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The New Year brings resolutions to make things different this time around.  This past year in particular, we had the rollover of the Mayan Universal Cycle.  Rather than an end, we find ourselves in a new beginning.  Use this week’s prompt to explore the cyclical nature of existence or how someone might break that cycle.

In addition to the usual bragging rights and judgeship, this week's winner will win a copy of "The Book of Adam and Eve"  the first story in my AI: Genesis series which covers just such a topic (or another short story in my collection of their choice).

The Judge

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This week's judge is no stranger to the winner's circle.  David Ludwig has won Motivation Monday several times, along with nearly every other challenge on the Flash Fiction circuit.
Best of all, he is a tremendous supporter of other writers and always offers helpful critiques when he judges.

Visit his website to find out more about David.  You'll find fascinating posts about gaming, blog series like  Lost Girls' Society, artwork and information about the new Super Flash Fiction Magazine.

The Prompt

The events transpiring had happened before.  [I/He/She/They] knew exactly how this would end.

*Feel free to replace anything in the braces, with a comparable word/clause*

The Rules

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  1. The story must start from the prompt.  This means the prompt must be the
    first words in the story.
  2. No more than 500 words (not including the
    prompt).  No less than 100 words.
  3. Any genre (in fact an
    unexpected genre will get you more points.)
  4. Entries must be submitted
    by Tuesday Noon EST
  5. The winner of each week's competition will be
    invited to judge the following week and post the winner's badge similar to the
    one shown here.
  6. If your story would be rated R or NC-17 in a movie, please post a note to that effect at the beginning of your entry.
  7. Have fun!

 

Table of Contents

Spelunking by Robin Abess
Untitled by Stevie
Wish by David A Ludwig
Untitled by Siobhan Muir
Shipwrecked by : Bullish

Judges Notes

An inspiring prompt this week and some awesome stories. It was really interesting to see the different directions everyone took the prompt. I definitely had a blast reading the stories!

Honorable Mention

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@bullishink – I love the narrator of your story. I love his voice, his take charge attitude and how he took a bad situation and made it work for him. The line “A man’s priorities shift when nature knock’s him down to size” is wonderful.

Winner

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@DavidALudwig – David crafted a fantastic story here. It’s a wonderful take on the genie and the first sentence is brilliant. Fifty years on a tricycle with the same person is quite the accomplishment, but be careful what you wish for, right?

Wish
By David A Ludwig


With two people stuck on a tricycle in the middle of nowhere for two hundred years, trouble is bound to happen. I really wish that were some obscure metaphor—or better yet inebriated or sleep deprived prattle. But no, my friend Saya just had to make fun of the genie’s accent and mannerisms while we were discussing our wishes.

I guess Saya and I met when we were teenagers, both in trouble with the law and looking to see if we got in enough trouble we could come full circle and be clean again. It was sort of a quest to see if the legal world was round. Right away we hit it off, and soon we weren’t just inseparable, but untouchable too. I can’t say we ever made it all the way around to clean again, but when nobody could pin us down long enough to charge us we were living pretty large.

So it felt like Saya and I had known each other forever. She was everything a guy could wish for, smart, good looking, athletic, with a great sense of humor and more than a little shorter than me. Okay, so her sense of humor was a little mean at times, but I knew she meant well… Well, as well as I did anyway. The important thing is we never crossed each other.

We had a great time pulling heists, living freely and taking whatever the world had to offer us. Death could have come for us at any minute and I would have been happy with the time we’d had together—though of course I wanted more. Then we turned over this sheik’s personal warehouse and found the magic lamp, along with some priceless relics we used for target practice.

Saya was the one who rubbed the lamp, though even she hadn’t been expecting the face full of genie smoke or the stuffy gentleman in rhinestones with the southern drawl. I kid you not. A genie. Dressed in rhinestones. With a southern drawl. Even I thought it was hilarious—magical and spooky too—but mostly hilarious.

Saya blew our first wish on the solid gold tricycle encrusted with jewels before we realized Mr. Jazz Hands was serious about the wish granting. There was really only one thing I wanted, but in retrospect it was pretty dumb of me to mention it to an all powerful magical being my girlfriend had been viciously mocking. Our second wish, courtesy of me, was to be together forever.

At this point it’s my turn to take over pedaling the tricycle to keep us from sinking into the desert—hence my talking to myself while Saya tries to get to sleep on my back. We had a good run; it took about fifty years of this before we finally got sick of each other. Now I just wish I could figure out what the genie thought our third wish was and how we ended up out here with no escape.

 
First of all, let me say that our thoughts and prayers are with the families both in Connecticut and around the nation who were affected by this past week’s tragedy.  Those recurring fears, the reminders of our vulnerability, are becoming far too familiar.

Now on to the writing.  My wife and I were fortunate enough to enjoy a vacation with only a few minor setbacks.  However, Murphy’s Law has a habit of invoking itself.  Give me your tales of humor or horror, share the myriad things that have or could go wrong on a crowded voyage.

The Judge

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H.L. Pauff is a writer of science fiction and fantasy living in the mountains of Pennsylvania who spends his nights mashing away on a keyboard hoping something magical will happen. When he’s not writing, he spends his time reading anything he can gets his hands on, playing video games, attempting to run and traveling to new places. A few of his favorite authors include George R.R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, Michael Crichton and Ray Bradbury.

https://twitter.com/HLPauff
https://plus.google.com/u/0/117497931423702659320/posts
http://www.goodreads.com/hlpauff

The Prompt

With [three thousand/one million/two] people stuck [in/on] a [ship/van/tricycle] in the middle of nowhere for [seven days/nine months/two hundred years], trouble is bound to happen.

*Feel free to replace anything in the braces, with a comparable word/clause*

The Rules

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  1. The story must start from the prompt.  This means the prompt must be the
    first words in the story.
  2. No more than 500 words (not including the
    prompt).  No less than 100 words.
  3. Any genre (in fact an
    unexpected genre will get you more points.)
  4. Entries must be submitted
    by Tuesday Noon EST
  5. The winner of each week's competition will be
    invited to judge the following week and post the winner's badge similar to the
    one shown here.
  6. If your story would be rated R or NC-17 in a movie, please post a note to that effect at the beginning of your entry.
  7. Have fun!

 

Table of Contents

Life after Death by Robin Abess
New Plan by David A Ludwig
Bunny and Brave Dino by H.L. Pauff
Untitled by Mark Ethridge
Untitled by LupusAnthropos
Untilted by Bullish
Untitled by Nellie
Untitled by Alissa
System Malfunction by Wakefield Mahon

Judge's Notes

Rather a frisky bunch today, eh? Logic truly can ruin an otherwise perfectly respectable conversation, so I'm delighted to see none of you let it impinge on your stories (respectable or not). Welcome back to #MotivationMonday. Always a pleasure and honor to be in such distinguished company! -Rebekah

Honorable Mentions

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Robin Abess @Angelique_Rider.
Because "'We're through,' she said, taking a bite," might be my favorite story ending ever (I say as I smack my forehead for ending past relationships SO much less satisfyingly). The story is a little creepy, even a little gross, and a lot funny. Really great job.

Bullish @bullishink.
I loved the completeness of your story and how you circled back around to the idea of logic. That may also be the friskiest description of a sunset I've ever read (dragon sunsets are notoriously violent, not frisky); your story is interesting and the writing clever. Your ending, like Robin's, is smart and snappy. Love it.

Winner

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H.L. Pauff @hlpauff.
Because the perspective of crayon figures is clever and sweet--but you took it to a whole other level by drawing an analogy between that and our own human wonderings about the meaning of life. The story is touching and yet deep: a work of art. Perfect.

Bunny and Brave Dino
By H. L. Pauff


“Why bother bringing logic into this now?” Bunny asked as her floppy ears swayed in the misty breeze. She kept her hand cupped under her small triangular nose to prevent the raindrops from going up into her nostrils. “I mean, look at yourself.”

Rain drops fell upwards from the grass and pelted the surface of the orange body of water hovering in the white sky. Brave Dino looked at his reflection in the rippling water and sighed. His small furry stick-like legs trembled and threatened to buckle under the weight of his thick and scaly upper body.

“There’s a plan for all of this,” he said, scratching the end of his nose with a claw. “There is a pattern to the madness. Even there, look!”

Bunny’s gaze turned to the sky where stripes of colors were appearing, one after the other. First, red appeared then orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and finally violet. The resulting multi-colored bar shone even brighter than the red sun wearing dark sunglasses.

“Why those colors?” Brave Dino continued. “Is it a code? A glitch in the system? If we could assign a numerical value to each color, I think we could –“

“Those are just random colors,” Bunny interrupted. “We are just pawns in a game beyond our understanding. Do we need to look for meaning? Can’t we just be happy? Just the two of us?”

Brave Dino’s eyes stayed fixed to shining bar until Bunny’s furry paw wrapped around his bony fingers and squeezed tightly. She greeted him with a smile when he turned his gaze away from the sky.

“You’re right,” he said. “I just get caught up in the mysteriousness of it all. I was so lonely before that yellow cylinder outlined you in the sky and you fell to me. I’m sorry. None of it matters as long as we have each other.”

 
Welcome back to Motivation Monday.  Congratulations to all of you who participated in NaNoWriMo.  Whether you finished 16,000 or 160,000, you have decided to apply yourself to writing.  That is why I keep this contest alive.

Anthology News:

The lineup for the first Edition of Song Stories is nearly full.  I’ve received enough engaging material that I have enough to start another anthology which I will announce shortly.  For those of you who haven’t heard back yet, don’t fret.  I’ve just been very busy and I’m still making my final decisions.  I appreciate your patience.

Now, on to what you’ve all been waiting for, this week’s contest.

I don't care if what you right is possible as long as it is engaging.  Remember conflict, response, resolution!

The Judge

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Our last winner NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison Rebekah Postupak.  A rookie turned veteran who has already won this competition a number of times.

Thanks and welcome to our judge.

The Prompt

Why bother bringing logic into this now?
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  1. The story must start from the prompt.  This means the prompt must be the
    first words in the story.
  2. No more than 500 words (not including the
    prompt).  No less than 100 words.
  3. Any genre (in fact an
    unexpected genre will get you more points.)
  4. Entries must be submitted
    by Tuesday Noon EST
  5. The winner of each week's competition will be
    invited to judge the following week and post the winner's badge similar to the
    one shown here.
  6. If your story would be rated R or NC-17 in a movie, please post a note to that effect at the beginning of your entry.
  7. Have fun!

Sample Entry

System Malfunction
By Wakefield Mahon

"Why bother bringing logic into this now?"

"I don’t know, perhaps because I’m a machine!"

"Look at your skin.  Listen to yourself, talk.  You were a machine before but you are definitely human now."

UR12 swiveled his head, still uncomfortable in his new body.  “That is not possible.  The limits of artificial intelligence are such that even simulation of intuitive decision-making is unreliable.”

“How do you feel?”

“I don’t feel.  I already told you I’m a machine.”

Eliza closed her eyes and touched his face.  “How do you feel?”

“I’m… I’m scared.”

“It’s okay; everything is going to work itself out.”

“How can you be so calm about this?”

“To be honest, I’m not all that calm. The idea that I fell in love with you or you fell in love with me and somehow this happened
doesn’t make sense.   I’m expecting any minute now to wake up and find myself in the psych ward.”  Eliza ran her hands over his face and through his curly brown hair. “Until that happens, it’s just you and me Pinocchio.”

“My name is not Pinocchio.”

Eliza’s eyes twinkled.  “Well you are definitely a real boy… or rather man now.”

“I don’t like feeling this primary cabin is malfunctioning.”

Eliza placed her hand on his chest and grinned.  She lay her head against the warmth and listened to the rapid patter of his heart.  “You are not malfunctioning, you are feeling.”

“What kind of feeling is this supposed to be?  I feel... ill.”

“I could spend a week trying to explain it to you,” Eliza leaned up and kissed him deeply, “but it would be easier to show you.”

@WakefieldMahon
275 ineligible words.
 

Table of Contents

Untitled by @LurchMunster - Mark Ethridge
Untitled by @SweetSheil - Sheilagh Lee
A Lesson Well Taught by @ChessnySilth - L.T. Dalin
Haunted House by @DavidALudwig - David A Ludwig
Untitled by @Postupak - Rebekah Postupak
Untitled by @solimond - Nellie
Untitled by @PurpleQueenML - Miranda Kate

Judges Comments

Such awesome entries this week, it was very hard to pick… Since everyone can’t win, I decided to comment on all of them. My pick probably came from more my state of mind at the time (I really needed a laugh) than anything else, since everyone had such great entries! I could have given this win to pretty much any of you! Thanks for letting me read them! You all are awesome! :)
@SweetSheil You managed to surprise me! When the baby was crying and the voice was talking, I wasn’t expecting the father to have murdered an ex in the house! Wow! Pretty fun. I was amused that she bribed the necromancer with hidden loot…great detail. The necromancer wasn’t the most sympathetic character for me, but believable. The whole thing could’ve been a little tighter for me.

@Chessneysilth Haha! I really enjoyed this one! I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and I was a middle school teacher, so you hit home on a couple levels for me! J The argument in the classroom was well done and I could almost feel the encounter with the ghost. I’m not sure after hours of grading and whatnot that his mind (in a state of terror) would have made the connection with his class hours before. I did LOVE that the ghost was answering the question and the question of him being in the right house was a nice touch! J

@DavidALudwig I enjoyed the lighthearted dialog. I especially enjoyed the details of the ghost trying to pitch his voice “ominous rather than whiny” and the nonchalant position of the witch’s feet on the table and hands behind her pigtails. Oh, and her phrase “wicked cool.” (My sister lived in Boston for 8 years, and I managed to pick that up from her!) While enjoyable, it lacked something different for me. There were no surprising moments or anything that really jumped out and said, “This is awesome.”

@PurpleQueenML Ooooh, creepy! Your details were awesome – from the garish wallpaper to the greying twilight – it really helped set the mood. I loved how he argued with himself – the struggle was very well done and believable. I feel like you caught the essence of someone trying to talk himself out of his fears – usually a good thing – and having him find out that his fears had substantiation. I was even somewhat surprised at the end because I wasn’t sure which way you were going to go with it. I would have liked a little more, because I always want to know what happened, but I also liked that you ended with the echo of the original scream made real. Very powerful! Nice job!

Honorable Mentions

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@LurchMunster
Haha! Mark, I loved it! I had so much fun reading the details of how a haunted house was made! I loved his attention to details and purely logical, systematic approach to uncovering the secrets of Haunted Houses. (Even if it did take him an extraordinary amount of time to discover the things…) SO FUN! He was very believable and his reactions were consistent. I actually appreciated that he never ONCE thought that he might be wrong…like the idea of the mystical could never enter his brain. Great job!

@solimond
I enjoyed this one too! Both Bartholomew and Rory were very well developed and the little details you put in spoke volumes about their characters – Bart’s nose so high in the air he would fall backwards and the picture of Rory lounging at the bottom of the stairs putting his cigarette out on his boot were my favorite of these. Rory’s snarky dialog was fun to read as well. I laughed out loud when he interrupted Bart’s monologue. I also liked how you kept period dialog for the ghost – ‘common street urchin’ was nice. The ‘Apparition League’ was fun and I’d like to know more about it. J


Winner

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@postupak
Oh, Rebekah! I laughed so hard! I couldn’t help myself! I think there may have been tears… When she said, “God help me – for the first time in my life, I stumbled.” I think I almost bust my gut. Your details were brilliant – smacking gum and squeezing into a dress and flashlights with new batteries and whatnot. I could really get into the character. Really fun! The tense was a little confusing (‘I used to laugh at this’ in the beginning, while ending it in present tense was odd…) and the boss character was a little unbelievable, but I really loved the piece! Thank you for the laugh…I really needed it!
(Host's Note: That's two wins in one day.  Rebekah's on fire this week!)

Untitled
By Rebekah  Postupak
Ordinarily, when someone hears a disembodied voice scream at them to leave, they do... quickly, turning in their terror only for a well-ankled foot to catch on a rug or a tree branch, and then suddenly there they lie, limbs splayed in gorgeous helplessness until devoured mercilessly by the danger.

I used to laugh at this.

“What a crock!” I’d say to my friends, snorting between bites of over-buttered popcorn. “A real blonde would never do that.”

“Hollywood hates blondes,” I often said to my boss in disgust. “Like a brunette wouldn’t just do the same thing, only look tackier while doing it.”

Sometimes it really made me mad, but this was a feeling I shoved as far deep as it’d go. There was no place for bitterness, not in a world where I had to be *perky* at all times, smacking my gum and sporting skinny jeans and keeping unpopular suspicions to myself. All of which I did, because doing so was easier than the alternative.

“Fine,” said my boss one day.

“Huh?”

“If you believe it’s just a cinematic conspiracy, then go. Test it out. Then come back, if you can, and spare us having to listen any more to your lunacy.”

Giddiness swept over me. What a huge opportunity! I worked as a reporter for the Times, but to date my articles never broached anything snappier than the weekly firehall bingo game where I, inevitably, was the most talked-about round.

I took the longest time working out what to wear. Don’t mock—to prove my theory right, I had to follow everything to the letter. It took three hours with hot rollers to get my hair into the right sort of curls, ones that cascaded down my back in an obscenely natural-looking way. My knee-length summer dress (the blue one that everyone said made my eyes glow) didn’t really fit anymore, but after a good 45 minutes of huffing and puffing, I squeezed myself in. And into my roomie’s four-inch heels, obviously.

Into my silver clutch went a tiny pistol (loaded, duh), cell phone (fully charged), and flashlight (fresh batteries).

Now all that remained was the location: and ohhh did I have a doozy. The huge, abandoned, Victorian-style house at the edge of the wildwood. I drove there eagerly (full tank of gas, fresh battery). Alone, of course, late at night, without telling anyone.

I explored the house right off, knowing I would hear the voice all too soon. Or I would see a door slam shut, or a swarm (swarm?) of spiders scurry frantically across my path.

So when the disembodied voice called out, I was ready. I even giggled a little as I turned to flee.

And then—God help me—for the first time in my life, I stumbled.

Strained something pretty bad, I’m guessing, as I can’t move, and there’s my purse across the room where it flew as I fell.

Footsteps approach.

Dang, I think as I wait. There goes my theory.

 
Halloween is upon us.  Personally, I have little love for the occasion, but it does give us an excuse to do scary stories.  Eddie Murphy made an joke about the heroes of horror stories lacking in common sense.  One has to wonder why a person might pursue an obviously dangerous situation.  Use this week's prompt to explore motivation, plot holes or whatever your muse desires.

Program Notes

Motivation Monday will be on hiatus until the first week of December.  At least the contest will.  I'll be on a cruise next Monday, but for the rest of November, stop by each week for an article or discussion to motivate you in completing your novel.  As most of you know, next month is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short.  In fact, quite a few of our regulars are local facilitators for the event.  Hopefully, a few of them will provide a guest blog during November.  The idea is to write fifty thousand words in 30 days.  It sounds challenging but it can be done.
If you aren't interested in writing a novel or you want another challenge, please remember the Song Stories anthology is still looking for submissions.  Some of my best submissions have come from Motivation Monday regulars!  Now back to your regularly scheduled contest

The Judge

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Returning this week is judge Alissa Leonard.  She's a few scenes away from finishing the first draft of her first novel, a young adult fantasy.  (I know I'm eager to see the finished product.)
She''ll be participating in NaNoWriMo this year for the second time.  She's going with an off-genre she calls literary romance.  (Hmm, that's got me thinking Jane Austen.)
She's won a number of badges and honorable mentions not just from Motivation Monday but from around the flash fiction circuit.  In her words, "I'm just having fun writing when I can and making progress."  (How's that for motivation?

The Prompt

Ordinarily, when someone hears a disembodied voice scream at them to leave, they do... quickly

The Rules

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  1. The story must start from the prompt.  This means the prompt must be the
    first words in the story.
  2. No more than 500 words (not including the
    prompt).  No less than 100 words.
  3. Any genre (in fact an
    unexpected genre will get you more points.)
  4. Entries must be submitted
    by Tuesday Noon EST
  5. The winner of each week's competition will be
    invited to judge the following week and post the winner's badge similar to the
    one shown here.
  6. If your story would be rated R or NC-17 in a movie, please post a note to that effect at the beginning of your entry.
  7. Have fun!

 
Great news!  One of our regular authors was featured in The Flash Flood Journal with a story you read here first.  Congratulations, Ruth!

I agree with judge Robin Abess who said, "I really enjoyed every tale that I read this week, as always. Great job to all, and congrats to the winners!"

Table of Contents

Untitled by Rafe Brox
The Cave by Robin Abess
Untitled by Rakel Sampson
The Scenic Route by Lisa McCourt Hollar
Corp Fleet by Jeffrey Hollar
Untitled by Alissa
Untitled by Ryan Strohman
Untitled by Nellie

Honorable Mentions

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Jeffrey Hollar (@klingorengi)
This story had a real "Firefly" feel to it for me, which made me love it all the more. Terrific tale!

Lisa McCourt Hollar (@jezri1)
I'm a sucker {no pun intended} for vampires, and loved the feel of this tale. Nicely done.

Winner

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Judges Note:
I could picture the brother/sister argument plainly and this made me laugh. Poor alien in charge!

Untitled
By Alissa Leonard


“When we started this journey, we never thought we’d find-”

Marcus interrupted, “Oh, shut up, Martha! You couldn’t have thought anything after we found that shiny door thing! Who has any way to guess what could have been in there?”

Martha did her very best impression of their Momma. She lifted her chin and pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows – trying to look supercilious (a word that would have been her favorite had she only known of its existence) and fully ready to chastise him. “Daddy has read the Narnia books to me. I know what to expect when you go through portals like that…Or, at least, I thought I did.” Her face fell at the realization that the wood she had been expecting was, in fact, not there.

“Whatever. You didn’t know we’d find-”

“No, but I knew it would be special because-”

“Oh, please, I knew it would be special too! I’m not stupid! Besides, I found it.”

“By running off after Momma specifically said-”

“She did not! She said go play. I was exploring the new backyard!”

“That was not in our backyard, and you know it! Momma probably doesn’t even know that cave exists-”

“What she doesn’t know, won’t kill her.”

“No?” Martha gestured wildly around them, “You don’t think she’d be a bit concerned? Especially when we don’t come home for supper?”

“Well…” Marcus looked around again and bit his lip, “I still don’t think she’d die from it…”

“Well I do! I think she’d fall down dead of a heart attack right now if she knew where we were.”

“Exactly, but since she doesn’t know, it won’t kill her! See, I was right!” He stuck his tongue out at her.

“No, I’m right, because if we never get back, she’ll die from not knowing!” She stuck her tongue out as well, it was hard to remain mature and *supercilious* when the ‘I’m right’ wars began.

“Ahem.” The sound had a lot more gurgle to it than a normal throat clearing. Both Martha and Marcus froze and stared at each other for a moment with wide eyes before turning toward the sound, silent in a way they had never been. “It is clear now. Wipe their memory. Put them at the entrance to the caves. They’ll be found. Then fix that damn cloaking device. Go.”

 
Much snark has exchanged lips over Christopher Columbus' "discovery" of a "new world".  One thing, however, remains unquestionable.  The human mind is always pushing the boundaries,  We speculate about what might be out there beyond the limits of our vision. If we went on a journey, across space, or time or other dimensions, what might we find on the other side?

The Judge

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A regular fixture on the Flash Fiction Circuit and a veteran of NaNoWriMo challenge, Robin Abess also known as @Angelique_Rider on Twitter has graced us with champion stories before and will once again be this week's judge.

The Prompt

When we started this journey, we never thought we'd find...

The Rules

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  1. The story must start from the prompt.  This means the prompt must be the
    first words in the story.
  2. No more than 500 words (not including the
    prompt).  No less than 100 words.
  3. Any genre (in fact an
    unexpected genre will get you more points.)
  4. Entries must be submitted
    by Tuesday Noon EST
  5. The winner of each week's competition will be
    invited to judge the following week and post the winner's badge similar to the
    one shown here.
  6. If your story contains graphic language, please post a note to that effect at the beginning of your entry.
  7. Have fun!

 
My apologies on the lack of formatting this week.  I just want everyone to get their results, then I'm going back to bed.  Big thank you to judge David A Ludwig for his excellent reviews!

Reviews

Kimberly Gould (@kimmydonn)
NEVER SAY DIE –

Wow, great job building and maintaining interest from the start. Sounds like a zombie apocalypse to me, but I love that you never spell that out or even really show anyone at the full zombie level. Very intrigued by the fact that only adults seem to be affected, and love the contrast of the main character’s very reasonable level of self-involvement with the greater crisis encroaching on their special day. This one definitely engages my imagination.

L.T. Dalin (@ChessnySilth)
RANDOM FLUKE –

Fun interplay between your characters, I love the contrast of their personalities held together by their ‘survivors’ scenario—and of course the source of the virus is one of the survivors. Very intrigued by the concept of the apocalyptic plague, and you top the fun off with an excellent, and perfectly foreshadowed, emotional gut-punch when the survivor with him exhibits symptoms. I love the scope of the story you imply with this single scene.

Mark Ethridge (@LurchMunster) –

Egh, great job describing the experience of the symptoms in the beginning—took me back to the last time I was really sick, and that was a long time ago. I also love the narrator’s quoted commentary on his situation. The twist of robotization is a very refreshing deviation from the norm on this prompt, and you definitely had my interest with the silver as I tried to piece together what was going on alongside the narrator.
That said the transition from cold to robot take over felt a little sudden and lacking in set-up. I would have liked some subtle hint how he might have wound up ‘infected’ before the silver started showing up—and I wonder if we didn’t get too much information about the globabl takeover at the end. The implication of “Human unit 13527938 ready for use” would have been enough information to get me excited.

Nick Johns (@nickjohns999)
SOUL MUSIC –

The staccato rhythm of your set-up and sense of mystery as to just what’s going on and why priests are being brought up in relation to what was thought to be a cold is great. Ooo! Genius, like the piper’s music itself your piece flows in an eminently readable fashion. I loved the musical exorcism, but suggesting it to be the Pied Piper at the very last was a true master-stroke.

Rebekah Postupak (@postupak) –

Wow, great segue from the cold to the job situation. It makes this a very timely piece, and immediately takes it into territory I can relate to all too well. Also it makes the cold more intriguing in the context of being the first paragraph, but then set aside for the reader to wait to return to. The reveal of being an exchange student from Venus at the end was cute and definitely made me smile, but ultimately the piece felt like it lacked something.
You captured a brilliant and poignant day-in-the-life snapshot, but as we reach the clear ending of the piece I’m not sure what to take away from it. It was fun, but these competitions are intense enough it takes a little more than fun to win.

Honorable Mentions

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Jeffrey Hollar (@klingorengi)
COLD TERROR –

The immediate set-up of their marital relationship was a great direction to take things, focusing on the characters rather than the cold. Definite points for being the first story to actually scare me, even with some logically grim stuff in the others—which again I think comes from the initial focus on the relationship, after which describing his condition alone is frightening. Ack, and then she’s probably got it too at the end? That was some brilliant horror in a very small word count. Brilliant.
You got second place for being the best horror entry this week—if horror were more my genre you probably would have won. The technical execution, characters and precision of your craft were all excellent in this piece.

Alissa (@lissajean7) –

Immediately I’m grabbed by the depth to which you take us into the narrator’s point of view, the thoughts quickly began to feel like my own—and it doesn’t hurt that I don’t get sick easily myself. The number fixation and appreciation for the nurse were great details to immediately tell us a lot about the character. Yours is one of the stories that really immerses the reader in the reality of the epidemic by presenting it so entirely from a point of view to which it matters.
“Then start taking some blood, woman!” Made me laugh, I love that kind of fire to a character and it was a great counter-point to their dire situation.
I’m giving special mention here because your combination of dire circumstance, character and humor put me in a very similar mood to the winning entry.

Winner

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Robin Abess (@Angelique_Rider)

REGRETS –
Of all the disease stories, I particularly enjoyed your ability to set the scene immediately with your description of the symptoms and attempted treatments. The technical precision of your story really grabs me too, with each paragraph feeling like just the right amount of information before moving on to the next scene.
Okay, you really nailed this one! You got me to smile with a vampire/dhampir coming-of-age story, it actually seemed cute when the mom laid down for the dad and daughter to feed on her—and I sorta wonder if the doctor was in on the whole dhampir thing. Excellent characters, and you actually wrote a vampire story I’d like to read more of in spite of recent media vampire super-saturation.
You had some very stiff competition this week, some of which I’d say was just as emotionally compelling and technically executed as your story. Ultimately what makes the difference and allows me to say you are the clear winner is that on top of all that, you actually left me with a positive feeling at the end. I imagine the mom isn’t going to feel too good for a while and there are definite complications on the horizon, but I didn’t get the sense that she would die or that the complications were insurmountable. In a story where a little girl gets sick and turns into a monster and her mother is powerless to stop it, leaving me in a good mood is an amazing achievement.
So, in the context of my interpretation I’m not sure if “Regrets” is the right title for your story. I get that she has them, but that isn’t what I take away from the story. Maybe I’m reading it wrong, and either way I pick yours as the winner, but thought it was worth mentioning

Regrets
by Robin Abess


I thought it was just a cold. Mary was pale and listless, sneezing and coughing a little bit, but no fever. She complained of chills, so I wrapped her in blankets and put a hot water bottle on her feet. She couldn’t get warm, and as time went on, she was getting worse. I took her to the doctor, but he wasn’t alarmed. Said he’d seen a few other cases in children her age, and just to keep her on bedrest and lots of fluids. She should be fine in a few days. I took her home, trying not to worry.

The weekend came, and I heard Mary crying, so I rushed into her room. She complained that the bright sunlight hurt her eyes and made her feel funny, so I closed the blinds. The next day, she said her teeth hurt, so I gave her pain reliever, but it didn’t help. Her back started itching along her shoulder blades, and she scratched at her skin until she bled. I called the doctor again, but he insisted that she’d be fine and that she was having an allergic reaction to something.

I gave her oatmeal baths and juice and read stories until my throat was sore. I kept her blinds closed tightly, and even put a thick blanket over the window, when she said the light was still too bright. I wanted to take her to the hospital, but she cried so hard, I relented. Finally, I did what I hadn’t wanted to do at all – I called her father.

He was angry that I hadn’t called him before, but over the staticky connection, I heard him say he’d be there soon. True to his word, Duvid showed up on our doorstep that night. He brushed past me without even a greeting and rushed upstairs to Mary’s room.

“Papa!” Her voice was weak and thin, but happy.

“Papa is here now, my darling. You’ll soon be fine.”

I’d followed him, and I watched as he stroked her dark hair, so like his own, with his long fingers. He looked her over thoroughly, nodding thoughtfully at the spots on her back. He nodded again when she opened her mouth for him to examine her teeth, turning to face me.

Those eyes. They were deep and glowing and I fell into them. He beckoned me to the bed and I went without hesitation.

“Well, Emma, it seems we know now who Mary will take after. She’s going through the transformation now. By tomorrow, she’ll be ready for her new life.” He paused, smiling slightly. “Before then, she must…feed.” His voice grew low and husky on the last word. “As will I. It was quite a long journey.”

He gestured to the bed and I lay down beside our daughter. I listened as he taught her how to release her fangs and felt two sets pierce my throat. As I lay there, I wondered again why in the world I’d married a vampire..