PWTP4-5

Sad news within, prosers.  Even sadder than the non-subs.  Even sadder than the various grisly fates you all visited upon these two unsuspecting youths.

Zack

“Look at these two idiots standing here on the rocks,” the seagull thought. “Don’t they know they can get fed if they go to the beach?”

The two boys were blissfully unaware of how embarrassed for them the seagull was.

DG – Yep.  Sentient seagull is good, just wish he had more to say.

DK: Great exploration of the seagull character here.  Just a really excellent, succinct illumination of its innermost thoughts and feelings.

Brian

“This it, Frank!  This is what we’ve been looking for.”

Frank glanced at the object Joe held in his hand.  It was a feather.

“Why would Coronado’s map to the Fountain of Youth bring us to a feather?  I was expecting something more. . .fountain-y.”

“It’s obviously a clue.  You’re the smart one, you figure it –“

“DOOM!”

The two teenaged boys turned to look towards where the outcropping of rocks pushed up against the lake.  There was an old man there, wearing little more than a shredded burlap bag.  His hair was long and wavy, and he pointed accusingly with a bony finger.

“DOOM!” the old man screamed.  Frank and Joe raised their eyebrows quizzically.

“Dude,” said Joe.  “Are you wearing a potato sack?”

“DOOM!”

The boys walked up to the old man.  Joe leaned over and pointed.

“Yep, says right here ‘Russet Potatoes, 20 lb — “

“You have unearthed the Ungodly Feather!” the old man raved.  “Soon, Oxloxloquatobachipotle, the horrific turkey god, shall rise!  And then we shall all be DOOO–”

Joe punched the old man in the jaw.  The man immediately fell backwards and sank into the water.

“Seriously,” said Joe, shaking his now aching fist, “what is wrong with old people?”

The rocks beneath the boys’ feet suddenly began to vibrate, and a deep rumbling sound swelled up from the lake.  The water churned and frothed violently until the head of a giant bird burst from below.  Soon, the whole monstrous turkey, hundreds of feet tall, was bobbing on the surface of the lake, it’s massive, disgusting red snood dangling low.  It gave an earth shattering cry.

“OXLOXLOQUATOBACHIPOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Oh, man,” said Frank.  “We are so screwed.”

But before the Turkey could enact its vengeance, a submarine erupted from the water, blocking the creature’s path.  The monster reared backwards.  The submarine settled into the water, and a hatch at the top popped open.

“HO, HO, HOOO!!!!” An enormous fat man climbed out.  The man was dressed all in red, with a stocking cap and large 70s sunglasses.  He was wielding an AK-47.

“At long last we meet, godforsaken bird!”  shouted the man in red, raising his AK-47.  “Soon humanity will have forgotten all about Thanksgiving! HO – HO – HOOOOOOO!!!”

The man leveled the AK-47 at the Turkey and opened fire.

About three hours later, Oxloxloqu-whatever succumbed to his many wounds and vanished into the dark waters.

“Merry Christmas!” shouted the man in red, before dropping back into the submarine.

The boys, who were now relaxing in a couple of folding beach chairs, and who had managed to make it most of the way through a 30-pack of Milwaukee’s Best, glanced at each other.

“Okay, really,” exclaimed Frank, exasperated.  “Why the fuck didn’t Santa just shoot it with missiles from his goddamned nuclear submarine?  Would’ve taken a whole lot less time.  Speaking of which, why was Santa in a submarine anyway?!”

Joe raised a beer and smirked.  “Would a non-sub have been better?”

And with that, the writer of this story immediately killed themselves.

DG – Wow. That was some work, but I’ll admit to a groan when we got there.  You can tell this was a bit thrown together, but it at least made me grin a few times. BRONZE

DK: Okay, I think I would’ve bought into this and given it something if it didn’t go to that joke at the end.  Up till that it was amusingly absurd.

Jonathon

The seagull flew away in disgust.

“I flew three thousand miles for this? Ugh. I hate Bros. They’re like pigeons, but without the wings.”

DG – Now I’m worried that this was just a bad choice of picture for a prompt.

DK: Another fantastic seagull development in this one.  You guys really know how to get to the heart and soul of the core of seagull characters.

Erik

wednesday: Its a perfect bronx day but Jordon didnt say one word across the East river.  whatever ain’t nothing. we stash the canoe we boosted from Wards in between the same rocks as usual.  I dont know why Jordan likes coming out here to North Brother. This place is fuckin creepy.

Ever since we landed hes been staring across the river back at the bronx. i just him ask if hes cool and he just be like yeah man. Dad shit. I don’t ask him which dad, his first one or his second one. they both fuckups and won’t leave him be. That boy aint got no manner of luck.

he puts on his shirt and grabs the garbage bag with our blankets and some sandwiches for later.  You got your works he asks and i say of course. He say alright and nods to the abandoned hospital ahead. lets go shoot up in the typhoid mary suite.

friday: after we land back Jordan just lets the current take the canoe. Hes even quieter than when we got to the island, but thats normal actually. Jordan’s always quiet after we finish a bender. Affected afflicted some shit like that. dont like to be fucked with and i knows to stay well out his way.

We walking through the park and go past this buster in a Nets hat playing hoops with his boys. your mommy make you that sandwich? Brooklyn asks.

Jordon stops and real slow looks at his mushy PB&J in its bag (Jordan weird about those sandwiches he didn’t eat the last one but wont chuck it neither) and then looks back at Brooklyn and was like nah, your momma made me dis sandwich. Right after i blasted a load in her eye i told her I says bitch why don’t you go make me a sandwich. Make it just like the one you made me last week. just the way i fuckin like with the crust all cut off an shit.

This whole time Jordan’s sayin this all cold and Villainous and shit and stepping closer and closer towards Brooklyn. Then he was like, but your gonna have to do me a favor this time,.  im gonna need you to make me this sandwich to go. Cause i’m late. I gotta run so i can go fuck your son in the ass.

Everybody hushed the fuck up and stood there uneasy like the smell of static. Brooklyn stood there unsure of how to process this new information with that look in he eye of someone that knew they fucked up. He made half of one sound before Jordan fucking was all over him. If I was thinking i wouldve jump up and defend his ass but i stood there mouth open as his boys split.

He stop whaling on him not long after Brooklyn go limp all bloody and shit then he takes the PBJ that was squished in his fist and spreads all over Brooklyns face while crying.  told you jordan be trippin.

DG – This does a really good job of getting into the Jordan character.  “Everybody hushed the fuck up and stood there uneasy like the smell of static.” is a great sentence that doesn’t make sense if you set it aside and think about it, but works perfectly in the scene.  Well-drawn. GOLD

DK: I admire this one for its commitment to its style.  Through that, it makes the circumstances of the story more affecting and seem more real.  SILVER

Joe

It was a relief to be out of that hospital room.  The smell was getting to me.  I had to get some fresh air, clear my thoughts.  The beach was an hour away, but it was worth the drive.  I left my shoes at the car and let the warm grains of sand tickle my toes.  Along the way I found an occasional shell, a few loose twigs and some careless trash left by … well… careless trash.

I looked down and saw one shell that caught my eye.  It had a red tint to it that reminded me of sunsets.  It was gorgeous and I knew Hayley would love it as well.  I knew that God had called me to the beach for a reason.  That reason was to collect a few shells and bring them back to Hayley.  They would brighten her day, and make this whole ordeal easier to handle.  I walked a little faster and looked around, eagerly searching for cool and unique shells.  I found a bright blue one close to the surf.  I saw a pale orange one up near the dry sand.  I frightened off a hermit crab to pick up a small white conch shell.

In the corner of my eye, I saw some boys playing.  I froze and my face fell.  I barely held on to the shells.  The beach was empty up til this point.  It was too chilly for people to really enjoy the beach.  These boys were oblivious to the cold air around them.  They ran and jumped and played around the rocks.  A tear trickled down my cheek.  It wasn’t fair.  These boys had the freedom to run and jump and play.  Freedom Hayley didn’t have.  Freedom Hayley would never have.  I dropped the shells where I stood, fell to my knees, and wept.

I burned with anger at God right there, that I couldn’t do anything more than gather a few worthless shells.  These shells couldn’t cure Hayley.  I felt worthless, helpless, futile.  I grabbed the small conch shell.  I looked at it closely.  Where I once found beauty, I now saw only lifeless calcium.  I reared back and chucked that worthless shell back into the sea.  I grabbed another and another and another until they were all gone.  Finally, There was left the red shell, the first one I found.  I stopped cold, remembering the sunsets.  Hayley loved sunsets.  No, it couldn’t cure her, but it might make her smile, just one more time.

I stood up carefully, brushing off the sand from my knees. I watched the boys play a little longer.  I recalled a time a couple years ago, when I watched Hayley play in the sand, just like them.  We stayed to watch the sunset that night.  Afterward, we went and got some ice cream from Rita’s. That day was the best.  I smiled and started walking back to the car. I took one last deep breath of the brisk salty air before I headed back to my girl.

DG – The narrator is a little bit all over the place emotion-wise.  I can’t decide if that’s a strength or a weakness for this story.  It’s maybe not raw enough to justify the emotional swings that happen here. BRONZE

DK: I had a little trouble with how upfront and unsubtle the emotions strike throughout this piece, but sometimes raw emotion isn’t a bad thing.  Probably more often than not, really.  BRONZE

Annette

Aaron threw the tiny fish back and began baiting his hook. Adam lazed on a rock, indolently throwing his line out and reeling it back in.

“This is the last beer, so we probably ought to consider calling it.” Aaron drawled as he cracked it open. “So whatever it is you want to talk to me about, better get to it.”

Adam looked up guiltily. “Why do you say that?”

“Because you like to fish alone.” Aaron said. “And I don’t really like to fish, so that usually works out fine. The only time you drag my ass out here with you is to lecture me.”

“No lectures.” Adam said slowly. “But I do need to tell you something.”

Aaron tamped down the unease he suddenly felt in the pit of his stomach. “What’s on your mind, bro?”

Adam threw his line expertly and hunkered down on the rocky beach. “I joined the army. I’m leaving tomorrow. I will be at Ft. Jackson by the end of the week.”

Aaron felt his world tip on its axis. Trying not to show any reaction, he put down his beer and started reeling in his line. “That’s sudden.” It was all he could manage to say.

“I have to go, Aaron.” Adam turned to face his little brother. “I’ve stayed a year longer than I wanted to wait for you to be old enough. You’ll be 17 in a couple of months. Hell, you’re flunking out of school now, so you might as well drop out and get a job.”

Aaron tried to hide the despair that was roiling around in his chest. “I can still graduate.”

He protested.

“You could.” Adam agreed. “But you won’t. You don’t have it in you. And I can’t stay and make you.” He started to pack up his gear. “Look, Aaron, mom isn’t ever going to quit. Let’s not bullshit around about that. And without the money I bring in, she’s not going to be able to keep the apartment for long.”

“You want me to quit school and start taking care of her now?” Aaron’s voice rose. “Is that what you are saying?”

“No.” Adam stood up and looked down at his brother. “No. I want you to take off and leave her. You have to, Aaron.” He pulled a wad of bills out of his front pocket. “Here’s almost $800.00. I’ll give it to you, but only if you promise to go home, pack your stuff and take off.”

He shook his head at his brother’s disbelieving look. “I mean it, Aaron. She’s either going to pickle her liver, choke to death on vomit or burn the place down with a lit cigarette. We can’t save her and we sure as shit don’t owe her anymore of our lives.”

Aaron felt a giant fist wrenching his bowels into panicky little knots. “Where will I go?”

“You’ll do fine; be fine.” Adam assured him. “You’re gonna go make a life.” His eyes were older, eons older, than 19. “We both are.”

DG – Going for depressing, this one does well and hits it.  I like Adam’s character, he has desperation, which I usually respond to.  I find myself wondering whether Aaron gets out or not.  GOLD

DK: Solid idea, and a lot of good character work carrying it out.  Plus at least a line or two that stand out as either great or ridiculous, but ridiculous in a serious context is good enough for me this week.  GOLD

Melissa

They stood upon the rocks, playing with the remote control.  Water splashed, cold and grainy with salt, smacking their bare chests.  They laughed as the wind nearly knocked them off their perch. Above, the seagulls squawked.

Johnny hit the remote control, and one of the seagulls let loose a load of synthetic white bird poo.  It had take them years to construct the perfect consistency and smell from household chemicals.  The experiment had finally worked.

Billy grinned at Johnny.  Not only had they created the first artificial seagull, they had created a weapon.  Let the bullies come.  Soon, they would all be covered in bird poo.

DG – years?  Boy, there had better be a lot of bullies for that kind of time investment to pay off.

DK: I don’t really have a thing for bird shit, but c’mon…I’m cheering for the little guys.  BRONZE

Christina

Mama promises it will be beautiful

I can feel the excitement bubbling out of her fingers as she slides the white linen dress over my head. She smoothes my braids, sits me on a chair, and tells me to keep my hands in my lap for once. I swing my legs and wait while she fusses over the rest of the family.

When we finally step outside, the sky is a hazy blue and the sun is working its way up to scorching. My brand-new sandals slip slap on the sidewalk and the sound fills my head.

We follow the familiar path to the beach, Mama, Daddy, Elizabeth, David, Daniel, Esther, Ezekiel, and me. Why they named me Glory, I do not know. I’m the baby by three years, but after today maybe I won’t be such a baby to them anymore.

The beach is buzzing with people and I feel eyes on me from all directions. I try to carry my head high, just like Mama always does. I guess we must be a sight, all of us in our finery. I shift my gaze to two boys way out on the rocks, too far out to notice the commotion.

The Reverend meets us at the water’s edge. He kneels down to look me in the eyes and that’s when my heart really starts to flutter.

“My child,” he says, “Are you prepared to be born of the spirit?”

“Mama says so,” I reply softly.

“Child!” he thunders. “Don’t tell me about your mama. Are YOU ready to be reborn?”

It seems as if the whole beach and even the seagulls fall silent at those words.

I swallow hard. I don’t dare look at Mama.

“Yes,” I say, trying to keep my voice strong. “Yes, sir, I am ready.”

He nods. Mama removes her shoes and gestures to me to do the same. Then she takes one arm and the Reverend takes the other and we walk out into the ocean.

I feel the water tugging at the hem of my dress. The sand keeps shifting under my feet, and my only thought is that this ocean could take me away if it wanted to. When the water is up to my chest, Mama and the Reverend tilt me back so I’m floating. All I can see is their faces and the cloudless sky.

Then the Reverend presses down on my shoulders. It’s more sudden than I expect, and I come up spitting saltwater. I will my eyes not to cry and tell myself I’m just drinking a sweet glass of lemonade.

The second time is a little better.

After the third dunking, they set me on my feet and we return to shore. I step onto the warm, dry sand and Daddy hands me a towel. One by one, everyone kisses me. Mama is last, and she gives me a good squeeze too.

I pull the towel tightly around myself and try to figure out if I’ve changed.

DG – The conflict is all internal, but it’s reflected really nicely in several lines of this one.  Everything works together really well here all the way through the end. My favorite of the week. GOLD

DK: Really poignant, and probably my favorite idea to go along with this prompt.  This fits the pieces of the setting with the protagonist’s mindset (and question at the end) really well.  GOLD

Pete

“I think Brandon is going to beat me out for all-state in lacrosse” spoke the dudebro to the dudebro.

“I love Melissa but I think I also love Christine” said he, preening his perfectly oiled and tanned chest, though there were no others around.

“My father might make me get a part time job this fall” the dudebro replied as they paddled out into the surf.

“My Jaguar got a flat the other day, and i drove on the rim for a half a mile” said his companion, the ocean spray meeting with the tears that were lightly trailing down hia cheeks,  “I don’t know how to tell my mom.”

“Sometimes, I’m not even sure I like surfing, and that I only do this to be close to you.” the dudebro said softly.

“I love you so much it hurts sometimes.”

The dudebro and the dudebro gently clasped their hands together as the tsunami bore down on them, ready to feind their bones into the rocks below. They were finally free.

DG – The poor misunderstood dudebros.  It’s clever enough, but has just the one joke.

DK: I don’t know, again, I probably could’ve bought into the concept a little better if it was written in a slightly different tone and didn’t, you know, end with a tsunami.

Kelly

It’s been three days since the cruise ship overturned; only Jesse and I were able to find land.  We don’t see anyone else here.  This is not too surprising, since Jesse and I are blind.

    “Get ready to draw your bow, Jesse,” I instruct.  “Those parrots will be back.”

    The thing about being blind and shipwrecked is that it makes finding food difficult.  We’re still thousands of miles from land, I estimate, and after three days we’re getting a little sick of the algae.  We’re getting a little better with our makeshift bows.  So far, we’ve struck flesh five times; I’ve hit him three times, and he’s hit me twice.

    The calm is unnerving.  The waves have been loud at intervals, but not now.  I tap into my stronger sense of smell; I still detect a McDonald’s and a Red Robin, which is a trick of the cruel sea considering our distance from civilization.  The cruise ship had been carrying more than we thought.

    “That smell, Ryan,” Jesse says.  “Don’t you think -”

    “That they were getting ready to provide us with a feast?  Seems so.”  I shed a tear for the lost opportunity, and I’m glad that Jesse can’t see.  “James said he’d get everyone to land.  I’m sure he tried.  He was a great man.  Now be quiet – those parrots won’t show up unless we’re silent.”

    Again, we tap into our senses fully; the smells are here.  We can sense the birds overhead.  Jesse keeps trying to get my attention; I have to keep quieting him.

    “RYAN!  JESSE!”

    Jesse is about to call out to the parrot in response, but I grab him to keep him quiet.  “They’re learning quickly,” I whisper to Jesse.  “It must have heard James as he was sinking.”

    “RYAN!  JESSE!”  Again.  It even sounds like James.  Nature can be so fascinating.  We remain silent.  Jesse exhales deeply, clearly annoyed with the fact that we have to keep waiting.

    “IF THAT’S YOU, HOLD TIGHT.  WE THOUGHT WE’D LOST YOU.  WE’LL GET A BOAT.  IT’LL BE AN HOUR OR SO.”

    Jesse calls out; I anticipate this and jam my filthy shirt into his throat to silence him.  I take a couple of steps back and draw my bow and let fly.  Shortly after, I hear Jesse’s muffled cry.  Damn – I hit him again.  It’s worth it, though, for a chance to feast on the hyper-intelligent parrots of the endless seas.

    “JESSE!  STOP DOING THAT!  WE’LL BE RIGHT THERE!  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

    I’m not fooled.  Soon enough the parrots will close in, trusting and calm with our continued presence, and we’ll catch one.  I step forward, find my stick and yank it out of the small of Jesse’s back as his muffled wails continue.  He’ll thank me later.

    “Don’t worry, Jesse,” I whisper.  “We may not have to eat each other after all.”

    Jesse yells something through the shirt.  Luckily, it’s still so deep down his gullet that the birds can’t hear him.  We’ll survive.  We must.

DG – A willfully ignorant couple like that could get annoying, but it doesn’t quite get there for me.  Instead I’m amused by their ridiculous reactions.  BRONZE

DK: This, on the other hand, has just the right tone for its absurdity.  The hapless confidence of the narrator fits perfectly with his screwups, putting the reader in the right position to get enjoyment out of the story without feeling condescended to or cheated.  SILVER

Margaret

“What is it?” Stuart asked, reaching for the shiny metal in Calvin’s hands.

“It’s mine, bitch!”  He twisted away and pulled it close to his body.  “It’s a necklace!  It says ‘hij’ or something.  Must be some girl’s.”

Stuart shot his hand out again and got it this time, the wet gold slipping across his skin as he fumbled to keep it falling back into the sea.  “Nah, it says ‘hijo.’ That’s Spanish for son.  I’ve seen guys wearing shit like this.  Somebody must have been down here on the rocks and lost it.”

Calvin grabbed the chain back.  “Well, it’s mine, and I’m going to wear it.”  He strung it around his neck, and the boys went back to exploring the rocky outcropping, the sound of gulls scratching at them from the clear blue sky.

Calvin’s eyes caught another glint of sunlight and metal.  “Hey, check it!  Here’s another one!  It says ‘hijo’ too.  Now you have one!”  He held it out.

“Moron, it says ‘hija.’”  Stuart emphasized the “ah” at the end.  “It’s for a girl.”  He stuffed it into his pocket.

“Then it’s perfect for you, little girl!”  Calvin snorted and danced across the warm stones.  Stuart darted after him, curses and laughter rolling across the open water, calloused brown feet lithely skipping over the slick rocks.

In time they returned to the sandy beach, rosy highlights on their shoulders and cheeks.   Stuart fished the necklace out of his pocket and turned it over and over between his tan fingers.  “I wonder where this brother and sister are.  I wonder if they both dropped their necklaces here on accident. That doesn’t seem likely, though.”

Under cover of darkness, they felt their parents push their small raft away from the shore.  They had stocked the raft with blankets, water and food.  They could hear the soft weeping of their mama, but their papa said nothing.   He had only shoved the raft as hard as he could, grunting at the exertion.  They held their hands over their mouths, eyes wide with fear of being discovered and sent to prison.   They had only to lie still, and the great sea would carry them away from the blood and the police and the shouting and the stink of dead bodies.

The raft could never have withstood the waves and tumult of the open sea.  They clung in desperation to the last board floating on the surface, but in time their meager strength failed.  Seagulls circled overhead as they gasped their last breaths.

Calvin reached up and touched the necklace at his throat.  “I don’t really want mine.”  He took it off and laid it back on the sand.

DG – Maybe a little on the nose, but it tells a pretty good story.  I feel like this one could have used even a few more words to build up a little more to the story of the doomed children. SILVER

DK: I like the idea here a little more than the execution – I’m not totally sold on the two dudes here either – but the little flashback/vision piece is too effectively tragic for me to ignore.  BRONZE

Ben

“Dude. What is it?” Paul asked.

“It’s a ring. Looks like some sort wedding band.” The metal was warm from the sun on the beach and felt heavy in my palm. I switched hands and rubbed my palm on my shorts. First one hand, then the other.

“Let me see.” He demanded. I didn’t care for the tone, but held out my hand indifferently. “Do you think it’s real? I mean, is it gold?”

I thought it probably was and said as much. “What are we gonna do with it? Should we pawn it?” That tone again. The blatant assumption that it was ours, something I was obliged to share was grating. If I didn’t call him on it, I’d regret it. “I’m going to take it to the beach patrol…see if anyone reported a missing ring.”

“You’re what!?” he exploded. “That’s the dumbest idea in the world. You know there’s always people looking to scam the lost and found! Show up and claim you lost your sunglasses or watch or ring. All you have to do with something like that is be a bit vague; just kinda describe it and Bam, you walk off with it.”

I knew they wouldn’t just let someone walk off with it, so I told him, “No way. Not this ring.” I could tell that was the wrong tack with Paul…knew it the moment his brow furrowed, eyes slid sideways and the cogs started almost audibly spinning between his ears.

“Why would we turn it in anyway? Why not just keep it, take it to that pawn shop on Lexington. They don’t care if you can prove it’s yours. They don’t need receipts or nothin’ and they don’t even take your name down if you’re just looking to sell.” He was doing the calculations in his head, running the possibilities and options through the old calculator. Only problem was, he wasn’t figuring the value of the ring. He’d already made up his mind on its value. He was calculating how he could get it away from me; what his chances were.

I didn’t see it coming, didn’t expect the violence. He struck me in the chest and clawed the ring out of my open palm. He shoved me hard and leapt away, his eyes darting down the breakwater to the crowd on the beach. I fell and hit my elbow on the rocks, my shoulder and head crashing heavily into the sand-strewn boulder. As my eyes went dark, they briefly focused on the severed finger in the tidal pool where I’d tossed it. Paul would have been wise to listen. Better yet, not to ask.

DG – The conflict is good here, and the twist at the end is fitting and unexpected.  Paul and the narrator both feel very real. SILVER

DK: I like – well, not like, but appreciate the way these two guys are drawn in a pretty short amount of space.  Their relationship and conflict feels pretty real, even with the unexpected (to the narrator) burst at the end.  SILVER

Will

With the ubiquity of digital cameras and smartphones in the early years of the twenty-first century, it is sometimes difficult to remember that there was a time in the infancy of photography when metadata was not created to pinpoint of the exact moment a photograph was taken. When studying a photograph without a digital history, there are a few ways to learn its date. To demonstrate the steps a researcher undertakes, please refer the photograph attached above.

This photograph was taken at Tulalip, Washington. We know this by comparing it to other photographs of Tulalip Bay. The bird flying above the men is a Franklin’s Gull. The Franklin’s Gull is only found around the Puget Sound from August through November. We’ve narrowed the date to within four months of the year. It was rarely warm enough to swim in Puget Sound after September until the 2060s. That shrinks the range of dates to just two months.

To determine the exact year, we can look at the structures in the background. At the far left along the tree line, you can see a multistory mansion. The Ichiro! Mansion was personally designed by Ichiro! while he was playing for the Mariners. The mansion was completed in 2003. The building also burned down in an unexpected fire in 2016. Therefore, we have narrowed down the range of possible years.

Additionally, along the shoreline to the left, you can see several large steps from the shore. Those steps were torn down in 2008 as part of a fight against rising sea levels. Now, we have narrowed the date to August or September between 2003 and 2008.

There is one very important clue in the middle of the shore above the trees. The American flag is at half-mast. The only time the flag was ordered to be flown at half-mast in August or September during that six year period was shortly after Hurricane Katrina. President Bush the Second ordered the flag to be flown at half-mast from September 4-20, 2005. Incredibly enough, we have now narrowed the date of this picture taken more than one hundred years ago to just seventeen days.

If you look at the two men, you will note their shadows falling to their right. That means the sun has just passed to the west of them which placing the time of day at approximately 2:00 p.m.

By accessing old weather reports saved from the some rare newspapers still in publication at the time, we can learn that it was overcast during at 2:00 p.m. on September 4-6, 8, and 13-17. It was partly cloudy on September 7, 9-10, 12, and 18-20.

In fact, on September 11, 2005 at approximately 2:00 p.m., it was 84 degrees Fahrenheit – unusual forthe region and a day warm enough for two men to swim in the Sound without wet suits – and there wasnot a cloud in the sky. We have found the hour of the picture. Sometimes, it is just that easy.

DG – I’ll admit I was hoping for something more once we got down to the end.  There was a little bit of world-building going on in the background of the investigation, and I would have liked to see that paid off.

DK: It was this or bird poo for me, and I chose bird poo just cause it felt a little more like a story.  But if I could split that medal in half and give one half to each of you, I would, cause this is an impressive level of dedication to…something.

Colin

Cara screamed. Her clenched fists beat the air futilely. Her head rocked back, and she sucked air as another contraction wracked her body.

“Oh god. Please don’t let me lose my baby!” Cara’s flailing hand found purchase on the gown of an intern. “Don’t let me lose my baby.” Her body relaxed, slightly, as the contraction passed. Her breath came more evenly.

“Don’t worry, miss Poppe.” The doctor looked over the monitors and picked up her chart. “Everything is going to be fine. The first is always the hardest. We need a few more centimeters of dilation before we can really start to push, OK? Just try to relax in between, and remember that we’re here to take care of you.”

“Jesus, fuck,” Cara said weakly. Her head lolled to the side, and she seemed to fall asleep.

“Is that her? Give her to me. Please.” Cara’s eyes held only the squalling infant, tracking her until she was placed on Cara’s chest.

“Congratulations, miss Poppe, you have a healthy baby girl.” The doctor turned to the wall and gave a small signal, a subtle hand gesture. “We just need to take her to run a few tests, but don’t worry, everything is fine. Just routine.” A swarm of nurses descended. He turned toward the door, and was stopped by Cara’s hand gently taking hold of his.

“Thank you, doctor.”  She smiled, and as her baby was whisked toward the door, she closed her eyes.

“How many more do you think she can handle, John?” The doctor winced at the grating sound of the woman’s voice.

“Not many. This is her 15th, and, regardless of the quality of the specimens, I can’t think she’d survive another birth like this.” His eyes lowered to the floor, and he realized his hands were sweating.

“Well, let’s hope she can produce next time. The first set of twins are performing nicely, as are the others. You’re not coming down with a case of morals, are you? I’m not paying you for that, you know.” Her smile filled the pit of his stomach with ice.

“No ma’am. I need to go. 8 needs to be terminated and we’ll need to stabilize Cara before we can do the memory wipe.” He turned to go, but her hand clamped on to his bicep. He marveled at her strength.

“Remember why, John. It’s not an easy thing, to take a life. Or to control one. But the boys are needed.” She relaxed her grip, and her shoulders fell slightly. “I don’t like it either. But, the mission is everything. We’ve managed to place each set easily, and only one more is needed. She can do it.” John imagined for a moment that he saw kindness in her crystal blue eyes, and shuddered involuntarily.

“I understand,” he said flatly. She released his arm, and moved back into the shadows of the room.

Outside the door, John hung his head for a moment, and then started toward the birthing room. He had to move quickly.

DG –

DK: This is the first one this season where I’m still confused how you got it out of this prompt.  The situation is suitably disturbing, although it comes across a little vaguely (maybe in both those cases I’m just not getting it).

Bret

Nurse Offerman wheeled Mr. Ruusker out to his customary spot on the terrace and left him to go about the rest of her rounds.  Initially she had wondered why he was so fascinated by the waves slamming into the far-off point, but after learning of his brother’s disappearance and hearing the rumors about what had happened, she had decided she didn’t want to know any more.  It was hard enough taking care of invalids.  If she seemed indifferent to him, that was better than despising him.

Nels could just see the point from this spot, out on the right side of the porch and up hard against the railing.  Hardly anyone had gone to the point in years, but he always watched it, every day.  And on the rare occasion that he spotted someone out there, he couldn’t be pried away.

And someone was there now.  When Nels and Pieter had been young men, it was a long hard pull of rowing, and it was still better than even odds that you’d crack your hull before you even got close.  Now, a couple minutes on a jet ski and the two young men were there, sticking their noses into every cranny, looking for treasure.  He could feel the shaking of his wheelchair, even though he couldn’t feel his useless legs shivering in fear.  Gripping the railing, he stared, willing the boys to leave.

Dmitri and Nik hadn’t told anyone they were headed to the point.  Dmitri’s older brother Dom had told them about the sunken ships that littered the shoals, and they wanted to see for themselves.  Looping around the bay to approach the point from the side farther from the town, they felt certain no one saw them as they explored the barren rocks.  They were getting bored when a glitter caught Nik’s eye.  A ring!  He bent down to pick it up, and a finger bone came up with it.

“Oh my god!  Dmitri!  Look!” Nik shouted, and Dmitri ran over to inspect Nik’s find.  Fascinated by the finger bone, Dmitri barely noticed P.R. was engraved on the inside of the ring before the sky above them suddenly darkened.

A whirl of water lifted up, impossibly high, yellow eyes glaring from inside it, slamming Nik into the sharp talus bank behind him.  He screamed, hearing Dmitri’s answering shriek until it was swallowed up.  The pressure of the wave relented and he dropped to the mud, his legs lifeless, sobbing as the water drained away.

When he’d first entered the hospice, Nels had been husky, with the wind-burnt face of a coastal fisherman.  He’d slowly shriveled until the rest of him matched his shrunken legs, an emaciated stick of a man with eyes like a deep tidal pool.   Now, for the first time in twenty years, he found himself standing, watching the wave recede from the scoured point, exposing the writhing boy in the red shorts and the bleached bones of his brother.  Nels sat down again heavily, a tear tracking down his weathered cheek.

DG – Nels torturing himself by watching over that point is a good story, and the fate of the two boys illustrates it very well.  I wouldn’t have minded more of Nels, but this works pretty well. SILVER

DK: I’m a little surprised we had two stories involving rings with severed fingers.  Anyway, in a weird way I find myself accepting the fantastical ending to this one because it feels like it grows organically out of the circumstances of character and the plot here.  Or I just really like the way Nels is created and filled in.  GOLD

———————————-

Eric non-subs for the second time in a row.  But that’s not the bad news.

Annette got double gold this week.  That’s not the bad news either. (congrats Annette!)

Christina also got double gold this week.  DK and I are practically the same person at this point.  But even that isn’t the bad news.  (congrats Christina!)

This is a link to the spreadsheet.  Still not the bad news.

Sarah has informed the judges that she is forced to withdraw from the competition.  That’s the bad news. We will all certainly miss her stories, so much so that the judges have decided to make this your prompt for next week. 

PWTP4-6

500 word limit, you get a week again due to the holiday.  Due next Monday, December 2 at 8 PM Central.

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