A great story starts off with a memorable line and keeps the reader engaged throughout.  The first line of my current work in progress is far to specific, but I'd like to see how many places our fearless writers can take a similar prompt.

When you're done reading and writing, please take a moment to visit Carolyn Arnold's site to read my latest interview.

The Judge

This week's judge is J P Sloan

Please show your support by visiting his blog where he describes himself thusly:

"I am an author of speculative fiction, daily honing my craft and striving to maintain my sanity."

The Prompt

He loved to play the game.

The Rules

  1. Story must continue from the prompt. (This means the prompt is the first sentence of 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 on the right.
  6. Have fun!

4/16/2012 12:17:14 am

He loved to play the game but to crave that next hit of adrenaline was like no other craving in the world. It was maddeningly euphoric and nothing else even came close to capturing that particular feeling. Nothing at all, because he’d tried virtually everything he could think of to simulate the same feeling and had no success.

He still loved to chase them despite the fact he shouldn't have been because to watch their horrified faces turn to stone at the first sight of his true self was utterly glorious but it still didn’t match the feeling that the joy of killing gave him.

“Saxon Burke,” said a voice he wouldn’t have recognised if it weren’t for a single meeting several years before. “What a lovely surprise. I thought you’d long died by now.”

“Sorry to disappoint Adella but I’m still very much alive as you can plainly see,” he said turning in a slow circle.

“Yes,” she said. “Now tell me... exactly how do we rectify this situation?”


“But of course darling, you’re still alive aren’t you? I’m here to see to it that you don’t take another breath after the fall of sunset.”

“You’re what?”

“I’m here to kill you,” Adella replied. “Is that clear enough for you Saxon? Now start running!”

All in a matter of mere moments the fox hunter had become the hunted and by the one person who he should have been able to trust. They’d been partners once – he and Adella – hunted the forests of Faerie together looking for foxes. Of course they weren’t really foxes, but solitary fey set themselves up to be game simply because they were solitary. What was the point in hunting something if there was likely to be someone coming along to rescue it?

It was the one rule that he’d conveniently forgotten. How he could have forgotten such an important rule he had no idea. Never turn your back on them or they would get you.

So he did what Adella wanted and he ran.

346 words

Ryan Strohman
4/16/2012 01:34:58 am

He loved to play the game. At first they figured him to just be fine-tuning his motor skills, picking up the multicolored plastic shapes and putting them into the appropriate places. After several weeks, and then even a couple of months, they began to think something was wrong. He avoided every other game or toy set out for him. He cried when he could not play the shape game. He hadn’t progressed.

Even the doctors seemed discouraged. At this stage, he should be able to master the skills and move on. He shouldn’t be drawn to things like this. The idea of obsession and compulsion shouldn’t be manifesting in him.

Of course, he was just playing with them. They seemed to think the damage he sustained had turned him into an invalid or a moron, stripping away nearly all of his abilities both mental and physical. They’d even tried to test him, and after a cunning Oscar-worthy performance, they’d declared his mental capacity to be equivalent to that of a toddler. It took a while, but even the armed guards that had been stationed on him were dismissed. The doctors began giving him more and more freedom, convinced that his brain had been injured to the point where he would no longer be a threat to himself or society.

A little drool and tears were all he needed to fool them.

He was unscrupulous, and his insatiable appetite for wanton destruction would never leave him, whether he’d taken a bullet in the head or not. The term “serial killer” did him no justice. When they found him in his hideaway with the kidnapped girl, they had shot him and he’d ended up here. Detectives and behavioral analysts from various agencies had attempted to question him, but he’d never broken his routine of playing with the shapes. Sure, they’d suspected him of a few more kidnappings and perhaps even murders, but they had no idea that his tally was well over a hundred stretching back over the past decade.

He was a monster. And now he had the perfect disguise.

He’d continue to play with them until the time arose for his escape—whether it be in a few days or weeks or months. Of all the serial killers he’d ever studied, they all seemed to lack one critical trait: patience. Not him. He’d play this role for years if he had to until the time was right. Then he’d get out, move far away, and feast on the fears and blood of his captives once again.

426 words

4/16/2012 03:42:46 am

He loved to play the game. The feel of adrenaline,, when he had the other player at his back, trying to steal the puck, made him smile just thinking about it. The speed, as the hockey players whizzed by on their skates, from one end to another. It was a dance, weaving this way and that; gliding sometimes like a matador through a line of defence men. The wooden stick felt like an extension of his arm, scooting the rubber puck across the ice. The sound of triumph as the puck hit the target, skirting the goalie and ending up in the net. He wanted to be picked for the team it was his dream, to be in the Olympics .Like the great one Wayne Gretzky but for now he had to make the Junior A team. Then he would be at the Olympics as a junior. Once that goal was achieved it was onto the bigger dream of playing on an NHL team like Gretzky.
His head hurt why did his head hurt? Why was his back cold? His legs he couldn’t feel his legs and his eyes felt so heavy. What had happened? He remembered skating down the ice and then going into the corner scrambling for the puck. He snagged the puck turned around and then felt...like his neck had snapped in two. Had it? Was he lying on the ice still? He heard voices whispering no clear words. Was he dead? No he was sleeping. Wasn’t he?
“He should be coming around soon.” he heard and then like the words were magic he found his eyes had popped open.
“Mom?” he asked seeing his mother sitting beside the bed.
“Andrew. It’s okay honey. I’m here.”
“What happened?” he asked reaching up to touch his head and finding a metal halo.
“You took a bad hit son.” his father answered.
“Why can’t I feel my legs?”
“You took a hit son.” Mom said sadly that explained it all.
“You are paralyzed son.” my dad answered.
And just like that his waking dream ended .No more dreams of Olympic glory. Andrew was fifteen years old and he was told he’d never walk again. Andrew still dreamt sometimes that he was skating gliding across the ice. He could hear the sticks clanging in his ears as the puck whizzed across the blue line, and then cheers erupting as the puck sailed into the net, the goalie beaten. It got him through all the rehab, the gruelling long hours and beating the doctor’s prognosis so sixteen years old, standing tall again and walking in short strides. He worked, he planned and now he was there for the Olympics. He had coached the junior team to a gold medal, his dream was fulfilled.He had his gold medal in hockey.

4/16/2012 05:14:25 am


He loved to play to the game. To Jeremy, it was the only thing left worth living for.
“Jeremy, I don’t want you going to the Exchange today,” his mom said.
Jeremy scooped the tiny scraps of oats from his bowl and looked balefully at his mother, “I’ve got batteries to trade. How am I supposed to get food if I don’t go?”
“I know what happens on Fridays, and I won’t have you part of it. You can go tomorrow.”
His mom knew about the game—most everyone did—but she only knew half the story. She thought he bet on the games, like all the other teenagers. Wagering bits of reclaimed treasure, food, or booze is the only sport left to their world.
Jeremy was going to play again, whether she liked it or not. He’d had enough scrapping about.
“Mom…I know to stay away from those guys,” Jeremy lied. She frowned but couldn’t spend anymore time today sheltering her only surviving son. Jeremy bolted out the fire escape the minute she left for work.
He navigated the fire escapes and roof-top ladders across the ruined cityscape until he reached the Exchange. He didn’t bother looking at the vegetables, meats, or clothes the vendors hawked for barter. He went straight to the stairwell and down two flights to the open floor, where the game waited.
The crowd stood around the spray-painted circle of red on the floor, all talking animatedly about today’s pot. Inside the red circle were three freshly-skinned cat carcasses—fresh meat; nearly a week’s worth between his mother and him.
“I want in!” Jeremy wasted no time. The Gamekeeper looked pleased.
“Back for more? You’re a cocky one. What’s your ante?” the Gamekeeper asked.
Jeremy threw six packs of batteries from his backpack into the ring. “Unopened double AA’s.”
“I’ll take that.” A skinny asian teen with a slick faux-hawk dropped a small box into the ring. “100 rounds; 9mm.”
Jeremy didn’t give a shit; he just wanted to play.
“2 minutes,” Faux-hawk said.
“5 minutes.” Jeremy could see his opponent sweating. Bidders weren’t supposed to up-the-ante so fast, but Jeremy wasn’t going to let this chance get away.
“6 minutes.”
“10 minutes.”
Faux-hawk backed away from the circle with his hands up in surrender, “You’re crazy punk, and I’m going to enjoy watching you die.”
“Set 10 minutes on the clock!” The Gamekeeper smiled wickedly, “you’re it, kid.”
Jeremy walked down five flights of stairs with the crowd at his back chanting and cheering. They reached the balcony on the second floor and the crowd pushed their way around the windows as the ladder lowered to the street.
Jeremy pulled the stained, lead pipe from his pack and climbed down to the street.
“BEGIN!” The Gamekeeper shouted.
Jeremy took a deep breath as he spotted the first zombie coming to investigate the shouting.
“Game on, motherfucker,” Jeremy whispered.

493 words

4/16/2012 05:59:46 am

He loved to play the game as much as me. There is nothing like playing cat and mouse. The prey, charged with anticipation knowing that it is being hunted, scurries around trying to hide from the hunter. The hunter’s eyes sharp, watching the shadows. His nose sniffs the air to find the scent.

I urge him on, quietly prodding him. He has not opened his eyes to what they offer completely. They are not just flesh and blood to fill his hunger, they contain history all their own. Their memories flood me as I take their souls into my grasp. My dear innocent Reynard calls me the Darkness but I am not dark at all. I am filled with light but all he sees of me is shadows and mirth.

When we hunt lately, his loathing of me and what I put into him is ever powerful; he wishes to deny us both of the delicacy. If he would open his eyes to what more they offer, he would not hate me so. I admit, I force him to take more than we need. The brightness of them is addictive. I want more and more. He does not see that we are setting them free of their miserable lives on the earth. The plains they travel now are free of pain and hate. They have worry no more.


228 Words

4/16/2012 06:42:13 am

He loved to play the game. The raw energy, the thrill of it, made him feel absolutely alive in a way little else could. Most considered his approach to it simplistic, and honestly it was. Lunk was never much for strategy.

The game was Life and Death, and even with the finesse of a blunt instrument Lunk was a master player. Across the known world he was hailed as a hero because of his victories in the game. Saving entire civilizations from some pretty nasty players of the game seemed to have that effect.

Lunk’s approach amounted to “win every time.” When things weren’t going well he resorted on occasion to supplementing his strategy with “try harder” and every now and then he’d even had to fall back on “win anyway”. There were a few re-matches in there too, but he didn’t like to think about those.

Really the worst thing about the game was the cheaters. Lunk didn’t mind long odds, playing against that volcano with the entire fertile valley at stake normally would have required spell support. But other living players, villains, would resort to cheap tactics and play against the innocent and defenseless instead of playing Lunk directly. That pissed him off. Then when the cheaters went after the people Lunk cared about… Well, that’s where nearly all of the re-matches came in.

Still, today was a good day to play the game. No cheaters in sight and Lunk had climbed the tallest mountain in the kingdom to face his original nemesis in their annual match-up. Gravity, give it your best shot!

265 words

4/16/2012 12:43:50 pm

“He loved to play the game, our granddad.” I tugged my cap low over my eyes, still squinting to see the ball field in scorching Florida sunshine. The Clearwater Threshers and Charlotte Stone Crabs looked comfortable despite the heat. The scents of popcorn, beer, and sweat mingled in the humid air. “He might have even gone pro, you know.”

“I get tired just watching these guys,” my brother Rand said, chugging half a beer in one effort. “So what happened to Gramps? He take an arrow in the knee?”

The odd question snapped me out of my sentimental thoughts and study of the field.

“An arrow in the—this is baseball, Rand.” I glared at my brother. “What the hell?”

“I used to be an adventurer like you,” he said solemnly, “then I took an arrow in the knee.”

“Jesus H.—I’m a soldier, not an adventurer. Have you ever even seen an arrow?”

He snorted trying to hold back his laughter.

“Wait. This is something from one of your stupid games, isn’t it?”

He fell back against his chair laughing so hard he could barely breathe, so I smacked him upside the head on sheer principal.

“Don’t be a dick, Rand. Have a little respect for your elders.”

He grinned, wiping tears away as he made a mock bow from his seat. “As you command, oh wise one.”

“Not me. Granddad.” I swatted him again. “There is no help for you, I swear.”

“Oh c’mon, Circe,” he chuckled. “Did the Army take away your sense of humor when they made you cut your hair?”

I ran a self-conscious hand over my neck, feeling sweat damp flesh instead of the hair that used to fall to the middle of my back.

“It’ll grow back,” I said. “Damn docs haven’t figured out how to stitch up a head wound without scalping you first.”

Rand’s smile softened. “Don’t worry, Sis. You turn heads even as a chrome dome.”

“Yeah, right.” I slouched in my seat. “All the guys go for the bald chick in fatigues.”

“You volunteered,” he said with the casual brutality only family could get away with. “Dad’s still pissed, by the way.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m surprised he hasn’t shown up at base to protest.”

“Massachusetts is a bit of a drive. Besides, I think Mom threatens to withhold sex for all eternity if he does.”

I snickered. “At least he’s got his priorities straight.”

“I don’t want to think about that.” He shuddered. “So why didn’t Gramps go pro? Did he get taken out by Babe Ruth?”

“More like Grams and a baby Bryant on the way,” I said. “He picked family over the Big Show.”

“Speaking of, Sergeant Bryant—When are you going to pick family over black ops?”

I lifted an eyebrow. Rand grinned.

“Just prepping you for your next Bryant family interrogation.” He coughed. “I mean dinner.”

“Someday, Brother,” I laughed. “But not today.”

“Good luck getting away with that answer at home.”

499 #WIP500 words

4/16/2012 01:29:24 pm

He loved to play the game of love, and this time he was playing to win.

Jack stepped into the precinct shower and threw his face into the water, in hopes of washing off a week’s worth of grime and several years of stupidity. Oh sure, the grime came off easily as he scrubbed his body down with soap, but the stupidity? Not so much.

He’d come back for two reasons. To gain Cassie Tucker’s help, and to win her heart. Neither would be particularly easy, but he’d always loved a good challenge.

But, damn, the woman was more sexy than he remembered.

When he’d seen her at the drainage ditch earlier that morning, his cock had been ready to break the fly on his jeans. Fiery brown eyes had stared down at him from under honey blond hair pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head. She’d gained weight since becoming a detective, becoming a curvy, spectacular woman rather than the rangy waif she’d been. But her eyes had grown colder and harder, and she hadn’t been thrilled to see him.

Of course, that may have something to do with the way he’d left her…seven years ago. Shit, had it been so long? The last time he’d seen her, she’d been standing at the door of her apartment, dressed in the fuzzy red robe he’d given her for Valentine’s Day, with tears streaming down her face. He’d walked away, claiming he hadn’t wanted to settle down.

He shoved the guilt aside and focused on the memory of her lush body, his hand sliding along his wet shaft in hard, measured strokes. He pictured her coming apart in his arms, her head thrown back and her breasts pressed against his chest. He came hard with a low groan, grateful the water washed away any evidence of his arousal.

Jack finished his shower and considered how he’d get Cassie to help him as he toweled dry.

Good luck with that. Cassie doesn’t forgive easily, remember? Once she made up her mind about something, it took a Supreme Court Order to make her change it, and even then she needed papers signed in triplicate.

I’m gonna have to use my patented Jack the Bloodhound charm on her.

It had worked on Cassie Tucker back before she’d become a cop, but now she’d made it to detective. She couldn’t have been sexier.
Or tougher. But he had an ace up his sleeve.

Jack’s buddy Mike got in deep with a gunrunner six months earlier and the bastard had kidnapped Mike’s sister and her kid when he said he wanted out.

Mike had begged Jack to look into the kidnapping, which he had. And he uncovered a larger problem than just Mike’s family, a problem that required the clout of more than just a single PI. He needed the cops, but he couldn’t be sure who to trust in this game. The only cop he knew was clean and who had a soft spot for kidnappings.

Cassie Tucker.

499 #WIP500 words

Rebekah Postupak
4/16/2012 01:35:56 pm

He loved to play the game. No. "Loved" sounded too weak, too soft. "Loved" was for hunting. For a night of poker with skilled partners. For snuff. For his mother. Yes; even her.

But the game… ah, the game transcended all else. He obsessed over it, devoted night after sleepless night to plotting strategies, calculating his next move. Each opponent he analyzed with relentless fixation, his notes bleeding across the pages in feverish scrawls. Sometimes he wondered if he were going mad, and what the game might cost him before the end.

Still he played. He played, holding nothing back. He played, knowing deep in his bones how each round would unfold, always certain of his ultimate triumph. He despised them all, watching them fall in his mind long before the game began; the players might change, but the outcome never did. And he was never wrong.

Until tonight.

From within the crowd, the eyes of a Master met his, unflinching, unafraid—knowing. Those eyes measured him, claimed victory, and dismissed him with a little shrug of amusement. Dismissed HIM!?

For the first time in his life he tasted fear.

He would not show it. He could—no, he would—make the first move. The game could still be his. It had to be.

He crossed the room in an instant. A mocking, elegant, confident bow as the opening gambit, daring those eyes to dismiss him again.

“Fitzwilliam Darcy, at your service,” he said.

“Elizabeth Bennet at yours,” she said, and the game was hers.

255 words

4/16/2012 11:19:44 pm

He loved to play the game. Pay a visit. Fix the target. Collect the reward. Easy.

Jackson sat up and trimmed his thumb nail with the blade of his hunting knife, the sound etching into the night closer to his ears than the crickets. A snap. He glanced across the open desert. No one else knew he was out here. Well, no human. As he scanned the rocky landscape, distinguishing cactus silhouettes from straggled trees, he caught sight of it—a coyote.

Continuing to drag the blade over his thumb, his eyes stayed on the animal. Jackson’s horse grunted and shifted her feet behind him.

“Be cool,” Jackson said, his voice loaded with the same grit which filled Nevada.

He whistled a sharp note. The coyote dodged in the darkness, it’s back humping up as it jumped. Must have startled.

Any fearful animal can be handled. Man or beast. Jackson reached to his left, eyes never leaving the pointed snout of the creature, and raked a few rocks into his hand. Chucking the stones as hard as he could, the coyote turned tail and ran under the sound of the pebbles crashing to the hard packed floor.

Jackson leaned back, rested on his elbow. Easy enough.

The horse grumbled again, her halter clanking as she tossed her head.

“Said be cool,” Jackson repeated himself, louder this time. His voice darted off the far canyon wall and came back to him.

He drew a canister of dip from his pocket and tucked a bitter wad of tobacco into the bottom of his cheek. The juice came quick to his tongue.

In another hour the sun would be rising. He didn’t bother stoking the smoldering fire. No point now. Paunch Showalter slept just over the ridge. Two, three hours away. Tops. By noon Jackson’d be riding back to the sheriff’s office, one bullet lighter, one body heavier. It was simpler than most believed—to kill a man. Spot him, aim. Ka-blewie. A fresh jingle in his pocket.

The best part was the money. The more he took them out, the more the Badges gave him. So long as he ain’t worried about sin or redemption, a man can make a good living out West. That’s what he loved about the game; how easy it was to play. So very easy.

Jackson spit onto the ground a few feet ahead of him and the brown sludge absorbed into environment. Sure he could get killed, but the element of surprise was always in his favor. Every attack an ambush on someone else. Easy enough.

430 words

4/17/2012 12:22:42 am

The Cog Pirate

He loved to play the game. Phelps leaned back in his chair, the old patch sitting on the table for the moment as he turned the small, innocuous bottle around in his hands. Of course, the bottle might contain something a little more significant but it was the wrapping that put some people off.

“How much do you want for it?” His eyes rose up to stare at the merchantman fidgeting in front of him.

“I- well, I was hoping to get South to the market and sell it there. It can be quite valuable.” The small man mopped his brow with a handkerchief, stuffing it back into the plaid jacket he was wear.

“Ah, but you aren’t there yet. You’re here. On my island. And I could take offense that you tried to bribe some of the dock officials as soon as you came on board.” Phelps smiled, the corner of his mouth quirked up. “And I could consider this mine straight off the bat as you were smuggling something that could be dangerous in the wrong hands.” He tilted his head. “If I was a law abiding citizen that is.” He turned his head so the working cog that was his eye was looking at the man. “but then again, this entire place was founded by me. My island, my rules. I’m being generous in offering to pay you right now and save you the trip to the Black Market. What say you, Mr. Tesh.”

The handkerchief came out again and the man mopped at the balding spot, dislodging the thing hair that he had combed over to try to disguise it. “Well, it is worth a lot of money.”

Phelps tapped a finger below his right eye. “I know, dear man. What were you going to ask for it?”

“Umm..well, I was hoping for a thousand coins. Due to the nature and all.” Tesh gave a nervous smile, patting the damp fabric against his neck.

“Uh-huh.” He looked at the bottle again and turned it around. The thing inside skittered around, metallic clinks against the bottle. “Five hundred and that’s my final offer. Consider it a toll for going through and me not tossing you over the edge to fall to the ground.” Phelps smiled at the man.

Tesh cleared his throat, looking between the bottle and the pirate. “Seven fifty?” he didn’t look Phelps in the face as the cog eye parts moved and focused on him.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Tesh, I wasn’t negotiating. Five hundred is what I’m paying. You can see about getting the coin from my daughter.” The pirate’s gaze focused on him. “And you might want to find another way to travel. I’m not sure I’ll be so nice if I find you moving.” He glanced at the water clock. “In five minutes. There is a ship going out.”

The man squeaked and scrambled out while Phelps picked up the jar and looked at the silhouette. “Hello, my pretty.”

500 words

Nance P
4/17/2012 01:20:35 am

Service - Without Words

He loved to play the game. His adulation was infectious, washing through anyone who happened by. His simple joy brought sunshine to their day. No matter how trying a person’s life was, as soon as they spied him, they would smile. The amount of time the people would spend seemed directly related to how much help they needed that day. Those who needed the lift the most would stop and watch for a number of minutes. Sometimes they would talk to me about him, striking up a conversation with a complete stranger.

Ted had that power over people. Thing was, he never abused it, not for as long as I knew him. Sure, from time to time, if there was something he found that he really wanted; he would turn on the baby blues and beg for it until I had no choice but to give in, but I always surrendered with good humor. It was worth it to see him happy, this soul who brought light to so many others. His power was used more for good than it ever was for his own gain.

It was when he played his game that his strength showed through. He was lean and strong, he could run all day. Still, it was hard to just look at the physical side of it when the transformation he caused in others was so much more striking.

Children would stop and point. Adults would slow down and watch. If they were shy, they might linger by a tree and pretend to not pay attention, but I saw them and I knew. Ted never called attention to them. He knew that they would benefit from him even if they didn’t openly acknowledge it. His vivacity added a little spring to the steps of the infirm and elderly, his zest for life brought smiles to the faces of the sickly.

Wherever he was, as long as Ted had his tennis ball, there was magic. In the park, in the nursing home, it didn’t matter. His favorite game was chasing after it, but he shone whenever he had it with him, which was all the time. Even sleeping, it would be tucked under a cinnamon-brown paw. When we “patrolled” our neighborhood, he would strut along with his head held high, tail arced over his back, tennis ball clutched in his jaws. People would laugh. The sad would smile. The sun would shine. At the lake, he would leap with total abandon off of a dock to chase it, leading the charge of a dozen or so children into the water. His game was anything that had to do with that ball.

When the sunshine finally faded and he was buried with his tennis ball, people came. Lives he had touched. Those who had been given laughter came to say goodbye and to thank him for what he had done, leaving tennis balls in their wake. They gave thanks as he had given them happiness. Without words.

498 words
Nance P


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