founded.”


Sixty-Four left a note for me with the noodles. A time and location. A meeting. All of the Seventies are there. They’re the youngest ones at the enclave. Most of the Sixties and Fifties too, a handful of Forties, and me. I’m the oldest. They stare at me.

Seventy-Five speaks. She’s tall, slender, dark, and beautiful. She holds up a memory chit. “At my home before the splitting into enclaves we had proof that Harmony was rewriting people’s memories. All of my classmates were given these chits. Tonight, the anniversary of the founding of Harmony, we are to spread them to as many who are willing to listen as we can. On Saturday when the festivities broadcast, we all plug in to the city together. We will spread the truth.”

“We will all be destroyed. Harmony won’t tolerate such dissent.” Sixty-Seven is more pro-Harmony than most in her year. “I refuse.”

Seventy-One, her partner, turns and throws her against the wall. “Your refusal will destroy us all.”

Seventy-Five holds the chit over Sixty-Seven’s wireless port and initiates a transfer while Seventy-One holds her down. “It is done,” she says. “The room is locked. Nobody will leave until we all have the data.” It remains unspoken that nobody will connect to the network until Saturday. To do so would be admitting to treachery. Traitors are dealt with ruthlessly by Harmony.


I return home. Twenty-Seven is not happy that I left so suddenly after dinner. He had wanted to connect with me, work on some brain challenges that had been left as recreation. I have to decline and say I’m saving all of my recreational connections for Saturday. So many people will be connected, we will be able to relive our memories and strengthen the links between them. Or, if Seventy-Five’s plan works, we will be able to challenge Harmony and her interference in our own minds. Only time will tell.


Saturday cannot come soon enough. Most of the working enclaves have Saturdays off, it is the perfect time for a global celebration. With the enclaves spread out deep under the surface and away from the influence of Outsiders and the sun we are no longer beholden to time zones, everything is synchronized. I steel my nerves and plug in as the celebration begins.

Twenty-Seven comes to me shortly. He looks confused. “What have you done?”

“What is necessary.” Harmony is not to be trusted. She is a puppet-master and we are her toys. The information is spreading among all of her people. Twenty-Seven was connected in the other room. There’s no way he doesn’t know what’s going on. “I will not be a pet.”

He sits beside me and plugs into me directly. We try to synchronize. We’re looking for the familiarity we once had, the childhood explorations of the central computer system. It skips and jumps, the synchrony we have grown accustomed to is gone. The memory we used to share is no longer coherent. Further proof of the damning evidence spreading throughout the system.

“Give me the data,” he says. He wants to share it.

“They will come after you,” I say.

He smiles. “If they do, they are only proving how corrupt Harmony is. Others will know. This knowledge will spread.”


“Begin recording, Enclave B19E384, unit Thirty-Two. Harmony has assigned me a new partner. As it turns out, my last one was a traitor. He spread dissent and lies through Harmony during the anniversary celebrations.”

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Group June Flash Challenge

June’s challenge has been decided by the group.

< 1000 words

Must include a fight scene.

Must NOT include any dialogue.


This piece should be posted to the site by the end of the day of June 7th.


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