The Collective Inkwell Creative Fiction Contest – Win a pimped out Thesis Theme!

ci-contest-boxAre you a creative blogger?

Would you like to win a pimped out Premium WordPress Thesis Theme?

Then we’ve got the contest for you.

We LOVE writing here at Collective Inkwell. We love all kinds of writing, but we love fiction the most. Stories that move, amaze, and scare; make you laugh, cry, or FEEL IT IN YOUR MARROW – we love them all!

From the comments and emails received so far, we feel like we’ve hit on something special here with our celebration of inspiration and creativity. Nothing excites us more than kicking our first week off with a giant creative writing project/contest.

Here’s the deal.

We’ll give you two prompts to choose from. Sentence A and Sentence B, each provided by one of us. You pick one of the sentences and build a story from it! The contest will start today and run until Friday May 1st. The following week, we’ll announce three winners, hand picked by our panel of four bloggers.

The Rules

  • This contest is open to bloggers of any age who keep a regular and open-to-the-public blog. One entry per person.
  • Stories must be in the English language as we have no foreign language or Klingon translators here (though Sean speaks Spanish).
  • Stories can be any length, but try to keep it less than 2,000 words. We don’t want a novella. Well, unless you are named Clive Barker, Stephen King or David Sedaris.
  • Stories can be of any genre save for pornography. Those can be sent to our personal email at… Ha, I keeeed!
  • Stories will be judged on general awesomeness and creativity. We won’t be judging for grammar, though please do bare in mind horrible grammar may distract us from fully enjoying the story. In the event of a tie, we will lock ourselves in a steel cage and fight it out until the death. Or we’ll flip a coin.
  • You MUST post the first paragraph (including the prompt sentence) of your contest entry on your blog with a link back to this page. Then you must post the ENTIRE entry here (including the first paragraph) as a response to this thread. Please also include a link back to your blog post featuring the entry.
  • We won’t demand that you subscribe to our RSS feed (using a button to the right) or follow us on Twitter (also, a button on the right); we believe that you should only do these things if you want to stay up to date with Collective Inkwell. Having said that, we’d love it if you could publicize the contest on Twitter, Facebook, Digg, local restroom walls, on the back of your partner’s neck in sharpie when they aren’t looking, etc… but we won’t count it against you if you don’t.
  • If you have comments on another person’s entry, feel free to leave them in this thread. We all appreciate feedback or a pat on the back.

The Prizes

  • First Prize: A Thesis Premium WordPress Theme pimped out by David Wright. Chris Pearson’s Thesis Theme from DIYthemes.com is hands down the BEST WordPress theme out there. From SEO-optimized back end to endless customization options to a million other things, which we’ll get into in a future post, Thesis rocks! Heck, its our theme of choice here at Collective Inkwell – and also at BloggerDad and WriterDad. Thesis retails at $87, but you’ll get your very own copy for free! Additionally, you will receive a custom header for your site as well as some basic modifications for color and design. In order to win the custom theme, you MUST have your own hosted WordPress blog. You are also responsible for uploading and maintaining your theme after delivery. We will help out with customization and the initial Thesis setup, though. Maintaining the theme’s updates and future design modifications will be your responsibility. Don’t worry, though, as you will receive your own personal Thesis license and access to the incredibly helpful Thesis support forums.
  • Second and Third Prizes: Your choice of a custom banner or Twitter background page drawn by David Wright or custom writing from Sean Platt of your choice (including About Page, Services Page, guest post, SEO optimized post, general piece of ghostwriting – anything less than a thousand words).

Other Stuff

We reserve the right to modify the rules without notice. We likely won’t, but for legal reasons, or in case you get all weird on us, we added this.

Now the sentences to begin the stories

a) Well, this is odd, he thought to himself.

b) How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

Any other questions or comments, please email them to collectiveinkwell (at) gmail.com

Good luck to all, we look forward to reading your stories!

74 responses to The Collective Inkwell Creative Fiction Contest – Win a pimped out Thesis Theme!

  1. I’m Entering a Contest

    […] and I have to put the first part of the story here and link back to the story on their blog. If you want to read the whole story check out the comments in this post about the contest. Here&#821…. How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much? Grace was simply […]

  2. Lovelyn

    Here’s my entry. I linked to the contest from this post.
    http://nebulousmooch.com/2009/04/29/im-entering-a-contest/

    A Wonderful Day

    How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much? Grace was simply trying to stay dry when she dashed across Vine Street to the cover of the green awning jutting out over the outside produce display at the local grocer’s. She was standing in front of the melons fishing through her large black bag for the umbrella she swore was in there somewhere when she felt a jarring force hit her hip. She steadied herself and looked down to find the source.

    A small man clung to her. Grace knew this was a man though he was the size of a child of four of five. Though his hands and fingers didn’t have the knobbed appearance of a dwarf, his cheeks showed the dark shadow of stubble. He clung to the nylon belt of her favorite hot pink trench coat. His legs wrapped firmly around her knees. His whole weight pulled down on her.

    “What are you doing?” she demanded.

    “Pardon me.” He let his feet slowly slide to the ground and released his grip on her belt. “I thought you were someone else.”

    “You really should double check before you go leaping on someone like that,” Grace was feeling quite put out now. She untied the belt of her trench, adjusted the length at both ends and retied it.

    “You’re right,” the little man said his face reddening with embarrassment. He watched the rain, now much heavier than before stream down the front of the awning.

    Grace looked at him for a moment as he stared out at the rain. His short thin arms crossed in front of him. His dark curly brushed the tops of his ears. He adjusted his blue jeans and zipped up his navy blue jacket. Grace had never seen anyone like him before. As she watched him standing there so small and awkward her heart softened. “It’s okay. No harm done.”

    He laughed—a sarcastic puff of a laugh that caused air to burst from his nose so quickly that it could’ve blown the thing clear off. “No harm done to you, but this costs me 30 bucks. Now it’s raining on top of that.” He shoved his hands deep into his jacket pockets. “I can’t afford to make these kinds of mistakes. I’ve got to pay the rent you know.”

    Grace had given up searching for her umbrella. She watched the rain stream down too. She had to speak loudly so her voice could be heard over the roar. “I’m Grace. What’s your name?”

    “Perry.”

    “Nice to meet you, Perry.” Even in the most uncomfortable situations Grace always keep her manners about her. “If you don’t mind me asking what do you do?”

    “You just saw, honey. That was most of the show right there.”

    “I don’t understand. You jump on women?”

    “Yeah. It’s a freak out game. Some jerk hires me to scare his girlfriend or whoever. They get a big laugh and I get 30 bucks. It’s not my only gig. I deliver singing telegrams and do some acting too. Christmas is a big time of year for me. You know, elves and the whole bit.”

    “Of course,” Grace said. She imagined Perry dressed in an elf’s custom. A pointed green and red felt hat flopped over to one side, it was easy to picture.

    “How many chicks come out of this market wearing a hot pink trench coat? I mean come on. How was I supposed to know? You’re supposed to be Sylvia. You’re supposed to be a lot younger and you’re supposed to be blond.” He pulled a small picture from his pocket and handed it to Grace.

    “I’m young,” Grace protested. She touched the corner of her left eye with her left hand. She’d notice crows feet making there marks on her face that morning when she put on her make-up. She took the picture from Perry and looked at it briefly. The picture looked like the type you get for high school graduation. A smooth faced blond girl smiled at the camera. Her hair hung in loose curls to her shoulder. A black V-necked frock draped across her large breast.

    Perry looked her over and said, “Not that young.”

    Grace winced and handed the picture back to him. She hated being confronted by the passing years.

    “Don’t get all offended. Youth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, you know? Those young giggly women get on my nerves. It’s better to have some life experience. Makes you interesting, you know?”

    “Yeah. I guess you’re right.”

    “Guess. You should know, Grace. That makes things a whole lot easier. Knowing is everything. Ain’t that what they say?”

    “I don’t know. Is it?”

    The rain was starting to let up. Perry looked at his watch. It was a narrow banded watch that hung loosely on his wrist. “I have to get going. I have a commercial audition across town. I’ve been running late all day. Isn’t that the way things happen? When I saw you standing under the awning I just noticed the bright pink coat and I thought, Great Sylvia’s late too. I can still get this job in.”

    “But I’m not Sylvia.”

    “Yeah. I’m sorry about that. It’s so unprofessional of me.”

    “It’s fine. What’s done is done.” She handed him the picture.

    Perry stuck the picture back into his jacket pocket. From his other pocket he pulled out a business and handed it to Grace. “Here’s my card.”

    Perry Stephens
    Actor and Performer

    The card stock was thick and off-white. The writing was gold and raised. It was a lot nicer card than Grace expected someone in his profession would have. “Nice card,” she said. When she went to hand it back to him he shook his head in protest.

    “That’s yours. I’ve got plenty. You never know when you might want to send someone a singing telegram, or completely freak them out. You might need a freak to appear in the movie you’re making.”

    “I’m not making a movie.”

    Perry laughed. “I thought every one was making a movie or at least writing a book.” When Grace met his joke with a blank stare he just continued talking. “Give me a call sometime. Maybe we could get a bite to eat.”

    “Maybe?” She looked back at the card on her hand.

    “Relax, Grace. I’m not trying to pick you up or anything. You seem new in town. I thought you might need a friend.”

    “Thanks.” Grace was new in town. She’d only been in the city of three months and had to admit that making friends was hard. “I’ll give you a call then.”

    “I’ll show you all the hip places to be seen. It’ll be fun.”

    “Yeah.” She smiled. The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started.

    “Good. I’ll be waiting for your call. I have to go. I’m going to be late.” He took off running down the street jumping over puddles. The farther away he got the less she noticed his height.

    “Bye,” she said though he was already out of earshot. She stuck his card in her pocket, zipped her purse closed and stepped out from under the awning. The sky was already clearing and she could tell it was going to be a wonderful day.

    Lovelyn’s last blog post..I’m Entering a Contest

  3. Chase March

    Here is my entry that I teased about on my blog. http://chasemarch.blogspot.com/2009/04/collective-inkwell-fiction-contest.html

    THE THOUGHT ALONE

    By Chase March

    “You know how there are never enough hours in the day, how it seems that you need to move faster, get more done? I know you do. We’ve all felt it at one point or another. And sometimes that thought alone is enough to motivate us.”

    Joe looked across the top of the podium and had to smile. He wasn’t sure that he’d be able to pull this off but so far so good. He was actually doing it. He glanced over at Jennifer, his daughter, to see if she approved of his speech so far. She smiled. That was all the fuel he needed to continue.

    “We can feel a pull and start to walk towards something without even knowing what it is. We sometimes feel opportunity coming and correct our course to intercept one that otherwise might pass us by. Perhaps Jennifer felt it that day. I sure know that Mark did. And I am sure most of you have heard this story over and over. But allow me this, as father of the bride, to retell it.”

    Jennifer didn’t need to hear the story again. It was part of the fabric that was her fairytale. Every girl dreams of this. It still seemed unreal. Could she actually have a fairytale wedding and live happily ever after? Did this really happen in real life? She looked over to Mark and felt absolutely no doubt. None. This was for real. “The heart knows what it knows,” was what her grandma had always said. And she was here to see it, which made it all the more sweet.

    “My wife,” Joe continued, “tends to obsess about seasonal clothes. And I know.” He cleared his throat. “I know this should be about my daughter but I bought the coat. And Cheryl washed it and put it away so that should count for something right.”

    Jennifer put her hand up to her eye and rubbed it. He’d been off to such a good start in the speech. Now he’d probably lost half the audience. They’d laughed, but how were they to know what he was talking about? How could he always manage to lose the thread of a perfectly good story? She wished she could jump in and tell the story herself at this point.

    It was early fall and the temperature was unseasonably low. The wind ripped through the city and pushed the litter alongside the road. People hurried along the sidewalks eager to get inside, afraid that this weather signaled the demise of another summer.

    Jennifer wasn’t immune to any of this. In fact, before leaving the house, she had dug her winter coat out of the closet in the basement. It was in perfect condition and looked brand new even though Jennifer had been through a lot with it that previous winter.

    As Joe continued his speech, Jennifer’s memories played in her head like a movie. The picture was perfectly clear. Was it because of the narrative that her father was awkwardly telling?

    “So, yeah, the coat was an absolute mess after that,” Joe continued.

    Jennifer tuned him out. This can’t be about a coat. It can’t be about her being in that part of town on one specific day. It had to be more that that. Or did it?

    She scanned the audience and couldn’t believe that everyone she loved was here in one room celebrating the fact that she’d found love. She made eye contact with her maid of honour who mouthed the words, ”Can you believe this?”

    Jennifer focused on that last phrase. She remembered that for the past year and a half she often said, “I can’t believe this is happening,” or something to that effect. Even her family and friends echoes that sentiment.

    What was so hard to believe about falling in love, about finding a soul mate, about being in the right place at the right time? Maybe the phrase “can you believe it” has very little to do with belief. Perhaps it is the only way we know how to describe something so perfect. Or maybe we do believe it but always have some doubt. This can’t be real, can it? Perhaps we need that doubt so that we can truly analyze the situation and get our bearings, so to speak.

    Nah, Jennifer didn’t believe that either. She believed in the fairytale. She believed in soul mates. And she knew without a doubt that when that special person walks into your life, you’d just know. And she knew it, right away. Had to have. Otherwise it wouldn’t have played out that way, would’ve it?

    “So, she tells me, ‘Didn’t think I’d need this already,’ as she dashed out the door wearing the red jacket.”

    Jennifer looked over to her husband and wondered what he was thinking right at that moment. He nodded his head and whispered, “You did need it.” It was a chilly morning that day. He wished that he could take over the microphone and tell the story. He could do it justice. Much better than it was being told now.

    I used to work at a donut shop part-time as I put myself through university. The shop had huge front windows that overlooked the main street.

    I remember that the door would sometimes open by the wind. The door chime would sound and I’d come up front to find no customers to serve. It was always a mild annoyance.

    Well, on the day that Joe has been describing so far the wind had other plans.

    I remember that day more clearly than any day before or since. I was working in the back of the shop baking when the door chime sounded. That sound was normal enough but the accompanying sound made me leave my station.

    I hurried to the lobby and saw that the wind had pulled open the door and torn it from its hinges. The manager and I were able to put the door back in place and lock it. We then put up a note for our customers to use the staff entrance. The manager called a repairman and I got back to work. Simple as that. A brief distraction in a regular workday.

    A few hours later, the manager and I were in the front lobby surveying the newly repaired front door. I would normally have been working in the back at this time so I take that as a sign.

    Anyway, as I stood in front of those large windows watching the wind still whip through the city, I saw a girl cross the street. She was strangely compelling and my eyes were glued to hers. There was something about it. An innocent stare as our eyes met for the longest time. It felt right in that moment.

    She crossed the street and walked past the front of the store. My eyes we glued to hers as she looked right into my soul and returned my passionate stare. She didn’t stop walking, as she looked right into the store at me. This too brief moment was amazing and outlasted normal time. There was meaning behind this exchange. There had to be. I could feel it.

    She continued walking and then shifted her gaze to where she was going. I was frozen to the floor, still in shock. I couldn’t move. The moment felt so right but she walked away. Why?

    I thought that it would’ve been perfect if she had turned around and came into the store. But she didn’t. I couldn’t go back to work and I couldn’t stay stuck to the floor in the lobby. My manager was right there. What was I to do?

    Only one thing. I ran out of the store and chased after her. I didn’t even know what I was doing. The manager yelled at me.

    “So the manager is yelling at Mark to get back here or he’s fired. Mark’s throwing off his apron. Jennifer’s turning around to see what all the ruckus is about. Mark’s yelling back to his manager, ‘Give me a moment okay?’ The manager’s throwing up his hands and turning around. I wish I could’ve been there.”

    Both Jennifer and Mark were all smiles at this point. Joe had told the story and told it well but he wasn’t quiet done yet.

    “I asked Mark what he was thinking when he ran out of the donut shop after my daughter. He told me that as Jennifer walked out of sight, her beautiful eyes and her red coat remained etched into his memory. He asked me if I believed in love at first sight. Then he said that he knew right away that he loved my daughter with no question at all. He told me that had he not run after her he would’ve regretted it for the rest of his life.”

    Joe continued his speech. “Now I don’t know if I believe in love at first sight but I do believe in soul mates. I don’t know what made Jennifer cross the street against the lights that day, or why she was in that part of town. Perhaps it was fate. Perhaps they both knew they were headed toward something special. All I really know is that they found true love and I wish them all the best.”

    He lifted his glass and toasted the happy couple. “Mark, welcome to the family. Jennifer, how could you have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?”

    THE END

    Chase March’s last blog post..The Collective Inkwell Fiction Contest Entry

  4. christy

    Here is my submission. Link to my blog entry may be found here: http://www.twitchinggreymatter.com/?p=206

    Well this is odd, he thought to himself. I didn’t imagine quite so much blood. Not on me at any rate.

    Wiping his hands on the girl’s skirt, he stood, considering his handiwork. Sadly, the unevenness of the floor caused the blood to run away from the girl, rather than pooling artfully around her head as a thick red halo.

    “Certainly not a perfect picture of innocence, but it will do,” he said aloud. “Yes, it will do.”

    There was no basin in the room, so he wiped the blades on the girl’s skirt, laid them to rest in his surgeon’s kit, and shrugged himself into his heavy woolen greatcoat. Gloves slid on over blood-stained hands, he picked up his hat.

    “I thank you for an enjoyable and instructive evening,” he said bowing.

    The door to his back, he opened the window and climbed out onto the fire escape. Trusting the frozen night to keep wandering folk confined to warmer accommodations, he descended to the alley and strolled home.

    The night was disappointingly like so many other nights before it. The frigid air evacuated the streets, and he was able to pass unhindered through the neighborhood. He had expected it to become somehow . . . different. In what way he could not have said, only that now that his world had changed, so too should the world around him.

    It had not.

    At this hour, there were few lights glowing in the windows. The city was as nearly at rest as was possible for this kinetic metropolis. It was as it had always been. He wanted it to be different.

    Without any mindful attention to his path, he was surprised to find himself in the foyer of his rooms. The recognition of home intruded upon his thoughts, dismissing the frustrated reverie. This place, too, was silent. He proceeded into the darkness with the confidence born of familiarity.

    He stood in the darkness of his study, allowing the viscous silence to envelop him. It had been an emotional night. A night he had planned. A night he had anticipated. A night about which he dreamt for longer than he could remember.

    And it was as yet incomplete. Laying greatcoat, hat, and gloves on the wing-back chair, he padded across the thick oriental carpet to his desk.

    Fumbling slightly in the darkness, he switched on the desk lamp. The bulb’s light burst onto his over-exposed retinas.

    “Damn.”

    Half-blinded he squinted. Crouching under the desk, he blindly sought out the power button on his computer tower while his eyes adjusted to the light. Finding the right texture under his fingertip, he pushed. The large LCD screen flickered to life. He waited patiently as the familiar start-up chime brought the machine to life.

    With a click Chrome bounced into action. Browser opened to an “incognito window,” he cleared the address bar and began to type.

    http://www.jacksnewworld.com/wp-login.php

    The login screen passed quickly as he entered the username and password. The dashboard glowed before him.

    This is it, he thought. The beginning. The new beginning.

    Clicking on Add New under the Posts menu brought an empty text box to his monitor. His fingers moved with rapid confidence over the keyboard.

    Who would have imagined that life’s basic element is viscous and sticky? It is.

    Were it not for the warped floor in the room she chose, she might have been restored to the picture of angelic innocence of her pre-whoring days.

    The entire operation was not nearly so difficult as one might think. It is the simplest thing to procure the subject and further to agree upon a meeting place.

    Once there, rapidity of motion and conviction of purpose are the primary keys to success. Once begun, the path cannot be abandoned else the risk of failure is at hand.

    The whore struggled, though only for a moment. It was as simple a matter as I had imagined. Though there is room for improvement.

    And improve I shall. And here shall I record my journey toward perfection. This first step into a brave new world is mine.

    Jack is back.

    He admired the words he had written much as he had admired his handiwork on the girl. Silently, he guided the mouse pointer to the Publish button.

    He clicked.

    christy’s last blog post..On Being a Responsive Communicator (And Business Owner)

  5. Miguel Wickert | Simply Blog

    Okay guys, my submission. 🙂

    Here’s the post at my site: http://simplyblog.net/the-doubleshot/

    The DoubleShot

    Well, this is odd, he thought to himself. As he entered the coffee shop, a refreshing, vibrant odor from roasted coffee beans gave him something to smile about while creating a sense of authority; suddenly, his mind began racing with rumors about the owner.

    Known in town as the coffee Nazi because you had to drink the coffee his way. He is the shop’s roast master. if anyone possessed an understanding, fondness and familiarity with the product, it’s him. There could be no compromise.

    Ones preferences usually matter, this was the American Western way of life. But not at the DoubleShot. You either participate in what they have to offer or find a Starbucks. He knew, ordering off the menu was his only option. They only serve what’s on the menu. It made sense, but as he walked to the counter, he couldn’t understand what the big deal was?

    “Americano please.”

    “For here or to go?”

    “For here.”

    He had to order an Americano; at least that’s what his friends told him. Wanting to play it safe. He did what he was told. No one wants to get bitched out at the T-town’s notorious coffee spot for pissing off “the coffee Nazi.”

    Waiting for the drink, he felt the pressure leaving which made for a more pleasant experience.

    The Americano is ready and with his lofty expectations! He’s ready. Drinking espresso with a little hot water. For him, drinking coffee without alterations, this is a first!
    Normally, he is a sweet tooth coffee drinker: Half and half, brown sugar, cinnamon, crushed ice, ice cream and so on.

    That’s one of the notable distinctions about “The Double Shot.” They frown upon adding alterations to beautifully, tasty, finished cup of drip coffee, especially their espresso blend!
    Grabbing a seat, with pressure slowly mounting again, and ready to participate in what others believed to be the best, freshest coffee available.

    Why is this experience exciting? He knew they were watching. Trying to relax, with his lips to edge of the cup, he sipped. His palate absorbed about several distinct favor profiles: earthy, then tangy, followed by a refreshing, smooth, lasting mouth-feel.

    Well, this is odd, thought to himself. No added alterations: without sugar, milk, sweetener or syrups; simply a finished, untouched, not aged- fresh cup of coffee. He could no longer return to his former life.

    Miguel Wickert | Simply Blog’s last blog post..Why No-One Should Spend $1000 but less than $100

  6. LisaNewton

    Ok, here’s my submission and the link back to my site, http://www.travelinlocal.com/christmas-morning-and-a-camera/

    Creative Inkwell, is a new site dedicated to “making your blog great” and was created by Sean Platt and David Wright. It’s currently hosting a creative writing contest.

     

    I thought participating would be fun, plus a great chance to help Sean and David launch their new business endeavor. When you have time, spend a few minutes from your busy day there, and read some great new fiction that’s been submitted from other talented and diverse bloggers from very different genres. While you’re there, make sure you check out the new services that Sean and David are offering other bloggers to make their websites noticed and top-notch.

    So, in the spirit of Travelin’ Local, here’s my entry:

    Christmas Morning and a Camera

    How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

    With her children grown and beginning their adult lives at college or with new careers, Christmas become just another symbol and routine: a time off from work. Her ennui did not engulf and enmesh her into anything worse than what happens to most—an acceptance of the way things are, not what they could be.

    She wasn’t depressed for sure, because long ago she knew that she was a survivor and a warrior. Life had taken on more of the pitter-patter of which many get used to, or make believe they do—full time job, a card carrying member of the rat race.

    So for her, as this Christmas portended another year almost gone, a footnote in history, however, new potentialities were approaching from around the bend.

    You see, her gift this year was a new camera. She was always interested in the arts, especially photography and writing, but she had foregone her career in lieu of her former husband’s, as did many women who thought that was the right thing to do. A person’s right to happiness, she later recognized was an elusive goal. But one she was determined to achieve, though, without sacrificing her moral underpinnings.

    At night, she frequently loved to look at the city’s panoramic and pulsating neon lights. To her they were an art-form of translucent beauty, a swirling of momentary magic to be captured through pictures as their affects are dreams, reflections, transfixions between the day and night, between original and man-made, and the creativity of commercial use for personal art.

    She has a firecracker personality, disarming to many, but treasured by those who really know her. Time waits for no one to be sure. She always knew the phrase and its implications but this day was different because she was about to cross the Rubicon she always dreamt of and knew that she was capable of. How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

    With her camera hanging around her neck, and her bag full of camera paraphernalia, she was ready.

    As she crossed the street, she looked at a scene that had presented itself many times to her, the Pacific Ocean beach’s of Southern California. As usual, it was brisk and fog-laden.

    But not as usual, she knew things this time were indeed different. Armed with her new weapon, she knew right there, right then at that moment that her new camera would spring life back into her morning and her life. It didn’t matter what the weather was, or how many people were out and about.

    Of course, most people were home, enjoying opening presents, eating Christmas cookies, watching the parades and Bowl games.

    She looked out over the beach, held the camera to her eye, and starting taking pictures. One, then another, then another, time was irrelevant. Her art was.

    Looking right, left, up, and down, she took picture after picture, trying to visualize each shot in her mind before she’d shoot. Like a director concocting a scene, or a writer visualizing his plot, her mind enjoyed the new found joy of being able to compose mis-en-scene and capture the moment.

    The moment is that characteristically misunderstood things that most people take for granted and now, with her new Nikon, she was able to find tremendous satisfaction in having the capacity to steal those things and seal their fate onto the palette of her memory using the photograph as a means to suspend time and beauty forever.

    Unsure of all of her camera settings, for this first photo shoot, she kept her camera on “auto.” After all, the brave new world she had entered even though now fully digitized, was also the same form and reference point that the greats worked with—hand on camera, eye to the mood and environment, and senses all tuned in and on by the light, many much more famous than she’ll ever be turned photography and photographs into a cultural phenomenon, a denouement of the senses, a moment of time never to be repeated but captured onto the silver gelatin. So she’d figure out, over time, all of those “whatcha ma call its” and “thing a majigs.”

    It suddenly dawned on her that she had started seeing common everyday things in a new way. The portrait of an Artist was now her new calling card as she now knew and understood that by crossing the street she had changed her life forever.

    Her personality and love of people, art, writing, and technology would allow here to pursue her life-long dreams of becoming a photojournalist and the vista of her dreams were multi-colored, multifaceted and didn’t have an ending or any restrictions that she could see.

    The clearer she was going to be about her destination, the easier it was going to communicate why others should pay attention.

    How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

    She couldn’t have, but by and because of that fact the rest of the world was soon to find out, her personal zeitgeist of what her interpretations of her environment is.

    Today was the First Day of the Beginning of the Rest of Her Life

  7. LisaNewton

    Okay, gentleman, here is my entry. I’ve only included the words here, but because pictures are a large part of what I do, and several are included in this story, I posted the entire entry on my site. I tried to include the pictures here, but the comment section didn’t take them, so I hope I didn’t break any rules by putting the entire post on my site, http://www.travelinlocal.com/christmas-morning-and-a-camera/. You said any genue, so I included photos as part of my genue…………………….:)

    Christmas Morning and a Camera

    How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

    With her children grown and beginning their adult lives at college or with new careers, Christmas become just another symbol and routine: a time off from work. Her ennui did not engulf and enmesh her into anything worse than what happens to most—an acceptance of the way things are, not what they could be.

    She wasn’t depressed for sure, because long ago she knew that she was a survivor and a warrior. Life had taken on more of the pitter-patter of which many get used to, or make believe they do—full time job, a card carrying member of the rat race.

    So for her, as this Christmas portended another year almost gone, a footnote in history, however, new potentialities were approaching from around the bend.

    You see, her gift this year was a new camera. She was always interested in the arts, especially photography and writing, but she had foregone her career in lieu of her former husband’s, as did many women who thought that was the right thing to do. A person’s right to happiness, she later recognized was an elusive goal. But one she was determined to achieve, though, without sacrificing her moral underpinnings.

    At night, she frequently loved to look at the city’s panoramic and pulsating neon lights. To her they were an art-form of translucent beauty, a swirling of momentary magic to be captured through pictures as their affects are dreams, reflections, transfixions between the day and night, between original and man-made, and the creativity of commercial use for personal art.

    She has a firecracker personality, disarming to many, but treasured by those who really know her. Time waits for no one to be sure. She always knew the phrase and its implications but this day was different because she was about to cross the Rubicon she always dreamt of and knew that she was capable of. How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

    With her camera hanging around her neck, and her bag full of camera paraphernalia, she was ready.

    As she crossed the street, she looked at a scene that had presented itself many times to her, the Pacific Ocean beach’s of Southern California. As usual, it was brisk and fog-laden.

    But not as usual, she knew things this time were indeed different. Armed with her new weapon, she knew right there, right then at that moment that her new camera would spring life back into her morning and her life. It didn’t matter what the weather was, or how many people were out and about.

    Of course, most people were home, enjoying opening presents, eating Christmas cookies, watching the parades and bowl games.

    She looked out over the beach, held the camera to her eye, and starting taking pictures. One, then another, then another, time was irrelevant. Her art was.

    Looking right, left, up, and down, she took picture after picture, trying to visualize each shot in her mind before she’d shoot. Like a director concocting a scene, or a writer visualizing his plot, her mind enjoyed the new found joy of being able to compose mis-en-scene and capture the moment.

    The moment is that characteristically misunderstood things that most people take for granted and now, with her new Nikon, she was able to find tremendous satisfaction in having the capacity to steal those things and seal their fate onto the palette of her memory using the photograph as a means to suspend time and beauty forever.

    Unsure of all of her camera settings, for this first photo shoot, she kept her camera on “auto.” After all, the brave new world she had entered even though now fully digitized, was also the same form and reference point that the greats worked with—hand on camera, eye to the mood and environment, and senses all tuned in and on by the light, many much more famous than she’ll ever be turned photography and photographs into a cultural phenomenon, a denouement of the senses, a moment of time never to be repeated but captured onto the silver gelatin. So she’d figure out, over time, all of those “whatcha ma call its” and “thing a majigs.”

    It suddenly dawned on her that she had started seeing common everyday things in a new way. The portrait of an Artist was now her new calling card as she now knew and understood that by crossing the street she had changed her life forever.

    Her personality and love of people, art, writing and technology would allow here to pursue her life-long dreams of becoming a famous photojournalist and the vista of her dreams were multi-colored, multifaceted and didn’t have an ending or any restrictions that she could see.

    The clearer she was going to be about her destination, the easier it was going to communicate why others should pay attention.

    How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?

    She couldn’t have, but by and because of that fact the rest of the world was soon to find out, her personal zeitgeist of what her interpretations of her environment is.

    Today was the First Day of the Beginning of the Rest of Her Life

  8. Creative Writing

    […] to introduce you to the art of creative writing, Dave and Sean over on Collective Inkwell have a creative fiction contest going on and I’ve decided to […]

  9. Timm Holmes

    Here is my entry for the contest.
    Hope you all enjoy it!
    Link back to the posting on my blog http://timmholmes.wordpress.com/2009/04/30/collective-inkwell-creative-fiction-contest-entry/

    The Crossing

    She never imagined that crossing the street could mean so much.

    Harry and Wendel stood on either side of Stephanie, the shields in their hands nearly as tall as they were. The shields had once been car doors. Their eyes darted from the open windows of broken burned out buildings to the piles of rubble scattered throughout the streets, anywhere one of Dragon’s Flames might be hiding. They couldn’t risk a confrontation with Stephanie in the condition she was.

    Dragon was an older boy, almost nineteen by some accounts, and was the self-proclaimed leader of The Flames. Dragon was Asian, muscular and a vicious fighter. No one knew his real name, but they all knew to fear him.

    Stephanie caressed her round belly that extended outward. She was unsure of what was going to happen and exactly how it worked but knew there was a new person growing inside of her frail thirteen year old body.

    Harry began to cough and she turned to look at him. Unlike the other Smiths, Harry was her real brother from before. They had survived together. Harry wasn’t the oldest or the strongest boy on the island, but certainly one of the smartest. She thought about all he’d done for her and the others and couldn’t imagine never being able to see him again. The other Smiths affectionately called him Turtle because of the glasses he wore. He was her younger brother by a year or so, but she looked to him for guidance as did the rest of the family.

    Harry had managed to collect a number of books from throughout the ruined city and he had read as many of them as he could. When someone had a problem or if they got sick, Harry usually knew what to do. So when Stephanie started vomiting each morning about four months ago, it was Harry that revealed to her that she was pregnant.

    After the bombs had all been dropped and the last of the bullets fired, you couldn’t see anything but fire and smoke on every horizon. The big green statue to the North was charred and broken. Looking south, burning boats and ships littered the wide expanse of blue.

    They had all looked for a way off the island, but the bridges had all been destroyed. Swimming seemed an unlikely success. Many had tried and failed to get to what had once been Brooklyn. A shorter swim existed on the western side of the island but no one wanted to go that direction. All day and night nothing but screaming came from over there since the fighting had stopped. They must have gone crazy to the West.

    Dragon and The Flames had made their home to the North somewhere.

    So the Smiths settled to the South East, taking refuge in some of the less disturbed suburban homes. Everything had been looted, nothing was left unscathed. But with a little work under the guidance of their former leader Desmond, The Smiths were able to carve out a decent existence.

    Desmond had been the last adult to live on the island and when he finally succumbed to the sickness like the others, the family he had built needed a new father. Harry was well liked, knowledgeable and had been close with Desmond. He was the natural choice to lead the family. Even though he did not want the responsibility, he wasn’t given a choice. It was unanimous. He became the head of the Smith family.

    Dealing with the threat of Dragon and his Flames was enough of a daily concern, but they also had to contend with the Scavengers that would come across the water from time to time.

    They were adults and they would come take anything they thought might be useful. The problem was as far anyone on the island was concerned it all belonged to them. They’d been left abandoned here, so anything that was on the island was theirs. No one could be allowed to just come and take their property.

    It was rumoured though that the Scavengers were just a few of the many adults that lived across the water. It was also said that they had managed to bring back electricity and that they had proper doctors over there.

    This is why Stephanie had to go.

    So when the look outs spotted the Scavengers’ boat and reported back to Harry, he immediately set out with Wendel and Stephanie to meet them.

    Dragon had once had a girl that always stuck by his side. She was less vicious but seemingly as crazy as he was. They called her Diamond. Her belly got fat just like Stephanie’s was.
    Five months ago, Harry and another boy named Sam were on lookout duty and spotted Diamond shuffling weakly past a couple of the Smith residences. Before they could approach her, two visiting Scavengers stumbled upon her and after a short conversation all three walked away together.

    Harry and Sam followed the trio and watched as she was loaded onto the boat, wrapped gently in a blanket and given a bowl from which she cautiously began to eat. Once the other Scavengers returned from looting, the boat’s engine started up and they all went back across the water.

    Harry and Sam reported this to Desmond and he asked them not to speak of the incident to any of the others. They promised they wouldn’t. Out of respect for the family’s father, the lookouts kept their word.

    Shortly after, Dragon came looking for Diamond, convinced she had run away to join the Smiths. He brought about twelve of his Flames. Four of them were girls, although you wouldn’t know it to look at them.

    They came to the Smith’s neighbourhood hollering and screeching, Dragon loudest of them all.

    “Diamond! I gave you everything! You owe me everything! Come back where you belong! You’re mine!”

    Desmond had become quite ill and could not get up from bed. He could do nothing when The Flames began dowsing one of the unoccupied homes with gasoline. And he could only watch as they lit it on fire.

    Desmond asked Harry to gather some of his brothers and see if he could manage to chase Dragon off or at least convince him that Diamond wasn’t with the Smiths.

    Harry ran from house to house and gathered ten of his brothers. They joined Dragon and his bunch in the street just as they were beginning to soak a second lawn. The groups were only a couple houses apart.

    “Dragon!” Harry shouted his voice wavering ever so slightly as his nerves reached a fever pitch, “We need to have a word!”

    The entire group of Flames moved as one and began to approach the Smith brothers.
    “No!” Harry shouted again, “Just you and me.”

    His brothers mumbled protests but Harry hushed them.

    “Just be ready.”

    He walked toward Dragon. Dragon signalled his boys to stay behind as well and met Harry about halfway between the groups.

    “This better be good Goggle-face,” Dragon spat the words out, “Where’s Diamond?”
    “She’s not here—“

    Dragon lashed out with a single punch that knocked Harry to the ground. His glasses fell off and skipped a step or two away from him. Harry could hear his brothers start to charge but put his hand up to stop them. Then he crawled and recovered his glasses returning them to his face.

    “Liar! Don’t lie to me!” Dragon roared.

    “I’m not lying,” replied Harry standing back up, “I saw her about a week ago. She left with the Scavengers on their boat. Dragon, she was preg—“

    Dragon lashed out again. He buried a knife in Harry’s ribs. Harry fell against Dragon’s shoulder and his attacker whispered, “I don’t like liars.”

    Then Dragon was gone, Harry was on the ground and there was chaos all around. Behind all the shouting and fighting Harry watched the house that had been set on fire burn. He didn’t have the strength to move and there wasn’t a free hand to help him.

    Harry woke up on a couch. It was dark outside and candles lit the ransacked room.
    Stephanie knelt at his side carefully, like she was sore all over.

    “What’s wrong? What did they do?” Harry tried to sit up, but a sharp pain from his wound made him lie right back down.

    “Tore up every house looking for Diamond,” she spoke softly, “And they … hurt me. But I’ll be okay. We all will.”

    Harry thought of Dragon’s words, I don’t like liars.

    The Scavenger’s boat was pulling up near the shore now. They could see the light on the bow guiding it safely in.

    They crossed the street, Harry in front of Stephanie and Wendel behind, with shields in hand. All three of them scanned the streets and buildings for any sign of Dragon or his Flames.

    They reached the other side of the street and made their way down the gentle slope directly toward the boat. Two men clad in yellow rubber suits were disembarking, their heads covered by the yellow hoods sealed to the necks of their suits. As they turned and came face to face with the three kids, Harry saw that a clear plastic seal covered the front of the hood. It was nearly impossible to make out any facial features in the late dusk light.

    The two men still on the boat began to shout for the kids to stay back. One of them fired a weapon and a large rubber projectile slammed into Harry’s shield knocking him back into Stephanie who helped him regain his balance.

    “We just want to talk!” Harry yelled out. He began to cough and the two men on the shore each took a step back.

    “Stay back!” one of the men on the boat demanded again.

    “Please,” Harry began, “My sister here. She’s pregnant. She needs your help.”

    “Turn around and walk away!” came the voice from the boat.

    One of the men on the shore turned to face the boat, “Shut up Mike! You know the Doc’s gonna want to see her.”

    The man turned back to face the kids and started to walk slowly toward them his hands raised up to his shoulders.

    “Let’s see her kid.” He said to Harry.

    Harry nodded at Stephanie to step out from behind him but she was reluctant.

    “I won’t hurt you miss,” there was something in his tone that reminded her of Desmond.

    She stepped out from behind Harry, her hands wrapped around her belly.

    “How far along are you?” the man asked.

    Stephanie looked at Harry.

    “Four months or so,” Harry answered.

    The man looked silently at each of the three kids in turn.

    “You know we can’t take you boys too, right?”

    “We know, “Harry said, “The sickness.”

    “Can’t risk it. But her. She’s a different story. With every new baby comes the chance for a cure. One of these days a baby will be born that’s not sick.”

    Hollering and shouting could be heard in the distance.

    All four men looked up over the kids’ heads.

    “You better get going,” Harry told the men. He lifted his shirt showing his scar, “They’re good with knives.”

    Stephanie kissed Wendel on the cheek and then held her brother for a long moment until the man in yellow spoke softly, “Come on miss.”

    “I love you,” Stephanie whispered in her brother’s ear.

    She didn’t give him a chance to answer as she turned toward the boat, her tears beginning to spill down her cheeks.

    Harry watched his sister float away across the water. She’d be safe. She’d be taken care of.

    Wendel’s free hand fell gently onto his shoulder.

    “Better go Harry.”

    Wendel was right. The shouting was getting closer. Harry picked up his shield and the boys ran off into the night.

    Timm Holmes’s last blog post..Collective Inkwell Creative Fiction Contest Entry

  10. Marc - WelshScribe

    A truly great contest going on here. What a fantastic imagination everyone has. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading what you lot have come up with. I hope mine is just as intriguing and fun.

    Good luck everyone.

    Well, this is odd, he thought to himself. I feel so hungry, really hungry. Must be why I’m feeling so weak. But I had a full lunch, didn’t I?

    Why can’t I remember? And where am I? So difficult to see. Come on Miles, think! Where were you last? What were you doing? Ow, my stomach. I wish this damned hunger would go away!

    Wait! A hospital. I was in a hospital! Wait…why was I in a hospital? Goddamnit why can’t I remember anything! Think Miles, think.

    OK I’m in a hospital, I’m weak, can barely move and I’m having difficulty seeing properly. You’re also lying on the floor Miles. Get up. GET UP!

    Getting up however was not so easy. Miles’ weakened legs struggled to lift the weight of his body but there was something else conspiring against him. The floor was slippery, too slippery for a shiny hospital floor. Something was coating the surface where he lay, something warm and slick.

    With a small thud Miles fell back to the floor. If he was capable of crying then the tears would already be flowing. But his eyes remained dry and open. Unblinking and seemingly transfixed on the opposite wall.

    Goddamnit! What in the hell is going on!

    Miles opened his mouth to yell for help but all that came out was a guttural moan, the sound of which surprised even him.

    Great I can’t speak now eith….Oh God no. No this can’t be happening to me. Please God don’t let this be happening to me. Why me? I can’t speak, can’t see, can’t move. Oh God I’ve suffered a cerebral infarction, why m- wait a what? How do I know the medical term for a stroke? Doctor…I’m a Doctor!

    Was a Doctor. Now I’m just a vegetable, a mind stuck in a non-functioning body.

    Miles slumped out on the floor and lay wallowing in his self-pity for what seemed like hours. A painful pang of hunger in his stomach brought him out of his preoccupation as an invisible force compelled him to move. Something had clicked in the back of his mind, a primeval, sub-concious sense – the will to survive.

    Must eat he thought as he dragged himself across the floor with comparative ease.

    Come on Miles, you’re a Doctor! Why would a stroke victim be so hungry? And how does it explain why you’re lying on the floor?

    As these thoughts and more raced through his mind Miles’ body lifted itself from the ground and he stood in an almost drunken stupor in one of the hospitals’ long corridors. His body was slightly haunched over, his arms hung limply by his sides and his head tilted rather abruptly to the right. Unbeknownst to him a dark liquid from his open mouth began to dribble down his chin and dripped onto the floor.

    Ok I’m finally on my feet. Now what? Where do I go? Must eat.

    Thoughts of food and of sustenance were beginning to overwhelm the broken Doctor. So much so that he didn’t notice his surroundings. He failed to note that the lights in the corridor had all but stopped functioning. The ones that were still lit were struggling to maintain that state as they flickered constantly.

    He failed to notice the almost war like destruction that had occurred to the corridor. The cabinets that were toppled over and strewn across the floor along with files, clipboards, stethoscopes and other various pieces of medical equipment. He also failed to notice the sheer amount of blood that was splattered all across the walls and gathered in great pools of red on the floor.

    What he did pick up on though were voices. People in the distance though not too far and rapidly coming his way. The sense of relief was almost over-bearing and Doctor Miles Harrison turned his body to face the source of the noise.

    Finally some help.

    That sense of relief was short lived.

    “Quick, there’s another one. Zombie!”

    Wha-

    “Aim for the head!”

    Oh no…

    Marc – WelshScribe’s last blog post..Creative Writing

  11. Writing contest stokes the fires - Lori Hoeck

    […] Sean Platt and David Wright, the collaborative geniuses behind Collective Inkwell. Their recent writing contest fired up the fiction writer in me again. Try as I may to fight it, one of their two story prompts […]

  12. Lori Hoeck

    Thanks to the contestants for the writing sparks and all the great reading so far.

    As for the two arm twisters who threw down the gauntlet — below is my contribution to the contest and the blog link as requested here.

    ———–

    Well, this is odd, he thought to himself. Time travel shouldn’t be this easy, should it? In less time than it took him to nervously swallow hard, Marco and his friend Baktu jumped 10 years into the past. One moment they stood on an alien planet, and now they found themselves in the cargo hold of the Union of Stars, flagship of the first emperor’s space fleet. They were here to stop an assassination and alter the course of human history.

    Marco stood shocked for a moment at what they had done and were about to do. It still amazed him that a master thief and a mastermind should find themselves working together at this one pivotal moment in time …

    Two years before first time jump

    It took months of solitary confinement at the deepest levels of GovTech’s infamous prison before Marco felt madness creeping into his mind. Two slow daggers of thought kept him company: Knowing at age 27 that he would never see another human again and knowing his foolish actions caused the deaths of every other member of the Thieves’ Guild.

    Marco had known GovTech would not take lightly to having one of their most secure data storage banks in the 14 Star Colonies hacked and sold to the highest black marketer, but he had no idea they would turn even the Mind Cops out in force across the face of Planet Tesla to hunt and kill every Guild member they could find.

    The bastards of the ruling bureaucracy saved him for last. It took them a month of mind raping every pimp, junkie, and crime boss to find him, but they did. Death wasn’t good enough, though. After punitive torture, he was thrown naked into a self-cleaning cell with a 100-year time lock. Food paste and water dribbled out of faucets twice daily.

    So it was with considerable surprise one day that Marco heard the huge metal barriers blocking his door start to slowly roll out of the way.

    Had the high rulers at GovTech Administration given him a reprieve?

    Expecting a host of armed guards, Marco stepped as far from the door as possible. His eyes grew big when he looked down and instead saw the strangest looking man he’d ever laid his eyes on.

    “You need to work on that tan, old man,” Marco quipped. He couldn’t help himself; the small man looked whiter than an albino.

    “And you need to work on those scars, yes?” the man replied, his impossibly blue eyes noting the vicious cuts and burn marks all over the taller man’s once handsome physique.

    Throwing clothing and shoes at Marco, the man said, “My name is Baktu. I have made a clear path of escape.”

    Following Baktu out of the cell and down the corridor, Marco saw dozens of prison guards talking excitedly to each other. He drew back, but Baktu said, “Follow me. They will not notice us.” Every guard they passed seemed intensely preoccupied with one task or a conversation. Baktu and Marco walked through the entire prison without a single glance their way.

    Marco, a hundred questions dancing in his brain, followed Baktu on a trek to Tesla’s seamy crime district. Once there, they met with the captain of a black marketer’s ship who was waiting for them. All three boarded the sleek craft and took off from Tesla and away from any manhunt.

    Onboard the ship, Marco quickly found the galley. Eating a real meal for the first time in months, Marco relished every bite. The whole escape still seemed unreal, but the food said otherwise.

    As he ate, Marco looked across the table at Baktu and said, “Thank you for freeing me, but I’ve got to know. How in the 14 Stars did those guards not see us?”

    Leaning back in his chair Baktu took a deep breath. “I’m not like other men…”

    “Ha! No kidding!” Marco didn’t mean to be rude; it was just this frail, pale man seemed anything but normal.

    Baktu patiently started again, “I’m not like other men because my brain has been altered.”

    Marco suddenly lost all desire to kid around. “You’re a test-tuber?”

    The horrors of early Gov-Tech experimentation left all humans with a phobia of genetic manipulation. Images of half-human nightmares were part of every history data bank. Marco felt like a million Tesla Tangle Spiders had just enveloped his body.

    “The revulsion you feel is justified, but no, I’m not a mutation from a GovTech lab. The medical doctor who raised me four decades ago spent his early life studying autistic savants. He eventually noticed a pattern of brain activity and inactivity within his patients. He decided to create something similar, but controllable in a child test subject.”

    “You were that subject?”

    “Yes. With chemical injections, educational regimens, and temporary implants, my ‘father’ trained me to turn parts of my brain on and off at will. I can also connect sections of my brain that don’t normally work together.”

    “So you can boost your mental output at will?”

    “Yes, but even better, I can completely alter how I view and relate to reality as most humans know it.”

    “What?!”

    “I can change my brain to ‘converse’ – for lack of a better word – with my environment. In those moments, physics becomes a plaything to me, I can smell thoughts, see feelings, and hear creativity as a song.”

    “Did you ‘converse’ with the guards on some level then?”

    “Not quite. In my own research, I discovered the triggers to control other people’s mental functions, such as the ability to switch focus from one thing to another. For the guards, I used an airborne chemical to block them from changing mental gears for an hour or so.”

    Marco fell silent for a moment, stunned at the magnitude of the older man’s skills. But then his Guild training kicked in.

    A devilish smile crossed his face, “So between your skills and mine, the universe is ours.”

    Baktu grinned back. “Exactly.”

    ——

    With talents to spare, both men aimed their respective genius at the common enemy GovTech. Marco’s hatred was obvious, but Baktu’s drew its venom from a deeper pool of loathing. His “father” sold him to GovTech for a seat at the table of the Top Administrators. Baktu eventually escaped, but not before years of hellish experimentation in secret GovTech labs.

    They decided the best way to bring the bureaucratic goliath down was to find and use the ultimate prize against it – the Planet of the Ancients. Quiet, fearful whispers in the rumor mill of the 14 Star Systems spoke of untold wonders abandoned there by an alien race – technological secrets so powerful only the research team on the planet and two Top Administrators knew anything beyond uncertain gossip.

    Baktu and Marco started raiding data banks and personal diaries – anything to find out more information. They even paid vast sums to informants at all levels, but it took six months for them to get a break. A space dock worker came to them with the story of a huge space freighter with flight plans that didn’t make sense and a hold full of falsely labeled cargo.

    With the dock worker’s help, they stowed away on the freighter, its small crew never the wiser. As Marco’s training taught him, those who think they have the ultimate security surrounding them usually become too cocky to maintain it. The same would be true on the planet. The two arrived safely and secretly on the Planet of Ancients and set up a hideout from where their well placed spy cameras allowed them to watch every move of the research team on several Vidscreens.

    Weeks passed as they kept an eye on activities and secretly read the researchers’ notes. Then they found an uncensored GovTech data base the team had with them. As Marco and Baktu brought themselves up to speed on the team’s amazing discoveries, they learned more about the history of humankind, how their ancestors left Earth in the Great Exodus to the Stars 300 years before and made their way to the 14 Star Systems.

    In more recent history, they read with horror of the corruption and power of GovTech. The historical records included details only true megalomaniacs, despots, and narcissists would dare record. Both Marco and Baktu wished they could go back in time and stop GovTech’s first big play for power – the assassination of the first emperor of the 14 Star Systems.

    After a month watching and planning how to use all this newly amassed knowledge, the two men turned to their Vidscreens to see the scientists going mad with activity. Under the rubble of ancient ruins, the team found a sealed room labeled in the Ancient’s language as “Time Travel Portal.” Excavating around the shiny, black walls of the room’s exterior, they detected no entrance. They threw acids, explosives, sonics, lasers, heat, and cold at it – nothing even scratched the surface. Too light to be a solid object, it drove them crazy trying to figure out how to get inside.

    As they watched the latest activities on VidScreens, Marco turned to Baktu, “What do you think of our friends’ failures out there?”

    “I think they will never open it.” Baktu had a far away look in his eyes.

    Marco knew that look well. He called Baktu’s moments of brain alterations “mental magic” or “communing with the cosmos.”

    After Baktu came back to human normal, Marco asked, “Why won’t they be able to open it?”

    “The key to opening it is not physical.”

    Marco let that rattle around in his brain for a moment. “You mean you have to be psychic?”

    “No, you have to be me.”

    “Someone with mental magic?”

    “No, I mean me. Whoever built that room, built it for me to open. Ever since we first arrived, I have been experiencing déjà vu. But that feeling only comes when I commune with the cosmos, as you call it.”

    Marco’s experiences with Baktu’s skills allowed him to take that unlikely statement at face value. “In that case, we need to get you up close and personal with that room.”

    After putting the researchers into an induced sleep with more chemical brain tricks from Baktu, they made their way to the huge lab housing the self-contained room. As they approached the walls of the room, they could hear and feel a bone-deep humming growing louder. First Baktu and then Marco were compelled to hum along with it. As the resonating vibrations filled his whole existence, Marco felt his body phase in and out of reality, or time, or space. He didn’t know and didn’t care. The world was nothing but the humming.

    Suddenly it all stopped. The room was gone. In the air, just in front of them, floated two, small circular objects. Marco and Baktu exchanged glances before reaching up to grab them. As they reached out, the items disappeared, and then as quickly, reappeared on their wrists.

    “We travel all the way to the Planet of the Ancients, and all we get is a bracelet?” Marco’s wry humor made them both smile and helped them finally to take a deep breath.

    Examining the smooth black “bracelet,” Baktu had another notion. “I think a better name would be Time Bands.”

    Marco held up his banded wrist. “These things will allow us to travel in time?”

    Baktu shrugged his shoulders. “I guess we will find out. Let us return to the hideout.”

    On the way back, Marco and Baktu discussed the idea that their future selves left the Time Bands for them.

    Marco laughed to think of an old Marco and even older Baktu making them go through all this. “I mean, crikes, Baktu, I think I would have given us these things long before the agonies we’ve been through so we could avoid them.”

    “But then we would have never met.”

    That thought gave Marco pause. Maybe this time stuff was trickier than he imagined.

    At the hideout, they decided to try jumping back five minutes. Words didn’t work. Thoughts didn’t work. They even tried to repeat the hum and will themselves back a short five minutes.

    “Damn things ought to come with a manual.” Frustration filled Marco’s words.

    Suddenly Baktu had a flash of insight. “Since we were meant to find these together, I think we must use them together. And since time travel is probably more in the realm of my mind magic, let me try to move us in time that way.”

    Instinctively touching his Time Band to Marco’s, Baktu felt them cling together as if magnetized. He looked at Marco who just nodded. Switching his brain to another gear, Baktu focused on jumping back five minutes.

    It didn’t work. Nothing worked.

    Marco pulled his Time Band back with a hard pull to separate them and sat down. “We must be missing something.”

    Baktu nodded slowly and began to motionlessly commune with the cosmos again. Half an hour later, he came back. “Our first jump must be the one we really want the most.”

    Marco jolted upright in his chair. “To save the emperor?” His eyes popped open as wide as Tesla’s moon. “That would mean these devices aren’t just for time travel!” He saw Baktu smile mischievously and nod.

    Marco shook his head in amazement, “What if we don’t get it right and end up in a sun or in space?”

    “It may seem like a leap of faith, but if we left ourselves these bracelets, it must have worked.”

    “Crikes, this is maddening.” Marco threw up his hands as if the fates were playing him again. Then he looked into the calm face of his friend. He saw nothing but complete confidence.

    Marco stood up, walked across to Baktu, joined Time Bands again, and said, “Why not?” Watching Baktu go into the mental magic for possibly the last time, he nervously swallowed hard …
    —–

    First time jump

    Well, this is odd, he thought to himself. Time travel shouldn’t be this easy, should it? In less time than it took him to nervously swallow hard, Marco and his friend Baktu jumped 10 years into the past. One moment they stood on an alien planet, and in the next moment they found themselves in the cargo hold of the Union of Stars, flagship of the emperor’s space fleet. They were here to stop an assassination and alter the course of human history …

    “Marco!” Baktu whispered the name intensely to get his friend focused. He didn’t want them to be found by any of the crew from the Union of Stars or by the emperor’s guards. They needed to hide and quick.

    Marco turned to look at his friend. “Uh, yes … yes, I’m OK.”

    “Are you sure of that Marco Polo?” The voice boomed from behind them.

    Startled by the voice and use of his full name, Marco whirled around, as did an equally wide-eyed Baktu. Neither had thought to bring a weapon.

    Their eyes fell on two familiar figures, one tall and one short. It took a long moment, but then they both realized they were looking at their older, almost unrecognizable selves. The older Marco wore the unmistakable clothing of the first Emperor.

    The younger Marco looked like he was about to commune with the cosmos, so great was the shock.

    “Yes, yes, younger selves, you have a million questions and few that I can answer. Here is what I can tell you, so listen well.”

    The younger Marco and Baktu could only nod and do just that.

    “I know GovTech is your main concern for being here, but their reign of bureaucratic terror started to unravel the day you two met. The escape and the work you did to find the Planet of the Ancients – it will all sow seeds of distrust and destruction among the Administrators who will first blame each other and then attack each other.”

    The Emperor paused, watching the information sink in. “If you try to change the timeline here, GovTech will actually become more powerful and longer lived. You will learn as you age that there are things far worse than GovTech.” Then he smiled and added, “Trust me, I know this. I can’t tell you how I know, but I do.”

    Stepping closer, the older Baktu took his turn to speak, “We’ve learned humans don’t do too well knowing their future. All you need to know now is that in 300 years, you two will be us.”

    The younger Baktu abruptly cocked his head sideways, as if to hear better, since the last words didn’t make any sense.

    The older Baktu grinned, “Yes, my younger self, you will discoverer a certain life extender that only you two will be able to use.” He turned to the other older man. “What else were we told by our older selves, Marco?”

    The emperor’s tone grew serious and wise. “You must know this: you will make the universe better. You will help humanity grow through its toughest times by reminding it that adversity must be faced with ingenuity and perseverance. You will face a heavy price for drawing a line in the sand and making a stand for what you know is right, but you will do it anyway.”

    The younger men remained dumbfounded as the older men each pulled one sleeve back to reveal shiny, black Time Bands.

    “Oh, by the way,” the older Marco said, “You only have ten minutes before this ship explodes.” With that, the two men blinked into some other time and space.

    It took the younger men several minutes of staring blankly to processes what they had just heard. Finally Marco snapped back to reality.

    “Crikes, Baktu, get us out of here!”

    “Where and when should we go?”

    “By the 14 Stars, how should I know? Just take us somewhere else now!”

    Baktu grinned and communed with the cosmos.

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