Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Prediction - naughty or nice

And so we start to veer towards the Christmas season. Whilst the supermarkets have had their decorations up for a whole month already, we in our household shall uphold tradition and not put up our sparklies until 1 December. Santa Claus is firmly in the mind of my son and, with all this in mind, I do have to ask all my visitors, have you been naughty or nice this year ;-)

Having read the entries this week I think I know the answer to my question. So, who has been the most devious?

My winner this week is Mr John Xero with Wildwood. John, this was an absolutely perfect example of how to do horror in 100 words. MR James would have been proud to produce such a piece and I can hear the trees whispering as I walk past them on my way home of an evening now. Excellent!

My runner-up this week is Sandra Davies with It's not me, it's hymn. Sandra - I loved the way that this initially felt like a kitchen sink drama, a loveless marriage leading to years of drudgery, but then we are presented with those two simple questions; they died, or did he?  Totally lifted it up a level and has been rattling round my head ever since. Very nice writing. 

Congratulations to John and Sandra and with thanks to the rest of you who let us peek into the deepest secrets of your minds this week. One thing I would like to add is that some of you do post without commenting on the other entries. Whilst there is no obligation to do so, please try and comment if you can, call it my entry fee if you like ;-) 

Now, on to this week's words. Winter is approaching but I don't think that is what is causing the chill in my household. I approach my tome with trepidation and a hot water bottle as my breath plumes before it. The crisp pages open and the following words spill forth:
  • Madam
  • Chirp
  • Jab
An interesting threesome for us this week. Wonder what these will conjure.

The usual rules apply: 100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction. All variants and use of the words as stems are fine. Just have fun!
You have until 9pm (UK time) Thursday 6 December to get your entries in. New words will spill forth and winners will be announced by 9am Friday 7 December. If you can, please tweet about your entry using the #fridayflash #100words or #flashfiction hashtags and blog if you feel like it.
 
Please tell your friends and, as I said, do give feedback to your fellow Predictioneers - everyone appreciates it!

Looking forward to seeing what you hit me with this week!

91 comments:

  1. Well done John - your creepy, dark and dripping wood certainly put the frighteners on me! - and thank you Phil for choosing me as runner up, it was one of those pieces where the first sentence had been written days earlier, and then the rest suddenly somersaulted into place. As for this week ... we shall see.

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  2. Congratulations John and Sandra! Wonderful reading from both of you!

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  3. This sprung to mind, pretty much the second I saw this week's words. It's not Seth and Nate. That will come later. In the meantime...

    In Full

    Greasy little thing, not yet twenty, wanting this kind of magic- her kind of magic. There was something wrong with the world.

    She soothed him gently, handed him the hat pin with the emerald tip. Shaking fingers aimed at the sparrow she held for him.
    “Madam….”
    “Shhhhh, sweetling…quick jab to the heart. Aim true and the evil will pay for what they’ve done.”

    The pin struck deep, as did the matching dagger she’d concealed. Boy and bird gave a final quiet chirp and died together.

    She smiled gently.

    “Told you, wretch. The evil have paid for what they’ve done.”

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    1. Crikey Moses - what a thing to have come into your head fully-fledged. So delicately poised, a tip of the tongue protruding, murder immediately following. Well done Colleen.

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    2. Gorgeous. Very strong lady...brings o mind Morgana. I like that. Do we feel s serial perhaps?

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    3. I suspect that you are a whizz at 'Find the Lady' Colleen. Great use of mis-direction there to make us think the 'evil' lay elsewhere. A very neat trick with a great pay off at the end.

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    4. I love this, start to finish. It's beautiful, twisted, intensely visual and deeply, deeply satisfying. The layers and depth to this: There was something wrong with the world. are simply wonderful.

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    5. I agree, brilliant mis-direction. I also love the possessiveness of the first line. It is her magic and she determines how it's used. :)

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  4. congratulations John, adored the wildwood, and Sandra, such a delicate piece, well deserved winners and runner up!
    Colleen, oh my, what a vivid piece of writing!

    My zombie is stirring and wondering what the chirping noise is. Time I went to investigate how far he has gotten out of his hole, if at all.

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  5. I suspect there'll be more, since this arrived quite early.

    Change of focus [6]

    ‘Madam?’ (She merited ‘Ma’am’; this displeased in a way she could not object to.)
    ‘Hopgood was suspected of her parent’s murder?’
    ‘No. She was in Australia.’
    ‘Proxy?’
    ‘Sounds far-fetched.’
    ‘But Cherriman had no alibi, his whereabouts were then unknown.’
    Who the fuck? ‘Ma’am?’
    ‘Jake Cherriman. Her husband.’
    Double fuck. She never said. Except ‘Jake always knows everything.’
    Phone chirped.
    Listening, she biro-jabbed until it shattered, teeth-gritted an acknowledgement.
    Glared up at him, ‘The lab has matched the DNA.’
    ‘Cherriman’s?’
    ‘No John, yours.’ Payback smile, ‘Cherriman is now downstairs. He came in of his own accord. And asked specifically for you.’

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    Replies
    1. Sandra you are amazing. Such strong writing. You are adept at so many styles of writing. Great job.

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    2. This piece has a jabbing feel all of its own, each piece of text delivering a swift punch to the gut. I can just picture our man John reeling as that final revelation is put to him and his world starts to unravel. Very good stuff.

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    3. The staccato exchange builds the tension, and the payoff is a gut punch. Our poor Pettinger is well and truly caught, no matter which way he turns. I can't imagine this will work out well for him.

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    4. This is brilliant. I love the build up. I agree with Phil. It pokes at you, hard, right to the end. Very enjoyable!

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    5. I love the progression of the dialogue. His attempt at misdirection and then it all circling back.

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  6. I'm arguably tapped out, having just finished the first 50K words of a novel today (for NaNoWriMo), so the following scene is really just a snippet. Still, I offer it up for your reading pleasure. :)

    magpie blood

    “Madam, you are quite mistaken!” Mathers said.

    “I ‘eard a chirpin’, I did. Might be ya got a magpie in yer case, there.” She jabbed a crooked finger at his carpet bag.

    “I’ve no such thing,” he retorted. “Why would I have a bird in my bag?”

    “Might be yer meanin’ to call to ‘im. Might be ya know magpie blood’s the only way.”

    “Call to whom?” he huffed and strode past her. The beggar stayed behind, wary of the dark man with dark plans, muttering to herself, “Might be yer in over yer head, sonny boy.”

    And he was.

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    1. Congratulations on writing towards your novel. I am sure it will be amazing. This little flash was great. I am now quite hooked on what will happen next.

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    2. Well done on completing NaNoWriMo, Dex, and on this magpie piece whose final line insists you tell us more.

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    3. Nice Dex, nice. Just this one snippet makes me intrigued to know a lot more about the whole story. Your knowledgeable beggar makes me think back to Barker's cameo in Hellraiser and I suspect he has something sinister to reveal later. What I really like though was the use of magpie blood to call to 'him' - lovely sense of magic to be had.

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    4. Congratulations on completing NaNo! I know that marathon well (though not this year) and admire your determination.

      I am impressed by how seamlessly you drew me into the world of this story and left me wanting so much more. There's a real sinister feel, with the beggar woman a prophet for the true villain.

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    5. Very intriguing snippet! I'm curious who "he" is and have a feeling this isn't going to end well. Love the intro to this story.

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    6. Thanks to everyone for the compliments!

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  7. Congratulations to John and Sandra. Both of those pieces are still rattling around in my brain.

    I thought these words would be tough, but Seth assured me he had this.

    Patience

    After discovering she was pregnant, my mother hid for a time in a brothel. Looking to understand her death, I’d ended up in the same place. The madam knew nothing of magic but told me stories I needed to hear. And taught me restraint.

    When Nate recovered, I’d insist he send her a thank you card, as those lessons prevented me from jabbing him with a sharp object.

    I slammed on the brakes and sat, focusing on the chirp of crickets. Waiting.

    “Why the fuck would I give a witch my blood?” he spat.

    That stung.

    “Because I’m your brother.”

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    1. Ooh. That Nate s a prickly one. Seth has tremendous restraint. Another great installment.

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    2. Brilliant bit of back-story and then bringing us bang up to date again with the final line. As Marietta says, another great installment.

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    3. Very intriguing first line. It's not something you'd typically hear so the slight shock of it draws me into the story.

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    4. Just when I think we know everything there is to know about Seth and Nate you throw that little snippet of an opening at us. Brilliant how you manage to keep that wonderful feeling of tension, an uneasy truce, simmering away with the close to this latest installment.

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  8. Dex, NaNoWriMo'd out or not, I LOVE this. I could hear her voice, the accent, everything. Great bit of writing!

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  9. Sandra, great stuff!
    Dex, Nano had a good influence on you, it seems!
    RR, oh good one, so natural and such a good last line.

    OK: I have two instalments ready... here goes!

    Madam, I come!
    Hold on just a moment. Damn thoughts jabbed my mind. Dead = grave = quiet = what? Eternal life? Ghost existence? But I think, I know I move, earth falls in, so; if I am one of the living dead, surely I should be grunting and snarling and seeking human brains to eat.
    Hold on just a moment – again. Zombies are not supposed to think, allegedly. Here I am, thinking. What went wrong?
    Shut up chirping, birds, I can’t think with all your inane chatter going on. So the sun’s out, go catch a worm or something.

    ***

    Oooooooookkkkaaaaayyyyyyy – I am an anomaly, a zombie who thinks. Whoo hoo. Madam will be shocked when I get there! Ha! Good. I am pretty damn sure she had something to do with my being underground.
    What jabbed me then? Hold it… a bone! A large bone! I have a tool now… not one of mine, I did a quick check, Mine are intact. It’s the flesh which isn’t.
    Who needs flesh anyway? Let’s rid ourselves of it, prance around in our bones instead.
    The chirping birds, irritating as they are, invite me out. I am ready to go.
    Hello world…


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    1. A salty old zombie indeed. I lime this fella. I am looking forward to his history. Great story Madam Antonia.

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    2. Knowing nowt about zombies I sense I am about to learn - from someone who really knows - keep it going Antonia.

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    3. I am really enjoying the awakening, on so many levels, of your zombie. Philosophical questions temper my usual aversion to the rotting undead and leave me wanting to know who Madam is and what will come next.

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    4. Oooh! A zombie story! Two even! My favorite! And you've added the twist of conscious thought. I want to know all about him. I love the resigned humor with which he accepts his situation. "Who needs flesh anyway?" More, please?

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    5. thank you!
      Sandra, I know nothing about zombies, it was only a chance comment made that I realised mine think, where they don't usually... this is the third time I have approached thinking zombies, it gets more interesting as it goes. I am much looking forward to the next set of words.

      Incidentally, coincidentally, perhaps, I have been accepted as Associate member of the Horror Writers' Association and am busy leaping about (not literally) with joy at the news. Long wanted to be in there!

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    6. Antonia, firstly, many congratulations on your acceptance to the Horror Writers' Association.

      Now onto our undead friend. Really loving the concept of an intelligent zombie, brings a whole new twist to the genre. Intrigued about who the Madam is and what she had to do with his internment. And I now wonder if skeletons are simply naked zombies!

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    7. A philosophical zombie, good stuff! I like how he seems to be quite rational, not something we usually expect from the walking dead. With the mention of his mistress I'm curious if his clarity is perhaps unique because of something she did to him? Is he awakening to his revenge? The plot thickens! :)

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  10. Change of focus [7]

    Firstly, Jake Cherriman, just flown in from halfway round the world was a man bereaved. Likely only knew his name from his now-murdered wife. Couldn’t possibly know, prior to her death, she’d persuaded Pettinger into her hotel bed wherein she’d demonstrated skills such as any madam would be glad to teach. (Think gift-horse, mouth.)
    Now, adjudging his office over-warm, Pettinger pointed Cherriman to a chair before turning to raise the sash, startling a blackbird into chirped alarm. Turned back to find stubbled face inches from his, red-circled eyes alarming, gun jabbed against his ribs.
    Hoarsely, ‘You’re dead, you fuckin’ bastard.’

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    1. Oh no! I wonder how Pettinger will get out of this predicament, and more still how Cherriman got the gun into a police station without notice. The woman's warning about Jake always knowing seems to indicate she had a pattern of behavior that might have left her husband less sorry to see her go, but it appears that is not the case. More, please!

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    2. RR - I'm far from sure visitors, especially the bereaved, are frisked for guns when they enter a police station, not in England anyway ...

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    3. Gift horse in mouth...ha ha. Oops sorry I felt silly. This is a great whodunit. More please Sandra. A serial is so satisfying.

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    4. love it, Sandra, now he is in a predicament and, like me, you are awaiting the next three words to get him out of it!! what fun this is...

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    5. This is getting very, very good! Clever the way we think that the threat is gone (how could he know about him?) and then it comes in full force and armed right at the end. Not quite sure how you are going to get out of this!

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    6. Love the way Pettinger is trying to assure himself. I love the line of escalation starting with his accelerating thoughts to the shock of the gun. Can't wait to read what happens next!

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  11. And now for something a bit different.

    Spirited

    The boy was pretty, six feet of chiseled grace laid out by absinthe. Madam prefers supérieure to green. I’d not find out which he was.

    I favor wormwood tea, better to prolong my passions, if a bitter taste for the men.

    Parched lips parted with a plea.

    I could not grant him any release, however fine that act might be. Under Madam’s ministrations, I’d chirp for mercy, confessing all.

    I kissed him though, enjoying the rise. “Fear not, young buck. After a jab or two, she’ll leave you whole.”

    He relaxed, poor fool.

    I never said she’d let him live.

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    1. First sentence captivates, final one kicked, and inbetween such a tale of threat and threatened. Brilliant, as ever.

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    2. Sandra called it...that last line was a kicker. Well played and well written. Loved the story.

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    3. oh yes, such a lot of untold back story here which plays on the imagination for the words we do have. Brilliant.

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    4. Absinthe has such a mystical association with it and that flows through this piece. In my head the Madam is a magical beast which will suck the very soul from him or am I just getting carried away in your words.

      Enjoyed this very much and the mix between the erotic and the horrific is done so well.

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    5. It almost makes me think Madam is a great big spider, consuming more than just passion in her lovers. I'm also very curious about the narrator. Victim or partner?

      And the final line was just perfect. There's no doubt this is not going to end well for the boy. Brilliant, chilling scene. :)

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  12. Hello my friends, I hope that you are well and are starting to get into the festive spirit. For those of you with a little spare time, I have posted a link in the right hand menu to Hunted, a collaborative story we kicked off here in July here on Phlambler's World. Some great work put into it already, go have a read and see what direction you can take it in. Go feed it with your writing and see it grow!

    Now on to my offering this week for your enjoyment.

    The Prediction

    Broken sunbeams spilled across the room, dust particles playing in their light. Birdsong filled the air, a mixture of tweets and chirps welcoming the dawn.

    "Do you see?" asked the Madam, her bejewelled finger jabbing at her scrying sphere. I peered in closer as the image developed.

    The floral bedspread was ruffled, its lilacs and roses disturbed. Stephanie had only made it this morning. The bed sagged where she lay, her painted toes gently curled. Blood seeped from her scalp as I knelt beside her, cradling the cracked crystal globe.

    Sliver exchanged, I left, an innocent bulge in my pocket.

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    1. I could see the entire room, sparse though the description was. Both rooms, actually. At first, I thought he was looking for clues to his lady's murder. The last line was a delightful surprise - though not for poor Stephanie.

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    2. Took me a few (perectly delighful)readings to work it out, but yes indeed. Lovely bedspread.

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    3. The bulge innocent perhaps, not the fella counting it though. Wow. Lovely words gathered for a mysterious tale. More please.

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    4. Just dropped a bit on The Hunted. TAG everyone U R IT!!!

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    5. I love how you make the reader work it out in the end and the description of the bedspread - "lilacs and roses disturbed". You have a way of painting vivid pictures without having to write it all out. Beautiful. :)

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    6. nasty cold people in a vivid piece of writing, Phil!

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    7. I am going to break a bit of an unspoken rule here as I think, from Marietta's comment, that I may have been a bit too obscure. The bulge in the pocket was not from silver taken from the Madam, she had a different gift to provide. Shhh, I've said too much!

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  13. The Feel of Wings in the Darkness

    In the end they come here, with their “yes madam” and “please madam”, to beg for release from their torment. Always men, with their anger and hatred and distrust of a strong woman, one they cannot control, and they stand there, amongst by pretty birds that peck and jab at their faces as they bed for forgiveness. And I forgive them, once enough of their flesh has been pulled from my faces and my beautiful pets have chirped with happiness at their filled bellies.

    But in the end they always come, knowing that my forgiveness is better than staying away.

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    1. An uneasy nastiness to this, Matt, cloying and insidious. Well done.
      And the title was perfect.

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    2. Wow. This is a metaphorical mirror of stories a friend has told me about her days in a dungeon. You get to the heart of it, and it is both disturbing and right. Really well done.

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    3. I need o know more bout this woman. "My beautiful pets"... Indeed. This story needs an illustration. Great job.

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    4. vivid pictures created with the words, Matt, good one.

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    5. This is very dark Matt, a tale very much about power play from someone with a very sadistic nature. Unnerving, unsettling and unrelenting, a story which makes you read it through parted fingers.

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    6. A dark, powerful piece. I am left to wonder why they must beg her forgiveness, and how she gained such control. What torment has she cursed them with that they would come to her knowing what she'd do?

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  15. OK, take two, with italics intact, one hopes!

    I'm actually early this week!

    Give Me Something To Break


    I dropped my head, listening to the birds chirp through the grey/red haze ripping my mind. It hurt.

    I knew why Seth needed my blood. It made perfect sense. But damn if I wasn’t feeling threatened, angry, and mean into the bargain. He was right. He was my brother. ‘Nuff said.

    This isn’t me.

    “Okay, Madam Nightingale, we’d better hurry and jab me. This thing ramps up aggression, I think, and since I’m already a son-of-a-bitch…”

    Seth hit the gas hard enough to spew gravel.

    He said nothing for a while and then, softly, “It’s making your jokes suck, too.”

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    1. A son of a bitch with bad jokes should never be invited on a road trip. Blood is thicker than motor oil I guess. Great installment. As always gimme more.

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    2. I loved "Seth hit the gas hard enough to spew gravel" and then that "softly". You and RR teach me so much about effective writing.

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    3. agree with Sandra, can't believe how much I've learned since doing the Challenge! Lovely instalment.

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    4. Really like the way you get us into the head of the characters here. There I am thinking that Nate is becoming a right royal pain in the arse and then you show us it's not his fault in such an effective way, deflating that tension perfectly to unite the brothers in spirit again. Top drawer.

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    5. I can feel the emotion in the last line. It feels like a precursor to something sad and inevitable. I missed a few installments so I'm not sure all of the backstory but I'm eagerly waiting on what happens next! Is it fixable? Definitely a nail biter. :)

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  16. The Sunday Comet: Letters to the Editor

    Madam,

    I correspond with great dissatisfaction; however, after the Forthington Debacle... (How exactly, did you mistake my home address with an abandoned lunatic asylum thirty miles away!?)

    I digress...

    I opened page 23 and embraced my usual haunt; the cryptography puzzle. I was appalled to find that, once I decoded the cipher and read aloud the gibberish remaining, I was beset by a cacophony of chirping, and the coalescence of an inconceivable Elebatbirdthing.

    I then proceeded to be jabbed to a bloody pulp by its skewer-like talons.

    Unsurprisingly, I shan't be renewing my subscription.
    Yours,
    Discorporated of Tunbridge Wells

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    1. Yay! I got Bold and Italics tags to work! :D

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    2. This is just brilliant. I love the idea of a spell hidden inside the puzzle, adore the affronted tone, and find the signature line both clever and very, very amusing.

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    3. I love the voice of the narrator and the beginning of the letter. I can easily picture the writer's expressions and mannerisms penning this letter. The hilarious imagery is very clear in my mind, and I loved his/her description of the "Elebatbirdthing". Loved this! :)

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    4. Brilliant. Very very good. Lunatic asylum eh. Hmmm maybe he/she went off their meds. Maybe not.

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    5. Couldn't be penned from anywhere BUT Tunbridge Wells, could it? You have caught the tone so well and set a highly entertaining and alliterative scene.

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    6. I cannot stop giggling at the imagery this provides. It's brilliant. "Elebatbirdthing". I've been walking about all morning repeating that at random intervals and laughing. Good thing I'm alone in the house today!

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    7. tis nothing short of genius, so much wrapped up in so little. Reminds me to avoid my daughter's endless puzzle magazines, which include endless crosswords...

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    8. Ah Zoe, I live 10 or so miles from Tunbridge Wells so that final line resonated with me. For our non-UK friends, Tunbridge Wells is an affluent town (middle/upper class) in the South of England renowned for its residents' letters of disgruntlement to national newspapers and the BBC.

      I could hear the words read in a posh, irritated tone as this comic tale played out so nicely before us in the guise of a letter to the editor. Elebatbirdthing was inspired and the threat not to renew subscription was perfect for this character.

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  17. Stolen Youth

    Madam laid him out with a jab to the face, the razored spine of her fan parting flesh like butter. Heavy skirts in incandescent green and black, ballooned about her as she knelt over her quarry.

    “Shouldn’t have run, deary,” she said cheerfully. Iron fingers pinched his ruined jaw, then drew back to rouge her milk-white cheeks. “Monsieur does not abide thievery.” Her tongue clicked against her teeth. “Nor beauty it seems. Third this week.”

    The scarab covering her eye chirped, and Madam stroked the emerald edge in answer. “I’ve retrieved it, Monsieur,” she said. “Your youth is in hand.”

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    1. Wonderfully visual opening, strong character and thoroughly nasty ending. What more could one ask?

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    2. very visual, which is the key to horror writing. So much in here to take into a longer length story.

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    3. Oh Zaiure, what a delight you have left us with as the final entry of the week. Such wonderful descriptions, perfect little touches throughout (the click of her tongue on her teeth) and a vividity of imagination with that little scarab effect. Loved it, truly, madly, deeply.

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    4. This gorgeous scene makes me wish there was more (is there more??). It's got a steampunk feel to it, more in the feel than the gadgetry, and only gets more intriguing the more I read it.

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    5. That is a wonderfully described scene. Well done.

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  18. I really like the scarab covered eye. Atmospheric this was like a dance. Lovely words.

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  19. " Heavy skirts in incandescent green and black, ballooned about her as she knelt over her quarry." What a lush visual this line brought to mind! Lovely read! Thank you.

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  20. And so it is that, with the fire crackling in the hearth, I bring this week's festivities to a close. Put down your crackers and remove your paper hats for I am now off to judge the delightful presents you have brought me and it's still weeks until Christmas Day.

    As always, do feel free to comment on the stories above if you haven't already. I know you all like to read what people say about your works so do return the favour if you can.

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