Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Weirdly Contest - Fifth Symphony


Contest ends midnight, December 14.

Prize is a copy of Weirdly: A Collection of Strange Stories (Tales).

Rules posted December 7.

Please note: I have fished no less than 3 entries out of my spam filter where, for some impenetrable reason, gmail deposited them.

If you have sent an entry previously and it has not appeared on the blog by the day after, pleaseplease re-send in case I missed it among the lottery/watch/gettabigdork spam.

Entry # 11: William ( Billy) Hammett of Chapter and Verse:

The Devil's Tongue
William Hammett

Orla looked at the tree, squinted, limped to the right, then shook her head. The grove was one of only three she knew of within five hundred miles. The Low People, of which she was a member, mostly burned straw at night, though a few Scrappers—the renegades—lopped off branches on moonless nights.
“Damn fools,” she muttered. “How do they expect trees to grow again?”
She burst into laughter at her own forgetfulness. Like everyone, Orla knew that trees across the world were dying. Even straw didn’t burn sometimes because of . . .
She paused. What was the word? Microbes? Yes, invisible little creatures that had conquered the Big World, upstart little bugs that ate trees and flowers and fish.
Her grandfather once told her the world had grown very hot and then very cold. He’d shown her a picture of a stone tower called Big Ben, covered with frost, icicles, and purple and yellow lichens.
Limping to the heap of stones where she huddled each night to shield herself from the horrible-tasting rains that flooded the pasture by morning, she tuned to stare at the tree one last time.
“Forked,” she proclaimed to the sky. “Like the Devil’s Tongue.”
She peered into the cracked mirror leaning against the largest gray stone. The eye on her cheek stared at her left leg, which had no toes.
“The Devil’s Tongue is eating us all,” she croaked. “We’re all a bunch of damn fools.”

Entry # 12: Ric Marion from Along the River:

The ornate container tipped slightly as he walked around the giant tree; the contents slipping out.
Long ago, he saw her playing under this tree; her parents had moved to the house next door. Bouncy red curls, skipping in the grass, a new playmate, game for anything a seven year old boy would suggest. And, later, as they encountered adolescence together, long hours of talking, figuring out their place in the world.
They learned to kiss, to dance without music, to sit for hours without a word, yet satisfied with the conversation. One night, beneath the spreading branches, stars twinkling high above the leaves, they gave each other their greatest gift; it seemed only natural.
The wedding, on the lawn spreading from the roots, white dress and starchy shirt, a life begun. Long years of sitting on wooden chairs, with youngsters climbing the tree behind them, growing, learning, and then, leaving.
Aging, faster than the tree, but sitting still beneath the long branches, growing older, still in love, sitting for hours without a word. Until that night, as she laid in her bed looking out at the giant tree, breathing her last as the storm built around them. The lightning struck the tree at the moment her life ended.
As he spread her ashes around the remains of the tree, he knew the tree, and his life, his love, would hang on, shattered, offering no shelter, no canopy of green for his grief.

Entry # 13: by J.C. ( who wishes to remain pseudonymous for the time being.)

Remember
By J.C.

I lost my faith in God and man here. This defiled earth still bears the echo of pain.
Listen, now, daughter, and you'll hear the trees scream. Do you feel the flames licking the damp night air? Do you smell the charred flesh? Do you taste the fear?
Do not mourn, child. Remember. They thought murder would teach a lesson to those who came after. Oh, yes, my child, remember this lesson. Remember what they do to women who refuse to be cowed.
See that tree over there? It is broken and burnt, yet it's branches still yearn for the sky. Your legacy is a pile of ash and blood. From this slurry you shall build an empire.
The Great Mother's tears are falling now. Let them coat your hair and face. Look up to the sky, raise your arms and call my name. Invoke the power of Gaia and pledge your resolve. Call your sisters to this place and tell them my tale. Then go forth and claim your birthright.
One day, you shall gather your own daughters around you. You will wrap them in your warm embrace and whisper your secrets. When the moon is full, you will bring them here and share the lessons of the past.
Until then, hear me. I am the wind in the leaves, the call of the crow, and the whisper of the brook. Hear me and remember.

Entry # 14: Sarah Hina of murmurs:

The Rain Becoming

"There is rain on your breath," he tells her, smiling.
"Those are tears," the girl says, shivering. "We should get back in."
But kisses spark brightest in spring's first water. And so they root their heels to the earth, embracing like two waves who have not crashed up against each other for the length of a war. Three desert years.
There are twenty desert yards to the car.
And so they swim.
"I wore your necklace every day. Beneath the dog tags. The guys made fun of me at first. Such a girly thing. But then they saw your picture."
She touches the tarnished metal in the notch of his neck. Places her mouth on the wet skin beside. The girl absorbs the flurried pulses into her lips, and down, down, into her embedded feet. Her toes curl with each vibration. Thunder crashes, and a whiff of ozone warns the air.
He removes the necklace to lace it around her neck. The storm swells. Silver flashes gold, alchemized by the heat lightning in the lovers' eyes.
"I knew you'd bring it back! I knew you'd come back to me," she laughs above the downpour.
"I made a promise."
Their lips fuse. Electric water.
The soldier, stiff in his uniform, bends his girl back, so that her hair will blow wild, so that she will laugh again. He wants to watch the rain becoming, in that crackling current between a smoky bodice and its snowy skin.
FLASH
He watches still.

Entry # 15: Vesper of Chick With a Quill:

The Right Package

"That was no lightning strike."
"This was Lugh again, toying with the natives."
The Commander was annoyed. Each of their planetary vehicles was unique, tailored for their owner's chemistry, the exhaust trail a sure signature. But even without the spectral analysis, everything was telltale. The absence of leaves, the subtle carbonisation, the twigs twisted at a specific angle, the grass in the clearing almost imperceptibly shorter.
"The Controller's arriving in three days. We'll all be kicked off this quiet little planet if we don't cover this. Lugh was my responsibility. Unless…"
"Could we use the man from yesterday? What did he call himself?"
"A …druwid."
"Funny little fellow. Was he speaking to the oaks in the grove, or was he trying to contact us?"
"Do you think he knew of us?"
"Certain details might have leaked from Egypt, lately. Horus was discontent last time I saw him…"
"I wonder… This area only has some animistic attempts at explaining the reality. If we could persuade them to take up some human sacrifices… Any sacrifices at all. A belief in the reincarnation of the soul, at least. We're in dire need of some fresh soul energy. And we can't fool the Controller. We could sell them a good kit, complete with a resident god to start with."
"Do you fancy becoming their own little god?"
"No, I'll leave it to Lugh. That'll teach him to behave – to be bound to this place forever, or at least till 'they' grow bored with him…"

Entry # 16: Jason of Clarity of Night:

TREE OF LIFE
by Jason Evans
The man listened to the breaths. They hitched and struggled as the evening light cooled.
"I remember the day we came here. I was eight. It was the first time I fought with you. The first time I let myself get mad."
The breaths relaxed again and smoothed.
"You said I was fishing wrong. I wanted to do it my way, so I threw the rod and stomped off. I was ridiculous, but you let me go. You didn't chase me."
Outside the window, the lake rippled with the last glow of day.
"If we weren't out here, I could do it myself. That's what kills me."
The breathing thinned.
A breeze stirred.
"You know, the first catheterization I did, the blood vessels on the monitor reminded me of that book. The one you read to me about the trees of Sherwood forest. So many tiny twigs at the end of crooked branches. When I fed the catheter through the heart, I imagined climbing those trees. I still think of that. Another cardiologist thinks of rivers. He likes to fish like you."
The clock chimed.
When it finished, the ticking was huge and alone.
"I called you that night. You sounded so proud of me."
A siren lifted over the silence. Dr. Paul opened the door to tires crackling on gravel. The paramedics were shimmering color smeared on bare trees.
They ran toward his father stretched on the lake house floor.
Dr. Paul held out his hand. "He's already gone."



16 comments:

Julie said...

Rich diversity, bernita! Wonder how far one is sparking off another...

Nothingman said...

You got some blogging giants here..damn...even though i have no hopes for winning compared to these peeps, i have sent my entry....hope you enjoy reading it, its called Love and Hate...

Cheers!

N

A Story A Day

Bernita said...

I hear only individual "voices," Julie!

I am very glad you entered, Nothingman. Thank you.

SzélsőFa said...

I've finished mine today. will be sending off to you tomorrow.
Which means I was able to start reading entries.
What a great collection you have here!

Jaye Wells said...

I am always amazed by the talent represented in our corner of the blogosphere. I can't wait to see what else people come up with in the next couple of days.

raine said...

I would NOT want to be the one to choose the winner of this contest!
Verra nice!

Interesting, the number of extraterrestrials featured, lol.

jason evans said...

I'm in wonderful company in this installment!!

Happily, I can now start reading entries since mine is in. Williams had a nice global warming take. Ric's was poignant. J.C. had a cool legend feel. Sarah's portrayal of the contact between people is always mesmerizing. Vesper, dang, I loved that! Wonderfully inventive and perfectly written.

Bernita said...

Hope the popcorn is holding out, Raine!

Please, everyone, feel free to comment. I'm sure the writers will appreciate the input.

Charles Gramlich said...

Gonna be a hard decision.

Emperor Ropi said...

good luck for everyone

Sarah Hina said...

William, your piece was very perceptive, and chilling. Loved the Devil's Tongue imagery here. We are damn fools, indeed.

Ric, this was so lovely and heartfelt. It's only fitting that the tree that sheltered their romance should be scorched by her death. Very beautifully conveyed.

J.C., you spin a fine myth. I liked your simple, eloquent declaratives here, which really stirred me. Very inspiring meditation on the tree!

Vesper, yours was wonderfully inventive, and witty. I really liked this alternative world you created. Great work!

Jason, this was so tender and beautifully wrought. So many undercurrents beneath the slow breaths, that final chime. A whole life lived, and shared. Perfectly portrayed.

Ello said...

Bernita, You've got your work cut out for you. I am SOOOO glad I am not judging this contest! These were all so good! But Sarah, Vesper and Jason back to back to back just knocked me out! I'm swooning here!

Church Lady said...

Jason, this gave me goosebumps. An intimate tribute to the bond between a father and son. I'm speechless.

Vesper, Fantastic opening line! I enjoyed reading this, even though it's not my genre. I need some fresh soul energy too! (I loved that line)

Sarah always gets me in the mood. Where is my husband....
Simply lovely. My favorite two lines: There are twenty desert yards to the car.
And so they swim.


J.C. An ominous prelude. I enjoyed reading it.


Ric, so sad and yet compelling. You captured a lot in so few words. Nicely done.


Willian, Yes, I see the Devil's Tongue also. An apocolyptic take--very nice.

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