It's week #2 of the WRiTE CLUB play-off rounds – which I promised would come at a rapid fire pace -- and we have come to the end. Last week I posted five bouts (Mon-Fri) and this week the last four (Mon-Thur) concluding today. The voting for all nine bouts will remain open until noon on Sunday, August 31st. Your task remains simple…read the submission from each WRiTER carefully and leave your vote for the sample that resonates with you the most. If you haven’t already done so in the previous rounds, offer some critique if you have time. Anyone reading this can vote, so blog, Tweet, Facebook, text, or smoke signal everyone you know and get them to take part in the fun. Vote on as many bouts as you can get around to. Whether that is one bout, or all nine, how much you participate is up to you.
Here’s something else to keep in mind for this round...every vote counts. That’s because the contestant who doesn't win their bout but garners the most votes amongst all of the other losers, will become a wildcard winner and still advance to round 2.
The winners will be posted late in the afternoon on August 31 and then round 2 will kick off the following Monday, September 1st, with all new 500 word submissions from the nine advancing contestants.
Good luck to all of the WRiTER’s!
In this corner welcome back to the ring.....Lord Codpiece
I was ten steps from the ballroom door, my pockets stuffed with stolen jewelry, when I stepped on someone’s foot.
"Watch yourself, you oaf!" a man spat.
I tried to ignore it, but he grabbed my shoulder and spun me around. That shook something loose from the stash hidden in my jacket; it fell into my right boot. Felt like one of the sapphire earrings.
"I called you an oaf," he said.
He was a highborn noble of the worst sort, young and fat-cheeked and angry. I wore the plain dyed woolens of a servant. It made me an easy target.
"Apologies, m'lord," I said. I kept my body still, to minimize the clinking of coins in half-a dozen purses tied to my belt. “I was just-“
"Wipe it off,” he said.
Oh, wonderful. This flabby brat was actually looking to start a fight. I took his measure while pretending to think it over. Soft was the word for him. His hands were uncalloused, no surprise there. He hadn’t done a hard day of work in his life. But I noticed the tan lines at the wrists. A gloved swordsman, then. A showoff. Probably got his practice on the household servants, ones who were afraid to draw their master’s blood. The least-capable man in my crew would have gutted him like a deer. There was no time for that, though. And we certainly didn’t want the attention.
"Pardon, m'lord?" I asked.
"You scuffed my boot. Wipe it off." His breath carried the mingled smells of wine and spiced meat.
I couldn’t refuse outright, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to oblige him. Obfuscation seemed like the best option. I made my voice cheerful.
“Can’t say I see it, m’lord,” I said.
A girl in a silk-and-taffeta gown (recently relieved of the gems on her bodice) tittered with laughter. Ah, so that was why he was putting on this display. Sure enough, his cheeks reddened even further.
“It’s right there!” he said.
The pearl-and-silver necklace I’d nicked just five minutes ago was threatening to spill out of my left sleeve, so I thought it best to head him off.
“I’ll be sure to have my eyes checked, m’lord,” I said. “But right now I’m to fetch another bottle for my master.”
“Who’s that?” he demanded.
I needed him to back off. That was the only way this would end quietly. So I spoke the name of the meanest and most dangerous noble that came to mind. “Lord Peyton,” I said.
Recognition bloomed in his eyes. He wasn’t as drunk as he seemed, and even the most wine-addled fool would know to be cautious, here. Peyton had challenged and killed men for smaller offenses than quarreling with his servants.
“You’ve heard of him, I take it,” I said.
“I’ve more than heard of him,” he said. “He’s my father.”
And in the other corner, also anxious to return to the ring, let me re-introduce.... Sapphire Eyes
“Let me go.”
The words bounced mercilessly off the white tile floor and marble countertops. Noah froze. A scuffed multimeter was trapped within the confines of his white-knuckled hand.
Those words meant one thing. We have to start all over again.
Noah dropped the multimeter. In his haste to reach his computer, he sent a cascade of microchips and wires crashing to the floor, but the resulting clatter didn’t faze him. He had work to do.
When he first met Ariel, Noah knew she was unique. Something worth exploring. He never knew whether he believed in love before that. No one else seemed to fit. Unlike the components of a computer, people didn’t insert themselves into designated slots. Unlike computer programs, they couldn’t be tweaked to suit his needs. Companionship was messy. Unpredictable. How could he be expected to navigate the complexities of another person’s emotions when he barely understood his own?
With Ariel, something felt right. She knew when not to push a subject that he didn’t feel comfortable with. She listened to him talk about his work, and she asked intelligent questions. She sat with him whilst he toiled away on a project, handing him a screwdriver or soldering gun when needed. When he was in the midst of writing a complex program, she brought him plates of food so he didn’t go hungry.
For a short while, he had everything he needed.
Noah collapsed into his computer chair, his fingers grazing the keyboard purposefully. He accessed the files he needed, searching out the lines of code to be erased.
Unbidden, his own problematic memories came to the surface.
“Stay with me.” When Ariel spoke these words, they were laced with fear. He’d been working on artificial intelligence software when the diagnosis came. Terminal cancer. She didn’t have much time.
“Hold my hand.” He’d been at a loss. He couldn’t face it, nor could he comfort her. Instead, he holed himself up in his lab, intent on saving her. After Ariel’s body perished, she lived on in lines of code, maintained by a computer that he’d built with his own hands.
She chatted with him in the beginning, her beautiful voice projected through the best speakers he could build. It truly did sound like her, and she seemed happy to be with him.
Then she began to feel trapped. Even with the worlds Noah programmed for her to explore, she grew weary.
“Let me go.” The first time she pleaded with him to end it, tears leaked from his eyes.
He couldn’t do as she asked, so he did the only thing he could think to do. He wiped away her memories of living inside the system, restoring her to the original elation she felt at having cheated death.
Now he had to do it again.
“I have to keep you happy,” Noah murmured as his nimble fingers worked. Each keystroke eliminated another memory that reminded Ariel of her incorporeal nature. “I have to keep you here!”
Remember the WRiTE CLUB motto, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!