We have our nominees! But whether you’re on this list or not, every one of you writers amazes and humbles me. Every week I’m astonished by what you come up with, the creative plots, the beautiful prose. Amazing.
This week’s five finalists, in no particular order, are:
Copied below are their excellent entries. But don’t miss all the other offerings in this week’s competition because they’re soooo worth the read.
Get your a… butt over to the poll on the right to vote for this week’s winner. Good luck everyone!
“Don’t argue with me, soldier! That’s an order!”
“Yes, sir,” David said, and slammed his hand down hard on the button that ended transmission of the communiqué from Headquarters. He sighed. The captain wasn’t going to like this.
“Sir,” he said to the speaker, buzzing the captain’s quarters from here. “We have new orders from HQ.”
“New orders?” the voice on the other end of the speaker sounded tired. David was afraid of that. He woke up the captain. “We haven’t finished our current assignment. What are the orders, Corporal Rodgers?”
David smiled. It was just like the captain to remember who he was, and one of the reasons that the captain’s men would follow him into hell. And had, in fact, done so.
“You are ordered to pull out of the current engagement and return to base Alpha Tango One immediately,” David replied. “It sounds like the General is going to relieve you of duty, captain.”
It was out of line, and David knew it, but he just couldn’t resist.
“Like hell he is,” came the captain’s reply. “The general has been sitting behind a desk for far too long to understand what he’s asking. If we pull out now, we’ll lose far more men than we’ll save. This is my command, damnit, I know what I’m doing. My decision to march in where angels fear to tread was unpopular with the top brass, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to leave good men behind, and lose more doing so.”
“Shall I send a response back, sir?” David asked.
There was a pause.
“No,” the captian replied at last. “but put me through to the rest of the command. I need to let them know about the orders and let it be their decision on whether or not to follow me the rest of the way. I won’t force men to disobey a direct order from the general.”
David smiled. There wasn’t a man in this command that would turn and leave now. Not a one.
Thaddeus Crowe was restless tonight.
I was trying to catch up on my latest short story submission–a steampunk genre Civil War piece–when the moaning and clanking started again for the third time.
See, Thaddeus was my very own ghost in the attic.
I shut down the project as well as the laptop; giving writing up as a bad job for the night.
“I guess I’d better see what’s bothering the old coot,” I muttered to myself.
Climbing the creaky stairs, I was surprised when my black and white cat, Max, hissed at me and ran off.
“Max!” I called after him. “It’s just the ol’ man! C’mon back!”
Be he was gone. I loved cats, specifically because– like me–they never obeyed any commands. But the fur ball liked any opportunity to harass Thaddeus. Something was definitely up. I shook my head as I climbed the rest of the stairs to the attic.
I opened the door to the large, unfinished space to find the shimmering, pale form of Thaddeus, dressed as always in what looked like an 18th century military uniform, staring mournfully out of the half-moon window overlooking the grounds.
“Sir!” I said smartly. “Permission to enter?” He usually liked it when I asked to come into “his” attic.
Thaddeus turned his gaze from the window and looked me over. I couldn’t actually see him do it, as the apparitions’ eyes were nothing more then hollowed-out sockets. It was just a feeling I got whenever I arrived in his attic space and ‘looked’ toward me.
“Oh, why not. Enter” the ghost said in a melancholy voice.
I furrowed my brow at the lack his usual barked command of either “Come Hither, mortal!” or “Granted Soldier!” Something was definitely troubling the ghost.
I climbed into the attic, ducking a little to avoid whacking my head on one of the rafters, and let the door close behind me. I joined Thaddeus at the window, ignoring the chill that always caused my skin to crawl when I got too close to him.
After a moment of awkward silence, I cleared my throat.
“Sir, permission to speak candidly?”
“Go on then,” said the ghost in the same bored voice.
“What seems to be the trouble, Sir?” I asked hesitantly. I’d seen the ghost get upset only once in my four years in the house. It wasn’t pleasant and I didn’t want to experience it again.
“Mmph,” Thaddeus said. “It’s a bad night, soldier. A bad night.”
“And why is that sir?” I asked relieved. Looks like I’d be spared a ‘poltergeist incident.’
“Time for new recruits. I hate training new recruits.” Said the old ghost dejectedly.
The thought of another ghost in the house quite frankly annoyed me. I was already behind on my deadline. But I was also curious.
“New recruits?” I asked. “Wouldn’t you like company, sir?” I asked.
“Sure,” said Thaddeus. “But there is always the denial and the whining before acceptance. I hate that part. That, and the speech. I hate that blasted speech.”
Ok, I thought. I’ll bite. “What speech?”
The ghost sighed. “Welcome to the spectral plane, newly departed. You are here because the afterlife wouldn’t have you. You are condemned to haunt this world in ghostly fashion until the end of time.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” I said.
“Yes,” said the ghost seemingly more depressed. “It is. See, I can only say those words to a new ghost. Now I’ll have to deal with the shock and the denial…” his voice faded away and he went back to staring out the window.
“But it can’t be….wait.” I said.
“Here it comes.” Thaddeus mumbled.
“No! I’m not dead…!” I screamed.
“Shouldn’t have shoved all that white powder up your nose to write tonight, kid.”
She told me what to do. I can’t blame her. I wouldn’t have done it myself. But you know, she commanded me to do it. You haven’t met her have you? I’m sorry, but then you just don’t understand. Well, let me explain it for you then. She just, well, makes you do it. Well, I just told you I did it, didn’t I? But it wasn’t really me you see. It was her! I suppose it could have been anyone off the street, I just happened to be the first person she saw. I wouldn’t necessarily call it magic, but yeah, that’s kinda what it felt like. I just had to go ahead and do it. I knew what I was doing, yes, but I could no more control my movement than you when you sleep. That was uncalled for. I may be a prisoner and all, but violence won’t get you anywhere. As am I, beyond belief. You think I want to be here? Like I was saying before being interrupted. Will you let me finish? Thank you. Right, so as I cut his heart out, I could no more stop, no matter how I fought. Yes, the vomit at the scene was mine. The blood all his. He never knew I was there. Right, like that. Thick as all get out too. I can’t stand the sight of blood, almost passed out, but the command wouldn’t let me. It’s like I was a computer that’s all. Yeah. And now he’s dead and I killed him. But you’ll see, it wasn’t me. It was her.
I looked over at him with disgust. How could my sister marry someone so vile, so horrid, so…ugh?
He sat at the head of the table, leaned back in a relaxed pose, chewing with his mouth open and just a little spit dribbled down his chin while he ate. She looked miserable, and yet she stayed with him.
Five years ago, she had come home with this example of filth and told us she was getting married. None of us understood it. And now she was stuck with him. They’d performed the ancient rite that bound them together forever. Or until one of them died. My guess is it would be her, considering she looked paler and thinner than ever. She was wasting away.
Meanwhile, disgusting habits aside, he seemed to be thriving. His wish was her command. She did everything for him and she was now pregnant. He shouldn’t be allowed to procreate.
I fought to keep the bile from entering my mouth. Witches should have more freedom than she had. I certainly wouldn’t marry a warlock who ordered me around. If it wasn’t forbidden to murder, I might do her a favor.
“I command you,” he says looking right through you, and you look around and realize that he is, in fact, talking to you.
“You command me to…what?” you say sighing and folding your hands along the wooden table.
“I command you to love me. To, you know, be my…love.”
You smile a bit and he doesn’t seem to find this amusing, your reaction, so you add: “Uh, no thanks.”
“Well…too bad. You have to.”
“I said no thanks,” you say standing now and walking away, parting through a small group of patrons with their hands glued to their drinks, the music loud and nearly-deafening.
“Wait, wait,” he says catching up to you, out of breath, his hand suddenly on your shoulder which causes you to stop and look back at him, to study him. He’s small, wispy, even, his hair all moppish and in desperate need of a cut. “How can you just walk away?”
“Apparently pretty easily.”
“No, I mean…I commanded you…to love me. And you just…ignored me. I mean, not to, like, brag, but I happen to be one of the most promising young wizards in all of Los Angeles.”
“Oh, really?” you say shooting him a look, those looks that boys get when you know they’re full of shit.
“Well, according to Newsweek.”
“Oh, that’s how I know you,” you say sarcastically. “What number were you?”
“Twenty-five,” he says rubbing his head, then, “Look, I just want to know how you did it, is all.”
“Was I supposed to just, what, instantly fall in love with you when you say that? Is that your game, or whatever?”
“I mean, kinda, yeah.”
“Sorry, that spell must not work on me, I guess.”
“But it always works.”
“Apparently not, huh?” you say smiling and patting him on the shoulder. You’ve had enough and, sick of being here, alone, you decide to leave, turning and walking toward the front entrance. You walk a few steps and feel his hand on you again. Annoyed, you stop and turn.
“What?” you say.
“I just…I want to talk to you. Please stay.”
“Leave me alone. I mean it.”
“Please?” he says pawing at you, touching you, his fingers crawling all around like they own you, and finally, after you begin getting the chills, those familiar chills, you’ve had enough.
“Leave me,” you say turning slowly and placing your right hand at the center of his chest, “alone!” and with those words you send him flying back through the crowds, knocking people down and out, drinks spilling and glasses breaking, profanities being handed out by seemingly the whole place at once, watching as he slams with a thud into the large black speakers near the now-empty stage. He seems frazzled, and you decide to talk to him, the remaining crowd parting as you move, scared of you. He’s beginning to come to when you reach him, and finally focuses his eyes and sees you standing over him.
“Who are you?” he says scared, nervous, and, probably more than anything else, embarrassed.
“You know that list you were talking about, the one in Newsweek?”
“Uh, yeah?” he says, still confused, and you just stand there, smiling big.
“I was number one.”