My Weekly Writing Challenge

Last week, you were set a picture prompt as your challenge and you produced some fantastic pieces of writing. Well done you! Please read all the entries below.

As last week’s challenge proved popular, I’ll set you another picture challenge:

index

Sacha Black‘s response to the challenge was almost immediate! She really has a talent for gripping her reader. Read and admire:

The stench of old liquor and stale middle age sweat lingered in the air.

Joey cheated and Juan noticed.

“Juan, he’s an idiot, a child, he don’ know any bedder, ya know?”

I put the poker chip I’d been twiddling back on the table so my fingers could instinctively reach for the steely cold trigger pressing against my hip.

A flash of gold. Juan smiling. Fingers twitching. A barrel of laughter rang out of Juan’s emotionless face.

“Joey, Joey, Joey,” Juan rumbled, “everybody knows what happens to people who cheat me.”

Juan’s eyes narrow to slivers and his thin lips curled. Joey was shaking, drips of sweat clumsily falling off his brow.

The click of metal. The thunder of a single round penetrating flesh, and the clunk of his head hitting the table.

Keith Channing wasn’t happy with his entry, but I loved it. Super characterisation. I’m sure you’ll all agree:

“Sit down, lad,” old Simon said to his young grandson, Sam. “Look at that picture and tell me what it says to thee.”

“It don’t say owt, Grampy,” Sam replied. “It’s just a picture of a messy room.”

“But how do you suppose it got so messy, lad?”

“Don’t know, Grampy. It’s only a painting, not a photo. It en’t real, is it?”

“En’t it?”

“Course not. If it were real it would be a photo.”

“If it were today, aye. But what if it were before photographs existed?”

“When were that, Grampy; before the war?”

Old Simon chuckled at the innocent naivety of the youth. Chuckled with love, not disrespectfully. Young Sam knew nothing of the history of photography and why, at seven years of age, should he?

“Nay, lad,” Simon replied, toying with his grandson’s mousy-coloured, shoulder-length hair. “Photographs have been around since the 1830s, you know. Colour photos came only about thirty years later, though they weren’t very good. Well, I never thought so, anyway.”

“Were you around in the 1830s, Grampy?”

“Cheeky little beggar,” the old man said, putting on a mock expression of scorn at the boy’s impertinence, but laughing inside. “When do you suppose this picture were from? Ring any bells from your history lessons?”

Sam scratched his head. “Don’t know, Grampy. It looks very old.”

“Tell thee what, lad. When I were your age, we’d walk into a bombed-out house and make up stories about the people who might have lived in it, what their lives were like, and such. Let’s say that it’s a real room we’ve just found, and see what we can work out about the room from the picture. Will you go first, or shall I?”

“That sounds like an adventure game, Grampy, I’d best take the first go, bein’ as you don’t know owt about gaming and I’m a level six wizard.”

“Level six, eh? That sounds impressive.”

“Not really,” Sam said, somewhat crestfallen. “My friend Billy says that his friend Alan has a cousin whose best friend is a level fifty!”

“Best get practising, then, lad.”

“Right. Well.” Sam’s face betrayed the whirring and meshing of cogs in his brain. Grampy had challenged him – he simply had to come up with something, and something good. His face took on the glow of a freshly lit lightbulb, albeit a slow-burn energy-saving lightbulb.

“I’ve got it, Grampy,” he said. “Look at how’t windows are all boarded up, an’t light coming in by’t hole where’t floorboards have gone.”

“What’s that tell thee?”

“En’t it obvious? She were a vampire. When’t light came through’t window… you can see’t mess on’t sofa where she were sat, then she had to smash up’t floorboard to escape into’t dark underneath. Weren’t first time, neither. Bits of floorboards everywhere. Why she didn’t just hide in’t chimbley’s a mystery, though, or even up’t stairs by’t door. No light coming in there. Or make a better job of boarding up the windows, or shut bloody curtains.”

“So when this were painted, she were…”

“Either down’t hole under floorboards or mayhap dead, if she were too slow.”

Simon studied the picture closely. “What d’you make of that picture between’t windows?”

“Can’t see what ’tis meant to be, Grampy, but it looks like it might be some sort of dragon or some other satanic creature or ritualistic device.”

“Satanic creature? Ritualistic device? Where’ve you been learning words like that at your age, and what’s it supposed to mean?”

“Don’t know, Grampy, but you get ‘em in adventure games and that could be one.”

“Okay. What does clock tell you?”

“Clock tells you ’t time, Grampy. Ouch! What were that for?”

Sam was unprepared for the playful slap across the back of the head that followed his response, but Simon’s look and waved finger answered his question without words.

“I think we’ll stop for today, lad,” he said, “take’t picture home wi’thee and come back and tell me more on the morrow. Let’s have a nice cuppa now, shall we?”

“Aye, Grampy. I’ll put’t kettle on.” Sam stepped down from the old man’s bed. “D’you want me to check blood sugar and see if you can have a piece of cake or a biscuit wi’it?”

“Aye, lad; but be careful. Can’t afford any mistakes after that last episode.”

Jasdeep Kaur chose a limerick and what a brilliant one it is too:

The appalling panorama portraying the plight
of the lost memories of the wrathful fight
didn’t satiate the soul
of the man with the mole,
our quibbler director, who says, ‘It’s still not right.’

Geoff Le Pard has a chilling tale for you this week. It’s highly entertaining too:

Starting afresh

Jimmy Stimpson wondered if his parents really cared when they cancelled his birthday trip to Disney. Sure his sister was in hospital after the car accident but his grandparents offered to cover. They never asked how he felt. Then she died and they decided to move. No discussion. New house, new neighbours, new school and, worst of all, he’d have to make new friends. And making friends was not Jimmy’s speciality.

He was pleasantly surprised when two boys, Albert and Robert took him under their wings. Soon Jimmy was part of their group, four boys and three girls who hung out together. The other children avoided them, barely registering their presence but Jimmy felt wanted. Even the teachers let him settle without the usual false friendliness.

His parents were so overcome by grief that they didn’t stop him going out with his new friends. And that was cool, even if Albert and Robert argued a lot.

It was maybe a week after he had arrived – he found it difficult to keep track of time with all the new experiences – that Robert told him about the old house on the hill. He said there were lots of stories about it – how it was cursed, how it was haunted, how it was really full of treasure. But Robert said these were silly stories; he was going to go inside to prove everyone wrong.

Jimmy liked Robert. He was strong and didn’t seem to care what others thought. Albert was more cautious, often complaining about the light on his eyes and how he needed another pullover because he was cold. When Robert challenged Albert to spend the night in the old house, Albert refused so Robert asked if Jimmy was brave enough. He said yes.

When Robert led Jimmy through the front gate to the old house – it was more a mansion – Jimmy felt sick and excited. It was decrepit with crumbling plaster and missing slates missing. All the windows were boarded.

‘How do we get it?’ Jimmy shook slightly.

Robert pointed at a window on the first floor where there was a gap between the boards and window.

‘Have you done it before?’

But Robert was already climbing and didn’t answer.

When Jimmy reached the window sill Robert had gone inside. Jimmy followed. The evening sun, previously hidden behind the clouds filled the room with light. Temporarily blinded Jimmy stumbled into a small table, knocking papers – brown with age – to the floor. The top had a list of names – as his eyes adjusted he read the bottom name – Jimmy Stimpson.

‘Welcome, Jimmy.’

Robert stood by a cabinet. Lined behind him were the others. They appeared to be dressed in old fashioned clothes.

‘This is your new home, Jimmy.’

‘But I have a home.’

All seven children shook their heads. Robert turned and pointed at the wall; a portrait of a young boy stared back at Jimmy. His portrait.

‘We’ve been waiting for you. You’ll be happy here.’

‘But Mummy. Daddy. They’ll miss me.’

Robert stepped forward. ‘They already do Jimmy. You’re dead. You died in the car crash that killed your sister. She will join us later, when her spirit has settled.’

He reached out and caught Jimmy as he fainted. Robert eased the inert ghost into a chair, before collecting the list of names that had once again spilled onto the floor and putting it back on the table. He took a pen out of his pocket and wrote a new name beneath Jimmy’s while one of the other boys began to hang a new portrait on the wall.

Jason Moody‘s story is full of atmosphere and suspense:

Decimation

They’re using the picture that’s been in all the papers this week. It’s yet another anniversary. This man is droning on forever. Wrap it up.

“This picture was taken from a cell phone three hours before the outbreak,” he says.

I can tell he doesn’t want to field any questions. To be honest, I don’t think anybody wants to ask any. They just want to wrap things up and get out of here.

It’s all wrong to me. Why open up an investigation two years after the outbreak was declared contained, and safe? It doesn’t make sense.

What is even more ridiculous is that they have now opened ground zero as a visitor attraction. What the hell?

I look at the picture one more time. It isn’t like I haven’t seen it before. Everybody has.

I remember it well.

Three children were playing in the abandoned house on the outskirts of town. The official story states that the kids were messing around and disturbed something. Something? What’s that supposed to mean? We’ve never been told what this something was.

Now, just two months after the grand opening, the site has had an incident. It was ordered to shut down immediately. That’s where we come in. I’m not looking forward to this. My friend was at the first scene. She made it to six months.

None of us are particularly happy about this assignment. Would you be? After the horror stories that leaked, it’s a wonder they’re sending anyone back. Who’s idea was this?

The man finishes his speech which nobody has listened to. A military man orders us to follow him. He looks about as much fun as a funeral.

After a short walk, nobody saying a word, we’re led into a hanger. A huge military jet of some description sits ahead of us. The military man just nods towards it. Great. I hate flying.

The flight is awkward. Nobody talks. The military guy passes through a couple of times and just stares. I swear, if he does this one more time, I’m going to kick him in the balls.

There’s nothing for it. It’s time to sleep. The flight is four hours.

After the worst landing on record, we come to a halt. I can already feel the heat coming in. This is going to suck. I’m hardly dressed for the sun. My jeans are already starting to feel like they were painted on.

Sunlight pours in as the rear cargo door to the plane creaks open. Like everyone else on board, I just stare.

What the hell is this place?

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8 Responses to My Weekly Writing Challenge

  1. Sacha Black says:

    Always such lovely compliments, I might actually have to start believing them if you carry on!! :p I like this photo too….but soo busy with work… must…complete…challenge……and assignment! lol lol

  2. Sacha Black says:

    No idea why this is my entry, but you never know how things will inspire you…

    Stargate

    “What if I never come back?” I swallowed the bile beginning to attack the back of my throat, and clutched my stomach. I closed my eyes. I couldn’t look at Eloinee. Those perfectly golden eyes made me feel sick with guilt.

    “You were born for this Jeremiah, you’re the only one who can take us.”

    I shook my head trying not to throw up. I grabbed Eloinee’s arm and steadied myself.

    “I’m not a hero, Eloinee, I’m just a nobody inventor who got lucky.”

    “How can that be true?” She sat me down in front of the stone stargate, “You captured the hearts of the entire nation, you’re going to save us all.”

    My stomach gurgled and I tasted the first acidy traces of sick. I put my head in my hands and rubbed my temples hard.

    “This is a mistake. I wasn’t even meant to be studying torsion physics, Eloinee. I can’t do this. I can’t go. It’s all a big mistake. I was just looking for free energy for godsake.”

    Eloinee slapped at my face so hard my hands slipped off my knees and I clasped my throbbing hand.

    “What the hell was that for?”

    She pressed her lips tight and slumped into a chair next to me sighing.

    “Jeremiah, it doesn’t matter what you want to do. This isn’t a choice. You may not have meant to discover the stargates, but you did. So get a grip. This is bigger than you. Don’t you get it?” She leant forward, and took my reddened hand in hers, bringing it to her lips, “This is about hope. It’s always been about hope.”

    She kissed my hands and leant in to plant a tender peck on my cheek.

    “You aren’t just my hope Jeremiah, you are the hope of a nation. Our world is dying, and you are going to be our saviour. I believe in you more than I have ever believed in anything. You were never a ‘nobody’ to me. But now… Now, you are a ‘somebody’ to everyone. You have to be our hope Jeremiah, you just have to.”

    Tears spilled onto her pink cheeks. My heart ached looking into her furrowed eyes. If I couldn’t go for the nation, I had to go for Eloinee.

    I just nodded. I couldn’t speak. If I spoke, I would lose the strength she had given me.

    I stood up, pulling her up and into my arms. I couldn’t say goodbye. So I touched my forehead to hers and breathed in the scent of her sweet skin. I took a last look into her golden eyes, I would never forget them, they were my hope.
    I left her alone in the room and walked to the stone stargate. She was right. I could save us all. I touched my hand to the gate, and stepped into the unknown…

  3. You have such a talent for this type of writing – I found myself drawn into this world. And I need (note, need!) to know what happens next! Love it, Nica 🙂

    • Sacha Black says:

      ooh I didn’t see this reply for some reason it didn’t come through as a notification :(. Big smiles, thank you. It’s funny but I feel like I am starting to find my groove. In wonder if this is what finding your voice feels like? I feel like I just ‘know’ what I need to put (not that that stops block) but you know what I mean. Obviously I still need to improve, but I think I feel like I am starting to ‘know who I am’ as a writer, I appear to have a niche, but I will still try and do challenges to break out of it! Maybe I shall file this away for an assignment then… try and work out what happens next!

      As always – I just noticed a mistake… *I said through extremely gritted teeth!!*

      Stargate

      “What if I never come back?” I swallowed the bile beginning to attack the back of my throat and clutched at my stomach. I closed my eyes. I couldn’t look at Eloinee. Those perfectly golden eyes made me feel sick with guilt.

      “You were born for this Jeremiah, you’re the only one who can take us.”

      I shook my head trying not to throw up. I grabbed Eloinee’s arm and steadied myself.

      “I’m not a hero, Eloinee, I’m just a nobody inventor who got lucky.”

      “How can that be true?” She sat me down in front of the stone stargate, “You captured the hearts of the entire nation, you’re going to save us all.”

      My stomach gurgled and I tasted the first acidy traces of sick. I put my head in my hands and rubbed my temples hard.

      “This is a mistake. I wasn’t even meant to be studying torsion physics, Eloinee. I can’t do this. I can’t go. It’s all a big mistake. I was just looking for free energy for godsake.”

      Eloinee slapped at my face so hard my hands slipped off my knees and I clasped my throbbing hand.

      “What the hell was that for?”

      She pressed her lips tight and slumped into a chair next to me sighing.

      “Jeremiah, it doesn’t matter what you want to do. This isn’t a choice. You may not have meant to discover the stargates, but you did. So get a grip. This is bigger than you. Don’t you get it?” She leant forward, and took my reddened hand in hers, bringing it to her lips, “This is about hope. It’s always been about hope.”

      She kissed my hands and leant in to plant a tender peck on my cheek.

      “You aren’t just my hope Jeremiah, you are the hope of a nation. Our world is dying, and you are going to be our saviour. I believe in you more than I have ever believed in anything. You were never a ‘nobody’ to me. But now… Now, you are a ‘somebody’ to everyone. You have to be our hope Jeremiah, you just have to.”

      Tears spilled onto her pink cheeks. My heart ached looking into her furrowed eyes. If I couldn’t go for the nation, I had to go for Eloinee.

      I just nodded. I couldn’t speak. If I spoke, I would lose the strength she had given me.

      I stood up, pulling her up and into my arms. I couldn’t say goodbye. So I touched my forehead to hers and breathed in the scent of her sweet skin. I took a last look into her golden eyes, I would never forget them, they were my hope.
      I left her alone in the room and walked to the stone stargate. She was right. I could save us all. I touched my hand to the gate, and stepped into the unknown…

  4. JasonMoody77 says:

    Here’s my homework Esther! 😉

    The Gateway

    “Look at that,” he said, pointing ahead.

    Craig’s sister Samantha looked less than impressed. She raised her head from her phone and grunted.

    Craig ran ahead to what looked like an ancient stone archway. It stood alone in the middle of an old path, and was surrounded by a canopy of beautiful green trees.

    Samantha came to a sudden halt as she bumped into Craig who was stood at the foot of the arch.

    “Bloody hell Craig. Watch where you’re going will you,” she snapped, still engrossed in her phone.

    Being her younger brother by one year, Craig was accustomed to her sharp tongue and put downs, he was the little brother after all.

    “Why did you want to come this way anyway?” asked Samantha.

    Craig didn’t answer. He was now stood directly in front of the arch.
    He let his hands caress the hard stone. His fingers running over what looked like ancient writing.

    With that, the arch shook and Craig was thrown to the ground, as if picked up by a huge gust of wind. He craned his head to get a look. Through the arch he could see a strange landscape. There were towering mountains and unwelcoming shadows. It looked alien to him.

    Samantha placed her phone in her jeans pocket and looked on. She grabbed Craig by the arm and lifted him to his feet.

    “I think we should get out of here,” she stammered.

    Craig wriggled free of her grip.

    “This is so cool,” he said. “Take a picture Sam.”

    She had no intention of doing so. Through the archway she could see two figures heading towards them.

    “Craig. Run,” she shouted.

    Seeing he wasn’t moving, she grabbed him by the arm, intending to run. Craig was resisting. He may have been her little brother, but he was strong.

    “You run. They chase,” he said. “Don’t you watch tv?”

    The figures were much closer. Samantha protested to Craig, but he was rooted, fixated on the approaching figures. He could now see that they were riding. Perhaps horses.

    Craig waved.

    “What the bloody hell are you doing, you idiot,” Sam shouted. He wouldn’t answer, or move. “Craig, please.”

    The figures could now be seen. Both were men astride beasts not of this world. They passed through the stone gateway into the forest. They stopped. The creatures were at least six foot off the ground with scaly skin and thick trunk like legs.

    One of the men jumped down from his creature, and removed his helmet. He was Young, dressed all in dark blue. His clothing suggested he might be important. The other rider, much older , looked on nervously.

    The young man approached Samantha and Craig. He was a little older than Samantha, who was eighteen. He smiled, looking at Craig.

    “You are most curious looking individuals. Obviously not of our realm. Where are we?”

    “You’re -,” she started.

    “Women may speak freely here?” He asked. “Women actually have the right to free speech? Incredible.”

    Samantha rolled her eyes. “Err, yeah we do. We also give birth, hold down jobs…good jobs and we don’t take crap from men much nowadays. Alright?”

    She felt quite proud of her rant. She could feel more.

    The boy laughed, turning to his companion.

    “Are you hearing this Melvic? The girl talks. Fascinating.”

    “I don’t know, and don’t care where you’re from. From your dress, Id say a fancy dress party. And from your rhetoric, the 20’s?”

    She grabbed Craig and began to walk away. The young man stepped to the side placing his hand on her shoulder. She shivered inside.

    “Lady. Please,” he smiled. “I don’t wish to offend anyone. Not in the slightest. I just find you both..extraordinary.”

    Samantha shook her head.

    He cleared his throat. An announcement was forthcoming.

    “My name is Alaquin. Prince Alaquin. I am from the Kingdom of Etherion.”

    He looked pleased with his announcement.

    Samantha smiled. “That’s lovely Al. My names Samantha and we’re late. Come on Craig.”

    She took Craig’s hand, and for once he wasn’t resisting. They turned and began to walk at a pace. Behind them, the face of Prince Alaquin darkened.

    “Do not turn away from me. Come back here child of Earth.”

    Samantha froze. She turned. A look of fear on her face which he noticed immediately.

    “You’ve been here before, haven’t you?” she said.

    He nodded. “Many, many times dear child. We are quite familiar with this little world.”

    At that moment four men appeared from the gateway. The were wearing armour and carrying swords. The Prince turned to them.

    “Take these trespassers to the hold.”

    “Trespassers?” screamed Samantha. “What’s going on?”

    “Free will. Free speaking? We can’t have this, lady. Not in my world.” said Prince Alaquin.

    Samantha rolled her eyes. “Your world? What the bloody hell is going on?

    The men made light work of rounding up Craig and Samantha. They both fought, but it was no use. The men were heavy set and far too strong.

    Draped over the soldiers’ shoulder, Samantha looked straight at the Prince. He blew her a kiss.

    “You arse. What’s going on? What have we done?”

    “Have fun. See you soon,” he said.

    As she was carried through the gateway, her world seemed to vanish. There was no more gateway. Just endless mountains and no sign of Craig.

  5. Sorry Esther; not getting anything this week. I won’t bore you with why that is, but I’m hoping things will improve soon.

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