Saturday, 20 September 2014

Rotting on the Vine

It has been a terrible year for tomatoes here. I make and put up sauce, having long since lost my taste for the manufactured variety, and with three times the plants I grew last year, I've yet to put up as much as got us through last winter. Such are the vagaries of the growing season. We got all the rain, and a cool summer, and to the west of us, the land burns with drought. For all that it made my harvest rough, I'd rather our lot than theirs.

And I would far rather my safe and mostly comfortable world than any we put forth on this blog, though the stories are rich and complex and compelling. You are all a wonder, and I feel blessed that you come to share your work with us.

The winner of last (two) week's challenge is John Xero with his blood-drenched tale, What cost, humanity? That one will stick with me for a long time.

I would choose the entire lot as runners up, so good were they, but having to select, I pick Fate, by Zaiure and Thwarted, by Sandra Davies. Both tales were strong and very tightly written. I hope to see more of each of those stories.

The Tome cares nothing for my feats of vegetative brilliance (and there were a few), hoping instead to be rewarded with something a bit more carnal for the offering of these words:

Condition
Chunky
Taught

The usual rules apply: 100 words maximum (excluding title) of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above in the genres of horror, fantasy, science fiction or noir. Serialized fiction is, as always, welcome. All variants and use of the words and stems are fine. You have until 11 p.m. (U.S. Eastern time) Friday, September 26.

Feel free to post links to your stories on Twitter or Facebook or whichever social media best pleases you and, if you like, remind your friends that we are open to new and returning writers.

52 comments:

  1. I'm currently enjoying the 'Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival, for which John's bloody horror would amply comply, and agree Zauire's Fate was special but would also cite Rebecca's as one of the strongest read in ages. Thank you for my nomination. And the Tome for the words which I shall get round to pondering on Tuesday.

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  2. congratulations to the superb writers in this Challenge! Trying again to respond... Blogger threw me out over and over this morning... Sandra, enjoy the festival!
    Good words for the Captain when he gets back from his latest voyage, he took Infinity off to places unknown on Friday...

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  3. Bounty

    He was easy to pick out in the crowd. Chunky in an ill-fitting blue suit with high collar, a blond pompadour, and unfortunately prominent ears, he strolled down the street, staring lecherously at a woman's backside as she bent to pick up a child. Obviously he had not been taught to respect women. Unfortunate for him.

    Gliding up behind him, Bellora allowed herself a tight grin. They'd set no conditions on his bounty. Needle-thin blade slid into her palm, punched through the small of his back before he felt her presence. Wobbling, he fell into her arm.

    "Hello brother."

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    1. Why ARE blue suits so creepy? Lovely first sentence - contains so much.

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    2. ha! good question, Sandra! My niece's new husband committed two cardinal sins when they got married last year, blue suit and brown shoes...
      This is good, nasty in the extreme, setting up the macho thug and then doing away with him so smoothly... like it. Any idea where I can get one of those blades?

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    3. Clever job creating a crowd scene and a character in the first paragraph. Second paragraph neatly gives us story, tension, action. Third delivers the twist.

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    4. I really enjoy the tension in this piece, leading up to an excellent pay off.

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  4. A change of focus [102]

    ‘You’ve let her go?’ Astonishment juggled with ill-concealed anger, bunching Brickwood’s chunky features.
    ‘On condition she doesn’t leave town – ‘
    Condemnation escalated, ‘She’ll not comply –‘
    Pettinger’s experience had taught him to value passion above near-insubordination. ‘As soon Charity moves we arrest her. As it is we’ve insufficient evidence, until –‘
    ‘Until her sister’s body turns up –‘
    ‘Whereupon, fingers crossed, the post-mortem will tell us whether she was murdered –‘
    ‘How d’you know the sister you’re shagging won’t be next?’
    Patience thinning. ‘Faith? She’s very different. It’s unlikely –’ John paused, checking his phone – ‘But, shit, not that unlikely!’

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    1. whoo, some secrets being revealed in this one! that last line will throw everyone! Good instalment, liked it a lot.

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    2. Great job moving the story on through dialogue, and another tense cliffhanger ending!

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    3. Poor Pettinger, always underestimating how diabolical his female acquaintances can be. I love the implied panic in the last line.

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  5. I'm curious how everyone will use 'chunky' this week and I love how you used it to describe Brickwood's features. :) Great hook at the end in regards to Faith. Not knowing what's coming next will gnaw at me until the next installment.

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  6. Burial rights?

    Nigh on two months with Ravenscar had taught me much.
    Intended, by Burk and his over-moneyed friends, as sacrifice, despite or because of my condition – I’d witnessed him, with similarly single-minded focus, bring efficient death to them and bloody, tender birth unto my child.
    I’d learnt his world, way beyond the edge of mine, struggled for viability; its survival requiring they jettison purity of race and seek alien fertility.
    Now, digging graves, in ground chunky with stones and long-scoured bones, he watched me watching him.
    And when he’d done, the child asleep, he gestured.
    We went together to the river.

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    1. this has such a different feel to Pettinger it is like two different writers... not an easy task at the best of times, writing a serial makes it harder.
      This is a good one, love the chunk with stones and long-scoured bones... perfect.

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    2. I agree with Antonia, can be challenging to write two completely different serials simultaneously but you're doing it beautifully.

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    3. I'll echo the others. Perhaps it's more striking this week, but the difference between the two voices is staggering; a testament to your skill, and your firm grasp of the different stories.

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    4. There's such a lyrical quality to this series that stands in sharp contrast to the staccato beats of the other tale. This one is a nightmare of a lullaby, the softness deceptive until the blades come out.

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    5. Thank you all - I admit that this one comes to me, if I leave myself open, whereas Pettinger often needs a bit of hewing.

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  7. Infinity 71.
    Now see how this here Cap’n wastes his time a-rambling on about things that don’t matter, but perhaps they do. When I took the cook on board, one condition was he taught the cabin boy how to chop and prepare the food. I want chunky meat, not mush, I want solid vegetables, not mash. But what do I get? I be that fed up this night… perhaps I be casting too many spells or taking too much on these old shoulders. One thing’s certain, the shadow people are quiet and the thing that lurks is quiet and so tis good.

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    Replies
    1. Such clever uses of the prompts! And a different perspective for the Captain - he's a melancholic man and deserves to be fed properly at least.

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    2. Puts me in the mood for a nice long read. Great job!!

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    3. Sometimes you just have to gripe about the little things. :) Loved the familiarity of this.

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    4. Something a little lighter and less metaphysical for the Captain to concern himself with. The soft moment before the swell of the next wave strikes, no doubt.

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    5. If the shadow folk and the other thing (what is it??) are quiet, the Captain has time to indulge in mundane gripes, and I love this glimpse into his character.

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  9. Hello, it's been a while.

    Here goes...

    Chunky

    Cliff Watson was a big man.

    At 14 years old he was 250-pounds.

    “You’re chunky, is all.” His loving mother used to say.

    His father was less endearing. “He’s fat, lazy and you need to tell him the truth.”

    Now, at 46, Cliff was over 600-pounds, totally bed-bound with his health in total decline.

    “His condition has worsened. I’m afraid...”

    Cliff heard his mother crying in the kitchen.

    He thought of his father. The rope taught around his neck. His mother crying as Cliff pushed his father over the banister.

    ~End~

    Be gentle...

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    Replies
    1. Poor Cliff, poor father, and (sincere apologies!) what you might call a cliffhanger of an ending. Good to see you back here, David.

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    3. good little story here, David, welcome back! good to see you again.

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    4. Loved the succinctness of the first line and the matter-of-fact way the ending is delivered.

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    5. Brutal in its straight forward delivery. Horror and reality all twisted up together, kinda like real life. Good to see you back, David.

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    6. Welcome back! There is always something compelling about the horror of the ordinary. In this case, I fear Cliff's father was right, much good it did him.

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  10. Hahaha. Good job, Cliff. Well drawn out, revealing just what is needed. Sneaky. Great.

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  11. Ok, can I share this with you guys? Seeing as you were pretty much responsible for Skullface... this is the review one of my writers posted on Amazon:

    This is a darkly original take on a zombie revenge horror tale, told from the point of the view of the person who has come back from the dead and with very good reason for wanting that revenge. It is compulsive, page turning reading because you want to discover what happened to them in life as much as what is keeping them after death. The humans are as horrifying it turns out as any monster could be. At points there is very black humour, at others beautiful turns of phrase and sometimes simply a sad poignancy. It is written with a powerful voice and characters which, as with Frankenstein's monster allows you to retain empathy for the protagonist no matter how disturbing the tale and question fundamental things such as the nature of humanity. Truly unique.

    The Skullface Chronicles is available via Amazon, if you're interested... the book still has the power to move me and the song which wove its way into the final chapters, I Want To Know What Love Is, still kills me every time I hear it. I played it over and over as Skullface aka Jesse finally got to his death.

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    1. Not at all into zombies Antonia, but congratulations on this great review.

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    2. What a great review! Congratulations. Every word of it deserved, of course.

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  12. Congrats Zaiure and Sandra. Thank you, Rebecca, all. =)

    Always an honour to win, glad you liked the first standalone I've written for the Prediction in a while. =) The words sang to me... sing to me, in my dreams... ;)

    *cough* Anyways...


    (alpha)
    #32

    “I hate magic,” Thunder grumbles.

    “You supers always do.”

    Previously unseen, a woman sits on the high end of a chunky see-saw. There is no counterweight, yet up she remains. She has dark wavy hair and elfin features, fashionable jeans with a Condition Red T-Shirt (Alpha thinks they are a band). She could be mid-twenties, but her eyes say older.

    “Nimue,” Alpha says, finally recognising her. She has always been older, before.

    She smiles, pleased; turns serious, “Magic is taught. It has rules. We know the places and planes it flows from. Can you say the same of your powers?”

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    1. Oh, magic AND superheroes is a fantastic combination. I can see great possibilities for tension and power struggles. I don't know why, but I instantly like Nimue.

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  13. This feels like a pause before a new direction, I like the strong placidity of Nimue.

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  14. Fresh Start

    Do as you’re taught.
    Do as you’re told.
    Don’t look too hard
    at the things that you hold.

    Mind the condition
    of soft oiled hide.
    Keep sticky fingers
    apart and aside.

    These things we carry
    are precious and few.
    The ashes behind us,
    ahead all is new;
    no one will speak of
    the deeds that were done
    to you, me, and mama
    under guise of ‘just fun’.

    But I will remember
    weak morning light,
    soft squish of footprints,
    remainders of night,
    and chunky cold meat
    that littered the floor
    as we tanned him, left him,
    and closed the back door.

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  15. The contrast between the tripping innocent rhyme and the horror it tells is what gives this its terrible impact. the penultimate verse especially. Part of me hopes you never sang lullabies to your children!!

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    1. Many lullabies are prettied up versions of horror stories: Ring Around the Rosy, Rockabye Baby, and Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary all had terrible origins. I mostly sang folk songs to my sons. James Taylor is not so full of dread as some of the things that pass for children's songs. Perhaps that's why whenever I do a rhyming poem, it's full of horror.

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    2. Some great little phrases. There's a beauty and, yes, a nursery rhyme-like feel to this, which makes the horror all the more stark and chilling.

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  16. Laws of Nature


    “You have taught that the moon circles the earth, and the earth circles the sun. Simple observation shows otherwise.”

    “I am come to this conclave to share the wisdom of simple people. I stand amongst you great minds, humbled by my simple condition.”

    “I understand a chunky reality, only what I see and touch. You talk numbers and sciences. Slick invisible things. Laws to bind nature.”

    “Now you make laws for us common men.”

    “I am come to impart common wisdom, and teach you how those who seek to bind us have always died. This is the law of steel.”

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    Replies
    1. A man after my own mind-set! Especially like the 'chunky reality' and the final line a hissed warning.

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    2. Oh, this is fantastic, stretching far beyond the words written down.

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  17. All right, m'dears. The gates are closed. We'll be back tomorrow with winners and words....

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  18. I heard from Rich Dodgin, he will be back to take part in the Challenge soon, he started a new job and is working on his novel too.

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