My Weekly Writing Challenge

Last week’s challenge linked to my ‘ABC of short story ideas’ series which appears on a Monday. You had a choice of writing about an ‘ambulance’, ‘burglary’, ‘castle’ or all three! Castle proved to be the favourite choice by far. Your wonderful stories can be read below.

Last week it was the ‘ABC’ so this week’s challenge moves onto the ‘DEF’. To remind you, ‘D’ stood for darkness, ‘E’ emergency and ‘F’ freedom. So for your challenge, I’d like you to write a story or poem with a theme of Darkness, Emergency or Freedom. You’ll find some ideas for these themes if you click on the following link:

As promised, here are last week’s stories:

Keith Channing‘s story will make you smile:

I’m the king of the castle!

“This is my castle, and I’ll jolly well do what I want in it. And if anyone tries to stop me, I’ll… I’ll… I’ll jolly well stamp my feet and hold my breath and scream!” King Kannot, ruler of the land of O was clearly not in one of his better moods. It had just been pointed out to him that there was insufficient gold in the royal treasury to fund the massive fair he had wanted to hold in the castle grounds. It was to have been a splendid affair with jesters, minstrels and entertainers of all sorts, as well as jousts, archery contests and all kinds of competitions. But the royal chamberlain said there wasn’t enough money. Now he needed a new chamberlain, too.

“If I may be permitted to point out to His Majesty,” interjected Velcro, the king’s faithful retainer, “if Sire attempts to hold his royal breath and scream at the same time, Sire may explode.”

“Well, what can I do to make myself feel better about my lot, Velcro? The peasants are revolting, and the nobles aren’t much better.”

“Sire could call a special meeting of the Privy Council at a ridiculously early hour, with an agenda of the utmost gravity and import, then not turn up Himself.”

“What a jolly good wheeze. Would they all come?”

“Could they possibly ignore a royal command, Sire?” The king’s humour had changed as quickly as ever. Velcro had a particular knack of knowing exactly what to say to get the old king into a good mood. Unfortunately for many of the king’s loyal subjects, this often involved causing great inconvenience to some of them, usually either the most hapless of the peasantry or the most lofty of the nobility or, more frequently, both.

“We’ll say,” the king suggested, “that we need to discuss our response to the overtures received from the next kingdom, suggesting that our royal son, the Prince Mite, should marry their king’s ugly daughter.”

“And what should be our response, Sire?”

“Our response shall be … that we shall think about it. We shall consider our options. We shall have discussions with our advisors and, of course, with Prince Mite.”

“And then, Sire?”

“And then, Velcro, we shall tell them that we will approve the marriage at a later date.”

“That date being, Sire?”

“When hell freezes over, Velcro, when hell freezes over.” With that, the old king laughed so hard he fell off his chair and rolled around the floor.

Still laughing, still rolling, he blurted out, “But we won’t tell the Privy Councillors that, eh, Velcro?”

Some time later, after the king had recovered from his fit of royal mirth, he called Velcro to his kingly presence again, “Let’s have a feast tonight, Velcro. Summon the courtiers and the jesters, the Privy Councillors and the dancing wenches; have the hunters head out to find some meat. There will be jollity in my castle this night. It will go on until almost sunrise. As soon as the sun rises, the Privy Council will meet, and we will go to our royal bedchamber.”

And so the festivities took place. There was, indeed, jollity in the king’s castle that night, laughter and dancing, feasting and drinking, revelry and ribaldry and rambunctiousness, and goings on between jesters and wenches that we won’t go into here for reasons of modesty.

As the sun rose, the gathered company dispersed, each to his or her own home, with the exception of the Privy Councillors, who went through into the council room to await the king. The king collected his queen and went to bed.

Did I not mention that the king has a queen? Isn’t it obvious? Where do you suppose the Prince Mite came from? There’s no magic in this realm, you know.

The Privy Councillors waited patiently for the king.

For many hours they sat, chatting amongst themselves. They didn’t discuss the subject they were there to talk about, because it would be wrong to do so; just as it would have been wrong to leave the room before the king had graced them with his presence. They were rather afraid of the king.

Much as the king was rather afraid of the queen, although that, too, was never discussed.


Jason Moody‘s story will thoroughly entertain:

My life in ruins

Augustine was enjoying the sunshine and the company of his eager tourist group. Come rain or shine, he would bring those that were willing to the castle ruins to enjoy the scenery and the history. He had been doing this for nearly ten years now. It was fast becoming one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, second only to the now infamous ‘sizzlers’ tandoori in Clacton on Sea.

Today’s group were a keen bunch. There was a family from Arkansas; two sisters from Okinawa; a married couple from Germany and a group of students from Paris.

The questions were flying, the answers were delivered with infectious enthusiasm and the scenery just added to the wonder.

Lush green hills and trees that pierced the sky watched over them as their path snaked this way and that through the leafy countryside.

Eventually, they reached the top of a hill. Standing here offered beautiful views of the land that seemed to stretch out forever. But, it was the view below that had the group clambering to get at their cameras; sat at the bottom of a basin was a ruined castle from centuries ago.

Trees lined the rim almost all the way around, as if hiding it from view.

Augustine gathered the group.

“Right. You have to be very careful here…” There was a commotion at the back.

“…I say. Thank you. As I was saying, the climb down must be taken at a leisurely pace, no pushing, no running and absolutely no tom foolery of any description.” This garnered a few strange looks. “I do not want a repeat of 2012. That said, take in the views, snap until you can snap no more and above all, have fun.”

They made their way down the path, carefully, and for the most part, quietly.

They had reached the basin. The sloping hills all around seemed to climb forever. This was a fact that Henrik, a fourth seven year old tax collector from Hamburg, attested to as he sat, breathless.

When he did catch his breath, and the rest of the group had parted so he could see, he was greeted by a most splendid sight.

The stone shone in the mid afternoon sun. The remnants of a once magnificent castle still stood, as imposing as if they were whole. Half-hewn minarets reached up, gargoyles, weathered by time sneered from above.

The group gasped, sighed and some even clapped as Augustine made his way to the front and bid them follow him.

The closer they got, the more beautiful it seemed. Yakumi, one of the sisters from Japan, noted the flying ambulance parked in a field nearby.Augustine simply explained that they would often park here on their lunch break. It was extremely implausible, but no one questioned it. Some even waved at the crew, who with sandwiches in hand duly waved back.

They were now inside the castle itself. They had passed through the kitchen, the great hall. They had seen the kings chamber and heard many a delightful tale along the way.

They now stood facing a remarkably complete and no less imposing archway which preceded a staircase that headed underground.

Augustine stood at the top. “Ladies and gentleman,” he announced theatrically. “Follow me for the grand finale.”

More sighing and gushing followed.

Augustine started the descent and the group followed. The stairs wound downwards, the further they went, the more pronounced the echo.

“Mind the last step, it’s a tricky one,” announced Augustine.

One by one the group filtered into a candle lit cavern. It seemed to go on forever.

“Ladies and gentleman, I give you Barnabus the mighty,” shouted Augustine.

A rustling sound like a hundred pairs of feet on gravel filled the cavern.

Then, without warning a jet of orange flame swooped over their heads.

One by one the silhouettes of huge iron candle holders could be seen as their summits danced with flame.

Eight were lit. Now the group could see what was behind. Its scaly golden brown skin shimmered in the gloom. Its eyes sparkled green like emeralds. It lit more candles about the cavern. Now the full extent of this mighty beast could be seen.

The group were gobsmacked. Henrik cried out in German, to which Barnabus, his tone commanding and gravelly, answered.

Barnabus stood at least ten feet talk. His tail snaked and curled in front of him. His wings, laden with thorny spines clung to his back.

“Good afternoon Barnabus,” Augustus greeted him, as if speaking with an old friend.

Barnabus slightly bowed his long, thin and thorny head. “And a good afternoon to you my dear Augustine.” Barnabus smiled. “And may I extend my greetings to you fine people.” His voice was delicious like a narrator’s and had a touch of Jeremy Irons about it. A fact that Barnabus secretly loved hearing from visitors.

“He sounds like that Jeremy, the acting man,” screamed an American.

Barnabus turned his way. The man stepped back.

“Do I detect an accent?” the dragon asked.

The group laughed. They had no idea why. It wasn’t that what he said was funny. It’s just that none of them had met a well spoken ten foot tall dragon before. Lugging seemed the correct response.

Once they had got over their shock, which took at least seven minutes, they were treated to many takes of days of old.
They found Barnabus to be thoroughly charming, and an excellent host. He even happily answered a young Parisienne girls question. “Err..why do you seet on a pile of, how you say, many colour skull?”

The group had a delightful time. The dragon posed for pictures. For an extra fee, he flew a few of them around the basin. They had a lovely time.

It was time to be going. The last of the group tried to hug the giant, which he found amusing, then they all made their way to the staircase, their heads full of wonder.

Augustine started to follow.

Barnabus cleared his throat.

“You’ve forgotten again, haven’t you?” asked the dragon.

They both laughed. Barnabus held his giant front foot over his face.

“I swear, if your head wasn’t screwed on,” he joked. “You always forget the arrangement.”

Augustine let the last laugh tickle his belly. “I know.” He looked at Barnabus, as if trying to work something out. “Which one would you like?”

“Hmmmm,” Barnabus pondered. “That Henrik and his wife were delightful.”

“Brilliant,” said Augustine. “I’ll bring them in.”

“Thank you old chap,” said Barnabus. ”

“No problem. I’ll see you Wednesday.”

“Jolly good…oh, give my love to Wendy and the little ones,” said Barnabus.

With that, Augustine hopped up the stairs.

That night, Barnabus dined with Henrik and his wife Natascha and the pile of skulls grew by two.


Alexandra Ellul brings atmosphere and goose bumps with her story:

Through the Crack

Her body was sprawled on the floor, visible through the heavy door’s open crack. Her eyes were shut, but I knew that face, only, I couldn’t remember how. I couldn’t remember much of anything.

I wanted to see if she was alive; I felt that I needed to. My breathing was getting too fast and too loud, so I held it and stepped closer pushing the door open. But that widening inch sounded like thunder hitting the dark hallway and my hand withdrew from the wood like it had turned white hot.

Footsteps came from my right. The corridor was a long, narrow expanse of darkness, but a golden archway was now rippling forward, lighting the stone, approaching in time with the footfalls.

Fear rose inside me like an animal, pressing my stomach up against my heart. I bolted, every blind step hammering against my pounding, burning head.

The place was a maze, twisting and turning in the darkness. ‘Take left, always left.’ The whisper of a half-remembered voice led me out; a woman’s voice, but a stranger to me.

A door came at me and I flung myself at it.

Crisp air, wet grass, the sound of running water; weightlessness as my fear abated.

I stepped out and followed the sound of water, my feet sinking in mud. I looked back once and out of the darkness a castle jutted out, its stone reflecting white under an incomplete moon.

How long had I been there?

How did I get to be there?

A river emerged from the thickening woodland. I plunged into it and let it carry me to safety as my head cleared with each new smell, each tactile sensation of freedom.

When the castle was but a shining grey speck in the distance, I clung to a branch and pulled myself onto the bank.

There, a new scent embraced me; wet cedar, rich dark soil and something else.

Wild roses.

Her smell.

And it all came crashing on me; her face, her smile, her voice.

My guilt.

She was mine and I left her there.


Jasdeep Kaur‘s stories are always full of emotion. Through her words, you’ll feel this character’s sense of desolation and despair:

The Siren

The moon overlooked the dome of the city castle that was reflecting the light to Serra’s sombre room, as if trying to illuminate it. Serra was deep in her thoughts; her eyes had dried up. She gazed aimlessly into the dark corner near the bedroom door. The only thing that barged in on her thoughts was the siren of the ambulance.

She had heard that siren ever since the burglary took place in her house. It was Sunday night, exactly a week before. Aaron had heard the sound of the latch open and had tried to stop the robbers from taking their valuables. Every single second, she wished it had been her. She should have gone in place of Aaron. She should have tried to stop them. Then she would have got stabbed. She would have been taken in the ambulance. She would have been the one to be declared dead. She wouldn’t have been left alone in the misery.

She heard the siren again. She shouted and pressed her ears with her hands as hard as she could. She knew it would go; it was just an figment of her imagination. And so it did. She cleared her throat. Her doctor had said that she must sleep or this might become a severe psychological problem. She swallowed the fifth sleeping pill, but sleep wouldn’t engulf her even for a second.

She heard a sound, but it was not the siren this time. It was the latch of the door.

The burglars again? But what could they possibly want now? They had taken everything, even her love, she thought.

She heard the footsteps approaching. The door opened slowly. She saw a figure move in. She constricted herself to the edge of the window.

The anxieties had turned into hallucinations. This was what the doctor had warned about, she thought.

Then, there was a sudden pain in her ribs, the pain that blocked her voice. The pain was severe. She started sweating. She was losing her breath. She heard the siren again, but she couldn’t move her hands. She fell on the floor and her head hit hard on the ground. She was motionless.

A moment later, the moon light intensified, and two shadows were seen in the apse of the castle dancing with joy.

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12 Responses to My Weekly Writing Challenge

  1. Darkness

    Time was, everything in my life was normal. My whole body worked. I could run best part of a mile without being out of puff; running for the bus was a doddle. Had to be, I was so often late getting out of bed that if I didn’t run for the bus, I’d end up missing it and be late for work. My boss was a bit of a tyrant, and would dock me an hour’s pay for every minute I was late. Why that was, I never knew. We had to be at our workstations by eight o’clock every morning, Monday to Saturday, but never actually started work until half past, and then we started quite gently. It was probably nine o’clock before we were in full swing.

    It must have been when I was about fifty-five that things started to go downhill. By then I had a car and drove to work, so no need to run for the bus any more. That was just as well; I don’t think I could have done it then. Middle-age spread had taken hold as well, and Lil, my missus, reckoned I had a beer gut to die for. She was probably right. When we got married, I was just over ten stone – a bit skinny, truth be told – but by fifty-five I was more than fourteen stone. Doctor told me I should lose at least two stone, but that was a lot easier for him to say than it was for me to do. I tried, but after I lost my Lil to cancer – well, I didn’t have the will to look after myself any more. By the time I was sixty, I was over sixteen stone, and couldn’t hardly even walk, let alone run. Doctor said I had diabetes and had me injecting myself with insulin every day, testing my blood and all sorts of malarkey. Gave me a diet sheet, too. Fat good that was. It was hard work to walk and I couldn’t stand for long, so cooking was doubly hard. It was easier to call the takeaway and have dinners delivered every day. That way I always had a good meal, tasty too, even if it wasn’t what the doctor ordered.

    About five years ago, my eyesight started to get a bit dim. Slowly at first; I had all the light bulbs replaced with 100 watt ones, which helped for a while. And I moved my chair closer to the telly so I could see it better. For reading the papers, I had a magnifying glass. That made it easier, but only for a while. Over about three years it was getting worse and worse. I know I should have done something about it earlier; spoken to the doctor or even gone to Specsavers, but you don’t like to make a fuss, and it was getting much harder to go anywhere, what with the state my feet were in, and everything.

    Later, it got so I couldn’t see anything. Oh, I wasn’t blind, as such; I could make out shapes and light and dark, but that was about all. But even that went in the end.

    For over a year now I’ve been in a world of total darkness. Let me tell you; unless you’ve been in a darkroom or something like that, you don’t know what darkness is. There is nothing; no slight glimmer; no distant light; no faint glow, such as you get even on the darkest night; nothing. And knowing that it’s never going to get any better is horrible, I can tell you.

    I don’t know what it’s like for people born blind, but to lose your sight, to know that you are never, ever going to see the light of day again — that’s my definition of hell.

  2. Jasdeep Kaur says:

    A true story this time…

    His bike skidded and fell into the pit. Though the lights were dim, but the pit was wide enough to be seen and he was not speeding. He usually practised road concentration and alertness on his car or bike on high speeds even on the rugged roads. He had a dream of going in Himalayan Car Rally. But today’s accident changed it all.

    His life was nothing less than a race. From all sorts of sports to studies to gaining knowledge on diverse subjects and technologies, he never used to get tired or slow down. His dreams were equally swift. He wanted to join air force and design highly modern aircraft. At the same time, his pace never allowed even slightest of the details to overpass his eyes. The same happened that evening. He stood near his fallen bike pondering as to why he slipped.

    He sensed that there must be something wrong with his eyesight. He went to the local ophthalmologist, who told him that everything was fine. But the doctor’s statement did not satisfy him. He started observing and comparing his vision with his peers, and concluded that a further diagnosis was required. He went to one of the best ophthalmologist in the town, who conducted rigorous examinations as nothing was clearly apparent. The diagnosis resulted in the existence of a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. The doctor asked him to sit outside while some discussions with his parents were taking place. He was very sure that something serious was being hidden from him. He went home and searched the Internet. What he found gave him the shock of his life.

    It was a degenerating condition, where his genes would keep on killing the cells of his retina till he gets completely blind, and even the high doses of vitamin A would not be able to help him. He was off-grounded. His fast pacing life was put to an abrupt halt.

    He felt that a strong gush of wind took his dreams with it. He went into a phrase of depression. He circumvented his environ, and started digging deeper in himself. His desires took a back seat, and the question of leading an honourable life took precedence over everything else. Depending on others for his survival and well being was like a living death for him.

    But his energy didn’t let him stay in the state of despair for long. Soon he realized, he had to act fast. This was indeed a state of emergency. He must prepare for blindness before it actually comes. He went to a rehabilitation centre for gaining all the required skills even when he had a decent amount of useful vision. At the same time, he started exploring career options that would enable him to live his life with dignity.

    He was fascinated to see that visually impaired could operate computers with screen readers like a sighted person. This stream of study appealed to him as it dealt with innovations, and he got enrolled for Computer Engineering. During his studies, his vision started deteriorating further, and he could read and write only in an exorbitantly lit room or the natural light. Every time he wasn’t lucky enough to get an appropriate seat. He spoke to the head of the institute to allow him extra time or provide him a writer, which got a very negative response. He was suggested to leave engineering studies and look for some secure government job, where he needn’t do anything to get paid. This was enough to challenge him.

    He prepared for the exams by writing in dim light. He used scales for getting the correct alignment of words, and finally, he cleared his engineering with good grades. The path ahead was still not easy for him. A company wouldn’t hire him unless he had a proven track record. He started as an volunteer for an organization that was aimed at injecting accessibility in every book being published. His skills were admired and he was appointed as Software Developer by the organization. This opportunity unravelled the knots and unleashed the limitless field of success for him.

    At each step, he kept on acquiring new skills and kept on growing in his career, and every time, he had to struggle for accessible study material. He had now found a purpose for his life. Knowledge acquisition, as he believes, is the key to the personal and professional growth. He aims at equipping everyone, regardless of their disability, with the skills and knowledge that will enable them to lead a satisfying life.

    Now he works as strategist and project director for the organization of world fame, and is determined to unleash the world of knowledge for everyone irrespective of their disability. He believes this was God’s plan. The darkness of his life created an emergency to prove himself that made him work on an action plan for the freedom of the entire community.

    • What a superb tale of triumph over adversity, Jasdeep, and a true story at that!
      Who can fail to be inspired by such a story?.

    • I’m not sure if I would be as positive if faced with the same thing. What a fantastic inspiration he is. It’s stories like this that restore faith in humanity and in this world. A special person to treasure. Thank you so much for sharing this true story.

  3. Jasdeep Kaur says:

    Yes, he is the inspiration of many, including me.

  4. JasonMoody77 says:

    Weird one this; a little bit of fun.

    The street lamps flickered into life along the leaf littered street.
    The stars above began to creep out from their hiding place and fill the sky with a million wonders.

    All was quiet. All was well.

    In her third floor flat, Georgina Applegate was sat up in her bed. The bedside lamp bathed the room in a comforting orange glow.
    Sat on the bedside table was the latest novel by her favourite author. As far as she was concerned, the world was right.

    A little less than an hour later, the book slipped from her hands and fell to the floor. Georgina’s snoring signalled the beginning of another night of blissful, uninterrupted sleep.

    The electronic buzzing of the alarm shattered the silence of the morning and dragged Georgina from her peaceful slumber.

    The led display flickered: 7:15 am.

    Her hand reached from under the duvet and groped at the alarm clock, desperately seeking the snooze button. She hit the button, sunk underneath the duvet and was back to sleep.

    She finally awoke to the sound of cats having a conversation outside in the street.

    She shuffled out of bed and headed for her window, oblivious to the lack of light beyond her yellow curtains.

    She pulled open the curtains and rubbed her eyes. She want seeing things, she wasn’t dreaming, everything was black. Not a light to be seen.

    Cup of coffee in hand, and wrapped in a winter coat, but still with pink pyjama bottoms showing, she stood outside.

    She looked left and right. Other people were milling about in the darkness, just as confused as she was.

    She looked up. No glimmering moon, no twitching dots of light punctuating the inky blackness. Nothing. Not a light to be seen.

    She opened the gate and crossed the road. She took out her mobile phone and using the torch function, walked down her street.

    She had made it as far as the crossroads when she stopped. She couldn’t see them, but the darkness was filled with the confused ponderings of other folk.

    “Bloody council. I don’t pay my taxes for this bollocks,” a man she couldn’t see raged.

    She made it to the small parade of shops at the next corner.
    She held her hands out in front of her and groped the darkness. She knew there was a bench here somewhere.

    “Ow. Jesus,” she screamed.

    She’d found it. She sat down and began to furiously run her shin. She stopped, only because she could hear laughter beside her.
    She looked to her left and could just make out a figure.

    “Hello dear,” a kindly, gentle voice said.

    “Err…hello,” Georgina replied.

    She felt a hand text on her leg. She froze.

    “It’s ok. There’s nothing to fear, the lady said. “I suppose you are wondering what’s going on, aren’t you?”

    Georgina nodded.

    “I thought as much,” the lady said.

    “There was once a time, when people would look to the skies and feel wonder.”

    Georgina smiled.

    “They would marvel at the beauty of both the sun and the moon, and all they would bring.” The woman sighed. “You once worshipped these things. They were once held with such regard. They were miracles.”

    Georgina felt a soft hand coupled in hers.

    “Make it so again, my darling. Help bring back the wonder. Bring back the light. Until such time, there will be darkness. Sorry.”

    Georgina reached for her phone. She switched on the torch and shone it to her left. There was nobody there.

    Georgina made her way home. This was the strangest start to any day.

    She wandered into her bedroom. Lying flat on her bed, she closed her eyes; She tried to convince herself it was all a dream.
    The alarm buzzed again. It was 7:30 am.

    The darkness has persisted since.

    • The theme darkness has been the most popular one this week. You certainly had fun with this; a very interesting concept. I like it – though I wouldn’t if it came true!

      • JasonMoody77 says:

        I haven’t had a chance all week to write! It’s a ‘write without a plan ‘ type deal. Enjoyed doing it though. Also, what does a ‘-‘ indicate in sentences? Oh…got your short story collection on Kindle. Me likey!

      • Glad you enjoyed it.

        A ‘-‘ in a sentence is often used instead of a comma or colon e.g.:

        1) I’m going to buy some stationary tomorrow – books, pencils, pens etc.

        2) I knew she was guilty – though I didn’t say so – it was just obvious.

        Thanks for the support with the book. It means a lot. I’m really pleased you like it 🙂

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