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Friday, November 02, 2007

WRITING CONTEST FOR NOVEMBER

[standard writerly whining removed.]

I love writing contests. Over at my old blog, I used to run a fifty five word contests and "compose the back blurb" from photos and, yes, indeedy, it was much fun.

But I'm not going to reinvent a contest this time; I'm going to Steal One. Welcome to November's
UNTIL THE RETURN OF BAM
WRITING CONTEST

Here's the deal:
Go look at Bam's old contests.

You enter 400 words or less. If you put in 500 words I'll know and I'll leave you up but you probably won't be a finalist. We're not all about the rules, but there might as well be some way to eliminate the thousands of entries we'll get.

Heh. Once I ran a Best Reviews contest no one entered and I kept opening up the thing. First it was romance reviews. Then anyone could enter. Then it was fine, go lift something from Amazon. I don't give a f***.

Bam hated WIP things (um, oops. I didn't notice that rule once) I say if it stands alone without a sense of wtf?, and if it works, okay.

Here's November's topic: Revealing The Big Secret. You get points for never actually saying outright what it is. Show don't tell, baby. Speaking of which, there was some thought to making it a Secret Baby, but heck, you do your secret. Maybe you get points for making it a Secret Baby just because anyone who can write that well deserves points.

You win a twenty dollar gift certificate to Amazon or Samhain (I'm cheaper than Bam). AND you win a book. I have a beautiful pile of them and you get to pick one. And you win the glorious button that I'm going to make eventually to proclaim to the world that You Are A Professional Award Winning Writer. Hey, you won the contest and you'll paid for your writing, right?

I'll be back later to tidy up details but now I have to go do errands. Also put your entries in the comments below.

UPDATE: What is with this finickiness about a deadline? Sheesh. Submit all entries by November 24

28 comments:

  1. Kate, not only do you rock, you rock hard. The contest sounds great, and the button! The button is totally covetable.

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  2. P.S. I cracked up when I read this in your survey of favorite comfort reads: "any book that doesn't have "A Novel" on the cover because you find that so annoying."

    Did I mention you rock? Cause you do.

    I hates that "A Novel" shit.
    .
    .
    .
    Hates it.

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  3. James looked at me and, his deep blue eyes never wavering, and said, "I have a secret."
    My mouth went dry. James had always been the one for me. My heart mate. My destiny. Searching for him after he left town had taken all my time, money, and energy. Now that I found him, I wasn't about to let him go.
    "You're married. Is that it?" I managed to keep my voice level.
    He said nothing. Reached into his pocket. Pulled out a silver tube. Opened it. Put slick red lipstick on.

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  4. He’d wanted to be there at the birth.

    In the end, he’d been a coward, but she’d seemed to understand, even support him. Her pain unmade him and he retreated, choking, his eyes blurred by emotion. And now, as the soft, pink child rested at her breast, his tears again flowed freely down his ebony cheeks.

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  5. 400 words? Big secret? I'll be back soon with my writing of awesomeness...

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  6. The continuing saga of Missy. I hope this isn't too, uh, dirty for ya'll. hehe.


    Her chair behind his, Missy’s hand came around Daniel’s chest to rest on the softness of his shirt. Leaning in, she whispered, “You know what I’m going to do now. Doncha?”

    “Shit.” He thought. What the fuck was she?

    Missy’s eyes closed and she connected.

    “That’s it. Close your eyes, pet, and relax.” Missy’s voice now inside his mind, the rhythm of their hearts and breath mated. Daniel went lax, powerless to resist. “That’s the way. Lean into me.” Languid peace enveloped him and delight seduced them both. Missy knew that there was a price to pay for this, but it needed doing. The little bastard. Her hand stroked his chest lightly, their connection strong and true. “That’s it baby.” She felt around inside his head, sifting through for a fantasy. A desire. “Let it go.”

    As Daniel’s enthrallment solidified, her force slid into his mind, her spirit worked his flesh and she unleashed a fury of lust through his body. Fight gone, Daniel acquiesced with a helpless pelvis roll. Blood rushed into his cock and his breath caught as a moan escaped his lovely mouth. “I have you. That’s the way. It’s good isn’t, sweet?” His hips thrust and he brought his hand down to cover the swell in his jeans, gripping and abrading his cock with the rough fabric. He was panting, thrusting, sweating. “You like it, don’t you, baby? Touching your self for me?”

    Daniel panted, heavily, erratically, letting Missy know he was close. “I want you to come for me. Come right in your pants.” She felt his body jerk, the pumping of his orgasm as his head fell back against her shoulder and he released. Power flooded her but she quickly severed the connection. She didn’t trust it. Couldn’t let it tempt her. Instead, she gentled Daniel, holding him tenderly in her arms. The moment dragged out a few seconds longer than necessary before Missy pushed back her chair and stood. She watched as Daniel, whose head now hung down, attempted to deal with what Missy wrought on him. Shamed, sticky and pissed off, he sat in silence, trying to get himself together before either his lover returned or his boss arrived to kick his ass.

    Missy gazed at the clock, her voice deceptively steady, “3 minutes, boy-o, that’s something to be proud of.”

    “Fuck you.”

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  7. Um, when do we need to post by? I need a deadline. I live off deadlines.

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  8. Little Miss Muffet capers all the way to bed, little wicket-post legs launching from the carpet and leaping swiftly into the crisp blue sheets. Nine years old, no she isn’t sleepy but she wants to be up early tomorrow for the game. She snuggle-snuggle-snuggles her wriggly legs into the blankets, restless and trying not to be.
    Then the legs SPASM and she’s out again, shrieking on the carpet. Me and Mummy and Daddy rush to the scene in time to spy an eight-legged thing darting back to the safety of the covers.

    Miss Muffet eases her chair up to the coffee table and reaches out to the platter. I get in before her, seizing a slice of cake and pushing it into her hand.
    “Did you want more tea as well?” I pour quickly.
    “Bill, will you stop that? I’m not helpless, you know.”
    “I know…”
    “I can get my own fucking tea off the table.”
    It’s mid-semester and I’ve come to stay with my family for the break. Mum is fussy because she hasn’t seen me for so long; she’s laid out the lounge like a tea party.
    “Tina, he’s just trying to be nice.”
    My sister says she’s sorry. “But please stop grabbing everything for me. I’ve still got both my arms, you know.”
    She’s twenty-five, got her degree, looking for a job. Everyone’s equal opportunity these days but it’s still difficult.
    “What happened? You used to be a little twit, don’t you remember? And suddenly you got all weird and helpful after the bite. You stopped playing practical jokes, too.”
    I watch her sip her tea. She wears a red football jersey and a pair of loose jeans all rolled up on one side. They had to cut above the knee, so she can’t wear a prosthetic. I try to check the surge of pity, but it’s too late.
    “Remember the time you put all the salt in my toothbrush? And that time you glued my baseball into the mitt?”
    All I can think of is that spider, scuttling back into the sheets. Dad caught it in a jar to show them in Emergency. It had just looked like a huntsman. Harmless. Hilarious. Except for the little pointed spinnerets on its tail. I didn’t notice those till they pointed them out at the hospital.
    My stomach twists again. Tina smiles, remembering something different.
    “Sneaky little bastard.”

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  9. Beatrice - golden, serene, hands folded at her waist - stands before her husband, Gilles. Her eyes are downcast.
    "I am going away for a few days" Gilles says, in his soft, menacing voice. "Here - "
    He unhooks the great ring of keys from his belt and holds it out to her. Beatrice concentrates on keeping her face expressionless. She reaches one delicate hand out and takes hold of the cold iron ring on which dozens of keys are threaded, one for every room in the chateau. She tugs lightly but Gilles does not immediately let go and they are momentarily linked by the ring.
    "You will not" Gilles says slowly, and so soft she has to strain to hear, "go into the East wing." He places one large blunt-tipped finger beneath her chin, tilting her face up, forcing her to meet his flat, obsidian gaze. "Will you?" he prompts.
    Beatrice stares at his brutish face, half-obscured by a luxuriant blue-black beard, and slowly shakes her head. "No, my lord" she murmurs. Gilles nods, satisfied, and releases the ring. He strides away to his bad-tempered black gelding and moments later is clattering out of the courtyard.
    The key to the East wing has one small distinction: a crude 'e' scratched on the handle. As Beatrice crosses the courtyard, she is fingering it, tracing the scratchy indentations with her thumb-pad. She is remembering Gaspard's furtive, urgent warnings about Gilles, whispered through the grill of the confessional box. She is remembering trying to kiss Gaspard through the wooden fretwork as hot tears coursed down her cheeks. If they had been discovered, a farmer sitting in the priest's own chair, a woman about to be married to another....
    Beatrice glides to the East wing, calm and regal as a swan.
    When she reaches the great door, she lays her white hand against the scarred wood and inserts the key in the lock. It turns more easily than she expects and the heavy door swings open with a creaking groan.
    The sight that greets her brings bitter bile to her throat. Three women sitting in a row, beautifully gowned and coiffeured. With straw protruding from the cavities that once were their eyes.
    A heavy hand falls on Beatrice's shoulder.
    "I told you not to come here" a soft voice murmurs.

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  10. Darn formatting. Can you please imagine the paragraph breaks?

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  11. damn it, kate, where's the deadline?

    I cracked up when I read this in your survey of favorite comfort reads: "any book that doesn't have "A Novel" on the cover because you find that so annoying."

    I think that's why I didn't read that latest Pam Rosenthal book.

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  12. I would so enter this contest if I hadn't just had surgery. Still a little wack from the pain meds. Don't trust myself!! LOLOL

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  13. Here's your secret baby! I can't resist a challenge.

    **********************
    Zander’s kiss had lost none of its magic in the past ten years. Draped over his lap, Susan melted into him. She twined her fingers through his midnight black hair and pulled him closer as their tongues danced together. A broad hand cupped her ass and she wiggled and felt something interesting nudge her hip.

    His hand moved up from her ass, edging under her shirt and tracing her ribs. Reluctantly, Susan pulled back from the kiss and set her hand on his, stilling him. This wasn’t the time or the place. Pete could walk in at any moment.

    Pete! Good lord, she couldn’t believe she’d forgotten him. The excitedly heavy throb of her pulse slid into frantic overdrive.

    Staring into Zander’s eyes, Susan chewed on her lower lip. This was such a disaster waiting to happen. She should have told him as soon as he’d gotten into town but there had never been a moment without some nosing busybody around. And of course the first second they were alone, they ended up necking on the couch like the horny teenagers they once were.

    Zander’s thumb traced a zigzag pattern over her bottom rib. “You know, you used to be an easier lay.” The soft smile tipping his lips took out the sting. “That was a joke,” he said when she didn’t laugh. “What’s wrong?”

    As she opened her mouth to answer, to spit out the truth, the front door burst open on a wintry gust of frost. It was too late. Pete was home.

    “What are you doing on that guy’s lap, mom?” His book bag and Susan’s stomach both dropped with the same thump.

    She looked helplessly back and forth between the two of them. The same hair, so black it was almost blue in the faint winter light. The same bright blue eyes. Sweet Mother of God, they even both had their left eyebrow cocked at her. She dropped her head in her hands.

    “Yeah, mom.” The last word was a deliberate drawl and she could feel Zander’s voice as a rumble in her shoulder. Every muscle that touched her was suddenly vibrating with tension. “What are you doing?”

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  14. Exactly 400 words! Woohoo!

    ----

    "So, it's been a while. Whatcha been doing?" He scuffs the pavement with a Converse All-Star.

    "Nothing much." Her arms are crossed. He glances at the phone in his hands. Where is the bus? He wants the bus to come and rescue him from this. When it comes, they will get on and he will mumble 'nicetaseeya' and sit far away from her.

    "Where are you going to school?" There is a textbook clasped against her breasts. "Modern Busin..." is all he can read.

    "Night school," she says. Her tone closes that particular subject. In her senior year, she had been planning for pre-law.

    He remembers her pale face lifted to his in the half-light of the television the last time he saw her. He remembers her whispered goodbye, the hollow ache of unresolved lust in his balls. He remembers her bare shoulders. Her naked breasts. Her white, smooth belly, so promising above the line of white cotton underwear.

    "You disappeared," he said. The blood of year-old anger pulses in his face. "Said no because you were a virgin and then you just disappeared. Nobody knows where you went."

    He looks up. She is wearing a short black leather jacket. Her face is mask above the textbook.

    "I left for a while."

    "Where?"

    "None of your business."

    "I loved you." He makes sure the past tense is emphasized, trying to dig the words into her.

    "You're eighteen fucking years old. You were just horny." Her voice echoes from the plastic walls. Beyond her, over her shoulder, he sees the bus coming. But he doesn't want it now. He wants an answer.

    "I loved you." He says it again, and this time he is pleading. "I just need to know why."

    "You have no idea what love is." She gets to her feet and walks onto the bus. He follows. His bus pass will not come out of his pocket. He pulls at it, and then when it finally comes free he holds it out with trembling fingers to the driver, who nods permission.

    He turns down the aisle. She raises her arms, lifting the book to put it on the overhead rack. There is rush of ice through his chest, choking him: across her exposed belly, white and pristine below the black leather jacket, there are red and purple radiating lines, marks as old as motherhood.

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  15. Do titles figure into the word count? Because if they do, this one has no title. But if they don't, and I'm allowed a title outside the 400 word count, then my title is

    Down and Out at the Arable Farm

    A Cautionary Tale Told In Two Acts

    Getting Started Right About Now


    Otherwise, no title, and it clocks in at 400 words.

    ***

    Mr. Arable buried his head in the pillow, but Mrs. Arable’s voice chopped like a 9660 combine.

    “You’re useless, John Arable. You couldn’t grow mold on Wonder Bread. Meanwhile me and Fern are wasting.”

    “You ain’t wasting.”

    The woman’s fat folds had fat folds. Last time they’d had sex, he’d missed her business by more than a foot and didn’t know it until she complained afterwards.

    “I can count her ribs, John. She’ll never get a boyfriend. A man likes a woman with some meat on her bones.”

    “Some meat, Mama. Some.

    “Girl needs a rasher of bacon . . . and pork chops.”

    “Not this again! Fern loves Wilbur. I ain’t killing her pet pig.”

    “You can’t even feed your family, yet you’ll pour our government money into that beast. Well, I’m not going to stand for it. Come morning, I’m butchering him myself.”

    ***

    Fern couldn’t believe it. Pork chops for breakfast! A whole rasher of bacon, all to herself! She had been so hungry for so long . . . if only Mama would part with some of her chocolates, but she said she needed them for her arthuritis.

    “Eat your fill,” Pa said. “There’s plenty more.”

    “But I don’t understand, Pa. The corn failed this year, and last year, and --”

    “Yes, we should have listened to that nice Mr. Gore. Now, between the drought and the heat, I can’t even grow enough to feed my little girl.”

    “How did you . . . ” she said with her mouth full of bacon. “No, Pa, you didn’t!”

    She fled from the dining room, cursing herself for not slopping Wilbur first thing this morning like usual. But her hunger had been keen, the smell of bacon overwhelming.

    Pa, how could you?

    She fought to keep her gorge down as she dashed to the barn, sweeping aside a web in the doorway and stomping that icky spider.

    “Wilbur!” A pink-snouted oink greeted her.

    Her father loomed behind her. Fern threw her arms around Wilbur and nuzzled his neck.

    “Oh, Pa, I thought you . . .”

    “Never, Fern. He’s some pig.”

    “Pa? Where’s Mama?”

    “Um . . . your Mama and I had a spat. She’s gone to visit her cousin. Can’t say when she’ll come home.”

    Fern didn’t know what to say.

    At least she still had Wilbur.

    “Come back to breakfast, sweetheart. Those college boys ain’t gonna invite you out unless you look healthy. Man likes a girl with some meat on her bones.”

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  16. It's my birthday. Patty from Accounting brings the cake, and everyone wears party hats and gathers around my acre of archaeoperis desk. Someone's brought a noisemaker.

    I watch from the blind I've set up at the back of the room, amused. The me in the chair fidgets as they sing, on- and off-key, and someone makes a crack about not being able to fit forty candles on the cake. I watch as I blow out the candles, thinking that no one in the room, myself included, has the faintest clue how many candles there should be. Forty? Four hundred? Four hundred thousand?

    Someone presents me, the me in the chair, with a foil-wrapped box surmounted by an elaborate purple ribbon. Inside, I know, is a stapler, a red stapler, an inside joke. I concentrate now on the ribbon, contemplating how it might be the best single representation of my life-line. The one on my hand is a million times too simple to serve anymore.

    I watch myself pull the stapler from the box, watch the amused smile on my face fracture into a heartfelt laugh, then turn away and walk through the shimmering window

    into desert heat and a gritty wind that can flense a horse in seconds. My forcefield reacts in microseconds, and I only lose one eye. While the nanites in my left temple go into a repair frenzy, I turn a long, slow circle, looking for the encampment.

    It's a forty-minute walk, down one dune and up another. Halfway there my depth perception returns, and I'm able to walk faster, more surely, up the hill. It's still a hard slog, though, and the noise of the windborne grains of sand against my forcefield reminds me of hailstones on a tin roof, or perhaps the rain of micrometeorites on the pre-atmosphere Earth.

    In the tent, all is silent. She has better noise-cancelling technology than my handlers. She's from further upstream: her fingers are long, and she has no pinkies.

    "How was your homeline?" she asks.

    "Fine," I say. "Just like I left it."

    "Ready for your assignment?"

    "Sure."

    She hands me a dossier, and I touch it to the skin of my finger. 14th century, it says.

    "Who'd I piss off?" I say.

    She smiles. "Yourself, apparently. Something about not bringing a present." She cocks her head. "Is that a pun?"

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  17. Rafe jerked a thumb at me and pointed to the back..

    “Old Joe’s been here all night. I need to close up. Can you do something?”

    The figure slumped over the table peered at me blearily over his drink.

    “Wha? Oh, Sol, isn’t it. Siddown Sol, do me a favour, keep me company.”

    I gestured to Rafe. Give me a minute. Sat across from Joe and waited as he fidgeted, then looked up.

    “It’s been a bad day, Sol.” He wasn’t looking at me.

    “The usual story?” I really didn't need to ask.

    “Worse. That boy is ageing me before my time.” Ironic really, as Joe was already an old man by anyones’ standards.

    “Hardly a boy any more.” I said.

    “Can I tell you something, Sol?” Joe squinted at me. “You’re a good, old friend. You won’t tell.”

    “No”, I said. “I won’t tell.”

    “You remember that, well, there was some gossip when he was born?”

    A nod. An old story.

    “Well, I guess you can count months as good as anyone. Nobody said anything, but yes, he was well along by the time we married. We went away for the birth, thanks to the Government. Stayed away, too, for a while. Said he’d been born later.” Joe coughed. “Didn’t fool anyone. Hmmph”.

    “I don’t think anyone cares now, Joe.” I said gently.

    He looked up angrily.

    “That’s not it. Sol, I do love the boy, but – he’s not mine. ” Joe stared straight ahead. “I don’t know who his real father is. Hell you’ve known her for longer than me. She’s not real bright, but she says she doesn’t know either. Has some strange ideas. Fills his head with nonsense. And now….” He groaned

    “He shouldn’t have got into politics. He doesn’t deserve this.” He began sobbing into his gnarled, woodworkers hands.

    Rafe gave me the wind-up.

    “Come on, Joe”. I put a shoulder under his arm and levered him up and out into the street. “Mary’s probably waiting for you.” I knew she would be frantic. Her husband in his cups and her boy in Pilates cells.

    Not much of a looker now of course, but 30 years ago? And she liked a drink I know. I'm not surprised she can't remember.

    Hell, I'd just about forgotten myself.

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  18. Dunno if you can edit comments, Kate,
    but if you can, please add a possessive apostrophe to "Pilates"!!!' It's a bit confusing otherwise.

    John.

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  19. It was still there.

    Silent. Defiant.

    Lenny wiped her dripping nose on the sleeve of her thriftshop sweater. What was the point of changing when nothing ever changed? She threw herself on her lonely twin bed, expelling a sigh. Through the haze of her tears, she saw the black velvet dress hanging on the back of the closet door like a vampire's cloak, its bright red lining accusatory. Red, for blood,for the taste of bitter berries. Red, for her broken heart. Red, for the brightest stoplight in the universe.

    She had to pull herself together, or at least pull off the remnants of her day. There wasn't much time. Soon it would be dark, and he would come. So tall, dark and handsome he was the consummate cliche. And what did she have to offer him?

    She rolled from the bed and returned to the mirror. She could barely see herself through a tangle of dark hair, but there was one immutable fact---she would never be his equal. Could bring him nothing but shame. She could almost hear the snickers and whispering now. What a fool she was to spend all that money on a dress that would only prove how very out of his league she was.

    There was a tap at the door, then the handle turned uselessly. "It's locked. Go away."

    "Lenore, honey, let me in. I have something for you."

    Just great, Lenny thought. As if her problems could be solved by her clueless, interfering mother.

    "I don't want anything. I'm not going out after all." She could pretend she was sick. It was almost the truth.

    Lenny heard the impatient snort in the hallway. "Open up the door this minute, young lady."

    Lenny returned a snort of her own but shuffled to the door. "What?" she snarled, and then her eyes widened in wonder. Her mother stood, smug, a starter kit of Proactiv in one hand and a box of Bare Escentuals in the other.

    "Mom, you rock!" Lenny cried. Perhaps the dance would not be such a disaster after all.

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  20. It was the eyes.

    There’d always been a part of him which fed on any look she’d sent his way. How pathetic now, when all was revealed, it was her gaze on him which was nearly unbearable. Excruciatingly painful. He might have flinched away from it, but her gaze held him. Like a specimen under her microscope. Pinned helplessly under the weight of his burden, his embarrassment, the shame of being such a disappointment.

    No doubt she would try to shoulder some of that disappointment herself. She had never been one to draw away from taking blame, whether it be her own or another’s. That was the type of woman she had become, while he had remained weak and selfish and distant from reality.

    The reality was her eyes, now taking him in. Holding the sum of his being in her stare. Her eyes held mysteries which he could never fathom. Her eyes held his future.

    He turned and closed his own, feeling the tears threaten to overwhelm the lids.

    He would not cry, he WOULD NOT CRY.

    (Sorry if this ends up being double-posted, I can never figure these things out properly!)

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  21. Anonymous4:32 AM

    These are really entertaining, all. Good job!

    Note to Doug: Absolutely spectacular!

    ER

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  22. Alison S.1:34 PM

    Any Way word count 330

    “No one must ever know,” Erick said.

    “But we have a chance. Really we do. Things are changing.”

    “Not that fast. Not yet. Someday maybe. But not now.”

    “You have to give us a chance. I love you.”

    Erick’s smile was sad. His face pale above his black shirt. His dark hair a bit longer than it probably should be. He worked at his cuffs. Checked his buttons. “I love you, too, darling. But you have your place. And I have mine.”

    “Are we over?” she asked. Her heart hurt. A painful beat in her chest. Her throat closed and she swallowed the sob that threatened to rise.

    Erick took her hand. Kissed it. Even in her sadness, Mary felt her body respond. The quickening in her belly. The urge to clamp her thighs together. Her thoughts turned to their private times together. The tangled sheets. The murmuring. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. “Not unless you give me an ultimatum. I don’t want to lose you,” he said.

    She bowed her head and her vision blurred with tears. She would take him any way she could have him. She would stay in her place and he would stay in his. They would remain each other’s secret.

    There was a knock and she blotted her eyes. “Come in!” Erick called, releasing her hand. He was fastening his collar as Don stuck his head in.

    “Did you get lost?” he asked Mary.

    “No, no,” she laughed. She watched Erick put on his vestments. Made sure not to stare too openly. “I’m coming. Just discussing the upcoming Christmas Bazaar.”

    “Come on, sweetheart,” Don said to Mary. “Let’s not hold up service by talking his ear off.”

    Mary started toward the door.

    “Women,” Don said to Erick. “You have to deal with them all the time. Especially this one,” he joked, putting his arm around his wife. “I don’t envy you.”

    “Oh, I don’t mind at all,” Erick said.

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  23. I did my very best Mills & Boon imitation. ;)

    Word Count: 400
    ________________________________

    The Marquise's eyes were a little wild, and the shadows from the candlelight threw her pale face into sharp, gaunt relief. Her skin was as fine as the porcelain she collected – and just as white. Even to his forgiving eyes, she looked frail, unflattering, exhausted.

    “I’m dying,” she said then, and he was not as surprised as he should have been. He noticed the purple smudges under her eyes, and the slight trembling of her lips. Her face was unpainted, and her lovely cream dress, which fell to the floor in a waterfall of silk, was terribly wrinkled. With her hair undone and loose, the thick, dark weight trailing over her thin shoulders, she looked like a sick child, not the mature beauty he’d seen so often laughing gaily in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles.

    “That cannot be true,” he replied, and his voice was disbelieving. “But you come to Court…every day! You talk, you dine, you watch all the plays!”

    The meaning of her words struck him, suddenly. His mouth quivered with emotion. His gloved hands began to shake violently. But, dying! To think of the gentle Marquise, buried forever under chalky, French dirt! No longer smiling, no longer giving pleasure, no longer alive!

    “I-I’m sorry, so sorry I deceived you thus.” She put delicate hands to her mouth; he could see the wetness in her eyes. “I should have told you before, so much earlier…”

    He watched her tears fall, and her body shuddered pathetically with wheezing sobs. For the first time since he had made her acquaintance, he took her into his arms. It was a liberty, indeed. Louis Quatorze’s court had strict rules governing the relations between the sexes, and he, as a married man, holding a woman not his wife was frankly scandalous. They were alone, however, in the Marquise’s jasmine scented receiving room.

    Her dress felt soft underneath his touch, but softer still was the nape of her neck. He rested his fingers there, and he could feel how fragile she was. His fingers dug into her skin; he held her tight enough to break her, and didn’t let go even when she cried out, “Monsieur, please, you’re hurting me!”

    “You won’t, you know,” he whispered in her ear, brittle determination creeping into his words, “I won’t let you, you’ll get better. I’ll get you the King’s doctor. I’ll ask Louis tomorrow…”

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  24. Kate: Despite this not being quite up to scratch, since I actually spent time writing it, I figured I may as well enter the damn thing. Do I get a special prize for being prolific?

    -------------------------

    The verk Cassie was stalking seemed to have evaporated into the deepening dusk. She hissed in frustration, pressed to a wide tree bole, peering to pierce the leafy forest shadows. The verk had been tiring, she was sure. It should be near. Her arrow sat notched and ready, but without a target.

    The breeze carried faint cries in the distance. Perhaps one of her sisters had succeeded and earned the right to motherhood. Could return victorious with the prize, to have the Mothers speak the rites before the ancient machines. In joy, a child would quicken within her.

    The verk was suddenly there. It rose from hiding, a hulking form, only metres from her concealment. Dark, hairy, almost human but brutish. The whites of its eyes showed - it could see her. She rose swiftly, surely, drawing the bow and aiming. The arrow fired wildly skyward as she was grasped roughly from behind and thrown to the ground. She struggled against a heavy, hot body that held her immobile, unable to reach her ritual knives.

    The hot breath of the verk that had ambushed her steamed heavily in her face. Her former target glided noiselessly to look down on her. Demons the Mothers had said. Mockeries of the pure form of a person. Go forth, they said, and hunt the verk. Bring back the folgor offering fresh and warm and we will wake the great steel wombs to spark you a daughter .

    There would be no folgor, and no child. She despaired and the bestial verks tore and pulled at her clothing and body as she screamed. They thrust and grunted. And then they left her sore, confused and bleeding.

    When she returned, broken, to the Gate, the Mothers gathered her in, shushed her, washed and bound her hurts. Gave her warm broth and let her sleep.

    Cassie never hunted the verk again. Nevertheless, in the months that followed, like her triumphant sisters, her belly swelled.

    But unlike them, it was not a human child she bore. Following the ancient traditions, the tiny verk, condemned by the folgor it bore between its thighs, was taken from her breast and abandoned in the forest.

    ----------------------

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  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  26. Oops, screw up. Here's mine!

    ...Secret Baby

    Rogue Tok-hunting conventions were usually a drudge. But this was different. He was different, leaning against the stone wall, apart from the crowd gathered around the banquet table, all six foot-XXXL of him, wavy blonde hair carelessly tied back, feral gleam in his eyes, leathers from old century Earth.

    Her heart raced as his gaze slid over her. She was a plain woman and this wasn’t a look you gave a plain woman. It wasn’t a proper look you gave any woman.

    She held a kibbymorsel in one hand, and with the other she felt for her weapon, holstered above the slit in her gown. This unconscious action should’ve been a cue. One of the ancient philosophers—Plato? Freud? —had said something about the unconscious. Like listen to it. But as he approached, all she listened to was her heart, whooshing in her ears.

    With an evil smile he took her kibby from her hand and ate it. His careless confidence was like an intoxicating scent and she had this crazy urge to press herself to him, breath him in, dig for bare skin under all those outworld weapons and leathers and give herself to him right there.

    She’d never experienced a man acting so entitled; it felt dangerous, erotic. She even asked him at one point: Do I know you? She’d let him isolate her by then—along with two steaming glasses of Veek—in one of the dark nookbooths of the cavernous arena.

    Yes, he whispered, warm in her ear, as he undid the complicated ties, trembling with hunger. She was hungry, too—it had been so long. Vaguely she wondered, as she traced the coy line of hair from his belly button to his leather pants, if he was one of those one-true-mate guys her girlfriends had warned her about, but it was too late. She’d always loved the point of no return because decisions got easy after that. You went forward. If he was trouble, she’d handle it later.

    He yanked off her gown, upsetting a glass of Veek, splashing his old-century leathers.

    “Shikes!” He stood. “Veek! All over my leathers. And this is a designer shirt!”

    She grabbed his collar. “It’ll come out.”

    “What if it doesn’t?” He exclaimed tearfully. “And now the moment’s ruined!” He stormed off.

    Yeah, she knew him all right: roguish fun on the outside, but on the inside…she whispered the words…

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  27. I suck. I thought "I'll do this when I get back from Thanksgiving vacation." But that would be today, the 25th. Ack...swatted down by deadlines.

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  28. Carrie, don't feel left out! Here's your opportunity...

    Just for fun I'm running a contest this coming month. (click on my name or the link below if it makes it through the Blogger comment mangler)

    http://microsoar.wordpress.com/reboot-day-contest/

    The contest premise is based on a dream my son had in which everyone woke up a year in the past with all their memories of the future year intact... in his dream, their biggest gripe with this was that they had to rebuild their Myspace profiles. :-)

    I was intrigued by the possibilities for stories, but not being a writer, thought I'd see what interesting takes on the possibilities people might take. Have at it!

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