WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Cage Bout #5



Reminder - The previous bouts are still taking your votes and you can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

Just two more contest (including this one) in the Cage Bout round and there is definitely no drop-off as far as the quality of the competition goes.

Here's how this works. Instead of two writers competing against one another as was the case is previous bouts, now it's THREE AT ONCE. The contestants will be using the same writing sample that allowed them to get this far, the only difference being that now they're up against new competitors. The readers/voters will have to choose one of the three to move on.  There will be six daily bouts (Mon-Sat), and no saves this time.



If you voted in the preliminary rounds, then there is no need to leave a critique with your vote this time, however, if this is your first time seeing these writers we do ask that you leave a brief critique because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-S), because of time restrictions the voting period will be staggered somewhat, so please pay attention to the dates posted. The voting for today’s bout will close on Tuesday, June 4th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent with a NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3) Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

Like the man say's


Our contestants for this cage bout (in random order) are -

MatchMaker


Adulting:

Adulting consisted of paying bills on time, doing the laundry on a Friday night, drinking skinny lattes after work, and telling social media that you just killed it in your Yoga class when in reality you sat on your couch, drank a protein shake in your yoga pants, and winced as you watched Zen girls contort into positions you could only get into while shaving your legs.

Old flings? They had nothing to do with adulting.

That’s what I told myself anyway, as I walked into the the tax office and landed right behind the most dangerous old fling of them all.

He looked good. I mean really good. Better than before, and I never would’ve thought that was possible.

The difference? This old fling wasn’t a boy anymore. He was a man. A man with facial hair and work boots. A man with calloused hands and a deep voice. A man with shoulders and property taxes.

But when he flashed his smile at me, all I could see was that boy. The one with the wild hair. The one with the reputation. The one with that life-changing, standard-raising, panty-dropping kiss.

And I was that girl again--the one with the contagious laugh, the one with no experience, the one who’d drowned in that life-changing, standard-raising, panty-dropping kiss.

I needed to get out of this line, go to Office Max, and buy myself a Lisa Frank binder so I could practice signing my name with his.

I was being ridiculous. I was an adult, not a nineteen-year-old, boy-crazy girl. I had my skinny latte to prove it.

I took a sip from the sugar-free, fat-free, caffeine-free, happiness-free coffee and tried to pay attention to the words coming out of his pretty lips.

Crap, he’d asked me a question. What was it? I wondered if, “Sure, I’ll make out with you,” was an appropriate response.

He laughed and repeated the question.

Ah. How was everyone doing from back then? My favorite topic.

See, the people he was referring to were actually adulting. They had careers, wedding plans, babies, husbands.

Me? I had a dog and a roommate.

He shook his head and muttered something about not being ready for all that. I lied and said I totally agreed. Who wanted comfort, stability, and unconditional love anyways? Along with old flings, lies had nothing to do with adulting.

But when he asked me to grab a drink, I decided I’d start adulting tomorrow.
#################################################################



Contestant number two is Organized Confusion


“Water.”
Erin spoke without opening her eyes. Her voice rasped and hissed through her dry throat, but Dean could still hear a touch of the old imperiousness underneath.
“Always bossing me around, aren't you, big sister?” he said as he held the straw against her cracked lips. She gave a faint smile and swallowed, rough and slow, before opening her eyes to look at him.
Even the dim light of the curtained room made her squint. Her blue eyes glittered feverishly in contrast to the dark circles around them. On her scalp—too sensitive now for the touch of a razor—short, frizzy hairs wafted in patches.
“I wouldn't have to boss you around if you'd get your shit together on your own.” Erin whispered her old refrain, repeated so many times since they were children. She squeezed his hand to counter the harshness of her words.
Dean kept her hand in his as they sat together. Outside the rumble and hiss of a school bus released a cluster of laughing, fighting children. He thought of his own children settling down to homework and nightly routine.
“You should go home,” she said for the third time in as many hours. “You have a job. A family. They need you.”
“Sure. I'll head out. Right after you make yourself a meal and vacuum this dump. If I see you do those things, I'll get right out of your hair.”
Dean remembered Erin saying this same thing to him when she'd stayed at his place during one of his lowest points, as an angry, depressed college student, drowning his emotions in alcohol. She'd been there for three weeks—cooking, cleaning, driving him to meetings. She'd saved his life with her persistence, and he knew it.
Apparently she remembered saying those words, too, because she smiled again. “Don't be a smart ass to your dying sister,” she scolded. “It's rude.”
“So was pouring out all my booze, but that didn't stop you.”
“That shit was killing you.” She wasn't wrong, so he didn't argue. The urge to throw something itched in his bones.
“You should go home,” she said again, so softly he almost didn't hear her. Her eyes fluttered closed.
Dean blinked to neutralize the tears that threatened. He set the glass on the bedside table and picked up his guitar. Plucking a slow, meandering tune—softly, to accommodate her sensitive ears—he watched her chest rise and fall in shallow breaths.
He'd stay as long as she did.
#################################################################



And finally, number three is Terrance East


"I can't feel my fingers."  I blinked against the bright light as my arms disappeared.
"Perfectly normal. Didn't you watch the induction hologram?"
"Of course, but I didn't think that things would just disappear." The room smelled of electricity and ozone. What had begun as a gentle hum now pulsed and throbbed.
"Your feet and lower legs should be going about now."
They did. I blinked again. A holocam hovered a little too close, and I blew a quick breath to shoo it away. I didn't appreciate that it was my last.
"Systems transference in three, two, one..."
The world went blindingly white. The transference room shimmered back into focus. The smell and sound were gone. Replaced by an overwhelming sense of the expanse of everything.
 "Wow."
"Impressive isn't it."
"It's... amazing. So much... nothing."
"You're no longer constrained by your physical body."
"This is incredible." I began to move and the room vanished as I went. I floated past the robotic operating table and the botnurse, then paused at the door.
"We don't encourage that."
"What?"
"98.724 percent of all Transferals stop to look back at their Organic. 76.387 percent have an adverse reaction."
"I'll risk it." I turned and looked back. The body on the table was pale, lifeless, and wrinkled. I knew it from a lifetime of mirrors. The head, my head, was encased inside the glowing circular opening of the transferal unit. The final vestige of humans as life forms.
Now, with transferal to The Cloud, I too would be immortal. Unlimited. At least my mind or my consciousness. Or my soul. I had wondered about that.
A yellow tint colored my world. The botnurse moved quickly to the glowing unit. It flickered..
"Level one. Adverse reaction."
"What's going on!? What's happening!?" I'm not proud to say I panicked. Totally freaked out and then -
The yellow tinted world twisted into charcoal gray.
"Mr. Templeton? Concentrate on the pinpoint of light in the center of your field of vision."
"There's nothing there!" The edges of the world were black and folding in.
"Find the light. Move towards it."
"There's no light!"

...

"...empleton? Mr. Templeton? Can you hear me? Mr. Templeton?"
"Yes?"
"Do you have functionality?"
"What the hell was that?"
"0.047 percent of Transferals suffer an initial boot issue. Yours was a full boot rejection. We restored from your system backup and you should be just fine."
"Should be?"
"There's a 99.994 percent acceptance rate."
"So that's 6 out of every --"
"It's not relevant, Mr. Templeton. You are free to go."
"That's it? Just go?" My consciousness spun around slowly. It was a different room. No table, no body, just the big picture window from our kitchen back in Texas.
"We've programmed a familiar environment with reference cues and the sensation of physicality. It will help you adjust. You may go."
With that, the walls dissolved and infinity stretched out beyond the vision of my backyard.
#################################################################


Please leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detractions.

We’ll be back tomorrow with the final cage bout. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!



WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Cage Bout #4



Reminder - The previous three bouts are still taking your votes and you can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

No rest for the weary here in WRiTE CLUB as we rush towards the championship. Today we bring back another group of winners to battle it out inside the infamous cage.

Here's how this works. Instead of two writers competing against one another as was the case is previous bouts, now it's THREE AT ONCE. The contestants will be using the same writing sample that allowed them to get this far, the only difference being that now they're up against new competitors. The readers/voters will have to choose one of the three to move on.  There will be six daily bouts (Mon-Sat), and no saves this time.



If you voted in the preliminary rounds, then there is no need to leave a critique with your vote this time, however, if this is your first time seeing these writers we do ask that you leave a brief critique because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-S), because of time restrictions the voting period will be staggered somewhat, so please pay attention to the dates posted. The voting for today’s bout will close on Tuesday, June 4th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent with a NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3) Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

Like the man say's


Our contestants for this cage bout (is random order) are -

Sunshine&Rainbows


The fate of Santi’s world balanced on a feather’s edge… and the back of his thieving chicken.

Hundreds of shoppers made a dull roar like a heavy rain on a tin roof. The aroma of cinnamon fry bread permeated the air, broken intermittently by the scent of mule dung and perspiration.

Frango, Santi’s best pickpocket, flapped his wings and then strutted into the browsing crowds at the souk, hunting for shiny baubles small enough to carry back to their hideout. Exactly the way Santi had explained.

The more Frango brought back, the larger his pile of feed at the end of the day. The bird brain wasn’t the smartest fowl around, but Frango understood that.

Sweat beaded on Santi’s upper lip, and his stomach growled. For most of Santi’s barnyard cohorts, feed was currency, but Santi needed a good payday.

Frango darted between people, ducked beneath goods tables, and challenged the fat tabby that the grocer employed to keep the rats at bay. Though, Santi had never seen the feline with anything rodent-like in his mouth.

A monk exited the convent to ring the hourly bells, the deep tones vibrating loud enough to silence the mob. A cart rumbled by, blocking Santi’s view of his feathered partner. He tipped up on his toes and peered over, catching the eye of a well-dressed woman on the other side of the street.

Santi turned and dropped back into the shadow of a stoop. He had to look out for his little friend, but, in their line of work, undue attention never helped.

Down the way, a man yelped, drawing Santi’s gaze.

The thick-shouldered, sour-faced man muttered words Santi couldn’t make out and rubbed at his bottom, a line of a dozen gold hoops quivered in his ear and gold chains circled his neck, his nose a little too high in the air.

Something must have gotten him, and it wasn’t the first time Frango had pecked the mayor’s ass.

In a flash of iridescent feathers, Frango bolted around the corner toward home, and Santi grinned. He couldn’t make out what Frango had in his beak, but it could mean food for an evening or food for a week… or more, if they were lucky.

Being able to communicate with animals hadn’t been the curse that Santi initially expected. Thanksgiving might be in order.

He set a leisurely pace toward the hovel they shared near the cemetery. The local authorities hadn’t yet figured out the band of creature misfits, so the slip-away would be easy. He winked at the row of grandmothers that sat in the shade cast by the eaves of the shrine, waiting on the nuns to come out and bestow the alms of the Matriarch.

Curses filled the air, and women gasped at the language. Santi crouched and pretended to re-lace his leather boots so he could keep an eye on the mayor. 

“I’ll butcher that chicken,” the mayor bellowed, “if it’s the last thing I do.”
#################################################################



Contestant number two is Cardigan Fig


Through the barred window high on his cell, Tulloch studied three stars of the Crow Constellation. He couldn't take this anymore. He missed being able to see all the stars. Missed walking under the night's sky--or any sky. Missed quiet. Donnelly should be here, not him. If he had to spend the rest of his life behind bars he should have the chance to kill his brother first.

He smeared his hands up his face and gritted his teeth against the need to scream. The second star of the constellation winked out. He blinked. The darkness where the star had been moved. Something flew straight at him. He ducked. The object passed through the bars of his fourth floor cell and landed with a clang on the floor.

That clang echoed through an eerily silent prison. Hairs rising on the back of  his neck, he turned to the door, straining for any sound of life without. The curses, yells, sobs, moans, and groans, he'd been trying to tune out were gone.

Since his arrest eleven months ago, he'd not experienced a silence this deep.

A shiver ran down his spine. Moving slowly, he turned to search his cell's floor. By dim hall lights, he could pick out a small, dark blob. He bent to scoop it up. His fingers curled around a key.

Tulloch straightened, his eyes glued to the iron key he couldn't see in his hand. The identification of type of metal by weight and touch warmed his heart. Convict or not, he was still a jeweler. He looked at the door. He glanced at the window.

Ignorant political prisoner he might be, but he understood this: if a key fell into your cell, you did not stop to ask where it came from or how. You didn't wonder who gave it to you.

You used it.

Then again.

He squinted at the window. A key sailing perfectly through the bars of a fourth-floor cell, only one way that happens. He shuddered and looked at his door.

Five bars cut across the upper half of the iron door fitted into the stone wall. He could drop the key through those bars. Reject this gift and the obligations that came with it. Stay here. He shuddered again. No. No, he couldn't.

Silence radiated outside his door. His own breath far too loud in his ears, he crept to the bars, pressed his face into them, and strained to look both ways down the corridor. As far as he could tell, it was empty.

He cleared his mind of all but one thought that circled in his head: an order not to drop the key.

Hands that had once been so steady they'd done fine filigree in silvers and golds shook as he shoved his arm through the bars. He forced himself to take a deep breath. He could do this. Metal screeched against metal as he trailed the key awkwardly around the iron plating, searching for the lock. 
#################################################################



And finally, number three is Ms. Sunnydale


It took me five years to forget the ocean. The memory didn’t leave all at once. Rather, it leaked from my mind little by little like a seeping wound: first the sound of waves, then the smell of salt, the keening of seagulls, and so on.

Mercifully, other pleasures went quicker. In two years, I couldn’t recall the taste of fast food, or the lyrics to that pop song. In three, I’d forgotten the good scald of a shower and the shudder of a bus engine beneath me. Like society, like peace, memory is a fleeting thing.

I wish I could forget him as easily. But the memory of him in the nursery window is still there, infecting my brain like a persistent poison.

Jossana.” The way he had said my name was a song. A prayer. I heard more hope in it than a hymn, even if it had been spoken by a sinner. And not just any sinner. A Reb. The Steadfaster elders say their name like an obscenity, if they say it at all. As though not speaking the name will make the Reb’s offenses less real. As though we could forget the heathens who usurped our government, plundered our food, set fire to our cities. Under the Rebs, violence had spread like a plague—hot rashes of anger and oozing grudges infecting anyone with a bone to pick.

But the boy in the window hadn’t come for violence that night. He came only for a song. As irony would have it, it was Amazing Grace. My brother Tannen had asked me to sing it while I tucked him in, because he still believed in the magic and goodness in its words. And me? I had outgrown magic and knew better than to trust goodness, so I sang it hoping it would make me a better sister than I was a Steadfaster.

A good Steadfaster would have called out when she saw the boy, yelled for the elders in the other room. But it had been my fault. I had popped the plywood from the window that night to let the breeze in. And instead of feeling threatened when my eyes snapped around the boy’s silhouette, I had felt the immoral tug of excitement.

But neither had the boy come armed, as far as I could tell. Rather, he wielded a smile that dug out two shallow dimples in his cheeks, and eyes that cupped warm candlelight.

And a question, What’s your name, girl?

To which I answered, Jossana.

When he echoed it, the word had taken flight off his lips like an enchanted, winged thing, more beautiful than it had the right to be. I wonder if it might have floated off that night, taking part of me with it so I would never be quite whole again.

Perhaps that’s why I don’t remember the ocean, but I remember every shade of blue and green in his eyes.

Memory is an enduring, excruciating thing.
#################################################################


Please leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detractions.

We’ll be back tomorrow with yet another cage bout. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!



WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Cage Bout #3


Reminder - Bouts 1 & 2 are still taking your votes and you can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

No rest for the weary here in WRiTE CLUB as we rush towards the championship. Today we bring back another group of winners to battle it out inside the infamous cage.

Here's how this works. Instead of two writers competing against one another as was the case is previous bouts, now it's THREE AT ONCE. The contestants will be using the same writing sample that allowed them to get this far, the only difference being that now they're up against new competitors. The readers/voters will have to choose one of the three to move on.  There will be six daily bouts (Mon-Sat), and no saves this time.



If you voted in the preliminary rounds, then there is no need to leave a critique with your vote this time, however, if this is your first time seeing these writers we do ask that you leave a brief critique because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-S), because of time restrictions the voting period will be staggered somewhat, so please pay attention to the dates posted. The voting for today’s bout will close on Tuesday, June 4th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent with a NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3) Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

Like the man say's


Our contestants for this first cage bout (is random order) are -

OpheliaPansies

Nyx couldn’t feel her fingers or toes. Her consciousness waned as someone carried her down the corridor of a ship. It looked like the Thanatos, but the blur of the tan panels as they sped by could’ve been any other ship.

She moaned, and a deep voice hushed her. Her black jumpsuit was soaked and white parka frost-covered. She shivered, iced to the bone.

A door slid open, and the person cradling her set her on a soft bed.

Fingers unzipped the parka, unbuttoned the front on her uniform, and peeled the wet fabric from her body. The white tank underneath clung in frozen folds. Nothing was going to heat her back up.

Her eyes fluttered as the hulking figure of Malcam sat her up and pulled off her underclothes, then wrapped her in a dry blanket. He laid her down and piled her wet hair on a towel, melting the icicles at the ends. Maybe it was time to cut it again, her head spun through the drowse of cold.

A weight settled next to her, hot. Arms circled her, pulled her close, and her uneven breath slowed, heartbeat steadying. A hand rubbed hard against her arm.

She didn’t understand why Malcam was so insistent. He was her enemy.

She tried to turn, but the blanket wrapping her was tight, and her limbs cold-numbed. Something had happened. She wouldn’t die because of the nano-bots in her blood. Couldn’t die. But she was in danger of losing consciousness, maybe forever.

She fought to open her eyes.

Malcam’s voice whispered, panicked. “Come on. Don’t go to sleep.”

She muttered, tongue thick.

“That’s it. Stay awake. Stay with me. Don’t leave me.”

Nyx flexed her fingers, tiny motions, painfully, one-by-one. She hadn’t lost any to frostbite.

“That’s it. Move. Just a little.” His voice frantic.

He pressed his fiery feet against her tingling toes. The pain of the temperature difference seared through her legs. She pushed her toes, hardened by the cold, straight. She curled them. They wouldn’t move.

Malcam wrapped his legs and twined his feet with hers, pouring heat from his body.

Nyx’s cold-fogged mind dimmed. Her nano-bots wouldn’t allow damaged tissue to be a part of her system. Frostbite could be battled, but she could still lose her toes, her feet. The nano-bots would cut off resources to that part of her system if deemed irreparable. They would concentrate on what could be fixed. So, she had to move her toes to prove to the system they were viable.

She gripped Malcam’s hand. He clutched hers back. She squeezed her toes down as hard as she could, pain ripping through her legs. Her toes clenched, gently scratching the tops of his feet.

Nyx rolled her head towards Malcam, their faces close, lips nearly touching, his breath on her face. She blinked, engulfed in his bright blue gaze.

He wrapped a hand to her forehead.


He was dangerous. He shouldn’t be helping her. She shuddered. She’d owe him now.
#################################################################



Contestant number two is Hijinks Aplenty


Everything was done to the letter: The candles were made of black wax, the pentagram flawless, the invocation properly pronounced. You’d checked, double checked, and independently verified that the summoning would take place below a genuine hanging tree where a witch met her fate. And it’d worked! So why deny your request?

“Is it my soul?” you ask.

“No,” the Devil waves his well-manicured hand. A glinting amber ring that you’re sure wasn’t there a moment ago reflects the firelight. “Your soul is fairly attractive… for one who hasn’t accomplished much. That’s normal. The already accomplished rarely seek a deal with me.”

You think on that for a moment. There must be something you’ve overlooked. Your spine snaps as it hits you.

“Rattlesnake blood!”

“Hmmm?” the Devil hums. He’s wandered to the tree and is idly prodding the bark, which crumbles to ash below his fingers. The amber ring sparks with each tap.

“You’d have preferred rattlesnake blood. I knew it! Rooster is pedestrian.” You beat a fist against your thigh. You should never have listened to HisDarkestNight on that community forum.

The Devil scoffs, an amused curl to his lip. There’s a sizable hole in the tree now. You look to the large branches overhead and take a hasty step back.

“Your ritual was fine. I try not to judge. Nor make pageantry out of it.” He snorts and sends a meaningful look to the star-encrusted sky. A dark gray fedora has appeared on his head.

“I don’t understand.”

“Look, times have changed.”

The tree creaks a groan. The Devil smoothly strides to you and pats your shoulder.

“These individual contracts aren’t efficient anymore.”

“Efficient?” you echo.

“Exactly! Time is a competitive advantage these days, and my time has become a bottleneck. Much as I enjoy personalization, I am no longer accepting unique requests. We have an online catalogue now that will suck your soul out right through the screen, once you’ve made a decision on which terms best fit your goals. You do have access to the internet, don’t you?”

You stare for some time. A pocket watch slithers out of the vest he didn’t have on. Swallowing, you eke out, “Yes.”

“Splendid!” The Devil shakes your hand and turns to go. He pauses, smoke curling up from his feet. Using two fingers as pincers, he snatches up the candle flames, popping them into his mouth like candy.

“Mm, French Vanilla. Good choice.” He flicks a business card at you, says, “I look forward to your future business,” and vanishes in a spurt of fire.

The gold etchings on the card sparkle in your recovering eyes as you blink at it. The Devil’s voice suddenly whispers against your ear, “Oh, and I wouldn’t stand just there.”

A deafening crack rends the air. You flail, backpedaling before curtaining your face with your hands. The tree crashes down. Heart galloping, you tumble to your backside, branches framing you.

You resist the urge to thank God.
#################################################################



And finally number three is The Bulging Ballpoint


Shiny and new, she's lost her shoe,
Ruby red, the girl is dead.

Grace found the shoe on one of her treasure hunts.

Once a week, she scoured her neighborhood for discarded objects she could recycle into artwork. This morning she’d taken a detour through Whispering Woods, an aspen filled copse. She’d rummaged through undergrowth and freshly shed leaves, with the deftness of someone working in a sorting office.

It was the color that caught her eye. The shoe looked like a floating cherry in a sea of butter-colored leaves. Given its size, she guessed it belonged to a child of about three. Same age as Molly. Picking it up, as if it were the child itself, Grace cradled it.

Caressing the shoe, she’d envisioned the little foot that had lost it, plump still with baby fat. She imagined a defiant toddler, tottering and plodding. Just like Molly.

Five years had passed without her daughter. How she’d survived even one day, was incomprehensible, but she had. Her life had moved on. Different, but on. She’d been cautioned during therapy about the high rate of divorce between couples who’d lost a child, but engulfed in her own hell, she’d neither listened nor cared  -  the words as meaningless as her existence.

Instead of fleeing though, her husband, Sam, had stood fast, cocooning her in unconditional love. Her broken jigsaw of a heart had fused, piece by piece, into a new whole.

His work as a pediatric surgeon, had saved him, he’d said.

Still holding the shoe, Grace considered leaving it, in case the mother returned. Deciding that was unlikely, she’d dropped it gently into her goodie bag, telepathically promising the unknown child’s mother that she’d treasure it by recycling it into art.

An idea for repurposing the shoe flashed through her mind. A signal, Grace thought, from the child’s mother: her sign of approval. She’d hurried home, eager to begin sketching her idea.

Grace’s phone buzzed while she was unlocking the front door.

“Late tonight sweetie. Emergency surgery. x ”

She sighed reading Sam’s text, knowing its implications. Poor Sam. Poor parents. Poor child.

Switching on the TV, Grace emptied her haul onto the kitchen table, ready to begin her cataloging process. Amidst the muted tones of sticks and stones, her prized shoe glowed. A precious ruby amongst nature’s debris.  

BREAKING NEWS: Police are asking for the public’s help in finding three year old Hanna James, who went missing last night near Whispering Woods. Hanna was wearing a blue dress, red coat and red leather shoes…

A girl’s face flooded the screen.

Molly! It’s Molly. But Molly is dead.

The room becomes a kaleidoscope of Mollys  -  Molly bubbling with life; stagnant with death  -  her distorted face spinning and swirling, exhuming sorrow; appointing blame.

Hurtling herself outside for air, Grace sprints to the trash can and throws-up, spraying its contents.


It’s there she sees it. Splattered beneath her vomited breakfast, the toe of a little red shoe.
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Please leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detractions.

We’ll be back tomorrow with another cage bout. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!



 

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