Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I'm sure you've read scores of stories. You've immersed yourself in hundreds of characters and hundreds of places, plots with suspense, drama, love, and fear.

And for many of these stories, you can't remember a single thing. At least, you can't without trying pretty hard.

But then, there are others.

For some reason, a moment will wiggle into your brain. A feeling or an image will paint itself into your memory. You might even hide it away, protect it, and make it part of who you are.

Isn't that amazing?! You can't predict it. You can't expect it. It either happens or it doesn't, and a writer is truly blessed when a reader comes forward months or years later and shares this experience.

As I sit here (well, actually lie on the couch), some of these story moments immediately leap to my mind. I'll never forget the incredible sense of bond among the older sister and brother as prisoners in Flowers in the Attic. I remember Mr. Halloway's thoughts about why the autumn people chose 3:00 A.M. to arrive in town in Something Wicked This Way Comes. I remember the strange despair of Sam sitting down to an everyday dinner after living the events of a hundred lives in Lord of the Rings.

More recently, I couldn't block out the voice in the dark in Anne Frasier's Before I Wake. (High five, Anne!)

What do you remember from the stories you've experienced? Care to share?

Glue. You've gotta love it!

UPDATE: Be sure to check out the post about the Firestorm of 1871 written by JimmyJames after being inspired by this one.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Yesterday's Winter

I'm trying something a bit different today, something I've been thinking about doing. I've written a short poem, "Yesterday's Winter" to go with some old home movie footage. I thought I might read it to you for change. Interested? I've also included the text below.

Nothing in the world moves
Except the white wind
And the pines
beating back the snow

Heat clicks
In the walls and floor
As crystalline knives etch
Perfection on the window

Stare where the sun
Used to be
Narrow falling
Too tired to rise
Weave threads of stillness
Where every touch
Every wish
Weighs heavy on your eyes

I remember the wonder
Not like now
I listen too hard for the silence

The wind is different
And the snow will never cover me again.

ANNOUNCEMENT: I am honored that my poem "Kneeling" was recently chosen to be included in the poetry anthology site, Living in Poetry. Thank you to the editors!

Friday, January 26, 2007


You see his eyes when you see anything at all.

The near darkness sculpts you. You arch to fill its roundness.

He follows. You urge him, and he follows. When he strays, your gasps flutter. He knows the shape of your lies.

A breath quivers in the hairs of your skin. He sweeps into curves you never trust, but he sings them like a sacrament.

His steadiness is the knife. You slice yourself, and the blood rushes in.

Not a wound. A fatal deliverance.

And you have so longed to die.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Remember: Martha Young

The Remembrance Series: When I walk among old graves, I think about our voices struggling to endure. Someday not even stone will protect us from being forgotten. Yet, we can give these voices a little more life in a way they never could have imagined.

So please take a moment with me to remember...

wife of
NOVEMBER 1, 1818
MAY 26, 1907

I have fought the good fight, I have finished
my course, I have kept the faith. 2nd Tim. 4.7

I salute you, Martha, for having the strength to live a life of no regrets.

Hephzibah Baptist Church, Chester County, Pennsylvania

Friday, January 19, 2007


I spoke into the wind
The wind answered
I saw
Constellations ancient

I awoke
When the wind had gone
I touched
Stillness pounding
Like a storm

I spoke into the wind
And listened for spring

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


"Jesus. This light is killing my eyes."

"I know."

"Is that normal? I mean, holy crap, look at this." Sid pointed to a blazing dot crawling on his jeans. "It's like a laser beam shooting out of there."

"The moon is full, what do you want me to do about it? I used to have a lunar filter to make it dimmer, but it's gone. I have no idea what happened to it. I haven't pulled this thing out in like five years."

Sid bent down to the telescope, and the brilliant little moon slid up his face and onto his eyeball. "That's so wild."


"You can see, like, everything. It looks three dimensional hanging up there. Like a ball. I can almost touch it."

"It is three dimensional, you idiot."

"Yeah, no shit! But you can see it. Really see it!"

"Shhh! Keep your voice down, man. Don't wake up my parents."

Sid crumpled a beer can and chucked it into the yard.

"Come on!" Mike said. "Go pick that shit up."

Sid fished in the ice and cracked the lid of another can. "Hey, speaking of your parents, remember that party back in high school? Man, we really trashed your house."

"My mother cried when she got home."

"Yeah.... The good old days."

"I'm sorry to break this to you, Sid, but you're all grown up now. College graduation is the magic line."

Sid ripped out a juicy belch. "Screw that."

Mike pushed Sid out of the way. He took the controls and dialed the telescope back toward the moon.

"That's a pain in the ass," Sid said. "Why is it always moving? How are you supposed to see anything?"

"The Earth is rotating, jackass. Think, man. Think."

Mike chased the glow until the white landscape sprang into view.

God, it was a clear night. He could almost reach out and poke his fingertips into the craters.

What was it about that dusty light? It shined straight through you. The moonshadows of trees bent on the lawn like negatives, the x-ray of something much older.

Mike pulled back from the lens and turned to look behind him. As usual, his shadow didn't feel like his. It seemed to be staring into the night.

Sid was watching.

"You always were weird, Mike. You know that? Sometimes you scare me."

Mike closed his eyes and pulled in some of the dark air. Each breath was different, filled with hidden things.

He let it out. Sid was still staring.

Mike smiled. "You want another beer?"

[Picture: another example of me messing around with my old telescope. This was taken January 3, 2007, the night of an amazing moon.]

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Comments on what I liked most about each entry have now been added. Thanks again for a great contest, everyone! I will now be turning to sending out the prizes and giving constructive comments to those who asked.

Look for normal Clarity of Night content to return tomorrow!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Winners Announcement--"Silent Grey" Short Fiction Contest

The moment you have been waiting for has arrived! It's my pleasure to recognize the following writers:

1st Place--JIM O'LOUGHLIN, Wake (#27).
[Prize: $25 Amazon gift certificate, 8 x 10 print of the "Silent Grey" photograph (inscribed by Jason Evans)]

2nd Place--REBECCA HENDRICKS, Space (#49)
[Prize: $20 Amazon gift certificate]

3rd Place--JOHN McAULEY, Furniture and Betty (#45)
[Prize: $15 Amazon gift certificate]

4th Place--MV, The Blank Canvas (#20)
[Prize: $10 Amazon gift certificate]

5th Place--ANNA, Off the Grid (#13)
[Prize: $5 Amazon gift certificate]

Honorable Mention--TERRI WELCH, A Room with a View (#37)

Honorable Mention--R.R. RAPOZA, Personal Demons (#32)

Honorable Mention--SANDRA SEAMANS, In the Arms of Angels (#25)

Honorable Mention--SHAMELESS, Montmartre (#33)


Readers' Choice--S.W. VAUGHN, The Barrio (#2)
[Prize: $15 Amazon gift certificate, 8 x 10 print of the "Lonely Moon" photograph (inscribed by Jason Evans)]


Now that you've caught your breath, let me thank you again for a wonderful contest. As usual, choosing from among the top scorers was hideously painful. There are more deserving entries than are recognized here, I assure you!

Just how successful was it? Your writing has generated 9,358 hits from 2,180 unique visitors! You should give yourselves a round of applause.

Over the course of next few days, I will be adding a comment to each entry saying what I liked best. If you would like constructive comments by private email, just let me know at jevanswriter at yahoo dot com.

Don't let the community end here. I hope to see all of you back here at The Clarity of Night and on your own blogs. Let me know if you'd like to trade links.


And now, I'll wish you all a good night. Feel free to contact me anytime. You'll always find a welcoming place here.

Friday, January 12, 2007

**Readers' Choice Voting is Closed**

The stage is set. The orchestra is warming up. Tune in for the awards show Sunday night!!

Thank you to all the wonderful participants in the "Silent Grey" contest and to everyone who enjoyed visiting and reading the entries.

Keep in mind that after the contest results are announced, I will begin commenting on what I liked best about each entry. This process usually takes a couple of days. Also, if you would like constructive comments, I am happy to provide any thoughts I might have by email. Just let me know.

See you Sunday night!

Thursday, January 11, 2007


by Jason Evans

Summer air rushed, and motorcycle spokes flashed in the sun.

Her hands held his waist as the road plunged down the mountainside. He shifted gears, and her body slapped into him. It was hard for him to concentrate on the road.

In the valley, they ca-thunked over railroad tracks and leaned off onto a gravel road. The husk of a mine rumbled by, then a rusted coal truck. He wove through the bits of water still standing from last night's storm.

In the shadow of an old warehouse, he cut the engine. The kickstand crunched the broken chain of a no-trespassing sign.

She pulled the wind knots from her hair. "What is this place?"

"No idea. But it's been empty a long, long time."

"How did you find it?"

"Just wandering," he said. "As usual. You want to go in?"

She grinned. "Hell yeah."

Around back, the padlocks were broken on a bent steel door. He stole up the stairs with her close behind. Each time the boards creaked, her hands shot back to his waist and grabbed hold.

In a dusty room overlooking the woods, he turned and her arms slid around him. Chiseled rays of sun blazed in her eyes.

* * *

But now the sunlight molded only one shadow on the cracked wall.

The thought of her still stole his breath after so many years. He wondered what made him come back.

Outside, the snap of winter still hid in the evening hollows. He climbed onto the motorcycle alone.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Voting for the Readers' Choice Award

My friends, the "Silent Grey" Short Fiction Contest is now closed. Thank you for another great turn-out with excellent writing!


But the fun is not over!

Voting for the Readers' Choice Award is now open!!

This portion of the contest is open to all people who submitted an entry. Here are the rules:

  1. Contest participants are invited to vote on their top 5 favorite entries by emailing me their votes to jevanswriter at yahoo dot com.
  2. Please vote by entry number and list your votes from 1 to 5 with 1 being your top vote.
  3. I will award 5 points for your 1st vote, 4 points for your 2nd vote, 3 points for your 3rd, 2 points for your 4th, and 1 point for your 5th.
  4. You may not vote for your own entry. Please specify your entry number at the beginning of the email.
  5. At the close of Readers' Choice Award voting, I will tally the points. The winner will be the entry with the most points.
  6. I guarantee at least one Readers' Choice Award; however, depending upon the results of the contest, I reserve the right to award additional Readers' Choice Awards in the order of their rank. Additional awards, if given, may be with or without a prize.

Keep your favorites in mind. Enjoy your own judging, and above all, have fun!

Cast your votes before 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S.), Friday, January 12, 2007.

Lastly, in the tradition of contests at The Clarity of Night, tomorrow I will share with you my own vision of the "Silent Grey" photo. Have a good night!

"Silent Grey" Short Fiction Contest

Click HERE for the contest announcement, prizes, and rules.


Index of Entries

Anderson, Peter, Power (#26)
Angel, Non-Profit (#43)
Anna, Off the Grid (#13) FIFTH PLACE
Atyllah, The Danger of Words (#44)
Avila, Esther, New Curtains - New Beginning (#38)
BB, Shady (#16)
Cailleach, Entry #41
Catherman, Bryan D., The Satchel (#23)
Caveblogem, Atomic Punk (#36)
Chochippie, The Wall (#34)
Christine, Diana, Grey Inspiration (#18)
Cozine, Herschel, Once Upon A Time (#5)
Daviou, Albert G., Selfina (#19)
Dawdy, Matt, Another Sign (#14)
Dong, Mu Tai, Emergency (#40)
Ellis, J. Scott, Silent Grey (#12)
Emeraldcite and emdashpoet, Carry that Weight (#50)
Ensaff, Jude, The Summer of Sixty Five (#28)
Evans, Jason, Once YOUR HOST
Forgottenmachine, Silver Bells and Cockle Shells (#24)
Ghosh, Bhaswati, The Rendezvous (#42)
Gordon, Betty, Crack in an Hour-glass (#21)
Hatadi, Daniel, The Nature of Decay (#48)
Haws, Joni, The Centenarian (#15)
Hendricks, Rebecca, Space (#49) SECOND PLACE
Johnston, SF, Patsy (#9)
Kintheatl, Let Her Sleep (#17)
Liadis, Paul, The Old Grey Wall (#10)
Magle, Margaret Ann, Starting Over (#39)
Mayari, Nine on Nine (#51)
McAuley, John, Furniture and Betty (#45) THIRD PLACE
Miller, Mike, The Apartment (#6)
Minx, Funeral Greys (#30)
Mutleythedog, Walls of the Mind (#31)
MV, The Blank Canvas (#20) FOURTH PLACE
Neale, Jeff, Bubba's Freedom (#22)
Nothingman, Spellbound (#11)
O’Loughlin, Jim, Wake (#27) FIRST PLACE
Piper, Fran, After the Party (#46)
Rapoza, R.R., Personal Demons (#32) HONORABLE MENTION
RG, Rectangular Vision (#47)
Sarcasticynic, Sorry, Ogden (#7)
Seamans, Sandra, In the Arms of Angels (#25) HONORABLE MENTION
Shameless, Montmartre (#33) HONORABLE MENTION
Smith, Christian, Fire Ants (#29)
Smith, Kim, The Thief (#35)
Stitzel, Jim, Veni, Vedi (#4)
Vaughn, S.W., The Barrio (#2) READERS' CHOICE AWARD
Wavemancali, Voices (#1)
Welch, Terri, A Room with a View (#37) HONORABLE MENTION
Wells, Jaye, It's Not So Bad (#8)
Wright, Sam, Grey Awakening (#3)

Entry #51

Nine on Nine
by Mayari

I live alone. I don't have a boyfriend or a family. The only company I had at home was this strange black cat who was already a resident of the apartment when I moved in. He had grey eyes and a weird mark on his right front paw. It was shaped like a moon. He would sleep by the window every night and he would watch me as I lay on the bed. I'd stare into his hypnotic grey eyes and I¢d fall asleep immediately.

But one day, he just suddenly vanished.

That was 9 months ago. Nine months of sleepless nights. I had gotten so used to those grey eyes that the night felt so empty without it.

It was after 5. And I walked home from work. I walked slowly to yet another sleepless night awaiting me.

I got to the corner of apartment 9 , my building. There was the familiar empty alley adjacent to it. But today, that alley wasn't empty. I come closer. Beside the smoky grey wall stood a familiar man. His hair was black as night. And as he lifted his right hand to comb his hair with his fingers, I saw a mark shaped like the moon.

I stood in front of him and he looked at me. I saw the most amazing grey eyes. They were so mesmerizing, that it was only a matter of seconds before I fainted into his arms and fell sound asleep.

Entry #50

Carry that Weight
by emeraldcite and emdashpoet

She spent the night in a dumpster; that wasn’t what she deserved.

John didn’t discover the body. That honor went to the gangly kid from the fast food place across the street with eyes red from crying, or maybe from the cigarette he breathed through.

The kid said she had a pretty face, at least until someone made it so she couldn’t have an open casket.

The kid’s hands shook; ash fell to the ground. He took another drag, coughed acrid smoke, kept talking.

John’s detective badge, the monkey on his back, felt a hundred years old. He wanted to duck to the next alley, away from the flashing lights and murmuring crowd, take a drag himself—let all those years melt away.

He needed to focus.

Everyone in this town was broken; now here was another kid broken by memories, smoking years off his life.

John nodded his head in all the right places, but noticed his notes were now gibberish. There was a disconnect somewhere. Like bad wiring.

John had the sudden urge to call his daughter. He’d met the guy she’d run off with once. They exchanged some words, then she’d left at just eighteen. They should catch up. He wasn’t that bad anymore.

“Did you get that?” the kid said.

“Yeah, I got it all.”

“Sherry. Sherry Stipes. That’s the name I remember. The name her friend said.”

Then it all faded to static for John.

That was the day Detective John Stipes decided to retire.

Entry #49

by Rebecca Hendricks

So I’m standing in the doorway, right? I’m looking out at the space between the back door and the next house and the warehouse that butts up against us, everything kinda jumbled with this cold space in the middle, no exits, just a space outside the kitchen door at the back of the flat we’ve rented since I was eleven.

My new apartment is about the same size.

I can hear the murmur that’s Dad’s voice through the wall, and then Sarah’s. She’s pretty pissed. There’s a thud, and a voice shouts in Russian and another one responds from out the front. Those’re the engineering students Dad hired for the move. They’re so slow that Sarah and I have been joking “they’re not rushin!” for several hours, but it’s stopped being funny. They’re getting the boxes mixed up, Dad’s and Sarah’s and mine, but I’m looking out at the forgotten concrete space and thinking about the shape of the telescope in my arms from when Dad and me sat out here in the cold.

I saw the spot on Jupiter.

I saw the shadow of a moon.

Then we had an argument, and the images got blurred.

So I’m thinking there’ll be no more arguments. I’m listening to the murmur of Dad’s voice and my sister’s and thinking about how there’ll be other voices in my new wall. And I’m looking at the forgotten space between houses. It looks lonely.

So now I’m turning. I close the door behind me.

[Rebecca is a Torontonian in the South. She is studying something called "Information Design and Communication" and is on the verge of launching a freelance career as a proofreader and copy editor. What she really wants to do is illustrate stories and act in movies, but whatever communicates the story is the best part, always. When you boil it all down --as she always wind up saying despite herself: how hard can it be?]

Entry #48

The Nature of Decay
by Daniel Hatadi

Mould is a decomposer of wood, plants, and animals. Its spores are found wherever there is dead matter. A pile of leaves, manure, compost. A carcass or a body, lying in the rubble alongside the wall of an old building.

The spores move easily through the air, feeding on moisture and warmth, crawling up the wall next to the body. Inside the wall, copper pipes rusted with age provide the flaking paint with water. A speckled pattern appears on the surface, random and chaotic in its beauty.

In the alley next to the wall I wait.

I wait among the garbage and the flies, the smells of long-soiled foods. I wait for those that make the alley their home, surrounding themselves with fortresses of cardboard boxes. As if this would offer them protection.

I wait for one whose hair is matted and grey, face riddled with liver spots, whose life is not far from its end.

I wait until he sleeps.

The spores flee my body like wasps from a nest. They fly towards the old one and seep into his tattered clothes until his decaying skin is covered completely. He will wake and he will scream, but who would care for him in the dead of night, in this sewer of an alley?

No one to help him, but he helps me. He sustains me.

Mould is a decomposer. As am I.

[Sydney crime fiction writer Daniel Hatadi has been a musician, a petrol station attendant, and a software engineer in the poker machine industry. All great fuel for writing about crime, if not committing it. His writing has appeared in Crimespree Magazine, Shots UK and Thrilling Detective.]

Entry #47

Rectangular Vision
by RG

The wall looked the same today.

He wished someone would turn him around. You would too if you had to stare at a goddamn wall all your life. Those cables, those pipes, the flaking paint. But most of all, most of all, the damned bit of open sky at the corner that beckoned so sweetly. He wished someone would kick him--turn his vision upside down. Crush him to tiny bits---turn his boring old rectangular perspective into compound vision. It wouldn’t hurt him, he couldn’t feel anything anyway. Coarse-grained, igneous, and yet no one had found him worthy of shattering. Perfect building material. Give it a go, someone.....anyone?

Recycle, renewal, and yet he had sat here for a million goddamn years cursing time. Time passed by the same way that it did for everyone else. He knew every inch of the wall. It had been here for thirty years. What would you do, if you couldn’t move, couldn’t shout? He had the body of a rock but the soul of a bird. Who said rocks and things didn’t have soul? Look at me, I’m here. I’m alive. No, not really. But you wouldn’t find a more suicidal rock on the island.

At least I have a friend.

You know who it is.

Entry #46

After the Party
by Fran Piper

We leave together in an alcohol haze.

Alex looks up. "Full moon." He grabs Carrie and pretends to bite her neck.

"Stop it!" Carrie beats at him with her fists, and Alex swats her.

Carrie screams. "You hit me!"

"Because you hit me."



"Come on, Alice." Carrie drags me away down the sidewalk.

Tony starts to follow. "Where are you going?"

"Home," Carrie says over her shoulder.

The walls of the alley are stained cement, and utility cables hang here and there. Darkness looks out through cobwebbed windows.

It doesn't stop Carrie. "Short cut," she says.

Tony stops at the alley’s mouth. "Hey!"

Carrie turns. "Fuck off!"

"Don’t go that way. It’s not safe at night."

Alex doesn't stop. "Silly bitch. Man, let’s go home."

"Pig." Carrie’s crying now.

"Carrie," I say. "Maybe..."

Without warning, she swings her purse violently at one of the windows. The impact echoes through the alley. She curses, swinging again and again, and the window shatters.

Footsteps pound down the alley and Alex flies past me. He grabs Carrie’s purse, then her arm, then restrains her in something that’s part hug, part wrestling hold. She fights him, then collapses against him, sobbing.

Sirens doppler in the distance. An alarm is ringing deep inside the building. Suddenly no-one is breathing.

"Oh, shit," Alex says.

Tony pulls at my hand. Alex grabs Carrie, and together we run to the end of the alley and down the street, laughing.

Entry #45

Furniture and Betty
by John McAuley

So far I've scavenged a coffee table, two plastic chairs and a small lamp.

See, most people don't leave these apartments voluntarily, so, when they get booted-out, they dump their stuff because they've got nowhere to take it. I try to pick up what I can without looking like a vulture.

My own apartment doesn't have much of a view, but it's better than what I had before.

The old guy next door drinks vodka and milk. Says it soothes his stomach and doesn't give him a hangover. He talks a lot, especially about Sweaty Betty. She lives over in number twelve and supposedly gives a helluva ride for twenty bucks.

Tough times.

I read about a man my age robbing a bank for forty dollars. He gave the cash to a security guard then waited for the cops.

He asked the judge to give him just enough time in prison to where he'd be old enough to collect Social Security--he'd lost his job and just couldn't hold on for another year.

The judge obliged.

Tough times.

Ten months until my Social Security kicks in. Until then I'll keep flipping burgers.

But I'm thinking about dipping in to my retirement fund.

Thirty grand.

It cost me fifteen years without parole because I'd never tell them where the money was.

I'll be careful.

I'll buy some cheap furniture.

And if Sweaty Betty hasn't been evicted I may pay her a call.

Entry #44

The Danger of Words
By Atyllah

Shana stared at the wall. Something was scrawled on the faded paint – pale words…

“Unfold, come to us.”

She glanced at the people hurrying by, their faces pinched by the cold. She looked back to the wall. The words were gone, erased by a weak finger of sunlight.

She sagged momentarily then her breath quickened.

“The Queen is dead, long live our Queen.”

The sun strengthened. The words faded to nothing. Only the stark shadows of the cables remained.

Shana turned away. Something was calling her.

Drawing up her collar she pushed through the nameless walkers.

She reached the river and stared at its frozen surface. Below the ice a finger appeared. Her heart pounded.

“The future is your past, our Queen. Follow the path.”

Reality escaped her. She felt her soul soar. Wherever this path led, she wanted to go. The sun pierced the morning mists and touched her for one brief moment. The world spread out below her, an inky wash dappled by winter sunshine. She closed her eyes to it as words flowed around her, absorbing her.


Tucked away in the newspaper was a small article.

“The body found on Monday morning was that of Shana Connor. The circumstances surrounding Ms Connor’s death remain a mystery.”

Barry Jordan glanced up from his morning paper and stared at the grey wall in front of him. He thought he saw something scrawled in the grime.

“Do not unfold. You are not their King. I was not their Queen.”

Entry #43

by Angel

I had to walk past that place every day and see those walls and those wires every day. My skin prickled with a sense of apprehension, and my heart ached for them every day.

The dragons couldn’t be shot or bled to death because their skins were so tough- so they were electrocuted instead… apparently on a massive contraption that looked like a cross between a hospital traction wheel and an electric chair. Granted- I’d never seen it- but the ever present “they” said that’s what it looked like.

We needed another escape like the get away of three of the baby dragons that had started the DPS. They had begged telepathically for help, for refuge, for safety and foolishly- I went to the media. I told the reporter who agreed to see me how the three babies had found me and what they’d told me. By the time I got home to show her the dragons- “they” had beat me to my place. The babies were gone. I had no evidence.

As I pushed open the seemingly always grubby doors to the Dragon Perpetuation Society, I wondered again about our future. Our fundraising had trickled to a few bucks a month and our rent was way overdue. The volunteers didn’t even pitch up anymore.

Another “escape” was needed to fire up our contributors consciences again…

I realised then as I walked home trying not to look at the walls and wires- that maybe I didn’t actually need real escapees…

Entry #42

The Rendezvous
by Bhaswati Ghosh

You never approved of it as a meeting point; I always found it interesting.

After all, the whole city's lovers would converge in Victoria Memorial, Nicco Park, or even the not-one-bit romance inspiring Moidan. I found my intensive coaching for the IIT entrance test to be a boon. Stealing those few minutes by the graying walls meant we weren't thrown amid that snuggling, juvenile mass of couples in public places. For me, this secret (or was it, with the housewives peeking out of their first and second floor windows?) meeting with you every alternate evening worked perfectly. Until Baba appeared on the scene, that is. Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined him passing by this stretch, catching a glimpse of me tapping on books, waiting for you.

"What were you doing in that neighborhood?" He asked me at dinner that night.

"Umm, where, Baba?" I looked as startled as I felt.

"In that lowly North Calcutta area. What took you there?"

"A friend lives there," I muttered.

His caustic glare didn't escape my eyes. The son of a sugar magnate, I wasn't supposed to step into a North Calcutta ghetto. His look scared me he would find out. He did. For three months, we didn't talk.

One evening, while trotting toward the gray walls, I saw Baba talking to some people. He had met your parents afterwards. A month later, he blessed us. At our wedding.

I still love those leaking pipes lining our gray, you know.

Entry #41

Entry #41
by Cailleach

Even now I hear the patting of the ball against that wall, back and forth from Jack's hand.

We played handball there, for the sheer concentration of tramelling the ball within the small area. Begun as a dare in our childhood it was a ritual whenever he and I met up. We used the same ball that Jack had, one with a green copper banding that his grandfather had given him.

I always wondered about Jack's unerring gift for hitting the target bang on. The night that the city lights shorted answered my question. Jack continued patting the ball, even in the sooty blackness. I gave up, reaching out to the wall to steady myself, waiting for a passing car to illuminate our positions.

I can still make out Jack's outline, in my mind. His figure seems to cut a hole in the night, moving and running, anticipating each shot - striking right and the ball hitting up against the wall. It was unnerving how he could do it. I watch him, entirely rapt by his fluid movements.

Enfolded within that flowing rhythm it was easy to see later how I had missed what Jack was really aiming for in the end. The ball hit a high raw wire, one of those not covered by conduit. I turned just as the arc of electric struck him. The scorch marks are all that remain of Jack on the alley wall and the floor. And the charred ball which I kept.

Entry #40

by Mu Tai Dong

Mu Tai can today tell can be a bad day. The weather was cloudy and the rain has poured out under hers window. She does not have to want to work, she does not have the feeling likely all day to toil in a hot oven when the polygonum multiflorum and pixies has selected food. But buys her small house she to have. Only if she wants to live in the street and the radioactive monkey. The accident has suddenly come, nobody anticipates it. Then Mu Tai is left behind does not have the hand. She wants to know how she can not deal with it. The small wild animal has licked her wound, she can need other injections! Mu Tai now felt some pities are the disabled people, with understood any they can scrutinize. Mu Tai looks coldly, gray sad wall. Strokes its her to feel the wall the life. It and she conversed. "Mu Tai! Felt my strength and needs my life! And your arm very quick will grow!"

Mu Tai feels one kind of strange feeling when the wall has given her its life.

Her arm growth. She is joyful.

Entry #39

Starting Over
by Margaret Ann Magle

Eva stared out the window at the stark grey wall across the alley. She only half listened as the realtor droned on behind her: new shower - energy saving furnace - laundry in the basement. The woman's voice was as bleak as the building outside. It was only when Eva heard the words 'twenty-four hour security' did she pay attention.

Over the past few months, feeling secure had become Eva's mantra. Detective Moore, or David as he preferred Eva call him, had pounded that need into her head. It was still hard to believe that a farm girl from Nowhere, Wisconsin would be on a first name basis with detectives, judges, and federal prosecutors. But that was a lifetime ago.

As more details about a charming one bedroom, fully furnished, newly painted, blah, blah, blah echoed in her ears, a lone pigeon flew toward the window and gently perched on the sill. Eva watched as the bird bobbed its head up and down pecking at unseen seeds or insects. Eva reached out her hand and placed it on the window so only a thin piece of glass separated her from the bird. There was no fear in the bird's eyes as it turned and stared at Eva. Eva stared back.

"If you have no questions," the realtor asked behind her, "would you like to come to my office and sign the lease?"

Eva couldn't tear herself away from the bird.

"Miss? Miss?"

"It's Ms." Eva replied with a smile, "Ms. Jacky Cross."

Entry #38

New Curtains - New Beginning
by Esther Avila

Charlotte stepped closer to the large window. Silently she peered out. Seconds turned into a minute.

"It’s a lovely room for the price," the elderly woman said, appearing to be getting nervous. "I have several people interested....|"

The truth was, no one wanted to rent it. No amount of redecorating could take away the fact that a man had murdered a child in that that room.

Charlotte turned.

"I’ll take it," she whispered.

Reaching into her purse she pulled out a couple of hundred dollar bills. "One hundred a week -- two weeks."

"Very well. If you will follow me to my office I’ll draw up the papers. I want to show you the rest of the home. I think you will...."

Charlotte interrupted the old woman.

"Thank you. I’ll wait here. Like I already said, there is no need to see the rest of the home."

As the door closed, Charlotte looked around the room again. She had not noticed the pink floral print or the pretty angel figurines over the small corner fireplace. Mrs. Akers was right. The room was lovely.

Charlotte returned to the window. Tears filled her eyes. How she hated those wires.

"Mommy’s sorry, baby. If only I had not gone out to buy curtains," she said as she pulled a small handgun out of her purse.

Mrs. Akers was humming as she took the stairs two at a time. Finally the curse was broken. She had rented the room.

[Esther Avila is a freelance writer with more than 3,000 published articles in newspapers, local and community magazines, and trade journals. She is the recipient of the Pacific West Newspapers "Excellence in Journalism" award and won second-place for her short story in Clarity of Night's "Two Lights" contest.]

Entry #37

A Room with a View
by Terri Welch

A glass squeaked under her raisin fingertips and she realised she'd been washing it long enough for the dishwater to grow tepid. Reality oozed back in focus, the dirty grey wall across the yard replacing the glittering ocean of her daydream.

A creak behind her warned of Vince's approach and she hurried to finish the dishes. Grunting good morning, he disappeared behind the newspaper.
"Toast's almost ready," she forced a smile as she set his tea down in front of him. The effort was wasted - not even a grunt now.

When only crumbs remained at the table and the slam of the front door told her he was gone, she stared through the window once again. Seventeen years she'd been staring at that wall, although for some time now she had barely seen it, for it had morphed into a canvas on which she painted her fantasies.

Turning from the window she checked her handbag. Savings book, train ticket, passport - all there. Moving into the hall, she pulled a bulging suitcase from the closet, a piece of yesterday's conversation replaying in her head.

"We're looking forward to meeting you too, Susan. Your room is ready and waiting for you. I know it's hard, losing your husband, but I'm sure in time you'll be happy here. The sun always shines and the rest of the staff are so friendly.

Oh, and did I mention your room has a view of the ocean?"

Entry #36

Atomic Punk
by Caveblogem

The train dragged a cherry-red, superheated steel wheel down the Sierra foothills, bringing a plume of sparks to the foggy gloom of the vast Roseville, California switching yards on that spring day approaching the end of the Vietnam War. A lit fuse on an early Independence Day.

One of billions of tiny, young, evanescent, stars found its mark, a bomb of some conventional-yet-scary type, or a huge, leaky, steel bottle of propane. The phrase "chain-reaction" misses the way explosions began to leap from train to train, track to track.

It took all morning to convince Mom to let us out. Reliving a Cuban Missile Crisis pregnancy. She didn't want to risk the end products of that Vandenberg A.F.B. bunker morning sickness.

A sun-bleached pre-teen I carted my skateboard to the top of the hill, went over the chain-link fence, and stood, stretching to better view the growing mushroom clouds.

Grandpa had said they were bombs to fill the bellies of B-52 Superfortresses, the kind that Slim Pickens flew in Dr. Strangelove. They wouldn't reach Mather or Beale to be transported to Vietnam or possibly Cambodia.

Not this time.

Years before, the Country Joe MacDonald song endlessly looped through my brain, and I made my parents promise that they wouldn't let me be "sent home in a box." Older now. I leaned back, hoping that if one of the explosions turned out to be atomic, I'd leave a lasting shadow on the grey concrete behind me.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Entry #35

The Thief
by Kim Smith

They had followed the blood trail out of the warehouse and into the alley. The droplets, red and round, had fallen as their victim scrambled to safety. The trap they'd set for him had been thought out long in advance. Vicious and effective, only not quiet quick enough for the crafty thief they chased.

"He's on the run now," Renee said.

"He can run, or rather hobble, but he won't stay out there forever. He's gotta have a place to bed up tonight," Steve replied.

She looked up. The cables slung across the steel wall of the building told a story as well.

"Looks like he has a way in and a way out." She pointed up.

Steve followed her finger and nodded as understanding came over him.

"He'll be back."

"He's gonna be pissed now though. We drew first blood."

Steve laughed. "You think he'll bring some friends?"

She shrugged.

"Rats. God, how I hate 'em."

They retraced their steps back inside to lie in wait for the silent grey creature to return.

Entry #34

The Wall
by Chochippie

Every day
Walls closing in
Banging my head
No light
No light
No light
I want
To die

Entry #33

by Shameless

I was glad when I found that old photograph amongst his things; it was a reminder of one of the few projects he'd never accomplished.

My dear, impossible Arthur, who would wake up in the morning holding his beloved chisel and hammer. The kids used to say they were scared that one day they would come home from school and find a pile of rubble because of all his tinkering. He just couldn't leave things alone, always having to go on mending, changing and improving. I suspect he'll be doing the same thing in heaven, interfering with those golden gates no doubt, trying to convince his lordship that they should swing in and not out.

You can have a giant mural or a bay window, he'd said to me with a monkey's grin. He argued it was high time we got rid of that damn awful void, those wires hanging down like poison ivy, blood leaking through the stone. I rattled with laughter, until I realised he was absolutely serious; he'd already been down to the library to find a glossy picture of Paris and had already got a quote on ten different tubs of acrylic. A window, he explained, would bring the morning sun directly into our bed, perhaps even do something for our love life.

This week, in memory of my wonderful Arthur, I decided to have both: a bay window in a classy, colourful Montmartre building. The kids are out there now, directing the workers.

Entry #32

Personal Demons
by R.R. Rapoza

Look at it. Painted over and boarded up to keep out the looky loo's. Don't they realize doing so keeps the victims and their souls locked in? Keeps the truth locked in? The room will be burned into my memory forever, especially the smell; a combination of urine,blood,sweat,tears,and even fear.

To a detective, every room tells a story.

I can still hear their screams. The begging and pleading for their mommies. No amount of Plywood and paint would keep them out of my head. I see the scrapes of missing paint on the radiator and dried blood on the shackles. I see the 12 pairs of kid's shoes piled in the corner. I see the outline of the dirty mattress on the floor after having it sent to the lab. They say a raccoon will chew through his own paw to get free from a trap; now I believe it.

It was a group of detectives entering the room that day, but a group of fathers surveying the grim scene. Words were both unspoken and unnecessary. Wondering what hell these kids had gone through and where they were. Wondering what kind of demon would do such a thing. Unspoken vows that the animal responsible would pay. That case changed many lives.

Johnson turned in his badge the next day.

Jefferson, slowly drank himself to death two years later.

Rodriguez and Koslowski swallowed pistols 5 years apart.

Only I am left to avenge these children but I will never catch me.

[When Not writing or working R.R. Rapoza consistently shows he is not brilliant on his far from serious blog, Briliant Donkey.]

Entry #31

Walls of the Mind
by Mutleythedog

Simon Bedsit surveyed the metallic wall with distaste, the three pipes ejecting weird, pulsing light filled smoke, the wires leading to the offices of The Controllers, its straining rivets and popping paint. This flimsy damaged structure was all that was guarding his weak body clothed in grey overalls from the onslaught of pure radiation and terrifying creatures in the ravaged, smoking south Devon landscape beyond. Despite himself he thought back to the time before – before all this – when the landscape was green and lush and when human kind was not forced to be constantly on guard against bio-technical horrors, ready to bite, rip and shred human flesh.

To the time before the Beast had come, and for a moment his heart filled with yearning – to drink tea once more at the Palm Court Hotel – with his old friend Frobisher laughing across the table, the Hotel he knew was now the centre of an infestation of highly intelligent Howler Monkeys, who were armed and dangerous and poised for attack. “Can't I be somewhere different?” he asked the author - “No – and don't ask again!” Boomed a voice from above “That wall is the fourth wall – you have transgressed it once to often - you will become another stupid Internet meme, Bedsit boy!” Simon Bedsit concentrated on the wall – it was both literal and figurative and to break it would overcome the walls of fiction and allow the howling horrors beyond to enter human space. “What then?” he wondered – “What then?”

Monday, January 08, 2007

Entry #30

Funeral Greys
by Minx

“If you screw up your eyes real tight, you can just about see it” Mickey said.

Mickey had drunk more than the rest of us. He could probably see the craters on the moon with the naked eye if he put his mind to it.

I still couldn’t see it. The wall just looked like a wall to me. Grey, flat, pockmarked with years of baseballs and the scrabblings of feet that had used it as a getaway.

“He always thought he could see it y’know.” Herbie said “All those years later he still insisted that the fucking Virgin Mary was right there.”

I smiled. Herbie and Huey had been the only two to stay on home turf. The rest of us had deserted the neighbourhood, our past, and the silent grey wall that divided our rooftops.

Funny really, we had all talked of joining the FDNY, right under this fucking wall, but only Huey had made it. We had made plans here, elaborate, unbelievable plans that didn’t only involve the conquest of Linda Marconi. We were friends, comrades in arms, buddies to the last.

Eventually time will allow us to sit back, let out a breath, and thank his invisible Virgin Mary that the Tower had come down without us under it. But for now, we just screw up our eyes, trying to make a picture on the grey wall in a vain attempt stop the tears that feel as if they are never going to end.

Entry #29

Fire Ants
by Christian Smith

When I was four I kicked over a hill of fire ants. If I dream of the memory or just remember the dreams I can no longer say. I know it happened because my mother liked to tell the story.

I was playing behind our apartment building in Mobile, where the power lines climbed the walls through conduits like hooded cobras. Kicked the hill and a thousand ants coated my legs with boiling stings. Looked up and saw printed on the grimy wall a vision of a black-hooded Jesus, protector or punisher I did not know. Mother came outside to my screaming and with soothing cool hands scraped the ants from my legs.

They stung her as bad as they did me.

Now I’ve gone and kicked over another anthill. Me and Bobby tweaked out of our minds. He said it would be an easy score, but the liquor store guy had a pistol. Shot Bobby in the face and I ran. Cops outside cruising the block, just my luck. Tagged one of them and took two bullets like swarming ants burrowing into my leg.

In the alley, bleeding, with the sirens wailing closer. I look up and see the power lines just like that day. Only no hooded Christ and no Mommy’s cool hands to wipe the ants away.

Entry #28

The Summer of Sixty Five
by Jude Ensaff

Each day I saw Jemma and little Louis as they walked home from school. I always ran ahead of them so I could holler from my window and wave. Truth be told I had a monster crush on Jemma; I’d set my mind on us marrying one day. But in the summer of sixty five three things happened to change that.

When Nate was born, my room moved to the other side of the house. From here I saw nothing but old Mrs Jefferson’s wall and those ugly old cables hanging low as my mood. There was no point in running home now; instead I tried talking to Jemma. Thing was I was never any good at talking, only running and waving.

Not like Mikey. He was a charmer. Of that I was sure, so when he took to walking Jemma back from school my heart broke. I felt I’d lost her forever, until that day when fate took hold. It was a Tuesday- that I remember. The August heat steamed up my window, hanging in the air like death itself. Should’a known, God was laughing at me.

It was the shriek that roused me - coming from outside my window. Louis holding tight onto Mrs Jefferson’s roof. Why, I don’t know. All I knew was that I had to act. I lost my sight pushing Louis to safety. My hand, a cable, a spark like hell-fire. Then nothing, just that silent grey wall and those ugly old cables.

Entry #27

by Jim O’Loughlin

“Good morning,” she says.

His eyelids open. He takes a deep breath.

“Hey,” he says.

She sits on the edge of the bed, staring out the window.

“Tell me what you dreamed about,” she says, not taking her eyes from the window.

“You know I never remember. What are you looking at out there?”


He stretches.

“Really, I don’t remember,” he says.

“I always tell you about my dreams.”

“I know. I hate your dreams. You always have me chasing you with an axe or something.”

She turns away from the window.

“That was one dream, and it’s not like I designed it that way.”

She turns back.

“But it must mean something. Otherwise you wouldn’t even be interested in mine.”

A ribbon of morning sunlight falls across the bed. He moves next to her, looking out the window.

“What are you looking at out there? There’s nothing but a wall and some wires.”

“Okay, then, you tell me. What does it mean when I dream you chase me with an axe?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you’re scared of me. Or maybe I represent something you’re afraid you can’t control.”

“Don’t flatter yourself.”

“You tell me then. Why would I chase you with an axe?”

“Maybe you’re afraid of me. Maybe you’re projecting your fear, coming after me before I can come after you. How’s that sound?”

Quiet. And then they speak at the same time.

“I Let’s WANT go TO back BREAK to UP bed.”

[Jim O’Loughlin’s flash fiction has been published recently in The Pedestal Magazine, North American Review and flash me magazine. He is the publisher of Final Thursday Press.]

Entry #26

by Peter Anderson

Walt looked up, grimly recognizing the thick power lines and insulated housings for what they were -- mockery. The electricity was out, for the third time this year; no power in the lines, no shock protection needed.

The power being out meant the milking machine was out, and the cows, already groaning with a night's worth of milk in their bellies, had to be milked by hand. Like the old days, with his father. But though there were plenty of things he missed about his boyhood -- the long idle stretch between spring planting and summer detasseling, fishing and swimming in the creek, tinkering with the old tractor -- milking by hand wasn't one of them.

None of this would be any problem, of course, if Lewis had remembered to keep the generator filled with fuel. But the kid forgot again, as if six years as a hired hand had taught him nothing.

Well, Walt muttered, Lewis would pay for his oversight. The kid would have to milk the cows, too, right alongside him, but without gaining the warm memories Walt enjoyed from working next to his own father, long ago.

He could already feel the cold stiffness in the joints of his hands from grasping the endless series of udders, and the soreness of his lower back from hunching over on a wooden stool, the inevitable consequences of milking his half of two hundred Guernseys. He hoped Lewis would feel the same thing.

This time, Walt vowed, the kid would learn.

Entry #25

In the Arms of Angels
by Sandra Seamans

Detective Joey Russo knelt beside the chalk outline on the sidewalk. Mary Cates, his best snitch, had died here early last night. The coroner figured it was suicide, but Joey had his doubts. He felt the whisper of a hand touch his shoulder. He turned to find a little girl in a soft, pink nightgown, hugging a teddy bear to her chest.

"What are you doing out here in the cold, sweetie?" he asked.

"Mary was my friend."

"Did you see her fall?"

The girl nodded her head, "The angel tried to catch her. I saw the sparklies from her wings when Mary grabbed the wires up there. I guess Mary was too heavy, cause the angel only caught her soul."

"Just her soul?"

"Uh-huh, you can see it there -- on the wall."

Joey looked at the wall, saw the black outline of Mary's body burned into the wall and the white stain of angel wings behind it.

"Did you see anything else?"

"I saw Tommy Bones chasing Mary across the roof. He was shooting at her with his gun. Do you suppose she saw the angel before she jumped?"

Joey crossed himself, "I think maybe she did, little one."

"I'm glad the angel caught her soul."

"I am too, baby."

Joey sighed as he watched the child dashed back across the street and into her mother's waiting arms. With any luck, there’d be no angels around when he caught up with Tommy Bones.

Entry #24

Silver Bells and Cockle Shells
by forgottenmachine

First impressions last.

If he looked dull, chances were. And if a glint lay behind his eyes, well, then just call her Mary Magpie.

But this one was different. She'd knocked a drink out of his hand in forging a path to the bar, and watched as both the glass and her words tumbled and shattered on the floor, before she could stop either.

"Shit sorry I'll buy you another...."

"Bloody Mary." In a quiet voice, laced with promise and expectancy.

They'd been talking now for well over an hour, her ears ringing with the faint hum that always accompanies engaging conversation. Yet she could not recall a single topic, and in the strangeness of that revelation, Mary looked at his face for what felt like the first time. He wasn't even remotely her type; his features held as much appeal as the walls of a warehouse, silent and grey, bits of thin, dark hair drooping like wire across his forehead.


Flashing lights coloured the walls a dull red. Two officers stood just out of the shadows, beckoning to Sgt. Sheppard as he ducked under the tape.

As he approached, he heard the last of a muffled conversation.

".....patrol this road every damn week, and never even give this place a second glance."

Sheppard peered into the cold depths beyond the warehouse door.

"You know what they say about first impressions....."

Entry #23

The Satchel
by Bryan D. Catherman

It had been five months since the satchel containing strange items had been left in my restaurant. Among them is an unsigned winning lottery ticket, the very thing causing me such grief.

The other items are a copy of the local paper, dated November 3, 1991; two spent rifle cartridges I assume to be 7.62mm; Potok's novel, My Name is Asher Lev in paperback with page 243 dog-eared, which is no rightful place to pause; two spoons; a map of Cypress; a peculiar but rather dull photo of the end of a building wall; and of course, a winning lottery ticket from this very city.

Although my restaurant isn't kosher, I'm a God-fearing man. Surely, I couldn't have claimed the ticket so soon after my discovery of the satchel, but now it has been five months and the ticket expires in exactly one week.

I have analyzed every clue and come up empty. I posted the photograph on my menu board between the soups and fresh breads inquiring of my patrons if they recognized the building. None did. The picture is my last clue but it yields no answers. If it were of a face maybe, but it's not. It's only of a depressed wall of no consequence. Why would anybody photograph it?

So it's decided; I will claim this ticket. But so as not to bar my entry into the Eternal Kingdom, I will forever seek the rightful owner of this ticket and return to him this unnerving photograph.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Entry #22

Bubba's Freedom
by Jeff Neale

Pops shuffled over to Tony who was leaning against a utility pole in the middle of the exercise yard.

"Whatup, old man?" Tony said.

"You see em?" Pops said.

"See what?"

"Them wires a runnin from that box over by the jailhouse up to this pole and then out over that wall yonder," Pops said.

"Yeah, so?" Tony said.

"That there's the way Bubba gonna fly away from here come dark," Pops said.

"What the hell you talkin about you old hillbilly?" Tony said.

"I'm talkin bout what most people reckon happens when all that juice hit a man in that chair.

They say it burns up his life right then and there and that's the end of it, but it ain't so."

"You're trippin, man," Tony sneered. "Bubba's barbeque meat."

"Listen at me, when they cut on that juice it ain't gonna kill no Bubba. What it is gonna do is suck ole Bubba's ghost right up outta that chair, through them wires, an clean on over that wall to sweet freedom," Pops said.

"You're so full of shit," Tony said, pointing his finger in Pop's face. "They ought to fry your scrawny little ass right along with his."

At 8:30 pm, the corridor lights outside of Pop's cell flickered briefly.

"Fly, Bubba, fly." he whispered.

[Jeff Neale is the author of several short stories, many of which can be found on his blog, The Write Thing. His short story "The Question of Laura" was selected for publication in the July 2006 inaugural issue of The Picolata Review. His hobbies include reading, golf, and music.]

Entry #21

Crack in an Hour-glass
by Betty Gordon

A wrecking ball shattered the Hancock building along with its history. City fathers decided this 1825 structure spoiled their contemporary asphalt jungle. The ball did its job and the building was reduced to rubble—all, that is, but one enormous concrete slab suspended in the air under metal ropes.

The ball, determined to raze the entire building into nameless rubble, came at it again with force. The slab remained thumbing its nose at so-called progress.

Workers scratched their heads. Then, one of the men saw something and called to the others.
I thought it peculiar, but I’ve seen many strange things in the Hancock. Then, one of the men said, “Look at that. If I didn’t see it with my own eyes I wouldn’t believe it.”

The other guys shaded their eyes trying to see what he was pointing at.

I waited.

Then, “Dear God in Heaven, it’s the face of Jesus. Look at the hair, the sad expression, and it even looks like he’s wearing a crown of thorns.”

“Naw, the sun’s playing tricks on you, old man.”

“Look harder. Doesn’t anyone see it? Besides that, I see other faces and eyes looking at us.”

The men shook their heads as they walked away.

I wanted to call them to stop and look again at what they were destroying, but it was no use. They couldn’t hear my voice. Only my friends in the slab could hear me—we’d been together a long time.

[Betty Gordon, a native Texan, follows her dream to write mystery manuscripts that will find their way to publication. She graduated from the University of Houston-Downtown with a B.S. in Professional Writing and from U of H-Clear Lake with a M.A. in Literature, Creative Writing, and a M.A. in Visual Arts.]

Entry #20

The Blank Canvas
by MV

“I know it’s not much of a view, but one day I’m going to make it better.” I frowned as I flexed Carl’s left leg. The only way that wall could be prettier was to knock the building down. “You never asked me how I broke my back?” Just because I was paid to feed them their drugs and make sure their muscles didn’t give up the ghost completely they thought they could pour their stories into me. He stared out the window as I swapped legs. “It’s my blank canvas, it’s stayed blank.” He turned his gaze towards me. “One day I’ll tag it.” His gaze full of belief froze the frown on my forehead.

We didn’t talk about the wall again, but as his mood darkened as the days got shorter I looked up at the wall relief flooding through me each day it stayed blank.

I smelled acetone before I saw them: three of them, faceless behind their oversized hoods. I could have walked away, but for some reason I kicked the crates out from under them and sprayed one of them with mace before I was grabbed by the shoulder and realised how stupid I’d been. I wondered how badly they’d hurt me when a can of spray paint bounced heavily off a hooded head. The other two were gone before he crumpled to the floor.

As I looked up at Carl clutching his window frame I wondered when I had started to believe again.

Entry #19

by Albert G Daviou

I am Selfina. I have been described by some with words from the Hebrew poet of love, Solomon; I am black and beautiful, though I am the lover of no king. My room is above a brothel from which I sometimes profit; not that I perform there, but the workingwomen are my friends; for them I run an occasional errand, get a pack of Slims, a quick bite, less occasionally pick up a score, man or meth. I am not destitute; I do not need their money, but it is better for them to pay for the little services than for them to feel beholden. Even hookers have souls.

This is where I choose to live, here in what some call the ghetto surrounded by these workingwomen who are my friends. It is my home though I am black, beautiful, and not poor.

Across the alley is a wall of a small room that rises from the back of an abandoned warehouse. I do not know what is in the room—a stairway or elevator leading to the roof? I live there because of the apparition that appears on the wall at dawn, the countenance of a woman just beneath the power lines. She is not a workingwoman. She appears to them, the Virgin. Often shortly after dawn, one or two of my friends come to my room for coffee and there we say our prayers to the Virgin that we would be blessed and protected by her. Hookers have souls.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Entry #18

Grey Inspiration
by Diana Christine

The softness of night surrounded me, crisp cotton sheets caressing my naked skin. The scent of hydrangea lingered in the air though its candle was quenched hours ago. Duran's arms held me close but it was the memory of last night that continued to embrace me. Last night was my first attendance of the Academy Awards and my work had been honored. I still could hardly believe it.

I am a writer of books. I am a writer of several books, but my latest effort had been turned into a screenplay and subsequently a successful film. He Can't Lose for Winning. Who would have thought when my first two books couldn't even find buyers that I would one day come to this?

Duran rolled me over and kissed my face. "I'm proud of you," he whispered. I smiled.

"I've been wanting to ask you," he continued. "I've been wondering what kept you inspired. What kept you going in the beginning when your work wasn't selling?"

"It was the window," I answered. "It was the view from my window. My view was dismal and grey, and I knew if I didn't keep working hard, I would be stuck with a grey view forever."

Entry #17

Let Her Sleep
by kintheatl

In the morning, when the sun was biting its way through the blinds, making her feel guilty that she wanted to sleep a little longer, Janey would wish for a silent grey rain.

There was something about being in bed that she loved with a passion she could not explain. It was one of the only places she ever felt safe, and even then, it was only for the few hours when she was totally dead to the world. She loved thinking of those lost hours where she lived, but did not really live. She knew this was crazy, but she didn't really care.

Janey always woke up slowly, as though she had to learn to live again each and every day, but once she got going, the routines took over and she was ok. She pulled her fleece jacket over her head to keep warm, brushed her hair from her face, stretched to get all the kinks out, then made her way to the kitchen.

If she was lucky, she would be met with just a small mess, but more times than not she was greeted with all the things she did not take the time to do the night before. Glasses, plates, utensils, and bowls littered the counters and the sink.

Janey would swear to herself that she would remember to leave the kitchen clean before going to bed from now on, but by nightfall, that promise to herself, made many times before, would once again be forgotten.

Entry #16


For 52 years he had been going there every night. Every single night he would carry his lamp, sit in front of the wall and talk to his friend. He had met him when he was 16 and all these years they had shared practically everything.

He would discuss his lost love, failed marriage, great jobs, psycho bosses...everything...his friend would listen, comfort him and offer advice every now and then. They would argue at times but reached consensus in the end.

He was always at peace when they were together. No matter how hard the day would be, it was the nights he looked forward to, never caring for what others had to say. As he grew older the visits became longer. They would still meet in front of the wall, now dilapidated and he would still carry his old lamp. He even started spending the whole night there talking with his only friend who never left him.

One day, he was found dead in front of the same wall, his friend was nowhere in sight. But even though he lays buried in the graveyard, his shadow awaits for him every night at the wall.

Entry #15

The Centenarian
By Joni Haws

I wouldn’t mind me some new shoes. George used to find me the most gorgeous shoes. Amy says I don’t need them, and she’s right, of course. But I love new shoes.

She’s a sweet little thing, that Amy, bouncing in and out of here, but she needs to get that hair out of her eyes. I don’t fret when she gets a bit patronizing. She can’t see beneath the wrinkles and stooped shoulders to find the dancer, the lover, or the woman who buried three of her six children while their daddy was fighting the war.

There was a party for me in the rec. room, with silly streamers and cake I couldn’t eat. I loved seeing my boys, but they never seem to be able to stay long. I let them squeeze my hands and I told them I was tired. I was too. I’m plum worn out.

I’m no fool. I know this is just a prison with a pretty name. Once the hearing goes and your hips become a threat they tuck you into a quiet little cell with floral wallpaper. I’m not angry at them though.

George and I promised each other that the first one to go was to come right back for the other. Twenty-six years later, it’s the first time I’ve been stood up. You can bet he’ll get an earful next time I see him, and he better get me a damn fine pair of shoes.

Entry #14

Another Sign
by Matt Dawdy

The assassin hovers near a shack, watching the road. Its snake-body is almost invisible; a vicious streak of blurred grey sent to kill somebody.

It could be for me. I finger the pistol in my pocket.

I make it by, huddled down in my hood, never so glad to be ignored, deciding once again to change my ways.

Entry #13

Off the Grid
by Anna

“Everything’s connected! See those wires, over on the gable end there, that’s how they do it. Although they’re getting so clever they don’t even need the wires anymore.

You think I’m joking; I’m not! Everybody’s watched these days. They know what newspaper they buy, what they eat for lunch, who they cheat with, what car they drive, what car they’d like to drive, where they bank and what they drink.

Did you know there are 4.2 million CCTV cameras in the England alone? And a person might think they’re safe at work, but they’ve got software to measure keystroke rates, and the company truck’s GPS tracks your every move, even that twenty mile detour to that great little motel…...

Once upon a time you could drag a few branches behind your mule and leave no trace on this earth, but not anymore. Hell they might as well chip you at birth, it would save a lot of trouble.

Don’t shake your head like that; I’m serious! But they can’t see me. No Sir! I’ve no mobile phone, that’s the worst one, they can track you better than a hound with one of those things, no bank account, my deals are all strictly cash, no computer and no car.

I’m like you fella! Old and off the grid!

‘Cept you have an advantage over me Mister, cos I can’t follow you out the cat flap and on the roof, so I never know where you get to go!”

Friday, January 05, 2007

Entry #12

Silent Grey
by J. Scott Ellis

I never told you before, but you had an uncle.

My big brother Charley was exciting, the hero of my world. He could throw a perfect spiral and knock the rubber core out of a baseball. He had the kind of laugh that infected everyone around him, and we all did our best to draw it out.

He was good to me, taking me wherever he and his friends went.

This place used to be an electric plant. The gate was padlocked, but there was just enough slack in the chain that we could squeeze through.

A sign hung from that shed: High Voltage. Keep Out. When Charley wasn't looking, Derek Williams dared me to go inside. By the time Charley saw what I was doing, I had already opened the door. The air was crackling. I felt an overpowering thrum in my chest. Just as I was losing my nerve, Charley jerked me back by my tee-shirt collar, lost his footing and tumbled through.

I tried to grab for him, and that's the last thing I remember. They say I was thrown back fifteen feet. I woke up at the hospital deaf and color blind. Despite the shock, to this day the doctors do not understand why. But they didn't know Charley.

Without Charley, there is no laughter.

Without Charley, there is no color.

Without Charley, the world is a cold, swirling morass of silent grey.

Entry #11

by Nothingman

The Shaman stared at the wall intently. Words dripped like venom from his mouth to keep the spells flowing.

Inside the building the warrior hit the wall harder to break free from the words that echoed inside his brain and drove him madder by the second.

"Father, he is strong." His daughter standing by his side said to him.

"I know, but I can hold him inside. He will not live to see the light of this day" he said.

In the darkness, the warrior could do nothing to ease the pain but hit the wall harder and harder. His shoulders took the strain and he didn't know what would break first, him or the wall.

"Father we can still leave, let him be. We can come back tomorrow"

"No!" The Shaman shouted, "I must kill this demon today, for tomorrow I might not be able to catch him."

Cracks slowly snaked their way in the wall. Bits and pieces of mortar started their slow journey to the ground below.

The Shaman chanted faster but to no effect, the wall was breaking.

Finally the warrior broke through and soon the Shaman's dead body slumped to the ground.

The warrior looked at the Shaman's daughter, enveloped her in his arms, and said,
"Thanks for the counter spells, my love."

Entry #10

The Old Grey Wall
by Paul Liadis

For most men, their most fond childhood memory involves playing catch in the backyard with their dad, like the ending of The Natural. Mine's a little different. Mine is of the old grey wall outside of the apartment Mom and I lived in when I was a boy. We had electricity most of the time, hot water occasionally, but the old grey wall was always there.

Mom used to come home late from work only to find me outside throwing the beat-up Rawlings baseball Grandpa gave me against the wall, imagining I was Ozzie Smith roaming the Busch Stadium infield. I was too small to make the baseball team, but on that gravel filled pavement I was an All Star. For years I was sure I held the record for most throws, 5,429, without a miss and if the Guinness Book of Records people ever happened to be in my neighborhood, I would be famous.

I still return from time to time to my home town to visit my mother, who now lives in a nice little Ranch not too far from the city. That dilapidated excuse of an apartment building burned down a few years ago but the old grey wall remains. I rarely miss the chance to visit my old friend, only now I bring my son with me and we stand in front of that old grey wall and have a catch together. Sometimes, I miss the ball on purpose, just to give my friend a turn.

Entry #9

by SF Johnston

His Daddy was the very worst kind of crook because he preyed on men's weakness and poor folks threw their last dollars into his pockets for a taste of the good life ha ha that's funny the good life because look what he bought for his son his Catholic son with his hair and his smile and his secret Marilyn and those winks in the press oh they wink alright but they don't know about Cuba and the Mob and I've been to Russia and New York so I know about that but I'm not a commie well maybe a little bit I am but I was in the military and I'm a patriot so I'm just doing what they told me but I was early so I was staring out that window and I work here so I know a Johnny Walker sign was there but it's gone so I pretended it was his bootlegging father's blood like he was executed right there and ha ha that's funny too because now I'm at the other window and here comes mister perfect in his car and just listen to them cheering like he's a god well he's not watch this wow back and to the left so somebody else shot him too which means Sam wasn't lying and hey look that guy's pointing away from me at the smoke and the fence which means I got away with it ha ha I really did okay now I have to go.

Entry #8

It's Not So Bad
by Jaye Wells

The silent grey walls of the factory rose from the streets like tombstones etched with broken dreams. I sat across the street in a coffee shop watching the scene through a rain spattered window.

"Can I warm up your coffee?" asked the waitress. Her nametag identified her as "Gladys," and at last count she was missing two teeth.

"Sure, thanks," I said, pushing the cup toward her.

"Whatcha workin' on?" she asked.

"Supposedly, I'm writing a book," I said, lighting another cigarette. The distraction was welcome.

"Well, don't that beat all?" Gladys said. "I love me some Danielle Steel. Do you write stuff like her?"

"I'm afraid not," I responded.

"That's a shame," she said. "Well, I'm sure what you write is nice, too."

As much as I appreciated Gladys' faith in me, it was undeserved. She moved on, forcing me to face my laptop screen again. After an hour, the open document held only two words: "you" and "suck."

The blinking cursor taunted me. We, the cursor and I, both knew I'd given up. Maybe tomorrow I'd find a real job. The factory might be hiring. Assembling widgets probably paid more than writing. How bad could it be?

Then I looked at Gladys, with her grease-spattered pink uniform and orthopedic shoes. What dreams did she have as a girl? And when had she given up on them, deciding a life of serving up hash and eschewing dental care wasn't so bad?

I stubbed out my cigarette and started typing.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Entry #7

Entry #7
Sorry, Ogden
by The Sarcasticynic

I think that I shall never see

A billboard lovely as the side of a grey building with three electrical conduits and a bunch of wires leading to a connection block, and then to who knows where - probably to a bunch of tenements with beer-guzzling men sitting in their underwear smoking cigars, eating nachos, belching, and watching The Simpsons on TV.

Entry #6

The Apartment
By Mike Miller

My new friends are teaching me to play soccer in the alley behind the building. I'm learning to use my left leg more often and scored a game winning goal yesterday.

I love this apartment. I never would have dreamed that we would live somewhere so nice. Sleeping on the couch and watching TV until I drift off is so much cooler than sleeping on the park bench hoping the winos don't steal my spare clothes.

Mom gives me $20 a day to run down to the grocery store to pick up food. I normally get Ramen noodles and cereal. I like the cheap food because mom lets me keep the change. I store it in a hole I made in the couch cushion. I'm saving to buy her a sweater for her birthday.

She deserves it. Mom works strange hours. She gets to work from home but is pretty much on call all day every day. I'm going to ask her if she wants to go to the movies after she is done with this client. I miss spending time with her. There is plenty in the couch to get us in if we share a popcorn.

I don't really understand why people are willing to pay her to spend a half hour talking to her in her room. There must be some really lonely people out there. But, I love this apartment and I love playing soccer when they come over to work with my mom.

Entry #5

Once Upon A Time
By Herschel Cozine

Once upon a time the building hummed with well oiled machinery. Twenty-four hours a day, six days a week, the building was alive with people—and their dreams.

Peggy, a young widow with two preschool girls, worked the drill press. This week a pair of shoes for Denise. Next week, or perhaps the week after, gloves for Melissa. They could be bought for a good price at the thrift store.

Mike, a high school dropout, kept the machinery running. There weren’t too many jobs for young men with limited education. He lived alone in a room above a garage. He watched a black and white TV while eating burgers from MacDonalds.

Phil, a one armed ex-football player. He kept a fatherly eye on Peggy, ready to step in if she ever needed protection. His own daughter died of cancer a few years back. His wife was dead as well, still grieving for her daughter.

Then the company failed. A few workers watched as the president drove away in his limo, leaving them to find another job. The old building, locked and shuttered, stands as a mute reminder of better times. Phil and Mike can be found rummaging through trash bins for recyclables, and sleeping in doorways. No one knows what happened to Peggy. She moved away, to California someone said.

Listen closely and you can hear the lathes turning. And the drill press whirring. And the people. Yes. The people—and their dreams.

Once upon a time.

Entry #4

Veni, Vedi
By Jim Stitzel

“What do you think’s in there, Rob?”

“No idea, Finn. Juice, most likely.”


“Sure, you know, electricity. Stuff’ll juice you, sure as I’m standing here, if you touch it. Knock you flat, leave your hair all sparkly and curled and smelling like something that crawled out of a wall socket.”




“No, what?”

“It’s silly.”

“What? You can tell me. I won’t laugh.”

“Well… it’s just that…”


“I wondered if maybe… it was possible there might be something else coming through those lines.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Magic, maybe.”


“Sure, why not? Electricity runs back and forth in wires all the time. Why not magic?”

“Because there’s no such thing as magic.”

“See? I knew you’d think it was silly.”

“Now, don’t get all upset. That’s not what I meant. It’s just… you really think there could be magic up there?”

“Sure! If someone were to touch them, who knows what would happen.”

“I don’t know, Finn. That seems a little far- Hey, what are you doing?”

“I’m going to climb up there and touch one, see what happens.”

“Be careful! Those things might be dangerous!”

“Don’t worr- Whoa.”

“What? What’s happening?”

“I… it’s not magic, exactly. It’s something else. I can feel everything, I can see… everything. Rob, you should try th-”

“Finn? Where’d you go? Finn? FINN! There… there’s nothing here. Oh, Finn. You took it all with you. Where did you go?”

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Entry #3

Grey Awakening
by Sam Wright

Now isn’t that odd? I pass by this old building every day, but I never noticed till just now that the sign is gone. Damn, that’s just weird. Maybe I’m getting old, or maybe it’s this weather doing it to me. Grey. Everything’s grey this time of year.

We haven’t had any snow even though it’s January, so instead of white everything is a dull grey. The clouds seem to have taken root above the old grey factory and now it blends in almost as if its part of the sky. But I know it wasn’t always like this. The sign had color - a lot of color - giving the structure a personality. I can see the outline of where it was just below the power lines that hang lifeless like a memorial banner.

When did it happen? It’s not like it was important to me or anything, but it simply bothers me to know that things can change so easily without my noticing them. What else have I missed? What other transmutations have taken place right under (or over) my nose?

Oh well.

Damn, I have to laugh at myself, getting all worked up over something like this. I never even liked the old bastard. I never voted for him (but then no one ever “voted” for him).Now he’s gone - hanged by the neck until…

Well, I guess I just miss him always watching. Like a butcher watching chickens. Odd though, missing Saddam’s face. Very odd indeed.

Entry #2

The Barrio
by S.W. Vaughn

I grew up here. Grass was a fairy tale, and rust cultivated intricate patterns on concrete and pipe. When summer baked the alleys, we sought the open rooftops.

Queenie had the best roof. She’d painted it green, and rendered flowers on the stubby surrounding walls. She welcomed us in her ersatz garden. The adults avoided her. We heard whispers: Queenie had a third leg, a rocket in her pocket. We didn’t understand “transvestite.”

Queenie had a soft spot for Jaime Kimball. We’d find him there at all hours. Jaime’s hopped-up mother didn’t take stock in her son, so he did what he pleased. We were at once sympathetic, and green as Queenie’s roof with envy.

Jaime whispered through life, a born peacemaker, soothing tempers when hot and piddly childhood wars broke out. Once I thought he might have become a cop, like me.

Five years ago, Jaime plugged everything life had burdened him with into a brick of C4, which he planted in Queenie’s basement.

We found him on the roof of the nearest building outside the blast radius. The pulsating lights of fire and emergency vehicles highlighted a lifetime of anguish in the hollows beneath his haunted eyes.

They shot him three times. I couldn’t draw my gun. I finally understood.

I grew up here. The ruins have shifted, settled. Grass pokes through warped asphalt in tufts and clusters, soft green paint splashed on ancient canvas. Queenie’s blood fed those stalks, and Jaime’s spirit brushes them with a sigh.

Entry #1

by Wavemancali

The image of Jesus on the wall outside his window was talking to him again. Mike didn’t want to do the things the image told him but he was scared of the consequences. Hell was for eternity, and the people he killed went to heaven. Sometimes, when he was about to strike the killing blow, the voices would tell him to stop, that this time it was just another test of his faith.

Anna was overjoyed when she got permission from the building owner to do a mural on the side of hardware store. She had never worked on anything of this scale in the past, but she had faith in herself. She didn’t know how she was going to incorporate the wires that ran across the top half of the wall but then inspiration struck. There was just enough room above the wires to paint a couple of hands. She would make it a mural of a puppeteer controlling a marionette below and the wires would blend in with the other strings.

The alleyway beside the hardware store was dark and secluded. This was the part of the job Anna didn’t like. Tethered by the lines meant to keep her safe from a fall, she felt trapped in the narrow lane. A man was approaching her; he looked like he had been crying. His head was tilted a little to one side like he was listening to something but the alley was silent.

"Silent Grey" Short Fiction Contest

(Picture by Jess Taylor, my artistically gifted niece)

Whether you're an old friend, or new to The Clarity of Night, welcome!

Now that the curtains of winter are settling on the world (at least where I am), perhaps you need a creative spark to keep the fires warm. You've come to the right place!

Using the photograph above for inspiration, compose a short fiction piece of no more than 250 words in any genre or style. Send your entry to me by email at jevanswriter at yahoo dot com before 11:00 p.m., Wednesday, January 10th (Eastern Time, United States). I'd prefer attachments formatted in Microsoft Word or Word Perfect, but if you have something more exotic, you can paste the text into the body of an email. Each entry will be posted and indexed.

To make things interesting, the following prizes are on the line:

  • 1st Place: $25 Amazon gift certificate, 8 x 10 print of the "Silent Grey" photograph (inscribed by Jason Evans)
  • 2nd Place: $20 Amazon gift certificate
  • 3rd Place: $15 Amazon gift certificate
  • 4th Place: $10 Amazon gift certificate
  • 5th Place: $5 Amazon gift certificate
  • Readers' Choice Award $15 Amazon Gift certificate, 8 x 10 print of the "Silent Grey" photograph (inscribed by Jason Evans)

But this is about more than prizes. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity to meet and interact with your fellow writers. Read and comment on the entries. Teach, and learn, from others. Let's make writing a less lonely process.

  1. 250 words maximum.
  2. Titles are optional, but encouraged. Titles do not count towards your word count.
  3. One entry per person.
  4. Any genre or style is welcome. If you choose to submit poetry, you must have narrative movement within the poem if you wish to compete with the prose pieces for the prizes.
  5. All rights remain with you, the author; however, you consent to the posting of your entry on this blog.
  6. Judging will be conducted by Jason Evans on the basis of pacing, entertainment value, technical use of language, storytelling, and voice.
  7. Please provide a name for your byline. If you have a website or a blog, I'd be happy to link your name to it. If you don't have a website or blog, feel free to include a short bio. A bio does not count towards your word count.
  8. At the close of the contest, I will announce the date and time for the announcement of winners.
  9. After the winners are announced, I will post what I liked most about each entry. Also, if you send a request to me by email, I would be happy to offer any constructive comments I might have. Constructive comments will be by private email only.
  10. Public critiques in comments are encouraged, but must remain respectful. I reserve the right to delete comments and ban participants who do not abide by the collegial spirit of Clarity of Night contests.

Let me officially declare the contest open! Spread the word!