SEPTEMBER HEIRLOOMS 109 – Short Story Contest

THEME: Inheritance

SETTING: Select a place that is usually private or empty such as an attic, an abandoned location, a meeting room, conference room, or a room that people avoid. Your character inherits an heirloom in that location. You decide what he or she inherits. You decide what kind of conflict your character must face because of the inheritance.

3 HIGHLIGHTS: (include): A private place, a sketch (outline, drawing, or an engraving), and an heirloom that has been inherited.

SUBMISSIONS: Post your story below where it says POST YOUR STORY OF 750-1,500 WORDS

WORD COUNT: 750-1,500

AWARDS: Each story will receive an award!

DEADLINE: Always due on the 25th of each month.

PRIZE: Winner receives a book!

SUBMISSIONS: Post your story below in the section provided while the contest is open.

3 OPTIONAL PROMPTS TO GET YOU STARTED:

1.) Your character inherits 100 million dollars from a long lost relative, but there is one important rule if he takes it. He must travel to a deserted island and survive for one month. You decide whether he survives, what he has to go through, and whether he gets the money.

2.) Your character inherits something such as an old bike. Seeming to be useless, he takes it to a pawn shop. Learning of its historical value, your character might keep it after all. Add conflict from a greedy relative, a city bike park, or a famous cyclist.

3.) Your character secretively inherits a famous painting or Moses’s ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:10-22). He does not understand the history of it nor the rules for how to transport it. He attempts to move it. Describe the conflicts each time he attempts to tell someone about it. You decide where it ends up.

WINNER(S) and AWARDS will be announced on October 1, 2021.

OPTIONAL RESOURCES:

You can find additional optional conflicts on pages 115-116 in “Writers 750 Emerald Workbook” written by H.M. Schuldt.

ITEMS THAT MUST BE INCLUDED

1.) A private location

2.) A sketch

3.) An heirloom that has been inherited

Common Things People Inherit

The two most common things people inherit are flatware and furniture. Most people think of people passing on a person’s wealth, money, property, or business rights upon the death of an individual. However, many people end up passing on jewelry, photo albums, quilts, recipes, diaries, weapons, and clocks. Although an inheritance is usually given after a person has passed away, it can also be given while they are alive. An inheritance can also be in the form of a promise made and a promise kept. Types of furniture include a chair, recliner, rocking chair, couch, bed, desk, game table, dining table, bookcase, or wine rack.

Covenants

In the case of Abraham, news of his inheritance arrived in the form of at least seven promises (Genesis 12, 17, and 25). He died not receiving all of promises in his lifetime, but he believed they would be fulfilled after his death. Abraham was to receive the promise of a great nation and the father of many nations, the land of Canaan forever, innumerable descendants, become a father at 100 years old, his name would become great, he received a new name from Abram to Abraham, and he inherited righteousness according to his faith (Romans 4:1-3).

From Brokenness to Eternal Life

Where does a person inherit eternal life? From a potion? An elixir? A tree from the Garden of Eden? A certain holy water from a holy fountain? Jesus offers eternal life to all who believe He is the Savior of the world and accept Him as their personal Savior.

Almost too good to be true, some people feel unworthy to receive the blessing of eternal life in heaven. Unable to accept the gift, feeling guilty of living a corrupt and careless life, they ignore any sense of repenting until a loved one passes away. Uncertain of an afterlife, some people keep exalting doubt until they hit rock bottom. In a pit of despair, they finally cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me. I am a sinner.”

CONTEST GUIDELINES – Skip over this section if you are familiar with the Writers 750 Program.

GENRE: Fantasy, Thriller, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Crime, Comedy, Romance, or a mixture (No erotica)

PURPOSE –
The main purpose of this contest is to practice the skill of writing fiction, explore conflict and character development, write a new short stories, and receive good feedback.

RULES & DIRECTIONS –
• Type in English – a minimum of 750 words; a maximum of 1,500 words

• Post your title and word count total in the first line of your story posting.

• Writers are responsible for their own copyright. Authors keep all rights. PRIVACY POLICY IS ENFORCED. COPYRIGHTS AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS BELONG TO INDIVIDUAL AUTHORS. THIS CONTEST DOES NOT GRANT ANY PERSON THE RIGHT OR LICENSE TO COPY OR USE OTHER STORIES. EACH STORY IS PROTECTED BY THE COPYRIGHT OF THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR.

• ONE entry per person, must be the writer’s original work, a final revision, and a new piece of writing. Please do not delete and re-post since this becomes confusing to the readers. Make sure to post your final revision.

Post your story in the comment section below.

6 replies on “SEPTEMBER HEIRLOOMS 109 – Short Story Contest”

Awards and winning story for September Heirlooms:

Dearest Madeline by Lena M. Pate
Best Quest

Heirloom by JT Russell
Best Mystery

The Swords of Ophir by Travis Jackson
Best Vampires

Siren Call by Arthur Chappell
Best Tragedy

Thank you for voting!!

The winning story is Dearest Madeline by Lena M. Pate!
Congratulations Lena!! And welcome back! It’s great to see you again and read one of your stories.

Thank you, everyone, for posting a story in September Heirlooms.
You all did a great job working with the topic and theme. You did a good job with setting and details. The conflicts were interesting this month, and the characters were memorable, too.

Hope to see you all again in October Tricksters!

HEIRLOOM 1496 words rewrite

The empty pop can rattled noisily down the sidewalk and as Jimmy readied to kick it again, the bell in the tower near City Hall rang its daily reminder that it was noon once again; lunchtime for the students and workers, but was just another sound for those who had nothing better to do. Jimmy crunched the can with a heavy stomp and noticed how empty the post office was. Usually, the noon-hour traffic for those checking their mail boxes was rushed. But today, blissful emptiness thought Jimmy as he pulled out his key from his pants pocket and opened the box.

“Hmnnn, what’s this?” His forehead and nose both wrinkled.

A letter, in a fancy violet-coloured envelope with a thick, black stamped postmarked sent from Ohio, seemed odd, and strange at the same time. Ohio, that’s where gramps and granny moved to after they retired shortly after the tire factory closed its doors for good. His stomach grumbled just as he was about to open the envelope. He eye’d the street and made his way to Johnny’s, the local greasy spoon. He slid the letter into his inside jacket pocket and couldn’t help but notice how light his feet felt; he was anxious to open the letter.

Bantersville was a popular town back in its heyday. One of the upper-management managers of a major tire company had relatives who resided there and convinced shareholders that it would thrive and prosper if they built a tire factory on the outskirts of town. And, as hoped, the tire factory indeed flourished until a scandal screeched production to a halt. The manager, the one with the relatives in town, developed a case of sticky fingers, skimming money from the business, was caught and later imprisoned for theft. After everyone was laid off, the factory and much of the town succumbed to complacency, but with the hope that one day investors would awaken the town back into prosperity — that was highly unlikely though.

The screen door shuddered and groaned whenever customers entered the cafe. Locals of all ages and backgrounds nestled into the booths or slopped onto the chipped and cracked red plastic covered stools near the countertop where Bessie and her small staff served the typical breakfast fare, and of course the hamburgers and fries for the teens and hot hamburgers for the older crowd. Jimmy found a stool at the end of the counter and ordered fries with gravy and a coca-cola. He played with the envelope before pulling it out. Bessie, or Nostrils, as the kids called her because she was so nosy you could actually see her nose hairs up close, noticed the envelope.

“New girlfriend Jimmy?” She inquired, hoping for a response as she scanned the fancy envelope.

“Naw,” muttered Jimmy in as nonchalant a voice he could muster. “It’s just a fancy coloured paper is all. Nuthin’ to write home about.”

“Well it must be important. No one actually uses that kind of fancy paper around here unless it’s important,” she retorted.

Just as she was about to question him again, a customer ordered a refill. He watched as she splashed hot coffee into several cups before she became preoccupied with taking the orders from a couple and their two children who filled a once empty booth. Jimmy quickly ate his fries, left 95 cents near his empty plate, and bolted out the door before Bessie tried to stick her big nose in his pocket.

Dear James Flatstone, began the letter, it is with sadness that we, Superior Insurance Co., regret to inform you of the passing of your grandparents William and Clara Flatstone. Both, at the time of their untimely passing, were lodged at the Silver Sunset Retirement Home in Dayton, Ohio. The deceased’s assets were divided among their surviving children. In his Will, your grandfather Willian bequeathed to you his cherished Flyer bicycle which he kept in storage for the past few years. The bicycle was sent to you via registered mail and should be at your disposal within a few days receipt of this letter. Please accept our condolences, yours truly, Superior Insurance Co.

Jimmy was well aware of the deaths of his grandparents, but the contents of the letter intrigued him. He was grateful his grandpa thought of him, and wondered why he was chosen to receive the bike. Grandpa was always too busy trying to earn a living and they never really communicated after they moved, so why him?

Jimmy tried to avoid the cafe, but of course, Nostrils began to gossip about Jimmy’s fancy coloured letter and the rumours began. Was Jimmy’s new girlfriend rich? Jimmy received a boatload of cash from his grandparents’ Will; Jimmy was moving away into the house his grandparents left him. Each rumour more elaborate than the last one. This went on until a package arrived for Jimmy. The post office buzzed and was filled with even those who didn’t have their own mailbox. And there it sat, a carefully wrapped box encased in a wooden frame pre-paid by the insurance company. Jimmy had to produce his identification card even though the postmaster knew him, and signed the release form before he was given the package.

“Open it,” whispered Nostrils who was standing in the crowd. “Oh please open it love?” Suddenly, the crowd began a feverous chant: “Open it Jimmy, open it.”

Jimmy stared at the package, oblivious to the chanting. The memory of his grandfather riding his bike down the streets of Bantersville made his eyes moist. The postmaster, realizing how large the crowd had become, ushered them out until only he and Jimmy stood there, their eyes fixed on the carefully packaged wood crate.

“Well whaddaya want to do there, young feller,” questioned the postmaster.

“Let’s open it,” jimmy said as the man left, and returned with a crowbar and a hammer. Together, they struggled carefully until there it stood, on its kickstand, looking as if it was just purchased at the hardware store. The red and white stripes with the whitewall tires made it stand out in the dingy and musky smelling post office.

“You can take it out the back door if you want,” said the white-haired postmaster.

As time passed, Jimmy, who only dared ride the bicycle from the post office to his house, kept it carefully wrapped in cellophane and stored it in the basement where his room was. He had survived the gossip without letting anyone know exactly what was in the wooden package that day. However, before he retired, the postmaster shared a cup of coffee with Nostrils and out it slipped when questioned what Jimmy got that day.

“Aawww, it was just some old bike his grandfather gave him.” Nostrils stared at the man and sighed. “All that gossip just for an old bike? Humph, some heirloom. And to think I wasted all those free fries on him, hoping he would tell me what he got?” A man in a cheap green suit sitting beside them ordered a coffee. She tossed her cleaning rag aside and yelled to her staff she was going home.

“Hold on a minute, I’ll be right with you,” yelled Jimmy. The knocking was annoyingly persistent. “Do I know you,” he said, looking at a short, red-faced man who was sweating profusely.

“I don’t believe you know me. Yesterday, when I was passing through town I overheard a white-haired gentleman and an elderly waitress at the local cafe talking about you owning an antique bike?”

“What if I do and what if I don’t,” Jimmy said rather protectively. “What would that bike possibly mean to you?”

“I work for a pawnshop in the next county. It would be a tremendous waste of my time for me knowing that I missed out on an opportunity to at least look at what you have. So, please, can I see the bike?”

Jimmy had a change of heart when he saw the sincerity in his eyes.

The man’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor when he saw the pristine looking beauty.

“It’s definitely a Flyer, one of the earlier bikes made. You got a classic, an original. Would you ever consider selling it?”

“Not a chance. Say mister, where did you say you were from?”

“Listen son, I gotta run, but I’ll keep in touch now that I know where ya live arright?”

Jimmy watched the man struggle to get into his van and drive off down the street. He suddenly felt angry that someone else knew about his bike. He had kept it quiet until now. He put on his jacket and marched down to Johnny’s.

“Where is she?,” demanded Jimmy, looking at the staff sitting around a table.

“Who,” questioned one of the waitresses.

“Nostrils.”

“She died in her sleep last night.”

When Jimmy got home, the back door was kicked in and the bike was gone.

He didn’t care.

DEAREST MADELINE
Author: Lena M. Pate
Word Count:1494

“Dearest Madeline. Since you are reading this, one must assume I am deceased. Therefore, I leave my entire estate to you. However, there is a slight catch to my bequeath. You are required to find a gem I have hidden. Once found, take it to the address I provided in the last clue. Fail this task, and you will lose your inheritance. Best of luck, my dear. Your loving great uncle, Mortimus J. Pennington III.” It was written on stationery containing our family crest.

He knew I was in the middle of research concerning a tome.

“My dear child, you are wasting your talents in anthropology sitting in a dingy room examining old books. Don’t you miss digging in the dirt?”

“Of course, I do, Morty.”

“You will call me by my full first name. I detest that byname.”

Sitting on the arm of his chair, I planted a kiss on his nearly bald pate. Although he pointed sternly at another chair, I caught a twinkle in his eyes.

“Speaking of musty, old books.” I glanced about his library. Then, I wiggled my eyebrows, which brought a chuckle followed by a clearing of his throat.

“Yes, well. I suppose you and Clarice will have a giant bonfire when I’m gone. But I swear, that witch is feeding me poison.”

“You old bulldog, if I were, you would have died years ago. I did put a curse on you to go bald, though.” A cackle rang above the bang of pots and pans.

Mortimus passed a week later. There was no one to notify except his lawyer. Clarice and I stood at the graveside, sharing an umbrella. I noticed she was shaking, so I led her back to the limo. The driver was a gruff, older man with a head of frosty white. Back at the manor, uncle’s lawyer led us into the office. Clarice blew her nose loudly as the lawyer began. “To Clarice, I leave one hundred thousand to allow her to retire comfortably.” Clarice covered her face with her hanky.

“Mr. Pennington requested that I give this to you.” A wrinkled hand passed me another sealed envelope.

“To Madeline, I bestow this letter. I hope you can forgive me, but I do it out of love for you. Be brave and fly with the eagles, my precious one.” With that, his lawyer shut a well-worn briefcase with a click of finality and left.

I sat for a long while, listing all the reasons I couldn’t do this, but in the end, I felt eager to best my uncle at this last game. “Okay, you crafty old devil, where is the first clue? I scanned the drawers inside his desk but found nothing. I sat in his chair to picture him writing this decree. Books! Of course. Fly with the eagles. That had to be it. I looked through shelf after shelf, when I saw it. Fanning the pages, a card fell out. Groaning, as I bent over to retrieve it, I realized I was too tired to decode the numeric encryption. I placed it inside my jacket pocket and left. As I approached my car, I perceived how dark it had gotten and picked up my pace. A man came up from behind, neatly cut my purse strap, then knocked me to the ground. I landed hard when I broke my fall. Luckily, I let myself in the back with keys in hand and called the police. They arrived but noted there was no usable evidence. There were no cameras to video intruders. Someone knew about the clues and was after the gem, not my purse.

With no license, I resorted to calling an old friend. “Henry, it’s Maddie. I need someone to drive me about for a few days and wondered if you were available. I would pay you, of course.” I hated asking him. Henry was my high school love, whom I broke up with when I left for college. Now, with both of us work in Laramie, and it turns out that we live in the same building on the same floor.

“Sure, Mad. Did you have a wreck or something?”

“Names Maddie and no, I lost my license.”

“Oh, too many speeding tickets?”

“For your information, I was mugged. The thief has my purse, phone, and driver’s license.”

“You okay?” The steel in his voice told me that he was about to go hunting and not for elk.

“Yes, and I’ll fill you in tomorrow, say nine?” I lied as I rotated my shoulder.

“Alright. Go soak and get to bed.”

“By myself?” I teased to lighten the air.

“Don’t make the offer if you’re not planning to follow through.”

I held a silent landline to my ear and wished I could make the offer real.

During the soak, I had an epiphany. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before.

The following day, he arrived, coffees in tow. We made it to his sedan without breaking the silence. While he drove, I filled him in, and he agreed this wasn’t a random act. When we arrived, I said goodbye.

“Lady, you’re mistaken if you think I am leaving your side anytime soon. With no clue in your purse, he will return. I plan to be there when he makes his next move.”

Lordy, to take on a McCleary is bad enough, but Henry is the deadliest.

“How’s Gabe, by the way?”

Still working the ranch, but it’s not paying the bills. Gabe’s wife, Lorraine, wants to open a dude ranch, but he is stubbornly holding out.”

“Has he ever thought of hunting for dinosaur bones? Many ranches have.”

“We’ve talked about it, but we would have to hire an anthropologist. Know one?”

“I wouldn’t take Gabe’s money. But I’d be glad to assist.”

Once inside, it appeared someone ransacked the desk. I didn’t want the house to be closed as a crime scene. So, I retrieved the same book and matched the page, line, and word numbers to form the clue. But, unfortunately, the last two digits had me stumped.

“That corresponds to the longitude/latitude on the family farm.” Henry was standing behind me, studying the codes over my head. I took a deep breath. His cologne filled my senses, and my heart skipped a beat.

“I’ll tell Gabe we’re coming.” He walked away, and I dropped into the nearest chair to catch my breath.

Gabe had programmed the coordinates into the Hummers GPS. He provided us with tools, water, and food. We packed a walkie in case Henry lost his reception nearer to the mountains.

I began to relax as I hadn’t done in a while. I realized that Morty had been right. I missed working outside. I saw Henry touch his Colt, which had me on alert. “Someone is following us but staying far back.”

Arriving at our destination, we locate a slight incline heading up one of the hills close to the large creek. This spot might be good to find dinosaur bones. Another day, I sighed and began mapping out a four-foot square grid. Artifacts ran much deeper than the sedimentary rock core. Since this was a planted gem, we had to sift. The day played on with no sign of our tag along, so our guard was down. He started making a joke when Henry stopped sifting. He glared at the man standing by the jeep. The man holding a gun on us was the chauffeur. “Hand it over, or the lady eats a bullet.”

Henry rose, and the set of his shoulders told me he was about to pounce. But, instead, he strolled towards the man, placing his body in front of me.

“That’s far enough. I’m too old to wrestle with a bear. Throw me the gem.”

Henry tossed a rock to the man’s left, forcing him to bend and reach. Henry pulled out his Colt, shooting the thief’s gun hand, then placed another into his thigh. Henry radioed Gabe. The police arrived by helicopter, taking the man into custody.

“Uncut diamond?” he asked.

“Fake. Made to look like an uncut diamond.”

After everyone was gone, I remarked that it was strange Morty would plant a fake stone.

“He left a note. It said, watch for snakes. That’s when I saw him.”

“Anything about where to go next?” I asked.

“Yep. Read it yourself.”

“Honey, I gave you the greatest gift of all. Happiness. Please don’t blow it this time. Also, I hope I have rekindled the joy of digging in the dirt. If you say yes in the next moment, the person you will go see is a preacher.”

Looking at Henry, I realized he was on one knee holding up our family’s heirloom wedding ring.

“Well, will you marry me?”

I jumped into his arms, sending us both backward laughing, then he shut me up with a kiss. Best thing I ever dug out of the ground.

“THE SWORDS OF OPHIR”

By Travis Jackson
1449 words.

“Bring the initiate. And the bloody traitor.”

Sir Rollo motioned with his head, his dark steel pot helm frightening a nearby buzzard. As another knight nodded and walked away, Sir Rollo looked over the side of Bishop’s Tower, which despite countless centuries was untouched by decay. Why would anyone build a tower over a thousand feet high, he thought, looking down at the bleak nighttime landscape. If his order had built it, it would have been far shorter, twice as thick and even more remote.

Still, we chose this site for the initiation, he thought.

Red lightning flashed in the east.

“The enchantment works.” Two other knights said. Sir Rollo turned, counting ten knights besides himself, all standing close to the edge of the tower, their backs resting on merlons. One more knight, and we can begin, Sir Rollo thought.

The Swords of Ophir were the greatest fighting force in Lowland Empire, warriors feared for, among other things, their strength, brutality and uncanny ability to sniff out danger. For some reason, it was impossible for them to suffer a surprise attack; all such attempts ended with the knights pouncing on their would-be attackers from behind. Nobody knew how they did so, though there were rumors that witchcraft was involved. Others said that they simply had a good sense of smell, and some said-

The tower door slid open. A large, long-haired man in white tunic and short green leather britches emerged from it, pouring water on his head from a cup. Behind him, the knight that Sir Rollo sent walked up onto the tower, a bound woman in his arms. Sir Rollo watched as the man in the white tunic poured water on himself again, then dropped the cup, lifting his hands skywards. More red lightning fell.

The door slid shut.

“Positions, everyone.” Sir Rollo said.

Dropping the woman onto hard cold stone, the other knight joined his brethren, standing near one of the south east facing merlons. Nodding to the other knights, Sir Rollo grew his great sword out, holding it upwards with both hands. The other knights did the same. A bolt of red lightning struck nearby, shaking the earth with its thunder.

“Initiate! State your name!” Sir Rollo said. Wide eyed, the woman tried to scream through her cloth gag as the initiate looked upwards. Rain fell as he answered.

“Dobs, Son of Lord Hood!” the initiate said. The knights lifted their swords higher.

“What is your business here, Dobs, Son of Lord Hood?” Sir Rollo said, cocking his head. He was pleased to see the initiate smile.

“I am here to enter the sacred order of the Swords of Ophir!”

“A noble pursuit, yet why should we let you enter our order?”

“I have passed the first tests, my lord.”

“Which tests?” Rollo said, knowing the tests well yet asking anyway, as was custom. The initiate’s smile grew. The woman wailed and tried to cut her bones on one of the stones as he replied.

“I have passed the test of prayer, I have passed the test of church, I have passed the test of holy water-

“Three holy privileges that will be denied to you once you’ve proven yourself tonight.” He said, interrupting him as he had many an initiate after they mentioned holy water,

“A sad sacrifice, yet one that will serve the pious cause, one that will serve to defend the church.”

Sir Rollo studied the initiate.

“What else?”

“I have also passed the test of the deathly kiss.”

“Administered by Lady Esther, the head of our order.” Sir Rollo said with a nod. At the mention of Lady Esther, the bound woman all but went mad, moaning as she continued to attack her bonds, the stone proving surprisingly sharp yet not sharp enough.

“The Lady Esther is always pleased when a new knight is added to our order. Perhaps, if we let you in, you might one day become of the elders of our order, second in power only to our dear Lady Esther. Such elders…surround you now.”

Sir Rollo approached the initiate slowly, lowering his sword.

“Do you swear to protect this blessed, Christian empire with your sword and shield?”

“I do, Sir Rollo.”

“Do you swear to uphold the sacred church?”

“I do, Sir Rollo.”

Another red lightning bolt cam down, far closer than the others. The thunder almost made the tower tremble. Sir Rollo was pleased by its sound.

“Do you swear to protect the innocent?”

“I do, Sir Rollo.”

“If you see parents abusing their child, will you stop them, hack their limbs off and feed them to the fire?”

“I shall, Sir Rollo.”

“If you see a husband abuse his wife, will you knock his teeth out with your gauntlets? Will you have your steed stomp on his fists?”

“I shall, Sir Rollo.”

“If you see a witch exercising her dark arts, will you feed her your blade? Will you leave her remains to the wolves?”

“I shall, Sir Rollo.”

Nodding, Sir Rollo walked around the initiate, at one point stepping on the woman’s belly. As the woman grunted and got into a fetal position, Sir Rollo looked to the south, seeing more red bolts fall.

“So, you say. But will your words hold up to the ancient test? Your second to last test? The most important test…of all?”

“They will, Sir Rollo!”

“Will you remain standing, or burn when the test is initiated?”

“I will stand, not burn, Sir Rollo!”

Sir Rollo grinned.

“We shall see.”

Walking towards a merlon, Sir Rollo lifted his sword again. As the red lighting drew closer, the knights chanted in Sumerian laced with Horite verbs. The chanting grew as the woman put her hands together in prayer. Sir Rollo raised an eyebrow. You should have thought of prayer before spying for the Kingdom of Matherud, Sir Rollo thought.

“I stand here, before the 12 elders, ready for my task.” Dobs said, closing his eyes.

Red lightning flashed nearby. The subsequent boom rattled the tower and those upon it. The woman screamed louder.

“I stand ready, I stand in honor…I stand to await the test that will prove me of noble worth!”
The knights looked skyward, storm clouds obscuring their view of the stars. They spoke in unison.

“LET THE BLESSED APKALLU…DECIDE YOUR FATE!”

Huge, winged blue men appeared in the clouds, albeit for a split second. Then red lightning spilled down, falling onto the knight’s swords. As the thunder roared the bolts slithered together, then came down on the initiate. Dob’s scream pierced even the thunder, his body shaking more than the tower. The knights chanted in Sumerian as the red lightning bolts spilled down the tower, down onto the earth, down onto Gilsa River nearby, its black waters bubbling.

After seven seconds…the lightning vanished.

In the center of the tower…Dobs remained standing, his body and clothing smoking. Sir Rollo nodded slowly, then pulled out a black necklace from his pocket, laden down with a blue onyx stone. Sir Rollo stood before the initiate, cocking his head again.

“The Apkallu, mighty spirits of old Sumer, have deemed you worthy for this brotherhood. Will you accept a Necklace of Order, the same necklace that we all don upon entrance into the brotherhood?”

A necklace you’ll inherit from a long dead member of our order, Sir Rollo thought with sadness. Only a few initiates were lucky enough to don a necklace once worn by a fellow brother, instead of one freshly made. Better prove yourself worthy of the privilege in battle, Sir Rollo thought.

“I do, Sir Rollo!”

The knight looked down at the woman.

“The prisoner was found guilty of treason. Her certificate of execution was brought with her to our tower. We are to carry out the king’s justice.”

Sir Rollo looked at Dobs.

“Before you wear the necklace, before you become one of the Swords of Ophir…there must be blood. This is the final test.”

Dobs looked at the woman, then back at Sir Rollo.

“Will you shed this blood?”

Dobs nodded, then grabbed the woman. Lifting her up, he held her arms tight, keeping her from squirming. As the woman cried, Dobs nodded to Sir Rollo.

“By this blood, by this life, I prove myself worthy.”

Grinning, Dobs bit down onto her neck. As she squealed and moaned her blood fell to the tower, her skin turning white. After a few seconds, Dobs dropped her lifeless body. Just as pale, Dobs looked at Sir Rollo, licking his lips. As the knights studied him, Dobs bared his fangs and hissed. As Sir Rollo put the necklace on him and spoke, the other knights hissed as well.

“Welcome, brother.”

Siren Call 1,497 Words

A jingle he had never programmed into his phone caused his hesitation, powder-flakes in hand hovering over her wine-glass, telling the girl in the bar what he was up to.

A haunting instant ear worm he never recognized, sounding like a woman humming, both from a distance and up close, personal.

So much going wrong. phone acting up, sleight of hand stunt exposed, the target pulling back from him in shock, Prosecco thrown in his face; victim stomping towards the bar. Obviously, she would report him. Time to leave. He grabbed his jacket and fled, letting the Mickey pellets fall harmlessly towards the worn carpet. No one-night-only seduction tonight, no girl swooning, barely conscious in his arms while he gallantly assured everyone that he would see her safely home claiming she had drunk a little too much.

The service-bar was crowded. She was struggling to attract attention. Had she gone to the bouncers first, he’d have been caught. They’d find traces of the powders on his hands before he could rinse them away He would end up on ‘that’ criminal register.

Fortunately, the prey had made the wrong move. He was out the door, free. With the knockout drops gone it was now her word against his.

Who the Hell had rung him? Unknown number, but an anonymous text. “Dave, inherit your kingdom. Come to the Prom over Gaping Sands. Your castle awaits. Join us there now. ”

Spam for sure, Dave thought. He’d been hacked, but they knew the place he had only recently revisited in his nightmares. A GIF attachment was opening, even though he’d pressed delete. He saw a large grainy castle in a mist. Hard to tell if the image was pencil drawing or fading sepia photograph.

From the direction of The Claxon pub angry voices could be heard. Dave guessed the girl had raised the alarm, but knowing the police would have nothing to go on, the staff had organized a lynch mob. Lads didn’t take kindly to creeps like Dave. Time to run. No passive lover who would have no recall later of who had hurt her. A McCauley Culkin night – Going home alone.

No taxi-cabs were stopping. He felt like a ghost in his own skin. There was a chill in the air and the beginnings of rising fog too. It was late. The last bus had gone. The prospect of walking filled him with despair, but no, there was a bus coming towards him now, on a street which normally had no bus routes. He wondered if it was diverted. Chances are it wasn’t going to Poulton anyhow. Service number, X43. Dave’s age, and a cross. Coincidence? Not a number he’d seen in a lifetime living on the Fylde. The terminus marker said it all. GAPING SANDS.

Dave couldn’t remember getting on, but there he was, the only passenger, sitting near the back.

The driver’s cab was screened out as the bus moved off, as slowly as a hearse. Music played. The same haunting, enchanting, hypnotic chant heard on the phone. Around the single-decker interior, there were pictures of castles, all carved in sand.

A memory surfaced in the murky sludge that was his subconscious. Fortresses on a beach. Many were elaborate sculptures, built for a best sandcastle contest that had run that day. The night tide would claim them, and they had been abandoned, ghostly silent haunts awaiting their doom.

Dave had been rejected by a girl he had fancied. No easy-fix amphetamine solution that night, just a genuine attempt at Mr Nice Guy. She’d still treated him like he was repulsive and gone off with some Gothy-nerd instead. Dave had taken his frustration out by running down the beach stomping the castles, not letting tide take its course. As the last keep fell to his relentless demolition, there was a muffled cry and a hand appeared, desperately clawing at the instant grave. Some dumb kid had dug a den under the structure, staying with it, hoping to come out and watch it crumble as the waves claimed it. Dave had killed the poor sod. Oh, he might have saved him, had he dragged him free quickly enough, but no, this was a clever lad, an achiever, someone girls would admire and respect. Dave had retired to the promenade to watch rising waters sweep away all trace of castle and creator.

The bus stopped. Somehow Dave knew where he was disembarking before he glanced out to see the clock, the prom, the beach. He walked over, seeing the tide was in, calm, still, cold.

He wondered what he was doing here, and how on Earth to get home. It was 1.30 AM if the clock was right. No money for taxis or a night in a B & B, if any were open. Nothing depressed more than seaside towns outside the Summer season. Ghost towns, echoes of fun that died every Winter.

Not this forever night though, empty, silent… No, that song again, a plaintive lamenting melody, as if the sea itself was singing, beckoning. He felt so alone, lost, frightened.

“Don’t worry,” a voice whispered in his ear. He spun round to see the girl from the pub. Her blue dress was gone. She wore tight fitting jeans and a red tee shirt sporting a skeletal seahorse. She looked wet, as if she had emerged from a late night swim. There was a mustiness about her, a salty pale air.

“Who are you?” Dave asked, backing away. Though she never seemed to move, she appeared closer to him rather than slightly more distant. “Stay back,” Dave said, shivering as if he was the one who was soaked in Irish Sea brine rather than her.

She stroked his arm. “Don’t worry. It’s time to collect your inheritance. Stay with me and we will watch the waters ebb away together.”

Dave felt groggy, as if he had taken his own amphetamines. Was that it? Had someone spiked him? He stared at the girl, drawn to her blazing green eyes. Somehow the breasts he had fixated on when he first lusted after her in the bar no longer mattered.

She pointed to the waters. “Watch. Concentrate. Your legacy awaits.”

He looked where she indicated. Waves moved like paint brushes, drawing an image from the very fabric of air and sand. The tide was drawing back way too quickly, as though filmed in stop-motion. As it withdrew, more beach was exposed, and then Dave saw the little pirate flag, one that had decorated ‘that castle’… Impossible! The emerging turrets had somehow survived the instant erosion Dave had inflicted, detritus the ocean should have finished off. God, Dave had been here since that night. He’d seen only flat beach. The boy had been reported missing, but never found as far as Dave knew or cared.

Found now though. Here! A skeletal figure crusted in barnacles and seaweed, absurdly wearing spectacles, though they were covered in matted sand covering the empty sockets beneath.

“Nice to meet you at last, Dave. You won the castle crushing competition, but you forgot to collect your prize.”

Dave was unsure if boy or woman had spoken. He knew only that the castle was there, in all its pristine glory, glowing, visible as if in daylight despite the chill post-midnight air.

It looked beautiful. Dave saw why it had won the contest that day. The boy was a real Michelangelo, deserving much more than a pewter cup and picture in the papers with the mayor. He’d earned more than follow up news of his disappearance. Reports said he’d drowned revisiting his handiwork and his body swept out to sea.

The hosts invited Dave to go closer to the castle. Unable to refuse, he was on his hands and knees admiring it. The portcullis was so intricately carved, it would not have surprised Dave if it had opened over the moat in which sea water still churned.

Dave crawled like a toddler, knees and palms caked in damp sand. He knew what he was looking for before he found it, the entrance for the den the artist had dug himself, a dangerous pit for any kid to make in the sand, even without the threat of vandalism to cause its collapse. Dave asked himself if the boy’s doom was really his fault.

Dave envisaged himself crawling into that trench, feeling his hands stabbed by fragments of the boy’s bones, crabs, lugworms, and freezing ticklish water seeping through the pressing tons of course grave-sand as he received poetic justice in the heirloom of the senseless tragedy he had caused. Then there were the futures and alternate realities he had never known; worlds where he was a nice guy girls would dance with, despite no ampules or deception, a man capable of love.

Around Dave, the siren song of the sands started up afresh, and Dave knew it would never end.

Arthur Chappell

HEIRLOOM. 1495 words

The empty pop can rattled noisily down the sidewalk and as Jimmy readied to kick it again, the bell in the tower near City Hall rang its daily reminder that it was noon once again; lunchtime for the students and workers, but was just another sound for those who had nothing better to do. Jimmy crunched the can with a heavy stomp and noticed how empty the post office was. Usually, the noon-hour traffic for those checking their mail boxes was rushed. But today, blissful emptiness thought Jimmy as he pulled out his key from his pants pocket and opened the box.

“Hmnnn, what’s this?” His forehead and nose wrinkled at the same time.

A letter, in a fancy violet-coloured envelope with a thick, black stamped postmarked sent from Ohio, seemed odd, and strange at the same time. Ohio, that’s where gramps and granny moved to after they retired shortly after the tire factory closed its doors for good. His stomach grumbled just as was about to open the envelope. He eye’d the street and made his way to Johnny’s, the local greasy spoon. He slid the letter into his inside jacket pocket and couldn’t help but notice how light his feet felt; he was anxious to open the letter.

Bantersville was a popular town back in its heyday. One of the upper-management managers of a major tire company had relatives who resided there and convinced shareholders that it would thrive and prosper if they built a tire factory on the outskirts of town. And, as hoped, the tire factory indeed flourished until a scandal screeched production to a halt. The manager, the one with the relatives in town, developed a case of sticky fingers, skimming money from the business, was caught and later imprisoned for theft. After everyone was laid off, the factory and much of the town succumbed to complacency, but with the hope that one day investors would awaken the town back into prosperity — that was highly unlikely though.

The screen door shuddered and groaned whenever customers entered the cafe. Locals of all ages and backgrounds nestled into the booths or slopped onto the chipped and cracked red plastic covered stools near the countertop where Bessie and her small staff served the typical breakfast fare, and of course the hamburgers and fries for the teens and hot hamburgers for the older crowd. Jimmy found a stool at the end of the counter and ordered fries with gravy and a coca-cola. He played with the envelope before pulling it out. Bessie, or Nostrils, as the kids called her because she was so nosy you could actually see her nose hairs up close, noticed the envelope.

“New girlfriend Jimmy?” She inquired, hoping for a response as she scanned the fancy envelope.

“Naw,” muttered Jimmy in as nonchalant a voice he could muster. “It’s just a fancy coloured paper is all. Nuthin’ to write home about.”

“Well it must be important. No one actually uses that kind of fancy paper around here unless it’s important,” she retorted.

Just as she was about to question him again, a customer ordered a refill. He watched as she splashed hot coffee into several cups before she became preoccupied with taking the orders from a couple and their two children who sat in an empty booth. Jimmy quickly ate his fries, left 95 cents near his empty plate, and bolted out the door before Bessie tried to stick her big nose in his pocket.

Dear James Flatstone, began the letter, it is with sadness that we, Superior Insurance Co., regret to inform you of the passing of your grandparents William and Clara Flatstone. Both, at the time of their untimely passing, were lodged at the Silver Sunset Retirement Home in Dayton, Ohio. The deceased’s assets were divided among their surviving children. In his Will, your grandfather Willian bequeathed to you his cherished Flyer bicycle which he kept in storage for the past 47 years. The bicycle was sent to you via registered mail and should be at your disposal within a few days receipt of this letter. Please accept our condolences, yours truly, Superior Insurance Co.

Jimmy was well aware of the deaths of his grandparents, but the contents of the letter intrigued him. He was grateful his grandpa thought of him, and wondered why he was chosen to receive the bike. Grandpa was always too bust trying to earn a living and they never really communicated after they moved, so why him?

Jimmy tried to avoid the cafe, but of course, Nostrils began to gossip about Jimmy’s fancy coloured letter and the rumours began. Was Jimmy’s new girlfriend rich? Jimmy received a boatload of cash from his grandparents’ Will; Jimmy was moving away into the house his grandparents left him. Each rumour more elaborate than the last one. This went on until a package arrived for Jimmy. The post office buzzed and was filled with even those who didn’t have their own mailbox. And there it sat, a carefully wrapped box encased in a wooden frame pre-paid by the insurance company. Jimmy had to produce his identification card even though the postmaster knew him, and signed the release form before he was given the package.

“Open it,” whispered Nostrils who was standing in the crowd. “Oh please open it love?” Suddenly, the crowd began a feverous chant: “Open it Jimmy, open it.”

Jimmy stared at the package, oblivious to the chanting. The memory of his grandfather riding his bike down the streets of Bantersville made his eyes moist. The postmaster, realizing how large the crowd had become, ushered them out until only he and Jimmy stood there, their eyes fixed on the carefully packaged wood crate.

“Well whaddaya want to do there, young feller,” questioned the postmaster.

“Let’s open it,” jimmy said as the man left, and returned with a crowbar and a hammer. Together, they struggled carefully until there it stood, on its kickstand, looking as if it was just purchased at the hardware store. The red and white stripes with the whitewall tires made it stand out in the dingy and musky smelling post office.

“You can take it out the back door if you want,” said the white-haired postmaster.

As time passed, Jimmy, who only dared ride the bicycle from the post office to his house, kept it carefully wrapped in cellophane and stored it in the basement where his room was. He had survived the gossip without letting anyone know exactly what was in the wooden package that day. However, before he retired, the postmaster shared a cup of coffee with Nostrils and out it slipped when questioned what Jimmy got that day.

“Aawww, it was just some old bike his grandfather gave him.” Nostrils stared at the man and sighed. “All that gossip just for an old bike? And to think I wasted all those free fries on him, hoping he would tell me what he got?” They both didn’t notice a man in a cheap green suit sitting beside them. She tossed her cleaning rag aside and yelled to her staff she was going home.

“Hold on a minute, I’ll be right with you,” yelled Jimmy. The knocking was annoyingly persistent. “Do I know you,” he said, looking at at the short man in a cheap green suit.

“I don’t believe you know me. Yesterday, when I was passing through town I overheard a white-haired gentleman and a waitress at the local cafe talking about you owning an antique bike?”

“What if I do and what if I don’t,” Jimmy said rather protectively. “What would that bike possibly mean to you?”

“I work for a pawnshop in the next county. It would be a tremendous waste of my time for me knowing that I missed out on an opportunity to at least look at what you have. So, please, can I see the bike?”

Jimmy had a change of heart when he saw the sincerity in his eyes.

The man’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor when he saw the pristine looking beauty.

“It’s definitely a Flyer, one of the earlier bikes made. You got a classic, an original. Would you ever consider selling it?”

“Not a chance. Say mister, where did you say you were from?”

“Listen son, I gotta run, but I’ll keep in touch now that I know where ya live arright?”

Jimmy watched the man struggle to get into his van and drive off down the street. He suddenly felt angry that someone else knew about his bike. He had kept it quiet until now. He put on his jacket and marched down to Johnny’s.

“Where is she?,” demanded Jimmy, looking at the staff sitting around a table.

“Who,” questioned one of the waitresses.

“Nostrils.”

“She died in her sleep last night.”

When Jimmy got home, the back door was kicked in and the bike was gone.

He didn’t care.

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