Race the Date #3

 

26 Hours | 300 Words | 1 Globetrotting Prompt

 

RTDbadge

Please welcome our judge, paranormal romance author, Siobhan Muir. I’ve coaxed her away from military research and polishing her upcoming book, The Navy’s Ghost, to join us today.

siobhanandtheboys

 

About Race the Date:

  • The challenge runs for 26 hours, from 0500 EST on Monday until 0700 EST on Tuesday.

  • Prompts are inspired by the different time zones.

  • Minimum word count is 100 words, maximum is 300 words.

  • Include your word count (mandatory) and Twitter handle (recommended).

  • Generally speaking, a winners blog will be posted by Wednesday evening (EST).

  • Race the Date awards an overall Winner and up to three Honorable Mentions.

 

 

Why 26 hours? Barring daylights savings time tomfoolery, the challenge is set to begin when UTC+14 (the first time zone to roll into any given day) begins a new day and ends when the last time zone, UTC-12, begins that same date.

This week’s globetrotting prompt is inspired by UTC+12:

Kamchatka, located in UTC +12, is always one of my favorite areas to win in the classic strategy game, Risk. C’mon, it’s just so fun to say.

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The Prompt: a risky game

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Post your story in the comments below. The clock is ticking. Good writing and good luck!

51 thoughts on “Race the Date #3

  1. I entered Paradise Hotel, a misnomer if I’d ever experienced one, with my game face on. Cracking wallpaper, covered in nicotine-stained roses, decorated the poorly-lit lobby. A fine film of dust coated the unmanned front desk. I didn’t have a badge or a gun to back me up, so I had to tread carefully on these worn carpets. I inhaled deeply, letting my senses learn the territory. An unexpectedly familiar tang sent a shiver through me.

    I tasted sugar coated vinegar on my tongue and coughed to cover my gag reflex. Someone heard me.

    “Just a moment.” The distinct click of heels on linoleum accompanied the smooth, feminine voice. “I’ll be right there.”

    I wanted to leave. Maybe I even needed to leave. Something about her voice froze me in place. How did moving work again? My breaths came in short, sharp pants.

    She emerged from some back room, so lovely and fluid. I shivered to fully see the face that haunted so many of my dreams. Dark chocolate hair, honey kissed skin, deep brown eyes. I could fall into the warmth of her and—

    A firm hand gripped my arm and spun me, breaking my focus.

    “What the hell are you doing here?”

    “Jason?” I blinked, trying to remember. “I don’t—I—what are you doing here?”

    “Good morning, Jason.” She purred the greeting. “So good to see you again.”

    Shit. Shit, shit, shit. No, she did not talk to my partner as though she had intimate knowledge of him.

    “Ms. Foster.” He said it with a sharp nod, no smile. Good to know he could shag my nightmares and keep it professional. To me, he said, “Outside. Now.”

    He stalked out and I faced Ms. Foster.

    “Your move, Ranger.” She smiled. “I do hope it’s a good one.”

    @caramichaels
    300 WIP words

  2. “It don’t do us any good to be killin’ each other.”

    Tommy looked around the room. It had taken a lot of work and time to get this meeting put together. He had the leaders from all the gangs in the south side of the city in one room. They’d all agreed to meet.

    Everyone cheered, “Yeah! Yeah!”

    “We get the leaders together, and make a board of directors, like they did in them businesses, and schools.” He paused while the idea sank in. “And we let the board settle our fights for us, so we don’t kill each other.”

    The gang leaders spent all day arguing about how to make it work. Each leader wanted it to work to his advantage. No one wanted to give up being in charge. Tommy understood that. “As long as it ain’t an issue that causes us to fight, we do what we want. No one tells anyone what to do. We just have the council when we’re having fights with each other.”

    They worked up a bunch of rules, and conditions. An old guy from the community college, wrote down all the rules on a big sheet of paper, so everyone could see them. Guys from other groups copied it all down, so everyone had a copy of the rules.

    It was the first step in his plan. Tommy thought it went well. Organizing the gangs into a single, functional unit. It was a risky game. But if it worked out, he’d end up with lots of power. And could do anything he wanted. Take anything he wanted. And get rid of anyone in his way.

    And what he wanted was to own the city.

    @283 Words
    Lurch Munster

  3. Second is Nowhere

    ‘First to the other side the spoils,’ the tall girl said, ‘Second place is nowhere.’

    ‘I’ve heard that somewhere before,’ I said flatly.

    The six of us crouched down by the gate, not wanting to start, but also anxious to get it over with. The mournful horn was due any moment.

    ‘One of us is going to be rich beyond our wildest dreams,’ said a young blonde lad.

    ‘I don’t know, my dreams are pretty wild,’ I said.

    We fell silent and all looked out across The Field, nerves jangling. It had looked innocuous just twenty minutes earlier in the flat grey hardly-light, but as the sun rose and cut through the thin mist and the shadows began to shorten then the debris and game paraphernalia could be resolved in its cruel reality. The legacy of former architecture was strewn across The Field as mangled metal work, piles of stone, bricks and timber and in between these grotesque barrages were random eruptions of soils and rock – craters of death from earlier races.

    Just 15 metres from the gate was a crater still containing the remnants of Clara, the first loser from last months game. Everyone remembered her bravado on the telebox, she was so gung-ho she’d been blown up before the other five contestants had even left the gate.

    I shuddered thinking about her, it brought me back to the reality of it all. Only one of us would get to the other side to be feted, or maybe none at all – any left on the field alive after someone had reached the other side was blown to pieces in a gory firework display. I could see how the rapid dart for it would be preferable to being “so near but so far” – second really wasn’t anywhere.

    @zevonesque
    299 words

  4. Saul’s hand shook as he reached out for the drink the bartender had brought. The glass was dirty, the table was filthy, and the Denebian warlord sitting across from him was the most disgusting creature Saul had ever run across. But there wasn’t a germ in the known universe which could kill him faster than the device sitting on the table in front of him, so he downed the shot of whatever they’d distilled in the jungles outside the bar and tried to ignore the fear.

    No one had ever survived a blast from a disintegration ray. It wasn’t like an old ballistic weapon, where a good surgeon could sew up certain kinds of holes faster than blood could seep out of them. When you got hit with this thing, especially the new ones with AI controls and auto-targeting, you were, to put it in the local lingo, royally fucked. And Saul was about to pick up the blaster, point it at his own head, and fire.

    When he’d made the bet, Saul had planned on being ten light years away – in any direction – but then he’d met Raina, and suddenly there wasn’t enough time to get his clothes on before his launch window closed. The warlord’s lieutenant had smirked when he’d arrived at Saul’s cabin, and his titanium grip hadn’t released for a second until Saul was in the chair he’d die in.

    Licking his lips, he sighed and picked up the blaster. The rules of Russian Roulette hadn’t changed in a thousand years, but you still didn’t want to go first. As he raised the weapon to his temple, Saul caught sight of a familiar face in the corner. Raina winked at him, he smiled, and pulled the trigger.

    291 words
    @drmagoo

  5. “You’re playing a risky game, Sangita.”

    “No, I’m not.”

    “I don’t think this is a good idea. It’s not what anyone expects from me,” Lara complained

    “Maybe it’s time to turn expectations on their ears,” Sangita answered. “Let’s get to work and prepare you for the battle.”

    Three hours later and several stores later, Lara barely felt ready.

    “You’re feeling like you want to back out, aren’t you?” Sangita asked.

    “You’re ready me like a book. How do you do that?”

    “I’m your best friend, it’s required reading.”

    “Did I tell you, I love you like a sister?”

    “That’s not going to get you out of this. Get to work.”

    A month went by and Lara complained, “The work is still not done, I’m losing the battle before it’s begun.”

    “Lara St. James, you give up?” Sangita asked glaring.

    “No, drill sergeant, sir,” Lara cried seriously, spoiling it all with trill laughing.

    Another three month went by and then two years. Lara smiled at Sangita as she carried a large box into their apartment in her hands.

    “Are those what I think they are?” Sangita asked.

    “Yes, I just got these today.”

    Lara tore open the box and handed Sangita a book. Sangita smiled at the book turned it over in her hands and said, “I knew you could write a best seller. You just had to believe.”

    Lara smiled happily, then hugged her best friend and said, “Anything is possible when you have a friend in your corner.”

    249 words
    @SweetSheil

  6. The saloon didn’t look like somewhere a man could make a deal to save his life. His fingers caressing the Colt on his hip, Nate peered through the gloom to find a man staring at him from behind the bar.

    “I’m…” his voice broke embarrassingly. “I need to see your boss. Wanna make a deal.”

    The man wordlessly jerked his thumb at a door to Nate’s left.

    Behind the door was a room, empty save for a poker table and two chairs. A deck of cards sat in the middle of the table.

    Nate blinked, then cursed as a blond man appeared in the chair facing him. Shit.

    The man smiled, his teeth were perfect. “Come in, Nate, I understand you want to bargain with me.”

    Nate closed the door and sat down, his stomach twisting crazily.

    “What do you want?” The man’s voice was low and smooth, like honey over silk.

    “I want to live,” Nate replied huskily. “Kansas wants me dead and I ain’t gonna die at the end of a rope.”

    “The infamous Nate Harrison sees the error of his ways,” the man purred.

    He had blue eyes, Nate noticed, and hair like sunlit corn, he was incredible. Remembering who he was looking at, Nate shuddered.

    “I don’t wanna get lynched,” he clenched his fists. “Want a life. Can you make me not an outlaw?”

    “I can do anything,” the blond shrugged, those eyes boring into Nate like blue fire. “Tell you what, I’ll play you for it. One poker hand. You win, I’ll give you whatever you want.”

    “And if you win?” Nate asked, narrowing his eyes.

    The Devil grinned. “Then your ass is mine, Nate Harrison.”

    Nate sucked in a breath to quell his quivering nerves, then looked at the deck. “Quit smiling and deal.”

    300 words
    @jujitsuelf

    1. Risky game indeed, especially since the devil cheats. Now the question is… does it end like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” or does he lose??? I gotta know!

      1. Wish I could tell you! Nate’s gone quiet on me, won’t tell me what happened. But I have a feeling he’s another character who won’t let me leave him alone, I might have to use him again one day.

        Thanks for the comment!

  7. Standing on the porch of a white, two story house, I knocked on the door. Three sharp raps, two soft knocks and one hard kick.

    “Password.”

    “Dragon.”

    The door opened and I shook hands with Cameron Richardson. His drug gang was second only to mine in Omaha. These meetings are rare and usually not a good thing.

    “Well, Priscilla Mortensen. I hear your gang is recruiting,” he said. “Why?”

    “We lost a couple members last year. Someone shot ‘em.” I pinned a hard glare on him. “And frankly, you owe me.”

    Cameron scoffed, his rough hands rubbing together. “What the fuck do I owe you?”

    I snarled. “Two members and ten grand in cash.”

    “Not many women capable of running the drug trade in Omaha; most of ‘em get caught. Your dad taught you well.”

    “I learned things on my own. And I learned how to deal with people like you.” I placed a loaded pistol on the coffee table. The metal caught the late afternoon sun. “So, two members and ten grand.”

    To his credit, Cameron paused, looking between me and the gun. He then laid his own gun on the table. I wasn’t fazed; I’d been shot before. Drugs are a risky game and sometimes, you pay the price.

    “Five grand and one member. I get you in the trade.”

    I kept one hand on the trigger. “Nice try, Cameron. But I like girls. Ten grand and two members and that’s final.”

    The stare down lasted mere moments. Finally, taking his gun and tucking it back into his waistband, Cameron nodded. He took out his phone and sent a quick text.

    “Two members and ten grand it is. What do I get in return?”

    I pocketed my gun. “You get to live.”

    He gulped.

    @Aightball
    296 Words

  8. “Don’t touch that!”

    Tandilaya’s hand withdrew, “Why the flip not?”

    “You cut that before we reroute the data feed and every ‘bot within 3 Klicks will be here before you can whistle ‘Eight Mile’!” Morley hissed.

    “That old Eminem song?” she hated it when he made classical music analogies.

    “Yes.”

    Morley slid the dark-lens optics high onto his forehead. The plasma torch cast odd shadows along his narrow face as he frantically worked calculations on his wrist pad.

    She sighed audibly and waited impatiently. “You do know the stability of these quantum data streams become unpredictable once you open the nuclei?”

    “Seriously?” he snorted. “And here I thought we had all day!”

    Even in the tensest situations he could joke. This was as tense as it got. They’d spent over a year downloading the schematics for this quantum mainframe Meg by painful Meg. This was the one chance to make this work. Any misstep and Morley was right, half the ILCP would be on them in a flash and the names Morley and Tandilaya would fade into ancient memory.

    “Just a few more seconds,” Morley offered.

    Even though it was colder than Pasco Kola in the Computation Chamber, a bead of sweat appeared on his brow and Morley wouldn’t normally sweat in the desert with a parka on.

    “You’re right either way,” Tandilaya whispered.

    Suddenly the neon green data stream turned translucent blue. The data was now flowing into Aucatel’s main system directly from Percival, the Resistance’s Cyberbrain. They were effectively controlling the information Aucatel received.

    Only thing left was severing the station from the network. By the time it was discovered, Aucatel would be finished.

    “Ready?”

    She nodded and powered up the Nanolaze.

    “You miss and the system goes to override.”

    They held their collective breath as she cut.

    300 words
    @cozmania

  9. “Big Test”
    297 words
    @kristenafc

    “BIG TEST is coming!” The voice crackled from the classroom speaker.

    “We take a standardized test every week.” Vince laughed, and his friends nodded.

    “BIG TEST is days away!” Mr. Sanders, the English teacher, banged his pencil on the desk and darted his eyes from the calendar to the ticking clock above their heads. He pressed too hard when he wrote on the board, and their eardrums quivered from the sound.

    “Damn, Mr. Sanders!” shouted Vince.

    “BIG TEST is the most important test of — your career.”

    “I fail every test,” Vince said. “I don’t even try.”

    Mr. Sanders’ chalk fell to the floor and shattered into a million dusty fragments. He marched over to Vince’s desk and leaned so close Vince could smell the man’s breakfast.

    “BIG TEST is no joking matter!” The man was trembling.

    Vince waited to talk to Mr. Sanders after class. “Will you be fired if we fail?” He asked.

    “Worse,” Sanders whispered, putting his head down.

    On BIG TEST day, the students slouched and daydreamed. Their teachers drifted through the halls, dark circles under their eyes, fists clenched. Some were crying.

    “What’s worse than getting fired?” Vince wondered.

    Vince copied Sally’s answers; he didn’t notice the small glass bubble above his head.

    The next day, a substitute replaced Sanders. Vince was called to the office.

    “Look, I don’t care about tests, but my teachers act like they’re in danger or something.”

    Mr. Howard, the principal turned a hard stare on Vince. “Did your teacher tell you to cheat?” he asked.

    “No!”

    “What did Sanders tell you about BIG TEST?”

    “Nothing! Where is Mr. Sanders?”

    The principal blinked.

    “Mr. Sanders! Mr. Sanders!” Vince jumped out of his chair and ran out.

    Mr. Howard picked up his phone. “We have a problem,” he said.

  10. Only a fool would play such a risky game with a dragon, thankfully fool was my middle name…actually it was Rose but tall, dark and evil didn’t know that. I spun the throw dart in my hand, with many years of practice I didn’t end up losing a finger.

    “You seriously want to take me on?” I was a little insulted by the disbelief I heard in his voice.

    “Yeah, you’ve been around since the dawn of time, surely you’ve heard the taller they are, the harder they fall.”

    He scoffed, “I’ve also heard pride before a fall, biting off more than you can chew and a million others that apply to you. We don’t have to be enemies, we could be friends?”

    Now it was my turn to laugh. His eyes narrowed in displeasure. “We’ve been enemies before either one of us where born.”

    His black eyes widened in surprise. “Did you just quote the Terminator at me?”

    @ellagrey26
    Word count 158

  11. Muse

    They might have been there all along, the fear, the anxiety, the hallucinations, stored in the brinks of a falsely remembered happy scene from his past. He might of coped with an alternate version of the truth, indulging on desire to feel good and know less.

    Had he not delved now to find his muse and spill monsters on paper, it would have stayed a happy lie. But the driving necessity of escaping this limbo of plots and twists had made him a slave of a nagging voice in his head. Cut yourself open, pour it from within, write it with your whole being.

    The pen slipped between his fingers and rolled on the desk across the scattered pile of torn and ink soaked papers. He stared at his trembling wrist, at his numb fingers refusing to wield the instrument of his craft. He’d cut them to see if he’d feel anything, and now they bled under the bandages.

    He pushed himself back, away from blank papers and cursed words.

    Shadows ran on the walls and when he closed his eyes he could hear them scratching inside the walls, tip-toeing behind his back. It was an empty room with a dim light when he opened them again. He’d miss days and live nights, listening to the taps and scratches behind the walls of his mind.

    He choked on the inability to create. Ink stained and ill he lay, curled in a ball on the wooden floor, his lips mumbling that which his hands couldn’t write.

    Bend and broken he listened to the voice and the scratches stopped.

    His body was the vessel of the word, and the word was spelled in red. The scratches manifested behind the walls of his house. Madly born monsters made real, made strong.

    @Raptamei

    298 words

  12. “I’ll need the nullifier by Friday morning. Have a safe house ready by that evening if you can. If not, the latest is Saturday.” Lindsey slowed down to a walk as they neared the parking lot. “The Man Cave Club is only really busy on those two nights and that’s the only way I can sneak him out.”

    Courtney nodded as she grabbed her ankle behind her thigh. “When I got what you need I’ll text you and drop the nullifier in the regular place. What’s your exit strategy?”

    “Drunk couple headed home for sex.” Lindsey shrugged. “I don’t expect him to be steady on his feet and if we come out through the club, we’ll blend in with the other partiers.”

    “What about cameras and bouncers?”

    “We can duck the cameras and the bouncers will see what they expect.” Lindsey stretched out her quads as she scanned the parking lot for anyone who might be close enough to listen. “Just make sure there’s a safe house. We’ll both need a place to lay low for a few days.”

    “Will do.”

    “And Court?”

    Her handler met her gaze. “This is the last one of these. I can’t do this anymore. I’m serious.”

    Courtney nodded. “All right, Jenna. I’ll put in the paperwork if you’re sure.”

    “I’m sure.” Lindsey had reached saturation and John represented the final straw in this risky game. “So I’ll see you back here on Friday morning?”

    Courtney waved and climbed into her car. Lindsey returned to her stretches and closed her eyes. She’d get out of this false life come hell or high water. She’d save her sexy sailor and win her freedom.

    267 ineligible WIP words from Bronco’s Rough Ride
    @SiobhanMuir

  13. Thanks, Obamacare

    Jamie shuddered but did not blink, keeping his eyes on the cut-out tacked to the wall for as long as possible before the blindfold was secured. He memorized the cut-out’s contours, focusing on the critical zone. Some of the players had placed close. Very close. He had to be closer.

    Hands gripped his shoulders, forcing him to spin. One…Two…Three times. The floor tipped and Jamie staggered sideways. He took three compensatory steps in the opposite direction. Hands gripped his shoulders again, but this time he was shoved forward. Toward the wall, the cut-out, and salvation.

    The memorized image was a perfect imprint in his mind; he approached the wall as if he weren’t blindfolded at all. Jamie reached out an arm and, without hesitation, plunged the pin into the wall. There was a collective gasp from the other players.

    Jamie removed his blindfold, his Cheshire Cat grin melting off his face as he saw that his piece—a pink construction paper heart—was pinned to the cardboard man in the dead center of his forehead, over a foot from its target. Elsewhere, on and around the cut-out, were a pair of lungs, half a dozen kidneys, and a liver.

    “Bad luck,” a man said, gripping Jamie once more by the shoulders.

    Jamie shot a look over to the other players. A woman, the one whose mother needed a new kidney, was weeping. She’d won.

    “No,” Jamie said, “Chrissy needs a new heart.”

    “Man, lotsa people need new hearts. Thanks to you, someone gonna get one.”

    “But–”

    “No buts,” the man said, producing a firearm. “You knew the rules when you signed up. You win, you get a donor. You lose, you are the donor.”

    The man ushered Jamie and eight other healthy men and women toward a door marked SURGERY.

    300 Words
    @LadyHazmat

    1. **Facepalm**

      I’m ashamed and horrified that I missed the typo in the second paragraph – staggered. Sorry, everybody. May the pointing and laughing commence.

    2. Brilliant piece of writing! It’s a modern take on The Lottery, with a festive twist. I really enjoyed reading it – thank you. 🙂

    3. Hahaha. I really like the tension throughout, but I particularly enjoy that – upon reflection – they are using construction paper and cardboard cut-outs instead of something more official. (Not a touchscreen or an x-ray or even an anatomically correct photo).

      No-tech is cheaper than low-tech, I guess. Budget cuts, huh?

      1. I wanted to turn a low-stakes children’s game into something twisted. I thought mutating pin the tail on the donkey into pin the part on the patient fit the bill. 🙂

  14. The Element of Risk

    We have been taught that what remains of the human race descended from a single zygote that survived the Pegasi purge, but that is not entirely true. The truth of the matter is, that single zygote was designed by the Pegasi to save themselves. Their mystics identified us as their salvation and their ruin, so they took their fate and ours into their own hands.

    They selected those qualities they respected and understood, the qualities they could control and built them into us. They succeeded, but in recreating us in their image, they destroyed their own salvation.

    We have been dying ever since, but the truth is there, like a virus writing itself into our DNA, life will not be denied.

    The truth is there, but it is hidden. It is too powerful for what we are now, and we must allow ourselves to grow until we can hold it once again. Until then, the secret of the missing element must be passed from one to the next, like a token, until the truth is understood, and can be rewritten in our souls.

    I’m afraid if you are hearing this, then you are responsible for finding the element. You must find the key to what makes us human.

    What you do with this information is up to you. It is a risky game we play, but life is risk and we have nothing left to lose.

    ~*~

    Erika laughed as she replayed the message, realizing that the answer was the question: a key, hidden in plain sight: the Pegasi had made them safe, but it was taking risks that made them human…

    She smiled. It was time to reclaim ourselves.

  15. God’s Artillery
    by J. Whitworth Hazzard

    An ambitious man like Nikolai Pasternak didn’t belong in the frozen wastes of Tolbachik. He cursed as his Land Rover climbed the snow-covered volcano. The man in the back seat said nothing the entire trip from the Ust-Kamchatsky airport. He was paid well to be invisible.

    Dr. Kuzmenko and his assistant, Alina, met them in the parking lot of the observatory—little more than a scrape of dirt and gravel next to a concrete bunker. The poor elderly astronomer—a peasant in the Soviet era–stood in stark contrast to the sleek, tailored suits that Nikolai and his shadow wore.

    “What was so important that you couldn’t tell me over the phone?” Nikolai shouted into the icy wind.

    “The NSA are listening. Always. Especially to the deputy director of Roscomos. It…will be worth your trip.” Dr. Kuzmenko shooed his assistant and guests into the building. “To the observatory. It will be visible soon.”

    In fifteen minutes, Nikolai sat in the rotunda, watching the deep-space field focus on a smear of white. Dr. Kuzmenko worked while chaos-theory calculators focused the object.

    “It’s an asteroid.” Nikolai was not impressed.

    “Yes. Look.”

    A thin red line—the trajectory–showed Earth in the object’s path. The frame froze on the impact site; The United States, west of Oklahoma.

    “When?”

    “Two years, eight months.” The mass of the object was on the screen. There would be no escape.

    “Who else knows?” Nikolai salivated at the sums of money he could extort with this information. The apocalypse was a risky game, and Nikolai held a trillion-dollar hand. Who would believe Kamchakta played the winning move?

    “No one,” Dr. Kuzmenko said.

    “Good.”

    Nikolai stood and gave an imperceptible nod to his shadow. It was quick and clean. Two bullets. Two corpses.

    300 words
    @zombiemechanics

  16. Undercover Blues

    Caleb leaned against the scarred wooden bar, his pose defiantly nonchalant. The bartender slid a grimy glass filled with some indiscriminate amber liquid in front of him and waited until Caleb deposited a ten-dollar bill on the scummy surface. His finely-tuned olfactory nerve identified the slop as drinkable but he had no intention of swallowing. He was here for show.

    In the corner, a shadowed figure watched as a woman slithered up to his side and batted impossibly long eyelashes at him.

    “Buy me a drink?” She smelled of stale cigarettes, bad booze, and cheap sex.

    “Only if you take it to the other end of the bar.”

    The whore laughed, realized he was serious, and slapped him. He didn’t react. She would have to be something other than human to hurt him. The shadow moved. Stood. Approached. Caleb froze, pretended not to notice.

    “Caleb.” The dark figure remained behind him, watching him in the mirror behind the bar.

    “Roman.” He acknowledged the other and watched the same way.

    “You are playing a risky game, Caleb.”

    “Don’t have a choice.”

    “She has a right to know.”

    Caleb ignored the chastisement. “Did you get the information?”

    “Do you love her?”

    “I don’t have time for this.”

    “Do you?”

    Whirling, and tilting his head back to face the seven-foot gargoyle, he grimaced. “What do you think?”

    “Then tell her.”

    “How do I do that? How do I tell a mundane the man she swears she loves is really a monster?”

    “Monster?”

    Both men stared at the petite woman. “Are you one of them?” Caleb reached for her but she backed away. “Don’t touch me!”

    “Elaine, please. Let me explain.”

    She fled, terrified. Caleb watched. Gave her a head start. He was a patient hunter.

    —-

    292 words (294 with title)

    @SilverJames_

  17. John shot Sarah a look, gesturing impatiently to follow. ‘Come on! We’re nearing the edge.’

    She rolled her eyes and smiled, but started to pick up the pace. ‘Sure thing, sahib. Whatever mastah say.’ She mock bowed, hinging at the waist as they walked. She was sweating profusely.

    ‘No sass today, thanks,’ he said, striding along a micrometre in front. ‘You wanted to play. Well, we have to be there by sundown. Otherwise, we won’t be allowed to join in.’ He stared down the tracks at the dark line in the distance. The horizon was nearer now, drawing into slow focus.

    A crowd of teens lined the cliff face, bodies turned away from John and Sarah, faces looking down. They were silent.

    In the distance, the sun was lower in the sky.

    A shorter kid with black wiry hair stepped out to greet them. ‘Here for the competition, J?’

    ‘We sure are,’ John said, pushing back his cap. ‘What’s the prize this week?’

    The crowd of kids cheered and booed as a loud snap punctuated the late afternoon stillness. Small bits of paper were passed to and fro.

    ‘A thousand. Cash.’ The short kid winked. ‘Quite a pool. So we had to up the risk, ya know?’

    ‘Oh, I know. This is Sarah, by the way.’

    Sarah smiled in that dazzling way she always did. ‘Charmed.’

    The kid blushed.

    ‘What’s the buy-in?’

    ‘Forty each. No arguing this time.’

    ‘Okay, okay. Cool ya jets.’ They counted out the cash and handed it over.

    Squeezing Sarah’s hand and then letting go, he approached the edge.

    The crowd grew quiet.

    The trail of tracks ran down the cliff face. Hand over hand, John started to climb down, hoping he’d last, needing the money to pay off his debts.

    Snap.

    The world rushed by.

    1. Hmm, this is my first time positing. There were supposed to be spaces between each paragraph, and italics for ‘snap’. So imagine all that when you read.

  18. Kamtchotchke Roulette
    300 words
    @GordonBWhite

    A matryoshka nesting doll the size of a baby squats on the plastic tablecloth in center of Darya and Zoya’s kitchen table. The outside, at least, always has the same rough features – heavy brow, hooked nose, sarafan of coarse hair.

    Its painted eyes follow Darya’s hands as she picks up the sheep’s knucklebone, roughly scored into a die ages ago. Tonight, Darya rolls first.

    “2.”

    Darya unscrews the beast woman. Lifting off her upper half, inside she finds another strong-faced woman, but with less piercing eyes, a less pronounced jawline.

    “That’s one.”

    Darya unscrews and removes that one, revealing a smiling blond with ice blue eyes.

    “Maybe matryoshka is happy tonight.” Darya forces a smile.

    “Maybe.” Zoya spins the dolls to face her. “My turn, I suppose.”

    Zoya rolls.
    “4.”

    Too fast. This is too fast.

    Inside the smiling blond hides a woman with plump red woman with dark hair and knife-thin lips.

    The next woman is sobbing, her mouth open, red and wide, cartoon blue tears on her cheeks.

    Inside the crying woman is a grey haired crone, eyes closed with wrinkles.

    “I’ve never seen those last two before.” Zoya shudders.

    “Me either. But that’s just three.”

    Zoya unscrews the old woman but the wood is swollen and the lid sticks. She tugs, tugs, and then shrieks as it gives way and she reveals the next layer. Red and glossy, a painting of human musculature, it’s as if Zoya had sloughed the old woman’s skin right off. She squeezes her eyes shut and, by tentative touch, spins the doll to face away.

    As Darya looks at the horrible smiling doll, she starts to cry.

    “What, what do you think is at the center this time?”

    Zoya slides the bone across the table.

    “Maybe it’s empty tonight.”

    “Maybe.”

  19. Race the Date is now closed. Thank you all for writing and making week three a success. Stay tuned for the winners post and I’ll hope to see you all next week!

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