I promised more details on the Special Edition this week so here they are. The next episode of The Word Count podcast is based off the very same prompt we had today: the unexpected. Neat, huh? I was hoping to have something to submit but my brain’s been sluggish lately. When Richard brought it up I thought, “hey, perfect opportunity to jump-start the old imagination.” And, maybe, one or many of us will come away from this with something we want to submit to the podcast. Wouldn’t that be cool?
I know these finalists have what it takes to get on the podcast. Fabulous work, all. And thank you to Eric Hamilton, @briefconceits for his hard work on these. Judging’s always tougher than you think it’s going to be.
So here they are, our finalists:
So read the entries below and vote for the best! Voting is open until 8:30 tomorrow morning, the winner will be announced by 9:00. See you then!
“Hello. Nice to see you again.”
Her eyes opened wide at the sound of his voice, although they remained firmly planted on the paperwork in front of her.
Those silky tones were the ones that haunted her dreams at night, since the time he’d first come into her little real estate office. They were the sounds of every woman’s fantasy come to life, and here he was, standing in front of her.
Slowly, praying that her hair looked alright and her make up hadn’t melted off in the heat, she raised her head, plastering a smile on her face.
“Well hello Mr. Thompson. What brings you by? A property perhaps? Something caught your eye?”
He sat in one fluid movement. “Why you did my dear.” His long fingers tapped out a tune on his knee. His hazel eyes stared right through her, until she thought she’d spontaneously combust.
Tucking a stray strand of unruly hair behind her ear, she licked her lips. “Me?” The word came out in a squeak, as her thoughts raced.
Could he want to whisk her away on his jet? Could he want to make her his slave girl? Could he really want something from her? This gorgeous millionaire, this man of the world, wanted something from her.
“What can I do for you?” Her voice shook.
He leaned closer, as she caught a whif of his expensive aftershave.
“I’m your father.”
They say the wolves howled at the moon without pause, the night he was born. Certainly his mothers screams could be heard echoing around the mountain until the sun slowly rose over those dark hills, it was a hard birth for her, her first and last. As morning broke he was dragged screaming and bawling into the world, claiming his first life while he was at it.
His father buried her the next morning, with a tear in his eye. They were supposed to be a family, a unit, them against the world. He had dreamed of holding his newborn son in his arms with his woman by his side. But the mother was dead, killed giving birth to the son, the unexpected is always the hardest. The father was confused, should he love the babe or hate it, how could a husband not feel resentment towards he who had killed his wife?
Born into a world that took his mother as he entered it, left with a father who neither cared for nor loved him. Did he ever have a chance? Was there ever the remotest possibility he would be normal.
Who knows when it first happened, how it had happened even, was it a bite from some demonic beast or a curse from a witch or warlock? What had triggered his lust for blood, his need to feed off the fear of his own kind. To absorb the spirit of his victim as he gorged on the flesh of man.
The mountain folk know him well, they lock their doors and bar their windows on nights when the moon is a round silver disc in the black sky. They can hear the wolves howling still, only now he is with them… hunting.
It stared back at him from it’s comfortable nest on the table and blew a large bubble out of it’s right nostril. “What, exactly, is that doing here?”
Michael stretched languidly, totally unaffected by his lover’s angry outburst. “I said we’d look after her for a few days while my sister and her husband are away. She isn’t going to bite.”
“I just never thought I’d have to deal with an infant,” Sean mumbled. “It’s one of the biggest advantages to being gay, no kneecap gnawers running around putting a crimp in your lifestyle.”
“You won’t even know she’s here,” his lover assured him with a broad smile. “Babies sleep a lot.”
Five hours later an exhausted, vomit encrusted, thoroughly chastened Michael was beginning to rethink his earlier words. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”
“You look like shit,” Sean pointed out. “And you smell worse. Go take a shower, I’ll watch her for a bit.”
“Are you sure?”
“Just go, we’ll be fine. You, on the other hand, are not smelling any fresher.”
The silence that met his ears when the shower shut off filled Michael with dread. The last thing he wanted to do was tell his sister her darling baby had been injured or, god forbid, killed, by his impetuous lover. He skidded out of the bathroom and came to a screeching halt.
Sean was sitting in a chair, sound asleep, the baby clutched protectively to his chest, her hand fisted in his hair.
“Well, this is unexpected.” Unexpected perhaps, but not unwelcome, and Michael scurried off to find his camera. Surely blackmail material like this would come in handy at some point in the future.
Ethel absolutely loved children. It’s why she lived in the woods in her lovely home. Her house was simply irresistible to children and took her years to get right.
Because she loved to bake, she took that love and went with it. Before, she used to live in a nice log cabin and share her delicious sweets with children who came by. And while they adored her, Ethel wanted to do so much more.
So, she baked the sturdiest of short bread, chocolate chip cookies and ginger bread and built a sturdy home. And decorating? Icing and sprinkles made hers the sweetest home around. Anyone who walked through the forest couldn’t miss her place. It attracted children for miles.
And, how sweet, loving Ethel loved children.
One day, she was sitting in her gingerbread rocking chair, knitting a sweater when she heard a painful cry coming from across the road. She frowned, placing a wrinkled hand to her throat and gasped. Ethel wasn’t sure what was happening, but she couldn’t help but go see what the problem could be. After grabbing a plate of cookies, she rushed across the street. Ethel hoped that maybe she could cheer up whomever was crying.
Reaching across the road, she continued to hear the pitiful cries coming from a group of trees. She walked over slowly, feeling more pain for whomever was upset. And when she finally saw who was there, it was too late for Ethel.
Because, finally I got rid of her.
And once she was gone, I moved into her sweet delicacy of a house. Children would come, but never leave. They loved to snack on the desserts Ethel had left over…
They just didn’t realize they were being tricked by me. For, the only thing children are good for is dinner. Their bones made for great decorations around my new home. And I hadn’t ate so good in all my life.
That is…until Hansel and Gretel came along…
She’d watched it hundreds of times. In fact, it was the first thing of theirs she ever remembered seeing, way back when she was 8 or 9, staying overnight at Debra’s house, watching TV later than she’d ever been allowed to at home. Strange, sometimes unintelligible to her at that age, but always and forever, somehow, funny.
“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”
She and Debra played out the sketch on the playground, to their friends’ bemusement.
“Tie her to the comfy chair,” she’d shout, and Debra would comply. Soon their friends joined in the game and they’d rush around the playground, shouting about their “chief weapons” and poking boys with imaginary Soft Cushions.
And then, soon enough, they became more concerned with teasing the boys, and acting aloof, and, much later, competing for the boys.
And she moved to another town, found a new group of friends and a gruesome new group of boys and then college and then a move to the big city, alone.
And then, one night, alone as always, she saw the sketch on TV. And she thought about Debra. For the first time in years, she thought about Debra. And she smiled.
She found Debra on Facebook. They posted on each other’s walls. They rediscovered the many things they had in common. They realized that they only lived a few miles apart.
And they reconnected. And the bond was even stronger than before.
And now they’re not alone. And the Soft Cushions only signal the beginning.