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IN THE TREE-TOPS...

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~Living here in the heartland of the U.S.A. within a place called: THE OZARKS is where my fascination with trees and forestry birthed my greatest passion. I enjoy strolling through the woods --walking along the creek bed resting peacefully against the bluffs as the brittle leaves crumple while the brisk wind awakens their branches, singing merrily through the dry foliage. The trees in the summertime, majestically provide a lush canopy over the meadow and embraces the flora and fauna.

As a little girl, I found myself in love with the country setting but also intrigued by the nightmares and the folklore that surround the woods. What horrors are hidden in the tree trunks breathing life in the undead phantom like woodlands? Could there be witches in the middle of the forest, anxiously waiting for lost children? Do mythical beasts live in the forest?
Even romance can be found in the trees: from lovebirds chirping on a branch or carving your sweetheart’s initials into the bark.
Trees are more than types of trees but are used for many purposes and carry many historical titles! Christmas trees, Adam and Eve’s Tree of Knowledge, Family Trees, etc….
One of the most famous lullabies is set around the tree-tops. Everyone is familiar with this little lullaby, Rock-a-bye-Baby in the tree tops…. Many stories and movies are themed around trees such as Hansel & Gretal, Evil Dead and The Guardian.
I am glad everyone enjoyed this theme as much as I did. The stories were a delight to read and I enjoyed them very much. Thank you for humoring my adoration of the majestic foliage!~
--©2003 Brutal Dreamer
 

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*First Place*

Spirits Of Old
©2003 David Bowlin

[David Bowlin Bio:
Growing up in rural Kentucky gave David a lot of inspiration for writing. Although westerns and space operas is what he started with, he eventually moved to horror and fantasy in later years. David and his wife, Joy, and their three daughters have made their home in Northwest Florida on the Gulf Coast. Relaxing on the beach and enjoying the tropical weather is once again proving a good motivation to write. David has published over 100 short stories, poems and articles in various print and digital media and is currently working on a fantasy novel.]

The tree outside the living room window was a tall elm.  Not sure what to do about it being so close to the window, I thought I’d just leave it alone until I had time to deal with it later, after I’d gotten comfortable and settled in.  There didn’t seem any immediate danger of the branches crashing through the grimy glass if they hadn’t already done so.  Besides, a big tree like that would keep the living room shaded in the summer months, so I’d be wise to just leave it alone. I liked that tree, just something comforting about it.  In the lightning flashes I could see it, older than the house and as gnarled as an arthritic old man’s hand. It set the mood of the house somehow.
The downstairs bathroom was full of cobwebs, and the small window had a crack in it.  The claw foot bathtub was dry, which meant no leaky faucets to deal with in here. So far, neither the kitchen nor the bathroom was leaking. There was a dead spider in the bottom of the tub though, curled up on its back, legs sticking out in every direction.  It was a big one, too: big and brown and ugly as sin.  A spider is the one thing I have a hard time dealing with, but I thought I’d better get used to it. Since I aim to live in a house this old, I can expect a spider or two to cross my path once in a while. I left the bathroom, closing the door behind me just in case that thing wasn’t all the way dead and decided to crawl out during the night.
Next, I came to the steps leading to the basement.  There was nothing exciting down there. Some old books, and some old fruit jars stacked in a corner. More cobwebs, but not as many as you might expect. I couldn’t see out the small windows because the grass was so high around the outside of the house, but none of the windows were broken.  It amazes me that none of the little turds in town have broken the windows out of this old place. I heard the front door slam open, so I hurried back upstairs to close it before the rain blew in.
I reached the top of the stairs, and trotted into the living room.  The front door was squeaking and creaking as it swayed back and forth in the wind.  I was alone, but I felt a creeping feeling on the back of my neck, that feeling you get when you feel like you’re being watched.  I turned around and glanced up the stairs leading to the second story of the house and felt every hair on my neck stand straight up. Standing on the bottom step was a little girl. I could see the rickety old stairs through her, and knew she must be a ghost. She raised one translucent arm and pointed out the dusty window to the big elm. Her eyes fixed on mine, then lightning flashed so bright I had to shut my eyes. When I opened them again the child was gone.
I ran to the window and looked out. Standing beside the elm and pointing into the mud at its base was the little girl. Her eyes found mine, still pointing at the ground beneath the tree. I ran out into the rain and grabbed a shovel out of my truck and went to work.

Later that same night I took the old bones to the cemetery and buried 'em deep. I even put a little wooden cross on top and said a prayer for rest.
I found out later that over eighty years ago a little girl was reported missing, and she was never found. She was last seen climbing the elm tree that's outside my window. An old man lived in this house then, an old man that didn't like kids in his yard. Rumor was he killed her, but no body was ever found, and the old man eventually died of pneumonia. The house was said to be haunted after that, and I'm the first person that's lived her since him.
She still visits me from time to time, that little ghost. She laughs as she climbs the tree, and screams in horror as she falls to the ground, every time. Over and over...

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*Second Place*

As the Twig Bent...
©2003 Melissa Mead

[Melissa Mead Bio: I live in Loudonville, NY, with my wonderful husband and 2 adorable cats. I’ve had stories published in The First Line, and accepted at Parageography and the Eggplant Library. My first novel, Worldwalkers, is in the “slush” stage.]
 

"You still carrying that stupid doll?"

Laurel hugged Polly Esther, glaring at her cousin.

"She's not stupid, Dirk!"

"Sure she is. Her brains are leaking, see? The Twiggarts will tear her apart to make nests."

"That's not brains! That's rags, and . . . what's Twiggarts?"

Dirk grinned "Don't you know? They live in trees, and come out at night when the wind blows. They make nests from baby toys. Doll stuffing, teddy bear fur . . . ."  He pointed at the old maple tree outside Laurel's window. "That tree's full of Twiggarts. Big ones."

"Liar." Laurel stuck her tongue out at him. "I climbed it yesterday, and I never saw any Twiggles."

"Twiggarts. That's because they look like branches. You ever see a walking stick?"

Laurel nodded. "Teacher says they're harmless."

"They're really baby Twiggarts. The babies don't have claws yet. The big ones do-like thorns. If you make them mad, they'll poke you full of holes."

Dirk frowned. "You climbed that tree? You probably stepped on their heads, maybe even broke a few fingers. I'd watch out tonight, if I were you. It's supposed to be windy. They'll be extra lively."

"You're just teasing me again."

 Dirk just laughed, and snapped twigs off the maple.

"That'll bring 'em out tonight. Watch!"

#

That night, the wind moaned around the house and branches tapped against Laurel's bedroom window. The maple tree, so green and welcoming in the summer sunshine, now looked dark and shadowy. Laurel was afraid to look at it-and even more afraid not to. She watched the swaying branches until everything went soft and blurry. Polly Esther slipped from her hand, unnoticed.

#

Branches crackled. Laurel sat up. Polly Esther was gone. A sap-scented breeze blew through the open window.

She looked out. A dark shape dangled a moment from a broken branch, then dropped from the tree.  It clutched something familiar in its hand.

"Lauurrelll . . ." it moaned.

"Let go of Polly Esther, you Twiggart!" Laurel shouted. The thing laughed.

"Ooo . . . dolly brains!" it squeaked, and Laurel recognized Dirk's voice. Furious, she scrambled out the window and down Grandma's ivy trellis. Dirk stopped laughing.

"Give her back," said Laurel.

"Nope." Dirk dangled Polly Esther over his head. "Come get it, Twiggarts!"

Leaves rustled. A tall, thin shape dropped from the tree. Laurel screamed. Dirk turned white as skim milk, faced with a real Twiggart.
It towered over Dirk, but Laurel could have wrapped her hands around its bark-clad middle. Its face was thinner still, with tiny, glittering eyes. A pointy nose nearly touched its pointy chin over a slit of a mouth.

The Twiggart, one arm dangling, stepped forward, pointing a long, sharp finger at Dirk. Its mouth opened like a crack in a tree.

"Ooo," it groaned. "Tree Breakerrr." It pointed at Polly Esther. "Gifff."

"Gif . . . give you the doll?" Dirk squeaked. "Sure." He threw Polly Esther at the Twiggart.  Step by step, it backed Dirk against the maple, and poked him with its thorn-tipped finger.

"Ow! You're hurting . . . Stop! I gave you the doll . . . Ow! Laurel! Grandma! Grandpa! Help! Ow!"

"Stop that!" Laurel pounded the tree-giant with her fists. "Stop hurting my cousin . . . and GIVE ME MY DOLL!"

It stopped, and creaked around to stare at her. Dirk curled in a ball and whimpered, sucking on one bleeding hand.  Laurel glared back.
With stiff dignity, the stick-creature bent, picked up Polly Esther, and placed the rag doll in Laurel's arms as though handing a child to its mother.

"Oh! Well . . . thank you, Mr. Twiggart."

"Twiggrrrrrrrrrr . . ." it corrected her.

"Twig . . ." Laurel realized what the stick-creature was trying to say, and grinned. "Twiggle?"

The dark eyes twinkled.

Laurel thought for a long moment. "Mr. Twiggle," she said at last, "I'm sorry Dirk broke your arm." She pulled a strip of rag from Polly Esther's burst seam, careful not to widen the hole, and wrapped the Twiggle's skinny arm.

The Twiggle smiled, but before he could say anything, the porch light snapped on. The Twiggle froze, nearly invisible against the tree.
Grandma hustled Laurel and Dirk indoors, clucking about "nearly midnight" and Dirk's 'bug bites." She didn't notice the Twiggle. She never did figure out why one branch of the old maple had a blue gingham bow on it, or why Dirk’s “bug bites” never really healed.
 

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*Third Place*

The Legend of the Aspen
©2003 Harry Buschman
 

[Harry Buschman Bio:

Harry Buschman was born over eighty years ago in a slum neighborhood of downtown Brooklyn. He joined the regular army in 1939 and spent the war on anti-submarine duty. He practiced architecture and photography for nearly forty years in New York and New England. He edits two photography newsletters, contributes news to a local newspaper and has been published extensively by internet magazines. He is a widower with two grown daughters, both with PHD's in medical research.]
 

They call them quaking aspens. They're lovely trees, fine limbed with silvery bark and birch like leaves. In the slightest breeze they flutter like paper; it's like riffling the leaves of a book. Sometimes you'll see whole hillsides of them flickering yellow in the spring, green in the summer and red as fire in the fall. You can hear whole forests of them in Yellowstone, yes hear! When the wind blows you can hear them whispering.

There's an old Cherokee tale that tells of a time before man when the earth was young. The Great Spirit wanted all the trees to stay awake for
seven days and seven nights until the world was made. Only the strongest of them could keep awake -- the laurel, the cedar and the spruce. They were granted the gift of being green forever, the others had to shed their leaves and sleep through the long winter's night.

The aspen, although it tried very hard, could not stay awake. It's prayers could be heard throughout the forest as it quivered in fear, it even changed its leaves from green to gold and russet to appease the Great Spirit. But sadly it fell asleep and down came its leaves. From that day to this the aspen must lie dormant in the winter and stretch its naked limbs to the sky waiting for spring to come.
 

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*Runner Up*

STORMBRINGER
©2003 K.K.

[Ken Kupstis Bio: While Ken Kupstis is a charming, hardworking Catholic boy, his alter-ego K.K. is the horrific combination of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, MOTORHEAD, Steel Reserve Malt Liquor, Playboy magazine and every horror movie ever made! (Curiously, however, he remains a crime-free upstanding citizen! Take THAT, ya 'violent art inspires violent behavior' Draconians!)

Bachelor's Degree In Communication Arts; Member of HORROR WRITERS OF AMERICA and SCREEN ACTOR'S GUILD; Author of CLOWNWHITE: A COMEDY OF HORRORS (on 1stbooks.com) INHUMAN RESOURCES (On Iuniverse/Amazon), Published in CHIC, INTO THE DARKNESS, FLORIDA MAGAZINE, ORLANDO SENTINEL, APRICORN ANTHOLOGY, CREATIO EX NIHILO, POETRY.COM. Appears in the films GO, BIOHAZARD: THE ALIEN FORCE, IMMORTAL, and in numerous stage productions.]
 

     The courts had failed her. The goddesses would not. Laura had selected goddesses to pray to for this ritual, for they would know and understand the primal, unbreakable bonds of motherhood. After all, hadn’t Ceres plunged the world into a near-permanent winter when Hades had abducted her daughter? Perhaps Laura’s ritual would unleash a little hell on earth, but it would only be momentary, and only to get her daughter back.

     She sat in the pentagram, lit the brazier in the center, then turned the fans on.  There were four of them, nine-dollar Wal-Mart specials, one at each compass point.  As their combined winds whipped her dark hair around her face, Laura swore the fans were speaking to her.

     THERE’S A CHANCE SHE MIGHT DIE, the voices of the fans whispered
to her. Laura realized that the goddesses were speaking to her through the fans. And the goddesses were right, of course.  Andrea might die. In fact, the odds were well within that ballpark. But being separated from her mother, trapped in a maze of restraining orders and red tape…wasn’t that a death in and of itself?

     She’d gotten the idea from an article in THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER, the same article that she now fed into the flames of the brazier. Apparently these freaks of nature happened all the time, and left children amazingly unscathed while death and destruction raged around them.
     Smoke rose from the burning newspaper in the brazier. Then she inserted a small model of Andrea’s crib. “Rock-a- bye, Baby…”

     Then, leaves from the maple tree in the backyard. “…In the treetop, when the wind blows, the cradle will rock…”

     Next, a photograph of her ex-husband’s trailer. A trailer! Laura seethed inwardly. Didn’t Frank have an inkling of concern for their daughter’s safety? Stealing Andrea away to live in a trailer! Didn’t he have a clue how unsafe they were, how vulnerable they were to fire…and storms?

     The smoke pouring upwards from the brazier was forming a funnel shape now, and a roar was growing in volume all around her, drowning out the rest of the rhyme. Finally, Laura fed a photo of Frank, Andrea and herself into the fire. In it they smiled and held each other, like an actual family. It had been taken an eternity ago, before Laura had started practicing magic and Frank still had an open mind. Now he wasn’t even in the photo; his head had been carefully cropped out of the photograph.

#

     Twenty miles away, residents of the Shady Glade Trailer Park ran for their lives as a tornado descended on them like a dark god. Frank Turner swore it was coming right down towards his trailer. As he locked his door, he heard screams from Andrea’s room. Rushing in, he saw the roof over Andrea’s crib peeling away like cardboard. An eight-foot section of sheet metal tore away into the sky…then came back down on him like a guillotine. As his body crumpled to the floor, his arterial blood spattered the bottom of Andrea’s crib as it rose upwards into the boiling sky.

     Later, crowds gathered around Laura’s house to watch the local firefighters removing a crib…with the baby inside it still alive…out of the top of Laura’s maple tree. They cheered as the heroes brought it down.

     The firefighter handed Andrea to Laura. “Here you go, ma’am. Cradle and all. Almost like the nursery rhyme, eh?”

     “Or poetic justice.” Laura said with a smile.
 

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In the Tree-Tops
©2003 Ben Bennett

[Ben Bennett Bio:
I am 28 years old and live in The Colony, Texas; just outside of Dallas. So far, I am unpublished (hopefully this story will change that *grin*). I have a novel that I am currently polishing and two others that I have started.]
 

In the treetops, when the wind blows, down will come the creature’s cries of anguish and pain.  It pulls against its chains, fighting disparately to free itself from the Creator.   The creature’s strength begins to drain away as it realizes that it will not be able to escape the Creator, even in death.
The beast had been born to kill, the Creator has taken great pride in its ability.  He had given the creature a mouth that was almost half the size of its head.  It was overfilled with razor sharp teeth that stuck out from between its jaws in what at first glance appeared to be a helter skelter pattern.  But this was not the case, in actuality it was a specific design produced by the Creator to maximize not only damage but also to instill more fear in the Creator’s enemies.  It has been given great claws and the strength to tear through steel.  Its short, squat body gave it the speed it needs to use these weapons in a flawless manner.

 The Creator had taken many long years to perfect this killing machine.  Countless failures had only given him more determination to succeed.  He took great pride in this final specimen and shed true tears when he had to administer the tortures necessary to turn it into a killer.  The Creator has spent many sleepless nights cleaning and dressing the wounds that he himself had to inflict upon his greatest creation.

The creature does not remember any of this, it only remembers the searing pain of the cattle prod, the sudden kicks and punches, and the withholding of food and water for days at a time.  The creature does not see the Creator as its father or friend, only as an enemy.

The Creator took the creature outside for the first time in its life.  The Creator was proud of his creation and was eager to field-test it properly.
He took the creature to the middle of the forest surrounding his lab.  The creature had been hooded the entire time, a necessary precaution in case it ever escaped his custody.   He brought the creature into a clearing where, fifty yards away, the rabbit had been placed earlier.  The Creator removed the hood, ducking back in time to avoid the gnashing of teeth.  He pointed towards the rabbit and when he was sure that the creature had seen it, he let go of the chain.

The creature jumped towards the rabbit but before the Creator could react, it changed direction.  It ran back towards the Creator and ran in between his legs, the chain trailing after it like a whip.  The creature ran in a figure eight around the Creator, dodging the hated cattle prod as the Creator swung it around.  The Creator fell to the ground as the chain wound around his feet.  The creature ran once again in the other direction, dragging the Creator behind.

The Creator called to his beast, using the commands he had taught it to make it heel but to no avail.  The creature continued to run and it was too far ahead for the cattle prod to be effective.  The creature reached the edge of the clearing and leapt up into the first tree it came to.

The weight of the Creator drug the creature back down before it could land.  It fell, scattering leaves in its wake.  Just before it hit the ground, it was jerked back by the chain.  The chain, one end trapping the creature and the other holding the Creator, had wrapped itself around a limb.  The two ends swung together at the bottom, bringing creature and Creator face to face.

The Creator jabbed the cattle prod into the eye of his creation, which emitted a howl of pain and fury.  In a blind rage, the creature opened its jaws and by luck or instinct, found the throat of the Creator.  The Creator died instantly, his throat severed.  The creature slowly choked to death by its chain, the very weapon that it had used to find freedom.  It began whimpering quietly as it realized that it would be forever connected to the Creator, even in death.

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Bridges
©2003 Perry McGee

[Perry McGee Bo:
Perry's work can be found damn near everywhere on the internet. Places like Darkhalf, House of Pain, Dream People, Bewildering Stories, The Murder Hole, and Horrorfind. His stuff also appears in several anthologies such as John Lawson's Of Flesh and Hunger, 3F's The Decay Within, Kelly Burton's The Other Side of Madness, Rick Olney's Blood Harvest, Kevin Donihe's antho about walruses, and Dream People’s Things That Sing With Salty Wings.

Print magazines containing his tales include Thirteen Stories, Cthulhu Sex, and Lullaby Hearse.]
 

“What the fuck is this?” Manny asked.

“It’s a damn suspension bridge,” Ralph answered.

And damned if it wasn’t a bridge; a big one too. Funny thing, there were no roads leading to or from it. It spanned maybe two hundred feet over a dry gulch. A nice tarmac for a surface, graceful fretted finials adorning the uppermost poles, and absolutely no reason to be there.

“What the fuck?” Manny repeated.

And I understood his sediment exactly; I mean, why was there a shiny new bridge in the middle of the forest? Trees grew all around it, grasses and foliage covered the long-undisturbed area everywhere around it, and unless I was crazy, there was a tollbooth at the far end.

Ralph asked, “Wanna walk across it?”

“Hell no, damn thing might be haunted or something,” I replied. There we were, the middle of Seneca Forest deep in the heart of Ohio, staring at a bridge that should not have been there. “Hell no, I repeated.

So Ralph walked across it. The tarmac was about a foot off the ground with a perfect straight edge and a double yellow line running from this end to the other. He walked about twenty feet before yelling, “Come on you chickenshits. See? It’s okay.”

Manny followed, then I followed too.

Out footfalls were barely audible as we waltzed forward. About midway, I saw that the thing I earlier thought was a tollbooth was positively a tollbooth. And as we drew closer, we saw a tollbooth man inside. He wore a blue uniform and sported a very long white beard and scraggly white hair.
“Hidee ho neighbors, and what can I do fur ya today?”

Manny and Ralph were speechless, so I volunteered with, “What the fuck is going on? What is this bridge doing here?”

The tollbooth man said, “Well, you’re on the South Sandusky Bridge. If you turn left up ahead, you’ll go to Cleveland, if you turn right, Cincinnati.”
Ralph said, “There ain’t no damn roads!”

Manny and I shook our heads in agreement. Any damn fool could see that the bridge began and ended against the tree line. It was hard enough walking through the forest, let alone driving a car.

The tollbooth man said, “Two bucks please.”

I scratched my head. Two bucks? Did he mean for all three of us or did he mean each? And as if he read my mind, he said, “Each.”

So we paid him. He thanked us and wished us Godspeed, then sat back and unfolded a newspaper in front of himself.

“Now what?” Manny asked.

“Well, we’re paid up, let’s go.”

We hit the bridge’s end looking for a highway or even a fucking yellow brick road, but all there was was trees, shrubs, and pellets of deer poop. I asked, “Left or right?”

Ralph said, “I ain’t never been to Cleveland, turn right.”

We turned right, and after six days of walking came to Cleveland city limits.

Manny was the first to admit: “I’ll be damned. That old fucker was right.”
 
 

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Urban Prophets: "Forget Me Not"
©2003 A.J. Thompson

[A.J. Thompson Bio:
Started writing "seriously" in 1997, and have since published over two dozen stories / novelettes / novellas in various online 'zines. In 1999, co-founded ShadowKeep with David Bowlin; have worked on numerous online fiction web sites including The Zine Guild Web Site, The Murder Hole, Brutal Dreamer's Web Site, and (more recently) the Steven L. Shrewsbury web site. Current projects include three series, "The Knack" and "Time Chaser," as well as continued installments in the Urban Prophets series.]
 

 "Carl, it's freezing. I don't understand why we have to do this."

 "It'll be worth it, Aly. Just be patient."

 Huddled in their sleeping bags, and wrapped in several layers of cotton T-shirts and wool sweaters, Alyssa Newman and Carl Hanson sat together beneath the midnight shade of a sycamore grove. All around, the patterned darkness, comprised of shards of moonlight trickling through the treetops of the arboretum, was still and silent, save for the faint hum of the nearby skyway.

 Yep, thought Alyssa. No one up but us danger hunters, freezing our butts off like dorks. Carl's lucky he's co cute. Otherwise he'd be spending the night out here alone.

 Which might have been just as well, for in the handful of hours they'd spent outside, shivering in the cold and sharing a thermos full of lukewarm Moroccan mint green tea, he'd given her no information beyond "be patient."

 Alyssa finally let out an exasperated sigh and faced her partner full.
 "Carl. What's going on?"

 Carl smiled furtively and adjusted his The Revisions beanie. "What do you mean?"
 "Why the heck are we out here? Is this an assignment or what?"

 "Sort of. Something really cool. I looked it up on the Internet."

 Alyssa snorted. "You could have e-mailed me the link. Mackie keeps the Goblin's Club warm and toasty during the winter, you know."
 "I didn't want you to see this sitting by yourself in front of some dumb ol' computer."

 "See what, exactly?

 "You'll see."

 "Ugh! You're incorrigible! At least tell me why I couldn't bring my PDA, or my camera—or anything else that could possibly get me some useful footage out of tonight's little excursion."

 "I told you, you'll see..."

 "Have you discovered tree druids that do their laundry in the nude, after midnight?"

 "Maybe."

 "Garden gnomes who will grant us three wishes if we water their lawns?"

 "Be quiet, and watch."

 Alyssa sighed, leaned back—and watched in awed silence as the shadows around them suddenly began to shift, as if someone had hung a giant mirror ball above the arboretum. She saw new shapes forming themselves across the grass, along the sidewalk—movement that was far too expeditious to have been caused by the moon's orbital motion. She looked to Carl for an explanation, but he merely motioned for her to keep quiet and pointed toward the concrete walkway below.

 Nature seemed to readjust itself, ever so slightly. The leaves of the trees seemed to glow and glitter with moonlight, illuminating the area below—and it became immediately evident that Alyssa and Carl were not the only ones come to witness the event. Perhaps a dozen or so other watchers of varying ages had also set up their own little campsites along the concrete walkway.

 "Carl," Alyssa whispered, leaning close. "There are other people here."

 Carl nodded. "Yeah, but they won't see what we'll be seeing. I got an inside tip. You have to be in just the right spot to feel the real magic. That's why I didn't post it in the DHC database. I didn't want anyone else to know."

 "But we're Goblins Club members," Alyssa pointed out. "We're supposed to document this sort of thing."

 "Shh. Look."

 Alyssa gazed down at the walk again. The light patterns being filtered through the sycamore branches were moving towards a central point, arranging themselves of their own accord. It was almost as if they were alive.

 As all this was going on, she became aware of Carl's arm around her shoulders, his gentle nudging.

 "Look," he breathed.

 And there it was, the hidden prize, displayed before them upon grass at their feet: a perfectly-shaped heart, detailed enough to be a wreath made of light, shifting toward them, onto them, encompassing them in its warmth as all around the other watchers gasped in wonder.

 "It's a forget-me-not," Carl whispered, bringing his face close to hers. "If we kiss under its light, we'll always be together." He tilted his head slightly, then, and pecked Alyssa briefly on the lips. It was enough to defeat the winter cold once and for all.

 It was wonderful.

 His breath still warm on her cheek, Alyssa snuggled close. "Forget me not," she whispered, and shuddered slightly, for she realized she was crying tears of joy.

 "What's wrong?" asked Carl.

 "Nothing," she replied. "Everything's..."

 ...perfect.

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Unicorn
©2003 Heath R. Thompson
[Heath R. Thompson Bio:
35 years old male, from Warwickshire, England. I have been vegetarian for some fifteen years, practice Aikido, involved with various animal rights and environmental issues. Publishing's: One poem called "Crocus", in Purple Patch, poetry magazine in 1990! Started writing again! Current projects are poems, haiku / Zen poetry and short stories based on pre-Roman Britain (a little like Conan).]

In the treetops, when the wind blows, down will come the faerie light, glittering, captured in the tiny mirrors of evening insect eyes. Amber coins of silence, gently sinking into inky green moss, until the earth, her deep bosom, turns against the still mists of ageing autumn. Beneath stone root streams the ice dragon stirs, restless.

     As I inhale, dim shadows flicker and dance to the sounds of old trees, creaking and whispering of half-memories. As I exhale, spiders carefully thread together the final hairs of autumn dew. It is in the great spaces between oak and ash, in the deep hollows of scented fox earth’s, in the black shadows that fill the secret corners of this ancient wood, I know of you. You who come.

     All eyes consider the keeper, the Unicorn. Their darkness filled by the translucent skin of stars in the glass of a new night. At dawn, the blue kings will ride their white stallions, setting wind to the wings of a thousand crows, which will fill the sky like burning embers.

     It is then, when the faeries have gone.

     It is then, when you who come, shall be.

     It is then, when axe and trees have fallen the last Unicorn shall no longer be.

*        *       *       *       *       *        *       *       *       *

In the treetops, when the wind blows, down will come....

©2003 Marlicia Fernandez (a.k.a. ShadowLight)

[Marlicia Fernandez Bio:

My name is Marlicia Fernandez. I am a stay at home wife and mother of two teenage girls. I have been writing poetry and stories since I was a child but have only grown serious about my writing in the last two or three years. I like to read almost anything but I write mostly fantasy, science fiction, and suspense. I have had poetry published in Portals, Hodge Podge and Beginnings Magazines and flash fiction in Insolent Rudder and Shadowkeep E-Zines. A longer short story was published in The Murder Hole. Current projects include the first draft of a full length fantasy novel and several short stories as well as ideas for three other novels in various stages of development.]
 

Down will come what?  Apples? Oranges? Little green men?  Vanessa stared at her computer screen and ran long, slender fingers through her hair.  I've been sitting here three hours, ever since I took the flyer for this contest out of my mailbox.  I should be able to do this but I'm not any closer toc oming up with something now than I was then. Maybe I should try a different beginning.  Once I get the story down I can always make the first sentence fit later.  She deleted the phrase and began again.  Swift fingers flew over the keyboard, tap, tappity-tap, tap.  I have to get something written. Ineed the money.  Her fingers stopped and she looked at what was on the screen.

In the treetops, when the wind blows, down will come...

Oh for crying out loud! Why did I type that?

Frustrated she switched off the machine.  Her reflection stared out at her from the darkened monitor, its lips moving.

"In the treetops, when the wind blows, down will come..."

Vanessa peered into the monitor.   "Did you say something?"  Nervous laughter escaped her.  "No, of course you didn't."  She rose to her feet,grabbed her sweater and settling it about her shoulders, walked into the hallway.  "This is ridiculous.  I need a break."

Opening the door she walked outside and toward her favorite tree, her thinking tree.  Its great boughs often cradled her when she needed to work something out.  If I can't get an idea there, I'll never get one.

The wind picked up, forcing her against the tree's trunk, her head tilted upward.  Looking into the leafy branches her eyes widened in surprise.

"Who are you?

What do you wa...?"

"In the treetops, when the wind blows, down will come..."

"In the treetops, when the wind blows, down will come..." Vanessa
repeated.

"I am the answer to your question. I am what comes down."

#

The computer's soft hum, punctuated by the steady clickety- click of keys against the keyboard broke into the silent dusk.  Tap-tap-tap.
"Below the treetops, when the wind blows, up will come..." The author looked in the corner at her visitor, leaning against the wall.  "...A guest bearing gifts."  Footsteps in the hall broke her concentration and she looked up as the door to the study flew open.  "Mommy we're hungry."
She smiled indulgently at her many children. Patience my dears; I must finish my work before we eat.  Returning to her typing she pointed to the guest wrapped in silk threads from head to toe.  It won't be long now.  See, it only needs a little more seasoning.  By the time I finish my work, the outer coverings should have dissolved and we will have a feast such as we haven't had in days."

Her children gathered around her desk, shouting in jubilant anticipation.  "That's for us? Really?"

"Really.  Now go wash your hands, all of you.  And don't miss any of them."

"Aw, mom..."

"Now, or there will be no dinner for you and it isn't often we get such a delicacy."  Left in peace once more, she glanced at the young woman whose thoughtfulness provided their repast.  The cat on the windowsill, wrapped in a similar manner would provide dessert.  Both animal and human wore stunned expressions.  Such reactions always amazed her.  And these are supposed to be the higher life forms.

She returned her attention to the keyboard and putting four of her eight appendages to work, resumed typing.  This has to be the woman's story.  She smiled as she typed, thinking of the flier she'd placed in the mailbox.They make it so easy.

Tap-tap-tap.  "In the treetops, when the wind blows, down will come..." Chuckling to herself, she rubbed her rumbling belly.  The contest gets them every time.   Saving what she had written, she took a look at the meal she had snared. A quick prod with one leg assured her it was ready.  This one will be more tender and much sweeter than the last,

Loud voices and footsteps scurrying down the hall announced the return of her children.  She turned to greet them. The story would have to wait.
 

*        *       *       *       *       *        *       *       *       *
 

Empty Handed

©2003 Marlicia Fernandez (a.k.a. ShadowLight)
 

[Marlicia Fernandez Bio:

My name is Marlicia Fernandez. I am a stay at home wife and mother of two teenage girls. I have been writing poetry and stories since I was a child but have only grown serious about my writing in the last two or three years. I like to read almost anything but I write mostly fantasy, science fiction, and suspense. I have had poetry published in Portals, Hodge Podge and Beginnings Magazines and flash fiction in Insolent Rudder and Shadowkeep E-Zines. A longer short story was published in The Murder Hole. Current projects include the first draft of a full length fantasy novel and several short stories as well as ideas for three other novels in various stages of development.]
 

The wind whistled in the branches overhead but the man below paid it now heed.

"Come on now. Let's have it. You know it doesn't belong to you."

Larana stepped back until the rough tree bark stopped her. " Why do you make that assumption? And even if you're right, how do I know it belongs to you? It doesn't seem to fit you somehow."

"Are going to give me trouble?" The man's hand hovered over his sword hilt, dropping to his side when the action failed to intimidate her. "What do you mean it doesn't seem to fit me?"

A smile tugged at her lips. "There is great magic in this piece. It must belong to a powerful magician or to royalty." Her gaze swept over him.
"You don't appear to be either."

"Looks can be deceiving."

"True enough, but not this time."

Leaves rustled and branches swayed as the breeze picked up speed. An acorn plunked the man on the head and he cursed. Another acorn fell, and then another, hitting with precision that denied chance. Excited chittering followed when the man didn't look up but instead advanced further and drew his dagger. "It will take more than acorns and squirrels to help you now."

Polished steel caught the sunlight, reflecting it back into his eyes. He squinted and adjusted the blade not quickly enough. Larana's hand shot out and with surprising strength, wrested the weapon from him. A quick movement of her fingers and it disappeared. His hand dropped to his sword.

"Where is it?"

Larana inched around the tree never taking her eyes off him. "Safe."

"Return it to me."

"Gladly, sir. When you let me pass."

"I will guarantee you safe passage if you give me what you have stolen and what is mine."

"I have stolen nothing. What I have was given to me. If it belongs to another I will find that person and return it." She gestured with her right hand and his dagger appeared in her palm. "As a sign of good faith, I will return this to you before you release me. Step back please."

The man's sword cleared his scabbard before the last word fell from her lips, its tip resting at the base of her throat.

"You are making a mistake, sir."

He laughed as his blade drew blood just above the bodice of her gown.

"I think not. Give me what I want and you won't be hurt." He expected fear but saw none in her eyes. Instead they looked upward into the treetops. He knew better than to follow her gaze, He'd seen how quickly she could move and would not allow himself to be tricked again. "There's no one up there who can help you, so hold still while I find that ..."

A puff of blue smoke appeared on his shoulder, sudden weight throwing him off balance and knocking the sword form his hand. "Blarf!" Open-mouthed, the man scuttled backward reaching for a dagger he no longer had and a sword he could not reach. Large yellow eyes stared at him from the small blue body as tufted ears moved softly in the breeze.

"Blarf! You no hurt the lady!" The little creature disappeared and reappeared, landing on the man's stomach. In his hand he held the jewel.

"Give that to me you...you...whatever you are." His hands closed around the little blue body but it disappeared in a puff of smoke to reappear in the young woman's arms. "No! Not yours! Pretty for the lady."

Scrambling to his feet, the man reached for his sword and approached again.

"What is that thing?"

Larana's shifted the little imp's weight in her arms. "He's not a thing." She paused. "He's Blarf."

"Well, I don't care what he is, make him give me that jewel."

She looked from Blarf to the man and shook her head. "No. It must be very powerful if you want it so badly and you have not proven yourself honorable."

"You speak to me of honor? You're a common thief. I should turn you in for the reward."

"I am no thief. I told you, I intend to return this as soon as Blarf tells me to whom it belongs."

The man rushed them. "You'll do no such thing."

"Blarf!"

Coughs racked the man's body as a large cloud of blue smoke enveloped the creature and the girl. When it cleared he was alone. His captives, the dagger and the jewel were gone.

*        *       *       *       *       *        *       *       *       *

In the treetops

©2003 Queenie Tirone

[Queenie Tirone Bio:

No bio submitted --]

She crunches the snow under her feet. When the wind blows, it bites at her like a wild, untamed beast. she shivers, not from the cold. She knows he is here.

The jester laughs in the treetops, his smile, like a crescent moon.  Sparking, flowing teardrops, his words on the breeze to her, " You'll never catch me..." sing on like a banshee.

The young huntress grins, because she sees his ghost now. Hunching low she watches from a dried, decaying bush. Its moans but gets no sympathy from her.

He swings his legs, and looks like a marionette. entangled in the branches. The oak pulls his strings.

The jester forgets about his prey.

Now is the time. Pulling the rock from her pocket, she places it in
her slingshot made from a dead branch. Locking his image, she fires.

Rock-a-bye...bye-bye lover.

Like a stone, he falls. Down he goes; the smile is just gaping bloody hole. She runs to find her prize. The pride she feels slowly melts as she sees him there.

The crimson river. Bulls-eye.

White faced, she pokes him with stick, "Andrew...?"

No response. Onyx eyes stare listless into oblivion.

"ANDREW?"

She was too good a shot. The river of tears, styx, is all that is left. No more ghost. No more jester.

Play time is over.

*        *       *       *       *       *        *       *       *       *

Some People Can't See the Forest for the Trees

©2003 Laurel Johnson

[Laurel Johnson Bio:

This topic has great meaning to Laurel on many levels. She is a child of the plains in body, mind and spirit, who married a man from the Kentucky mountains. They both love equally the plains and mountains. Laurel's lifelong profession was that of Registered Nurse, recently retired. Her interests vary and include writing, photography, and quiet contemplation.

She is a senior reviewer and interviewer for sevarl sites.. Her reviews can be found at www.midwestbookreview.com ; www.funeralassociates/authors.htm; and www.denisemclark,com. .

She has two published books. The Grass Dance was released by PublishAmerica in 2001. The Alley of Wishes was self-published through 1stBooks in 2002 and will released as a second edition in July 2003 by Dandelion Books. A third book, Earth Song, is under consideration for the Trinity Prize International. A book of poetry titled Color of Laughter, Color of Tears was written in collaboration with author Stephen R. Sulik and is currently being circulated. A fictional work in the early stages is Snowbird Dying, if she could only find the time to finish it.]
 

I leaned into the timeworn granite outcropping and watched Hannah frame her shot. She takes our little projects seriously, the ones I half-assed make up on the fly as an excuse to spend more time with her. While she focuses her lens on mountain laurel and primeval forests, I'm composing prose scenarios that the recently divorced Ms. Powell might think quite improper.

Sweet, soft, unworldly Hannah tries to hide her grief at losing Jessie. Those kind blue eyes of hers have too frequently been red rimmed and puffy underneath from lack of sleep. How she could miss that beer guzzling, faithless s.o.b. is beyond my comprehension. I'm glad he's gone, for selfish reasons. I can't stand to think of anyone sharing Hannah's bed, not even her husband. Listen, I've done everything but hang a flashing neon sign around my neck announcing how I feel about her, but she must be totally oblivious to me as a man. Thanks to Jessie, the lady sees herself as uninteresting, undesirable, over the hill. I'm here to testify that nothing could be further from the truth!

Believe me, I understand unlikely unions and that there's no explaining love. My parents coupled up just long enough to make me before my dad moved on. Mother died when I was two and Grandma raised me from a pup. Grandpa had died in the mines decades before my birth so it was just Grandma and me. Tameea Geraghty was her name. Native American is the politically correct term now I guess, but Grandma always called herself an Indian.

Grandma fell in love with the much older Elza Geraghty in her sixteenth year. Such attractions were commonplace between Indian and Irish living in the wild Kentucky mountains. Grandpa Geraghty had black hair and dark flashing eyes, a huge man who topped six feet, with a scampish Irish smile. He was a rogue, I guess, a rapscallion with the ladies until Grandma came along. She cut him down to size right fast, turned him inside out and upside down until he didn’t have the mind to look at other women. That’s her version of their courtship anyway. Grandma adored her strapping Irish husband.

So that was my raising as a child. My widowed grandmother taught me what a man, love and life should be. Eventually, a world outside our mountain home opened up to me as it had her when she was young and learning.

Grandma was a forward thinker for her day. That she would name me Half Moon might seem strange, especially since she had such lofty plans for me. Well, she said the name was perfect for me. A half moon shone bright and clear the night I was born. And I was half and half she said, half Celtic–Indian and half blonde haired blue eyed Swede as my father’s contribution to the mix. She made my naming seem quite logical.

Anyway, I’m not ashamed of my name or looking Indian. I have my grandpa’s height and build, my grandma’s hair and coloring, and my father’s bright blue eyes. Women are attracted to my looks so I know all about sweet female explorations, but they never satisfied me long and there was no one in my life I couldn’t live without. My heart never hurt when I walked away from them or them from me.

Then I met her. Every second of my life prior to that had been lived in preparation for meeting, knowing, loving from the outset Mrs. Hannah Powell. Granted, she had seen younger days and better times, but humor and compassion shimmered just behind her lapis lazuli eyes. Air left my lungs that day. Heart and brain collided. Since that moment, I've never looked at another woman. I dream about her day and night and pray some day she'll love me.

"A penny for your thoughts, Half Moon." I'd been day dreaming again. "Can you work your special magic on a narrative for that last shot?"
I nodded 'yes' , staring at her mouth as Hannah smiled and touched my arm. Nods and stammers are just about all I can manage when she's close enough to touch.

"You write so lyrically, with a …poetic rhythm. Maybe it's time to move our project to another level, expand our craft."

"Ex…uh…expand?" Cool and confident. That's me.

"We'll call it 'Half Moon and Hannah Making Music in the Forest'." Hannah giggled as my knees buckled.

*        *       *       *       *       *        *       *       *       *

The Continuing Adventures of Two People From Ahia

©2003 Perry McGee

[Perry Mcgee Bio:
Perry's work can be found damn near everywhere on the internet. Places like Darkhalf, House of Pain, Dream People, Bewildering Stories, The Murder Hole, and Horrorfind. His stuff also appears in several anthologies such as John Lawson's Of Flesh and Hunger, 3F's The Decay Within, Kelly Burton's The Other Side of Madness, Rick Olney's Blood Harvest, Kevin Donihe's antho about walruses, and Dream People’s Things That Sing With Salty Wings.
Print magazines containing his tales include Thirteen Stories, Cthulhu Sex, and Lullaby Hearse.]
 

Ruth, look up there.

What is it Jim?

I think it’s a cradle.

Now why would a cradle be in a tree?

I dunno, but it looks like a cradle.

It does, doesn’t it.

Yeah, and it’s rocking on the bough.

Bough? What’s a bough?

I think it means limb, but I ain’t sure.

Well, you’re right about it rocking. Wonder if there’s a baby in it?

If there is, and if that bough breaks, the baby will fall.

Should we call the fire department? They got a cherry picker that’d reach up there.

Maybe we should. Got your cellphone?

No, do you?

No.

Then the hell with it, let’s go.

Okay, still going to take me to see that Disney movie at the Cineplex?

Sure.

*        *       *       *       *       *        *       *       *       *

Throw My Heart Into the River

©2003 Sarah Crabtree

[Sarah Crabtree Bio:

Recent publishings include Writer's Hood, House of Pain and The Fear in Silence.]
 

You found me lying on the fallen leaves in the oak wood.  I was yearning for you, dying for you. But you came and rescued me.  Your spirit entered
my body. Now we are whole. It is as the prophecy declared. Only you know  it is true. We could not tell the others. It is our secret. I never wanted to be chosen.

If I'd had the power of choice, I would have remained a nonentity like the others.  They delight in their gossip.  It fills their empty little lives. Yet I could not escape you. Some say it's magic. Maybe it is. But then all of life is magic when you think about it. Only they never do. I will try to tolerate them now I have the knowledge. Yet it is hard to forgive.

The issue of my virginity was so important to them. For me it became such a burden, that I wanted to just throw it all away.  I never really understood the power it gave me, and that once I had relinquished it, then it would make me more like them.  I guess our human bodies are a burden to us. Always needing feeding and cosseting.  Without them our spirits run free. We can go anywhere, do anything.  But freedom has to be earned.
I watched you suffer, as they did.  Now we need never be apart.  Take my hand, dearest gnome, and show me the secrets.

Show me the barren fields of Berry, Vexin, Valois and Soissonais.  Help me through the twisted brambles and guide me round the thorns.  Nothing is sacred in the path of war.  Help me to understand why I was chosen.

I have never seen the sun dance in the heavens.  So why should I have thought I was any different from the others?

Standing at the edge of the river, I see how very wide it is.  At this point I wonder how I could ever have imagined it was possible for me to bridge it.  How vain I must have seemed to the soldiers.  Why did they not revolt?   Was their faith in me so strong?  And then as all things must balance in  nature, at the very eye of my own self-belief they began to doubt me.

They abandoned me with the same enthusiasm with which they had only months before laid down everything to join me.  Hope is a fickle lover.  She blows like the summer wind:  hot and dusty.  She clings to your skin and yet she does not stay around long enough to satisfy you.

If it were not for you, dearest gnome, I would have returned to my burnt village and attempted to rebuild a life from the cinders.   Yet you still gave Hope.  It was a kind of magic.  I know that now.

But when I was brought to trial, what could I tell them?  That I was visited by a faery creature?

"Witchcraft!" they would have cried.

I told them I was God's messenger.  I believed in what I was doing.  I believed in you. Five hundred, six hundred years from now, what will your spirit return as?  I wish I could look into the future for a golden hour in order to read what is in the true prophecy.  But the truth is that your voice only speaks to me in cryptic whisperings.  Like the rushes at the edge of the stream.  Like the fluttering of a dove's wings.  It is up to me to interpret its meaning.

And I grow weary now.

My wounds take ever longer to heal.

I cannot sleep at night.

I shed tears over the blood shed.

Maybe my work here is done.

Take my hand and lead me into the valley.

I fear no evil.

And yet I am afraid.

Time for me is short now.

I have been convicted.

There is no choice in the verdict.

I am guilty of life.

Only death will release me.

And then we shall be together.

Forever.

I am ready now.

May God forgive me.

Men are sometimes hanged for telling the truth.

They choose to burn me...

When Joan of Arc was finally beatified in 1894, the papal decree

announced:

"...her heart, uninjured by the flames and running with blood, was
thrown together with her ashes, into the river."
 

*        *       *       *       *       *        *       *       *       *

True Dream Country

©2003 Steven L. Shrewsbury

[Steven L. Shrewsbury Bio:

STEVEN L. SHREWSBURY, 35, creator of Dack Shannon, is the author of nearly 300 published tales online or in print. His first book NOCTURNAL VACATIONS was released in the summer of 2002 by PUBLISH AMERICA. His second book, DEPTHS OF SAVAGERY was released as an eBook in May 03 from DOUBLE DRAGON PUBLISHING. His third book, BULLETPROOF SOUL, will soon be released from BLACK DEATH BOOKS. He has appeared in many anthologies, most recently the high fantasy epic GRIMOIRE DE SOLACE from iUniverse, hardback CEMETERY POETS from DDP and will soon have tales in paperback anthologies ATROCIUS AQUA, SCRIPTURES OF THE DAMNED and SCARY from DDP. While hammering out new tales, revising several novels, he still manages to reside in Illinois.]
 

“When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.”
--Oscar Wilde
 
 

I had been in country ten months when I saw the gateway into another world. We humped all day after the air strike. This attack ferreted out the origin point of many rat lines used by the Vietcong. We stopped at the base of a mountain, its base bleached white by the kiss of napalm. Where two jagged rock formations formed a make shift “V” my buddy, Budweiser Bob, elbowed me and pointed down.

“Can ya believe anything lived through that strike?”

Something moved in the sizzling landscape near our feet. I nudged what looked like a mound of mud, but the mass flipped over. We trained our m16s on the person, well, what was left of one.

“Yeah, I’m from Iowa. Everything shocks me,” I quipped, seeing the arms and legs of the wounded man were stumps. This condition clearly was native to this man, not caused by napalm. The burnt flesh, yeah, Dupont did that. He ran off the head like mad, his scorched, blind eyes glaring over at us and then back toward the cleft in the rocks.

“Looks like we hit the mouth of some temple,” Budweiser Bob commented as he waved at the opening in the cleft. The jelled gasoline had peeled away any brush that concealed an ancient building carved into the rocks.

The rambling Vietnamese man actually moved closer to the opening and nearer to what I first thought was a crispy statue of Buddha. His singed clothing fell away, revealing a mound of peculiarly colored mushrooms on his stomach. Each top, striped red and green almost appeared psychedelic in manner.

“What is he babbling about? You know the language.”

Bob shrugged. “Aw, he is carrying on about how he prayed to his gods for deliverance and for us to be cursed, crap like that. He said he saw the face of god when he looked above the trees, saw this drop of light descend and well, you know the fulfillment of prophecy, eh?”
“He saw the light,” I commented, wondering about the age of the temple. “Maybe he is eating too many of his mushrooms, huh?”

My eyes focused on the small Buddha as the wounded man kept talking. I noted an oddity concerning this statue, but the uncanny nature of the injured man’s guts took my attention. It appeared as if the mushrooms grew right out of his belly! I blinked, doubting my eyes, but I had little time for it to register.

The ground shook and Budweiser Bob grabbed my arm.

“Hit it Sam! We gotta get out of there!”

Overstating the obvious, that was Bob’s bread & butter. We scrambled back from the cleft as the ground shuddered more. Suddenly, the area around the mouth of the temple gave way and the scarred man shouted as he fell into the maw of mother Earth.

When the ground stabilized, we gazed at what looked like a small crater. Peering into the darkness, I swear, I could hear the shriek of that guy, still falling. Until my dying day, I will pledge I heard a sonorous, guttural roar deep in that unfathomable chasm.

“The dude chattered about salvation from the sun god from over the trees,” Bob muttered, training his gun at the hole. “I guess he got delivered, one way or another, huh? All his prayers didn’t get the Americans out of ‘Nam, though.”

On the sides of the long cavern that descended forever grew the curiously colored mushrooms. Each looked rather reptilian in texture. Looking across the expanse, I saw the bizarre fetish that was Buddha, all right…but a plump Buddha being swallowed by a giant, green striped serpent.
Budweiser Bob took his gun, fixed his bayonet and speared one of the mushrooms. “Hey, bet the dudes in Bravo hooch would give me their pin ups of Raquel Welch for these puppies!”

Again, I swore I could hear the ominous rumble from below, almost like a belly laugh. I swept the bayonet with the barrel of my M16 and let the mushroom fall into the hole.

“I’ll buy ya one, Budweiser Bob,” I promised. “Just forget this, ok?”

As he swore at me, my eyes focused on the face of the Buddha…eaten of a snake, his face, contained a grin…yet his left eye bore a tear.
 

*        *       *       *       *       *        *       *    *HAPPY HALLOWEEN!*
*        *       *       *       *       *        *       *
Thank you to each author that contributed and to each of you that have stopped by to read the stories and visit with Brutal Dreamer!  Have a safe and happy Halloween!

--Brutal Dreamer
brutal@brutaldreamer.com

[stories are property and copyright to their respectful owners -you may not take the stories or in part without the author's authority.]
©Brutal Dreamer
contest: In theTree-Tops: Halloween 2003


9/15/2002 (UPDATE): I feel there should be an "Honorable Mention" in The Brutal Poetry Contest! I gave specific instructions: Write about a prized possession - and I had a writer/poet capture this possession: a special possession that we writers and poets all cherish. She captured it so beautifully that I felt she should be awarded an Honorable Mention for this gem of a poem titled "The Pen is Mightier" by Rie Sheridan.

A special showing of "The Pen is Mightier" will appear --first to you poets -- in honor of this special possession that we all have in common.

We are writers and poets and owe Rie Sheridan a special thank you for capturing our love and passion of writing with sheer brilliance.

Thank you, for reminding us all: that we are writers and the magical worlds we create and special characters we breathe life into; with just a stroke of the ink -that comes from our prized possession - our pen! Rie captured our love of writing so poetically see for yourselves here.

Rie will receive a special Bag O' Tootsie Pops and a book for her "Honorable Mention" award!

Thank you to all you poets and special writers that entered the contest.

~Brutal Dreamer


9/15/2002: Good morning, poets! I know the standard "Everyone did a sensational job and only three poems can win..." routine. So, skipping that chatter, let's get to the crux of why I am writing you. To announce the "3 Tootsie Pop Winners" of the The Brutal Poetry Contest!

I am most happy that I did NOT have to judge this contest and you all will see why when you read the submissions that my brutal judge had to single out as winners. I had 29 submissions between you 15 Poets! WOW! Nice turn out. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for your talented support of this contest and your time in entering it.

First let me say a special thank you to Rie Sheridan; for her part in advertising this contest. Thank you, Rie! She had one poet that entered due to her word of mouth therefore, she will receive a prize for being the one that advertised The Brutal Poetry Contest! Congrats to Rie Sheridan.

Patience, Patience... - I know you are all biting your nails and moaning for me to hurry up and get to the announcing of winners.

Trust me - I am getting there.

Let me introduce you all to the woman that judged this contest. I will be using only her first name due to privacy issues. Renee is a teacher. She has judged several of my Brutal Contests for me. (That keeps the rotten tomatoes from landing on me) She has been very valuable in her support. The main facet on why I choose Renee to help me judge contests... she is NOT typical ...she is open-minded and does not allow the cliched norms to dictate to her what is or is not poetic, storytelling, or art. I value her opinions and her time she devotes to my contests.

Now, for my most wonderful supporters: You POETS: for without you, there could not of been a contest. I thank each of you equally and warmly. You Poets submitted some incredible works and have shown your talent of writing in these imaginative vignettes. I am MOST anxious to publish each piece of your work you submitted along with the winning works.

All writers retain ALL their rights to their own work. If you should ever want your work removed from being published on my Brutal Dreamer website, let me know or it will remain archived in the contest department indefinitely.

Let me introduce you all to one another and announce who entered what: Here are the greatest poets that rank up there with Edgar Allen Poe in my most brutal opinion!

Arthur J. Starr
Beautiful Darkness
Night Jar

Charles A. Gramlich
Flagellated
Ghosts of Love

David Bowlin
A Beautiful Evil
Dances in Hell
Mirror's Reflection (the story of my life)

David Halliday
Murder Mystery

Hanna Fosh
Emotions
Life Not Worth Living

Hertzan Chimera
24 Hours From Tuscaloosa

Joseph Pryce
Nocturne of Dead Cities
Nocturne of Menace and Magic
Nocturne of the Chthonic Dark
Nocturne of Virtual Gaslight

Michael A. Arnzen
Pixellated

Michael Pendragon
Requiem
I will not Mourne
Where Love Once Shared an Hour
Death's Requiem

Matt J. Hewitt
Demigogs Dream
Dreams
Just a Dream? Or Maybe a Reality?

Monica A. Caples
Poisoned Lineage

Rie Sheridan
The Dream Remains
The Pen Is Mightier

Sarah Crabtree
Somewhere

Stephen Shrewsbury
Dream Murder

L. Lynn Young
My Silver Bell

Please read the poems once they are published on the BD website - and go to the board to discuss them (I will mop up the BRUTAL board over there so you will have a clean room to visit with one another there. I will leave out the Tootsies and the Mountain Dew - since NO email addresses will be listed please use the board to support your fellow writers and friends. [Isn't that what it is all about?] Thank you!)

~To show my appreciation of your participation:  ALL submitters can receive a Bag O Tootsie Pops. Write me personally in email and tell me to send you a bag and I will have that out to you.~

The winners receive their Bag O Tootsie Pops as promised - also the three winners will receive a book inside their package.

Envelope Please:

Third Place:

Mirror Reflection - (The Story of My Life) by David Bowlin

Bag O Tootsie Pops - NEW Book: The Peanuts

Runner up - Second Place:

Requiem by Michael Pendragonichael Pendragon

Bag O Tootsie Pops - NEW Book: Brothers Grimm

Grand Prize Winner ... Drum roll please... First Place Prize goes to:

Dances in Hell by Dave Bowlin

Bag O Tootsie Pops - STEPHEN KING'S From a Buick 8

CONGRATS to the winners and THANK YOU to each of you Poets for entering the contest. I wish that each of you keep an eye out for my next contest and submit some more of you terrific works.

Thank you,
~Brutal Dreamer

Previous Contests:

A Brutal Poetry Contest

Most Embarrassing Moment Contest

Brutal Campfire Tale Contest

A Brutal Wizard of Oz Contest

Halloween Story Contest 2001
 
 

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All content copyright 2003 by Brutal Dreamer. Site construction by Kailleaugh Andersson. Images & Design by Alex Severin