2017 Spec Faith Summer Writing Challenge

Spec Faith is holding a summer writing challenge, a type of writing exercise, with rewards.
on Jun 19, 2017 · 71 comments

It’s time for our summer writing challenge!

Summer is the perfect time to slow down and pick up a good book to take to the beach or pool side or wherever you are vacationing. For writers, that “good book” might be the one you’re writing. Either way, we’d like to add to your summer writing and reading joy.

As we have for the last several years, Spec Faith is holding a summer 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 summer 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:

Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone.

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, June 25, 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, mark your favorite entries before Sunday, July 2.
  • Voting begins Monday, July 3.

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.

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.
Website ·
  1. Kessie says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone.

    He sat in an aluminum lawn chair, binoculars frozen halfway to his eyes. Down at the lake, his son and daughter splashed in the water, laughing and shrieking. But behind them, back in the pines, stood a creature.
    It was about thirty feet away, half-concealed in the undergrowth. It stood on two legs like a man, but there the similarities ended. Shaggy black hair covered its body. Elijah knew what Bigfoot was supposed to look like–but this wasn’t a Bigfoot, either. Instead of an ape-man, this thing had a huge, bulbous nose that hung down past its upper lip. Its eyes were fixed on him, challenging.
    Then, slowly, its predator-stare shifted to the children.
    Why hadn’t he packed a gun? The park rangers had warned him about the bears up here. They had even warned him about … other things. But he had laughed like any other city slicker and left his rifle sitting in its glass case back home.
    The creature stirred forward, the brush parting around its knees. Elijah raised the binoculars to his eyes. They showed him every wart on the monster’s face, the smooth, reddish skin of its nose, and the short pair of horns protruding from its skull. Its yellow eyes seemed to meet his through the binoculars. It hesitated and looked at the sky.
    An airplane droned overhead. Elijah glanced up. It was the fire department patrolling for fires.
    When he looked back at the trees, the monster was gone as silently as it had appeared.
    “Kids, I think we should go.” He turned back to his children.
    They were gone, too.

    • Lisa says:

      Ooo creepy. Love it!

    • So good! You have great tension throughout and the end just makes me want to keep reading. Great piece.

    • Katherine says:

      Scary! Good tension-and good description of the monster. My one question is-if the monster often comes and grabs people, and the locals believe in it enough to to warn visitors, would they just close that part off to visitors? I think that constantly losing tourists would be bad for business. I love the story, though. I want to know what happens!

      • Kessie says:

        This is the basic description of the Mogollon Monster here in Arizona. They don’t think it exists and wouldn’t think of closing the parks and campgrounds. I don’t think they attack people. Or if they do, you wouldn’t know about it. :-p

  2. Elijah wanted to run — to hide if not to get help — but he couldn’t leave these kids alone… no matter how much he wanted to.

    His mind flicked back to last night, when the children’s caretaker had lay transforming, turning into one of those– those creatures.

    “Take care of them for me,” she’d whispered as her voice began to change into something inhuman. “If you don’t, I’ll be sure to kill you.”

    Oh, yes, what a wonderful, lovely, sorrowful moment it had been.

    Firstly, Elijah couldn’t stand kids. No matter how young, how sweet, or how innocent. He’d rather have wished them the best of luck, headed home and away from that creature-infested property, and spent some time binge-watching Netflix.

    And secondly, he didn’t want to die. There was a ninety-five-percent chance that one of those zombie-like hyenas would bite him, cause him to become one of them.

    Elijah shook his head. Nope. Binge-watching Netflix sounded like the best option.

  3. Rebecca Dockum says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. They stood wide-eyed motionless amongst the weeds surrounding the pond with Lee screaming his head off with a fishhook stuck into his belly.
    How’d it happen? Elijah had swung his line and in mid-arc, the wind threw the wormed hook into Lee. Upon examination, he found its entry had broken clean through the skin and embedded in the thick wrinkle above his little brother’s navel.
    Jenny dropped her pole and ran to Lee’s side repeating, “What happened, what happened?” Elijah told her to shush. He needed to take action being the oldest.
    “Go get Ma!” He watched as braids dance across her back while she hightailed it down the cow path.
    Lee wiggled in pain thrashing about like some shot coyote. “Lay still. You’re not gonna die.” Elijah pushed Lee down on the bank of the pond and called the twins to come closer.
    “Look in the tackle box for some scissors.” He pointed to Toby with his free hand.
    The redheaded boy stared back unmoving. Cindy pushed him and the boy scurried to the box digging out a rusted pair. Elijah cut the line and tossed his pole away. Now, what to do?
    Cindy piped up, “Dad showed me how to push the hook through and snip off the barbed head when it caught deep in a fish. Do you think we need to do that?”
    “No, no, don’t you touch me.” Lee’s giant tears washed dust trails across his cheeks.
    “Are there pin nose wire cutters in the box?” Ten-year-old Elijah pointed to Toby.
    “Yep!” He fetched the tool and handed it over to his big brother.
    “Hold him still. This ‘ill hurt.” Elijah reached to Lee’s belly. The boy hollered clear to Kansas. Toby grabbed Lee’s legs and Cindy held his shoulders to the ground.

    • Lisa says:

      Good! One suggestion I have would be to put Elijah’s age near the beginning, not at the end. I thought he was an adult until the end.

    • You have some really descriptive language, like “braids dance[d] across her back” and “like some shot coyote” and “washed dust rails across his cheeks.” Plus you make the characters seem alive and real and individual. An excellent entry.

  4. Sammie Betler says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide, if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. There was no way they would be able to fend for themselves during the Hunt.

    He glanced at the three of them, huddled in the corner of the rickety shack, watching him for some clue as to how they should react. Despite the throbbing in his leg from the bullet wound and the fever from the infection, Elijah smiled at them. The evident relief on their young faces was almost worth the lie.

    The smallest one shivered pitifully, and Elijah pulled off his threadbare coat and threw it around the child’s shoulders. This one was the weakest, and if he survived the transformation, it would be a miracle. They were all malnourished and filthy, worn ragged by weeks of running. But that would all be over soon. Tonight was the Changing. If they could just see the dawn, they would stand a chance.

    The moon peeked out from behind a cloud, drawing silver patterns along the haggard floorboards. Elijah regarded it as an old friend. The Changing was starting, but there was no telling how long it would take. Younglings couldn’t control their transformations, not like the elders in the pack. For now, they were still human and easy prey. By morning, they would be full-fledged werewolves, which were much more formidable and harder to kill.

    Gunshots punctured the quiet night. One at first, then many. The children whimpered, and Elijah hushed them as gently as he could. He strained his ears, waiting to hear the news. There was only silence. Finally, in the distance, a long howl rose over the trees, sad and mournful like a funeral dirge.

    Elijah slumped back into his chair. It was too late. The Hunters were coming.

    • Lisa says:

      Good one! You and I were both on the same werewolf wavelength…hmmm….wonder if there’s a full moon tonight? 🙂

    • I liked the initial mystery. I’d have preferred you keeping the “werewolves” idea up to the reader to figure out instead of telling it, but other than that, there’s lots of tension and intrigue. Good job.

  5. Elijah wanted to run – to hide if not to get help – but he couldn’t leave the kids alone.

    He held the pulser in both hands perpendicular to his body, the barrel pointed outward like a talisman warding off evil spirits. Sarah’s voice drifted in fragments out of the cave behind him, soothing tones placating the whimpers of three others far younger. She was lying to them in a way, for she doubtless felt the same fear.

    David had been gone half an hour. Already far too long.

    Elijah fixed his eyes on the horizon, ignoring the sting of acrid air inside his nostrils. The omnipresent chemical clouds loomed against the sky in an angry red steadily giving way to black. The light was fading from a mythical “sun” he had never seen, casting shadows over a dead landscape of barren rock. The few twisted remains of plant life cast a sinister aura over the general desolation. The day was deadly. BUt the night was terror beyond reckoning.

    He could already hear the calls of Hunters in the distance. The sound was an illusion, thought it would soon be all too real.

    He dared to loosen his grip on the pulser, reaching inside his jacket and fingering the crucifix he always carried. A vague prayer – handed down by his mother before her passing – formed without power on his lips. True belief required hope – and the latter was a stranger.


    The hand returned to its place. “I’m here. No sign of him yet.”

    Silence confirmed her understanding. Sarah was identically armed with a pulser she had used well and often, her shattered leg the only thing keeping her confined with the children inside the cavern. Elijah had offered her the last of their morphine, which she had refused. He didn’t even want to imagine the pain she was holding back.

    Come on, David…

    • Lisa says:

      Lots of questions left unanswered here….you should finish this!

    • Katherine says:

      Really cool story! I’m not sure you need to say that he held the pulser perpendicular to his body. I think saying that he held it outward is enough. I really want to know what the Hunt is! And if the clouds are chemical, do they use breathing masks? Even if they are a relatively harmless chemical-which I am assuming they are not-long term exposure would be very bad. The science major in me is coming out. 😉

  6. Audie says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone.

    There was no surprise why the bandits had targeted the little halfling village. His people relied on their small stature and child-like appearance to stay on the good side of the big folks. Most days, that worked well enough.

    But there were days when being small and weak just meant you were a small and weak victim, and this band of maybe a dozen bandits had made it that sort of day.

    Most of the village’s people, including old people and young children, were now hiding in the chapel, but that building wouldn’t provide much protection, and could even become a death trap.

    Most of his people couldn’t put up much of a fight against any of the bigger folk, even if they wanted to try.

    Elijah stood before the chapel’s door. He smelled alcohol, and knew these bandits had been drinking. He heard their raucous laughter and their drunken boasting. They considered this village an easy target, they though they would have no problem getting the things they wanted.


    He would have liked help. Standing between these bandits and the chapel would limit his mobility. It wasn’t an ideal situation.

    That didn’t matter.

    Be cold, be calculating, his teacher had told him. You can’t overpower them, so out-think them. See how you’ll defeat your enemy before you even attack.

    He drew his blades, one for each hand. His teacher called them Toothpicks, but in his own mind, Elijah had begun to give them another name. They were his Fangs.

    And tonight, he was full ready to show some intoxicated bandits just how sharp the little people’s fangs could be.

  7. Lisa says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. Not if he wanted to get paid.

    Being a bodyguard to two werewolf cubs was bad enough. Being a bodyguard to werewolf cubs whose ticked-off dad was approaching in full fang-out mode was worse.

    Dad—whose name was Sven—loped closer, his eyes shining red, lips pulled back over his impressive teeth in a snarl.

    The kids, seeing Dad, began a shrill keening sound that at least was partially muffled by the bullet-proof glass in the hover-car. But Sven’s ears twitched and he broke into a run. Not muffled enough, apparently.

    Elijah straightened his backbone, tried to look unconcerned, even as he surreptitiously thumbed the gun’s power switch to “on”. He was suddenly grateful that he had loaded it with the silver bullets this morning. Just in case.

    Elijah lifted the gun slightly as Sven scrambled to a halt in front of him, a low rumbling growl emanating from his throat. “Loaded with silver, Mr. Jorgensen. So be careful.” He tried to ignore the howls that were coming from the hover-car behind him.

    Sven’s eyes narrowed, but he cast a wary look at the gun. “My children. I’ll take them now.” His voice came out in a distorted growly rasp.

    “I can’t let you do that. Your ex-wife has custody. And a restraining order. I’m going to have to ask you to leave. You have a problem with that, take it up with the judge.”

    Snarls were coming from the car, now. Great. Seeing dear ol’ dad had triggered the change. The car would be a mess. Again. He stifled a sigh.

    Just another day on the job. 5 PM couldn’t come soon enough.

  8. M.A Zeller says:

    Elijah wanted to run- to hide if not to get help – but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. Not after witnessing what would happen to them.
    His fingers tightened around the hilt of his sword. The ominous cadence of the approaching evil echoed though the shadow-immersed catacomb.
    His gaze fastened to the door in front of him, he knelt, his fingers brushing against damp cloth. Blood. Suppressing a wince, Elijah plunged his hand into the bag, his fingers curling around parchment. He yanked his hand out and motioned for the oldest child to take the object.
    “It’s a map that will lead you to the exit,” Elijah explained, his heart thumping in time with the footsteps overhead. The boy took the map, his hand shaking with fear. Elijah glanced at the other three children. Their faces were pale and drawn in the candlelight.
    “Go,” Elijah’s voice was raw with urgency. “I won’t let them catch you.”
    The boy nodded and led his siblings into the dark tunnel of the catacomb. After they disappeared from his sight, Elijah blew out the candle before snapping his attention back to the door. There was a wrenching sound, and a sudden burst of blinding light assaulted his eyes.
    Soldiers rushed in, torches and spears in hand. Pain numbed Elijah’s fingers, as two of the soldiers gripped his shoulders, seizing his sword and pushing him forward. “Is he one of them?”
    “Yes,” a familiar voice drew out as a man entered the catacomb. “He is.” Elijah jerked against the restraining hold as his arms were drawn behind his back.
    “Traitor,” he spat.
    “Spare me the drama, Elijah, and tell me where the rest are hiding.”
    “And condemn those who are innocent?” Elijah glared at the man. “I’m not a traitor like you.”
    The man cursed at him before something smashed into Elijah’s head, dragging him into a chasm of darkness.

    • Christian Author says:

      This one would be my favorite, so thumbs up for this one. Just one complaint…what happens next?!

    • Dianne Pfouts says:

      Gripping! Love this one!

    • Bethany rose says:

      I love it!! Interesting and gripping!! I want to know what happens next!!

    • Liz M says:

      Okay, I’m ready to read the whole story now! Good descriptions set the scene, good characters give a hint of a backstory (“traitor like you”) a well-set hook to want to read more. I’m all there!

  9. Jane Moore says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. It was his job to watch over them, keep them safe. He had to stand up to the approaching alien threat no matter how loudly his instincts screamed at him to flee. Elijah was Gilead Colony’s Second Assistant Goatherd, Kid Division.

    In the first months on this new world the colonists settled in to farming and building. Six days they labored, and on the seventh day they rested and thanked The Father for all that He had provided.

    This new world’s produce was far superior to that which they’d brought from Home. The livestock thrived on it. The cattle, goats, and sheep grew faster and hardier. Elijah and his team stayed busy.

    Now one of the local predatory beasts was stalking his charges. The colonists called it Chimera because it looked like a mix of several of the nasty creatures from their mythologies. Chimera were meat-eaters and not at all picky about the variety. Elijah tightened his jaw, turning sideways to the monster. He unwound his sonic sling and blindly drew a screamer pellet from his ammo pouch.

    “Come near them at your own risk, beast,” he growled.

    • Katherine says:

      Cool and unexpected twist-we are so used to calling children kids that most people don’t think of goats!

  10. Sharon Moore says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. He knew it was his mission, nay his duty to save his class from the substitute teacher. He had heard from his older siblings that Mr. Fillion was so mean. He would call on you even if you didn’t raise your hand! Elijah slowly walked into the classroom, books clinched in white-knuckled hands.

    As he sat down he saw Mr. Fillion reading the seating chart. It was then Mr. Fillion’s eyes locked with Elijah’s. The mean teacher rose from his desk and walked to where the scared student sat.

    “Mr. Nearly, you wouldn’t be related to a Hannah and Wray Nearly, would ya?” Mr. Fillion said.
    “I’m their youngest brother.”

    The rest of the class began to file in. Elijah’s best friend and seat mate, Sean, sat down with his eyes wide open staring at Mr. Fillion.

    “Dude, is that the same task master teacher Wray talked about?” Sean said leaning close to his friend, but not taking his eyes off their new teacher.
    “The very same.” Elijah said barely blinking.

    Just then the bell rang and Mr. Fillion stood behind his desk.
    “Hello students. I’m your new teacher for a month or so while Mrs. Washburn has her baby. My name is Mr. Fillion. I’m sure you’ve heard of me, if you have older siblings. I bet it was all bad. I promise you it’s not true. Well it was. I had a battle with sobriety back in the day. Thanks to my loving church family I’ve gotten help. So who I am now is not who I was then. So let’s get to learning!” He said sitting at his desk.
    “I guess we shouldn’t judge a book by its old bad reviews on Amazon.” Elijah whispered to Sam.

    The friends laughed as Mr. Fillion began rollcall.

    • Katherine says:

      Good. Although I’m not sure you would tell a class of young kids that you had struggled with drinking. That would not go over well in the school system my parents taught in. Also, if you decide to write a longer version, maybe show the teacher doing something unexpectedly kind, instead of him telling the kids he’d changed. I’d love to read more.

  11. Tyler Tran says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. Not when Matthew placed him in charge of their protection. Still those words reverberated in his mind, “Remember our sacred duty to protect the helpless. Guard these children with your life.” Elijah shivered as he thought of Matthew’s stare drilling the order into him.
    “Eli, I’m scared. What’s going on?” young Levi asked. Immediately 20 sets of eyes focused on Elijah.
    He swallowed. How am I supposed to tell them that our centuries old enemy has finally found our refuge? Well, this will probably be a mistake. As he opened his mouth to reply, Shan barged into the room.
    “Okay guys to the bunkers,” she barked, shepherding the nearest to the door. Spotting Elijah, she tossed him a sheathed dagger. “You get charged with their protection and don’t bring a weapon. What would you do with me?” she jokingly mocked.
    “I don’t know,” Elijah replied, “Make one with my magic.”
    “As much fun as it is to Bend the air into a metal blade, you should realize that takes too much time and there could be a flaw in the blade. Trust our smiths.”
    “And so you brought me a dagger. Won’t be totally useless against a sword.”
    “After seeing you practice with your throwing knives, I thought you could nail an intruder before they got too close.”
    “How do you know about my throwing knives? Have you been following me?”
    Shan blushed. Just as she started to reply, Matthew warped into the room. He looked like he had been in hell. His cloak was in shreds and from what Elijah could see his chain mail didn’t look so well either.
    “What are you doing here? The bunkers are warded against entry from the Mental Realm. Why aren’t you there?” he rasped. “They broke our lines. They’re coming.”

  12. Julie Kitchens says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. The twins, Luke and Mary, huddled in the crook of a massive oak tree as another ear-splitting howl pierced the air. Elijah’s heart raced. An old building sat on a hill across from a swollen stream. If he could make it across the stream and open field, would he find help? But that meant leaving the twins long enough to check it out.

    “I wanna go home.” Mary wiped the tears from her eyes and leaned into Luke. He sat straighter and patted her knee.

    Elijah knelt next to them and hugged them tight, their tiny bodies shivering under his. They’d been walking in the woods near their house when the mist came. Blinding, terrifying. And then it disappeared, leaving them in this strange valley.

    Howls shattered the stillness, nearer this time. Elijah swiped the sticky hair from his eyes. They’d have to risk the run. He grabbed Mary, snuggling her into one arm. Her tiny arms wrapped around his neck.

    “Luke, hold onto my hand and don’t let go.”

    Luke’s pale green eyes widened, but he nodded and grasped Elijah’s hand.

    Elijah took a breath and said a quick prayer. “Let’s go.” He dashed across the open field toward the rushing stream. The earth trembled beneath his feet, and Luke toppled forward. Elijah yanked him upright and kept running.

    As he neared the stream, a sleek, black panther bounded in front of them, and Elijah stumbled to a halt.


    He spun at the deep voice to find a silver panther staring at them.
    Elijah licked his dry lips and clutched Mary tighter as Luke hid behind him.

    “Wh…what do you want?”

    The panther swished his long, barbed tail. “You.”

  13. Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. The kids. All seven shiny, on-bejeweled-keychains Garten500 electronic “kids.” How did he end up nursemaid to a bunch of golf ball–sized, pixelated kids, doted on by his boss, one of the wealthiest women in the solar system, widow to a powerful magician?

    Because when one is hiding from the Kleton Gang—the most feared gang in the galaxy—one did what one must. And taking this job had seemed the better option than hiding as a saxophone player in an all-women band. He might have to dry digital tears and change digital diapers, but at least he didn’t have to wear heels.
    Elijah watched the sleek black hovercraft glide on down the thoroughfare, letting out a breath as it disappeared around a corner. It’d been a year since he’d witnessed the murder of a rival gang’s leader. Maybe they’d forgotten about him.

    One of the seven balls squeaked, and Elijah dashed to the crib. Rebecca had that high, but not shrill, squeak when she was hungry. Elijah quickly fed her and then checked on the others. Daisy needed to go to the bathroom, of course. Hugo was napping, again. On down the row he went. He smiled. They were kinda cute in a way, for a bunch of colored pixels. And his boss, Damaris, she wasn’t so bad either. And she didn’t look so bad in green; that is, the green tint to her skin wasn’t so bad. But it was the way she looked at the toys that both squeezed his heart and made him cringe. There was a lot of love in that look … for a bunch of toys.
    He looked the Garten500s again.

  14. Autumn Grayson says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone.

    Then again, why shouldn’t he? He wasn’t the twins’ bodyguard, truly; his superiors only called him that to make him feel better about his position as a glorified babysitter.

    The twins’ eyes honed in on the enemies before them, like a dog eyeing strangers that were about to cross into its territory. Elijah took several slow, silent steps backward. The twins could handle these…rivals lining up before them now. The only thing they ever needed him for was breaking up their arguments and keeping them calm as they crossed through cities.

    There was no use in staying here, potentially getting caught in the crossfire, because he couldn’t do anything to help.

    Elijah’s foot stepped in a low spot in the ground, and he drew in a sharp breath as he regained his balance.

    Sharp blue eyes met his as one of the twins glanced his way, her gaze sharp and narrow. What…what was that glare supposed to mean? ‘Run, Elijah, stay out of our way you moron’, or was it an ‘I know you’re trying to creep away, how dare you!’ look? And why did that glare make him feel guilty for trying to stay safe? It wasn’t like he had powers!

    Either way, she turned her glare back to her and her brother’s opponents. Well, the twins knew he was trying to leave and weren’t stopping him. That could be a good sign or a bad one, but if it was a bad one, the twins’ anger could be resolved later.

    Elijah swallowed, then turned and strode swiftly away. If he was going to risk the twins’ wrath by leaving, he may as well exit boldly.

  15. KT Sweet says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. Not for long, not with Ma.

    Night was falling as he evaded alien soldiers trying to capture him. He rushed into the ruined city square where he’d left his little sister and brother, to find food. Only now, a screaming crowd fled a nine-foot crowsnake. The aliens’ pet liked human flesh.

    Sliding on oily pavement, he righted himself against a burned-out car. Elijah searched for his family. The kids cowered by rubble near the creature’s left wing. His sister Mira’s small body shielded Joey, their little brother. Appetizers to an adult crowsnake.

    Jaw clenched, he tightened his fists. Mother? Running away.

    The monstrosity’s killing ritual began, dripping fangs emerging from its large mouth. Crowsnake’s venom paralyzed its victim without relieving pain. Elijah had watched one toy with and then eat a man, a limb at a time. He still had nightmares.

    His bitter ma said only sinful people died cruel deaths. Elijah’s respectful disagreement earned her enraged blows. Seventeen and muscular, he never retaliated. He simply replied God wanted better for them.

    Nearby alien whistled calls meant they were closing in. When they discovered his locked mind wouldn’t reveal the rebels’ plans, they’d kill him. Or, he could die saving his sister and brother. An easy choice.

    He tensed his left forearm, prompting the implanted micro-laser to emerge. Firing, he burned through the crowsnake’s right eye, then seared its right side. All the while he made clucking noises to draw its attention.

    Hissing, the creature dived at him. Elijah dodged its death throes.

    A hand flex retracted his laser as he ran to his siblings. Trembling, he hugged them. Together, they vanished into the welcoming darkness.

  16. Susan Lyttek says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone.
    Not now. He was the first of his kind to see them. They were adorable. They clustered together—for warmth or for camaraderie, he could not tell. He wanted to merge with them and wrap his arms around them.
    He had no idea what these, his children, needed, so he just watched.
    She would be coming. He was amazed that he had hidden from her all month.
    It was a war between instinct and emotion. He didn’t take it personally that she wanted to kill him. It was programmed into her. It had been part of her since the day she breathed.
    After his time with the two-legs, after he became aware, he had resisted instinct. That ended the day he saw her. He still could return to the two-legs. They would protect him. But at what cost?
    Early on, he had taken measures. He had learned of the point between her eyes that would stun. After they had mated, but before she began to feed, he pressed it with two of his forelegs. Hard. And he left.
    She had tracked him until the urge to lay the eggs took over. After that, he wandered, sightseeing and marking time until this moment. He had seen butterflies, bursts of color upon the flowers. He had seen bugs that lit up the night sky. He had seen so many wonders that none of his kind had seen before.
    Now, he saw his offspring.
    He felt her coming before she wrapped her legs around him. She had unfinished business. He had no particular wish to die, but he would allow her to finish the cycle.
    Elijah had been the first. Perhaps some of his sons would be the next. And maybe one day, the black widow would change her name.

  17. Cassie Stevens says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone.

    The woman and her bodyguards approaching the lab door looked like trouble. Ordinarily, Professor Bell authorized all visitors and personally fielded questions about her work in deep-space mapping. But she’d been called away, leaving the kids studying the latest data and chatting happily about the galaxies and nebulae they’d visit someday.

    “Quiet,” he warned Orly and her brothers, uneasy in the professor’s continued absence. Orly blinked a saucy reply, and Elijah shook his head at her. “I mean it.”

    He’d heard things, over the years, as the professor talked to her projects. But the kids might blithely spill their secrets, thinking they were being helpful.

    A passkey slid into the lock. Squaring his shoulders, Elijah tightened his grip on his mop and blocked the door just as it clicked open.

    “What’s this?” wondered a bodyguard.

    Leaving out the fact he served only as janitor and audience, Elijah answered with as much dignity as he could muster, “I am Professor Bell’s assistant.”

    “You must be Elijah,” the woman said.

    He nodded.

    “I’m Doctor Varna, executor of the professor’s estate—that means she died and left everything to me,” she explained, obviously not trusting Elijah to know what she meant.

    He might only be good at cleaning, but he wasn’t stupid. He could see Doctor Varna held Professor Bell’s badge and passkey. “Being executor means you have authorization,” he said, and slowly lowered the mop.

    Sitting among scattered data chips, the kids didn’t look like themselves. If he could pass them off as scrap and take them away—maybe get them to the starship, where they belonged— Elijah edged back toward the workbench, trying to look like he was just doing his job.

    “Brilliant,” breathed Doctor Varna. “I’d heard of Bell’s AI systems… so that’s Elijah! Portent of things to come.”

  18. Sara James says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. He let the curtain fall shut, and turned off the television, which was another breaking news bulletin about the spread of the so-called cannibal virus. No sense scaring the kids.
    Lucy and Sam were busy with a jigsaw puzzle and didn’t ask what he was looking at. Just as well. He didn’t want to explain to them that he was pretty sure their neighbor Mr. Ramos had the virus–either that or he was suddenly overcome with passion for Mrs. Ramos in full view of the neighborhood.
    He went to the hall closet and retrieved the gun, loaded it and tucked it into his belt. He grabbed the kids’ jackets and the car keys from their hook.
    “Kids!” he called, trying to sound upbeat. “We’re going out for awhile. Sam, grab some snacks and water bottles. Put them in your backpacks.” Sirens sounded in the distance, getting closer. “Lucy, get both your favorite toys.”
    Sam darted into the kitchen and came back with an armful of granola bars and water bottles. Lucy ran up the stairs. She returned with Sam’s handheld video game and her baby blanket, plus books. “Is this good, Uncle Eli?”
    “Yeah, perfect. Sam’ll read to you.” He helped with her jacket, stuffing the toys in her backpack and then holding the straps for her to put on. He shoved the food and water into Sam’s backpack, grabbed a family photo off the wall and put that in, too.
    “Where are we going?” Lucy asked. “Why are we taking that?”
    “Let’s play a game!” Elijah said, blinking hard and fast. “Who can get to the van first? Without looking around?”
    He’d get the kids in the car, and they’d go to the quarantine zone. They’d make it. Because he couldn’t run. He couldn’t leave the kids.

  19. Melinda K. Busch says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. Besides, who would want to help a bunch of orphans? That morning, they had arisen to find their caretakers had fled, leaving them like an offering to an angry deity. They could have run too, but not without leaving the weaker ones, Elijah’s sister among them.

    For days, rumors had swirled through the countryside that the enemy was coming. According to the caretakers, the foreigners delighted in cutting off fingers and toes of small children before killing them. Now they were at the door, and soon they would force it open and scour every inch of the orphanage… unless… Perhaps they would be satisfied with me? He trembled at the thought.

    At 15, Elijah was the oldest. In the past, he loved to lord it over the younger ones, but today he felt the weight of responsibility and was not sure he could bear it. Make up your mind. Six years since Mother had been lost and he could barely remember her face, but he still knew her soft whisper in his head. Decide, then do. And he decided.

    “Adi! Dan!” he called in the loudest whisper he dared. The twins—a skinny boy and a timid girl–scurried over. “Get everyone to the crawl-space. Keep them quiet and don’t come out until you hear the soldiers leave.” He laid a hand on Adi’s quivering shoulder. “You can do it. Take care of Tala.” With a solemn nod, the twins hurried to obey.

    The children moved fast, and in under a minute, Elijah stood by himself in the common room. He breathed in deep, straightened his shoulders, and walked forward to meet his fate just as the door began to creak open.

    • Kat Bybee says:

      Oh, Melinda, your entry made me cry! You are such a talented writer, and have such a love for the Lord, and both of those qualities shine in this heartbreaking piece. Most of all, your heart for children comes through, and I was reminded of the verse that talks about how there is no greater love than that a man lays down his life for his friends… This is the winner!

    • Katherine says:

      I love it! Courage, love, and sacrifice. Stories like this are basically why I read fantasy.

    • Melinda, you featured one of the traits that draws readers to characters—self-sacrifice. Definitely makes him more likeable. Good job.

      Would it be possible to write this without switching from third person to first and back? That might make it stronger.


      • Melinda K. Busch says:

        Thanks, Becky. The parts that are in first person were originally in italics, representing Elijah’s thoughts. I hadn’t realized when I posted that this formatting would not carry through.

  20. Bill Niceley says:

    Elijah wanted to run- to hide, if not to get help- but he couldn’t leave the kids alone.
    He looked again. They were coming fast.
    He raced back to the second level where the sixteen kids waited. He waved them away from the windows and called for the three oldest boys.
    “Listen”, Elijah said,”we don’t have time to wait for the elders’ return. We have to get out now. I’m going to create a portal. I need you three to help me get everyone through quickly.”
    They nodded solemnly.
    “Okay, let’s move to the roof. John, follow me. Quinn and Pete bring up the rear.”
    On the roof, Elijah commanded everyone to line up and to watch John, Pete and Quinn for direction. He glanced over the wall and saw the first line of androids bust through the gates.
    He turned and removed a small flask from his jacket pocket. “Everyone quiet,” he said, “and pray.”
    He closed his eyes and took a drink from the flask. The cool liquid worked fast, clearing his mind. Elijah asked The Creator to help him locate a portal to Outland. He opened his eyes and gazed around the walled courtyard. In a moment, he saw it. A blue-green swirl amid the vine covered lattice to his left.
    Elijah held out his hands and prayed aloud. “Help us, Father. Provide an escape for your children.”
    The swirl grew until it was a large opening in the wall. Elijah saw a grassy, sun splashed hillside.
    “Now, John. Go!”
    John led the kids through the opening. Elijah counted as they went to make sure they all made it.
    As the last crossed over, Elijah heard gunfire from the stairway. Searing pain ripped through his shoulder.
    He could no longer hold the portal. He caught a glimpse of Pete’s shocked face and tried to smile. Then it closed.

    • Katherine says:

      So good! Are the portals magic or some kind of tech? I love the blend of fantasy and sci-fi elements.

    • Lisa says:

      Elijah, Peter, John….I was waiting for James and Abraham to show up and the portal to take them to the Mount of Transfiguration! 🙂

  21. David Anderson says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone.

    He had one foot outside the barn door and saw the entire village driven to stem the rising river. The sandbags were only knee height with the river peaking over. They were all trapped together on the last high-ground.

    “Come back,” two boys tugged on Elijah’s coat.
    He stumbled rearward but caught his balance. Those late night journeys home from the tavern finally came to his aid.
    “Careful you two.” Elijah corrected the fit of his coat and ushered the boys back to the huddle.
    “I’m hungry,” said another boy.
    “I’m scared,” added a girl.
    Elijah faked a smile, “I know you are, but it’ll be over soon.”
    “How long?” All the kids pleaded.
    “Gather around,” Elijah waved them toward him.
    They flopped down on the dirt floor.

    “Once upon a time, in a land far away lived a beautiful lady and her brave knight. They were deeply in love and promised to each other. But an evil dragon also lived in the land.
    Early on their wedding day, the dragon flew from his mountain cave, circling the land looking to quell his boredom. He tried to join the wedding but didn’t have an invitation.
    The castle guards were steadfast, but no match for the dragon’s fiery breath. The lady cringed behind her knight as the dragon closed in. They could smell his…”

    “Father Joseph!” cried the girl.
    “We’re delivered!”
    The kids cheered in delight and ran outside.
    Elijah rose and dusted himself off while avoiding the priests’ watchful gaze.
    “You stayed and saved our treasures. Your courage has redeemed you.”
    Elijah stopped at the door. “Thanks, but you probably lost money.”
    Father Joseph faced him, “Elijah, I won the lottery this time.”

    • Katherine says:

      Good, but I’m not entirely sure I understand. What did he mean about Father Joseph losing money, and Joseph saying he won the lottery?

  22. Katherine says:

    Elijah wanted to run-to hide if not to get help-but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. They clustered behind him, wings clamped to their backs, trembling. A few clung to Elijah’s legs. Twelve children, only two old enough to fly for more than ten minutes. Tory, the eldest girl, stood next to Elijah, a knife in one hand. They watched from the meager shelter of the cave as their attackers prowled around the cave mouth, looking for a weakness in the barrier spell.
    Cythera, the warrior assigned to protect them, lay with a jagged arrow in her gut. She had cast the barrier spell, and it would would collapse at her death. The mocking calls of the soldiers turned Elijah’s stomach. Who hunted children?
    Cythera reached up and grabbed Elijah’s wrist, hard enough to hurt. Fury and pain lined her face.
    “Get them out of here, boy,” she rasped. “Protect our future.”
    “I can’t,” he whispered, drowning in sudden despair. The kids were too young to fly, and he had no wings. Stupid, helpless human. He had never studied battle magic, and had no training as a warrior. Useless. He was useless.
    Cythera yanked on his arm, nearly pulling him to the ground.
    “You have to,” she hissed. “Think, boy! Use that head for something besides dreaming.”
    He looked away from her, ashamed. His eyes fell on the river beside them, that flowed out of the cave mouth into the lake in front of them. He knew this cave well; he’d hidden in it often enough to escape childhood tormentors. Unlike the winged Arlani, he had no innate dislike of small spaces. Inspiration struck; a memory of a spell he’d invented but kept secret, never dreaming it would be of use. He turned back to Cythera and Tory. “I have an idea.”

    • OK, I love this. A different race, a growing danger, a plan to overcome the obstacles. I don’t know Elijah well, but I like his attitude and determination in the face of his weakness. I like the dying protector. I think you did a good job connecting readers with the characters in such a short segment of the story.


  23. Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone.

    That’s what he told me. I couldn’t believe how he’d froze with fear.

    I jammed my shoulder against the star base shuttle bay door, forcing it to stay open. I braced both feet to wedge myself in the opening. If pressure won, the door would slice through my body.

    I looked down the curved hall. While their parents were on missions, eight kids were left with us two guys as the only adults manning the base. I’d left the kids in Elijah’s care while I conducted external maintenance. If he’d hailed me right after the explosion in the control center, I could have made it to my shuttle for rescue gear to get everyone off the base. Instead, I was the rescue gear. When I had pried the shuttle bay door open, half the kids went through. Now I had to keep it open while Elijah got the rest.

    The door slid an inch, cracking my back. I scrunched my eyes. “Elijah!”

    Boots pounded down the hall. I couldn’t hold the door much longer and once it closed, it would never open again. We had minutes to board my shuttle and get out.

    The four kids wove between my legs. The last one jarred me. My bracing dislodged, the door slammed me forward.

    Trapped. Breathless. Out of time.

    Then the pressure eased and someone pushed me. I stumbled and turned. Elijah held the door open just a crack. He smiled from the other side. “Say your prayers, cowboy. It worked for me.”

    His fingers slipped. The door closed for good.

    I got the kids away before the star base exploded.

    I’ll never forgot how Elijah saved me and those kids on that tragic day when my little brother became a man. And I’ll never again forget to pray.

  24. J.K. Miles says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone.

    A mass of arms, legs, and hair, huddled under the canopy of a pitifully small table. The children’s cries competed with the Chuck E Cheese calliope and automatic gunfire. Gotta stop the crying. He crouched and wove his way through the mushroom forest of plastic table tops.

    “It’s okay. I’m Eli,” He placed one finger over his lips. “I’m a teacher.” Magic words. The youngest girl, no more than six, nodded blank, red-rimmed eyes. Her crying subsided into ragged little sobs.

    Banking on active shooter training drilled into them at school, he mouthed, “Shelter in place” to the older pre-teen and pointed to the arcade between Sbarro’s and Arby’s. She winced as bullets chewed metal and plastic in the distance, but she pried the smaller girl’s fingers from the table leg.

    Another scramble into the blinking lights of the arcade. Through a crack between the wall and the chirping, whistling arcade game, two elderly women closed a men’s room door. A body slumped like a rag-doll in front of the Wendy’s. Two men trawled the tables with dull black machine guns.

    Maybe it was the heat from game’s motor blowing on his face or the dizziness of the adrenaline, but Eli thought he saw dun colored spikes running down the spine of both men. One of them turned his back to Eli and fired recklessly at the Baskin-Robbins. The spikes grew longer tearing his camouflage jacket. What the–

    Eli sat back to the wall, squeezed his eyes shut and gulped air. The older girl hugged the younger, a fierce madonna and child. Both mouthed quick, breathy prayers through their tears.

    Pins and needles ran from Eli’s neck down. He blinked and froze. His hands were covered with dun colored splotches moving up his forearms. What in the world was happening?

  25. Heather says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. Not with that Thing. That Thing that had its hooks in them. The hooks were deeply embedded. They would only sink deeper if he fled.

    No. He had to stare at It as if he had a weapon or a plan to take It down. But he had no plan, no weapon. Not even a communicator.

    Why did he let them talk him into bringing the kids out here? This was no school. There was nothing to learn out here in the barrens. It was a war zone. Yet they insisted. And like a fool, he complied.

    Elijah took a deep breath never looking away from the scaly Thing and Its hooked tentacles. The kids were sedated by Its oily venom, their eyes rolling back into their heads. At least they weren’t crying anymore. That was a small blessing. But if someone didn’t find them out here, the kids would die in their stupor as the thing consumed them one by one.

    Elijah chanced a glance at the land rover. Was there something, anything he could use? Did he even have time to grab it before the thing sucked in the first child?

    Instinctively he felt his pockets.

    The Thing shifted nervously.

    Elijah pulled out a handheld scanner and pointed it at the Thing as though it were a weapon.

    The Thing recoiled and dropped one of the children.
    Elijah held back a smile and stepped toward the Thing brandishing the scanner like it was a sub-atomic particle blaster.

    The Thing dropped another child. Only one more to go.
    Emboldened, Elijah took another step.

  26. Mariposa says:

    Elijah wanted to run—to hide if not to get help—but he couldn’t leave the kids alone. From his lookout position on the edge of doom, he heard the roar of the vehicles accelerate around the corner below, but wasn’t sure who it was that was breaking the silence of this summer night. What would happen if the “Republic of Donbas” Russian invaders arrived before Mark could get them out, or before the Ukrainian soldiers could defend them? He couldn’t bear to even think of it. It had already been almost 40 days of hiding and being lost in these woods, foraging for food, huddling together to stay warm, praying to a God they weren’t sure was there in the dark hollow nights.
    A small cry came from the other side of the meadow across the way.
    He didn’t want to look, or even pay attention. There wasn’t much he could do. She had been crying for days, missing her mother’s warm milk, and no one could satisfy her longing for the shelter and safety that any 13-month old should have. Her cries had grown like weeds on an abandoned schoolyard, becoming one with the broken asphalt, muted with the heat of day but bravely sprouting high again whenever anyone walked by. Her desperate voice was telling the world, “I’m here! I’m here! Look at me! Don’t pass me by! I can rise where no one can walk, I can cry where no one can listen!” The hooting of the owls started to blend in with her cries as the motors’ rumbling started to thunder, and the ground under this 10-yr old boy started to shake.

    • Melinda says:

      Beautifully written, Mariposa. I got a chill at the imagery of the child’s cries growing like weeds.

What do you think?