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2018 Spec Faith Winter Writing Challenge

Feel free to invite any of your friends to participate, either as writers or readers. The more entries and the more feedback, the better the challenge.

It’s time for our winter writing challenge!

Because winter encourages indoor sports, now is the perfect time for our Spec Faith writing contest. When you’re not busy watching the Olympics or working on your own writing projects or reading the latest speculative story that has captured your attention, why not add to your winter writing and reading joy?

As we have for the last several years, Spec Faith is holding a winter writing challenge, a type of writing exercise, with rewards. There’s feedback from other Spec Faith visitors and there’s the potential for a $25 gift card from either Amazon or B&N. And for readers, there are stories or story beginnings to enjoy. It’s all very win-win!

As a refresher, here’s how this winter writing challenge works:

1. I’ll give a first line, and those who wish to accept the challenge will write what comes next—in 100 to 300 words, putting your entry into the comments section of this post.

“What comes next” may be the opening of a novel, a short story, or a completed piece of flash fiction—your choice.

In keeping with Spec Faith’s primary focus on the intersection of speculative fiction and the Christian faith, writers may wish to incorporate Christian elements or to write intentionally from a Christian worldview, but neither is required. Likewise, I’d expect speculative elements, or the suggestion of such, but entries will not be disqualified because of their omission.

2. Readers will give thumbs up to the ones they like the most (unlimited number of likes), and, if they wish, they may give a comment to the various entries, telling what particularly grabbed their attention.

By the way, I encourage such responses—it’s always helpful for entrants to know what they did right and what they could have done to improve.

3. After the designated time, I’ll re-post the top three (based on the number of thumbs up they receive), and visitors will have a chance to vote on which they believe is the best (one vote only).

4. I’ll again sweeten the pot and offer a $25 gift card (from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble) to the writer of the entry that receives the most votes (as opposed to the most thumbs up). In the event of a tie, a drawing will be held between the top vote getters to determine the winner.

And now, the first line:

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict.

Finally, those silly little details we all need to know:

  • Your word count does not include this first line.
  • You will have between now and midnight (Pacific time) this coming Monday (a week from today) to post your challenge entries in the comments section.
  • You may reply to entries, giving thumbs up, this week and next. To have your thumbs-up counted to determine the top three entries, mark your favorite entries before midnight (Pacific time) Sunday, February 25.
  • Voting begins Monday, February 26.

Feel free to invite any of your friends to participate, either as writers or readers. The more entries and the more feedback, the better the challenge.

Edited to add: apparently the “thumbs” have been replaced with + and – signs. I will count the number of +’s to determine the top three for the final poll.

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117 Comments on "2018 Spec Faith Winter Writing Challenge"

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Marian Jacobs
Member

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict. She strained against the frigid shackles encircling her wrists and ankles. The guard to her right slammed his club against her steel chair. She glared back, unintimidated.

“Your alabi doesn’t hold, Ms. Lennox.” The pockmarked judge on the screen before her pinched his nose and sniffed. “Your sister provided us with a photograph of you at the gala.”

The screen flashed to display a brightly lit ballroom with her in the far corner, glowering at the dancing figures. A moment later, the image of the judge was back.

“Guilty.” The gavel sounded off screen.

Jenni tapped the ring with her thumb. The room blurred and her stomach roiled. Her mouth filled with acid. She swallowed the bile, her throat burning. The screen came back into focus.

The judge pinched his nose and sniffed. “Your si––”

“I was at the gala!” Jenni laughed. “Sorry, I forgot to mention that part.”

The scarred face of the judge frowned, clearly unconvinced. “You forgot? That’s too little too late, Ms. Lennox. Guilt––”

Jenni tapped her ring with her thumb. Her stomach turned and she coughed against the familiar burn.

The judge pinched his nose and sniffed. “Your––”

“I didn’t want to involve my sister in this . . .” Jenni said, forcing her voice to choke with suppressed sobs. “But we went to the gala together. We weren’t there for the necklace, I swear! I heard her fiance would be there with another girl. Just ask her. I would have told you sooner, but I knew that might make her a suspect too. But we’re both innocent, sir.”

His brow furrowed. Jenni heard his fingers tapping off screen. “Guards, take her back to her cell. We will be seeing each other again soon, Ms. Lennox.”

Jenni bit her lip to keep from smiling.

Kat Vinson
Member

It took me a minute to figure out what was going on. But i love the limitation that each usage makes her sick. It explains why she doesn’t just rewind to before the incident.

Toklaham Veruzia
Guest

I like this! I want to know more about how the ring works. Is there a limit to how far back in time it can go?

Marian Jacobs
Member

Thanks! I was thinking the number of times she tapped it, the farther back it would go. But no idea how far that would be. Guessing by how sick those few seconds made, I wouldn’t risk going back too far!

Steve Rzasa
Member

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict.

“On the charge of murder in the first degree, how do you find?”

“Guilty, your honor.”

The murmurs spread throughout the room like a virus.

“On the charge of domestic terrorism, how do you find?”

The foreman was a petite Latino woman. Her voice shook as she repeated, “Guilty, your honor.”

“No!”

{Mercury, don’t make a scene. Please.} Grandmother told Jenni never to use the ring unless it was the direst emergency.

But the verdict meant the real killers had escaped.

She hazarded a glance. All those faces twisted in anger, protest signs proclaiming her “Traitor!” and “Killer!”, made her heart sick.

Mercury Hale struggled in the grip of two bailiffs. “This is insane! She hasn’t done anything wrong! I’ve told you everything that happened!”

“Mr. Hale, I find you in contempt.” Judge Hadley, a tall, statuesque black man, aimed his hammer. “Escort him from the room.”

They dragged him toward the door, but an explosion of light threw the bailiffs to either side of the aisle. Posters crumpled. Jenni heard the meaty impact, bone slamming into bone.

Mercury wielded a metallic staff coursing with unearthly power. Crackling sparks prevented anyone from getting too close. “We’re getting out of here, Jenni.”

She couldn’t let him come to harm. Jenni twisted her ring until its halves separated. Golden rays, dripping rainbows, suffused the courtroom. “This isn’t the way it was meant to be. I’m so sorry.”

Her tears stopped halfway down her cheeks. Speech rewound. Mercury’s weapon vanished. The bailiffs flew up into a standing position. Images and sounds whirled past Jenni in nauseating smears.

She gasped. The courtroom was gone. She was in her kitchen, reading the day’s news on her tablet.

January 3. Two months ago.

“Forgive me,” she murmured. “I needed a second chance to stop them.”

Kat Vinson
Member

I really want to know who Mercury & Jenni are, with his weapon and her ring. Though I also want to know why she only used the ring now instead of earlier.

Gabrielle A Perron
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict.

‘Everyone thinks I am insane,’ she thought to herself as he gaze shifted from one shrink to the next. ‘But then again, how can I blame them for thinking so? I can see into a world that no one else can. There’s magic and chaos swirling all around us; people should be terrified. The Spirits of the Deepest Hell and the Highest Heavens are constantly warring in our midst, and I am powerless to stop them.’

“Gentlemen, how do you find Miss White?” the head psychiatrist proclaimed to the panel of specialists in the room before him.

Jenni could feel the air grow still around her as she waited in suspense for the answer. Deep down, she knew that none of the medical specialists believed her desperate testimony. She was Alice in her own version of Wonderland, and claiming that she danced a line between two worlds sounded ludicrous, even to her.

Jenni toyed with her ring again. The worst part of her suffering was that the man she loved resided in this hidden world, and no one would ever know his smile, or see the joy he brought to her as he bravely fended off evil spirits and fought alongside the angels.

“Miss White is certainly a most unique case,” one specialist began as he pressed his fingertips together repeatedly. “I’ve not seen a delusion so far advanced in all my years in the field. For the patient’s own safety, I would recommend that she be committed until she makes a full recovery.”

Jenni swallowed the lump in her throat. ‘Committed? I don’t belong in an insane asylum! I could save them all! A war is coming….’

‘No matter,’ she thought, sighing. ‘At least I know that my fiancé will find me, and set me free.’

Kat Vinson
Member

I love the concept of this hidden world only she can see. Actually, the only part I didn’t quite like was the ending line because I don’t understand her earlier suspense/worry if she’s so confident he’s coming.

notleia
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict.

Her and Shinan’s real crime was that they were outsiders, since at this society’s level of technology there was no way to prove who or what had killed that man torn open in the field. No DNA, no bite mark analysis.
“Rubbish,” the sheriff pronounced. “It were wolves. We’ll post another bounty.”
“Beg yer pardon, there ARE no wolves,” the shepherd insisted. “There’s been naught of them, tail nor teeth, in the last year.”
There were a few more stubborn mutterings about vampires.
“Take those away,” the parson demanded, gesturing at the bundles of firewood on the churchyard. “I’ll not let you defile holy ground with pagan practices.”
There would still be a sharp trade for holly and hawthorn to guard the thresholds, Jenni bet. But the tension had been frustrated once the mob realized that the authorities sided with the parson rather than them. The two of them would keep their knives close, but there should be no overt threat anymore.
But one of the sheriff’s men glowed under her modified UV vision: he had traces of ubaraalin in his system. Shinan’s nostrils were flared, his fist clenched around his staff. They glanced at each other, knowing that prudence demanded that they deny the urge until this had died down. They could afford to be patient. They knew the sheriff was based on Nornabridge, so chances were his deputy also lived there. It would probably only be two nights’ work to travel, scour the town, and harvest him.
But it was so, so hard. She twisted the UV-colored forma-plastic ring again, triggering her implants to give her another dose of ubaraalinate. They had a lead, she told herself, it wouldn’t be another three months of deprivation.

Kat Vinson
Member

He – I love the twist at the end. Interested to know more about this world.

J. L. Rowan
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict. The foreign silver burned cold against her skin. She couldn’t read the strange, scarlet etchings that decorated the band, but she knew by heart the poesy inscribed within. Long ago, a mysterious jongleur from a far-off land had given her the ring, admonishing her to use it well.

And so she had. She feared this time would prove no exception.

For twenty years, she had dispensed the Lady’s justice as Temple representative to the various shire courts. She adjudicated most cases brought before her, but where guilt required death, the shire councils determined the verdict.

She glanced at the defendant, Collan, a forger by trade, accused of a series of murders he could not have committed. Slow of mind and tongue, he had not the sophistication to slay by furtive poison. Nor did he have motive, but frightened and angry, the village had turned upon its newest member, the one unlike them, the one most readily blamed. Human justice was not always wise or fair.

She rose as the council returned. “What say you?”

“Guilty.”

Of course. She beckoned for Collan to approach. She took his hands and pronounced the necessary sentence, slipping the unseen ring onto his finger. As the guards led him away, she whispered the poesy. In a flash of light, he vanished, and the ring returned to her finger.

Cries of alarm filled the courtroom as council and villagers alike scattered—some in fear, some to search for Collan. They would not find him, securely kept as he was within the ring’s etchings, but she played her part and commanded pursuit. In the days to come, she would find a new home for Collan, one that would offer welcome.

She brushed her thumb over the ring. _Rest, dear one. You’re safe now._

Kat Vinson
Member

For a minute I thought the ring was her method of stealing souls bound for execution! Glad it was rescue, not the opposite. lol

J.L. Rowan
Guest

LOL! No, I think that would be a little too creepy for me. 🙂

Sarachka
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict. She hadn’t intended to portal-jump to this world, let alone destroy a sacred rosebush upon entry. She sighed, twisting the ring again. It would re-activate in 18 hours. Jumping to Rosavia had been a costly mistake. Her sister was missing. She should have let a better-qualified jumper accept the mission to find her. But Evangelina was HER sister; how could she not at least try?

Finally, the Rosavian king raised the golden rose. She had heard of his strict adherence to the letter of the law. Forgiveness wasn’t likely.

“Guilty!” His stern declaration echoed through the room. Jenni sighed. He motioned to the two guards flanking her, then stood and left without another glance her way.

The guards took her arms and led her outside. Her heart pounded as she considered her options; they were strong, but she was fast. She knew the Rosavian justice system. The penalty for her “crime” was incarceration in the dungeon for one year. Portal-rings didn’t work underground, so she’d have to run. Thankfully, they hadn’t bound her.

As they approached the dungeon entrance, one of the guards let go of her to open the heavy doors. To the surprise of the second man, who obviously hadn’t realized she was a flight risk, Jenni wrenched her arm free and sped toward the rose forest surrounding the town. Angry shouts from behind motivated her to increase her pace. Finally she made it to the safety of the densely-packed rose trees. Five minutes later, her arms full of thorn-scratches, she stopped to catch her breath. She had to hide until the portal-ring was active. She prayed she wouldn’t be too late to rescue Evangelina. She also prayed her next jump would be far less eventful.

Kat Vinson
Member

18 hours – yikes! The sacred rosebush made me laugh – I love it. I’d read more!

Sarachka
Guest

Yes, my thought was that it can only be used once every 24 hours. Thanks for your feedback! 😊

Sarachka
Guest

Thank you! 🙂

Diana Symons
Guest

It was her own fault and she knew it. She had altered time by coming here and now an entire world was threatened with devastation. She could confess. She could try to explain that she had fallen in love with a historical record. A rush of emotion threatened to drown her sanity as she thought of him. She had been so captivated by his life. Rayston was a man of vision, intelligence, and passion. She wanted to be with him, to be part of him, despite the centuries that separated them. She fingered the ring again and bit her lip. After stealing the ring, she couldn’t go back even if it still had power. Seyid never understood her obsession. She knew she broke his heart. She knew and she left anyway.

A sob tore from her and she wiped her eyes. Everything had gone so wrong. She just wanted to be with Rayston. Why did he reject her? Why did he turn away from her? He was supposed to lead his people out of the chaos of the wars. Now he was dead. Now anarchy would destroy every hope that the world had clung to and it was her fault. She took a deep breath and tried to muster her courage to face the verdict. After their fight, Rayston jerked away in anger and stepped in front of a transport. She was accused of pushing him and witnesses thought they saw what they saw. Their savior was dead and she would pay. She squeezed her eyes closed against tears as regret lashed at her heart.

A side door opened and murmuring caused her to look around.

Seyid!

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

It does set up the scene well for “how on earth are Jenni and Seyid going to fix this.” And Jenni might come to learn some things about Seyid that she didn’t realize. They might save the world together. Or Seyid might simply be there to get revenge for his broken heart. Who knows?

Toklaham Veruzia
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict. Her heart raced against her will, and she struggled to remain calm as she sat before the tribunal. The outcome of her trial was inevitable. She would not – could not – take back her words.
The judge pronounced the sentence. “The jury has found the defendant guilty. Mrs. C-”
His wife elbowed him, scowling. The judge cleared his throat. “Ms. Jenni, you deserve a sentence of death. But the law is merciful, and allows for you have to one more chance. Recant your treasonous, blasphemous statements, and you may walk free.”
“No,” Jenni said. She uncovered her left hand and raised in it the air, exposing the ring for everyone to see. “He lives! You killed Him, but He lives! He has called me out of darkness. I am the bride of the Son of the Most High.”
“The defendant is clearly willing to die for her hubris,” sneered the judge’s wife. “I suggest the sentence be carried out immediately.”
The judge sighed. “Very well. The defendant is sentenced to death by stoning, effective immediately.”
“”He would forgive you!” Jenni yelled as the soldiers came to drag her away. “I was there, you know. I helped killed Him, and He still loved me and redeemed me.”
As she departed the courtroom, she thought she saw something flicker in the judge’s eyes. Conviction? Regret? She could only hope.
The first stone struck her, and she fell to her knees. Death was a nothing to fear, she reminded herself in defiance of the pain and terror raging throughout her frame. He had already conquered death. She felt the ring one last time as one of her bones broke. She was going to be with Him. Forever.

Kat Bybee
Guest

The really interesting part of your story for me is this: Was this set at the Beginning….or towards the End? Vaya con Dios, my friend!

C. S. Wachter
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict.

Her thoughts were shattered when a shock stung her finger, its energy rising to a crescendo in her head. “Ouch.” Shaking her hand, she choked back a curse as the ring bounded off, enlarging, shifting, reshaping, until a circle of radiant light shimmered before her.

“You stupid thing! Get back on my finger. Now.”

Giggles littered the air. “No.” Ariania’s liquid presence flooded Jenni’s mind, sending pulses of laughter through her.

“Ariania, get back here! We can’t leave until … Qwin needs to stay.”

“Jenni must go. Ariania will open and Jenni must enter.”

Jenni scanned the shadow-drenched courtyard. Raymyres Academy was her last hope. She prayed, please let him be accepted. Anguish flooded her at the thought her brother would need to return home with her. It would mean his death.

Ariania shimmered, a black dot forming at her center.

“No,” Jenni called, once again scanning the area. “Please, Ariania, just a little longer.”

Ariania shifted, the dot disappeared, her circular form morphed into a figure eight. Fluid potency glistened. “Ariania will wait.” Fractions of a second later, she hovered over Jenni’s hand, a small ring again.

Jenni grabbed Ariania, slipping her onto a finger as Qwin pushed open a set of glass doors, his face glowing around a broad smile.

Speech was impossible. Joy flooded Jenni. Qwin … safe. She reached out to embrace her brother; at that precise moment, Ariania flew from her, the air pulsing with Ariania’s transition.

“Jenni goes home now. Mother awaits.”

Tears blurred her sight as Jenni melted into her brother’s embrace. Praying she’d see him again someday, she stumbled back and fell through Ariania.

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

I, too, would like to know more!

Kat Vinson
Member

I love the childlike personality you gave the ring. And I’m very curious about Qwin and why he can’t return. I’d definitely read more.

Kat Bybee
Guest

This is an interesting snippet! Definitely makes me want to read more…I hope you develop this beyond this point……great job!

Kat Bybee
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring – the one only she could see – while she waited to hear the verdict. She wished things were the way they had once been, before the Ban. Oh, to worship Creator openly, and without fear! She couldn’t imagine. Her mother had placed the ring on her finger right before her execution. She had proclaimed Creator, even as the bullet took her life. The ring became invisible at that moment. Her mother told her that she would one day fulfill her Purpose. The ring would become visible when that day came.

The Committee took its place. The expected verdict, and sentence were announced. She saw Marc react. Only someone who knew him well would have seen the slight tic in his cheek. Marc’s execution was set for midnight that night…again…as expected. Her ring prickled and suddenly was visible! And Jenni knew it was time. She stood and looked around at the cowering masses, both in the room, and on the vid-screens. Her eyes locked with Marc’s. She then turned to the Committee.

“Creator IS real. He LIVES. He loves and cares for ALL. We will not hide any longer. We will worship Him openly and freely. You can destroy our bodies…not our souls. We proclaim Him!” Suddenly a roar went up from the crowd…not of anger or fear, but of joy! “Creator Lives!” The crowd chanted the words loudly. The Committee roared back in anger, but were overwhelmed into silence. Even as Leader fired his pistol, her mother’s last words became her own…and she shouted them as loudly as she could:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

And as she finished speaking… Creator smiled at her.

Kat Vinson
Member

This is fairly well written but I don’t see how the ring is integral to the story. What would have changed without it?

Sarachka
Guest

From what I could tell, the ring becomes visible when it’s the wearer’s time to testify openly about the Creator…her ring suddenly became visible so she knew it was time to stand and confess Him.

Kat Bybee
Guest

Thanks for your comment…you got it!

J.L. Rowan
Guest

That’s how I understood it, too.

Kat Bybee
Guest

Thanks! You got it….I appreciate it!

notleia
Guest

This post — and Veruzia’s, for that matter — give me complicated feelings, because this looks too much like virtue signaling. Or like you’re trying to farm votes with neon-overt piety. This almost falls out the other side of virtue-signalling and into propaganda.
But I don’t actually want to doubt anyone’s sincerity. It feels better to frame it as that you’re just drunk on your own Kool-Aid, but that still feels like I’m patronizing you.

But I really don’t like the feeling like we’re supposed to give it an upvote or at least a pass because it’s SO PIOUS and/or SO EARNEST.

Kat Bybee
Guest

Okay, notleia….you’re entitled to pass any sort of judgement you wish. I am free to discount insults and unkind words in any way I wish. I would draw your attention to the fact that the site is called Speculative FAITH. If you have no faith, I feel for you. That you feel comfortable attacking strangers for their faith, says much more about you than it does me. Do not worry. Your fear of patronizing me is totally unfounded. I do not feel patronized, but I do believe I must have touched a nerve. And what an honor to have achieved the greatest mission a writer can achieve. I made you think. I will leave you with the words I often sign off with…..”Vaya con Dios.”

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring – the one only she could see – while she waited to hear the verdict.
“You are quite certain there is a garnet ring on your finger?” Ian’s feet were planted firmly on the ground in a no -nonsense manner.
Jenni nodded. “With inscriptions that I can’t read.”
Galin shifted his weight, unable to hold still when invisible rings were at stake. “Epic!”
“And you want us to follow you into another world to return it?” A serious expression masked Ian’s thoughts from Jenni.
“I didn’t mean to take it. The girl handed it to me…and then these crazy warriors were chasing me…and I sort of tumbled back through the portal.” Jenni shuddered. “I’d take it back myself, but I…”
Ian sighed and looked at Galin. “She wants bodyguards.”
“Yes! So we’re going, right?” Galin pulled a battle axe from his belt, the one that he used in re-enactments and role-playing games.
“This isn’t a game, Galin. We don’t know what could happen in there.” Ian took a deep breath. “You have to think about what you are leaving behind.”
Galin shrugged. “College finals?” He waved his axe in the air. “I’ve got my axe. You’ve got your sword. What’s the worst that could happen?”
Jenni and Ian looked at each other.
“Don’t answer that,” Jenni ordered.
Ian shook his head, looking from Jenni to Galin to the sky and back to Jenni again. “Okay. Let’s do it.”
“Rrrrahhhhh!” Galin shouted. “We’re going to rock their world!!!”
“But…” Ian held up a finger. “We’re just returning the ring and then leaving, right?”
“Right.” Jenni and Galin agreed.
Jenni fingered the ring again. How hard could it be?

Kat Vinson
Member

!! Really love this. You’ve given each character such great personality already. I want to read more!! 😀

Skye
Guest

Love this Esther!

Savannah Grace
Guest

I’ve got a quick question before I enter mine – are we allowed to enter more than one piece? My brain is swimming with ideas, so I wanted to know if entering two or three is okay, or if I should stick to just the one 😉

HG Ferguson
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring — the one only she could see — while she waited to hear the verdict.

The verdict from the Witch, who felt rather than saw it.

She tugged impotently against its steadfast refusal to come off. Her face screwed into disgust as the thing remained firm.

Folks called Jenni mad. But the Witch…understood…

The candle, flickering on the table in front of her, danced over the pond-scum-green surface of what had been pristine silver but two days ago. Peculiar tiny striations shot through the scum like twisted steel rods thrust across a stagnant, rotting pool.

Such a beautiful thing, when she first found it lying by the side of the road all by itself, catching the last fading sun much like it caught the candle now. But after it changed, dogs howled whenever she walked past, cats spat their displeasure, and flies swarmed after her in noxious black clouds.

Jenni shuddered at the figure huddled on the other side, draped in a ratskin cloak festooned with long naked tails all over it. Inside the hood a half-glimpsed mouth gibbered, whispered, communed with things unseen.

Get out of here, her heart hammered deep in her soul.

But everybody knew if you had trouble with things magic, go see Nakhasha, she’d know what to do…

“What payment do you bring, Child?” croaked that voice beneath the hood, no longer muttering in hushed whispers.

“My new spring — spring calf.” Jenni coughed, her mouth suddenly as dry as wasteland sand.

“Done.” The Witch leaned forward. “For you I have good news and bad news.”

“The good news.” Jenni coughed again.

“I can help you.”

“And the…bad?”

“To remove this ring…I must remove the finger it has claimed.”

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

That’s a pretty cool beginning to a story.

Kat Vinson
Member

Be careful what you put on your hand! I love when stories bypass cliche. 🙂

Leeann Betts
Guest

Love this. Didn’t see that coming!

Rachael
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict. If only she could go back in time and undo her bad decisions.
“Guilty. 100 lashes and 100 gold.”
Jenni fought to stay upright and the chain about her neck rattled. The air had suddenly disappeared into the hot afternoon and the landscape fuzzed in and out. Not that this should be a surprise: that was the standard punishment for treason against the crown. The 100 lashes were bad enough as they could cripple any healthy person let alone someone in her state. But no, it was the 100 gold that deflated all hope. If she lived a hundred lifetimes she would never be able to work off so much debt. She spun the ring again and cried in despair. The guard tugged at the end of her chain to move her forward.
“Wait.”
The lord of the valley pushed to the front of the crowd. “I am here to pay the debt against her. Let her go.”
A gasp filled the air and Jenni again found the world spinning.
“My lord,” the judge pressed, “she is a traitor, guilty of horrible acts that she has admitted to.”
“I said, let her go.” He handed the judge a bag of coins, no doubt containing the 100 gold. He was the only one in the valley who had such wealth. He turned to Jenni, he spoke so softy only she could hear above the murmuring the crowd,“You called me?” He taped the ring on her finger.
“You can see that?” She saw then a similar ring on his own finger. “My lord, you can’t. They will lash you-”
“I can,” he said, removing her chains, “And I will. I gave you that ring, Jenni. Did you forget? I called you long before you called me.”

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

Sweet sacrifice. I like the allegory. I feel like Jenni’s crimes are a bit nebulous, but perhaps that fits better with an allegorical story.

Kat Bybee
Guest

Very well-written….and it is a story that paints the picture perfectly. Great job!

M.A. Zeller
Guest

I really like the way you wove redemption into your entry, Rachel.

M.A. Zeller
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring – the one only she could see – while she waited to hear the verdict. Surely her ward, Meeka, would not be chosen. But as the clan leader’s voice rumbled like thunder throughout the room, the slight hope Jenni had clung to was destroyed.

Her breathing stalled as Meeka, along with four other gifted, were selected. A bitter taste flooded Jenni’s mouth at the thought of their lives being sacrificed in the Eastern War. “No!” she cried, her words pushed from her mouth by the panic rising within her. Her plea shattered the silence that had fallen after the clan leader’s grim announcement.

“Who are you to object?” the clan leader thundered. His voice carried an ominous tone laden with currents of anger.

Jenni drew herself up in defiance of the oppressive tension that filled the room. “I will go in Meeka’s place. Her gift has not matured enough for her to be sent to war. It would be suicide.” Her voice, although heavy with desperation, seemed suspended in air.

“You?” the clan leader did nothing to hide his derisive snort as the other villagers muttered amongst themselves. “You are blind and ungifted, and would only be a hindrance. What could you possible add to this mission?”

The ring’s surface was smooth under Jenni’s fingers as tendrils of worry squeezed her throat. If unveiling her long-kept secret ensured Meeka’s safety, then so be it. “I am blind,” she heard herself say, “But I can see what no one else can.”

“That is like saying that the easterners are not threatening our lives,” the clan leader scoffed. “What sort of fool are you, woman?”

Jenni grimaced. It was only because of the ring that she could see the darkness that consumed hearts. Drawing in a breath that tasted like dirt and stale sweat, she whispered, “I can see the very presence of evil.”

Savannah Grace
Guest

Jenna fidgeted with her ring – the one only she could see – while she waited to hear the verdict.

But she already knew what it was going to be.

Imperfect people were not allowed to live in the City. Imperfect people were not allowed to live at all.

And a girl like her? A girl who was deaf and could see things?

Jenna closed her eyes to block out the verdict, but it flashed in scarlet across her closed eyelids as the vibration of the gavel hitting the desk made her very bones hum.

Insanity.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but her stomach grew queasy as the needle-sharp word faded from her mind. The insane asylum was not a place she wanted to be. She knew what came to those who went there.

Death.

And they would call the killing a suicide, because she was obviously insane.

Insanity.

Jenna kept her eyes closed and twisted the ring faster around her finger as she felt two pairs of hands grab her by the arms and haul her away. The ring acted as a tuning device, allowing her brain to work overtime and catch words when no words should be caught.

Peering into another person’s brain had always felt intrusive to her, but sometimes she had no choice.

She twisted the ring faster.

“… next shooting won’t be for three days, but we might be able to squeeze her into tomorrow’s …”

Jenna slapped the ring as her legs gave way.

Tomorrow?

Tomorrow?

They were going to kill her tomorrow?

Jenna took hard, deep breaths that choked her and squeezed the ring until it bit into her hand as the two guards dragged her away.

Then she would have to find a way to escape.

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

A deaf girl who can hear thoughts? Awesome!

M.A. Zeller
Guest

Ohhh! This is such a cliff hanger – I want to read more! Great job, Savannah Grace!

Audie Thacker
Member

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict.

From where she stood, trapped in a clear tube, she could see the other two remaining contestants; her best friend Lisa, and Seth, a boy her own age she…cared about.

The voice came over her headphones, and it said the thing she’d feared most.

“We hope you are well, Jenni. After much consideration, our decision is that the choice of which of you three should advance is really not ours to make. The Leaders have need of very special people, people who can make hard decisions, decisions they do not want to make and might even consider unfair.

“You have a ring. On that ring is a switch. The rules are simple. When the tone sounds, if you want to live, then press the switch. If you do, you will indeed live, but the tubes your friends are in will be filled with a poisonous gas, and they will die painful, bloody, but mercifully short deaths. If you do not, the choice will be given to one of them. If none of you chooses, all of you will die. Take a few seconds to consider before the tone sounds.”

In that silent moment, panic and futile pleading filled Lisa’s face. Seth looked at Jenni once, then looked down and away.

The tone sounded, Jenni pressed the switch, and watched tearlessly as her friends died.

“Very good, Jenni. Come out now, it’s time you began your actual service to the Leaders.”

The tube lifted, and Jenni stepped out. She did not glance at the remains of her friends. She would not show weakness. She would not let the Leaders know her true thoughts, until the day she could finally make them pay for this and for all the other things they had taken from her.

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

I could feel my soul harden just a little bit. That was a rough decision — one that I would rather not think about too much. But I have a feeling that Jenni will get away in the end. She’s tough enough to survive that. At least in some ways.
You did an outstanding job at quickly sucking me into her world. That was fabulous.

I'm secretly not
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict.

Sterile white walls and an oak door. A hard chair provided her with little comfort, forcing good posture from her aching body.

A man paced the room. Occasionally he glanced at the door, jumping at the smallest sound. Jenni ignored him. He wasn’t the first one she’d seen wait.

The door clicked as a woman in scrubs entered. The man leapt forward, eyes eagerly begging for a word. But she ignored him, stepping quickly to an another. A man with anxious eyes. They conversed quietly and then the woman left. The man watched her go with hungry eyes.

The door clicked shut.
The man returned to pacing. Right foot, left foot, right foot, turn. He was freakishly tall and crossed the room in three long strides. Jenni didn’t bother to dwell on how hard it would be to run from him. She rubbed her ring.

A second nurse entered. Her face glowed with sweat and a surgical mask hung from one ear. He paused his walk and looked up at her. Jenni leaned forward.
“It’s a boy!”
The new Father’s face lit up.
The Chosen One. Jenni smiled and twisted her ring. After years of waiting, he’d finally come.
Her master would be pleased.

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

Nicely done!

Kat Vinson
Member

I like how you planted a hint when saying how hard it would be to run from the man – and then the big reveal at the end. I’d read more.

J.L. Rowan
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict. She paced the short length of her studio as Lara, her best friend, studied the painting before her with narrowed gaze. “Well?”

Lara tapped a long, manicured finger against her lips. “I don’t know, Jen. It’s just—I don’t know—not right.”

Jenni gasped. “What do you mean, ‘not right’? It’s a Van Gogh!”

Lara stared at her, raising an eyebrow. “The sky is hot pink. And the moon is green.”

“I’m an artist!” she protested, as though that explained everything.

Lara let a long sigh escape from her lips as she turned a dubious eye on the painting. “I suppose—if you like painting freakish replicas of famous artwork.” She shot her a sideways glance. “That’s not actually a thing now, is it?”

Jenni rolled her eyes. “Thanks for that. You’re a lot of help.”

Lara grinned. “I try. I’m also late.” She shrugged into her coat as she glanced at the clock. “If I don’t get to work soon, they’ll give my job away.”

She wrinkled her nose as she surveyed the painting. “You really think it won’t work?”

“Hot pink, Jen,” she said, collecting her purse and keys. “I’m just saying.” She fluttered her hand in farewell as she disappeared out the door.

Perhaps hot pink *was* a bit much. She tapped her ring, and the sky turned a muted shade of purple, the moon yellow again. “Much better.” The Starry Night should be purple. She wondered if the curators at MoMA would notice. With a smirk, she twisted her ring and the painting vanished. Only one way to find out.

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

This was fun. I’m assuming she’s either a very brazen and skilled swindler or she’s an immature but talented prankster.

Kat Vinson
Member

Ha! Sneaky forger!

J. L. Rowan
Guest

😀 LOL

Cassie Stevens
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict on her car. Josie could hear subtext. Jenni could only see it—the dark cloud of a bad mood, the loyalties, the inclinations to one speaker or another. If she hadn’t been distracted pulling out of the parking space, she wouldn’t have ended up stranded miles from everyone she knew, watching an unknown mechanic scowl at the engine.

When Claude proposed, he’d had nothing to give her. When Jenni accepted, she’d found the ring he’d wanted to give her on her finger. She wondered how many other people knew what their commitment to each other looked like—if they could imagine how beautiful it was. She’d had Claude describe the ring for her, and pantomimed putting it on her finger to make him smile. Turning it round and round now, she wondered if it was fading. They hadn’t talked much in the past month. Claude was busy with his exams, and she was working. They weren’t even in the same city any more after Jenni’s transfer came through.

She shivered in her jacket, wondering if it was only the gray morning that made her car look like it had given up the ghost. Everyone said long distance relationships were the hardest. That was why she’d left as soon as her shift was over, intending to drive through the night and show up on campus in time to surprise Claude with breakfast—if they could talk, face to face, she could better judge what was going on with them.

Loyalties weathered arguments. But the ties could chip and fray and fade and Jenni was doubting her gift.

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

I like the fact that this story is unique from the other ones presented here. It sounds like you’ve got a good voice and a good plot line to develop, and I would love to hear more about it.
There were a few things unclear.
For example, who is Josie? Why is she mentioned in the very second sentence but then never again?
And what exactly is her perception of the ring? Is it imaginary? Or does Claude have magical abilities to make rings appear? She is turning it round and round now — is this for real or is she merely pantomiming it? And, if Jenni can see the ring as is stated in the first sentence, why is she wondering if it is fading? Can’t she see it?
And what is her gift that she is doubting? Is it her ability to see dark clouds of moods? What dark cloud does she think she inaccurately is or is not seeing?
Those questions aside, though, I like the rhythm of your story. Keep up the good work!

Kat Vinson
Member

A little confused if the ring is real or pretend but I like the thoughtful introspection. (And is she worried he’s cheating? I wasn’t sure…)

CrazyRead
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—and waited to hear the verdict.

As soon as her father’s voice echoed in the kitchen—“She is not dating him!”—she slipped out of the house. If she couldn’t return the ring subtly, she’d be direct.
“Show notes,” she said. The ring buzzed against her hand. In her mind’s eye, a list scrolled.
Jared’s hangout: Bowling alley
This ability of the ring she would miss. But the other…

Jenni entered the bowling alley, glad it wasn’t dollar night. She spotted Jared immediately: bad boy chain jeans and haircut paired with a new, buttoned-up polo and clean-shaven face. Also, he threw the ball so hard it careened into a far left lane.
She approached him. “Excuse me.”
“Hmm?” He approached his lane, tossed the ball—and dented a bumper. “You’re the boss’ chil—daughter, yeah?”
“I need to return something.”
Jared shook his head vehemently. “I’m done with it. I’m sorry you discov—found it, but no.”
When his ball came back up the return, Jenni took it. “Like this.” She showed him how to change his approach and throw. In a few minutes, he was in no danger of hitting other bowlers. Progress, she supposed.
Jared hung his head. “Amaze—Wow. Now I’m really sorry you found it. Can I buy you a cow—milkshake?”
“Because a milkshake is going to make up for the nightmares.” Jenni held up her hands. “And the nail biting. And the headaches.”
“They’re good milkshakes.”
How could she refuse?

Jenni drank it to the dregs. “Thanks. Now, can the thing be destroyed? I’ll drop it down an active volcano if I have to.”
“No! That’ll kill them—it.” Jared fit half of a burger into his mouth.
“Then can it do anything besides drive me crazy?”
Jared swallowed. “Control—powers. Superhero stuff.”
Jenni grinned. “Why didn’t you say so?”

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

I like the premise. Girl finds superpower ring and, due to the negative side-effects, wants to get rid of ring. Tries to return it to a previous owner, but he won’t take it back. However, he buys her a milkshake and seems like he might be able to offer her some training on how to use the ring. Cool idea!
I was confused by the father’s voice echoing in the kitchen. Was he talking about Jenni? Or somebody else? What was the significance of the line about dating?
I am also a little puzzled about why Jared wants to preserve the amazing ring if he himself doesn’t want it back.
I loved the character development of Jenni and Jared, though. I’d like to keep reading about both of them. Good work! Keep it up!

Timothy Hicks
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict.
What was the big deal? It wasn’t like she’d killed anyone.
Or, at least no one human. It was an accident. Could have happened to anyone. But why her? Why now?

If only I hadn’t bought that silly ring from the sidewalk genie. He’d promised it was magical, and it looked good on my hand when I tried it on. Uncle Shamus warned me about trying to get something for nothing; especially from unlicensed sidewalk hustlers.

And Uncle Shamus is one leprechaun who knows wheeling and dealing. Why can’t I be more like Mom’s side of the family. I even look good in green. But no, I’m tall, with black hair, and not too athletic until I bought those other rings. Those rings. They worked great. A little too well.

“Miss O’Hennessy. Miss O’Hennessy.” A gravelly voice yanked her back to her seat before the Judicial Board table.

Jenni looked up. “Sorry. Yes?” The long, bearded man in the middle stared at her over small, round glasses.

“Sir?” Jenni finished and swallowed. Not too loudly, she hoped.

The man nodded. “May I continue?” Jenni held her silence. “Miss O’Hennessy, while we cannot find any rules pertaining to melting Icy Realm competitors, The Board finds it odd that you somehow managed to win every single Realm Olympic event by yourself. Care to explain?”

She shrugged. “Luck of the Irish?”

“Humph! Very well, as we have no further reason to hold you, case dismissed.” The elders at the table straightened their papers and rose.

Jenni released the breath she’d held too long, and then smiled. Luck of the Irish, and my five invisible Olympic Gold Power Rings. One for each event. What a winning combination.

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

This was well-written. You set up the scene, expressed flash backs without too much info-dumping, created characters, and hinted at the stakes involved. I’m not sure I like Jenni. Cheating at Olympic games? What was she thinking?
But I do want to know more about her and what happens next. Good job!

Audie Thacker
Member

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict.

“I vote for Mexican food,” Jim said.

“I don’t know,” Jenni replied, “We had Mexican last week.”

Jim again asked the dreaded question, “So, what do you want?”

And again got the dreaded reply, “Oh, whatever, you decide.”

The world spun around Jim’s head. Mexican food? That was a Mexi-can’t. Thai? All tied up with a whole lot of “Not this time” duct tape. Cajun? Again, Caju-nope. Chinese? Kung-powed right out of the discussion. Italian, maybe, hopefully? That was pizza-fully but firmly rejected.

“Hamburgers?” he suggested in a tone of voice trying badly, and doing badly, to disguise his desperate pleading.

“No, too plain.”

The 333 time may be the charm. “So, what do you want?”

“Oh, whatever, you decide.”

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

I liked your food rejection puns. And you set up the scene of the typical male/female “where do we eat” debate well.
It’s hard to create a full scene in so few words, but my criticism is that you haven’t hooked me with a burning desire to find out what happens next. I do not know what your story is about or what questions need to be answered other than “what are Jim and Jenni going to eat?”
But, other than recommending that you make the scene do two jobs at once (relaying current scene and building interest for the next scene), I thought your writing was good. Keep it up!

Kat Vinson
Member

ha – the puns cracked me up. But truthfully, the first line is extraneous to the story.

Audie Thacker
Member

Not completely. It does point to her waiting to hear his suggestions (which will be quickly be shot down). I could have made the wedding ring aspect clearer, though.

Kat Bybee
Guest

I love the casual tone of this piece, and the discussion itself is hilarious…..you took the prompt in a totally fresh direction. Awesome job!

Audie Thacker
Member

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it.

Melinda K. Busch
Guest

Jenni fidgeted with her ring—the one only she could see—while she waited to hear the verdict.

The doctor sat behind his desk. His delicate fingers skimmed through pages of notes. “Ms. Lucien.” His words came in a sing-song as if he spoke to a small child. “You have one last chance to recant your claim to have sight. If you do this, I could discharge you immediately.”

She remained silent, staring at the ground. His empty eyes frightened her, almost made her wish she were still blind. But she could see. She had found the ring while feeling through her late grandmother’s possessions. When she slipped it on, the dark haze that had surrounded her since she could remember began to lift. Soon light flooded her consciousness, revealing a beautiful world. She shivered with delight at the memory of her first sight of a sunset, tendrils of colored clouds stretching across the sky.

When she did not respond, the doctor continued in his condescending tone. “Sight is a fairy tale, Ms. Lucien. If you will not recant, I can only conclude that you must be admitted for reprogramming.”

She twisted the ring and considered how to answer. To deny she could see would be a lie and Mother had taught her to value honesty; to speak the truth would doom her to remain a prisoner until she embraced darkness again.

Her decision made, she raised her head. Whatever may happen, she would rest on the truth. “I can see, Dr. Teneborn.” She slid the ring off her finger and let it clatter onto the desk. He felt for it and pulled it into his hand. “Put that on; see for yourself.”

He held it a moment, then set it back on the desk. “Foolishness,” he crooned, “to think a ring could grant sight. Do not fear, Child… we will cure you of your madness soon enough.”

Esther Brooksmith
Guest

Melinda K Busch, this was one of my favorites. You set up the society well. The idea of a group of people who are blind…who, in fact, reject sight as a fairy tale or a hallucination of the mentally ill…is a fascinating premise. You incorporated the ring well. Your characters were interesting. It’s also allegorical — in beautiful and solid way. I loved it. And I can’t wait to hear about Jenni Lucien’s continued adventure with the ring in such a place.

Melinda K. Busch
Guest

Thank you!

Renae
Guest

Very interesting – really makes you think!!

Melinda K. Busch
Guest

Thank you!

Kat Vinson
Member

Creepy! Something so simple and unique!

Melinda K. Busch
Guest

Thank you!

Kat Bybee
Guest

What an interesting idea… a society unable to comprehend sight! I love stories that turn things on their ear…and you have certainly done that! Brava!

Melinda K. Busch
Guest

Thank you, Kat!

Melinda K. Busch
Guest

Editing my comment–I thought it was showing I had posted after midnight, but then I realized I needed to refresh. All seems to be well. 🙂