June 2020 WEP Contest piece

With the Urban Nightmare chosen for June’s Write…Edit…Publish…challenge, I had a few different ideas. Before realizing I could alter the un-submitted piece from February’s challenge, to fit the current theme. Deriving inspiration out of fiction and reality alike. Employing a fictional version of a notorious late 19th century serial killer, Jack the Ripper. Combining that with elements of Gothic fiction, and a hodge-podge mix of mythology to craft a monster that stalks the cobblestone streets and alleys of Whitechapel. Inadvertently giving rise an age old question, which inspired the title for this entry. I humbly present, Man or Monster?

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The sudden creak of the door behind being pushed open revealed my guest had surprisingly agreed to this unusual evening meeting. In silence, I waited for him to take the seat to my left. While I waited, I took advantage of the opportunity to pour two glasses of whiskey from a nearby bottle. I let him seize one of the pewter glasses, allowing him a moment to gather the doubts and questions that filled his mind since my letter was delivered.

Watching him swallow some liquor before commenting, “I most admit your letter gave me a start if your claim of identity isn’t a falsehood. Your chosen spot for this meeting is a strange, perplexing, curiosity.”

I remarked, “You speak true, on both accounts, Cheif Constable Redding. I am indeed the man the newspapers have dubbed Jack the Ripper. Yet, I would not be so quick to summon your fellow officers that lurk inside this bordello,” taking a moment to alter my mask to partake a subtle sip of this spirituous liquid. “I have studied your history enough to know that you pursue the truth, even if that answer is impossible. That inquisitive nature has bequeathed you a peculiar air, given your impressive rank. I press upon a startling revelation that those I have butchered carry a deadly gift besides possessing potent feminine charms and striking beauty. A troublesome and dangerous gift that burdens them with an insatiable lust for blood.”

Constable Redding commented, “The mortician did find some abnormalities that were left undocumented. Despite the focus the papers have on your murders, there have been additional deaths of an even more unusual nature. Oddly enough, they have decreased some since the demise of Mary Nichlos. Supposes I believe that your killings have some unforeseen benefits to the citizenry at large, proving that to others would be troublesome, neigh impossible affair. I should place you in shackles, to ensure that the murders of alley girls cease. Yet, I will grant you one to chance to offer proof of something paranormal stalking the cobblestone streets.”

I had to repress a manic grin at the constable’s expected response. “Then let us meet again at the catacombs of St. Mary’s church just before sunset,” emptying my cup and placing it beside the bottle. “I would suggest you come prepared with the blade you carried in your youth while serving the empire. What the two of us will hunt is an entity born without mercy. Till then, Constable Redding,” parting myself from the lawmen’s company, to finish the necessary preparations.

*****

Dusk had barely past over this sacred place by the time Constable Redding arrived alone. The pale glow was emitting from a lantern casting out a soft orange hue, revealing the handle of a sheathed saber at his left hip. Suppressing a smile, I lit a second lantern with a swift strike of a matchhead. I placed the aflame torch on a weathered tombstone to reveal an almost undetectable trail of dried blood speckled amongst the dirt and stone. The stone path leads to a broad set of doors decorated with religious symbols, rust, and additional dried blood. A pungent stench of decay and ammonia poured out from within the narrow crack between the two doors. Using my right hand, I adjusted my temporary facial covering to mask the rancid odor.

I commented, “You’re auspiciously late constable. However, fortune smiles upon us as this monstrosity remains inside its crypt,” hearing a sudden, short, inhuman growl fill the air. “Prepare yourself without delay. It has awakened,” quickly unsheathing the pair of kukris resting at my hips.

Observing something burst forth from inside, nearly removing the doors from their hinges. This entity refused to spare me a glance, charging immediately at the constable. By divine grace, the lawman managed to raise his blade to parry the creatures menacing black talons. I took advantage of the monster’s distraction to sprint forward. Observing how fluidly this abomination moved, it’s pale skin somehow reflecting the moonlight. Close enough to strike at the creature, I sliced horizontally at the demon’s left thigh. In response, it howled out, ignoring the viscous black substance that was flowing down its leg. Constable Redding took swift advantage of its exposed chest, cutting a large, horizontal wound across its lower abdomen. The monster swatted the lawmen with the back of its left hand, forcing him off his feet. The beast altered its focus to me and began to stare at with hollow, burning red eyes. It was opening its jaw to reveal two rows of sharpened teeth before running towards me. Somehow oblivious of the blackened blood escaping the large wound on his chest. Bracing to defend myself, I raised my curved daggers, hoping my crusade would not end here.

Suddenly a deafening cracking sound brought the creature to a complete stop. Only then did I smell the distinctive odor of gunpowder hanging in the air. The loud noise repeated itself in quick succession, enhancing the scent of powder that clung to the atmosphere. I approached the creature keeping an attentive gaze for any sudden moves, taking note of the three circular wounds on the creature’s left breast. One, or perhaps all of the bullets must have pierced the monster’s heart. In its final moment, the beast released a thunderous roar, before falling to the ground.

Stepping around the fallen demon, I walked towards the constable. Taking immediate notice of the smoking revolver clutched in both hands.

Constable Redding asked, “Is that paranormal monstrosity the end of the strange deaths, and your killings?”

I replied, “Perhaps lawmen. Have the mortician burn the body, before rumors of its appearance can spread further. Only time will tell if this nightmare is truly over, or if its the beginning of something far more horrifying,” departing the constable’s company. Hoping that this was indeed the end, for I have more than quenched my thirst for death.


Word Count: 987 Critique level: Full

WEP April 2020 Challenge

Reluctantly I missed the February, as a result of having considerable sinus problems. Fulfilling a promise I made to myself to return for the April challenge. Having some initial trouble with “Antique Vase” theme, before realizing I was over-complicating the idea. Realizing I could use the vase idea as an element of the narrative, and build a story around how it could be used. Coming up with a few different ideas before settling with the tale below. A tale I call, “A Rite of Rebirth.”

Writer’s note: A golok is a type of machete used on tropical islands in the Indian Ocean.


On a moonless, humid evening, I peered into the ancestral grove of my family. Purple, oval petaled moon-flowers blossomed on moss-covered rocks. A shallow structure of stone and plant held in place three linked pits of collected rain-water. Even the stars refused to bloom in the overhead sky. I hoped that was not an unfortunate omen that would shadow over the rite I had to perform tonight, on the eve of my sixteenth year. Only on that particular evening could this powerful ritual of rebirth and cleansing be performed.

Using my family’s ceremonial golok, I pushed aside a series of broad, ovular leaves. I left the ancient metal blade in place while taking my first step onto the sacred ground. Hearing the leaves return to their position, the moment I relocated the golok to my side. A strange mixture of fear and excitement rushed through my body. Taking another step towards the pits of water, I began to feel an unexpected warmth at the center of my back. The heat somehow being focused around an old clay vase, I had strapped to my back. Removing the ancient urn from my shoulders with the utmost care, I began to prepare every facet of myself to undergo this transformative ritual.

I allowed several moments to pass by, before stepping into the first pit of blessed water. The liquid began to ripple outward at the unwelcome presence of my feet. To my astonishment, the water retained a sense of warmth that defied anything I believed possible without a living flame resting underneath it. Listening to the natural symphony of jungle bugs, I placed my family’s urn inside the water. The clay was softening while the liquid flowed into the vase’s interior.

Patiently, I let it fill approximately half-way, before lifting it out of the water. The music of the jungle falling silent, being replaced by an eerie barrage of distorted whispers. Struggling to ignore the voices, I lifted the antique vessel over my head. Confident I could maintain the urn’s position, I began to tilt the vase. The contents were slowly trickling down my face and proceeding across the rest of my being. My meager garments absorbing a small amount of the water, yet a chill didn’t rush over my body. Nor did my strength falter in the lengthy process of emptying my family’s ancient urn. Returning the jar to my side, I entered the next deposit of sacred water. A tremor rushed up the entirety of my body, the moment my foot hit the collected water. The sensation was something I struggled to understand what changed the water from the first pit to the second. Aware that I wouldn’t be welcomed back to my village without completing the ritual, I persevered.

Balancing out my standing position before, I began to refill the old clay pot. Fearing being banished from my home, I let the cold water rush between my fingers, forcing my fingers to tighten their grip on jar’s weathered smooth surface. The tremors continued to push themselves forcibly through my body; to a point, it almost shattered my concentration and my family’s sacred vase. Hoping I had collected enough of the holy water, I carefully and slowly lifted the container. Feeling my fingers begin to loosen up, the very moment I removed from the liquid. I began to take a few deep breaths, believing it would steady my body long enough to empty the jar. I could feel my nerves strengthen, and the eerie shakes leave my body. More than eager to begin the third and final part of the ritual, I spilled the vase’s contents over my body. The water clung to my skin and garments, forcing my hair to blind my eyes temporarily.

With my clothes and skin now cleansed by the blessed liquid, I stepped into the last deposit of collected water. Howling-out in surprise, at the water’s scorching warmth. Any remaining shakes, vanished instantly, being replaced by heat more potent than the sun itself. Aware of how my damp fingers stuck to the vase, I dipped them cautiously inside the sacred fluid. I had to fight back an urge to scream out in pain, as the blessed water entered the jar’s interior. The heat of the liquid, pushing itself outward through the vase’s surface, almost burning the tips of my fingers. Believing I could not endure this pain much longer, I began to elevate the jar over my head. My muscles were screaming out, inside my head, making every movement agony. Confident, the tepid vase was resting over my head, beginning to empty it over my person. I managed to withstand the blistering heat long enough to drain the holy water over my being. The sacred liquids were blending with the remains of the previous two pools and enveloping my entire being in an unexplainable embrace. A penetrative sensation that burned through my clothes and skin until it reached the depths of my soul.

Only then did I observe a single speck of intense ethereal blue figure inside my mind. In a disjointed but collective whisper, it said, “Your rebirth is complete my child. Return to my people, son,” the lone spot of disappearing immediately afterward.

Stepping out from the sacred pools, I began to strap my family’s ancient jar to my back once more. Leaving the holy grove behind, feeling I had left my youth behind and was returning home a man born anew.


Word Count: 908 Critique level: Comment Only

WEP December 2019 “Footprints” challenge piece

The “footprints” theme for this challenge proved more difficult than I originally thought it would be. Initially, I considered writing a narrative focused on the pursuit of a dangerous monster into the ancient woods it calls home. Telling the tale from the perspective of hunter, as he tracks the creature using the impressions left behind in the snow. Which after I wrote the introduction paragraphs, I realized that it wasn’t a feasible option despite how it catered to the theme. Building on that idea, I pondered transforming it into the story of serial killer fleeing the police. Unfortunately, I ran into the same problems as the previous idea.

Erasing the metaphorical idea board, I starred at blank page uninspired. Managing to discover an idea from a place I overlooked without much thought. My imagination channeling my love of Punk Rock, and its ideologies into something I could shape to fit the theme. Taking inspiration from the songs of various bands and musicians including Beans on Toast, Chuck Ragan, Against Me, Frank Turner, and many more. Telling a tale of a musician who lives on the road and on the stage, acting as a pilgrim of music. Along with taking slight lyrical insight from Frank Turner’s song The Road, which can be listened to below. Underneath that, I humbly present the tale I titled, A Pilgrim of Punk.

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A Pilgrim of Punk

The rain bombarded the bus window, creating a faint melody with each drop that landed against the tinted glass. In silence, I watched from my seat at the passing of the blurred city-scape. Noticing how close we were to the town, I removed my earbuds before casually placing them into my jacket pocket. The screen of my phone brightening as a reaction, allowing me a moment to see it was just past three a.m. Rubbing my thumb and forefinger over my eyes, I glanced around the sparsely full overnight bus. My six fellow passengers strangers following their invisible roads of fate on this gloomy night. All of us would soon depart this bus, leaving behind a ghost of our current selves.

Just before dawn, the Uber pulled into the familiar motel parking lot. The driver popped the trunk before, stepping out to unload the single, worn suitcase that accompanied me when I traveled. In silence, I exited the vehicle with my time-tested guitar bag in hand. I thanked the driver for his assistance in unloading my luggage. I wrapped my hand around the short handle of my duffle bag before, making my way towards the hotel’s front desk after walking through the set of automatic doors. Sitting behind the hotel counter was well-dressed women in a dark red blazer, with the miniaturized version of the hotel logo on the left breast pocket.

She stared up at me through wireframe glasses, asking, “Can I help you, sir?”

I responded, “I’m here to check-in to my room. The reservation is under the name Skibba.”

She nodded and typed the name into the computer that rested in front of her. The blue light from the screen was reflecting into her glasses, casting a brief silence between the two of us. A short ding erupted from unseen speakers, likely built into the monitor.

She said, “I found your reservation, sir,” digging something out from within the desk, handing me an unsealed vanilla envelope, with a few pieces of laminated papers protruding from it. “You are in room number 212. Take the stairs to your left and then turn right. Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?”

I responded, “That should be all for now,” grabbing the envelope and tucking it inside my empty jacket pocket.

The woman nodded, dismissing me with a simple gesture. I walked away before heading up the split-level staircase, following her unneeded directions. I traced the footprints of memory, while I made my way towards my room for some much-needed sleep.

*****

Squashing the dying remains of a cigarette under my boot backstage, a habitual ritual I performed every time before, stepping onto that evening’s stage. I starred out at the audience, aware that I was retracing the footprints of a forgone youth. Grabbing the microphone, I said, “This isn’t the first time I have played this familiar stage,” strumming softly on my guitar. “I see some familiar faces, and some unfamiliar faces here tonight. Hopefully, all you enjoy have enjoyed this evening so far and will continue to,” starting to play the intro for Shackles and putting every fiber of emotion into the song, belting out the lyrics.

I refuse to imprison myself in your shackles.

Instead, I choose to follow my own path traveling the road to unknown places.

Playing overcrowded pubs and undersold stages alike, tracing footsteps that aren’t my own.

Having drinks with strangers in dive bars the world over, understanding that living on the road was the key to my freedom.

Creating new paths in cities familiar and mysterious, traveling the road a pilgrim of music all my own.

Watching the crowd near the stage start to stir, jump, scream, mosh, and dance around, creating a simple, primitive display of musical jubilance. In my several hundred, if not thousands of times playing this song, the meaning of the tune had transformed over time. When I wrote the lyrics for the first time, it was about the horrible terms of the unfair contract and how the legality of it controlled my art and life. Now, it represented something more than that, standing for the roller-coaster, nomadic lifestyle of a musician. I continued to play, moving my fingers about the nickel-plated strings of my guitar without a thought. The individual strings of my guitar acting like an old friend that brought me a constant stream of pleasure and pain. Each chord I played a cathartic release of raw emotion, that metaphorically left me exposed to the world. Yet, I found myself reinvigorated by the relentless energy of the frenzied crowd. That ethereal sustenance a spring of strength I used to perform each night.

Watching the energy of the crowd wax and wane throughout my two-hour set and short encore. My callused fingers playing the last few chords, while the stage lights began to dim, the speakers echoing out the final note of the evening to an exhausted audience. I was carrying my guitar backstage, walking along a well-traveled invisible path. Ready to create more footprints on the endless road that was my lover and life-long friend.

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Word Count: 853 Critique level: Full

WEP August 2019 entry piece

I struggled with the theme for this month’s contest/challenge. The “Red Wheelbarrow,” wasn’t something that was particularly inspiring to me. Stalling my creative energies for a few days, attempting to craft something that was centralized around the theme. Initially, coming up with the idea of a farmhand who is uncaught serial killer, who uses a red wheelbarrow to dispose of his victims. Realizing rather quickly, that I would break the word limit, or be forced to craft an unsatisfying ending. Taking the dark, violent atmosphere from that idea and shifting gears some to something grim and apocalyptic. Mixing it with some other elements of that story to create a piece of flash fiction, I titled Stained Red.

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My father’s old black wheelbarrow was no longer the farm tool it once was. For years it had been filled various types of vegetables, hay, and manure. Now it was an instrument of horrible design, used to hull the corpses of those inflicted with a horrific virus. The infected were willing participants of experimental surgeries, that left bodies a mash of experimental surgical incisions. Even wrapped in thin black garbage bags, the cadavers leaked their bodily fluids pooling on the plastic shell. They were unintentionally leaving behind growing spots of dried blood that left sizeable spots of red on the black casing. With each hull of corpses, the patches of dried blood grew in both quantity and size. With one swift, strong lift, I deposited the bodies in the snow-covered trench. Hearing the snow crackle under the combined weight of the corpses. The almost endless winter was doing its best to hinder the decomposing process and the accompanying animals that fed on them.

The distinct sound of approaching footfalls audible in this frozen hellscape. Balancing out the old wheelbarrow on its small tire and rusting iron supports, before turning around. Their face obscured by wrap-around trapper hat, that revealed only their goggle covered eyes. Only a few of the scientists remaining here were bold enough to look upon the remnants of their failed research. A bright red cylindrical metal gas can visible in their right hand gripped between the fingers of heavy-duty black gloves. The figure was taking a stand a few steps away on my left side. Making a slight glance over at me in silence, that only served to amplify the empty tension between the two of us.

“Burn them,” the figure said, their voice being gargled and muffled to a point those were the only two words I understood. Setting the gas can onto the ground before walking away, leaving me to do the dirty work.

I was sighing some in annoyance, creating a small cloud of exhaled breath that was visible in the air. The distinct smell of petrol immediately hitting my nose while I lifted the gas can by the cold steel handle. My other hand was angling the gas-can to begin pouring the contents of the gas-can onto the trench while holding in a deep breath. I was doing my best not to inhale the fumes, listening to the gasoline weaving its way through the mass of wrapped cadavers. The noise was conjuring up memories of the babbling brooks and streams from my youth, creating vivid images of my father using the wheelbarrow to haul bushels of hay across the field. I could feel the smile spreading across my face at the thought.

The distinct aroma of gasoline whiffing itself into my nose shattering the picturesque memory, and forcing me to return to this grim reality. Hurling the empty fuel cannister across the trench, before taking one last look upon the covered up cadavers. Pondering some pseudo-religious sounding words to say aloud, that would act as improvised final rites for them regardless of their faith. I was fully aware the words would fall on deaf ears, but some things are sacred and traditional. Not wanting my words to become muffled, I pulled my facial covering down with three fingers. With one swift pull, I yanked the fabric down to my neck, enjoying the refreshing feeling of cold air rush over my unshaven face.

“No one asked for this plague to spread across this land, let alone be an unfortunate victim of the accompanying sickness. Your noble sacrifice in pursuing a cure for all of humanity will be etched into history for all to remember. Anything you left behind for your loved ones will be given to them when the time is right. God rest your souls, and may he have mercy on the survivors,” I said.

I turned and grabbed my father’s old wheelbarrow, now stained red with dried blood. Grabbing the warped wooden handles with one hand apiece, before, going a few short, quick pushes. Knowing this would have to be a quick goodbye to my father’s now bloodstained red wheelbarrow, and forcing the farm tool into the trench. Feeling some regret about destroying something my father bequeathed me, but understanding it was a bitter necessity of containing this infection. With only a few of us left untainted by the virus, it was only a matter of time before the search for a cure ended.

Taking an old, cheap, butane lighter out of my pocket, I rolled the spark wheel with care, having to repeat the motion a few times before, getting a small flame to appear. With the lighter now aflame, I hurled lighter into the trench, keeping a close eye on where it landed. Mere moments later, the corpses were beginning to burn. Watching some in awe, believing I had given a proper sendoff to my father’s now red wheelbarrow, and the dead. Turning around and beginning to stroll forward, doing my best to push the trickle of tears away. Becoming increasingly aware with each step I took, that this was indeed the end of the world.

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Word count: 856 Critique Level: Full

WEP June Challenge 2019 Entry

Being considerably occupied with Z Publishing House pieces when last months challenge was going on, I choose not to participate in the April challenge to concentrate my creative energies on those pieces. Knowing I would return for the June challenge instead.

With the challenging theme for this month being “Caged Bird,” I realized I could interrupt that in either a metaphorical way, a literal way, or a combination of them. That being stated, I quickly disregarded my first thought of doing a Faustian style story where the demon acts as the bird. Switching gears to something more imaginative and partly inspired by love of old fashioned science fiction, where unexplored alien worlds are common. Modifying that idea with some more modern thinking shaped by problems like climate change and resource depletion. Crafting a piece of flash fiction I hope you enjoy, titled Hope’s Fragility.


Looking through this self-tinting glass screen, I looked out at this alien landscape. Strange double helix looking trees covered in magenta colored bark, and having deep purple ellipse shaped leaves rested on the western horizon. Their roots obscured by layers of a pale tan soil, that darkened in color as it descended the ragged broken-toothed cliff. Breaking black waves from the adjacent dark sea bombarded the base of the cliff.

I was beginning to slowly stagger forward with caution, attempting to get a sense of any injuries from my forced crash landing on XR-ELP8. The probes I had been sent to retrieve indicated this celestial body had the potential for successful terraforming barring there was a vacancy of sentient, intelligent life. Any proven signs of civilization would cause an uproar in the media if we attempted terraforming in complete disregards to them. While only a few truly understand how our home, had slowly transformed into a rotting cage of increasingly toxic air, corporate control, and rapidly depleting resources.

I was ceasing to move when a high-pitched wail filled my airtight helmet. The noise was immediately drawing my attention to the flexible computer on my right arm that displayed the data it was processing from the endless array of sensors built into my spacesuit. Looking down at the dark screen, I saw that my less than smooth landing had torn three holes in my suit. I was cursing under my breath at my astounding ill fortune, quickly trying to repressurize my spacesuit. Knowing how important it was to maintain a constant internal equilibrium to minimize any changes my body would go through as I adapted between various shifts in gravity in my journey throughout the cosmos.

I managed to temporarily stabilize my suit before heading towards the wreckage of my ship. Stumbling forward into the smoldering crater hoping I had bought enough time to salvage the communication system and send an SOS signal back home. Gravity forcing me to slide downward for a few seconds before I forcibly stopped myself by placing my hands outward. Emitting a brief grunt between my teeth in my pain, as I stood up, stepping over a few pieces of blackened metal alloy plates that slashed through the foreign soil leaving tiny grooves behind.

Feeling briefly grateful when I noticed that the communication panel was still fully intact, and appeared to be in working order. With all the strange circumstances behind the crash, fortune had given me some leeway, giving me some chance I had a way home. Carefully stepping into my seat before connecting my suit’s computer into the ship’s mainframe and running a quick diagnostic to confirm that communications were still operational. Forced to wait in tense silence for a few minutes, thoughts of desperation, panic, and the chance this mission had become suicidal raced through my head. Hearing the steady pulse of my heartbeat begin to accelerate, thumping away in my head like a thousand bass drums being played at four hundred beats a second. Forcing a seemingly infinite amount to pump through my skin and soak my face and armpits.

What felt like a few hours passed but, it was likely it was only a few minutes before three short beeps emitted from the ship’s small onboard speaker. Taking multiple breathes before I looked down at the screen of my suit’s computer. It seems my worst, darkest nightmare had quickly overtaken and consumed any optimism I had left, filling me with a depressing sense of dread. With the primary communication antenna missing and presumed to be in an unknown distant location, I resigned to myself to a grim fate. My protective spacesuit was quickly transforming itself into a doomed cage of nylon, spandex, and synthetic polymers. The high-pitched wailing returning indicating I had inadvertently created more tears in the outer layer of suit. Compromising it beyond any repairs, I could do without proper assistance.

It left this mission that once gave hope to a dying world, into a task that could cost humanity its future. This planet was becoming one elaborate reluctant cage for an Earth-man who only wanted to serve the world. That was my last thought as this alien world fell dark around me.

Critique level: Full Word Count: 705

WEP 2018 December Contest

With the contest theme being Ribbons and Candles for the final challenge of the year, I wasn’t confident about what I wanted to do.  I considered doing a Victorian-inspired holiday celebration with a steam-punk aesthetic. Upon researching some Christmas/Yuletide traditions from the time, I realized it may not have been the best idea to attempt with this particular theme. Clearing the slate so to speak, I also consider doing a small town inspired Christmas through the eyes of a time traveler.  Which I thought would work well but after six-hundred words realized ending the idea without revealing the main character’s secret was impractical. There were just too many questions left unanswered for the ending to feel complete.  Trying to find something that would work within the festive theme,  I stopped thinking about the idea for a couple of days. 

Somehow that managed to shake an idea from my head. Using the 1920’s to imagine a world where jazz filled the airwaves, and the mob ruled entire cities. With that atmosphere in mind, I considered a few ideas before settling on the idea that would become my contest entry which I present below. 


The winter chill had filled the air the snow by the time I entered the speakeasy. Mr. Domino had renovated the place since my last visit. Art Deco laminate tile ran through the entire floor, giving it a hexagonal black and white pattern that reminded me of a piano. Vaulted stone painted white decorated the ceiling. Brass chandeliers hung by silver steel chains were dropped from the ceiling. Bright red and blue ribbons hung across the bottom of every light. The strong scent of tobacco and homemade moonshine filled the air. Brass-heavy jazz was playing from some unseen musicians intertwined with the aromas. Several young flappers were dancing to the music with their fellas.

Weaving my way through the crowd of dancers, I made my way to the bar. A burly bartender in a tailored three-piece grey suit stood behind the bar. Slicked back greasy black hair stopped at the man’s ear, adding to his clean-shaven face. Deep brown eyes watched the dancers for a few moments before glancing at me.

Asking me “Watcha drinkin tonight,” while his gaze hinted a silent message; either get your drink or leave.

Glancing around at the few other patrons who were standing at the bar, before responding “A Manhattan but first a message for the owner. Tell him Mr. Keys has arrived, he will know who I am.”

The bartender nodded before going to make my drink. My suspicious nature was forcing me to glance around. Looking for associates of the man I was looking forward to seeing. The iron in my pocket was feeling heavy as several men in all black tailored suits began approaching me. A gold domino lapel pin rested on the right side of the jacket of the suit. Black fedoras were tilted just enough to obscure their faces from view. Tommy guns with wooden stocks pressed against their shoulders.

I asked, “Escorting me to see Mr. Domino gentlemen?”

The men nodded in unison before directing the black barrels of their Tommy Guns up. I have enough odd jobs to know what that meant. Giving me little time to stand up before beginning to walk away. Raising myself from the stool, I followed them ignoring the chaos of dancers moving to the music.

The music had grown steadily quieter by the time Mr. Domino’s goons led me his office. They motioned for me to enter the door before taking a watching spot by the door. Finding Mr. Domino was waiting for me, tapping a cigarette between his thumb and forefinger of his right hand. A polished silver Colt M1911A1 was resting on his antique wooden desk, within arms reach if necessary.

Mr. Domino asked, “Is the deed done Mr. Keys?”

I nodded, before producing a vanilla envelope from my pocket. Placing the container down by the gun, knowing the envelope’s contents would sway Mr. Domino’s immeasurable appreciation. Mr. Domino spilled the envelope’s content onto his desk. Ten severed ring fingers rolled onto his office, with their gold rings still attached. Each finger belonged to Mr. Domino’s competition.

Mr. Domino began to grin before commenting, “You have done well, Mr. Keys. These rings will make fantastic trophies for me to inspire fear from anyone else foolish enough to challenge me. As much as I would prefer to keep you around, I’m not foolish enough to cross my sister,” opening his desk and pulling out a small cloth bag. “Take this and my blessing to marry my sister,” standing and grabbing me the collar of my shirt. “Break her heart, and I will break you,” letting go of my collar.

“I know,” grabbing the cloth bag as I remarked.

Mr. Domino nodded once, before allowing me to leave his office. Shoving the money bag inside my pocket, trying my best to hide it from everyone. This money was my way of starting something new with my beloved Margaret. She knew the full extent of my past and didn’t care. Hoping between my reputation and her being the sister of Mr. Domino would be enough to scare any enemies away.

*****

A few hours later I arrived at Margaret’s house, the bag still hidden inside my pocket. She opened the door with a smile before I could knock. Leading me to her kitchen table, where a vibrant red unlit candle sat on a silver tray. A box of matches rested beside it, two of them poking out of it.

Margaret commented “Let’s light this candle and begin our new life together,” handing me a match with a smile spread across her face.

Smiling as I took the match, more than ready to start our new life together.


Word count: 774 Critique level: Full

WEP October 2018 Contest Entry

Struggling to create something for this month’s contest, I considered skipping and rejoining in December. Challenging myself to write something that was a fit for the themes of Deja Vu or Voodoo. Writing a few different ideas but failing to get past a couple of paragraphs with each idea. Which honestly, was incredibly frustrating and annoying for me. Yet, apparently, the pressure from an encroaching deadline was the key to turning the spigot of inspiration on. Inspiring this Tesla-punk themed atmosphere of voodoo and science. Oddly enough the title came easily enough to me, entitling the piece Mad Science.


With thunder and rain making a symphony against the cracked window, I glanced at the massive machine that constructed in the middle of my empty red brick warehouse. Spheres of pure copper rested on top of ten-foot-tall copper wrapped steel beams. The positions of the poles, even the warehouse itself was carefully determined by occultist Aleister Crowley. Ancient and powerful runes etched into the ground around the machine. Etch dusted with copper shavings and white chalk. Bringing in Nikola Tesla himself to design and construct unique Tesla Coils for this project. Making sure the two never knew the plans true aim. This project more akin to technological voodoo. Then it was to either science or the occult. If this worked, I would be reborn into out of this body riddled with a fatal sickness. It didn’t matter if it failed, death would be claiming me soon enough.

Hobbling down the iron staircase, descending with my hand tightly wrapped around the rail. Setting the bottom of my cane on the ground to aid me, before taking my last step off the stairs. Knowing how much I had come to rely on the simple device to move in the past few months. Planning each action on the cement floor with great care, knowing how fragile my ailing body was becoming. Limping to the large steel encased control panel that was parallel to the lowest stairs. Pulling down on the lever to activate the many Tesla Coils simultaneously. Hearing a slight hum as the machines started to warm up. Moments later pure white lightning crackled throughout the warehouse. Striking the ground with growing frequency making the lights glow steadily brighter.

Unsteadily walking into the middle of the machine, the few hairs I had left standing on end. The iron chair I had bolted to the floor waiting for me. Polished copper restraints were attached to the chair, waiting to secure me into the chair. Lowering myself into the chair, letting the cold metal force me entirely into the chair. Watching the lights flicker out as a storm of white lightning strengthened around the machine. Focusing itself around the runes, forcing the copper dust and chalk mixture to glow faintly. The glow was steadily getting brighter, while I watched unwilling to move from the storm’s center. Lightning was beginning to strike the chair at random. Feeling the electrical energy work its way through my chest. A sharp and intense pain started to wrap around my body. Screaming into the air, as the frequency of the lightning strikes increased. Within minutes the pain was unbearable, forcing my conscious to fade away slowly.

Looking down on my empty shell of a crippled body, somehow no longer bound to it. My spiritual form forcibly contained to the area by the mixture of science and the occult. Observing helplessly, as the lightning produced the by Tesla Coils rapidly struck at my body. Feeling a slight tremor even though I was no longer attached to my physical body. The quivers were steadily getting stronger, waiting for the machines to finish discharging their energy.

It could have been a few minutes or a couple of hours before the remaining discharge struck my body simultaneously. The final release was powerful enough to forcibly recall my spirit into my physical body in a union of technology and voodoo. My body was tingling slightly as the metal restraints opened. Being filled with a feeling of robustness that I haven’t possessed since my youth. Tossing my cane across the warehouse testing out this new body before standing. Walking out of the mechanization created by creating a union of occultism and science. My once frail body reborn strengthened with the aid of mad science. Eager to not have to deal with constant hospital visits and doctors that restrained so much of my life. With a new-found spring in my step, I was ready to take on the world.


Critque level: Full

Word Count: 653

WEP August 2018 Change of Heart challenge entry

As August continues to unfold, the WEP challenge begins. While they released the themes for each month’s challenge early on in January of this year, I sensed this one would be the most difficult for me. I considered skipping it initially and entering again in the October WEP challenge.

After thinking about the challenge’s theme for the past three weeks or so, I began to have a few ideas. The first idea I scrapped after writing the first few paragraphs. Going back to a blank slate (so to speak), I thought about what I could do with the theme. Realizing I could do a redemption story, with a cyberpunk atmosphere. Keeping the vibrant natural atmosphere of a world heavily dominated by technology. Adding a heavy touch of virtual reality, and oppressive governments to the idea. Along with a slight bit of hacker noir. Managing to stick to my self-assigned “punk” challenge. Please enjoy my entry titled, “One Last Job.”


One Last Job

Various computer monitors illuminated my dark office. The dim neon white light from my keyboard was bathing my twitching fingers that hovered above it. A barely legal altered cognitive bolstering rig was resting precariously on my neck. Interwoven black cable ran from the back of the apparatus into a custom built quantum computer; I designed to keep my digital presence minimal. This task is supposed to my last job before getting out of the increasingly radical hacker group Entropy. Only agreeing to do this job after signing a contract that guaranteed I could leave without retribution from the group and other rival hacker groups. While I still had to worry about consequences from the legal system, this had a slim chance of protecting my new from them. With the impending birth of my first son, I realized I needed a fresh start, not just for me full life Taking a deep breath; I started running my virtual machine. Letting that run for a few minutes before rapidly typing the code that would bounce my entry signal randomly around the world. Scrutinizing the system’s programming code for mistakes before initializing the program. Feeling the pinch of the small needles pierce through the skin on my neck, allowing my mind to enter the digital world.

Mere seconds passed before the digital world appeared in front of my virtual eyes. Neon signs floated through the sky, advertising everything and anything could. Virtual portals connecting to businesses around the planet rested on an everchanging rainbow neon road rested on both sides of me. Lines of avatars were waiting to enter some the portals; others remained empty. Transporting myself through the multitude of unmoving avatars, trying not to attract any attention as I moved through it.

Managing to find a seldom used route obscured by barely functioning portals. Dropping into the entrance on the right, entering the Ultra-net. Seeing the sophisticated and powerful repeating encryption that created a continually changing protective firewall. The authoritarian government believed the firewall was unhackable. For the most part, their assumption was correct. The script had an exploitable weak spot that I could use to enter the mainframe. Now inside the mainframe, I searched for the virtual prison where the minds of people labeled dangerous where hidden. The government using their physical body, as a protection from any retaliation. It was one of their worst kept secrets; they used to create fear among hackers. Being careful to avoid the drones produced by the government’s artificial intelligence with the sole purpose of keeping the Ultra-net safe.

After a few hours of searching, I stumbled into the prison. Making a quick decision to hide in the prison maintenance node to protect me from the roving army of small flying drones patrolled the area. Watching their patrol routes with great care, trying to stay hidden from electronic eyes. Knowing any window, I had to break in without detection would be minimal. Thinking over my methods of hacker attacks I could use to decrease my chance of exposure, as the drones continued to encircle the facility.

With a quick decision to release a split attack on the node. Tapping at the virtual wristlet knowing I had only a few options I could use with such a narrow window of time. Choosing to unleash a complex program I created named Alpha_Breaker against the drones and node. Directing the initial attack wave at the opposite side of the prison, to get the drones attention. Watching the drones rush away before unleashing a robust second attack on the node. The secondary attack worked quickly devouring the protective barrier around the node before creating a small hole in the node. Using the distraction to enter, the weak spot in the node swiftly.

Seeing thousands neon blue ghosts floating around in vibrant digital purgatory, each one lost without its host. Conformist propaganda jpegs covered the virtual walls, silently mocking the prisoners. I would be there only chance of escaping here. Now to figure out how to do that, without killing those I was trying to free. Everything I had read before uploading my conscious to the internet, suggested I had to find a kill switch for the prison. In theory, it should allow their minds to download into their physical bodies. I had some ideas what the kill switch could be, but I would have to complete confident I made the correct choice. There was more at stake than just my new life.

Doubting it would be easy to find, I peeled back several layers of code. Managing to see that they had somehow had built a physical server with inside a digital environment. A flat screen and keyboard rested on top of it. Ignoring that something like this shouldn’t be possible, I cautiously approached the machine. Finding the server was exceedingly vulnerable to any hacker shrewd enough to discover it. Tapping on the keyboard brought up layers of exceptionally complex code on the screen. Processing the system the with haste, I realized this was borderline impossible. A single wrong keystroke could alert them to my presence here. With slim hope, I synced my virtual body with the server. Using it as an anchor to create a delayed release of a program named Reckoning. Preparing everything I could think of before erasing my virtual form the Ultra-net.

Feeling a pinch at my neck as my mind returned to my body. Reaching the keyboard, I quickly activated the program. Hoping that my actions wouldn’t come back to haunt my chance for a new life. Hoping that my former colleagues would honor the contract, and wouldn’t have a change of heart about letting me out of the game.


Word Count: 947 Critique level: Full


You can check out the other entries in this month’s contest here:

1. Denise Covey 12. Laura Clipson 23. J Lenni Dorner
2. Nilanjana Bose 13. L.G. Keltner 24. Elephant’s Child
3. Olga Godim 14. Hilary 25. Helen Mathey-Horn
4. desk49 -DL 15. Roland Clarke – DL 26. Dixie Jarchow
5. Sally 16. DG Hudson 27. Deniz Bevan
6. Pat Garcia 17. Jemima Pett 28. Anna
7. Pat Hatt 18. Diane Burton 29. Operation Awesome
8. Toi Thomas – DL 19. Christopher Scott 30. Haresh
9. Corinne Rodrigues 20. Rebecca M. Douglass 31. xmltutorial
10. Tanya Miranda 21. Michelle Wallace
11. Deborah Drucker 22. Rasma Raisters

WEP June 2018 “Unraveling Yarn” Entry Piece

I debated continuing my raypunk inspired piece for this month, but rapidly realized it was difficult for that to fit within this month’s theme. Taking a departure from the aesthetics and retro-futurism of raypunk for this month WEP contest piece, without managing to fail at the self-assigned challenge. Rethinking what I could create within the context of the theme, going towards Greek Mythology.  Taking some inspiration from that, and realizing how quickly I could fuse those elements with the Clockwork Punk ideals. While Clockwork Punk is similar in aesthetics to Steampunk,  the former takes a heavy focus on gears. In addition to that Clockwork Punk works within a great symbiosis with magic and alchemy. Combining all those elements, I began to shape the tale below. A story I titled, “Fixing Fate.”


Fixing Fate

Someone faintly knocked on the door to my workshop, barely audible over the sound of moving gears. With reluctance, I got up to answer the door, curious to know who could be knocking at this late hour. Opening the door a smudge, seeing scrawny women dressed in a tight-fitting white dress. Her face obscured under a thick white veil, held in place with an ornate antique band of gold. The flames from gear powered torch reflecting against her dress.

With a raspy voice, she asked: “I’m seeking Cornelius Flamel, are you he?”

Glancing past the women to make sure she was alone before answering “That depends on who is asking,” since I had decided to hide my family’s name from all but a select few.

She responded “A woman whose existence is older then you can imagine. The Greeks called me Clotho, while your father knew me as Amaryllis.”

My father had told me once of a mysterious woman with the name. He didn’t say much about her, other then she imparted great knowledge to him. Opening my door farther waving her in, knowing that if my father trusted her, she possessed great character. Grabbing a brass lever by the door, rotating it clockwise. Using its mechanical energy to brighten the ceiling lights of my workshop. Locking the door before glancing at the woman, whose eyes seemed to be scanning the room. Now noticing she had brown patchwork clock bag over her shoulder, that was glowing faintly from the inside.

Amaryllis said “While I’m uncertain what your father told you about me, I know he taught you privately. Sharing his vast knowledge on various subjects,” walking over to a big machine hidden under a cloth. Dropping the bag before grabbing the dirty cloth, pulling it off with a flourish. Revealing a steel loom, that was empty of fabric. Intricate gears ran throughout the machine’s interior. Engraved into the metal were alchemic symbols, that had been filled in with white paint. A golden lever ran itself out the center of the body. “While I regret sharing the designs for this machine but, I’m glad it now. While this may appear to be an ordinary loom Cornelius, this one only works on one particular material. I need you to rebuild the strings of fate that are within the bag. This machine will restore their potency, allowing the world to continue it’s onward,” kneeling some and placing something inside the interior mechanical workings.

Walking toward the loom, I could feel a strange power radiating off the machine I couldn’t explain. The energy the device was emitting was forcing a powerful tingling sensation to ascend up through my right arm. Its focal point seemed to be the ring I inherited from my father.

Amaryllis said “It is time for you to get work Cornelius,” stepping back from the machine. Walking out the door, without saying another word.

Reaching into the bag, she left behind pulling out split clean-cut golden threads. Feeling a slight warmth come off the thread as I fed it to the machine. Pressing down on the brass pedal with my right foot, pulling more of cloth into the loom. Watching the machine re-weave the thread as more of fate’s strings were slowly pulled into the loom. The alchemical symbols engraved onto the loom beginning to match the glow of the strange jewel Amaryllis placed it. Somehow the combination was restoring the golden glow of the strings. Being mesmerized by the lights as I worked on the fractured yarn.

Losing track of time as something tapped me on the shoulder. Glancing back over my shoulder, I saw Amaryllis had returned. Looking almost revitalized despite the white veil that covered her face. Walking over to the where the loom had collected the restored thread. Placing the bundle inside in a black wooden box with antiqued brass hardware, with great care. The bin was free of any symbols, or carvings that could indicate how the container would hide the restored energy of the string. Slamming the box’s lid down, before vanishing into the dark again. Leaving the strange jewel, she placed into the loom behind. Its glow barely a flicker of what it was previously. Making it appear as if it was nothing more than an ordinary ruby, despite its size. Lifting the ruby carefully, I noticed it was the exact match for small ruby in my father’s ring.

With the ruby in hand, I walked towards an old trunk I had uncovered a few days ago. Setting the jewel on an old cloth I placed on the vault. Patiently wrapping it around the gemstone, before opening the chest. Putting it in the chest, knowing it should be forgotten. My father had inadvertently bound our bloodline with this jewel. For better or worse, I would have to protect the strange jewel as well; even I didn’t want to. It seems I had inadvertently altered my destiny by repairing fate’s string. Wondering if this was something else I inherited from my father’s passing.


Critique: Full Word Count: 840

Febuary 2018 WEP “In Too deep” Challenge

When I first saw the themes for this year WEP challenges, I realized I could do an anthology of sorts. Incorporating various off-shoots of the science fiction ideas of “Steampunk, Dieselpunk, and Cyberpunk.” While the variations on those three concepts are starting to grow in genre knowledge, they each present an atmosphere all their own.  For this months piece, I fumbled around with a few different ideas before setting my mind on a Nanopunk inspired story. Nanopunk is one of two offshoots of the Cyberpunk idea, with a heavy focus on the impact of nanites and nanotechnology.  Unfournatetly writers’ overall tend to favor a negative impact over positive. Taking the extremes of both sides, while exploring the duality of technology use. I humbly present my entry into the first WEP contest of 2018, “Hope.”


Hope

Hearing brief snippets of conversation as the anesthesia began to wear off. Something about “last hope,” and “the resistance failing.” Starting to feel the nanites start their rapid enhancement of my body. Grabbing the corners of the operating table before waking up. Scanning the room to see General MacArthur and Sergeant Jones, standing on the left edge of the metal table. Several scientists with bloodstained green robes and masks stood behind them. Everyone’s gaze focused on me, seeming mentally noting every movement I made.

General MacArthur commented “Welcome back Captain Allen, and it seems the last-ditch hope of the resistance was successful. Which is fortunate, since the losses of the human race have suffered is to deep for it to fail. Get him any gear he requires sergeant. We will be dropping him deep into enemy territory soon. Remember Captain you are no longer just a man; you’re a living weapon.”

Nodding my head in silence, watching the scientists begin to unplug the various tubes and needles from my body. Feeling a slight pinch, before the nanites started sealing the wounds. Staring at the cracked bright lights above me, waiting for them to finish unplugging me. Eager to prove I was the right candidate for Project Salvation.

About twelve hours had passed before I was leaning out the open door of a programmed drone. Dressed entirely in a sleek prototype lightweight mesh armor, designed for high stealth missions. Choosing a tri-barreled energy shotgun, two compact tactical pistols. Along with a curved metal handled plasma sword and various grenades. Making a significant assumption, I could take steal enemy weapons if necessary. Glancing at the radar, tightening the straps on my parachute as the drop zone approached. Jumping out the door, instantly bringing the various factors of the drop onto the air in front of me. Keeping a close eye on the ground radar and altitude level, knowing the minimum height I could open the chute. My body was feeling the wind fighting against along its steady descent. Using my hand to open the parachute with a mighty pull at a little over six-hundred feet above barren enemy territory. Being shot upwards some as my descent began to slow.

Rapidly detaching my parachute after landing, rolling to the ground afterward. Taking cover with by sprinting towards a nearby pile of discarded, obsolete robots. Taking a quick survey of my environment, looking around for the giant water pipe. Managing to find two ITY-2000 guard robots blocking my entrance into the control facility. Unholstering one of my pistols, aiming it swiftly. The nanites in my blood were doing a rapid analysis of their structural weak points. Finding their weak spot was the power coupler on the left side of the neck. Pulling the trigger a few times at each target, knowing the noise from the gunshots would attract attention. Noticing their heads twist from the power coupling separating, before falling into the pool of water below them. Waiting a few seconds after the splash before running onward. Leaping into the large pipe, stretching my body out on the rusting metal. My eyes adjusting to the darkness before crawling forward. Using the nanites to hack into the mainframe. Determined to find the fastest way into the control room, that would shut the killer machines down for good. Using a hacked map to navigate the tunnels.

After a couple of hours of careful navigation, I found the ceiling access panel to the control room. Using both hands to carefully move the panel to the other side of the tunnel before peering downward at the immaculately clean control room. Noticing the small army of ITY-2000s’ patrolling the place. The regiment was guarding the large silver computer near the center of the room. Thick black cables ran upward from the back of the machine, supported by the base of a large gray metal structure. It appeared to be a symbiotic structure that ran to the communications array at the top of the structure. Focusing my gaze on the structure, letting the nanites analyze it. Trying to find its weakness from here. Doubting I had enough firepower to drop down and perform the task more overtly. Minutes passed before the nanites brought up three weak points, I could attack.
Pulling myself forward into the tunnel, feeling the cold metal under my fingers. A large maintenance panel was blocking my path, with a large handle protruding outwards. Wrapping my hands around the metal, before pulling it towards me. Finding several black cables bound together, running uninterrupted by the vents. Separating the cables, before placing a grenade in the interior. Using the nanites to sync three explosives on a five-minute timer before pushing myself backward past the access panel. Letting the nanites calculate the trajectory of both grenades, before tossing them along the projected arc. With the central communication tower rigged to blow, I traveled the tunnels toward the exit. Being careful of the explosives I rigged on my ascent towards the control room.

Suddenly plummeting down as the ventilation shaft I was near dropped from the ceiling. My eyes were opening to see lines of the enemy surrounded me. Barrels of their weapons pointed directly at, as their hive mind processed what to do. Massively outnumbered, and outgunned I quickly realized this first mission post augmentation, would be my last. Taking a deep breath, pressing the detonator attached to my wrist. Making peace with myself as the explosions began above me. Hearing them before I could see the orange flames work their way down the building. Watching the fire dance their way down to me before I could feel the heat on my skin. Screaming as my gear caught fire, burning my skin. The nanites were struggling to heal me against the flames rapid consumption of my body. Hearing the shouts of my comrades as I left the burnt remains my body.



Critique level: Full Word Count: 982

Feel free to stop by and check out the other entries for this contest at the link below: http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2018/02/wepff-february-2018-challenge-in-too.html?m=1