Tag Archives: FTT

Black and Poisonous

Wicked people never have time for writing. There are so many worlds and characters waiting to be born, but through lack of motivation or lack of inspiration, they wither and die unborn in pools of dark despair. The writer feels it too, the black and poisonous knowledge that he should be producing something, anything, instead of watching television or web surfing.

The habits we should be building, write something every single day, don’t sit and wait for motivation. Grab a club and go drag your story home.

The seeping poison is can’t or won’t. Too tired, too uninspired, I’ll write it later, I’ll write it tomorrow. I hate deadlines, just give me a week and I can crank out something. I don’t like giving away my opening hook, that first sentence is important. What a silly idea, I’ll wait for a better one. I’ve written something just like this before.

Worse yet are the stories bravely begun and then abandoned. What’s next? This is stalling out. Oh, this is terrible. I just need a character. What’s the plot, where is this going?

I ran into an entire website of demotivation, once upon a time. M.F.A.’s and poets; my work was never, ever good enough. Look at all of those grammar and punctuation errors, oh my. Your metaphors are not strong enough, your similes don’t sing. Why do the same people win this competition every week? Your let the judges enter your own competition? Something smells fishy.

Now they want to sell me a membership. Purely for my benefit, of course, there are several levels of helpful advice. I see the direct correlation to the most frequent winners. This “competition” is, blatantly, For Sale.

I went searching for less mercenary setups. There are sites with rotating judges, there are sites dominated by a single clannish writing group, there are “Everyone’s a Winner” sites, too.

Competition does help me improve, even on the sites where it doesn’t feel entirely honest. Those clannish writing groups tend to vote for each other, for instance. Comments from more “social” writing sites help me improve, too, particularly from writers whose work I respect.

I keep a working list of fiction/writing sites that I like for various reasons. I don’t always visit all of them each week. I don’t always contribute stories, nor do I write every day (as I should). Sometimes, the toxic inspiration despair or simple exhaustion after a full time job still wins.

Sometimes, wicked television and evil internet still defeat your white knight, and often without a struggle.

But the sites that Did Things Right keep disappearing, and I feel guilty for that; like one more story might have saved them.

RecDave Seal

For Alissa Leonard and Finish That Thought. I’ll miss you both.

Back Off, Damned Sirens.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

The man’s opinions are inconsequential, of course. What use are male opinions in social matters?

Target your avaricious intentions on his holdings, his estates, and the production of your grandchildren. The mothers pander and their daughters spin webs. Machiavellian intentions hidden behind gowns of silk and taffeta, diabolical snares constructed of garden promenades and high tea. Once attached, their lamprey teeth make them difficult to shake loose.

Exhausted by the epic struggle to maintain my freedom I resolved to flee at once. I abandoned my secure and lucrative career, only barely begun. I would find a more physical profession, and settle in a place where a man could earn his bread without the sustained shrieking of circling harpies.

Greece. The home of Zeus and Hercules, and surely the perfect spot for the ultimate consummation of confirmed bachelorhood, wasn’t it? I would get a little fishing boat and live in quiet solitude in a tiny shack. What harm if a few of the local bronzed specimens of godly manhood should stroll past on the beach? We could surely jest and contest while quaffing our wine and discussing platonic ideals. Belching, scratching, and defaming the female of the species, as real men should.

I settled on the isle Lefkada, a typical Greek island that was only unusual because of its land bridge connecting the island to the mainland. Setting sail on my tiny new boat, I learned quickly how little I knew of sailing and fishing. Fortunately, the island had several tanned and muscular youths available for hire, and I was smitten. I quite enjoyed my lessons, and soon learned both crafts. My Greek grew less insulting to the listener, as well. Adopted immigrant turned semi-native, the locals did not long fault me for my unfortunate English birth.

I was content at last.

My occasional fishing employee and local tanned god Dimitrios introduced me to his cousin, Leucosia, a dazzling Levantine beauty in uncomfortably brief swimwear. This was surely an innocent introduction, I was certain Dimitrios knew of my proclivities. How unhappy it would make me to have my peace ruined by a ‘hook-up’—at least, if the hook-up was with her.

We drank much wine and the three of us chatted. She seemed almost human, this one, smiling and interacting without immediately shifting to predatory mode. They needed a lift to the far side of the island, and Dimitrios’ boat was down for sail repair, could I take them?

Of course, I accepted—making it clear to Dimitrios that I intended collecting on the favor eventually.

Leucosia leaned against the mast in the moonlight and asked, “You have heard that sirens have always frequented Lefkada?”

“You mean classical, mythical sirens? How do you know if they’re there?”

From behind me Dimitrios answered, “By the screams,” and his serrated teeth ripped at my throat.

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495 words. Inspired by this week’s Finish That Thought prompt (the first line, from Pride and Prejudice).

What’s For Dinner?

He watched with anxiety as she took the first nibble. When nothing usual happened, he felt much of the tension draining away.

“Tastes better than I thought it would,” she eventually responded. “No unusual urges, no fangs or blood lust. Sorry Dave, don’t think your theory holds up.”

***

“The creature slumps on the hilltop, hunched over like it’s suffering a degenerative spinal condition. Maybe it is, given the condition of the rest of the body. It turns to sniff the breeze, and those yellow pulsing orbs lock with my eyes. Its upper lip curls and it growls aggressively at me through bared fangs dripping gore. Antlers tilt back, nose raised to the sky, it howls a hunter’s fury and gallops down the hill toward me.

“The forelimbs are twice as long as its hind legs and they end in massive rending claws. The rotting flesh of its barrel chest exposes internal organs. The hind legs are deer-like, knee bending backwards, ending not in hooves but in almost human feet covered in pitch-dark fur.

“This twisted, distorted zombie-elk-thing is galloping down the hill at enormous speed. It leaps in the air, I cover my eyes, and I wake up screaming in terror. Worst of all, I awaken with an unnatural hunger, an insatiable desire that must be fulfilled.”

Rebecca leaned back, letting Dave’s breathing calm and return to normal before flipping on the desk lamp.

“What sort of hunger, Dave?”

“I really don’t want to talk about it.”

“It seems to be at the center of this dream that’s haunting you.”

“It’s taboo. And it’s illegal.”

“What is?”

Dave said nothing, and just clenched his jaw. Rebecca tried another angle.

“You say this thing in your dream has a name, Dave? What’s it called?”

Dave murmured something, too low to hear.

“What?”

“It’s a Wendigo damn it!”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know what that is.”

Dave talked to the carpet. “Wendigo. It’s an Algonquin curse, a half-beast creature. A malevolent spirit possesses a specific type of person and causes a physical transformation. It’s always a guilty person, the very worst sort of criminal.”

Rebecca scrawled a note on her pad, giving Dave time to work up to it.

“Wendigoes only possess cannibals”

***

“Here we are, Dave. I’ve shared dinner with you, and you can see no one is transforming into a malevolent creature. No insatiable hunger, no desire to run Mr. Simon upstairs through a wood chipper, right?”

“Guess not.”

“The Wendigo psychosis is a myth. There aren’t any cannibalistic nightmares roaming the back woods, and you don’t need to feel guilty about whatever you had for dinner last week. Human flesh was just what you were expecting, not any part of the actual dishes. You aren’t a cannibal or any mythic demon-monster. You’re just Dave.”

After seeing Dave off for the evening, Rebecca looked in the mirror, and saw the shadow of antlers.

“Maybe you were onto something,” she growled. “Now, about tasty Mr. Simon…”

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498 words. Inspired by this week’s Finish That Thought prompt (#3-5).

Squirrels and Nuts.

I promised myself I wouldn’t let that oddness of the job affect my temper but quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to keep that promise. It’s amazing what a man will endure for the promise of a fat paycheck, isn’t it?

Deliverance is mine: I have arrived. The cabin in the Pennsylvania Appalachians was remote and the only approach was an overgrown and weeded dirt track, but I finally threw the van into “Park” with a feeling of blissful relief.

I unloaded the crates from the van and had a look around. Chestnut oaks and Virginia pines surrounded us and a mountain loomed over the site to our north, but I couldn’t begin to guess its name.

Scurrying across the telephone wire toward the cabin roof was… Something, whatever it was.

It resembled a tree squirrel, but with a shorter tail, like a chipmunk. In place of a head, it sprouted a broad neck-trunk that bifurcated and bifurcated again, repeatedly splitting until it terminated in a mass of thousands of hair-thin tentacles. Some tentacles were clearly sense organs; they oriented my direction as it passed over my head. Others served as extra grippers.

The second squirrel-thing I saw was astride the neck of a white-tailed deer, riding it like a bus driver. Its tentacles wrapped completely around the animal’s neck. The deer stumbled and tripped, weaving from side to side as if driven poorly by an amateur driver.

I followed the deer, fascinated, as it stumbled into the trees. I became aware of other animals moving in the same direction, each with a squirrel-like jockey riding its neck at the back of its head: a black bear, more deer, and several coyotes.

Eventually we came to a rocky outcropping with a cave in one side, and the animals circled around. The entire scene froze, for one still moment with a dreamlike quality. Wild animals ridden by their bizarre masters surrounded me, and my only possible exit a hole into the rock.

More tentasquirrels climbed out of the trees and scampered over the ground, a circle closing in on me slowly with a wordless but obvious threat. No choice, I stepped into the cave.

Inside was the tapestry, the artwork Dr. Metz hired me to find. “Soulcatcher,” he called it, and he claimed it was older than humanity and woven from carnivorous plants. It depicted a scene of the elder gods, so realistic and horrific that the tentacles writhed and moved, eagerly reaching for me.

I turned in panic, only to find my exit blocked by dozens of tentasquirrels, and the larger animals outside the cave. Trapped in the cave, the madness was already clawing its way into my mind and reaching hungrily for my soul.

Damn it, this will be the last time I accept any job offer from Miskatonic University. I drew my hatchet and hacked at the tapestry, and a hundred tentasquirrels and their mounts screamed in anger for their elder gods.

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494 words, for this week’s Finish That Thought (3-4).