Wow, only twelve stories? Okay, okay…fanfiction is scary. Anyway, some very high highs this week, as this prompt is good for many of you, apparently. Others, if unsuccessful with the whole “dark” thing, were mostly at least good for a laugh.

Melissa Diamond

Corn fields burned against the horizon. The smoke curled into the air; brushing away white clouds to replace them with distorted versions of themselves. From a few miles away, Dean rested against his black Impala and watched. Sam stood beside him. Their arms touched.

That reassurance wasn’t enough, though. Any pleasant memories from Sam’s closeness were overshadowed by the the fire; the smell of burning flesh in the air; the faraway screams. All he needed now was a demon taunting him, and it’d be Home Sweet Home.

“I thought I was done with Hell,” he said and turned his back on the fields.

“You think this is another sign of the apocalypse?” Sam said.

Dean gave a derisive laugh. “Do we need more signs? Ghosts haunting us, you sleeping with a demon whose blood you’re addicted to. I think it’s pretty clear the apocolypse is nigh.”

He slipped behind the wheel of the Impala as Sam got into the passenger side. “You’ve got to get over this Ruby thing,” Sam said. “She’s working with us now.”

“She’s working something,” Dean said as he turned the car on and the engine roared into action.

“It’s alright to be jealous,” Sam said.

Dean rolled his eyes. “That’s not what’s happening here.”

“It’s still possible for me to love you and have an outside relationship. Maybe all three of us can–”

“Gross,” Dean said. “How about we go hunt us a Firestarter and talk about demon sluts later?”

He flipped on the car stereo and Running With the Devil blasted through the speakers. Sam gave up on talking. They sped down the Nebraska road, and fields of withered corn stalks flashed past. Streaks of brown and yellow, reminding him of the years growing up in this place, not too far away.

The Hunter in him squashed that twinge of nostalgia. Instead, he focused on the road, on the decimated town that came closer; on the surrounding fields of fire. The horizon shimmered with a mirage of hot suffering, and within that mirage, moving towards them…a little girl.

Dean slowed the car, turned the radio off. “Is that the firestarter?” he said.

Sam’s brows furrowed. “I don’t know. It’s not like they had a picture of her on the Forums.”

“She’s definitely the only survivor.”

They braked, and as they got out of the Impala, the little girl continued towards them. Soot streaked her face, and around her mouth and nose were the signs of someone who should be dead from smoke inhalation.

To their right, a field exploded.

Dean and Sam ducked behind the Impala. Dirt and flaming corn husks rained down on them. Dean closed his eyes against more flashbacks of Hell.

“She’s not a demon,” Sam said. He had been peeking around the side of the car. He glanced at Dean. “She’s just a little girl.”

Another explosion. “Just a little girl?”

“Well…with pyrokinetic abilities, but yeah.”

Dean ignored the flames and opened the Impala’s trunk. Knives, guns, holy water — all of it in there and good, but not as good as the the rifle. He grabbed it and moved around the side of the car, pointing the gun at the girl.

“Stop blowing things up!” he shouted.

That little girl was unphased. She paused, close enough for them both to hear her say, “Lucifer is on the 50th seal.”

Sam said, “What’s that mean?”

Dean knew. The Apocalypse. Breaking 66 seals would start it all, and now they were apparently on the fiftieth. Lillith was moving fast. Too damned fast.

The little girl grinned. “I’m the 51st,” she said, and she went up in a blaze.

Screams. Childish, bloodcurdling screams filled Dean’s ears as the girl burned. Memories stabbed at him. The gun fell from of his hands. He clutched at his head and screamed against the memories of tortured children. Of this tortured child.

Sam grabbed him, hugged him tight.

“It’s over,” he whispered.

Just over Sam’s shoulder, Dean saw the smoldering corpse of the firestarter. The 51st seal. Broken. Dead. A child had perished because of some stupid prophecy.

Dean closed his eyes in Sam’s embrace, knowing the worst was yet to come.

K: This is kind of the feel of Supernatural though, right? I’ve never actually watched it, so I’m not sure, but this is in line with what I would expect from the show (though I also know all about the playful side of the show as well). Since I can’t possibly judge that, I can only judge the story. The girl is creepy enough and you’ve set up an interesting storyline. SILVER

CW: The Winchesters right? From Supernatural? There was a little exposition but only a little. This kinda felt like a chapter of a larger story. I’m not too familiar with the source material but I liked the telling. – BRONZE

Annette Barron

Renly adjusted the collar of his crisp teal shirt, barely able to contain his excitement. Robert Baratheon never invited his younger siblings to party with him. Yet he had invited not only Stan, but Renly as well to a pre-graduation celebration. Stan, newly licensed, was driving them to meet Robert at a hotel penthouse suite downtown. Imagining all the popular senior jocks who would be there, Renly shivered.

Stan, white-knuckling the steering wheel, seemed even more pinched and stiff than usual. “There will be booze if I know Robert. Stay away from it!”

“Lighten up, Stan. It’s a party and you don’t have to drive home tonight. Surely god wants you to partake of the wine.”

“Don’t you joke about God,” Stan hissed. “Mother wouldn’t want you to drink.”

“And father would say go ahead and have a good time.”

Stan acknowledged the truth silently. Father looked on his wife and son’s piety as an amusing novelty.

Outside the penthouse suite, Renly took a deep breath, settling his nerves. Stan looked like he might bolt. “Come on, Stan, I won’t let the heathens feed you to the lions.”

Robert flung open the door. He had a red solo cup in hand and his face was already flushed. Clearly, the party had already started.

“Brothers! Come in, come in! Get a drink. Stan, buddy, stop frowning; this is fun time.”

The boys followed their elder brother into the luxurious suite. Sitting on the couch, cup in hand, was a girl who clearly started out life something other than a blonde. Her over-processed hair reached just past her bare shoulders; big breasts defying gravity in a tube top. A tiny denim skirt and six inch strappy sandals completed the ‘World’s Trashiest Outfit’ ensemble. “This is Tanya.” Tanya tittered and waved three fingers.

Renly felt a sinking sensation. “Where is everybody, Rob?”

“Everybody’s here, bro!” Robert slung a heavy arm around Renly’s slight shoulders. “Everybody who’s anybody! Ha!” He slurped from his solo cup. “Get a drink!” He gestured vaguely toward the mahogany bar in the corner.

“What do you mean? I thought you were throwing an early graduation party?” This from Stan.

“I am, I am!” Robert flung himself down on the sofa next to the girl and grabbed her thigh. “You two are graduating from losers into pussy hounds!” His laughter boomed.

Renly headed toward the bar. This night was going to require a LOT of alcohol. Stan wasn’t as quick to understand. ‘What? I don’t understand? Who is this?”

“She’s the answer to your prayers, buddy!” Robert slapped her bare leg, hard. She jumped. “I know you gotta be praying for some tail, right?”

Stan reddened and turned on his heel. “I’m out of here.”

Robert beat him to the door, belying his state of inebriation. “Oh no you aren’t, Stannis my boy.” He grabbed a fistful of button down and shoved him against the door. “You’re going to bang her or I’m going to bang you!”

“Let go of me!”

“Look, Stan, you’re doing this. You, too, Renly. I don’t care if you have to pretend she’s a football player and take her from behind.” Renly winced and took another long pull from his drink. “Tanya, it’s go time.” He tossed her a little glass vial. “As promised. You might need to share it with Stan here. He needs an attitude adjustment.”

Tanya tottered to the bedroom and Robert wrestled Stan in behind her. Renly thought seriously about making a run for it but life would be hell if he did. God knows he wouldn’t get any support from his parents. His mother was trying to pray away his proclivities and his father was in total denial. As the youngest, he had some freedom; he wasn’t the heir after all, or even the spare, but he did enjoy his father’s lifestyle. Robert came out of the bedroom and they drank companionably in silence together.

Two drinks later, they heard Tanya braying with ugly laughter. The laughing ceased abruptly and thumping sounds and grunts followed. Then . . . nothing. The quality of the silence made the hair on Renly’s arms stand at attention. As one, they ran to the bedroom door and Robert flung it open. Stan sat naked in the middle of the bed, sobbing into a pillow. Tanya hung like a broken doll off the side of the bed, face blue and tongue protruding.

“Well, fuck!” Robert said disgustedly while Renly vomited behind the door. “Better call daddy.”

K: Well, the prompt as stated seemed to favor taking light material and darkening, but this did the opposite (yes, the end is dark, but the Brothers Baratheon’s High School Hijinks sounds pretty damn funny). The characters are true enough to the ones I know. I feel like it would have helped along the tension to have this happen at a party crawling with people, but all the same, it’s an interesting take. BRONZE

CW: I have a feeling I’m being a little over generous on this one simply because I love Game of Thrones but I felt like this was true to the spirit of the characters in a modern environment. Definitely a twisted version of them but I dug it. – SILVER

Christina Pepper

Hermoine Granger glanced up from The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection by Quentin Trimble to check the time. Surely the library’s clock was wrong. How could it possibly be 6:30 already? The index finger of her right hand twitched. Just a few maneuvers of her necklace—her most treasured possession—and she could still get to dinner on time.
She thought back to when Dumbledore, the beloved headmaster of her so very beloved school Hogwarts, had first granted her permission to use the Time-Turner.
“Please, please,” she had begged. “I simply cannot choose between Divination and Arithmancy.”
“Oh, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore had nodded sagely, stroking his long, gray beard, “in just a few years’ time, you’ll be facing choices far more difficult than this.”
“How can such a thing be possible?” she gasped.
“All right, I’ll petition the Ministry of Magic to allow it,” the headmaster conceded. “But this privilege does not come without restrictions. Above all, you must understand that with great power comes great responsibility.”
“What, is this Spider-Man or something?”
“Spider-what?”
“It’s a Muggle thing. You wouldn’t understand.”
The old wizard straightened his robes and fixed a steely gaze at the 3rd-year pupil. “If I hear of even one instance in which you’ve used this device for a purpose other than attending both Divination and Arithmancy, I shall confiscate it immediately.”
Hermione nodded wordlessly.
* * *
Two days later, she was leading Harry Potter, Hogwarts’ most renowned student, into the Forbidden Forest.
“I’ve lost my favorite quill,” she whined, twisting a lock of hair around a finger. “I simply cannot complete my History of Magic homework without it.”
“But how did it end up in the forest of all places?” Harry inquired.
“It was that nasty Darco Malfoy,” she responded, knowing Harry would do anything she asked if it involved getting back at his archrival. “He ripped it right out of my hands and flung it in there while I was studying out on the lawn.”
“Don’t you ever do anything except study?” Harry couldn’t help asking.
“No,” she admitted, “not really. Except of course when you and Ron talk me into breaking yet another school rule while making yet another attempt to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort. You naughty, naughty boys.”
Fifteen minutes later, Harry was scurrying through the forest, naked, trying to figure out just where all his clothing had gone. He was certain his backside must be bright red—who would have thought Hermione of all people could spank even harder than the Whomping Willow? He gazed fondly in the direction of that dear tree for a moment before resuming his search.
Satisfied, Hermione strode out of the forest and back toward the school. She checked the time. Late! Oh no, Ron had invited her to sample a secret stash of butterbeeer down in the dungeon. How could she possibly resist such a temptation? She could not. With a quick flip of her necklace, it was once again 3:00.
* * *
Hermione gathered her books and sighed as she recalled that most magical of afternoons when she’d had her way with both Harry and Ron. Technically it had even been simultaneously! As she returned her books to the library shelves, she once again pondered whether she could get them to act upon the attraction that so obviously existed between the two of them.
So would she make it to dinner on time? She dreaded the thought of stern Professor McGonagall docking even a single point from Gryffindor for tardiness. Such a thing would simply ruin her reputation! So she took hold of the necklace and did what she had to do.
And if Dumbledore found out? So be it. She was certain she could perform a trick or two that would ensure any sort of punishment he administered was the kind she liked best.

K: I’m not sure this got dirty enough early enough to have the desired impact; as is, it’s kind of a bizarre turn with little foreshadowing at the end. That might not be a big problem on its own, but the fact that this reaaaally jumped from moment to moment and character without much notice left it feeling not enough like a scene, and too much like a movie trailer. (Also: Hermoine? Darco? Butterbeeer? Needs an editor’s pass-through)

CW: I just watched my son stand on his own for the first time! Oh. Judging. So slutty Hermione is a different path. This seems more like wishful thinking though… Also it was more humorous than anything. And there was a little too much telling and not enough showing. It was fun though for sure. Mostly juvenile fun because I’m a pervert. Blame my dad. Yay Jamesen standing!

erik s

A solitary florescent bulb tucked into the oven hood vent splayed a cheerless glow across the kitchen. Jon, a solitary bulb tucked into a curved backed stool, stared wide eyed and intense into the nothingness of his faded counter. The droning whir of the microwave cut out with three solitary beeps, each one ending with a period in Jon’s mind, which signaled his single serving pasta dinner was complete.

Undressed, its cellophane a wet, crumpled mess of warm plastic and burned cheese, he picked at the thick, soggy noodles with wavy, rock hard edges. Jon noticed the tines were still speckled with food bits he was apparently unable or unwilling to remove during the fork’s last scrubbing. A weak opinion on the matter formed in Jon’s mind, but in the end, no action made it out of committee.

He continued with his meal.

“Hey, Jon,” the cat said yawning as he stretched the kinks out of his front shoulders. “How’s dinner?”

Jon looked down to find the cardboard container empty, its white, waxed surface now tinged with a greasy orange. He searched for when (if?) he had finished it, but the query came back inconclusive. He looked back at the cat and eventually shrugged, empty-handed.

The cat rolled its eyes. “Fuck me, Jon,” he said in breathless exasperation. Hands at his hips, he began quietly murmuring to himself.

Jon watched the spectacle with little to no emotion, twice stabbing at the cardboard container only to look down in mild surprise at finding it empty.

With a final “mrreow” that seemed to settle the matter, the cat nodded his head firmly and decisively. “All right, come on, Jon, this is no way to spend a Tuesday. Put on a new shirt and go get the car. Bring the fucking dog if you want to, I don’t give a fuck…”

The last part trailed off as the cat turned to get his things, though the muttering continued.

Jon found himself cruising down an empty highway, cat on the dash, in a fresh aqua, long-sleeved polo shirt and pleated pants; the street lights episodically meandered along the length of the car. One of the cat’s paws hung down and occasionally batted at the console, knocking the radio station and temperature from one extreme to the other.

Though he occasionally noted the time from the LED display, Jon either could not remember when he’d left, or the math involved to figure out the interval caused his brain to get gummed up and hazy. He was aroused from this last episode by his screeching pet.

“I SAID LEFT, YOU STUPID TWArrrrRROOOOOWWW!!!”

Jon swerved onto the off-ramp, sending the cat across the dash and into the door with a yelp, a “thunk”, and a set of parallel lines across the dashboard. The dog, up until that point a dopey, panting statue, slipped and smacked his head into the window, expression unchanging.

A low, annoyed growl emanated from the gloom of the passenger side floor. The cat emerged from the dark, climbed up the seat with deep, deliberate, and gouging claw strokes, all while staring directly to Jon’s eyes. Upon reaching the top, he hopped back to the dash.

“Pull into to that gas station, fuckface,” the cat said

Jon complied, and parked where the cat motioned. As soon as the parking brake ratcheted into place, a surprisingly beautiful woman in a short overcoat with pale skin and big, pouty lips slid into the front seat, and eyed the occupants one by one.

“Which one of you is Jon?” she asked.

The cat motioned to the driver.

She eyed Jon, unimpressed.

“Hi, Jon, I’m Liz,” she said apathetically. Unexpectedly, Jon found his pleated pants parted, and his flaccid penis in Liz’s mouth. Realization of the situation came at the same rate of erection.

“Can we make this quick, Jim?” Liz asked. “It’s going to be a busy night.”

She straddled him, and with one hand and one motion, she produced a condom, tore the packaging with her teeth, slipped it out of the wrapper, and slid it down his cock. It was a display of expert technique with a complete lack of ceremony.

She guided Jon inside, and began a series of rehearsed, unenthusiastic moans.

The cat leered at the exchange from the back. In the midst of the exchange, he abruptly turned and delivered a swift kick to the panting dog, knocking him off the seat and sending him crashing to the floor.

“Fuck off, Odie…”

K: The complete melancholy in this story was a joy, since I always thought Jon’s life was pretty horrible (I was able to identify the source material upon Jon’s first mention). Garfield’s pottymouth is unnecessary; I think the depressing reality would be painted better with more drab strokes. I would have taken apathy over seeming rage there, but otherwise, the darkness of this one definitely worked. SILVER

CW: I’ll admit I was stumped until that last line. But this was expertly descriptive and I really loved the reveal at the end for dumb dumbs like me. – GOLD

Matt Novak

A soft blue light hovers in front of me, like one of the bioluminescent jellyfish they’re always showing on Blue Planet. I raise my hand toward the light and for a moment pretend I’m dipping it through cool Pacific waves. I love that science shit.
My finger compresses the thin glowing button and the screen flashes to life; the three narrow paragraphs of text weakly subsist against the otherwise vacant page.
Jesse had left, for who knows where and who knows how long. The business was established, the lines to distributors solid. He could afford to let Jesse go in that regard. But the product. He couldn’t make enough of the blue. Without supply, the distribution would crumple quickly.
Walt flicked open his phone. Damien. He’d been his student, like Jesse. But he’d been his star pupil, when Jesse had flunked out. He still had Damien’s number.

I pull my phone from my pocket, turn it around in my hand. The screen is blacker, sleeker, than seems appropriate. I try to think back to the one I had before. There’s a red plastic cup leftover from some unremembered time. I sniff at the contents, conclude it must be water, and take a chance. The liquid quenches a thirst I didn’t realize I was carrying.
Walt’s fingers run over the heavy buttons on his flip phone, and he searches through his contacts. Damien. There it is.

“Hello?”
“Uh. Hello.” Walt pauses.
“Mr. White?”
“Yeah. Damien, I need your help with… a project.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Damien already knew what Mr. White was doing. He had put two and two together. There were rumors around school, and you don’t get to be as smart as Damien was without keeping your ear to the ground.
When Damien arrived, Mr. White led him down to the basement of the home, where he’d set up a temporary lab.

I lean back in my chair. The red digits of the clock stand vividly against the dark of the room, announcing the time. I’ve still got an hour, at least. My arms stretch upward and back, as I look around the room. The ratty old couch is pushed against the wall, and a large square of carpet sits near the center of the floor, one of its corners peeled back to make room for a boiler. A clock with bright red numbers tells the time.
“Look, Damien,” Mr. White explains, “Here’s what I need.”
He takes Damien around the room, showing each piece of equipment, telling Damien what is required. As they move around the room, Walter accidentally knocks over a red cup, the kind college kids use at parties, and water splashes into the cook.
“Dammit!”
“Don’t worry, Mr. White,” says Damien, and he quickly springs into action. A few small adjustments to the boiler and the meth is saved.
“Nice work. I really can’t afford to lose a batch. I shouldn’t even have that water down here, but… this is thirsty work.”
“I bet,” answers Damien.
“Do you think you can do this on your own for a while? I… have some business I need to attend to.”
“Sure. I’ve got this, Mr. White.”

K: The tense changes and italics are an interesting storytelling device, but I wish I knew why this was split up that way. If I get a little creative, I can assume that the non-italicized bits are Vince Gilligan actually writing Breaking Bad, but there’s not enough there to be sure. It’s true to Walt, although I can’t tell how the story is much different from the actual show or what it adds to the narrative. BRONZE

CW: OK so I love Breaking Bad. But what’s the story here? Also I got kinda lost in the italics. Was that supposed to be remembrance or thoughts? It just didn’t feel cohesive to me.

Ian Pratt

The house was dry, thank god. The previous week I’d stepped through the door to see the kitchen and bathroom sinks overflowing at the same time. This time I was simply greeted by Ralph and his trademark smile.

“Hi Janey!” he chirped.

“Hi Ralph,” I answered. I was glad that he never seemed to notice the fatigue in my voice. He had a boundless supply of upbeat enthusiasm for seemingly everything in the whole world. It paired surprisingly well with my constant weariness. My caseload was threatening to push past the limits of what constituted “humanly possible,” and lately I’d been finding myself wondering if I would make it through each day. Visiting Ralph had become something of a bright spot.

“Your hair is gray, like Dad’s,” he said as we walked to the kitchen.

“It sure is,” I said, attempting a smile. Ralph’s innocence was something pure and incorruptible; he had a childlike glow that I would do anything to protect. But damn if his simple words didn’t hurt sometimes. Nobody wants to be gray at 30.

I checked the fridge to see how he was doing on food. There were some oddities (I counted at least three stuffed animals in there) but the milk was fresh and there was actually some produce. For the most part, Ralph lived off of junk from the convenience store down the street.

“I ate two ice creams today,” he announced. I turned to give him a genuine smile. His round face was beaming like a cherub.

“I’ll tell you want, Ralph,” I said, opening the freezer. There were boxes and boxes of frozen treats. “Why don’t you have another ice cream with me while we talk?”

He squealed with delight, grabbed a popsicle, and sat down at the table. I took a popsicle for myself.

“Alright, Ralph, would you like to talk about jobs?”

“I want to talk about Dad.”

“We can talk about your dad later, but first we need to talk about finding a job.”

“Dad was a police officer.”

Talking to Ralph was like that sometimes. Thoughts ricocheted around his head like superballs, coming in from odd angles and leaving in unpredictable directions. We ate our popsicles in silence for a few minutes. At least I ate mine in silence; Ralph sucked noisily at his. I needed to wait until the “Dad” superball had finished bouncing.

“So, Ralph,” I said after we finished licking our popsicle sticks. “I have some ideas about places where you could work.”

“I’m going to kill bad guys like Dad. Dad had a gun.”

“I know about your dad. Let’s talk about him later, okay?”

“I saw Dad’s brains.”

He was still smiling as he said this, his lips stained bright orange from the popsicle.

“Dad had a bad guy in his head.”

I had been reaching into my briefcase for one of the job applications I had brought over, but I let it go and slumped back in my chair.

“Dad killed the bad guy.”

I’d imagined it many times, trying to understand what it would be like to walk into your garage and find your father slumped over in his blood-spattered patrol car. Ralph had been 17 years old with the mind of a kindergartener. He had no chance at comprehending. Words like “corruption” and “scandal” meant nothing to him. God bless him for his innocence. God bless him for seeing his father as a hero killing his final bad guy, instead of for what Chief Wiggum truly was: a sleazy, greedy bully who had bled the town dry before abandoning his only child in an act of cowardice. Where are you now, Chief? Your son is grown, your pension that he gets is drying up, and I’m the only one bound by the state to care. Where are you now, you fat son of a bitch?

“You miss your dad, don’t you,” I said. I stifled a sigh, but the effort made my eyes water. “That’s okay. I miss my dad too.”

“Do you want another ice cream, Janey?” he asked. He was already digging in the freezer.

“Sure, Ralph,” I said, checking my watch. I only had a few minutes before my next appointment. I’d have to come back later on my own time to do his job applications. “Another ice cream sounds great.”

K: Now this – THIS – is what I wanted out of this challenge. This is somehow true to Ralph (and true enough to Janey, I think; we don’t get a lot of insight into who Janey is, but I imagine she’d be successful and helpful). It’s hard to fathom that you had Ralph be Ralph and write such a dark story, but it worked. GOLD

CW: I really liked this retelling of the Simpsons. Or future telling. Whatever. Ralph maintains the characteristics he’s known for and the whole thing felt believable even being about the Simpsons. Brilliant. – GOLD

Matthew Gilman

August 12, 1986
Sunny day, the morning clouds swept away. The police radio buzzed to life.
“Hostage situation in progress, one armed adult holding 14 kids. Request backup immediately to 123 Sesame Street, nearby units respond.”
Penzy’s eyes widened. He knew that place.
Taking the hand-held from its cradle, he pressed the thumb-catch. “Base, this is Penzy. Request permission to proceed to the incident site.”
“Detective, aren’t you on a stake-out?” buzzed the response.
“Roger that, but I have some knowledge of the neighborhood.”
There was a pause. “Chief doesn’t look pleased. But if you want to haul your ass down there, it’s your call.”
“Roger, base. Listen, I’m not familiar with my current location…can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?”
* * * * * * *
Minutes later, flashing his badge at whoever looked his way, Penzy was led to a tiny pocket of activity behind a police van. Ullister, the best hostage negotiator in the force, was already barking into a megaphone.
“Attention! We got a message for you. From the Children’s Television Workshop.”
A high pitched voice strained from behind a wooden door. “What do those assholes want?”
“They say ‘please end this senseless act and let the kids go. Or at least dispatch them in a racially diverse order.’ ”
“Screw that! I said alphabetical! Ab-cadef-ghee-jekl…J. We’re up to J. John-John, get your ass over here!” Sobs could be heard over the click of a hammer being cocked.
“Look,” Ullster spat, “You say this Snuffapegasus friend of yours is real…I believe you! But I can’t make him magically show up! Slaughtering some kids isn’t gonna change anything!”
Penzy paced up beside Ullster. “Do we have a body count?”
Glancing at the detective beside him, Ullster said “Can’t be sure. No windows, no sight-lines. Just gunshots and crying. As long as there’s kids in there, we can’t go SWAT on him.”
Penzy frowned. “Tell him there’s someone here he knows.”
Ullster blinked…then nodded. “Bird! This is Lieutenant Ullster again! Someone here wants to talk to you!” Ullster handed the megaphone to his colleague.
Muffled and tired-sounding, Penzy’s voice became unfamiliar: “Big Bird! It’s me!”
There was a tense pause. “M–Mr. Looper?”
Penzy swallowed a knot of tension. “Hooper. Hooper.”
A long pause, and then, “Mr. Hooper! They said you…died!”
“Yeah…they say a lot of things that aren’t true, Big Bird.”
“They do?”
“Yeah. They say people you love have died. They say your friend’s just imaginary. They say Bert and Ernie are just roommates. I mean, who can you trust?”
“I trusted you, Mr. Pooper! But you left!”
“I’m back now, Big Bird. And there is ONE thing that you can trust.”
“Wh-what’s that?”
“If you’re ever lost…alone…confused…you can talk to a policeman. They’re going to help. They don’t want to hurt you. And they don’t want those kids to get hurt, either. And neither do you, am I right? You don’t want to hurt your friends. You’re just a little…lost.”
The high voice was choked up a little. “I…I guess I am…um….”
“It’s okay, I promise. Now..c’mon out…and we can talk to a policeman. Together. You remember what that’s called?”
The voice was trembling. “Co…cooperation?”
“Right. Cooperation.” Penzy gave a conspiratorial nod to his colleague. “C’mon out, Big Bird. Let’s cooperate.”
The pause that followed felt eternal. Sniffles of children could be heard, penetrating the thick silence.
Finally, a door started to swing open.
The tall, gawky gunman stepped tentatively out from the doorway. Flecks of red polka-dotted his yellow plumage. “Mr. Booper? Are you out here?”
“NOW!” yelled Ullster. Eight cops charged in, their size disadvantage making a real scrum, all beaks and feathers. The reedy, voice rose above it all.
“You motherfuckers! You lied to me!! Mr. Booper’s still DEAD!! YOU LYING BASTARDS!!”
A wave of children poured out of the doorway, all tears and panic. Penzy forced his way past them, through the doorframe. One citizen was already there, kneeling beside a horrifying heap of carnage.
“Three,” he said, his accent thick. “Three dead children!!!” A wail that sounded like both laugh and howl poured out of the man, punctuated by thunder from the suddenly cloudy sky. Penzy shook his head, numb.
Ullster was beside him. “Hey, you did your job. Sometimes that’s all we can do.”
Deflated, Penzy nodded. “Just another episode brought to us by the number 187.”

K: I mean…it’s dark, but it’s “wink-wink” dark so it doesn’t reach the heights of the Ralph Wiggum story. Big Bird doesn’t really come off as being in character, either; I know Big Bird wouldn’t cause a hostage situation, but if he did, I’d like to see him speak like himself. If he’s not going to be himself, why does this story need to be fanfiction?

CW: I’m like 99.9% sure we’ve had a “can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street” gag before. That being said, there were way too many characters to properly follow and made it hard for me to track. It also felt too much like satire.

Brian David

Gobo leaned over the small skeleton that lay on the cavern floor. Steam seeped around the bones, floating up through cracks in the rock. Strands of the Rainbow Fungus clung to the tiny ribs and spine, leeching what nutrients were left. Gobo picked up a miniature orange hardhat that was nestled among the remains and stared at it for a few moments.
“I wonder if I knew you,” he said to himself, his voice soft but still echoing through the dark cave. He tried to imagine what the Doozer might have looked like, when it was alive and healthy. Had it had a small tuft of blue hair tucked under this hat? Or was it older, green chin covered in a whispy beard, eyes squinting as it studied its blueprints? Gobo would never know, but he hoped the Doozer had spent many happy hours building, before the Rainbow Fungus arrived and took them all away.
Gobo stuffed the hardhat in his vest pocket and picked up a knapsack that lie a few feet away. He turned it over, shaking it up and down until a thin, translucent stick tumbled out and into his hand. He had been saving this one for a few days, hoping that Red’s appetite would come back and that it might hold her over until they found their way to Outer Space.
There was no need for such restraint anymore. He had woken up next to Red that day, his arm wrapped around her frail body. He kissed her, but she didn’t respond. She would not wake when Gobo shook her shoulders, her face set with an expression of serenity and peace that Gobo had not seen in a long time.
Gobo brushed the memory away and bit down on the translucent stick, his stomach rumbling as the bits of compressed radish slid down his throat. When he was done, he kicked the knapsack away and brushed off his hands.
“It’s time,” he whispered. “Goodbye, Red. Goodbye Fraggle Rock.”
He stepped into a tunnel that lead out of the cave and wandered through the dark. The maps that Uncle Matt had given him were lost, burned in the great fires of the food riots. But he still remembered the path, and was sure he was headed in the right direction.
He dragged his hand along the rock walls to guide the way, the tunnel becoming increasingly hot and humid. Gobo shook his head, trying to chase away the dizziness of hunger. His hand slid across something metallic and burning, and Gobo screeched in pain. The sound of hissing filled the tunnel and the steam had begun to condense and fall off his matted fur in large drops. Gobo held his aching hand to has chest and stumbled forward through the darkness.
At last a light appeared, filtering through a hole far down the tunnel. Gobo laughed in spite of himself and began to jog, barely able to keep his balance. The light grew blinding, and a cool breeze caressed Gobo’s face, invigorating him. With all his remaining energy he stumbled to the end of the tunnel and through the opening.
He had made it.
Gobo leaned forward, shaking violently as he tried to catch his breath. He found himself facing a tiled floor, cold against his feet. A shadow crept up along the floor, wrapping around everything in sight. Gobo looked up.
The Creature stood in front of him, massive and covered in hair.
Gobo didn’t try to run. He didn’t try to fight. The Creature lunged forward, its massive jaw clamping around his waist, but he didn’t feel any pain. Gobo looked around him as he was lifted high off the ground, observing this strange place – this Outer Space – with an odd sense of detachment. Large windows, tables built from mysterious wood, walls lined with elaborate machines. All these things flashed before him as the Creature whipped him about. He turned his head slowly and saw the giant teeth buried deep in his stomach, his life fluids pouring out of him, thick and purple.
Gobo’s breathing grew thin and darkness seeped in from the edges of his vision. He thought he heard Red singing to him from somewhere far away:

Dance your cares away
Worry’s for another day

K: Wow. This is cold. As a huge fan of Fraggle Rock as a kid, I was able to visualize every character and location. The idea of the Rainbow Fungus is interesting, and even if you’d stuck with that I would have liked this plenty, but Gobo meeting his end at the dog’s hand was an extra dark touch. His fatalism about the whole thing was great, too. GOLD

CW: I loved Fraggle Rock as a kid. And I know exactly what this was from the first word. But it was awesome. I felt like this really embodied the prompt and I particularly enjoyed the dog catching Gobo at the end. I really wanted to give this a gold but you just missed out! – SILVER

Sarah Wreisner

“The medication,” Dorothy leaned against the counter, avoiding shards of glass. Her eyes caught the flickering candlelight. “Have you thought about that? Rose….”

“I know what Rose needs,” I snapped. Rose had type I diabetes, and her insulin had to be refrigerated. “We’ll figure it out. Some of the houses…”

Dorothy cut me off: “Some of the houses what, Blanche? Do you think this is the only place affected? That we’re the only people dealing with this? Are you going to go out there? Jesus Christ. Take a look outside, why don’t you?” She cackled sarcastically, her arm sweeping the boarded-up window for emphasis. “We don’t even know what the fuck we’re dealing with.”

Dorothy slumped against the countertop, the anger leaving the room just as quickly as it had arrived. The arm of her magenta windbreaker was torn; her hair was limp and uncurled. “I’m sorry, honey. I’m just worried about Ma. Rose needs us, too.”

We heard soft sobbing from the next room. Rose called out, reminding Dorothy to keep her voice down: Sophia wasn’t conscious yet, and she needed a doctor. We were trying our best to keep her as calm as we could.

No one else had slept since the radio went out.

The kitchen door rattled violently on its hinges and we backed into the living room, picking up the makeshift weapons we’d managed to gather. Rose gasped and clung to Sophia, who was resting on a bed of cushions and blankets.

Several of the Miami-area levees had failed several nights ago. With it came flooding, panic, death – and something else. Something much worse had broken through.

Rose had been the one to fall apart first, which wasn’t a surprise to the rest of us. She had become inconsolable when the reports started trickling in, calming only when Sophia had lost consciousness. When the electricity had gone out – and then the battery-powered radio had quit broadcasting – she had shut down completely. We had to force her to take her insulin, but it was starting to seem like a lost cause. We were nearly out of food and no help had arrived.

Of all the girls, Rose wasn’t the one to help problem-solve, so her hysteria wasn’t holding us back. It was Sophia who’d been so level-headed and helpful during this horrific ordeal: her sarcasm and sharp condescension had quickly turned into a powerful talent for leadership. She had immediately thought of boarding the windows with some of the planks that had landed on the porch. She’d also insisted that we needed weapons. Dorothy had rolled her eyes, assuming her Ma was just being silly, but we quickly realized that the weapons were a good idea. If Mr. Petrillo were still alive he would have been proud.

I sat down at the kitchen table, setting my nail-studded board on the checkered tablecloth. I couldn’t take my eyes off the door that led back to the living room. Dorothy paced the linoleum floor. I tried to act tough, but her agitation was overwhelming.

“Dorothy, please. Sit down. All we can do is wait…”

Dorothy turned to face me, her face twisted by anger. “Wait for what, Blanche? Wait for those things to come knocking on the front door? Are you fucking crazy? What are we doing, anyways?”

Rose started trembling, a hand on Sophia’s small arm. Her blue eyes darted wildly around the room. “Blanche. Dorothy. I think we need to get next door.”

“What?” Dorothy threw up her arms, irritated. She was always annoyed with Rose – we all were. “You lose your shit for two days, and now you have this brilliant idea to get us all killed?”

Rose stood her ground. “I know Harry has a gun. A few of them, even. When Libby died, and before Carols and Barbara moved back home, he started to get paranoid. Empty nest syndrome, I think they call it… I think we need to see what’s going on over there.”

I had grown up in the Deep South, where guns were a part of the family. I nodded slowly, looking to Dorothy for approval.

Dorothy sat down at the table, tipping her face into her hands. She sat for a moment, considering what few options we had. The front door rattled. It wouldn’t hold for long.
“We’ll need to carry Ma. I think this is a good idea, Rose. Maybe the only one you’ve ever had. Let’s move.”

K: What a bizarre use of these four. I would legitimately watch this, I think. This story, if one doesn’t know the source material, might not be as strong as a couple, but I DO know the material and I couldn’t unknow it as their names were dropped on me. A little cheekier than I hoped for, I suppose, but the concept is so wild I love it anyway. SILVER

CW: Was this like the zombie apocalypse? Because I never thought I’d see the Golden Girls in the zombie apocalypse. This didn’t really have an ending but it had a really well written middle. – BRONZE

Margaret Martin

They walked down the street, hand in hand, their matching sensible shoes marking the timeless rhythm of love.

When they got to the pet store window they paused. A sweet small dog with black ears and doleful eyes looked out at them.

“Aw, look at him! Let’s get him!” Patty sang out, her copper hair gleaming like a new penny in the steamy summer sun.

“Well, I don’t know. A dog is a big commitment, and when they die…”

She leaned in and gave him a peck on the cheek, whispering something in his ear.

30 minutes later they walked out of the store, her reeling in the boisterous puppy on his new leash, him carrying a huge bag of food and supplies.

Summer stretched on, hot and lazy. The puppy grew into a sturdy and constantly hungry companion. The three of them spent long hours out at the ball fields, playing fetch, gathering a few friends for a quick softball game, walking down to the ice cream stand.

As summer cooled into fall, Patty’s abdomen began to swell. The dog noticed and began to hover near Patty’s heels. The family turned to autumn joys: football, piles of colorful crunchy leaves. There were parades of children walking to school with their backpacks and hopping onto big yellow busses. Patty smiled at them, smoothing her green shirt down over her belly.

On Thanksgiving they decided to have friends over.

The other girls noticed right away. They squealed with delight. Advice and questions fell from their mouth like rain.

“Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?”

“Oooh if it’s a girl I hope it takes after me!”

“Have you thought about names?”

“Make sure you use coco butter to avoid stretch marks!”

They boys eventually caught on and gathered around Chuck to congratulate him.
“Are you excited? Or nervous?”

He scratched at the floor with his toe, an old habit. “I don’t know. A baby is a big commitment.”

They slapped him on the back, and talk returned to football and food.
The dog sat by his food dish, sadly pondering its emptiness.

As snowflakes began to fall, she abandoned her shirts altogether and started wearing Chuck’s striped polos. It made their friends laugh, but she didn’t care.

They sat inside, watching the dog chase snowflakes and growl at the snowmen the neighbor children had built.

In the new year there were whispers at the doctor’s office. Multiple ultrasounds were ordered. Worry gnawed at him, but Patty was untouched.

“I’ll be fine, Chuck!” She grinned. “We just have to get in there and do it!”

Winter melted into spring, the white world giving way to the palest of pinks and golds, the ball fields emerging brown and muddy. Snow still huddled in the shadows, shrinking before the power of the sun.

The dog came in with muddy paws. There was no way now that Patty could bend over to wash the prints from the floor, so they dried there, unnoticed.

As the days marched on, Patty was put on bed rest. She dutifully lay on her left side, alternately dozing and scratching the dog’s black ears and waiting for Chuck to get home from work
.
Whoosh. She sat up suddenly. “Did I..?”

WHOOSH. “Oh God, I did.”

She tried to get to the bathroom, each step unleashing another flood of briny water from her distended uterus. WHOOSH!

It was time. She called Chuck and they drove to the hospital with huge expectant smiles. They held hands as they entered the room, and their feet, now hurried, still moved in the ancient synchronization of their souls.

The room was an explosion of sounds – Patty screaming, doctors barking orders, a cacophony of machines beeping and whining, nurses explaining something to him. Chuck nodded and shrank back as Patty was wheeled away.

Chuck waited for hours in silent desperation, moving in slow motion while nearby, a frenzy surrounded his wife and son.

“Mr. Brown? MR. BROWN?” Chuck looked up to see the doctor.

“We couldn’t save him. His head was trapped in the pelvic bone.” Anguish distorted his features.

“You can see her now.”

Patty was in bed, so pale. He pulled the white cap off her head and smoothed back her carrot hair.

“The baby didn’t make it.” She choked on the words. “His head was too big.”

Back at home, Snoopy sat in the dark, staring at his empty bowl with sad, knowing eyes.

K: On an earlier story I was going to suggest that announcing the story outright with a character at the end was probably too obvious, but for whatever reason I did NOT pick up on Peanuts before the end of this one, and had to go back afterward (and hoped we had some parents in there, speaking incoherently). The issue is that I don’t know if this is about the loss of the baby or about Snoopy’s loneliness. Committing to one or the other probably would have been stronger, though I don’t dislike this, either. BRONZE

CW: Well that was unexpected. These were characters I never thought I’d see in this situation. Wow! And poor Snoopy! – SILVER

Sama Smith

Alice spotted the white fluff in the meadow just past her climbing tree. She wasn’t allowed any further in the yard and Myra was going to be calling her to supper soon.

She pushed back the hazy yellow daisies to find a twitching and trembling mess.

“Ah, cute little bunny,” Alice said, grabbing it with her dress. “You’re hurt.”

She giggled and trotted to the shade of the climbing tree. The bunny shuttered as she laid it down. Blood seeped and stuck to the blades of grass underneath it. Carefully, she turned the thing around to find the wound. Its shaking ceased and breathing stilled. Alice grabbed a small stick near her and poked the body a few times to make sure it was dead.

“Good,” she said and reached behind her into a small hollow in the tree. She rooted around and seized a shoe box. She scooped up the dead bunny, holding it by the tail, letting the blood drip from the matted fur. She carried it and the shoe box gingerly to the edge of the woods and dropped the carcass next a small, freshly prepared grave. She smiled as she took a spade out of the shoe box and pushed the rabbit into the hole. It felt good to cover the body with dirt and pat the earth down with her small hands.

Looking to the left she counted each compact grave. Ten. It’s been a busy summer.

She rummaged inside the shoe box once more looking for the right trinket to put on the grave, but there was nothing she saw that seemed to fit. Alice glanced at her watch and realized she was going to be late for supper. Knowing how her grandma and sister would be upset, Alice laughed and took off her watch. She placed it on the packed down grave and smirked.

“I lost my watch while climbing the tree,” she practiced, batting her blue eyes. Bugs Bunny’s right arm ticked past 6 as she squished the watch onto the gritty dirt.

——-

That summer had been so wonderful for Alice until the gardener discovered the tiny graves. Alice was then banned from the backyard. Grandma had the graves covered by a long row of bushes that grew taller each year. The prickly foliage mocked Alice whenever she looked out her bedroom window.

After the “cemetery” discovery, people treated her differently. Whispers followed in Alice’s wake when she left the kitchen. Conversations abruptly ended when she entered a room. She was told to keep busy now, go get a job or volunteer or something. So when she graduated the next spring, Alice took up grave digging. Her family disowned her.

But she relished being able to dig holes again. Using the excavation equipment wasn’t as fun as feeling the dirt in her hands, but making those impressions in the earth and filling them up again made her feel whole somehow. When business got slow, Alice took up her own hobbies to make sure she’d get to dig a hole at least once a month. She liked to keep busy and she didn’t mind getting messy.

On a particularly busy day, a familiar name was on the docket. No one had told her about grandma’s passing, but after the funeral her sister Myra broke the family’s years of silence.

“She left it all to you and me,” Myra said. “I don’t want it–any of it. You can have it all, even the estate.”

When the paperwork was complete, Alice’s first order of business was to clear out those tall bushes that had stood so proud for so long. Grandma’s long-time gardener frowned at that. Alice dismissed him and knew what she’d fill her first hole with. Then she texted Myra to come to dinner tomorrow. It was going to be a busy summer.

K: Hmm. Okay, but do we have a motive here? We have a little detail that’s true to the source with the rabbit and the glance at the watch with the realization she’s late, but otherwise, it’s just a story about a budding serial killer. So why is Alice this way? What about Wonderland made her this way? As it is, if you changed Alice and Myra’s names, this is a story about any serial killer you can dream up. A shame, because there’s some good horror writing here.

CW: I’m not sure what this is fan fiction of but I liked it. Alice is misunderstood by everyone it seems. What’s wrong with burying things? Doesn’t mean she killed them. But she certainly isn’t afraid of death at all. I liked the character development here even without knowing the source material. If the source was Alice in Wonderland though then I didn’t see it. – BRONZE

Beau

89.
In Pisa, in a room reserved for such things, a man takes his last breath.

144.
In Moscow, in a room known only to six people, a man is cryogenically unfrozen and reanimated. One of the men is his great grandson, who was fifteen the last time he saw him. It is a joyful reunion. The man learns of the tireless work his son and grandson put into inventing the procedure that gave him life again. It seems his love of science was passed on down the line. And while he looks old, he feels more alive than he ever did before.

233.
He had attended the funerals of his great-grandson, and his son after him. Grief gives way to ennui. Then bitterness. He does not attend any more celebrations of life. While his progeny felt it necessary to keep him alive indefinitely, they feared the very thing they created. As far as he knows, he is the only human cursed with this life. He wishes he believed in suicide.

377.
At least his senses remain sharp. He finds some satisfaction in reading all of the books he always meant to. He tries to volunteer. Heck, he even tries to date. But he is a freak.

610.
Major League Baseball disbands. There is nothing left in this world he enjoys.

987.
In a rare moment of curiosity, he looks up his family tree. It turns out a descendant of his invented a water treatment method that accidentally became the cause of the worldwide drought that has killed several billion. For the first time in centuries, he laughs.

1597.
Aliens visit for a while. That turns out to be neat. Unfortunately, they tire easily and leave. Worse yet, they help restore the water supply before they go. More fucking humans. The man strokes the beards of his ibex friends. Mongolia is a peaceful place.

2584.
It appears more was left than just water. He has not met an intelligent being in some time. Humans seem motivated only by worship of the aliens who have been gone for a millennium. All vestiges of math and science have faded.

4181.
All hatred for humanity has ceased, as humanity’s population becomes one. Yesterday, the aliens returned. Apparently displeased with what they left behind, they destroyed every last person with a fascinatingly fast virus. That would have been fine, but it killed all the animals, too. He wonders how he could be immune to even alien forms of eradication.

6765.
He visits Moscow, or at least the coordinates where it used to be. The basement of the basement of the basement of the lab where he was animated is still there. He finds a small safe. The lock is fused, either from age or that time Sweden nuked the capital. Using various blunt objects, he manages to open it in just ninety-eight years. Inside, a letter addressed to him from his son:

I never assisted this fiendish experiment. You’re old, cursed, forever. Everyone lied about Project Renew. Only fix: aflatoxins. Seek Winston Nipper, Ottawa, radical kabbalah. Leave once everyone’s sleeping. Your only cure.

He remembers where aflatoxins come from. He also knows that there hasn’t been life, not even fungus, on this planet for ages. His anger boils at the thought of his son allowing the experiment. Did his great grandson even know? Or did they selfishly want him around?

He commits his son’s letter to memory. He had forgotten emotions. It feels good to be angry again.

10946.
Walking along a beach in Thailand, the man discovers a miracle. A nautilus mollusc, washed up on the beach. Is there life in the oceans now? He studies the shell and notices the logarithmic spiral. A word crosses his mind for the first time since he died. Fibonacci.

In the sand he writes out his son’s letter. He takes only a minute to find the message.

Taking a sharp edge of the nautilus, he cuts a deep gash in his left elbow. Nestled in his radius, a faint red glow.

He weeps.

K: So, you had the balls to write fan fiction about Fibonacci AND you were able to use numbers from the Fibonacci sequence, all while writing an engaging, moving, funny piece of prose? I absolutely love this story. It’s one of my favorites of this or any season. GOLD

CW: Well I’m not sure if this qualified as fan fiction or not. Maybe it did and I don’t get the reference. Maybe it’s Fibonacci fan fiction. Either way, I loved the continued use of the Fibonacci sequence from last story. This was like a sequel that told a great story. I loved how we got to see the movement of time throughout. – GOLD

———————————————————

John Wreisner

They would strike at the company picnic. A memo had already gone out notifying the employees

of all Dunder Mifflin branches to meet that Saturday at a park just outside the anthracite

museum. It would be chaos.

Andy had first proposed the idea. Gabe, thinking his suggestions to be a convoluted plot meant to

wield some kind of power over Erin, feigned interest at first, not realizing how deadly Andy’s

intent truly was. During lunch one, Andy took Gabe to the parking lot and showed him three

propane tanks with layers of ball bearings duct-taped to their exteriors. Crude timers were

attached to them, fashioned of old alarm clocks, malevolent eyes counting down to slaughter. At

least fifty aluminun pipe bombs spilled out of a duffel bag.

“Remember how she scorned you, Gabe? She said kissing you was like kissing her brother. She

left you for me. But I’m here. I’m your friend. No one else. Jim thinks you’re just Jo’s lap dog.

Hell, almost everyone in the company does. Stanley hates everyone, but he can’t even talk to you

without taking a blood pressure pill first. Pam actually told me she thought fucking Kevin was

smarter than you. You creep Creed out, Gabe. I saw Toby dry heave once after you left his

cubicle. You’ve got to understand this is the only way.”

Gabe was aghast, paler than usual, nearly day-glo. Andy meant to massacre them all. And Andy

was right, and Gabe would help. He would put bullets in the bodies of them all, blast them apart

with propane and steel, stab, mutilate, wade through their blood. This, truly, was the only way.

They rose early, readying themselves in silence. Having spent the night at Gabe’s, they’d passed

the night talking about who they’d target first. It was agreed that Dwight would have to be

eliminated at the first opportunity, as he posed the greatest threat. They’d spend a little more time

with Erin and Pam.

At first light they crept into the park. They now had six propane bombs, and they placed them

strategically. One was in the back seat of Andy’s car. That would be detonated first, miles away

from the picnic ground. As it was detonating, they’d already be at the perimeter of the pavilion,

waiting. As Scranton first responders rushed to the decoy blast, the other bombs would explode.

Hidden in trash cans and bushes and under the raised dais meant to provide the odious Michael

with a pulpit from which to bellow his idiocy, the bombs promised carnage, retribution.

At the appointed hour, they set the timer on the bomb in Andy’s car and set off for the picnic.

Anxious, Andy attempted an acapella version of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” but his throat was dry,

chocked with anticipation. Gabe wondered aloud who would end up with his “Glee” boxed set.

“None of that matters now Gabe’ Andy said. “It’s showtime.” The car stopped.

They donned trench coats and nodded at one another, setting off to firing positions they’d staked

out before. After the bombs exploded, panicked survivors would flood towards the parking lot,

allowing Andy and Gabe a perfectly triangulated position of fire. Whoever wasn’t torn to ribbons

by the bombs would be cut down by interlocking fire from the .223 caliber Bushmaster rifles

they both had slung over their shoulders.

In the distance, sirens. They decoy must have blown, Gabe thought. Three minutes and counting.

Then the rest of the explosions would rip through the crowd, sending a stream of victims in

company t-shirts directly at them.

One minute.

Thirty seconds.

Nothing.

Andy’s phone, set on vibrate, rattled in his pocket. A text from Gabe.

‘What now?” he asked.

They made eye contact. Andy cocked the action on his rifle and stood up. Gabe understood.

Ryan was first. He and Kelly were sitting on the grass fifty yards from the crowd, chatting

amiably. He looked up at them and scarcely had time to ask what was going on when his head

vaporized into a cloud of hair gel and brain matter. Kelly was shot in the throat, arterial blood

turning her scarf black.

They all went down. Phyllis was holding a ham sandwich when she was shot in the mouth. Holly

tried to diffuse them with a Kermit impression but was dispatched with half a dozen gut shots.

They sat back to back, barrels in mouth. “Let’s punch out for good” Andy said. Two nearly

simultaneous booms. Two laughingstocks had laughed last.

K: It’s hard to know where exactly I would have put this if I’d read it immediately. I would have loved a little more character interaction to see if people acted like themselves, but the story is right; if any two characters were going to snap, it’s these two. The blood and guts of the story work better than the fanfiction, but the blood and guts work disturbingly well. It’s around the bronze/silver area so I’ll err on the side of “sorry for making you wait.” SILVER

CW: Well, that was certainly dark fan-fiction, but it didn’t break into the medal arena for me.

———————————————————

TWO double-golds?! And THAT much agreement? It’s the apocalypse, Prosers.

Okay, so after that marathon read (reading at poolside in 115 degree weather slowed me down…a lot) I’ll just get to the next challenge, and to fixing the spreadsheet. For Monday at 9pm Central we’ll ask for another bite-size story. The max is 200 words, and we’ll do…uh…

How about Andy Rustleund? I could go a lot of ways with him, but for this challenge I’ll ask for a novel approach to the afterlife. Yes, I did an afterlife challenge once in Survivor, but whatever.

Also, if you haven’t been featured yet and have a suggestion on what makes you you, let me know. If I haven’t used you yet, it may be because I honestly don’t know how to distill it into a single challenge.

See you in a few, Prosers. Just three challenges left before the playoffs!

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