Thursday, March 8, 2012

#ThursThreads - The Challenge that Ties Tales Together - Week 13

Welcome back to the Weird, the Wild, & the Wicked. Did you see Cara Michaels' bonus scene yesterday, the day her new book came out? No? Well check it out and comment to have the chance to win her new release. And also get a copy of Gaea's Chosen: The Mayday Directive! ;) But now it's Thursday, so what should you be doing? Writing #FlashFiction, that's what! Welcome to lucky Week 13 of #ThursThreads, the challenge that ties tales together. Need the rules? Read on!

Here's how it works:
  • The prompt is a line from the previous week's winning tale.
  • The prompt can appear ANYWHERE in your story and is included in your word count.
Rules to the Game:
  • This is a Flash Fiction challenge, which means your story must be a minimum of 100 words, maximum of 250.
  • Incorporate the prompt anywhere into your story (included in your word count).
  • Post your story in the comments section of this post
  • Include your word count (or be excluded from judging)
  • Include your Twitter handle or email (so we know how to find you)
  • The challenge is open 7 AM to 7 PM Pacific Time
  • The winner will be announced on Friday, depending on how early the judge gets up. ;)
How it benefits you:
  • You get a nifty cool badge to display on your blog or site (because we're all about promotion - you know you are!)
  • You get instant recognition of your writing prowess on this blog!
  • Your writing colleagues shall announce and proclaim your greatness on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus

Our Judge for Week 13:

The ever-lucky, militarily trained, Star Trek fanatic, Jeffrey Hollar.

And now your #ThursThreads Challenge, tying tales together.

The Prompt:

"Were they preparing a surprise for him?"

Away with you, Flash Fiction Fanatics, and show us your #ThursThread. Good luck! :)


  1. Cob returned to the aerie with his deerskin sack. As he reached the cliff face, he looked down over the nearby structures in the valley. Cob could see three human ranches. When Anther first brought him here, he had thought he could see the human ranch he had escaped. They’d have a new bull by now. Did any of them remember him, miss him? Did any of his children know their father wasn’t on the ranch and wonder why?

    Probably not. The manticore tried to keep the humans docile by preventing strong attachments, moving humans regularly. Cob was relieved to have escaped, but at the same time, he was lonely without any of his kind. The gryphons of this aerie had adopted him, cared for him, but they were not his family, his cows.

    As it happened, they weren’t home.

    The aerie was strangely silent. Fel, the hatchling, hadn’t left the aerie for more than a few moments. However, he and his mother were gone for the first time that Cob could recall.

    What were they doing? Were they preparing a surprise for him?

    Cob packed away his food near his nest until he heard wingbeats and shouting. “No! Stop! No! Down! No!” The voice wasn’t Fel’s, although the vocabulary was similar. Not the baby Gryphon but rather a young human girl.

    “Here,” Anther said, setting the girl on her feet. “See? Human.”

    The girl appraised Cob only a moment before wrapping her arms around his waist. “Save me.”

    249 words

  2. Were they preparing a surprise for him? That's how it sounded. It was, after all, his birthday, but he thought they didn't even like him.

    Most of the time, they avoided him or only pretended to be interested in his tireless ramblings about the wastrel, Bertie Wooster and his valet, Jeeves, along with anything else that had been written by the same author.

    Finally, they invited him over and, when he got there, told him they had planned a special evening inspired by P. G. Wodehouse.

    "First, let's have some dinner," said his host, motioning everyone to the table.

    As they began enjoying their bisque, the other guests smiled and wished him a happy birthday.

    "Thank you," he sobbed, "I didn't know you cared."

    As the table was cleared and the main course was brought out, his eyebrows arched and he couldn't help but grin. The host noticed his reaction.

    "Oh, yes, in case you're wondering why we said tonight was inspired by P. G. Wodehouse, it's because of the strychnine in the soup. I see the spasms have already started."

  3. Jacob grew restless. He tugged at his bonds, duct tape was definitely not his restraint of choice in the bedroom.

    When he'd met Alana and her sister Alice at the pub earlier that night he thought he made the score of a lifetime. Identical gorgeous blondes who wanted to take him home and do unspeakable things to him,things they had no problem speaking about.

    But now, as he lay naked splayed out on their bed he'd wondered where they'd gone. It had been nearly half an hour since they left the bedroom. Were they preparing a surprise for him?

    Jacob heard a noise at the door, it opened to reveal the twins.

    "Ladies! Finally! Hey, I'm into role playing and all but um... Freddie and Jason? Wait... hey, those blades look real...."

    133 words

  4. "Were they preparing a surprise for him?" Reverend Hoyt regarded the room, the tiny gears in his eye whirring as it focused on the empty room, working like a spyglass. I had never been one for the eye enhancement, you had to shut your real one when the ‘Smithed one kicked in or else you ended up with one hell of a headache.

    Confetti and gaily-hued ribbon adorned the street, blown in the wind like autumn leaves. The stuff had gotten all over everything; the boardwalk, the hitching posts, the butcher’s horseless. A veritable rainbow of paper sprinkles floated in a water-filled pail. Every once in a while, a balloon would get free of the room and go dancing off into the clear, blue sky.

    Not that your average birthday bash came with the smell of gunpowder. Under normal circumstances, they didn’t blow out an entire wall, either. I turned my head and regarded the body still stuck to the side of Rosalie’s little restaurant. He was twenty feet up the siding, perfectly upright, and pinned up like a bug in a collection courtesy of an iron lamp hook that protruded from his chest. His eyes were open, his jaw hung wide and slack. From the room directly across the street, there was the unmistakable [i]squeeeeeee![/i] as a bouncing balloon hit something sharp.

    “I’d say he was surprised.”

    228 words
    Nancy P.

  5. "Were they preparing a surprise for him?"His return was momentous.
    He could hear them breathing in the dark room, sudden sounds of people moving ever so slightly, hit his senses. When he had awakened a few minutes ago, he had been surprised to find himself here. He could shout but he didn’t want to ruin the surprise. He loved surprises did they know that? The darkness was taken away with the sounds of something being ripped away above his face. It was then he realized he had been lying prone. He felt them unwarp him from his bindings.
    “An excellent specimen, perfectly preserved. “the man said ignoring him.
    “What dynasty do you think he was from?” the other man asked.
    “Perhaps the third or 4th dynasty of the old Kingdom?” answered the man holding up a knife he pointed at his chest cutting it open.
    It was then that Zanakht realized someone had sabotaged his eternal life. They had not removed his heart and organs, only his vocal cords and his ability to move. His heart still beat in his chest, but not for long. Pain blistered into his brain and he begged for release from the soldering pain of the knife.
    “That’s odd. I thought the heart was beating.” the man said
    Zanakht’s sight narrowed even more to a pin of light and he smiled.No pain, no sorrow, just joy. He’d found eternal life.
    “A great specimen for the museum.” was the last thing he heard.
    250 words

  6. The corpse’s eyes stared at the ceiling. His right hand clutched his heart. His mouth opened wide and was frozen into a screaming mask.

    “Were they preparing a surprise for him?” the detective asked.

    “No, nothing special. Wife said he came home from work, took two steps through the door, and fell over,” the coroner said.

    “Heart attack.”

    “It looks that way, but I have my doubts.”

    “Yeah, why’s that?”

    “Well, for one thing, rigor mortis has set in.”

    “What’s that mean,” the detective asked, stepping to the other side of the body. As he listened to the coroner, his eyes roved around the room.

    “It means he’s been dead awhile. It’s only six o’clock. If he got off work at five, like his wife says, he would’ve gotten home, let’s say, around five thirty. We arrived on the scene at five forty-five. That’s not enough time for him to be in the condition he’s in.”

    The detective walked into the kitchen, which was as neat as a pen. No signs of dinner awaiting a man who’d just gotten home from work.

    The garbage can had a top on it. He took a pencil out of his pocket and looked under the lid. Nothing unusual. Looks like leftovers from the night before. Meatloaf, apparently. A yellowish powder clung to the sides of the plastic bag.

    “Come look at this,” he said to the coroner.

    Peering over the rim, the coroner shook his head. “Another case of arsenic and old lace.”

    250 Words

  7. Were they preparing a surprise for him?

    He didn’t know, but the place sure looked deserted. Of course, that would be their plan, hiding their intentions. He approached cautiously, eyeing the windows and the front door, looking for any evidence or clues. The street outside was absent of any vehicles save for old man McIntyre’s jalopy down the block, but these people could be cunning, especially knowing that he was on his way.

    He checked the gun at his hip, making sure it was secure. He always did this before entering buildings—especially homes—as he’d heard too many horror stories of officers accidentally discharging their weapons.

    He approached the door with caution, listening for sounds inside. He thought he heard someone stir, or perhaps a moan or laugh of some sort, but he couldn’t be sure. The hair on his arms and the back of his neck stood at attention as he tried the handle, found that it was unlocked, and opened it quickly.

    “Surprise, Daddy!”

    “Surprise, Officer Millen!”

    “Happy Birthday!”

    He beamed happily as he looked over his children, wife, a few fellow officers, and friends. Just as he’d suspected, although he’d never tell them that his police “gut” had stolen away their wonderfully crafted surprise.

    208 words

  8. His eyes droop as he turns the page, but Tommy fights sleep and the dreams that will come with it. There, the monsters lay in wait.

    The monsters can be patient, because they know that Tommy can’t resist forever. He comes every night, tumbling away from consciousness into their dark lair to play dangerous games. Tommy shivers as he thinks of the cold, rusted steel and pointy edges of the monsters’ playground. A fragile boy could lose his life playing with them, but they give him no choice.

    Tommy furrows his brow and concentrates on little Alice and her White Hare. First she’s tumbling down the hole and then Tommy feels his stomach lurch within him. He wants to give a little shout to wake himself up, but he’s pushed too long and can’t fight any longer.

    The darkness surrounds him as he touches down on something fetid and soft, like gone-over fruit. It puffs up a rank smell and he knows instinctively that it’s the smell of death. In sleep-slow movements, Tommy scrambles away from the too-soft thing as it starts to move. Glowing green eyes open and Tommy opens his mouth to scream.

    The monster puckers his lips and shushes Tommy before he can make sound. The air from the thing’s maw is hot and sour. Behind it, Tommy can hear the others coming to play.

    Were they preparing a surprise for him?

    Oh, he feared that they were.

    241 words

  9. It is alarming that they come so close to me and find places to hide. Do they not feel my eyes burn into them? Do they not hear my pounding heart? Two of them closest to me whisper. I strain to hear their words, through hissing lips and cut short giggles. What are they doing? Quietly, I maneuver myself closer, never leaving the solace of the shadows. The Darkness is puzzled at their game as well.

    I smell them and my eternal hunger ignites. I fight back the demands to take them, out of curiosity. The Darkness does not urge me otherwise.

    “He’ll be coming this way, I tell you,” I am able to make out what one says.

    “Were they preparing a surprise for him?”

    “A surprise fit for us,” it says.

    A shadow appears, elongated on the paved street intersecting with the alley. It bounces forward and stretches across the intersection. The boys hiding in the shadows with me quiver. The footsteps clack louder and louder. A foot appears as though out of nowhere at the corner of the building and they lunge forward.

    Their victim shrieks his surprise as the boys begin punching and kicking him. Yelled taunts circle in the air. My time has come. In a few steps, I am at the intersection. I do not mean to be the hero of the boy but the hunger has gone out of my control. I snap the assailants’ necks as he escapes narrowly from my reach.

    250 Words #WIP

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  11. Reality is not always as it appears.

    For, as they crept stealthily towards the still but hulking sloth, Rinkelsheth gave no sign of his calculating observation of their advance.

    With aeons invested in mentalism, he had long since mastered the sustenance equation.

    Swift hunters always errantly elected pursuit of the laggard. Such a conjecture is only reasonable to the arrogant. The inviolable requirement of nourishment demands cautious esteem of all players in the circle of life.

    These, however, although within physical striking distance of their prey, were completely unaware of the impending disequilibrium. Their plans, to feast upon this massive amount of game, had been framed by the projections of an oversized chameleon.

    Rinkelsheth’s own approach to the hunt was always one of perfect sport. The game afoot for him was not simply for survival of the flesh, but for the invigoration of the mind.

    Their salivary stalking of olfactory trails was but an RSVP to an invitation to his banquet.

    He was now but moments away from unveiling the most dire fallacy of their strategy – bigger is neither slow, lazy, nor stupid.

    Were they preparing a surprise for him? Only, inasmuch as they would taste much better than chicken.

    200 words

    1. Could such a mass be characteristic of easy prey?

  12. Griryss had been watching the humans for several months now. They had fascinating routines, many of them performing essentially the same sequence of actions every five days out of seven—there were even some who had rigid behavior patterns for the other two days. Individually they were a rather weak species, and yet in social groups they seemed capable of astounding feats.

    Too weak to adapt to their environment, they showed remarkable ingenuity in the construction of structures and devices to adapt their environment to their own narrow comfort band. It had been one of their flying devices that had drawn Griryss to the humans. Something they called an Air Plane. When it passed him in the air he briefly feared one of the Elders had followed him to this distant world.

    Following the Air Plane to the heart of human civilization, Griryss discovered wonders he could have never imagined on the home world. He fed himself on the humans’ livestock and observed their ways for a full season and in his mind had grown quite close to the quaint species.

    For their part, the humans had adjusted to Griryss’ presence as well. They learned that he could see through their walls, but not through lead. Last week they had constructed an entire building of the impenetrable metal. Were they preparing a surprise for him?

    225 words

  13. Business Is Business

    The tar on the rooftop was tacky and Taylor had little doubt becoming a permanent stain on his clothing. It wasn’t as if he were lying atop the abandoned building with hopes of introducing tar stains as the next sartorial trend. This was business, plain and simple, and business trumped personal comfort every single day of his week.

    He shifted slightly and brought the spotter scope to his eye. The distance was too great for its limited optics to offer him much detail, but it told him two things he, really, needed to know.

    The clients were early and they’d breached the terms of the deal by bringing someone with them. He sighed softly. Were they planning some kind of surprise for him? He knew the answer to that all too well. How many times had this scenario played out and played out badly?

    He provided a service to people who had reasons for not wanting to go through proper channels. He provided quality goods at competitive prices and he delivered on time. He honored his obligations stringently. If THEY were unwilling or unable to conduct a simple business transaction without trying to dick him over or cheat him, that was fine with him. He didn’t really understand why they did it but his response was inevitably the same.

    If they didn’t want the organ he had in the cooler next to him, somebody would. He slid back from the roof’s edge, stowed his stuff and melted away into the night.

    250 words @klingorengi

    I know I'm not eligible, but couldn't resist playing along.

  14. Retirement Party
    By Wakefield Mahon
    Special Agent Frank Dodge prepared to hang up his badge after thirty years of service with a degree of melancholy. He had spent his whole life with the bureau, but it would be great to spend time finally with his wife and two daughters. He wanted to talk to his boss, Jim, but he had left on some errand, so he packed up his desk can carted everything to his blue station wagon.

    Frank pulled into the neighborhood where his modest suburban home nestled conspicuously between two far more ornate residences. The presence of his supervisor's SUV and his ex-partner's cars caught his attention immediately. Were they preparing a surprise for him? If they were, then they were doing a sloppy job. They could have at least parked down the block or behind the house.

    It was quieter than he expected when he walked up to the door. For birthday parties and similar occasions, one of his kids would giggle and give the group away.

    His initial response to his reception was to roll his eyes. His family and friends lay neatly side by side, each with a single gunshot through the head. "Are you serious guys? That is so cliché."

    Closer inspection sent chills up his spine. It was no elaborate prank; they were all dead.
    Even worse, the gun that he kept locked up lay accusingly on the dining room table.

    Special Agent Frank Dodge had one more investigation and this time it was very personal.

    248 words

  15. Trekking around the Great Sands was trying on the off season. Doing it during the height of the sun was asking for a death wish. He was never bothered by it. The hat with the wide brim shielded his face along with white fabric wrapped around his head. A weathered burka covered the rest of his body, the insulation keeping him from overheating.

    The shaded goggles covering his eyes protected the retinas from burnout. A fool didn’t wear goggles for the risk of going blind from the brightness of the sun bouncing off the ground.

    The ground shimmered with false images, an oasis that wasn’t there. Peeking over a dune were tall black towards, painted to soak in the horrible heat. A fight against the sun to remain where it is, a refuge for everyone.

    He started up the last dune before he stopped, head tilting. Bandits. Where they preparing a surprise for him? The sun must have baked their brains. He could hear the grains of sand shifting with their movements.

    He pulled a long cylinder out and aimed it towards the middle of the dune. A pull of the trigger launched the projectile. The missile hit with a thud, the head of it sinking into the shifting ground before it moved, burrowing further. There were muffled cries, movement under the sand and a whumph. The sand on the top lifted up before settling, tiny grains skittered down as he continued past the still dune to the city.

    249 words

  16. “Someone liked stars,” Det. Cassie Tucker remarked, pointing at the ceiling.

    “Yes, Michael was really into astronomy.”

    She nodded at Michael’s stepfather and scanned the room. Toys and stuffed animals were strewn about in apparent violent disarray, but something seemed off. She settled a hand on her hip and surreptitiously thumbed off the safety on her Sig.

    Cassie had seen the brightly colored streamers and balloons downstairs, with a birthday cake slumping forlornly on the dining room table. Pieces had been cut and laid carefully on paper plates, but again, they’d been arranged to meticulously to be normal.

    “Were they preparing a surprise for him?”

    “Yes, his mother and I were.”

    “According the other guests, you weren’t expected home until late. Is that true?”

    The little, balding man’s eyes shifted toward the closet and back, and he nodded. “I got off early and thought I’d surprise him.”

    I just bet you did. “Hey, Daniels?”

    “Yeah, Tucker?”

    “Could you come in here a moment?”

    Her partner sauntered into the room, filling the space with his six foot five inch frame. The little man eyed him warily. Cassie picked her way through the toy debris toward the closet, careful not to disturb anything. Was that a soft sob she heard?

    She pulled a latex glove out of her pocket and snapped it on, grasping the closet handle.

    “No –!”

    Cassie yanked the door open and looked down into a pair of frightened eyes, his mouth gagged.

    “Hello, Michael. Where’s your mom?”

    250 ineligible words

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  18. “He’ll never suspect. He’s so besotted with the child he’ll never see us coming.”

    Mom spoke carelessly, not caring if I heard, and I could just make out the rumble of a man’s voice on the other end of her phone call. I wanted to hope she talked to Dad, but the two of them couldn’t be together without turning on each other like animals I’d only seen on nature shows.

    I never showed favoritism, because I knew she would leap the moment I chose Dad. Look what one trick with the light had wrought.

    I coughed, tasting the metal tang of blood.

    I blinked my eyes, seeing the sparks of color marking the recent trails of those who’d walked this room. Mom’s tangerine energy crisscrossed with Dad’s violet. I reached for Dad’s energy, wanting only to pull the memories of his strength around me. Mom saw, of course, and jumped like summer lightning. The spike heel of her shoe drove straight through my hand and I screamed.

    “Not so smart, were they? Preparing a surprise for him, especially one involving you—they should have taken more care to hide their tracks. I know what you are now.” She ground her heel back and forth, drawing a cry from me.

    “Hush, baby,” she whispered. “You’ll spoil my fun.”

    She lifted a bat, stained by my blood, and swung.

    228 words

  19. They looked like Jehovah’s Witnesses who had been made over by Elvira. One was tall, thin and her blonde hair hung around her face in ringlets. She introduced herself first. “Hi, I’m Cindy. This is Jo.” Jo was short with hazelnut skin. They both wore huge sunglasses. Before Cindy could spin a lie to get in the house, they were invited in by waving arms and shush-noises, a chorus of “you’ll ruin it” and “he’s coming” ringing around them.

    The choruses died in an explosion of movement that looked like a freeze-frame film. Cindy and Jo tore the family apart, and left their bodies on the ground just like the confetti—colorful and limp.

    When Ken got home, they were waiting; and he didn’t take long, the small thing. The ladies surveyed their work, pushing their fangs back out of sight.

    “So, were they preparing a surprise for him?” Jo said, high-fiving a balloon floating beside her.

    Cindy wiped the corner of her mouth with her pinky. “I suppose they were. Surprise.”


  20. She stared down at the plate in front of her that somehow, it reminded her of the tattered remains of her marriage. Her knife and fork lay, used and dirty, on opposite sides of the plate; sometimes it felt like the two of them were on opposite sides of the planet and they may as well be for all the time they actually spent together. She'd loved him once, with everything she was, but too soon the spark had vanished and now her marriage and her life was just like the half-eaten meal before her – barely touched, lifeless and void of everything she'd loved about it to start with.

    "Were they preparing a surprise for him?" Once again, someone's voice broke her from her thoughts, causing her to look up to see a young couple – linked arms, big smiles, sparkling eyes – chatting about some friend or family member as they strolled out of the restaurant and she realized that she couldn't actually the remember the last time she felt as happy as they looked.

    174 words

  21. #ThursThreads is now CLOSED! Thanks to everyone who wrote this week and I hope to see you next week! :)


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