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Spec Faith 2014 Summer Writing Challenge

I’ll give a first line, and those who wish to accept the challenge will write what comes next—in 100 to 300 words.

2014 Summer Writing ChallengeIt’s time for another Spec Faith Writing Challenge.

By way of reminder, here’s the way this particular challenge works:

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.

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

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

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).

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:

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.

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 Sunday to post your challenge entries in the comments section.
  • You may reply to entries, giving thumbs up, this week and next. To have your thumb-up counted to determine the top three entries, it must be checked before Sunday, July 27.
  • Voting begins Monday, July 28.

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.

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Hannah Williams
Member

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. There was always death wherever he turned. Why not, for a change, choose life? Not for him. There’d never been life for him. For them.
 
           Terrified screams forced him back into reality. He glanced down at the child staring at him, brown eyes as soft and liquid as deer’s. He would not see them glazed with death.
 
            “What do we do, Mister Tagren, sir?” The small boy asked as the building shook again.
 
            “Go to Mother Dassah.” With a gentle shove, he sent the boy towards the cluster of children being gathered by the Sisters. Tearing his gaze from them, he swung down to the lower flower and began his advance towards the entrance where howls and hammerings demanded way. Rubble showered around as he stalked on; cracks began to run through the murals.
 
            When he was first brought here for healing, he should have known they would come, drawn to light as flies to corpses.
 
            Why would you give your life for them? The question tore like a barb, halting him before the ailing door.
 
            There was no other way.
 
            You can flee and live another day!
 
            What was another day for him if there would be none for the children?
 
            You owe the children nothing.
 
            “I give my life for I love them!” he shouted. There was no one to hear him; he was alone.
 
            Then how could I do any less for you?
 
            The words, silent yet resounding, whisked all breath from his body.
 
            Lord.
 
            He was here as the Sisters said, beside him…with him.
 
            With a final groan, the hinges bent and the wood splintered. Calm, Tag drew his blade with a swish sibilant in the storm.
 
            Perhaps, even through death, he would find Life after all.

Hannah Williams
Member

Oh, and by the way, “flower” was meant to be “floor.” Ha!

Athelas Hale
Guest

This is good; I very much like this. The first paragraph makes me very curious; what is this Tag’s past, that there has been death wherever he has turned? And, of course, the they mentioned… I want to know more about him.

The interior dialogue in this was very good. I liked the way you stepped in and out of the different formatting for that; it made it feel very natural. I really enjoyed this whole story. 🙂

Hannah Williams
Member

Thank you, Becky and Athelas! I’m delighted you enjoyed the story! I rather wanted to know more about him myself! 🙂

Becky
Guest
Becky

The “thumbs up” button seems to be turned off. It might be just me, but it’s not working on either of our computers. :o)

Elizabeth
Guest

I’ve had several tell me the thumbs up/thumbs down buttons aren’t active for them.  I assume they will be later?

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

SpecFaith volunteer web designer here.

I just re-checked: the comment-voting buttons are working across all browsers and platforms that I know about, anyway, including PC and Mac; Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and even Internet Explorer. Perhaps there are others I don’t know about?

Elizabeth
Guest

For me, it seems to be like that for Chrome, Internet Explorer and FireFox. But it is only the main comments (the entries) that the thumbs up/down is grayed out. The replies, such as yours, the thumbs up/down are enabled and showing as green/red. Maybe it’s something on my end in my browser?

Becky
Guest

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.

 
                His eyes narrowed as he glared at the Priest outside his open cell door. A bundle of keys hung from the hooded figure’s left hand, the other beckoned Tag to follow.
 
                Another illusion.
 
                Tag imagined the Sorceress crouching around a corner. He imagined her shrieks of laughter as, once again, he hurled himself against the charged bars. The burns on his face, chest, and hands still throbbed.
 
                No need to spend the effort torturing me to death when I’ll just do it myself.  
 
                The thought brought a wild peal of laughter to his lips, along with a string of curses.
 
                “Nice try, witch! But you’ll not fool me again. Go back to your masters and tell them this rebel will not die in the dark!” Tag’s fists clenched and his breath came in chugs. “Do you hear me? I’ll go to my execution in the light of day, head held high. I will not break!”
 
                He turned his back on the phantom Priest and pressed against the slimy stone wall. The stench of human waste, old sweat, and dried blood swallowed him.
 
                “I will not break. I will not . . .” Tears choked his words.
 
                The touch of a hand on his shoulder made him jerk. Tag looked up into gentle grey eyes.
 
                “You’re . . . real?”
 
                The Priest smiled. “Come. The One in Three calls you.”
 
                Without a word, Tag rose and followed the servant of a god he did not believe in.
 

Athelas Hale
Guest

The level of emotion in this was impressive. I really felt like you did an excellent job of going into the head of someone who’s been in incredibly stressful circumstances, torture, and the promise of imminent death. A lot of people will just go with rapid “woe is me scenes” but never actually go into the character’s head and find out what he would realistically be going through. I loved the way your character was responding to this, though.

You painted an exceptional picture of the place he’s in. You didn’t waste time on going in-depth with too much description, but you gave us just enough to let us know what’s going on and be able to have our imagination fill in the rest. I really enjoyed this story. Reading back over it, I realize that the writing is very good, but I didn’t even notice while reading because the story was too distracting.

One thing that I noticed, at the end, was that you seemed to step out of his point-of-view for just a second. Not entirely, but I felt like it was slightly further from being entirely in his head than the rest of the story. It definitely was nothing major, though, and I really enjoyed the story.

Alex Mellen
Member

I like how this one has a resolution at the end, and Tag gets out of his tight spot. It feels like an entire story, not just a scene or cliffhanger.

Elizabeth
Guest

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.
***
The molecular pathogen oozed from a broken tube. A smeared label read R-1623. Carelessness would cost him, but he didn’t have time to rehash “what ifs”. God promised the world a reckoning. It was Tag’s duty to be His hands. Now it meant he’d be part of the equation rather than a bystander.
 
The steel door jolted behind him. “Police!”
 
There were two ways into the room. One was no longer an option.
 
“Open up, Tag. Now!” a man shouted.
 
Tag slid to his knees, examined the vent’s edges. With a hastily produced pocketknife in jittery hands, he popped it open.
 
“Now!”
 
Another blast caused Tag to look back. He murmured a prayer of thanks. The door held firm. One spin, he found discarded twine, wire from a broken hanger and duct tape. He smiled. Snatching the items, he paused before a box of corked tubes. He crammed the box along with his research journal into a messenger bag.
 
Another blast hit the door. A dent appeared in the center, the corners curling in.
 
Tying a Highwayman’s Hitch knot at the base of a wheeled chair, Tag ripped a piece of duct tape and placed it on the inside of the vent. Tag dropped to the floor, thrust his bag into the opening and slithered in feet first. He fed the twine and wire through the vent.
 
“Again!” the male voice shouted.
 
A pull on the twine and the chair rolled closer until it hit the vent.
 
Suddenly, the door ripped off it’s hinges. “Go, go, go!” Soldiers flooded the room. Tag silently loosened the knot, extracting both wire and twine. He moved back, but froze at the sound of a click. Looking up, he could see the end of a gun barrel peering at him through the vent.

Athelas Hale
Guest

I really liked your style in this, Elizabeth. It flowed very well, and I got the impression that I was sort of in this Tag’s head. The use of terms (such as the Highwayman’s Hitch Knot, which, to be honest, I have no idea what it means) really gave the indication that you knew what you were talking about. You didn’t overload us with extra terms or information, but gave us enough to get us a vague idea of what he was doing.

Just as a slightly random side-note, this story reminded me slightly of the old television show MacGyver. I watched a few episodes from it a couple of years ago, and the way Tag did things reminds me of MacGyver’s manner.

And, of course, the ending. A cliffhanger? Everybody loves those. :p I do have my suspicions about what happened, though.

Lyndon Perry
Member

(from Lyn Perry)
The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. Which was what Jud had intended all along. The phase-implant only worked ‘going out.’ If he tried to return—to phase ‘back in’—to his own timeline, he would die. Or so Jud said.

So he’d stick around, obviously. Think things through. Maybe figure things out. The only drawback was that he’d eventually meet his double. And that couldn’t be a good thing.

Or could it?

This particular dimension, this again from his former friend, was as close to an opposite parallel universe as they’d been able to find. They. The New Foundation. Whose goal was to eliminate all believers from their current timestream. Phase them into an alternate reality.

A reality where their mirror images were unbelievers. Haters of Christ.

Jud was a hater himself, a member of the New Foundation. He’d been the one to hand Tag over to his superiors. Tag couldn’t fathom his friend’s betrayal. How long had Jud been plotting, pretending to be a believer to gain Tag’s trust? Years, now. He kicked himself for being so naïve. So trusting.

And yet. Wasn’t trust the key to everything? He trusted God, whether he lived or died. He also trusted that he’d been sent to this timeline for a purpose…

Maybe meeting his double wouldn’t end in his death after all. Or if it did, who knew what good might come of it? What if he could share the love of God with his parallel self before he was killed? Could he convince himself—his other self, the hater of Christ—of the truth of Christ?

The question became more than academic when Tag spied his spitting image in the face of a young man walking his way. The man was holding a weapon, a slow smile forming on his face.  
(end)

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

Ha, I like this concept!  Well done.

Teddi Deppner
Guest

It was the story concept that hooked me on this one.  Neat idea.

Shannon McDermott
Guest

I like the idea of persecutors sending Christians to alternate realities where their doppelgangers have rejected God. Very interesting concept.

Athelas Hale
Guest

I rather enjoyed this piece. You set up the scene very well; you gave us impressions of betrayal and handing-over and told us what we want to know about the New Foundation. You also  gave a very good depiction of this Tag’s personality in this, short as it was. I liked his whole attitude about the situation. Well done. 🙂

There seemed to be a lot of fragment sentences, which made it feel slightly choppy, but I didn’t feel like it was too bad, and the story certainly made up for it. And, of course, I want to know more. Honestly, I wonder what Tag’s doppleganger must have been thinking at this point. Poor fellow must have been weirded out, as they say, and he wouldn’t even have a foundation. I do hope this Tag managed to share Christ with the other man.

Lyndon Perry
Member

Thanks everyone for your kind comments and helpful feedback. 🙂

Juliet Nicole
Guest

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.

Did it really matter? Most of the citizens of that big, beautiful city thought so.

They were all leaving, throwing themselves onto the orange bosom outside the city’s shell and exploding there in the sunlight and ether. Tag watched through the window. They darted like angels.

They went because it was quick. No waiting around.

When you lived on a space city, beautifully located at orbit around a remote red star, getting a three-mile titanium space-junk beam stabbed through the city’s eye – well, through the life systems – was a good way to totally ruin your day. Three million people and Tag had all discovered that they had less than three hours to live.

So three million people had chosen to kill themselves.

Even Reed had just left, after having a last drink from the abandoned Hotel Royale bar. He’d told Tag, “You’re a good man. See you soon.”

Good lord, what a day.

Tag turned away from the angels out the window and went to the bar.

He made a pile on the floor, of chandeliers and liquor jars. Red and amber and brown dripped from hairline fractures in the jars and dewed the floor, fractures made during the space-junk shock. Tag climbed up and sat on it all. It was the kind of thing you only did once in a lifetime. He toasted himself with a shot glass of water because he had gotten it from the tap twenty minutes ago and by now it was probably the only water left in that corner of space.

And now if Tag judged right, he would die in about two hours.

Well, God could have him when God was jolly ready for him. Tag would stay till then. Because life is a good thing, really. A big, beautiful thing.

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

I enjoyed the writing on this piece!  Definitely intriguing.  I can’t sense that there’s much else to the story, though – is this flash fic?

Juliet Nicole
Guest

Thankyou! And yep, flash fic. This is a whole story in three hundred words. 😀

Teddi Deppner
Guest

I like the scifi setting. You also got some beautiful images in there. “They darted like angels.”

Good job painting a scene that was both horrific and yet uplifting because of the character’s chosen response to impending doom.

Juliet Nicole
Guest

Thankyou, Mr Deppner. ^_^ I’m glad you liked it. Uplifting, despite the arena, was what I was trying for, so it’s good to know I managed it some.

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

I thought so too!  It was uplifting despite the thousands of suicides going on…  I was impressed.  😀

Juliet Nicole
Guest

Awesome! 😀 Thanks.

jesuslittlechild77
Guest
jesuslittlechild77

Can this version be deleted please? My browsers messed up the formatting

Katie Lynn Daniels
Guest

 
The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. If he stayed they were burn the stable down around his ears—a small price to pay for the capture of the greatest thief who ever lived—and if he tried to leave they’d shoot him down without another thought. A fine target he would make, silhouetted against the flames of his failure.
 

 
His breath came more quickly, and his palms were slick with sweat. He tried to rub them on his thighs to dry them, but that just gave the sweat the opportunity to mingle with the dust on his clothes and form a nice grime that stuck to everything. He reached up to brush away the hair dangling in his eyes and left a streak of grime there as well. Giving up, he assessed his situation again, trying to find a third option.
 

 
There wasn’t one.
 

 
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he muttered to himself, crawling around in the hay, looking for something, anything that would help. “Stupid to come here, stupid to take the job, stupid to think I could get away…”
 

 
The smoke was getting thicker, and it was getting hard to breathe. Tag hunkered down close to the floor and pulled his shirt up over his nose, careful to take shallow breaths.
 

 
Now that he wasn’t moving around and making distracting noises with his muttering and breathing he could hear the shouting from the archers outside.
 

 
“Raphael Taggert,” shouted the Captain in his high-pitched, nasal voice. “Surrender yourself to the queen’s law and your life will be spared.”
 

 
Tag allowed himself to snort in derision. Like he’d take the word of Captain Smarty-Pants over the inevitable shower of arrows waiting for him the minute he showed his face.
 

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

This entry is a little rambly, but I up-voted it because I like Tag’s snark.  😀

Leah E. Good
Guest

I wish there was a bit more resolution here, but I’m definitely curious about Tag.  This bit of dialogue especially peaked my interest.

“Stupid to come here, stupid to take the job, stupid to think I could get away…”

jesuslittlechild77
Guest
jesuslittlechild77

The way Tag judged his circumstances,  he could have die if he stayed or die if he left. He kissed Sonia on the head, ‘I’d rather die together with you.’

Crying with anguish, he placed Sonia upon his shoulders and carried her. The sky split into night and day; the night part covering the howling wolf tree forest into which Tag and Sonia headed, the light of the moon being their guide. Tag wondered if the sailing ships of the sky where following them, he had no time to check the sky for threats.  His immediate mission was to get Sonia to the healing river of Wilda even if he died in the attempt.

The rush of the healing river of Wilda produced the melody of harps; rainbow fish danced within.  Tag dipped Sonia’s fingers into the river but it was too late.  She was dead, gone. The tree wolves howled in accordance to Tag’s distress. Tag had reached the river in time to heal his own wounds but he was dead inside. A dove flew above him. He knew that Sonia would forever be an angel now.

Meyosha
Guest
Meyosha

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. Nonetheless Tag had to think quickly, and decided to move forward. Knowing that the floodgates would soon be opening and the waters was quickly rising; Tag secured his cellphone in his shirt pocket in hopes of making it to the other side. Suddenly, a lady appeared and says “follow me”. At first I wasn’t sure, but all I knew was there was no turning back and I began to follow. Stephanie led me to dry ground and told me it would be daybreak before they could locate my vehicle.  She took me to a local store to pick up a few necessities and invited me to stay at her house until daybreak.  When daybreak came, my car was located at the end of the river, but had I stayed with it I possibly would have become river food.

Leanna
Guest
Leanna

Did you mean to switch from third person to first? You also have some abrupt tense hopping in this very brief excerpt.

Also, there’s a rescue and shopping and a whole night passes but nothing really happens.

Meyosha
Guest
Meyosha

Thank You for comment  and insight. I noticed that as well and wanted to change it. This is my first time entering writing contest and I couldn’t edit post. But I love to read the rest of the entries.

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.

Well, he couldn’t leave now.  The door slammed, flicked by the monster’s stinger-heavy, unfurling tail.

Not wife.  Monster.  He couldn’t bring himself to think “wife” anymore.

She flashed one of her alluring smiles, but now fangs glinted between her lips.  The bridal gown’s skirt split around the girth of her swollen, snake-like belly.

They said shifter-scorpion venom killed in thirteen minutes.

Tag choked.  “Why?”

“I wondered that,” she crooned.  “Why you?  Why did the universe bestow this much power on such an unlikely candidate?”

Superhuman data-control abilities were a pathetic defense against shape-shifting wives.  “The powers don’t do me much good now, do they?”  Tag clenched his fists.  “You lied to me!”

“Of course they do you good!”  The shifter-scorpion lounged onto the bed, tail flicking.  “The powers will keep you alive! – because they will get me what I want.”

Tag’s mouth soured.  She wasn’t hungry – she was power-hungry.  He wondered how painful death would be.  “In that case, you’ll have to use your plan B…killing me, right?”

“Wrong!”  She reached into the elaborate sculpture of her hair, and pulled a micro-dermic needle from between the jeweled hairpins.  “Ever heard of Morsian mind-control serum?”

Fear punched Tag in the chest.  Four star systems relied on him for digital security.  Eighty-billion people.  He felt his entire soul draining, leaving behind nothing but the emptiness of fear and cold certainty.  It was time to die.

He’d chance it with the stinger.

Tag took a flying leap at the door.  The shifter’s tail lashed out, whipped around him, dragged him to the bed.  Tag’s head slammed against the footboard.

In a fog of ringing pain, Tag dug his fists into the sheets as the needle stabbed his throat.

The shifter-scorpion leaned over him with smiling triumph.  “Happy wedding day, Tag.”
____

Flash fiction or not?  You decide, I guess.  😀

Hannah Williams
Member

Well, if this was a flash fiction I would be quite upset and maybe disturbed, but if this was continued on to eventually have a happy ending, I’d be relieved. Poor guy. Kind of makes my gut twist for him.

Juliet Nicole
Guest

It’s an interesting idea, it is….  😛 You managed to keep it coherent, too, which is difficult with as many twists and details as this piece has.

I think the only thing I’d have liked better is if he had a bit more confusion or heartbreak or whatever from discovering that the woman he had thought he loved and who loved him really just wanted his power.

Also, why did she shift? She could have injected him some other way, being his wife, and saved her big reveal for a last resort.

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

Good points, Juliet.  Thanks!

Lauren B
Guest
Lauren B

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.It prevented self-interest from clouding his judgment in this most crucial of decisions, and for that he was grateful. It was not whether he lived that truly mattered, but rather that she lived. The old man glanced behind him at the sleeping form of the dark haired toddler. Driven by fear and muddled prophecies, the emperor had ordered the death of his only daughter. Tag had stood by and watched many innocents die – at the hands of the emperor, and of his father before him, and of his grandfather before him. He was no stranger to the bloodiness of court politics. But Moonflower . . . he could not her tiny body be separated from her delicate soul. The emperor saw a curse upon his house, a malformed child, born without a hand, who would nonetheless crush the empire that had been generations in the building. But Tag saw a child born of the granddaughter he loved. He saw bright, curious eyes, windows to a quick, clever mind. He had wanted a few more years with her. Years to teach her, to prepare her for the gift of the magic when it revealed itself to her. She would have to find her path alone now, much as he had. Tag scooped the sleeping child from her ornate crib and held her close to his chest for the last time. He passed her to the waiting nursemaid and whispered an ancient blessing as he dropped the invisible cloak over them.  The hurried away, leaving Tag to wait alone for the assassins.

Lauren B
Guest
Lauren B

. . . he could not *let* her tiny body . . . oops!

Leanna
Guest
Leanna

I like this one a lot. I think it would expand well into a full prologue. 🙂

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

This is one of my favorites.  It makes me really curious about the story world.  It is harder to read when it’s all one paragraph, as a craft note – but overall this is intriguing and I want to see what happened to the little girl.  🙂

Juliet Nicole
Guest

I liked this one very much….  You captured the old man’s thoughts and ideas in an authentic way and it made me feel that it was all very real. And the thought of the old man sending away the baby and waiting for her assassins is very bitter and sweet.

Patrick Lauser
Guest

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.

He glanced around the bare warehouse. There was no way he could find Harker in time to keep him out of the Holy chamber. And if he saved his skin, Antor would take it. Take his skin.

He looked down at his arm, which was heavy with mystic tattoos and brandings. He liked his skin. When he did die, he wanted it to be used as a rug in one of the bedrooms in Lady Dan’s mansion. No hope of that if Harker looked in the Chamber. And if Antor got his skin it would just be locked in a glass case to tantalize mice in one of his vast, curio warehouses.

No help for it. He would have to try again. He began the call, reading the words off his left ankle:

“Eruhad tembereda Ansel thurua patalan. Imnosan Ahorad Gabalan entomad hedra, geberin thurua Ansel wastad.”

The room grew tired of being square, and relaxed into a sphere. Then Tag looked down, and saw his own body warped. He shrugged, but glimpsed his shoulder wrap halfway around the ceiling, and decided not to shrug anymore.

Another person soaked into his vision, and the room returned to its rigid self. A man stood across from him. Tag addressed him,

“Ansel, I want to try again.”

“For the hundred and fourteenth time?”

“Don’t rub it in.”

“If you prefer calling me, Antor must be scraping bottom.”

“He’s scraping me.”

“…So, since you can’t stay or leave, you will do neither? Cease to exist?”

“Go back in time anyway.”

“Which is the universe ceasing to exist. You would know that by now.”

“Please don’t rub it in.”

“Fine.”

Tag lost all memory and physical abilities, becoming a newly existent entity, a single cell at the moment of conception. Again.

“Tag, you’re it.”

Leanna
Guest
Leanna

This is my favourite so far. It doesn’t really make sense but there’s enough that I’m curious rather than confused.

I like the idea that he wants his skin to be a rug (my kind of dark humour). I love the sound of the incantation.  And you sold me with the last line.

Patrick Lauser
Guest

Thank you Leanna!

By the way, are we connected anywhere? Like on Holy Worlds, or Google+? I know some people who are into the dark things.

By the other way, I tried to keep the incantation from sounding like it was based on an existing language, such African or Latin or Gaelic. Do you think I succeeded? Or did strike you as “just like” some language or other?

Leanna
Guest
Leanna

I don’t know what Holy Worlds is, I am on Google+ but don’t really use it for anything. 🙂

It actually struck me that I couldn’t figure out what language it was based on so you succeeded at least with me. 🙂

Patrick Lauser
Guest

Holy Worlds is possibly the best Christian Fantasy forum in English, here is the link if you would like to check it out:

http://www.holyworlds.org/

 

“It actually struck me that I couldn’t figure out what language it was based on so you succeeded at least with me. ”

Hooray! Google Translate says it is most similar to Indonesian, but Indonesian looks like this:

Ruangan tumbuh lelah menjadi persegi, dan santai menjadi sebuah bola. Tag lalu menunduk, dan melihat tubuhnya sendiri menyesatkan.

So that looks like another success. Maybe I could develop this into a usable language.

Sorry, I like languages.

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

This one intrigues me!  It reminds me a little of Lawhead’s “The Skin Map” (which, granted, I haven’t fully read…just the idea of someone’s skin being used for something else, gross as that is).  Your language is so vivid – I especially loved the bit about the room relaxing into a sphere, and a person “soaking into” his vision.  Very nice.

Patrick Lauser
Guest

I subscribed to the comments, but something must have gone wrong again, which made me not see your comment. Which is sad, because it is such a nice comment.

Thank you Miss Bethany!

Yep, I read the Skin Map, the idea of the skin map being the only idea that really interested me in that book. Though one thing did interest me in the afterword: about how ley-lines were originally conceived because ancient landmarks and holy sites were actually in lines. Even if that is a hoax, or not accurate, it is a really neat idea.

I am very glad that was vivid. I was hoping it would not give a too much of an idea of convenience magic.

Travis Perry
Editor

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. His radiation meter had broken in the fall, so he wasn’t sure. But it was inconceivable, wasn’t it? That tucked into a crevice of a glassy-walled crater of a recent atomic blast, it was inconceivable that he wasn’t getting a lethal dose of radiation, wasn’t it?

If he waited, if he stayed, he would die. Not to mention the rebreather in his suit wouldn’t convert CO2 back into oxygen for him forever.

The aliens–we didn’t even know their proper name–had fallen on Mars like locust in Biblical plague. They nuked every strong point and hundreds of thousands of their mech suit infantry swarmed over everything else. The last human strongpoint before Earth itself had fallen.

The swarm of plasma-rifle toting aliens are what had chased Tag into the crater in the first place. Well, whatever they name was, the aliens didn’t take prisoners. Might as well die fighting than in some nuked-out crater. Maybe every one that goes down here is one less for Earth.

Tag crawled out of the crevice and looked up ten meters above him to the rim of the blast crater.

“Dear God, give me strength.” The prayer passed out of his lips without him even realizing it.

He began to climb up the crater wall, in the direction of the enemy horde. His rifle felt incredibly heavy as he pulled it along, as if it were made of lead.

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

I admit I’m a little confused by this entry, Travis.  It begins in third person but slips into first person partway through (also, beware info dumps).  But you put him in a nice, precarious spot and I liked how the ending revealed his faith and left me wondering what would happen to him.  🙂

Jonathan Garner
Guest

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.

 

The severed head of Mr. Marbles stared down at him from the top of the Candy Cane Tower. Blood dripped down the shiny structure, seeming to smear several of the red lines over the white. At the bottom of the tower, like an assassinated king fallen upon his jewels, a headless body lay among thousands of sparkling marbles.

 

None of the Lords of Play had believed Hyden Seek would resort to murder to end the Council of Childhood Games and become Emperor. Was Seek going to kill all the other Lords as well, unless they surrendered to his will? Lady Hopscotch had called Seek insane, and Tag no longer doubted it. This was the work of a madman.

 

Tag looked at the nearest Imagination Portal. Rainbow-colored light flashed around the circular gate. He or one of the other remaining Lords of Play needed to go to the children, whose every game unleashed incredible magic. If that power could be kept out of Hyden Seek’s clutches . . .

Leanna
Guest
Leanna

I was torn by the first paragraph of this one. It seemed like it would be too gruesome for my taste but… Mr. Marbles? Candy Cane Tower? (Sundry note: “the” headless body reads better in my head than “a” headless body) So I kept reading and WOW.

Love it, love it, love it. 😀

I don’t know how it connects exactly to the opening line but I don’t care because I love puns and punny names and childhood games and portals. And it’s all put together with a writing style that suits me as a reader. Thank you for writing this.

It’s an excerpt that makes me want to write the rest of the story if I can’t read it. o:)

Juliet Nicole
Guest

Jonathan, you’d better finish this one….  I really like it. 😀 It intrigues so quickly.

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

I find this entry doesn’t relate very tightly to the prompt, and I have a hard time telling what’s happening and the world is confusing to me.  But I love “Lords of Play” and “Hyden Seek”!  Really ingenious names.  😀  And nice cliffhanger at the end there…very effective way of making us wonder where you were about to go with this.

Jonathan Garner
Guest

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

Leanna
Guest
Leanna

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. 

Maybe a man of a hundred and six shouldn’t complain, but he sure as sin wasn’t ready to give up the ghost yet. Futile gesture as it was, he took grim satisfaction in destroying the tiny lab’s corner camera with the blunt end of his laser-screw.  Pieces of it scattered across the immaculate white floor. At least there would be that much of a mess for them to clean up. 

On the wall across from him, the demolecularizer blinked its cheery red digits. Thirty-nine seconds before he’d be gone, not even a smudge of space dust left behind. Unlocking the lab door would interrupt the sequence but it would only mean a slightly slower messier death at the hands of the “peacekeepers” waiting for him. 

Of course there was the dog to think of too. He glanced down. The tiny fuzzball growled as ferociously as she could as she gnawed at one of the broken bits of plastic. 

“Sorry I got you into this, old girl.” Tag bent down to scratch behind her ears. Twenty-seven seconds. Wasn’t time supposed to stretch and slow down when you were this close to death?

Tag took stock of his surroundings again and this time caught a spark of an idea. “It’s worth a try.” He muttered. 

 
He was done with six seconds to spare, which was fortuitous, because at the three second mark, the demolecularizer fired and the man who had been known as Tag ceased to exist.  

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

At your ending, I can’t tell whether the demolecularizer actually fires (even though there are 6 seconds left?), or whether he’s just thinking about what WILL happen if he doesn’t stop it.  So I don’t understand the ending.  But this was riveting to read!  I wanted to know more about him and how he ended up in there.

Leanna
Guest
Leanna

Thanks, Bethany! 🙂 The demolecularizer does fire (it seemed like a cheat to me to let the MC survive with the given opening line) but *spoiler* he finds a way out for the dog first. ;D Either a small air vent or disposal chute of some kind.

Also, I meant to add a clarifying comment that the demolecularizer only works on living matter, which is why the smashed camera will still be there as a “mess” afterwards.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. The unconscious body on the floor behind him all but sealed that fate.

“Thagellus — Tag — don’t,” the teacher insisted. He raised a bloodied hand through the bars, stopping Tag’s own hand halfway to the door lock.

“But you’ll die,” Tag argued, though not moving toward the lock again.

The prisoner, broken and bruised, yet mustered a smile and a quirked eyebrow. “Would you let the world die so that I might avoid a death that has always been reserved for me?”

“You… you don’t deserve this. Not this,” Tag argued weakly.

“No, I don’t,” the other admitted. “But my family does. My friends do. You do. Those guards that will soon be upon us — they do. I do this for them, not because they deserve it, but because I would see them escape what they deserve, to know the Father as I do.”

Tag nodded his head, defeated. As if the argument could’ve ended any other way. The keyring fell from his nerveless fingers, and he followed shortly thereafter, collapsing against the bars in bitter tears. Behind him, he heard a groan. Gaius, the jailer, was waking up. He was out of time.

“You could still leave,” the rabbi said with a sad smile. A knowing smile. Tag wasn’t going anywhere. After all, where could he go that he wouldn’t see his master’s face everywhere?

No, he’d stay right here. He looked up into that face, broken and beautiful, and felt a resounding peace. Sure, he’d be arrested — for the theft of Gaius’s keys, if nothing else. And he’d own that theft, without hesitation, and likely die right along side his master. But in that moment, even as he heard Gaius the jailer gaining his feet and declaring his arrest, there’s no place Thagellus Dysmus would’ve rather been.

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

Oooh, this reminds me of Kathy Tyers’ “Daystar” – I like creative and interesting Messiah figures.  And I like this Thagellus.  🙂  *up-vote*

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Thanks, Bethany! I really wish we had more than 300 words to flesh a story out. I’m sure you got that the teacher/rabbi imprisoned in this story is Jesus, the night before the crucifixion. The character Thagellus “Tag” Dysmus is Dismas, the thief that hung on the cross next to Jesus. Not much is known about Dismas — not even his real name! — so this challenge seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore what his story might have been.

K.F. Mellnitz
Guest
K.F. Mellnitz

 
  The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.
  He shouldered his rifle. One death would be honorable. The other dishonorable.
 
  If he left now, he might be able to get Fria and Tan to safety. Surveying the scene he knew it was a slim chance.
 
  “Tag!” A voice grumbled behind him. It was Ret, bloodied and disheveled.
 
  “We have to go,” he spoke with nervousness in his voice. If Ret was frightened the battle must be bad.
 
  “How bad is it?”
 
  “Bad,” he looked defeated. “The front has crumbled and Tam has given the call to abandon the villages.”
 
  “They will never make it and you know it.”
 
  “If we leave now..” he trailed off. “We could have a chance.” He spoke with little certainty.
 
  Tag turned to field before him. The Horde would come soon.
 
  Thinking of his wife and son, he knew what he must do. “Ret, evacuate our village. Get our families to The Sanctuary.”
 
  “What will you do?”
 
  “Create a diversion, stall them as long as possible. Help you get our families to safety.”
 
  “But..”
 
  “That’s an order,” he snapped.
 
  He softened his voice, “please, my old friend.”
 
  Ret hesitated, not knowing what to do. After a moment he shouldered his rifle, ”It will be my honor Captain. My friend.”
 

 
  He gave his friend a weak smile. This was goodbye.
 
  Turning back the field, Tag could see the Wolf-horde consuming the earth, destroying everything in its path.
 
  Tag took his rifle and loaded an empty Orb the chamber.
 
  He clutched the pendant at his neck. “Great Sovereign give me strength.”
 
  Tag lifted his rifle. Light filled the orb with power. Using the the power of the light, he found the Captain of Horde and pulled the trigger.

 

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

I really like the way you took off from the prompt – “One death would be honorable, the other dishonorable.”  Nice!  But the rest of the entry lacks coherence for me.  The situation seems a little cliche, and I didn’t get a good sense of place that made me care about the people involved.  Generic villages, sanctuary, etc.  The Orb part needs some clarification, too.  But I want to know more about this Horde.

Shannon McDermott
Guest

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. He felt the black hostility of his fellow players, all on their feet now. The cards convicted him, four aces staring up from the stained table.
 
Tag drew in a breath pungent with the smoke of the tap room. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”
 
Fallon—the man who called himself Fallon; Tag doubted it was a real name—raised his eyebrows. “You shouldn’t have said that.”
 
He lifted his chin—defying the man, his cool manner and his sharp eyes. “You proved nothing.”
 
Fallon reached forward and spread out the aces, inviting everyone to look at them again. “Only an esper,” he said, “always draws a good hand. And only an esper would throw a hand like that back.” He stepped closer until he almost breathed on Tag. “You played for diamonds and drew the Ace of Spades.”
 
The rest of the players started toward Tag, as if Fallon’s words were both verdict and sentence. And maybe they were. No matter how respectable citizens tsked that the Redzone was lawless, it had its rules.
 
Anyone caught cheating at gambling was fair game for a beating.
 
Anyone caught cheating at gambling with esper powers was fair game for a killing.
 
“What do you say, Tag?” asked Fallon, his quiet voice pausing the onslaught.
 
Tag maneuvered around his chair, leaving only open space to the door, and answered, “I have thrown back more good hands than you have ever played.”
 
He strode away, body tensed for the chase to begin or for a laser beam to shoot after him. He crossed the floor in a terrible, unrelenting silence and, at the door, he glanced back.
 
The players all remained beside the table—except for Fallon. He was gone, probably on another route outside, collecting whatever weapons or reinforcements he had handy.
 
Tag left, ready or not.
 

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

I didn’t up-vote this one because as an entry I found it bewildering and didn’t get a good grip of what was going on.  But I do really want to know what an esper is, and more about this world.  😀  I’d totally explore this concept in a longer story, if it was clarified.  🙂

Calista Beth
Guest
Calista Beth

The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.

 

“You don’t have to do this, Tag.” the priest breathed out of the corner of his mouth, “Is it worth your life?”

 

Tag turned to stare the priest down, disgust etched across his forehead. “And you are a servant of the Most High? I should think you of all people would understand.” His voice scratched across his already raw throat. Dragon smoke burned worse than he had expected. He should have known.

 

“I will not stand by and let these people mock the Most High for the sake of one foul beast that is but a mortal like we.”

 

The priest drew a long wheezy breath into his portly frame, then slowly nodded. “Then may the Most High go with you, my son. But if He gives you the option of life, for my sake take it.”

 

Tag drew his mouth into a grim smile. He needn’t bother to explain. The priest wouldn’t understand even if he did.

Hannah Williams
Member

Very intriguing! You left just the perfect touch of mystery about Tag at the end, leaving the reader wanting more! And dragons. Dragons are always a good addition. 😉

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

I’m confused.  Where’s the dragon?  Are they hunting it?  How are people mocking the Most High?  What does it have to do with a dragon?  I’d like to know more so I can understand this situation better. 🙂

I do love the detail that the smoke burns his throat!

Athelas Hale
Guest

Speculative Faith Writing Challenge: “Of Power and Love and a Sound Mind”
 An even 300 words, excepting the first line. [Counted by Microsoft Word, 2013]
         The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.

    Wind touched an ocean of grass, calling him. Stretching before Tag, the meadow boasted flawlessness that made him long to lie down and become a part of it.
    The urge to speed the process of losing his mind hovered at the edge of his thoughts, even as the idea got the blue ribbon for fears. The world teemed with contradictions. A flawless world at first glance, it twisted the mind of anyone staying on long-term.
   Focus, Tag. “Trevor!”
  His voice echoed back.
    Trying to fight mounting frustration, he ignored the voice in his head reminding him of his three more days. “Why are you like this? Can’t you be beautiful and good, or evil and ugly? You don’t have to trick people like this!”
   The world laughed.
    Hunching his shoulders, Tag shouted. “Trevor!”
    Nothing. “And why don’t you quit with the whole insanity thing so Trevor could get home on his own?”
    I could leave.
   The thought—his thought—made him freeze. No.
      “Abandon Trevor? Let him go mad without even realizing?” Tag forced emphasis into his voice. “Never.
     But what if it’s too late—he’s already dead?
    Tag knew the rules of the game. If he returned to Earth, he could have decades before the insanity set in. Here he would have three days—five until death.
   Both options ended the same way, but every instinct screamed for more time.
   Tag never expected to feel such intense fear.
   Taking a shuddery breath, Tag balled his hands into fists, soundlessly repeating the words some Sunday school teacher once drilled into his head. “God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love, and a sound mind!
    He screamed to the world. “You cannot stop me! I will find him!”
    The world studied him, and did not laugh.
 

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

Whoa.  I’m super intrigued.  A world where you lose your mind and die in 5 days?  A missing guy Tag has to rescue?  I like this.  It’s confusing and I could have used a little more clarity in spots for me to tell what was going on, but I’m up-voting it because I want to know more.  😀  And your writing is lyrical and lovely!

Athelas Hale
Guest

I’m glad you liked it! Very, very glad, actually. I got all of the comments you made on other people’s posts and realized, “Oh, she has three more until she gets to mine!” I had to edit nearly two-hundred words out of it, so I was entirely unsure of how it turned out… I expected it to be fairly confusing, but after reading it twenty times in the past three hours, I didn’t know just how confusing. If you enjoyed it, I’ll hope it wasn’t too terribly confusing, though.

Bluebelle
Guest

Impressive, Athelas! At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of this, since it seemed to lag into description. But then you grabbed my interest with this strange world and the choice facing Tag. I think the second paragraph, talking about the world of contradictions, was the most confusing. I understand what you were saying, but it takes some focus to unravel your meaning from your prose. However, I liked how you ended it. That last sentence really reinforced the idea of the world as its own entity. And now I’m really curious about the world you’ve created. 🙂

Athelas Hale
Guest

I should have known that would be a problem sentence. I rewrote it several times, but in the end word limits and time decided  that I would have to stick with the one I had. I’m very pleased at your curiosity—that’s very nearly the best compliment you can give a writer.

 

Bluebelle
Guest

Oh, I know how that goes! Word limits can be tricky things, and I’ve dealt with the dreaded rewriting of a sentence because of them. It can be frustrating. Curiosity is definitely a good thing to elicit. 🙂

Fiona Hanley
Guest
Fiona Hanley

Didn’t notice that the competition was over. Doesn’t matter I like what I wrote 🙂
The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. That was life, you died; big deal.
Staying did have its appeal, the golden room was filled with soft furniture and a table nicely set out with a banquet. Good way to spend the last few minuets of his life before the guards came and killed him.
“Work first play later,” he told himself sternly, sneaking into a dimly lighted hallway.
He wasn’t cut out to be a spy, much too quiet, no room for humor. Why had he chosen it? Couldn’t remember, couldn’t remember much of anything since the wizards had flashed their wands at him. “Memory wasn’t important,” they had told him, all that was important “The Mission,” handing a little piece of paper to Queen Cecilia, who was in one of these rooms down the hall.
Tag tried to remember which door it was. The wizards had told him, but it was hard to listen to their droning voices. Third door to the right, or maybe left; well he would just have to try both.
He opened the door on the left; it was a bedroom, tall and white. At first glance he thought it was empty; then he caught sight of the woman on the balcony.
 The queen turned. Catching sight of Tag’s face she uttered a half smothered shriek. “I killed you!” she hissed, her face twisting in rage.
“I have a message for you,” Tag said stretching out the sealed parchment. His instructions had been clear “ignore what she says, give her the message,” but he had not expected things to be quite so personal.
She hesitated a moment, then tore it out his hand. Reading it, her face twisted, shriveling up till it looked like that of an old woman. She fell to the floor but never reached, it blowing to ashes that settled in white dust around the room.
 
Then Tag remembered he was no spy. He realized he was the king.