Jun 042015

Welcome back to MB. Hope you’ve got plenty of ink this week. Have fun!

An undertaker, also known as a mortician or funeral director, is a person who prepares dead bodies for burial or cremation and makes arrangements for funerals. The term undertaker refers to anyone who undertakes a task. The specific use of the word emerged in the 1690s from funeral-undertaker. One of the more specialised roles of the undertaker is embalming: the science (or some would say art) of preserving human remains by treating them with chemicals.

Angelina Jolie, who celebrates the big four-oh today, once dropped out of acting school and took a home-course in embalming to pursue her ambition of becoming an undertaker. Jolie is the daughter of actors Marcheline Bertrand and Jon Voight. Her parents separated when she was very young, and her mother gave up her acting career to raise her. When she was fourteen, with the approval of her mother, Jolie’s boyfriend moved in with her, and they lived like a ‘married couple’ for two years. It was during this period that she developed an interest in punk culture and embalming. Once the relationship ended, Jolie returned to acting school and went on to star in the Tomb Raider movies, win one Academy Award and be nominated for another. In 2008 Jolie spoke of her punk phase when she said:

I am still at heart—and always will be—just a punk kid with tattoos.

Lets wish Angelina a happy birthday with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Todd via CC.

Photo Credit: Todd via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Jessica Franken, winner of MB1.22, and MB1.33! Read her winning stories, and what she has to say about flash fiction here.


A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with UNDER and ending with TAKER and incorporating the photo prompt.


Anyone, but especially you!


Why not! Because it’s fun. Because it’s a challenge. Because the winner will receive their own winner’s page, their story on the winning stories list, a ‘who is the the author’ feature to be posted next week, entry into the ‘Micro Bookend of the Year’ competition, and a copy of this year’s winning stories compilation.


Now! Get your entry in BEFORE 5:00 am Friday (UK time: http://time.is/London).




Post your story in the comments section. Include the word count and your Twitter username (if you’re Twitterized). Don’t forget to read the full rules before submitting your story.

Anything else?

Please give your story a title. It will not be included in the word count.

Please try to leave comments on a couple of other stories. It’s all part of the fun, and everyone likes feedback!

Remember, only stories that use the bookends exactly as supplied (punctuation is allowed) will be eligible to win.

  278 Responses to “Micro Bookends 1.34 – UNDER [micro] TAKER”

  1. Margaritaville Reversal
    (101 words)

    Under the influence of a Margaritaville haze,
    he’d gotten the ‘thing’ in his wilder days.

    Now he regretted and oftentimes fretted,
    no one can know, and it really can’t show.

    Key West life behind, but the future looked grim,
    in seminary, he’d have to get her off of him.

    He showered in private, avoiding his classmates,
    and dared not go swimming when out on a date.

    He hated mirrors where she stared coyly out,
    “Put on some clothes,” he wanted to shout.

    A future ‘man of the cloth’, he wasn’t a faker,
    But for the removal, he can’t find a taker.

    • It would be interesting to hear the backstory on this. Did you mean “but” instead of “bur” in the last line?

    • Thanks for catching that Amberlee, I did mean ‘but’.

      Backstory: In Jimmy Buffett’s song “Margaritaville” the MC gets a tattoo of a woman while under the influence, but doesn’t remember doing it. In a movie (I forget if it’s South Pacific or Operation Petticoat, with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis) one of the men has a risque tattoo that all the sailors love, but he wishes to get rid of because he’s gotten engaged back home. And tattoos are almost a way of life in Florida. However, as many grow older they seek to have them removed when they enter the business world, or change their outlook on life. All of this influenced my take on the prompt and how I wrote the story. I hope it helps.

  2. Into the Dark
    (110 Words)

    Under the lid of the coffin it smelled of fresh pine.
    No one had told me what happens after you die; I didn’t expect this.
    The wood-splinters stuck to my fingers, the air tasted stale, and memories stayed tattooed to the walls of my slowly rotting mind.
    I felt something spidery climb its way up my chest.
    “Hello.” Said Death.
    ‘Hello’ I thought, and heard Death smile.
    “I’ve watched your life. You seem so kind.”
    My friends always jokingly called me ‘The Giver’, I thought.
    Death leaned in.
    What felt like a bony finger caressed my face.
    “You may be the giver,” it whispered, “but I am the taker.”

  3. When power corrupts
    @geofflepard 110 words
    Under the influence. That’s the accusation. Like the guilt isn’t tattooed on my forehead.
    You can’t stop, can you? You can hold up a mirror but it doesn’t show who pulls the strings. You look to blame someone else. ‘He held the gun, that nutter.’
    Bottom line it’s down to you. The incessant clamour, Siren voices chirping away. Telling you it’s natural, it just is. But you decide.
    I wanted to give back, you know, when I ran. Principled. I would do good. Now? Just one signature and we go to war. Because I have that power. Lives inevitably taken to keep me here. I’m the giver who’s turned taker.

  4. Under the raw light of the lamppost
    She laid.
    Feeling weak and left with nothing
    But scars of pain.
    Waiting for the judgements of her sins
    Was it the lifting of the morning frost?
    The cold…
    No, it was only
    Her sorrows
    Reminding her
    The guilt
    Of forgotten
    Her example was built.
    She would never reach Heaven.
    Because of what she had given
    The light getting more and more dim,
    The sparkle of her eyes
    Life was
    He watched her
    He was the virginity taker

    • EDITED

      The Loss

      Under the raw light of the lamppost
      She laid.
      Feeling weak and left with nothing
      But scars of pain.
      Waiting for the judgements of her sins
      Was it the lifting of the morning frost?
      The cold…
      No, it was only
      Her sorrows
      Reminding her
      The guilt
      Of forgotten
      Her example was built.
      She would never reach Heaven.
      Because of what she had given
      The light getting more and more dim,
      The sparkle of her eyes
      Life was
      He watched her
      He was the virginity taker

    • Interesting, sad, red

    • I forgot to add that there are 90 words


    Under the arms hurt the worst. Even worse than “you know where.” I’ve been doing ink for twenty three years and I’ve seen it all. Colorful koi fish. Anchors on sailors. Thousands of tramp stamps. Skulls on well, everyone.

    My least favorite? Eye lids. In fact I hate all face and neck tattoos. One word for that: unemployable.

    No matter what letters I poke into someone’s body, 90% of the time it spells “regret.”

    It’s my living, but I sure as hell don’t have any. When it comes to these permanent mistakes, I’m a giver not a taker.

    • You did it again, Steven – convinced me that you have direct knowledge of the subject you are writing about. (You must have had a very colourful life…) Smooth use of the bookends. Enjoyable read.
      [ Here’s a tip, if word count is tight: numbers that are two words when spelled out are actually hyphenated – e.g. ‘twenty-three’ in your story. 😉 ]

      • Sorry Geoff, never been in a tattoo joint, but I’ll take your words as a compliment! Thanks for the tip about the word count.

    • ‘No matter what letters… it spells regret.’ What a great line! You moved so smoothly from the first word prompt to the last – love the hint of humour and the narrator’s voice. Great

    • Agree with , Geoff. Are you a tattooist? I’m convinced!

      • Just the muse in my little ol’ head making up stories again! Thanks for the kind words.

    • This is great! Love the title.

    • Straight to the point

    • Wise man.

      • Steph, my friends and I used to play a game: if you HAD to get a tattoo…where and what? Care to share?

        • Never, ever, ever; but if I HAD to, it would be small, back of shoulder and would probably be a small phoenix in memory of some close family & friends. My eldest daughter has a line from a Metallica song on her arm! What about you? Should be an open question to everyone at MicroB this week!

    • No matter what letters I poke into someone’s body, 90% of the time it spells “regret.” Love that line 🙂 He should travel to high schools giving this speech 🙂

    • That ‘regret’ line is brilliant. My husband has a number of tattoos. He gets a new one every summer. He always assures me the next one will be the last- it never is! Also someone told me that you should never get a tattoo from an artist who is covered in them. Your story rings true!

  6. Twitter @AvLaidlaw
    107 words

    The Tyger

    Under all those tattoos, I think, she would be pretty enough. You can see it in the way she walks through the twilight room, little different to other girls but for the tiger stripes inked across her face and her neck. It must have taken months of pain under the needle. I ask her why she did it. “Why not?” Her breath is hot and feral. “You find it strange?” The pale light from the window burns brightly in the night of her eyes. She hasn’t scarred herself. It is fear, the prickling of my skin and the tightness in my chest. She is beautiful. A breath-taker.

  7. under the Thames, I slip
    to wager my soul
    with a request
    for the river’s soft geometry
    to be etched into my bones
    by lungfuls of salt ink;
    asking, in return
    for nothing more
    than a gentle end to sorrow
    a return to the source
    to be held safe
    in its ebb and flow
    But this is not like falling asleep
    in some tidal shadow
    as my thoughts are
    exchanged for fire
    and my body whelves like an eel
    before turning to stone
    just another thermal fax
    eyes rolling up and sinking
    ghost written
    for the odds were uninteresting
    and The Old Man of the River
    is always the taker.


    • Sorry – the piece is called “Thermal Fax”.

      A thermal fax or copier is used to transfer tattoo stencils onto the skin, to make sure the end result is as expected.

    • Such imagery! You can almost smell the river. It’s lovely, so lyrical and beautiful and sad. Really nice work

    • Gorgeous!! Lots of poems today… I wonder if it’s due to no 3LineThurs… 😉

      • thank you Foy and Lynn. I’ve never realised there were so many place you can write on the internet!!!

    • @dazmb
      108 words
      Title: Thermal Fax

      under the Thames I slip
      wagering my soul
      for lungfuls of salt ink
      to etch the fabric of the water
      into my bones
      asking in return
      for nothing more
      than an end to sorrow
      safe passage to the source
      to be held as a lullaby
      in a gentle ebb and flow
      but there is no slow falling asleep
      in a comforting tidal shadow
      thoughts are exchanged for panicked fire
      my body whelves like an eel
      and regret pulls me down
      as my eyes roll up into permanence
      another thermal fax, ghost written
      for the odds were uninteresting
      and The Old Man of the River
      is always the taker

      (ahem – I’ve rewritten it into something I’m a bit more happy with and will probably continue to do so in the privacy of my own head for some time. I promise not to clog up your board with any further edits though! Many apologies)

  8. Waro’s Three Decisions
    108 words

    Under duress, Waro’s decisions were poor.

    So when Meerla the Artist showed up in the Tattoo Ship Waro followed his colleagues aboard. Meerla offered to tattoo their division insignia amongst their home constellations; “All the soldiers are doing it,” she said.

    “I want two!” said Yorfa.

    “I bet Waro’s too chicken,” said Zeep.

    Waro volunteered to go first.

    He was relieved to learn that Meerla used anesthetic. When he woke, she showed him the mirror.

    “What the ding-dong have you done?” Waro shrieked.

    “Isn’t it marvelous?”

    “No! You’ve covered my entire body! Do the rest of them look like this?”

    “Nope,” Meerla said. “You were the only taker.”

  9. 110 Words

    Sleeping Beauty

    Under the leer of a new moon, inky slithers melt into life.
    A mermaid licks salt-crusted lips, flicks her scales and dives, breaking through the waves of skin that roll across your chest.
    The rose unfurls its petals, nips at flightless doves, thorns snatching at banners declaring ‘Stella’, ‘Gloria’ ‒ ‘Mum’.
    You wanted ‘ink’ ‒ to be a man. Now the pictures that smother your skin smother you.
    They weave and warp to form a tattoo where you never felt the sting before – your throat.
    You dream of the needle, of the sea, of Sleeping Beauty cradled in her bramble nest. You stir, gasp, swallow.
    Ink is your final breath-taker.

  10. 109 Words

    The bedpost tattoo

    Under the leer of a new moon, she watches Guy sleep. For hours, he’s lain blue-lit by the moon, gold-lit by her torch.
    Memories fall through her mind like knives, murdering each old, fond thought. Her fingernails once scratched at his bicep as she counted and recounted the notches on his bedpost tattoo. He laughed – swore, ‘no more women, baby, not since you’.
    Finally, he groans, disturbed by the torchlight or his own dark thoughts. He twists, rolls over, arm thrown up to cover his face.
    The torchlight shivers as she counts.
    As she runs through the cold, cruel half-light, he is transformed, renamed. No longer Guy, but Faith-taker.

  11. Something to Remember Him By
    110 words

    Under your anklebone: a silver bell. The last Christmas Dad came home, stumbling through the candy-cane winks of the lights.

    On your left wrist: the dove outline. The little brother you never got to hold, whose growth had crowded out Mom’s lap (not that she got much chance to sit around after Dad left). You should have saved that space for the third.

    Above the left breast: a glass heart spidered with fractures but still whole for what Mom did (and you finding her).

    The inner thigh: a dagger, a name, and a future date. You did it yourself. You’d showed the design to local artists without a single taker.

  12. Under

    110 words

    Under the tattoo on my chest is a hole. Hidden by the magnificent inked wings that beat to the rhythm of my breathing.

    It is a tunnel. Needle-thin.

    You searched for it once, feather-light fingers upon my feather-etched skin. “There’s no hole, hun,” you smiled.

    “Here,” I whispered, pulling you closer. “Listen.” Your cheek was cool against my indigo skin, your brow knitted. “Don’t you hear the echoes inside? The wind, howling right through? “

    You made no reply as you were slowly sucked in, atom by atom, along the thread-wide entrance to my soul.

    You were just another sweet lover. A generous donor.

    And I am the Taker.

  13.  Him

    (105 words)
    Under my skin; deep in my bones- that’s where he knows he is.
    Under an inky spell, written through the layers of me, that’s where he knows I am.
    He cocks his head to one side, the edge of a story flashes above shirt collar.
    I lean in to hierolgyphs and kiss- danger tastes like sulphur.
    Black pours on to sky while orange accelerates across the page of us.
    Flames lick at the ticking clock, and I know it’s Time that’s burning. I offer him my breath in screams; he draws it in, sucking at it, taking.

  14. @fs_iver
    WC: 110

    Supply and Demand

    “Under the breasts, yep, inflate those to a Double D. Sorry, what’s the question?”

    “Your response to critics who say your work’s insulting to women?”

    “Go shave yourself. Can I say that on BioWaves? The tongues wagged over genetic modification, they’ll wag over replica science. Crank AC/DC loud enough ya can’t hear ‘em.”

    “Sir, any comment, ‘What Brian O’Canna does is cheap imitation, a tattoo artist playing God’?”

    “Is this an interrogation or an interview–Kyle, program a little more squeeze in that trunk.”

    “Are 3D printed women really females if they can’t produce children?”

    “Now who’s sexist? Look lady, I’ll be the maker as long as there’s a taker.”

  15. (94 words) The Chocking Game

    Under the pressure, he wanted to play the « Choking Game ». His throat was more and more tightened by the scarf. He could not breathe anymore. He firstly felt dizzy with some impression of bliss. The beaming faces of his friends faded away. The smiles were pulled further every second, looking darker, like if weary of the sunlight. The shapes became more and more round, pledging new experiences. It was almost impossible to deny the promises brought by the gloom. He closed his eyes, fainted and passed away to meet the life taker.

    • oups *choking and I forgot to incorporate the photo

    • Dangerous game, he got caught out in the end.

    • Ooooh, I remember when people played that game (I think they called it something different). Although they claimed it was harmless, I was always afraid it would end like this.

      • Perhaps the other name of the game I’m referring to is the “Scarf Game? I know that there are several ways to call it

  16. The Cost of Beauty
    110 Words

    “Under the male gaze again, aren’t you?” Bradley thought, as he decided which shade of rouge would give her the most life. Even in death, the actress-turned-activist could not get away from being objectified.

    She was too beautiful for her own good. The media constantly disregarded the content of her speeches in favor of talking about her appearance. Had she gained weight? Were those dark circles under her eyes? Are her breasts fake?

    In her last speech, she begged them to rise above such shallowness. It’s hard to stay afloat when heavy shackles of judgment weigh you down.

    She asked for someone to free her.

    He was the only taker.

  17. Towanda
    108 words

    Under her dress, I tattooed the word “WASHED” the day before she got married. I never thought I’d see the blue ink on her skin again.

    The pouring sheets of rain like blankets, the car careening across the mid-line like a bouncy ball from a slingshot, the shattered glass and flying body—it was too much.

    Thrown from her car, I found her first. Her wet hair plastered the highway by a rip in her dress.


    If I’d taken the time to know her, she’d have told me her marriage was forced, and she wanted to be washed free from him.

    Finally, the river swelled a taker.

  18. My Beloved Abby
    107 words

    Under the bridge is where I found Abby.

    The doctor said my wife was infertile. We did not have enough money to adopt a child. Hell, we could barely pay rent.

    Abby meant father’s delight. I liked that.

    I loved Abby. She brought so much content to my life; I even got her name tattooed on my chest.

    But when my wife decided to leave me, she took Abby with her, my only window of light.

    My wife had darkened my room and murdered the lights.

    I took Abby, not her. Abby was mine, not hers.

    Abby belonged to me.

    Once again, I had been her taker.

  19. Politics and an insane man

    109 Words


    Under my bed, a stolen crossbow and a map of Sherwood Forest, and both are real. Caught the bus, but wanted to go by space-plane, that new thing that takes you to where Neil Armstrong went, not as far, but you get weightless, if only I had money to burn and a hard head. Don’t lose heart; a future can live for you, despite your past, your primitive weapons. Arrived at Wooded Glade, saw him, the Communist Robin Hood; Comrade felt the warmth of my arrow, straight through his Heart tattoo – “Mum.” I was a thief, he was a thief, I was the giver, he was the taker.

  20. Mutiny by Design
    108 words

    Under the delicate light of Candra, Maiya dabbed thick brown paste on her best friend’s shoulder. The earthy scent of the completed designs mingled with that of the nearby honeysuckle. She fanned the damp paste so it could be quickly covered by the simple blue service worker’s uniform.

    The mehendi art, practiced for generations on Earth, was banned here as an act sacrilegious terrorism.

    By day, she was a regulatory nurse, ensuring hospitals followed strict government guidelines. Quiet and obedient, no one ever suspected that hidden beneath her garments were the marks of silent rebellion.

    Because only in night’s transforming power did she disclose a latent inner risk-taker.

  21. Games
    108 words

    “Under!” A boy yelled.

    “Under what?” The class responded.


    The class erupted in laughter.

    “Under!” A girl yelled.

    “Under what?” The class responded.


    The class remained silent.

    “Oh, don’t you boys know anything?” The girl asked, aggravated.

    “We know underwear,” the boy supplied.

    “There’s more to girls than underwear.”

    “There is?” The boy asked, suddenly curious and curiously flushed.


    “Prove it,” he egged her on. “Or, lose the game.”

    The girl stuck out her tongue and lifted her shirt over her head.

    Their teacher rushed forward, then. Gabbing the boy and girl and moving them to time-out.

    Another boy stepped forward and smiled. “Next taker?”

  22. @stellakateT
    102 words

    Designs of Life

    Under the soil is serenity, the scent of the lilac pungent and cloying; the nicest spot in the garden. She always admired it, watching the sun rising, its rays stretching across the lawn and ending at the tree roots. I remember when I took her to meet Todd, she tried to appear calm but she was terrified. I told her all the top models did it. She chose this crazy little design, our initials entwined around a purple thistle. Todd laughed and said another one. There are six buried here I have souvenirs of all my girls. I am the tattoo taker.

    • I really like the romantic landscape at the beginning to finish in a rather depressing way

    • Found this both sad and dark, my murderous mind was imagining all sorts!

    • I’m a little disturbed by Todd’s response. Maybe my mind’s playing twisted dark games, but shouldn’t he suspect something’s afoot? Well written 🙂

    • Very dark!
      [ Did you mean to say ‘Todd laughed and said, “Another one?” ‘? I don’t understand that sentence as it stands. :-$ ]

  23. Pictogram of Pain

    93 words


    Under the skin the path of ink
    Stains a pictogram of pain
    Swirling its palette through neural highways
    Imprinting an image, indelible, inerasable
    On recumbent body and captured soul

    Needle-etched with pinpoint precision
    A story is sketched for the world to see
    As impulse turns unwise declaration
    Into untruth, a falsehood on show
    When the pulse slows and the story changes

    Words imprison flesh, sentence it to life
    Covering the heart, broken beneath
    A testament to be taken to the grave
    An offer made of undying love
    But not redeemed, none the taker

  24. Inked
    109 words
    Kelly Turner

    Under the flickering fluorescent lights, Len gripped onto his seat. A wave of nausea flooded through him. God, he hated needles. The buzz got closer, and Len felt the sweat prickle on his forehead. The needle seared his skin. He tried to grab for it, but his arms were strapped too tightly.

    This was it. The poison would be starting to seep into his body. His breathing became ragged, muscles limp. Was this how the woman had felt? As the tattooist inked the crossed daggers onto his arm, his vision started to fade. At least he wouldn’t be aware of the embalming: his final punishment as a life taker.

  25. Circle

    Under the water his ashes are scattered amongst the pebbles. Jonathan Albert Conrad. Next week would have been his ninetieth birthday.

    The family leaves. Car doors slam. Trains follow tracks.

    The wind whips the waves and the tide rolls across the sand.

    The piece that held his cancer drifts far away across the ocean.
    The hand that held his wife’s, right up until the end, flows round to Cornwall where they honeymooned in ’46.
    His foot is carried to Dover, ready to kick out Hitler if he dares a second attempt.

    Water: life giver, life taker.



    Brian S Creek
    110 words

    “Under no circumstances do you hurt my father,” said Chris.

    “Which one is he?” said Mike, as he picked up a hardback bible from a bookshelf

    Lined up in front of the pair were seventy-nine very angry prisoners. They looked hungry. For violence.

    “I’ll deal with the degenerates.” said Chris.

    “Who you callin’ ‘degenerates’?” said a scar faced man with an out of date moustache.

    Chris sighed. He rolled up his sleeves, revealing phoenix tattoos on each forearm. With a simple incantation, the fiery birds left his skin.

    The colour drained from the prisoners and they fled en masse.

    Only one man remained. Chris smiled. “He’ll be the only taker.”

  27. THUMB NAIL SKETCHER (110 words)

    Under lock and key is a hard way to live. It’s the boredom of prison life that gets to you. But I’m an artist, I must create. I’m the Ink Man of Alcatraz.

    I chew up colored pages in magazines and squeeze out the ink. Then I collect finger nail clippings. Seriously. I’m not sh**tin’ you. I sharpen them into a needle sharp point and there you have it.

    The guys line up for my work. Cigarettes, extra food. Sometimes protection. That’s my fee.

    I used to steal things to get by. It’s nice to provide a service, and not be a taker.

    • Another fine read, Steven! (I suppose you’ll deny you’ve ever been inside too, right?)

    • Collecting finger nail clippings – ugh, but great use of bookends.

  28. The Amazonian Scar
    101 words

    Under her breastbone the scar shone livid. Harsh coils of flesh sewn together but not repaired. She couldn’t regrow a breast. She didn’t want surgery either.

    Anger surged through her. At her. This wasn’t her, she had won. The cancer had been cut out of her body. She had vanquished it. She wouldn’t cry for her lost breast. She would celebrate it.

    A quick google search then a phone call and she was all booked in. Soon, when the stitches were out and the wound was finished the ink would soak in. A picture of an Amazonian, the ultimate breast taker.

    • A brilliant take on the book ends and prompt. I really like the phrase ‘harsh coils of flesh.’

    • I love this character – so strong and inspiring. Amazing to create such strong empathy in 101 words.

    • An uplifting, inspirational story, Gem.
      [ ‘Amazonian’ is an adjective, so its use in the title is correct. In the last sentence, a member of the mythological, all-female warrior race is simply ‘an Amazon’. 🙂 ]

    • Wonderful take on the prompt.

  29. Tomorrow

    Under the buzz of streetlamps he tried to absorb his neighborhood, but the light was heavy and settled on the asphalt before it could pierce the darkness. It was alright though; he could picture the entire street in his head: The corner store’s broken neon lights announcing the once funny, but so familiar “44th Street Pubic Market”, the tattoo/ barbershop, where he had had his first haircut, his first tattoo, and his first time, and the apartment complex where he shot the man that raped his sister.

    He breathed it all in. Tomorrow he would be charged with murder, but that fuck was the real life taker.

    110 words

    • I read this after only a few hours sleep – last minute entry for me… again – but the phrase “…the light was heavy and settled on the asphalt before it could pierce the darkness” leapt off the screen and slapped me in the face: a real stick-in-the-mind line. Great pacing to an emotive ending. Good work, Carlos.

    • Powerful slice of urban life from the wrong side of the streets.

  30. Reflecting
    101 words

    Under the fingers, the handle lay cold. The intricate detail of the embossed design felt as detailed as braille to her fingertips. It was heavy, yet she knew it was because she was weak. Through discomfort – and fear – she slowly raised her hand.

    A stranger appeared. The sunken eyes looked at her, squinting hard in a vain attempt at recognition. Hollowed cheeks fell away sharply either side of the mouth. Pursed, dry lips were lost to the pale white of the skin. Dropping her hand, she rested back and felt a tear.

    The mirror had become her beauty taker.

  31. Emily Clayton
    107 words

    Double Dare

    “Under or over?”

    “Excuse me?”

    “The crescent moon. Under or over?”

    I look at him like he’s the crazy one sitting here in a grubby, splattered plastic chair. “Over. I want to look cute, not like someone who hasn’t slept in 25 years.”

    He laughs. “A few women have made rather strange requests.”

    What does he expect? The entire situation is atypical. I peel myself off the chair and pirouette before the mirror. The mime body painting is divine. I point to my chest. “You forgot a spot. It would be so much easier to get a tattoo. If someone dares me, you know I’m a taker.”

  32. The Art of Preservation
    A.J. Walker

    Under the railway arches – behind drifts of pigeon shit where the iridescent grime on the bricks portray history through chemical signatures – time and space plays weird tricks. Angel and Mr Jolly (now quiet hipsters) have rented one arch for generations.

    This week they were preparing Mr Jeffries. Mr Jolly looked through their records feeling for his life’s narrative; his ink ready for when the images flowed into his head. Angel pinched the old man’s skin between thumb and forefinger – feeling the inelasticity of age.

    History threaded as storybook; art. Of man: on man. Preserved.

    One day their genius would be acknowledged; then the mounds of bodies would find a taker.

    (110 words)


  33. My Captain
    by Adam Houlding
    110 words

    Under derelict and dusty floorboards, Mama hid me before the soldiers arrived.
    Yugoslav jackboots stomping. Breaking furniture. Pleading.
    The Captain.
    He shoved Mama against Papa. His pistol released them of burdens. He paid our neighbour handsomely and stacked my parents above me. Him.
    I hid for two days. I felt nothing.

    Thirteen years old.

    Ten years later, I still feel nothing.
    My eyes open and I see the bearded illustrator. His stressed face, scratching artwork into my skin. I force a mistake. Again. Again.
    I pray for septic pain. I must have this. I need to feel again.
    Something. Anything.
    But only see him.
    My innocence thief, my childhood taker.

    • Wow! Fantastic Adam. Heartbreaking. Some wonderful phrases too.

    • I admire the way you create a whole story, crossing time and space, in so few words. I think the lack of appropriate feelings following a tragedy is very common but is seldom talked about. You do it brilliantly here.

    • a complete essence captured, very moving and sad

  34. — Dip In The Supply —

    “Under the stairs!”

    “No need to shout, Dad. I’m right here.”

    Only darkness.

    “Check the hook.”

    She rummages and sniffs.

    “Nope. Ah, could still be outside after last week’s fireworks.”

    “Fantastic. And what were you and Magnus doing when the power went?”


    I jump as she sneezes.

    “Huh. That cap of his, you’d think he’d be useful.”


    “You know, AC/DC?”


    “Forget it.”

    There’s a click. As if by magic, we’re bathed in light. Then I notice the brown patch beneath her nose.

    “What’s that?”

    “Relax, Dad, it’s snus. Perfectly legal.”

    “Now you’re a secret snuff taker?”

    109 words

  35. Miscarriage of Justice

    Under cross-examination by the DA, I crumpled.

    At first he was friendly, saying he knew how I must have felt: locked in a basement until I was ten, bullied in the care home, desperate for affection when I grew too old to stay.

    But then he needled me repeatedly about the terrible things they say I did to those girls.

    Wanting it to stop, I confessed.

    I looked to the jury, but they glared at me or turned away in disgust.

    I looked to my lawyer but he stared at the papers on his desk.

    Who would be my friend now?

    It seemed like Death was the only taker.

    Word Count: 109

    • Geoff, I understand this MC more than you can imagine. I taught history in high school for a few years then worked with emotionally disturbed youth for fifteen years. For two of those years I worked in a school for youth sex offenders. Almost 100% of these kids were abused and were desperately seeking some affection. My students chose the worst way possible. They needed to be “in control” after a lifetime of being subject to extreme neglect and/or abuse. Many would be in a “locked down” school until the were 21, some would move on to adult prison after that. A few would commit suicide (one while I was there). It was a tragic cycle of broken, horribly dysfunctional homes. Our job was to break that cycle by teaching self-respect and respect for others. My old history lesson plans were of secondary importance. I can only hope I made a little difference in their lives. At least I got them to smile every once in a while.

      • Thank you so much for sharing that, Steven. I really appreciate it.
        It looks like your story “Most Parlors Are Near Bars” and mine have made their own bookends this week as I too have no experience at all in the subject of the story. I just hope that I have managed to convey a kernel of truth from this tragic situation.

      • On a lighter note and by a happy coincidence, stand-up comedian and punmeister @TonyCowards posted this one-liner yesterday:
        “Just had unprotected sex with an undertaker and now worried I might have a Funereal Disease.”
        Wacka! Wacka!

  36. @dazmb
    110 words
    title: everafter

    under a blood moon
    I watch you
    wordless in rhythm
    looking for the ever-after
    you once promised
    to the ring on the bedside table
    gold as the night closes in
    silent and luminous
    from the birdsong caged in your throat
    to the gloss of his sweat
    inking itself to your skin
    waiting in anticipation
    for something to come undone
    I turn away, look
    at a horizon fracturing
    into a thousand ruby fingers
    that reach across the sky
    and into our bed, left unmade
    and the light in your eyes
    now fading
    the things I keep
    buried deep in the woods
    mortal acts
    of rage and love
    so take her, taker

    • oops..sorry the fifth line from the end should read ‘the things I keep’ rather than ‘the things I love’ – is it possible to change please?

      • I’ve made the change. The contest closed a few hours ago so this one won’t be going to the judge. Doesn’t stop the rest of us enjoying it though. 🙂

        • No worries…I enjoyed writing it although I wasn’t sure whether submitting a second entry would be allowed in any case.

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