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

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.

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

  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!

Robin Abess
12/17/2012 04:35:47 am


With five people stuck in a cave in the middle of nowhere for three weeks, trouble is bound to happen.

It all started with us deciding to go spelunking where none of us had ever been in before. Margaret got the information about Grant’s Cave from a client of hers who knew she liked cave diving. By the time she finished describing the natural wonder, we were all excited to go, even with the warning that many people had gone and never returned. I think that made us all the more eager to go, quite frankly.

We packed up and drove to Minnesota, where the cave was located. We’re experienced spelunkers, so we were loaded down with supplies. We distributed everything evenly and left the SUV parked at the head of the trail. The climb was pretty arduous, and Mark managed to twist his ankle badly on the way up. He refused to quit, and we all kept going.

The entrance to Grant’s Cave was well-hidden, but Margaret knew exactly where to find it. There was no way in except straight down, so we lowered one another by rope. Frank was the last one down and he swore he tied the rope off tightly to a rock, but somehow once we were all inside the cave, the rope slipped and fell down at our feet. Now, we were stuck, unless we found another way out. None of us was really alarmed, as we considered it an adventure, and we had all sent word to different people about where we were going, so if no one heard from us in a designated period of time, someone would come looking.

The first to disappear was Frank. We’d been down in the cave for about two days by then, and he decided to go ahead of the group. No matter how loudly we called, we never saw him again. Next, Bob vanished in the night. We woke up, and he had disappeared without a trace. By this time, we’d been down in the cave for just over a week. Margaret and I began feeling uneasy, but Mark laughed at us, calling us ‘silly girls’. He had been in a good mood the whole time, and his ankle seemed much better fairly quickly, even with all the walking.

Time passed and our supplies were low. When the other two men had vanished, their share of the supplies had gone too. I was beginning to wonder why no one had come looking for us yet, the night that Margaret disappeared. Some slight noise woke me, and I sat up, realizing that she and Mark were both gone. I heard a faint sound off to my right and followed it, where I discovered Mark was not human at all, but was instead a troll, and was quickly making Margaret disappear down his throat. I made it back without him seeing me, and now I lie here wondering how I will get out of this predicament.

500 words {with title}

12/17/2012 06:22:55 am

With three people stuck in a bottomless hole in the middle of nowhere for an unknown chunk of time, trouble was bound to happen. It didn’t help that two of those people weren’t really people at all; I suppose demons would be a better definition, and I was one of them. The other was my brother.
We continued to fall down the abysmal depths of the gateway to Hell. Some people never escape the constant darkness and hollowed screams echoing in their ears. It was after all a bottomless hole to those who didn’t know how to navigate it to the realm of the Underworld. Every so often you could feel the fingers of souls past scratch at you from the dirt and clay plastered walls, but it wasn’t just clay and dirt that held the walls together.
I hadn’t traveled this way to Home in quite some time which left both Elsa and I at the disposal of my brother to “save” us. Then again, “save” was a strong word for merely leading us into the Underworld. His intentions weren’t clear, but when were they ever? He swore that he had nothing to do with bringing Elsa here with us to our Home but how could I trust his words? He was, just as much as I, interested in her soul.
I reached out my hand searching for Elsa in the darkness. The hand I caught was anything but smooth and small.
“Elsa?” I called out only to find myself in another room. I caught a door and was separated from her. My only thought was to find her before her soul was lost forever.

276 words

12/17/2012 11:28:19 am


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.

499 words

Rebekah Postupak
12/17/2012 10:43:40 pm

AWESOME. This story is hilarious!!!! voice is perfect, plot is hysterical. Love every word.

12/17/2012 12:22:43 pm

“With two people stuck in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere for several days, trouble is bound to happen.” Maia peered into the gloom outside the cave and rubbed her hands together to return circulation. “Not that you weren’t in trouble before. But now we’re both in trouble.”

“Are you never quiet, Princess?” Quinn’s voice held no anger only exasperation and she gritted her teeth in response.

“Nope. Not unless it’s warranted, and right now, it would be nice to hear more than my own thoughts, thank you very much.”

“I’d happily never hear your thoughts.” He drew a short, sharp blade across a little whetstone incessantly and she wanted to rip it out of his hands and throw it at his head. She only resisted the urge with the knowledge of his profession. And I’m not dumb enough to try to disarm a master assassin.

“Don’t you ever get tired of silence?”

“I would if such a place existed. But I’m afraid I haven’t experienced it in days.” He gave her a hard stare. “You haven’t allowed us much silence.”

Maia looked out on the swirling snow again. “Yeah, well, you try being a lamp for decades and see how that silence hits you.”

She and her eleven sisters had made one mistake and paid for it by being turned into lamps to warn off others who followed their footsteps. The dryads hadn’t been pleased when they lost track of the new baby Keeper of the Grove, and the price had been their humanity. At least they gave me a pretty stained glass shade over my head.

Now she’d been paired with a creepy assassin to search for the Keeper’s sister, the very Keeper who’d been lost decades earlier. She returned just fine, but did the dryads let them go? No. Now she had to help on a misbegotten quest. At least I’m no longer a lamp. But her companion spoke as much as one.

“Do you think you could stop sharpening that blade? It’s irritating.”

“Almost as irritating as your incessant nattering.” He continued with the whetstone, his motions measured and even.

Maia sighed. It would be a long night, and an even longer blizzard.

348 WIP500 words

12/17/2012 04:27:23 pm


With three dozen people stuck on an island in the middle of nowhere for months on end, trouble is bound to happen.

Man like me don’t wait around for it to strike. I get the jump on things before they reach round and grab me by the shorthairs.

Hurricane pitched the hunk of seaworthy steel we was floating in across the atlantic like it was styrofoam. The few of us that survived was the roughest of the bunch.

There were half as many able-bodied men as there were loafers, lay-abouts and laggers. No old folk or children and few women.

I saw that it would boil down to jungle law right quick, so I spent that first day keeping to myself, laying low, and planning.

Once the sun was down, I hit the water. Nearly froze before I reached the hull. Hauled myself up and into the busted bow. Left a chuck of my thigh doing it too.

A man’s priorities shift when nature knock’s him down to size. Forget looting for cash, electronics and jewelry. Weapons, first aid supplies, matches, extra clothing, blankets, and food

What wasn’t waterproof, I stuffed into plastic containers. Piled everything into fishing nets, tossed them into the water and drug them to shore. Had it all buried in the sand before sunrise.

Took the better part of another day to choose my crew. A pair of brothers, several years younger than me, and one of the women.

The boys were tall and lean, and didn’t think twice about taking orders from me. The woman was built sturdy, didn’t talk much and had eyes the color of the sea.

We waited til sundown and spent the night digging up our supplies and dragging them down the coast, away from the rest of the group.

I’m not an educated man far as books and schoolrooms, but I know how to hunt and fish and build a shelter. And I’m a fair judge of human nature. Enough to know we’d need to establish ourselves somewhere defensible.

We built a structure against the rock wall of the cove. Kept us out of the wind and weather. And out of sight too.

We took shifts sleeping, all but the woman. She could hold her own long as she ate and slept on schedule. Only took but the one time to learn the folly of shorting her sleep pattern.

Jacob and James. Those are the brothers. All of twenty-two and full of energy and ideas. And Penny. That’s the woman. Nearly thirty, a year younger than me, and just as tough in her quiet way.

Don’t know how long we’ve been here, but I tell you what ... if a rescue team showed up now, I’d flip them the bird and send them on their way.

This vacation from hell is the best thing ever happened to me. I ended up with a home, friends, and a kid on the way. It don’t get better than that.

- - - - -
497 words / @bullishink


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