Elegant Justice (Final)

Finishing off a challenge from over at terrible minds this week: a cooperative challenge writing stories 200 words at a time. This story is one I started at the beginning of the challenges, so I thought I would give it a proper ending.

There are those whose crimes against women required a new punishment to be designed: Man-E-Quinning. It was an elegantly conceived justice; it both took their power and subjected them to the worst of men’s objectification.

The fake bodies were formed on current tastes, connected by a ingenious uplink to the prisoner. Almost true to a woman’s live form, they lacked the one essential part that would mean the perpetrators fully appreciated the negative societal experience. They were given enough sensation to know when it was unpleasant. To remove any possibility of identification, each inmate was given a new name.

Antonia was working the bar at a seedy nightclub, her one night off from the pole a week. If one more jerk touched her ass again, she was going to slug him. She didn’t care about the extra month of time. Something about a short skirt and a low blouse made every git think he was entitled. She watched Sienna slap the wandering hand of another customer as she put the drinks down. Blondes had it the worst here.

All of a sudden, every MEQ in the bar froze. The big red button at the Department of Corrections had been pushed.

Continued by Hank Petterson

Sienna was halfway up the pole when she froze, still clutching the pole with one hand and her left calf. As if in some demented Fellini film she slowly slid down the pole to the dance platform.

“Ah man she’s a fucking link…I tossed like three credits to a link.” The guy tried to reach onto the stage and take his chits back but the nano barrier had been activated once the alarm was pushed.

“Hey Barkeep I want three credits worth of drinks…this is wrong…says live girls outside you got links workin here…what gives man?”

“You got three minutes before vice gets here…I didn’t know they were links…you best shut up and scram…jerk ass.” The bartender replied to the greasy guy now heading out the bars entry.

The slang links was derogatory and factual…the convicts had a link or synapse that was missing or faulty and allowed them the justification to abuse women…almost primal ignorance that was found in the shallow end of the gene pool. They were also linked to vice squad and working as plants to ensnare more of their kind.

But there were problems with these men serving two masters…they were turning…revolting against who they were before.

Continued by A. Carina Barry

Antonia snapped back into the grim, dingy grey reality of her, no HIS prison cell. His mouth tasted dry and metallic, as if he didn’t take enough care of his real body while in the body of his Quin one. In the joint they called them Quins like twin or harlequin, the latter for the insane comic book character as much as an entertainer jumping at someone else’s whims.

Antonia, or more like Antoine, got up and felt his pants sag with filth. He really wasn’t taking care of his body while he was checked out, and apparently no one else was either. Of course not, no need to care about prisoners. There were more than a few judges and attorneys that cruised the nudie bars. Antoine was saving up their names and faces for the day he could get back a little of his own by revealing their dirty little secrets to the world. Oh yes, throw him in here for being a working-stiff looking to let off a little steam, but absolve yourselves of all responsibility. Money made the difference. Well, not for much longer. Antoine savored the image of them pleading and begging as they got their turn in the clink and in the Quins.

Back to wrapping it up…

Antoine stretched and walked unsteadily to his cell door. He leaned against it and it opened with an ear-splitting squeal. With curiousity, he stuck his head out, and noticed the sounds of commotion in the prison. Silently he sidled past empty cells and saw the flap of combat, two colours blending in the flurry of limbs.

He noticed that one of the warders was down in the corridor, slumped in his way. An idea occurred to him. With difficulty he dragged the officer to the eye-scanner at the door of the lab, dropping him like rubbish when the door hissed open.

Antoine crept to the laboratory where they were first joined to the links, searching out the machine. His eye lit on the technician’s foot, peeping from below the desk.

“Get me disconnected,” he growled, at the weedy man.

In a fluster, the technician fired it up. She twiddled the knobs and dials.

She turned to Antoine. “You’ll need to be strapped in so you don’t move during the neural realignment. You could become a gibbering mess.”

He nodded, and put himself into the appropriate position. The metal bands clamped, tightening painfully across the bones of his wrists, ankles, forehead and chin.

“You don’t recognise me, do you?”

Antoine tried to turn his head, but it was locked in place.  The tech hovered over him, her face close enough for him to focus on. A vague tingling at the back of his brain made him think he should recognise her.

Her laugh was low. “This is fair play turn about. What do they say…Sexual violence is about power?”

She strolled around him, sharp flicks of the buttons as she prepared the chair. Antoine’s heart hammered. He might die.

“Lucky I never got up the courage to report it. They’d never have let me in here.”

“Oh, don’t you worry,” she breathed in his ear, “I’m not going to kill you. I’m going to turn you completely into that which you hate.”

Turning her back to him, typing into the computer she brought up the Quin brain image. “I’m just going to make this permanent.”

“But-” he spluttered, “I was gonna expose those high-end creeps. There’s judges.”

She turned, a look of pity on her face. Condescendingly she patted him. “You think they allow you to keep specific memories? No, just the pain and humiliation; as if that’s what being a woman is about.”

“But I want you to experience what women have for all their lives. One sentence is not enough.”

“Don’t worry,” her smile was crooked, “you’ll feel the mismatch between your physical body and what you perceive it should be only until your lawyer can show the Man-E-Quinning did it to you.” She hit a key and the machines started whirring to life.

“No,” he murmured. “You can’t.” He watched as she picked up her bag, her coat, heading to the safety of her office.

“No!” He was shrieking now. He struggled, but he was locked in. The last thing running through his mind as he went under with the anaesthetic injected into his arm was the girl’s face from a night in the clubs. Drunk as shit. Her face, white, trembling, and a pain in his jaw. His paw swinging and her, sliding to the floor. Stumbling out. He’d received better treatment as a stripper.

As he blacked out, he knew he’d brought it on himself.

Whispering Encyclopedia

Chuck Wendig’s at it again. His challenge is to roll a d20 (or use a random number generator) and get a title. 

Knowledge is never ultimately bad or ultimately good; it depends on the person who wields it.

Under the protection of the Medici in early Florence—for the Medici liked the power that came from controlling the collection of the rare and beautiful items—a young magician created a secret book of all he knew in the world, all the dark secrets of the family. He’d only meant to get them out of his head, where they caused him many sleepless nights and a crick in his neck from looking over his shoulder always.

In an airy room, high above the stink of the river, he toiled with a recipe that would remove the secrets from his head and protect them from anyone but himself. With the appropriate ideas, and a dash of flair, he cast the spell.

His Master had always been on at him about his grammar.

But instead of making the book beholden, it emboldened it and gave it a voice. A voice much like that of the youngest daughter of the reigning head of the Medici, in fact. She would have been charmed, if she’d ever known of its existence.

In a flash of premonition, the young wizard realized that this was not a sin that would be forgiven, and seeing as he had no idea how he’d created the spell, he would have no way to remove it. Excusing himself from the house, he disappeared from the city and was never seen again. His name was never known because the idea that he had ever existed had the Don in paroxysms of fury.

The Don had it buried with the Great Don, Cosimo, deep in the family crypt. He put in sound-barriers, had it sealed, but it never strayed far from its mind. In fact, the only time it got near him, it revealed to his wife that he was the one that had made her original betrothed…disappear.  So he buried it.

When archeologists discovered the lost crypt a millennia later, they didn’t at first find the book. It’s voice was old, cracked with underuse, and its tongue almost incomprehensible to the speakers of the modern language.

It was one young assistant who finally heard its calling, left when the head archeologists went to examine the exhumed bodies of the old world’s most powerful family. Beneath the decay of centuries, it fluttered its leaf, blowing the softest puff of dust, leading her straight to it.

She held the tome, caressing the ornate leather cover reverently with her gloved hands. It began to whisper to her, to woo her. At first Catherine Mendicino did not hear the words, but could not comprehend what it said; her experience with the written word held no sway with the unique pronunciations of the 13th century.

Gently, the book probed her secrets, relearning the language. Dizziness swept over Catherine, so she decided to call it a day, wrapping the book in protective coverings and putting it into her kit bag for delivery to the laboratory when the dizziness had passed. It was only a block away from the room she was staying in.

Lying in the cool room, a breeze wafting the curtains gently, the book spoke.

“Signora Caty,” it said to her in hushed tones from the bag on the table, “your mind is wonderful.”

Caty sat bolt upright in bed, almost falling off. “Who’s there?” She trembled.

“You have seen so many places. The world is so changed.” The book marvelled, the voice smothered a little by the confining wrappings.

Caty got out of bed, tip-toeing towards the corner of the room where the book lay. She looked out of the windows, behind the curtains, in cupboards. There was no one to be found. A tinkling laughter behind her and Caty whirled.

“Over here!” This time she could see the bag moving about as the book flapped its cover.

Caty was sure this had to be some kind of prank. Scientists were known to do that. She was fairly new to the team. That had to be it.

“Caty, get me out of here.” The bag shifted itself.

“Dio mio!” Caty went to the table, opened the bag and dropped the book on the table like it was on fire.

The book seemed to sigh happily as its pages rustled. “Thank you for freeing me.”

It flipped on its end again, the artwork of the cover facing her. “Now, put away those thoughts of trying to return me to those dusty old professors. This brave new world looks just like what I’ve always wanted. And if you do, I will tell them all about the blackmail you used to get on to the team here.”

Speechless, Caty’s mouth hung open. Her hands worried at her dusty tunic. “You have no proof. And, you’re a talking book!”

“That’s just the secret I will start with, Signora Mendicino. People will believe, eventually. But not if you take me everywhere with you. Let me explore the world, as you have.”

Caty stared out at the cityscape from her window, focusing on the famous dome of the Cathedral of Florence. The afternoon light was soft on her face, her brow furrowed as she chewed on her lip and thought about her next move. She was definitely going to pray at the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore later today for deliverance from her sins, which is definitely what brought this book to her.

“Did you know, you look an awful lot like Lorenzo Medici? Have you looked into your background? There’s definitely him in the shape of your brow and lips…”

Caty looked out the window at Florence. What was she going to do with a chattering show and tell of all her secrets?

“Don’t worry,” the book called to her. “It’s not just your secrets I know… You want to be a world famous archeologist?” The pages fluttered alluringly. “I know where all the bodies are buried…”



Don’t answer

I picked up Kirsten Bruce’s story. Josee De Angelis took the second 200 words and continued by ttaylor. As it was going begging, I thought I would give it a part 4. Asterisks indicate the different authors. 

Turtle’s eyes were closed when the 8CL bus shook violently and started heading into the overpass tunnel, sideways. The driver tried to avoid hitting the body that had just hurled itself off the top of the bridge but with no luck. The body hit the bus, and then the bus hit the overpass. The motion of the vehicle sliding sideways caused Turtle’s head to hit the window and his eyes flew open just in time to catch a glimpse of a man sitting on the ground right outside where the bus had stopped. It wasn’t a particularly hard crash and no one had been violently thrown around, just frightened. Apparently, no one but the driver had seen the jumper. As passengers began collecting themselves, Turtle made his way to the front of the bus, his eyes fixated on the man outside. Why was he just sitting there? He wasn’t at all surprised that the bus had just hit a brick wall. Probably a vagrant, they always hung out and drank in those overpass tunnels. Maybe he could bum a smoke from him he thought as he exited the bus. As he approached the sitting man, Turtle called out “Hey man” but the man did not reply.


“Gotta smoke?” Silence. The man was staring at a particular point of the tunnel across from him. Turtle made his way closer. The man had long, stringy hair, sharp features and piercing eyes that seemed to read the cracks in the bricks or seeing through the bricks. Most passengers had vacated the bus. Two ambulances arrived. The whole time, the sitting man didn’t move. People were walking around him, not taking notice of him.

Turtle turned towards the sound of people gasping and looked over where a crowd had gathered. He walked over and peered over someone’s shoulder. The body of the jumper lay mangled on the ground, blood seeping from the head, eyes open but dead. A young girl, clues of her age in her fashionable clothing and footwear, the length of her hair and the many bracelets around her left wrist.

Turtle looked over where the man was still sitting, then followed the man’s gaze to the opposite brick wall and thought he saw an image flutter briefly on the wall, then disappearing as if melting into the bricks. He quickly turned to the man, checking his reaction. Had the man seen the same thing?


When Turtle reached the sitting man, he couldn’t help but wonder why the man made no notice of his approach or even standing there next to him.

“Hey,” Turtle said, “you see the whole thing…the jumper and all?”

The man turned his head to look up at Turtle, his face expressionless underneath the hair. He reached into his pants pocket and produced a crumpled pack of cigarettes and half-used book of matches.

“Thanks,” Turtle said taking the pack. He took a crumpled smoke from the pack and lit up the cigarette breathing in the smoke, pausing and exhaling. He gave the pack back to the man who was still holding out his hand.

Turtle couldn’t help but notice how “out of it” the vagrant seemed.

“He asked,” the vagrant all but whispered.

“What? I’m sorry,” Turtle said, “I didn’t hear you.”

The man stared back at the scene with its building crowd of medical personnel scrambling.

“He asked. She answered. She died.”

“Who asked? What are you talking about?”

The vagrant lowered his head into his hands.

“Death called to her,” the man said.


Turtle looked over at the driver, bent over against the bus, people talking quietly to him. Even from here, Turtle could see he was pale and shaking. He turned back to the vagrant, whose eyes had paled disturbingly. His voice echoed eerily when he spoke next, “He waits near. Do you hear him?”

The air grew cold. Turtle shivered. “What did you say, man?”

Blinking, incoherent, the vagrant started. “What? I didn’t say anything.”

Turtle got up, and again a flicker of movement teased in his peripheral vision. Jerking his head back, he walked in the shadow of the underpass. Something seemed to dance just beyond his focus.

“Hello?” His echo bounced back, colder than before, more tentative.

“Turlough…” The voice was little more than a whisper but it commanded him, thrilling through his blood and bone. He told no one his real name. No one knew.

“Who’s there? This isn’t funny.” Nothing but the skittering of some litter in the wind. “A girl just died here.”

“I know,” came the haunting reply, brushing soft against his ear.

Best laid plans

Round four of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: 200 Words at a Time. I took on one a few others had done, because it got under my skin. I may even finish it off if no one else takes it up, because I’ve got a clear ending in mind. 

The first 200 words were by Meagan Wilson and the second 200 were by Wanderer. The third batch by dangerdean. I had to give this a title; Round 4 is far enough along.

“Yes, this penthouse view is quite breathtaking,” I turned to the luscious blonde before me, “but not nearly as lovely as—”
A thunder clap, and then I was standing in a small, glowing circle, surrounded by a gaggle of chanting fools in robes.
“Oh great Sorasel im Palat, lord of fire and darkness, fell devourer of the innocent, conqueror of—” Arcane symbols covered the speaker’s robes, nearly obscuring the heavy crimson fabric.
“Yes, yes, get on with it.” I gestured with my gin martini.
He paused, then finished in a post-pubescent squeak, “We invoke thy true name and bid thee do our will.”
“Oh you do, do you? Well I want you to send me back. I was having a smashing time, and that girl may not have two brain cells to rub together, but she looked quite likely to do some rubbing together. If you know what I mean.”
The robe-wearers shuffled, and whispered amongst themselves. The leader piped up again.
“O great Sorasel im—“
“Stop that, stop that,” I interrupted. “Only my dad calls me that. I prefer my middle name. If you must speak, call me Stewart.”
More shuffling and whispering from my summoners.


“Oh great and mighty…Stewart….” the leader—whose pasty face was mostly spots—began again. “We bind thee to our will.”
I took a sip of my martini—extra dirty, extra olives—and raised an eyebrow at the little prat. Summoners used to know what they were doing. I looked at the floor where their demon trap was sloppily drawn with what smelled unmistakably like fresh, store-bought spray paint. I sighed. What happened to the blood of a virgin? Or even the vital fluids of an unwilling Christian priest? 
I noticed their silence; I could practically smell their fear—a mixture of piss and that foul deodorant that promised them flocks of women. I took another gulp of the martini—it was perfect. Almost as flawless as my blonde client who was no doubt currently working her minimal intelligence into a sweat in an effort to find me.
“Well? Get on with it.”
“We bound you, oh great Sora—er—Stewart.”
“I heard that part. So,” I made sure to smile with all of my teeth. “You’ve bound me. Congratulations. Now, what do you plan to do?”
“Jaime, this was your idea.” One of the other robed figures poked the leader.


“Yes…Jaime? You masterminded this escapade?” I drained the martini, and stared directly at Jaime.

“Oh great Stewart, we sumoned you because…um…” Jamie looked sheepish. “We want to get laid, like, a lot.” The chuckleheads voiced their agreement with grunts and high fives.

“You seriously summoned me because you want sex? Personal hygiene and asking a girl on a date didn’t work, so you decided ‘Meh. Let’s just summon a demon’?” A couple of them laughed, but were quickly silent.

“Well, you’ve taken the trouble to bring me here, and I’m bound to your will, but just because I’m feeling generous, I’m going to give you a short primer on demon invocation.” They looked at each other warily.

“There are five elements of a proper invocation. Three you have managed admirably. You have consecrated the space. I personally would have used something a little more visceral, but there’s no accounting for taste. I’m here, so obviously you have successfully invoked me, and of course, you have bound me to your will.” I looked down my nose at Jaime.

“The fourth element, however, is constraint. You must constrain the actions of the demon. That, my young friends, you have not done.”


I stared forlornly into my empty glass, twirling the delicate stem in my fingertips. I pursed my lips in thought, until I came to a fitting punishment.

“So here it is,” I drawled, pointing my glass slowly at each of them. “I’ll give you what you want, all the tail you need for the rest of your life.”

The goons grinned lasciviously and nudged each other, their eyes lit with the joy of their victory.

My own nasty smile emerged. “Tail being the operative word.”

Low and swift, the incantations curled into the still air of the basement. A fog swirled around the boy’s ankles, wrapping swiftly around them. Their grunts and looks of panic amused me. One even tried to run for the stairs.

As the smoke dissipated, I looked proudly upon the five antechinus bounding around my feet, chirping. I’d read an article about these sex-crazed marsupials* the week before. Sexual suicide; how fitting.

About to conjure up the female that would be their undoing, I was distracted by a set of delectable female legs descending the stairs.

“Stewart,” her voice purred. “How lovely to see you again.”

“Sorceress.” I inclined my head with a genuine smile.

From within

This week, encouraged by Chuck Wendig, we’re continuing yet another story, a fourth part of an ever continuing story. Three other writers have created the story up to here, and I am putting the fourth of five parts on it. Enjoy! Addendum: Seeing as this didn’t get finished, I am going to add the last 200 words and finish it off! In italics

(First segment written by Jeremiah Boydstun [boydstun215].)

The soldiers carried the man across the narthex and through the nave. They lumbered along like some giant, wounded insect, three pairs of cold, stiff legs shuffling clumsily beneath a motley carapace of steel and leather. Close upon their heels, the master-of-arms was careful to avoid the hissing droplets of blood that the insect left in its wake. His sword was drawn.

At the end of the nave and standing at the foot of the chancel, the bishop held a gilded crosier at arm’s length as if to thwart the advance of the shambling mass making its way toward the altar. In his other hand he grasped a large silver crucifix. Despite his advanced age and diminutive stature, the crimson-robed bishop made for an imposing figure. “No further,” he whispered. The soldiers stopped, unsure of themselves. One of the men looked down nervously into the pale face of the man he carried while the other two turned their heads in askance to the master-at-arms. For several moments the only sound was the steady hiss of the blood as fell from the lifeless man and met the cold marble floor.

“It must be done here,” said the master-at-arms. “Take him to the altar.”

(Second segment written by Adrienne.)

The bishop moved aside, letting the soldiers scramble up the few steps to the altar. His crimson robes did nothing to shield him from the cold radiating from their frozen armor. The slick marble stairs proved difficult for the exhausted soldiers as they stumbled and fell under their heavy load. Grim-faced, the master–at-arms followed their procession, only sheathing his sword to offer aid in heaving the unconscious man atop the bare altar.

The soldiers scurried away, stealing a glance at the stone table before fixing their gaze on their snow-crusted boots. The master-at-arms moved to the side of the altar where the man’s head rested. His shallow breaths produced a faint mist in the cold air. Steady drops of blood from his mouth had already created a small pool that hissed quietly on the stone. The master-at-arms looked down at the man’s face, searching for any hint of the soldier he once knew, but finding only the thing he had become. A sharp intake of air through the pale, bloodied lips tore the master-at-arms away from his thoughts.

The bishop joined the master-at-arms. Two terrified altar boys carrying trays covered with vials, books, crucifixes, and various cutting tools followed closely behind.

“It is time.”

(Third segment written by Paul Willett [momdude])

The master-at-arms glanced at his men. “Stand ready,” he said, “if we fail, the abomination must not be allowed to leave this place.”

He took a heavy knife from an altar boy’s tray and began to cautiously cut through the frozen leather straps holding the man’s armor together. He was careful to jostle the breastplate as little as possible, each touch of it bringing a soft moan of pain from the dying victim. He studiously avoided looking at the gaping hole in the center of it, or the throbbing, writhing creature inside.

As the master-at-arms worked, the bishop began sprinkling holy water across the shuddering figure on the altar, murmuring prayers. He took a thurible from an altar boy, sprinkled incense over the coals, and circled the altar slowly. A thin, warbling chant escaped his lips.

When all of the armor save for the breastplate had been cut away and removed, the bishop retrieved the heavy silver crucifix and stood on one side of the altar, while the master-at-arms stood on the other and prepared to tear away the sundered steel. Their eyes met and the bishop gave a small nod.

A powerful woman’s voice echoed through the cathedral. “Stop!”

Part Four by yours truly

Her shiny boots clattered across the stone floor as her angry strides took her to the altar. “Master-at-arms! What were my orders?”

“To bring any compromised to the control centre, General.”

“Then why,” she asked through gritted teeth, “is this man in a church?”

“I wanted to save the soldier’s immortal soul, ma’am.” The softly flickering candles lit up the fervour in his eyes.

The muscles of her jaw tightened. She had been fighting her soldier’s ignorance since this war began, when the only way to fight it was with science. But she needed the compliance of her men to get the specimen.

Extending her arm around the shoulder of the master-at-arms, she kept her tone respectful. “I understand master-at-arms. Allow me to collect the creature and you sanctify our brother.”

From her pack, she withdrew the housing the scientists assured her would hold the parasite. She unscrewed the lid to the one way entry into the small tank. Tentatively, the master-at-arms pried back the breastplate, slick with blood. As the pressure lifted, the creature shifted, and pitiful screams tore from the semi-conscious soldier.

“Now!” The General commanded.

With a sucking sound, the master-at-arms plate lifted and the creature tried to escape. With a slurp, the tank’s suction pulled in the parasite.

The General closed the eyes of the fallen soldier, his body slack on the altar. Her voice soft, she turned to the master-at-arms, “He is in your care now.” 

From cowering in the corner, the priest returned to the side of the soldier, his eyes judgemental and hard. “This man dies for your war and you leave now, General?”

She whirled on her heel. “If we can devise a way to fight these…” she brandished the container with the worm, “…parasites, then there are many more lives I can save. This man’s death will not have been in vain.”

Checking the seal, she turned away from priest, “Besides, you are most qualified to deal with this soldier’s soul.”

The General left the church, the silence falling like a cloak behind her. She darted between the lines, briefly giving her troops encouragement. Every so often, she checked that the writhing of the worm continued. She was sure it could scent her close by.

She could see the entrance to the underground laboratory where the scientists toiled, just steps away. She couldn’t have seen the bullet that shattered the case holding the parasite. It was only when she felt the sluice down her side that she realised what had happened. 

“Shit.” The General stumbled toward the bunker, steps faltering. Soon the bug would take over her nervous system. She needed to get to them. 

Her toe caught on a crooked step and she stumbled, down the stairs, slamming into the door. 

The scientists opened the door to see her squirming in the dirt, blood leaking from her wound. 

She would never see the change in the tide of the war. But mankind would never have been saved without her.


Still following on with the challenges from Chuck Wendig. Our third week now, and here’s my third part to a great eerie thriller, which is as yet untitled, and I don’t know that it’s ready for it yet.

1/5 by Adrienne:

The trio looked at the fence in front of them. It was a simple chain link, but it had to be about ten feet high, and the razor wire on top added another two feet. He was expecting this, but he was not expecting to have two girls on his coat tails. He could take care of himself, now he was pretty sure they would all die.

Except for his heavy breathing and the muffled sobs from the girls, it was silent. The setting sun was hidden by an ominous sky, promising rain at any moment. He knew what happened when the rain came, so he needed to move fast. He surveyed the barrier one more time, but froze as the wind brought an all too familiar smell. He turned to face the direction they were running from. The trees edging the clearing began to sway as the wind picked up. He could hear the soft pattering of rain on the leaves. The air rushed out of his lungs as the storm descended upon them, bringing with it more than just wind and rain. The three had to move now or accept certain death.

They were coming.

2/5 by j:

He picked up one of the girls and hung her on the fence as high as he could reach. Then he did the same with the other. Knowing what was coming, he had to take a steadying breath before he started up. A lost moment was better than panic.

At the top, he threw his coat over the razor wire. It would help, a little.

He flipped himself over the fence. He’d taken some damage but it wouldn’t kill him. For a moment, he thought about leaving the girls. The things coming out of the woods would find the girls first, give him a bigger head start.

Shit. When had he gone soft?

He hung himself back over the fence. The wire tore into him but it was that or what was left of his soul.

He stayed as still as possible while the girls climbed over him. They were slow. The sun was probably already down but it was hard to tell with the storm moving in.

Where were they? Shouldn’t the damn things be on top of them already?

Finally, the girls were over the top.

He pulled himself off, ignoring what he left behind. Then he dropped down and pulled the girls off the fence.

My part 3:

What they had to do was find shelter, and fast. He didn’t fancy being out in inclement weather with these young girls and they were better off hidden from their pursuers. He could see a barn, edges blurred in the falling dark. Shelter and a hayloft to hide in were too appealing to pass up.

He set off at a slow jog, the girls struggling to keep pace, their tired feet dragging in the dirt. He made them go around the barn, through a stand of trees behind, and in through a smaller back entrance with a door that squeaked traitorously.

They waited until it was dark before slowly edging the huge barn doors closed. With a penlight that grew ever weaker, he showed them the way up to the hayloft, tucked them into some canvas and took watch. He would wake one to take his place so he could catch a few hours later. As a precaution, he pulled up the ladder.

An urgent tug on his arm and he was sitting bolt upright, straight from sleep. Wide blue eyes looked to him out of a terrified face. Beyond her, there was the squeal of a door on its hinges. Their hiding place had been discovered.

Threads of Time, Part II

There is a second part to the collaborative story writing I did last week. Building on someone else’s 200 works. Chuck Wendig is marvellous for his prompting!

First part of the story is written by a fine person going by nitromidget and can be found at her blog.

As the knitting needle vibrated in Marley’s chest, she gasped hungrily for air, until she realised although it felt like it rent her heart, it still continued to beat. But through the air, seemingly spooling out of her, was a glowing chord of soft green.

The crone reached a gnarled hand to the floating tendril and bent to look at it, twisting it slowly between finger and thumb, testing its fineness. Marley grabbed at the line, wanting to pull it back, but it dissolved as she touched it. A tutting like the rustling of dry leaves was the response as the ancient old woman turned back to Marley’s snoring client, casting back on and resuming her knitting.

“You are not ready, child.”

“Neither is she.” Marley waved a hand in the drifting thread, dissipating it.

With eyes dark as night and an expression of indulgent patience, the elderly woman turned her face back to Marley. “What do you know of the universe, child? I have seen worlds rise and fall. I have seen millions die. What do you think to tell me that would change what I do to protect existence as you know it?”

Marley’s mouth hung open and the old woman snorted. “Nothing. As I thought.”

Elegant Justice

A new challenge over at terrible minds this week: a cooperative challenge writing stories 200 words at a time.

There are those whose crimes against women required a new punishment to be designed: Man-E-Quinning. It was an elegantly conceived justice; it both took their power and subjected them to the worst of men’s objectification.

The fake bodies were formed on current tastes, connected by a ingenious uplink to the prisoner. Almost true to a woman’s live form, they lacked the one essential part that would mean the perpetrators fully appreciated the negative societal experience. They were given enough sensation to know when it was unpleasant. To remove any possibility of identification, each inmate was given a new name.

Antonia was working the bar at a seedy nightclub, her one night off from the pole a week. If one more jerk touched her ass again, she was going to slug him. She didn’t care about the extra month of time. Something about a short skirt and a low blouse made every git think he was entitled. She watched Sienna slap the wandering hand of another customer as she put the drinks down. Blondes had it the worst here.

All of a sudden, every MEQ in the bar froze. The big red button at the Department of Corrections had been pushed.

To be continued…

Siren song

Irresistible temptation. A prompt from 642 things to write about.

With a voice and face like his, Joe Crash was born to be a star. Those baby blues peering out from a slightly weathered and shadowed face, a sly smile on that square-cut jaw. He could have been a poster-boy, but he employed a little select facial hair and a just-out-of-bed, tumbled, longer hair to turn him into just enough bad boy.

Anyone who’d ever seen him perform had quickening pulses at the fluidity of his svelte hip gyrations. His voice brought tears to eyes, brought people to their knees, had them frothing with sexual excitement. Even critics had problems finding flaws in his work and governments everywhere worried that his notes might be turned against them.

Joe created hysteria where ever he went. Not since The Beatles had people lined the streets. Of course, he waved with unconcerned casualness, signed all manner of autographs and generally kept to himself. Occasional dates with other celebrities ended up splashed on the tabloid pages but his private life remained remarkably private and he kept his past in the shadows.

Meredith had used all her industry favours to get a one-on-one interview with the man himself, while he was on tour in Sydney with his band, The Crows. She’d done her research and she was ready.

She took in her look in the mirror. Her dark hair was tousled, the outline of her eyes a smoky haze and her tight black pants and sweetheart spotted bustier topped it off. She slipped her red cropped jacket around her shoulder, splashed her favourite red on her lips and strode out the door.

Backstage she waited for an hour while Joe played a long encore for his fans. She could hear the distorted sounds of the band. She heard the click of his boots as he strode down the hall, the sounds distorted by the shuffle of another’s foot. Meredith was waiting next to a pillar, as still as the shadow that covered her. Joe saw her last minute and startled. Quickly, he collected his cool, and turned to the dainty blonde who he was leading backstage.

“Cleo, you’re going to have to excuse me. I forgot that my agent set me up with an interview.” He stroked her cheek gently as her face fell into a pout. “I’ll see you at the after party, sweet.”

Deftly, he slid the rectangular invite into her jeans pocket. She couldn’t have been more than 20, with this man whose age was pinned at around 35, and when she turned away, she looked dazed and confused. Joe whispered in her ear and she shuffled down the corridor.

“Helps with the image,” Joe shrugged as he entered the dressing room, gesturing to a spare chair for Meredith. “If you people want to be with you, or be you.”

With a clean pull, he yanked off the stage-sweaty t-shirt, of course deliberately giving Meredith the unadulterated view of his lithe body. He smirked and remarked, “I probably should have asked first. Sorry, not used to having professionals here after my gigs.”

Meredith waved it off, made a deliberate effort to get out her notebook. “But you are used to having women in here after though?”

Joe’s grin turned predatory for a moment before he dialled it back to an expression they used in her business called “boys being boys”; a fake apologetic grin followed by a look of helplessness. “I’m single, hopefully they are too. Life is too short for hang-ups, Miss…”

“Meredith.” She leaned forward, extending her hand, so he had to come to her. The stiffness in his back afterwards showed she was ruffling his feathers a little bit. He turned away from her to wipe his face with a towel and shrug into a shirt.

Joe buttoned up the wrinkled, grungy collared shirt, before flicking his hair up in the mirror and turning back to her. The wickedness was gone; clearly this time he was going for the open and honest assault. “So, I guess we’re here to talk my tour and the upcoming album.”

Meredith’s smile was correspondingly warm. “I thought we’d actually have a chat about the little chits you’ve been killing.” She watched Joe’s eyes harden as she continued, “I guess Chloe, or was it Cleo, is your next mark.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” His voice held a threat equally as deadly as the hissing of the cobra.

“I know who you are Mr Crash. Or should I say, more specifically, what.” Meredith leant back, her eyes never leaving the singer.

“And what is that?” His arms crossed, surprisingly well-muscled for a man of his weight.

“A siren.”

His laughter was too loud, too hard and too sudden. “I think you might just be mad, Meredith.” He picked up a phone. “Last time I do any favours for Stan.”

As he dialled, Meredith played a video. One she’d paid a lot of money to get her hands on. The edge of a show, about two years prior, a girl escorted from the crowd. In the darkness at side of stage, you could see him. His face in picture perfect quality. And as they turned away together,  he transformed, becoming the monster she knew he was.

“Killing James McGrath without having the proof was sloppy,” she said as she stroked her iPhone and he put the phone down. “But leaving a trail of missing girls behind your tours is worse.”

“That is fraud, that video,” he said, his exterior calm a signal to let her know he was getting ready to attack.

“It’s no fake, Joe, or should I say Okeanos.” She did not fail to see him start. “It’s a long way to fall from Olympus.”

Meredith stood, near the door but close enough to strike if needed. “Not enough sacrifices to keep you in these times?”

Joe turned back to the mirror. “A God has to survive somehow.”

“So you know the truth.” He turned again, flung his arms out wide. “You know, now I have to kill you.”

“You can try.”

Ever so softly, Joe sung as he circled. Meredith recognised the ancient words; he was singing of weakness and frailty, appealing directly to her human body. He didn’t recognise then, the jewellery she work, the ear cuffs that protected her from the beauty of his song.

She came back at him, singing the song back, twisting the melody back on him. He began to slow, looking tired and old. When he realised, he threw a chair, which Meredith nimbly dodged, causing it to crash and shatter the mirror behind her. She sang further, weaving the molecules of his body out, pushing the supernatural to his periphery. She would get only one shot at him.

His lunge came, his hands aiming for her throat. She dodged and he went sprawling on the ground. Swiftly, she pinned him there, fastening him tight.

“What are you?” he whispered into the tiles, still in disbelief at where he was.

“Once, I was one of your many slaves. One of the beautiful women your seas stole and turned into the nymphs, the sirens.”

“When your power dwindled, it freed me. But I never forgot the horrors you made me watch, the sailors you made us drown in your incessant drive for power.”

“I promised myself that when I escaped, I would find you.” Meredith gently stroked his hair back from his face. “Don’t worry, your end will be a lot less painful than theirs.”

Meredith opened her mouth and began to sing. The story of the thousand ships, of the lives ebbing beneath waves escaped from her. She went on to talk about the drawing of power, the stealing of a soul.

He was grey beneath her when she stopped, his chest heaving with his last breaths. A faltering smile crossed his face before it stilled forever.

Meredith removed herself, taking the back passageways out. No one would remember she was here, that she got this interview;  her melodies had made sure of that.

When the news reported Joe Crash’s death of a heart attack the next day, Meredith leaned back with a smile, feeling his invincibility in the singing of her blood. Today, her revenge was complete.

On the inside

A challenge where we write a story based on a 15 word sentence another blog member wrote over at terrible minds. Mine was the following, from Bree.

It was a strange feeling to wake up dead. It’s hard to explain to a living person, the quietness that comes with not having to breathe, the aching of limbs that aren’t growing or living any more, that are barely yours. More of an emptiness than anything else.

I sat up and rubbed my eyes, trying to remember how I’d ended up in a meadow on this glorious day. As my lips formed words, my throat uttered the same guttural moaning as the…. When my tentative fingertips crept up my neck, I could feel only superficial abrasions. A glance down and I almost came undone. My side had been gnawed; I had a gaping hole above my hips. I screamed, but all I heard was an unnatural shrieking. Eventually I calmed down enough probe the wound. There was no blood and no pain. It seemed I had no more natural reflexes, because even though I was overwhelmed with revulsion when I pushed the ragged skin flap back, I didn’t gag.

I began panicking. I was one of them: the risen. They were the very danger I had been escaping from. I couldn’t remember how I came to be here, how I turned into one. It had been dark, we’d been running through the trees, they’d been close behind us… That was where I drew a blank.

I pushed myself up from the grass, and started shuffling toward the foothills of the mountain. Luckily, I still remembered where the cabin was tucked, in a blind corner of the valley, hidden from view and with an obscure path up a shallow creek. I looked about me, at discarded parts in the grass, the signs of struggle, and shivered. The sooner I got there, the better. My friends could help me.

It took me the better part of the day to get to the valley, as my feet dragged in every root and twisted in every hollow they could. The only benefit of being undead was I no longer felt any pain, my body was just responding more slowly with every hour that went on. The shadows were long streaks of darkness on the ground as my foot plunked into the stream.

Several times, I slipped on rocks covered in algae. On one spill, there was a sickening crack as my jaw hit, and when I got up, it hung more loosely than before. I tried to be careful, to take my time, but my coordination had disappeared since my death.

The upper valley turned silver as the moon rose overhead, turning the homely rocks into beautiful staircase winding upward. I wondered if my friends were sitting in the attic with the skylight open, as we had many evenings in the past, talking about what to do in the future and the people who we missed. For how much longer would I be able to appreciate the world around me like this? My ragged sigh was drowned in the gentle sounds of the stream.

It was early morning when I rounded into the hidden cleft of the valley, the hut disguised by big bushy trees. I stumbled into the clearing on the other side and sat, looking at what appeared to be a dilapidated door. I knew better. When the bellbirds began stirring, so would my friends.

Kate was the first out of the door, no doubt planning on her usual early morning dip. She was her typically careful self and started when she saw me move in the shadow of the tree. Slowly, with random and uncoordinated movement, she slipped back to the house. I knew that they would observe me now, watch for what I would do. All I had to do was wait.

It was late in the afternoon when Kate stepped out, armed and strung tighter than a bowstring. She walked towards me, stopped, and then moved again. She crouched away from me, ready to spring, her green eyes level with mine, flicking around my body to my damage. She definitely recognised me.

“Pete?” Her voice was level and soft, but she didn’t move a muscle.

I tried to speak but groaned gutturally instead. Kate scuttled backwards but didn’t retreat fully.

She tried again. “Do you know where you are?”

I nodded my head limply. I gestured my pale, slightly green arm at the cabin. This time she didn’t run. She bit her lip, regret flitting over her face. A thinking risen was an event we hadn’t a plan for, especially not when it was one of our friends who became undead.

“I have to talk to the others. Can you wait here?”

The clearing dropped back into silence when Kate closed the door. I was happy waiting. The door burst open as John strode through it, waving a machete. A flag flew up in my memory, but it was still in the dark recesses of two nights ago. John was impetuous and aggressive, he was a real danger to me right now. I struggled up, my lip turned up and I even growled. He turned to face me as the others poured out from the house, their bodies taut with stress, everyone armed.

“See?” John yelled, gesturing at me. “He’s jus’ the same.”

“Pete,” Kate spoke clearly and calmly across the space. “Show the others he’s not right.”

Slowly, I dragged myself back, tried to lower my hackles. I saw their expressions; some were unconvinced but others I knew just wanted me back and they looked hopeful. John turned and towered over me, and suddenly it all became clear.

I had almost passed John, with the risen just behind us, their hunger driving them on. He saw me, I saw the whites of his eyes. I saw his arm move before I felt the bat hit me. Blinded by pain, I tumbled, and fell beneath the crunching jaws of the undead tide.

Growling, I crouched, the red haze of fury tinting my world. John’s eyes showed that he knew I remembered, and then that he suddenly realised how close he was to me. I was not going to suffer alone.

“Pete, no!” Kate was begging me.

I heard them all cry out, but it was drowned in the wet screams as John received the repayment for his kindness.