Tag Archives: Challenge

“The Opening Line” Poll

Okay here’s the deal; I need your help. No, wait, I’m not going to ask for your money or anything like that, I just need to pick your brains for a second. Actually on second thought picking someone’s brain sounds like a completely horrifying act. Do not fear: NO PICKS WILL BE INVOLVED.

What I need is an opinion. I’m entering into a contest in which the challenge is to create a single sentence, a first sentence, which will grab the readers attention, and make them beg for more. The only problem is that being an occasional overachiever I’ve cranked out four of these suckers. Four sentences.

And I can only enter one.

That’s where you come in. Click your favourite in the poll below (yes I spell favourite with a “u”, deal with it.) Whatever one you pick will be the one I enter. I’ve got until Friday morning to decide so time is of the essence.


This isn’t going to make a lot of sense, but there’s a lot you’ve forgotten, and there’s no time to explain, because now, right now they’re coming for you, for me, for us, and if you don’t start running you won’t be alive long enough to figure out why.

Frankly, if I’d known Frog was going get his thumb bitten off by the deputy mayor I probably would have passed on that second helping of potato logs.

A few centuries after we hacked the Riparian cultural memeset, Karl said he was getting out of the god-making business for good this time, but none of us believed him on account of how Karl said that kind of thing at least once every couple millennia.

You’re puking into a canceled wormhole when an epistle sizzles down the Trunk, <Ding dong, good buddy, the witch is dead,> and with a squeal of rusty cognitive gears sobriety kicks in and you know you’re going to need an alibi.

Oh, and one more thing. Whichever sentence wins, I’ll finish writing that story and post it here within um…eventually. If nobody votes, then  no story. Also, I’ll curl up in my shower and cry because nobody loves me. So there’s that.

UPDATE: I wanted to make voting on this thing as easy as possible, but I couldn’t get the poll thing with the fancy buttons to work so if you could leave your choice in the comments I would appreciate it. Apologies for the inconvenience.

UPDATE THE SECOND: The poll is now closed. The winner is, by a long shot, “Frog Got Bit”. I’ll be making a new post with the status of this story shortly. Stay tuned!

Flash Fiction Challenge: Teeth

I have always been of the mind that we write the best fiction about things that truly affect us. I think that’s why my default fiction mode is horror; because there really is that part of me that’s always looking for that spark of unexplained motion out of the corner of my eye, or inflating the scratching of branches on a metal roof into the sound of unearthly claws tearing at the very fabric of reality.

Which is why, when people went nuts about how creepy they found this photo, a little light went on in my head.

Right underneath my left earlobe to be precise. It’s very distracting when I’m trying to sleep.

But regardless of that, I’m here to challenge you writer types out there: you say that picture creeps you out? Great! Now write about it.

In less than a thousand words. No time limits.

Clear as blood? Good.

Then off you go, and dazzle me with your words.

Salt of the Earth

[So this week’s flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig was to come up with a new spin on the apocalypse, something that’s never been done before. Which is really a doozy of a challenge when you consider all the fiction that’s been written about the end of the world. I think this approach is unique, but I’m fully expecting comments from you lot saying, “Hey loser, Bob Whathisface wrote that same scenario way better back in the summer of 1953.” So whatever. I’ve always said originality is overrated anyway. Enjoy.]

“Did the world used to be bigger pappa?”

“Used to be, punkin.”

“Uncle Mark says there used to be other towns. Lots and lots of them. I can’t imagine lots and lots of other towns pappa.”

“Well it’s true. They’re still out there, I guess. Somewhere under the Green.”

“Where did the Green come from?”

“No one really knows. Some people say it was a government project that went wrong, but there’s really no way of telling now. Anyone who did know is long dead.”

“What’s a goverman papa?”

“Government, sweety. It was the people who told everyone what to do, and kept them safe.”

“Like you papa?”

“I guess so. In a way.”

“What happened to the govermans papa?”

“The Green got them. Just like it got the rest of the world.”

“Uncle Mark says the Green is evil.”

“I suppose I can understand why he might say that, but you know it isn’t. Not really.”

“What is it then?”

“It’s just a plant punkin. Just like the tree that grows in our yard. Or like the bean we grow in the field.”

“But we can’t pull it up like the beans or cut it down like the tree.”

“That’s right punkin.”

“Because the prickers would get us and kill us. Just like they got Mrs. York’s baby.”


“He swelled up all purple and he couldn’t breath. I saw it.”

“….I know.”

“I’m never gonna touch the Green papa. Never gonna go near it. Because I don’t want to swell up all purple and choke like Bobby.”

“Let’s…let’s talk about something else.”

“But the Green can’t get us. Because of the salt. It doesn’t like the salt.”

“No…it can’t grow in the dirt where the salt is.”

“The Green makes you sad, doesn’t it papa?”

“It’s just a plant.”

“But you cry sometimes when we talk about it.”

“…just a plant.”

“Do you think the Green will ever go away?”

“I don’t know.”

“We could make it go away. We could burn it.”

“They tried that, back when the world was bigger. Back when the government still meant something. They tried…everything.”

“What happened?”

“When they burned the Green…there were these tiny seeds, spores they’re called, and they went everywhere and made the Green grow that much faster. They tried poison too. There was a thing called Agent Orange-“

“That sounds funny.”

“Well it wasn’t funny. It was poison. They thought it would hurt the Green. They knew it would hurt the people, but they thought it would hurt the Green more.”

“But it didn’t work.”

“It worked a little bit, but by that time there was so much of the Green that it grew back faster than they could make the poison.”

“What happened then?”

“I’ve told you this story before.”

“But I wanna hear it again.”

“I don’t like this story.”


“…we ran away. It was hard because there were a lot of people trying to get away from the Green. There wasn’t much food or water. All the gas to make the cars go was gone.”

“And mommy was there?”

“Yes…mommy was there.”

“Was I there?”

“You were there too.”

“I don’t remember.”

“You were very little. Anyway Uncle Mark said the Green was slower by his town because of the cold, so we were trying to get there. But there were a lot of other people doing the same thing. They all wanted to get away from the Green. And there wasn’t enough food…”

“What happened then?”

“We kept walking. For a long time we kept walking without food. There weren’t so many people with us then.”

“What happened to them?”

“A lot of them died. Some of them just sat down and gave up.”

“But not you.”

“No…no not me. We had you to think about, see? So we kept going. We kept going until we couldn’t go any further.”

“And what happened then?”

“We just…stopped. Sat down and…waited.”

“Were you hungry?”

“…so hungry. So hungry…we couldn’t move.”

“But mommy found the food!”


“Tell me about mommy and the food! Its my favourite part.”

“Not today.”

“But she saved us.”

“Yes…yes she did.”

“Even though she was dead.”


“You woke up and she was dead. But then there was food! And you cooked it, and we ate, and mommy was the hero!”


“Why are you crying daddy?”

“I’m sorry punkin. I’m so, so sorry. I never should have…”

“Don’t be sorry papa. We were safe then. We were safe because mommy was the hero.”

“Yes…she was.”

“Tell the rest.”

“We walked the rest of the way. It wasn’t far. Just…just over the next hill. So…so close.”

“You’re crying again.”


“But we were saved.”

“We were saved….we were damned.”​

“You miss mommy.”


“I wish I remembered her.”

“It’s okay punkin.”

“She’s gone and I never got to know her. But Uncle Mark says she’s a part of me now. Is that true daddy? Daddy?”


Madman Maverick vs. THE SKY SQUID

[This is my entry for the Altitude movie poster flash fiction challenge. It marks the return of Madman Maverick who made his first appearance in the story Madman Maverick vs. THE BABY FROM HELL. I tried to write a longer story about him, but I think he likes these little vignettes better, and Madman Maverick is not to be argued with.]

Maverick regarded the grey clouds in front of him with a steely gaze, and struck a match against the intrument panel.

“You shouldn’t…smoke.”

Maverick glanced at the kid in the pilot’s seat, and wondered if he had ever looked that raw.

“Bad for your health,” the kid said.

“If we survive this I’ll make a note of it,” Maverick growled. He knew the kid was talking simply out of the need for something to say, something to distract him from the insanity ahead.

“You ever done anything like this?” Marverick asked.

“I was…part of the squad on the Haymaker Project last year, sir.”

“Taking down weaponized vultures is a little different than what we’re up against.”

“Yes, sir.”

Maverick saw the kid’s knuckles turning white where he gripped the yolk. The little prop plane was climbing above the clouds now, out into the sunshine. But up ahead loomed something that looked like a massive thunderhead, a column of smoke as black as tar. “The Shadow of Death” they had called it after it appeared in the skies over the Rockies last month.

“You sure about this sir?” the kid asked. “This plane…it seems.”

“Small. Noisy. Helpless. You do any fishing kid?”

“No sir.”

“Fish attack easy prey first.”

“And we’re the prey.”

Maverick nodded.

“How…how big you think it is?”


“They say it took down a 747 last week. Can it really..?”

“I don’t know,”

The pillar of darkness loomed large in front of them and then they were through the wall, swallowed up in the cloud. The solid black wall gave way to a murky grey soup of fog, and little sparks of lightning flashed all around them.

For almost a minute they flew through the cloud without incident, but then there was movement in the air ahead and plane jerked as the kid swerved to avoid it. For a split second Maverick glimpsed a huge tentacle as big around as the plane’s fuselage curving through the air just above them.

The kid swore and tried to get the plane back level, but the instruments were going haywire, and somewhere an alarm was braying.

“Keep your head kid,” Maverick said. “You see where that tentacle led?”

“Yeah,” the kid yelled his voice tense. “I think I saw…but there’s no way it could be so big.”

Then there was another of the tentacles in front of them and the kid yelped and jerked the plane up and over. Maverick thought he could feel the plane shudder as the massive limb passed under them. Too close.

“I think we can say we’ve got its attention,” he said.

“Great. Now what?”

“Now we draw it out,” said Maverick. “But not too fast. We need it to think it’s going to catch us, got it?”

“I’m not so sure that it’s not,” the kid replied, but he eased back on the throttle and turned toward the place where the edge of the cloud should be. Maverick risked a look out the window, and in the shadows behind them something truly massive seemed to unfurl. Three more of the unearthly tentacles shot out from the darkness reaching out for the fleeing plane, one barely missing the tail.

It’s toying with us, Maverick thought. Aloud he said, “Give it a little more gas, kid. Maybe a lot more.”

The kid didn’t ask for an explanation. He jammed the throttle all the way forward and the tiny aircraft jumped ahead.

How much further to the edge? Surely it couldn’t be more than a couple of-

And then they were through, bursting out into blinding sunlight.

Maverick looked back and saw the great cloud bulge outward and then give birth to a writhing mass of tentacles. And behind them…the kid was right. It. Was. Big.

“Our guys in place?” Maverick asked. “They should be firing on that thing by now.”

“Not sure,” said the kid. “Our instruments were so screwed up I’m not even sure where we are.”

That was when Maverick looked up at the sky and saw two suns shining on the horizon. “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

The kid swore again.

“Calm down. We’ll get through this. Climb hard. Climb fast. Keep close to the cloud though. That’s your only ticket home.

The kid put the plane in a steep climb spiraling up like a corkscrew, but the thing kept pace, moving it’s huge body like a jellyfish.

“Good, that’s good. Now here’s what’s going to happen. When I say ‘now’, cut the engines off completely. You’re gonna glide this baby down and round back through the way we came.”

“But that thing will follow us!”

“Not it won’t. Something that big is probably working on sound rather than sight.”


“Yeah,” Maverick said, unblucking his seat harness.

“What are you doing?”

“Going out to kill that thing.”

“But you can’t. The fall alone-“

“Shut up. There’s a reason they sent me along on this mission and this is it. You remember my instructions?”

The kid nodded, wide-eyed.

“Good. Then let’s do this.”

Maverick made his way to the back of the plane and kicked open the hatch. The wind roared in as he gave the kid the thumbs up. The kid cut the engine and started his descent. When they were exactly over the monster, Maverick jumped. The wind whistled in his ears as the monster rose to meet him. And then…impact. The membranous skin gave way under his weight like butter.

Maverick grabbed the knife out of his boot and tore a gash in the membrane. There was a terrible shrieking sound and the things tentacle’s began flailing furiously as the noxious gas leaked out into the atmosphere. Maverick rode the tear down the side of the monster until he felt it starting to sink. Then he held on and waited. Below him the plane disappeared into in the cloud leaving Maverick alone in a strange and alien world.

“Great,” he said to no one in particular, “Not this again.”

Flash Fiction Challenge: Altitude

A long while back I wrote a blog post called The Failure of Expectations about how sometimes the thing you see on the cover of a movie or in a trailer looks way cooler than the movie itself. Specifically I refered to this poster for a B-movie called Altitude:

But then I got to thinking. I’m a writer. I know lots of other people who are writers. Maybe I should stop whining about how the movie isn’t as cool as the poster, and write a story that is.

And I decided it might be fun to drag you all along for the ride. So here’s the deal: I want you to write a story inspired by that poster in 1000 words or less and post it on your blog. Then, link to the story in the comments thread for this post. I’m giving you one week, to come up with something as unbelievably epic as the poster image suggests.

And do yourself a favor and don’t do any research on the actual movie until after you write your story. Trust me. It won’t help.

One week. Starting now.


[I’ve been lax on keeping up with Chuck Wendig’s writing challenges the last couple weeks, but this one really grabbed my mind and didn’t let go. The challenge was this: write a complete story with beginning, middle, and end in three sentences. What follows is my effort.]

A rustle of bushes, a crackle of leaves, and the buck appeared, full of grace and power, antlers reaching like prayers toward heaven.

Don’s breath caught in his throat, and his dead father’s voice echoed in his mind, screaming at him to take the shot, the trigger under his finger as cold and immovable as love long lost.

And after a while, the buck passed on.

[It looks simple, but when you’ve got such a tiny tiny story, you have to spend a lot of time making sure every word is exactly right. I’d encourage all of you to try your hand at this. Give it your best shot, and then go read what everyone else is doing.]