Wednesday, February 3, 2016

NYC Midnight 2016 Round One - Heat 20

So for this year's NYCMidnight contest, I had one week to create a short story based on the criteria they gave me. I was in heat 20 in round one.


Here is what I came up with, I would love any feedback you would care to share, be it good or bad!


Frankie Monroe lay on her bed cutting paper hearts out of red construction paper and listening to Love Nation, her new favorite group. Their song, ‘The Beauty of You’ was on repeat. It was the most beautiful song she’d ever heard, and described perfectly her feelings for Jake.  At sixteen she knew how childish it all was but didn’t care, she was in love. On each paper heart she’d written Jake Logan’s name in some form.

Frankie and Jake forever.

FM + JL.

Frankie loves Jake.

And on one, the one that she kept hidden, she had written Frankie Logan, as if they were already married. He’d been her childhood crush and now he was something more. They’d been neighbors their entire lives, and they had always been friends, but after the accident, Jake had been so sweet and gentle and kind they became something more.

The car that had stolen her ability to walk had been driven by a man named Ernie Blatt. She had been out jogging down a country road usually devoid of traffic early on a Sunday morning. Blatt had been texting when his car crossed the lanes. Police found cocaine residue in the car, but Blatt tested negative. She’d lay in a coma for thirteen months and awoke to find Jake sitting in a chair. Her back was broken and though an operation might help, it was very expensive for the small chance it offered. Her parents just didn’t have the money. Ernie Blatt suffered a suspended license and a fine.

She’d cried for months, and Jake was there through all of it. Slowly she accepted that her life would be different. When she returned to school she became ‘Wheelchair Girl’. Most of her friends avoided her and when they saw each other in the halls it was awkward and strained, as if she was suddenly a different person instead of a broken version of the same girl they all knew. Her true friends found their way back and she made new friends. Slowly her life pieced itself back together – forever changed but in many ways better.

She joined the swim team as a way to build upper body strength. It had been Jake’s idea. He was captain, and every day at the pool he lifted her from the chair and carried her into the water. Frankie loved swimming. It freed her from the confines of her chair and made her feel normal for a while.

The song ended and, after a pause, started up again:

            My heart feels

            Brand new

            And my eyes can’t contain

            The beauty of you


Jake had sung it in the car yesterday, and though he hadn’t exactly sung it to her, he had definitely sung it for her. Picking up her phone, she checked it again. Rereading his text from this morning still caused butterflies in her stomach. ‘I want to see you. I have something to tell you.’

            Frankie hugged her pillow. They hadn’t said it yet; those three big words. She wondered if he would say I love you first, or if she would blurt it out in her excitement. She sung the rest of the song at the top of her lungs. It wasn’t until the song ended, in that momentary silence before it repeated, that she heard the siren.

An advance warning system, the siren blared from outside. Frankie threw off her headphones. She became suddenly aware of a thunderous roar coming from outside. Looking out the window she saw a wall of muddy water as tall as a grown man tearing through town like Godzilla through Tokyo.  The flood lifted a Volkswagen Bug and flipped it in the air. The bug landed on top of a cinder block wall before it teetered and fell into the yard. 

As she watched, the tall oak in Mrs. Cubberson’s yard, which had stood as long as she remembered, was ripped from the ground, and as it fell, it hit the corner of the house’s roof shattering it. For a few seconds, the tree lay wedged between the ground and the house as water rushed over and around it, but the current was too strong and sent the massive tree like a spear down the street.  

Frankie pulled herself to the edge of the bed and into her chair.  She had to get upstairs. Pushing herself toward the door, she twisted the knob just as the water slammed into the house, a solid wall four feet high. The windows on that side shattered and several shards cut her skin. Water churned into the room.

Pushing her wheelchair was impossible as the water slammed into her, nearly knocking her over. The whole house shuddered. Frankie’s heart raced. She had to make it to the stairs, had to get to higher ground. Her parents were both in the city and Jake was at swim practice. Whatever she needed to do to survive, she would have to do alone.

Her bed’s pillows floated past as the water rose to her chest, shoving and pulling at her. Pushing out of the chair, she let herself be lifted by the cold roiling water. The water’s current was angry and formed an artificial riptide that tried to suck her below the surface. As she started to swim a paper heart sailed across her vision. She jabbed at the water with powerful strokes and dragging her useless legs behind her, she reached the stairs just as Mrs. Cubberson’s oak tree slammed through the front door and wedged itself there.

The influx of water hit Frankie with such force she lost her grip. Her head dipped below the surface. She began to panic. Her mouth filled with the foul-smelling water and she gagged and coughed. She found the newel post and pulled herself against the current. The water was rising too fast, but it worked to her advantage and she allowed it to lift her toward the top of the stairs as she guided herself up the railing. She reached the landing on the second floor and pulled herself across the hall. The house creaked and groaned under the water’s onslaught and Frankie wondered if it would hold.

The water lapped at the landing of the second floor but for the moment did not breach it. The carpet soaked up the flood’s edge but so far she was safe. Frankie pulled herself to the hallway closet and muscled out the folded wheelchair inside. Pulling herself into it, she rolled into her parent’s bedroom. She tried the phone, but it was dead. Her own cell phone was under water downstairs.

Rolling to the window, she pushed it open and her breath caught in her throat. The entire town was underwater. Only the roofs of the houses were visible. The leading edge of the water had passed them, but the flood still carried all sorts of debris in its current. Frankie saw toys and mailboxes and plant life of every kind.  There were larger things as well. Tires and screen doors, and what looked like part of someone’s deck all careened and crashed their way down the street. The gas station sign from the corner tumbled lazily in the water, still advertising gas at $2.45 a gallon.

 Amidst all of it, navigating through all the junk, Jake was swimming toward her, pulling at the water with the long, powerful strokes that had earned him the spot of captain on their swim team. A rope was looped over his head and shoulders and trailed out behind him. At the end of it was a dark square package roughly the size of a toaster and wrapped tightly with plastic. He was swimming with the current but dug his hands into the water, pulling desperately toward her. Frankie’s heart swelled. She loved him and her heart filled with that certainty.

When he had closed half the distance, Jake stopped to give his arms a break. Bobbing in the water, letting the current pull him slowly, his eyes found her in the window and he smiled, waving.

The man in the boat came around the corner of the street. Frankie began to think that everything would be ok. Rescue efforts had obviously begun. The man wore a rain slicker, and when he spotted Jake, he turned the boat directly for him. Jake’s expression changed and he spun around with just enough time to dive below the surface before the boat plowed into him.

Resurfacing, Jake began swimming frantically toward Frankie’s house as the boat circled in a wide arc.

“Jake!” Frankie screamed. “Look out!”

As fast as he was, Jake was no match for the outboard motor. The boat bore down on him and he dove again, but the man in the slicker killed the engine, leaned over and grabbed the rope around Jake’s shoulder, pulling the package in beside him.  As the boat’s momentum carried them forward, Jake reappeared trying to slip out of the loop around his shoulders, but the stranger yanked the rope tight, pinning Jake to the side of the vessel. Swinging out a leg, the boat man kicked Jake in the temple.

Frankie saw Jake’s head snap back and screamed. Boat Man drew back and kicked again and Jake’s body went limp. Pulling a knife from beneath his slicker, the man in the boat leaned down and cut the rope.

“Leave him alone!” Frankie screamed.

The man in the slicker looked up and Frankie recognized him instantly. It was Ernie Blatt.

Jake leapt from the water grabbing him by the shirt. Letting the weight of his own body do most of the work, Jake pulled the man overboard, capsizing the small boat. He shimmied out from the rope tied around him as Blatt gripped him around the neck. The package floated away in the current.

As Jake tried to fight, kicking his strong legs to break Blatt’s hold on him, Blatt jammed the blade deep into his back. Screaming, Jake spun around to fight but Blatt swung the knife’s handle into Jake’s temple twice, knocking him out cold. The man let go and Jake’s body floated away face down, leaving a cloud of blood behind him.

“JAKE!” Frankie screamed, sobbing.

Blatt considered Frankie for a long second and a spark of recognition flooded through him. Looking around, he saw the package as it floated toward the doorway of the girl’s house. It caught for a moment on the doorjamb and then floated inside.  After a moment’s hesitation, he started swimming after it.

Frankie backed her wheelchair away from the window. She needed to find a way to protect herself. She needed a weapon. Blatt had killed Jake and now he was coming for her. She pulled all the drawers from her father’s nightstand and dresser but the best she could find was a pair of toenail clippers.

“Girly.” Ernie Blatt’s voice came from downstairs. “I’m comin’ ta see you.”

Frankie rifled through her mom’s things and then through the closet. Nothing. From downstairs she heard Blatt sloshing through the water, and then the creak of the bannister on the stairwell. She pushed her way through the ankle high water into the bathroom. Her father’s razor sat near the sink but would offer about as much help as her mom’s curling iron and toothbrush. She looked at the small window but there was no way she could get through it.

“Where are you, Girly?”

Frankie grabbed the shower curtain and pulled it down. The aluminum curtain rod crashed down on top of her and she quickly slipped the rings off. Dropping the rod on the floor, she backed over the end three times with her chair, flattening it. Rotating it a quarter of a turn she ran over it again.

A shadow filled the bathroom door. “Hello, Girly.” Blatt stood there holding the small package to his chest. “I remember you.”

“GET OUT!” Frankie screamed. “HELP! Somebody help me!”

Blatt sloshed in. “Ain’t nobody gonna hear you, Girly. You looked out that window. Ain’t nobody around to help you. They’re all dead or treadin’ water.”

Frankie sobbed. “You killed Jake!”

“Yeah, well Loverboy took what didn’t belong to him.”  He patted the plastic-wrapped package.

“Get away from me!” Frankie screamed. She lunged out of the chair to the floor. She needed him off balance. It was her only chance.

Blatt set the package down on the toilet lid and moved closer to her. “That accident ruined my life,” he said. He lunged and his hands gripped Frankie’s throat.

Gasping for air, Frankie lifted the shower curtain rod and jammed it into Blatt’s side. She put all of her strength into it, and although she had aimed for his chest, she felt the satisfying give as the point of her spear pierced his skin.

Blatt grunted with the impact and let go of her throat with one hand to grab the rod.

Frankie tried to squirm free but his hand was still like a vice on her throat. She pushed with all she had, but Blatt slowly pulled the rod out. He let out a long gasp and a short chuckle escaped him. “Not today, Girly.”

A scream rose up behind Blatt as Jake slammed into him from behind, forcing Blatt down onto the spear, which slid through smoothly, piercing the liver and exiting out the back. 

Blatt screamed and stumbled backward swinging out at Jake. He grabbed at the spear, which now had blood gushing out around it, but could not pull it free. “Damn cripple.” He stumbled backward through the bathroom doorway and landed on the hallway floor, leaning against the wall. He coughed and blood sprayed from his mouth.

Jake leaned down to Frankie. “Are you ok?” He was dripping wet and blood soaked his shirt. There was a cut on his left temple and he winced as the blood leaked into his eye.

Through her tears, Frankie said. “You look terrible.” And she began sobbing.

Jake lowered himself down next to her and held her until she stopped crying.

Frankie looked up at him. “What happened?”

Jake pointed to the package on the toilet seat. “I stole that from Blatt. It’s drug money. I found out he’s been selling to the kids at school for years. I thought maybe it would be enough to pay for your surgery. Maybe we can dance together at the senior prom, unless they put me in jail. We’ll have to tell someone when we get out of here and deal with the consequences.” He reached over and plucked something from her shoulder. It was red and in the shape of a heart.

Frankie’s tears started again. She took some time to process everything, and then she smiled. “I love you!” There it was, she’d blurted it out before he could say it.

Jake kissed her. “I love you too.”







Thursday, January 28, 2016

Call for Submissions: Carnival Anthology

I am planning another anthology. This will not officially be associated with any organization. It is an idea I had for an anthology and it is a collection that I would read. I invite all writers to submit stories they feel would fit.

Prompt: There is a carnival that appears overnight in a field somewhere in the Midwest. You know the kind...there is something off about it...something wrong. It wasn't there yesterday. Your character(s) visit the carnival, and encounter the mysterious Celestial Raven whose role at the carnival is unclear...she may be a mystic...she may be the owner or manager...she may be evil or good...and she may very well be the soul of the carnival itself. Your Character(s) must experience something odd or strange or unexplainable...light or dark.... 

Stories should be no longer than 3500 words.

Deadline for submission is July 31st 2016

Stories must follow the writing prompt.

Stories must be in standard story format: 1" margins...double spaced...indented chapters...etc.

Bill Wilbur will choose the final stories to be included in the anthology.

Payment is one contributor's copy

Submissions should be in the form of an email attachment as a .doc file.

Editor will not significantly change your work, with the exception of punctuation.

Submit only your best work. Correct grammar and spelling is appreciated. All genres considered.  You may or may not receive feedback. If the story isn't ready, don't send it.

Late submissions will not be accepted.

Acceptance/ rejection notification will be emailed.

Questions should be sent to: