Saturday, April 23, 2016

Cracked Flash: Year 1, Week 38

You enter a dark room. It smells musty--old, and ill-used. The door shuts quietly behind you, and you hear the faint snick of the lock turning. You're shut in.

There are several options here. You can TURN AROUND and try to break through the door. You can STAY where you are and scream, hoping somebody nice hears you. Or you can WALK FORWARD, and step into the unknown. Which do you choose?


Brave choice, friend. You take a step, and suddenly a single light bulb flicks on, dimly illuminating the room. The room is bare, dusty, and grey. The only thing in the room is a single, forlorn chair parked dead center, just under that hanging, flickering bulb. On the chair is a dusty postcard. It draws your eye. Will you CONTINUE, or will your TURN BACK?


You walk over to the chair, and stare down at the postcard. Under the thin film of dust, you can read a hastily-written note, in a crabbed, spiky hand. It describes a challenge. A challenge of the kind not seen before--a mad, crazy, slightly insane challenge. A Cracked challenge. Will you face it?

> ...

(That's for you to decide.)

Judges This Week: Si and Mars

Word Count: 300 max
How: Submit your stories as a comment to this post, along with your name, word count, and title (and Twitter handle or blog if you've got 'em!). One entry per person.
Deadline: Midnight tonight, PDT!
Results announced: Next Wednesday afternoon.
Remember: Your entry must begin with the prompt! The prompt can be mutilated, but not beyond recognition. (Pictures do not need to be incorporated into your stories, they're for inspiration (and sometimes our amusement)).

"It was too late to turn back--for all of them." 
Random Pictures/Memes of Inspiration


  1. Drastic Measures
    By Daisy Warwick
    298 Words

    It was too late to turn back – for all of them. Now that the doors to the darkened rooms had closed, the challenge had started. All the players were working alone, but in unison within the windowless row of quiet rooms.
    Jenny had been told the rules before she’d entered.
    It was a last resort for sure. But she had something to prove. She wanted this. No, she needed this – a swift kick up the backside for her imagination.
    Sitting on the chair – the only piece of furniture in the room – she tried to rock backwards, but failed. The chair didn’t creak or offer any kind of comfort for her buttocks. Positioned directly under a single light bulb hanging from a cord, the chair appeared unmovable.
    Jenny spread her paper over her knee, but found herself blocking out the light.
    It seemed like a bit of an oversight regarding the set up. How could she write if her shadow was in her way? Standing again, she approached the chair face on and tried to move it backwards, but as she did so, she felt it burn her fingertips.
    Realising she’d erred, she sighed. It wasn’t her shadow in her way, it was just herself – like always.
    She needed to think outside the box.
    Laying the paper down on the warmed seat and sitting on the floor cross-legged to use the chair as a desk she began to doodle a flower, but as her pen made a shape other than a letter, the chair became slightly hotter again.
    She’d only eight more strikes before the chair was too hot to use. Procrastination was forbidden. It was the most severe writers’ retreat she’d been on yet, but she began to appreciate the discipline as a decent idea began to form.

    1. Thanks for the nice comments and making me feel welcome, it's my first time entering.

  2. X-ray
    by Kelly Griffiths
    300 words

    It was too late to turn back-- for all of them. After they trudged (like sheep, Drue pointed out) under the glowing turquoise arch, the symptoms began almost immediately. Spike said they'd been x-rayed. It wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last. Every species coveted data, so collection points were constructed at high-traffic places. Planet #AZ56, the 11th of their 12-planet stint, was no different. In fact, the last item on the Corps' to-do list was to set up their own bio-reader. That wasn't the problem.

    The problem was the arch reminded Drue of his childhood, of the entrance gate to a haunted section of the amusement park. 10-year-old Drue had not realized what he entered, and the resulting experience was profound. Drue wet himself.

    At the sight of the arch, that memory and an unreasonable fear coiled inside Drue. He suggested they send a probe.

    "No threats on this planet, Drue. You think you're smarter than the Medi?"

    They pressed on.

    "Anyone else feel like your nerves are being strummed?" someone asked.

    "Yes... and what about that sound? Like metal scraping inside my ears. I never heard anything like it."

    "It sounds like silverware on plates."

    "Quit your belly-aching," Spike ordered, "The Medi can reverse it when we get back. It always does."

    "Well, the Medi didn't warn us about this," Drue pointed out. "Anyone else smell iron?"

    Everyone did.

    "You can't reverse everything," Drue said, "Like being born... you can die, but you can never be unborn."

    "You think you're so smart, Drue, with your little analogies. One word: orders."

    Drue turned on Spike intending to come back with One word: stupidity, but the sight of Spike's eyes wiped all his thoughts of debate. Spike's eyes had no whites, only blood.

    "That wasn't an x-ray."

    1. Good end =) I also like the idea of nerves being 'strummed'. Nicely put.

    2. I like the atmosphere and the snippets of back story about the characters, but I am not sure what happened in the end.

  3. Stella Turner
    300 words

    University Challenge

    It was too late to turn back – for all of them. The challenge was accepted. Mr Knight had told them if they completed it, university places were secured. The room was dark, dank and smelt like mushrooms. They each had a task, unravel a riddle. Simon sat cross legged in a corner. He wasn’t sure why he had been chosen the other three were popular kids he was a geek, a loner. Well maybe not exactly a loner he had a couple of good friends Benny and Gerry, known as the ice cream twins. It miffed Gerry! He told everyone his name was spelt with a G.

    The kids were busy googling their riddles trying to make sense of it all. Simon didn’t bother. Mr Knight was a weirdo and he wasn’t bothered about going to university. Maybe he’d go on an extended gap year and travel the world. He’d only accepted the challenge because he had nothing to do this weekend.

    They’d found water and crisps on a table in an adjoining room that Sam had found by walking around and tapping the walls in the primary room. The popular kids never even said thank you.

    Sam had returned to his corner, leaving the others huddled by the food. Good move as the door shut tight behind him. The popular kids never even noticed he had gone.

    “What time is it” asked Katie

    Greg and Lucy shook their heads. All three phones had lost their charge. Lucy was practically hysterical. Her phone charge lasted for three days and she’d charged it just before starting the challenge.

    Sam switched on his phone, text to Benny. Benny was brilliant at co-ordinates, he’d locate where he was. Send the police. As he said before Mr Knight was the weirdest teacher in school.

    1. Simon turned into Sam in the third paragraph! Too much haste, repent in leisure...sorry so keen to submit this week before I went out.... any chance it could be amended... thanks Stella.

    2. I thought that's what had happened, lol! No worries, we got it. :)



    It was too late to turn back—for all of them. And what a pot pourri of prognosticators they were. Every imaginable futurist, prophet, mystic and visionary in the world had been flown in from every far flung outpost on earth. They were now comfortably, if constrictedly huddled in a cavernous cellar.

    The hubbub was ear-splitting.

    No one wanted to admit that they had no idea why they were there. Each assumed the other knew.

    “Ladies and Gentlemen,” a tall, svelte young man in a Richard Nixon mask yelled out, “Quiet! Please! Welcome to the secret lair of THE MIGHTY BLURT MAN.”

    BLURT MAN, they all thought. Yes, I can see that, each silently said to themselves.

    BLURT MAN was known to be the last remaining honest man, a mythical crime fighter and land developer who had the courage to say what no one else would. About pretty much anything.

    “My name is Rob Ott, BLURT MAN’S public spokesperson. He will be here shortly but I would first like to quell any concerns you have as to why you have been trundled here. As you must know, you are the Cream of the Seer crop. Collectively, YOU KNOW THE FUTURE. You are the GREATEST. And BLURT MAN AND THE WORLD NEEDS YOUR FAR-SIGHTEDNESS.”

    I looked around at my companions.

    I was just a simple weatherman with incredible luck.

    I instinctively knew which way the wind was blowing.

    It was truly an awe-inspiring menagerie.

    “The world is at a crossroads,” Rob Ott continued. “The skies are ablaze. A cornucopia of catastrophes threaten our food sources. Family pets and terrorists are viciously attacking us all. We need ONE BIG LEADER. BLURT MAN IS WILLING. YOU WILL SHOW HIM THE WAY.”

    Goodbye lowly FOX Affiliate, I thought.

    My career is finally on track.

    300 words you already knew were coming

  5. Phillip Urlevich
    "The Fortune Teller"

    It was too late turn back--for all of them. Henry Ventimilla was not a believer. He did not in the supernatural. Especially not believe in fortune telling. The idea that one person had some all powerful way to know someone else’s destiny by staring at a glass ball was beyond ridiculous.
    It was during a weekend excursion to the county fair with his girlfriend, that he finally gave in and partook of this sorcerous ritual, not because he had a sudden change of heart, but because of a woman. His girlfriend Eve.
    “Come on, it will be fun.”
    He scoffed. She pleaded. He gave in.
    They went into the tent of one Madam Xizor.
    After doing some bizarre chant, Madam Xizor looked into Henry’s eyes.
    “Henry, I foresee terrible things in three for you. First I see a terrible illness. Second, I see terrible heartbreak. Third I see great injury.”
    “Whatever lady, come on Eve, let’s get out of here.”
    The pair went on their way to enjoy the fair, riding the fast rides, and eating the deep fried eats. This unfortunate combo led to Henry rapidly developing stomach pains, which resulted in a trip to the bathroom.
    Eve somehow was immune and was impatient when he got out. “Come on Henry, I want to ride the cyclone!”
    Henry demurred, opting instead to hold her bag. While she was on the ride, he heard her cell phone vibrate, indicating a text message. Being nosey, he read it, and found it was from a guy named Adam agreeing to some secret rendezvous.
    That was it. When Eve returned, he broke it off with her and stormed off to the parking lot. Because he walked to fast, and the driver was distracted, he wound up with his foot run over.
    Sitting in the hospital, Henry could only laugh at his misfortune.

  6. Sue Denim
    Word Count: 13

    Along The Briny Beach

    It was too late to turn back, for all of them were dead.

  7. The Final (295 words)
    By Sara Codair

    It was too late to turn back--for all of them. The test had begun. They would either collaborate and score at least 75% and become wizards, or fail, get their minds wiped, and live out the rest of their life in a factory.

    Gretchen didn’t want to spend her life as a mindless soap- manufacturing drone, but Ricardo and Jack broke up last night and Felecia was still trying to seduce Pi.

    Unfortunately, collaboration was essential. They each had a different piece of the equation to solve on the Physics of Potency exam. Jack was so busy ignoring Ricardo that he missed an important variable, meaning them by the time Gretchen arrived at her portion, she had to redo his before she could answer hers. Felecia was distracting Pi; he messed up his portion. By the time the answer was put into the crystal proctor ball, it was wrong.

    “You’re all idiots,” muttered Gretchen, but no one heard her.

    “Just focus on your task,” she shouted, and they still didn’t hear her.

    When they five consecutive questions wrong, she lost it. It was statistically impossible to pass now, but she wasn’t going down without a fight. She’d prove she was a capable mage, one way or another.

    Enraged as she was, gathering power was easy. She wrapped it around herself like a flaming cocoon. Equations danced across her eyelids; she solved them effortlessly. The numbers translated to words as she spoke, sending flaming energy out from her fingers to her classmates. It twined around their bodies, contorting their forms and until they were all a pack of yapping Chihuahuas.

    The exam board materialized. They were all grinning.

    “That’s a pass if I ever saw one,” said the headmaster. The deans all nodded in agreement.

  8. Words: 296


    “It is too late to turn back - for all of us,” I said. “We have to go on. We were chosen for a reason.”
    Around us the landscape had turned starker until only short brush remained and the red dust was whipped into the air to scour our faces and hands. The prison tomb, after all, had been built to be forgotten. And it had been forgotten for nearly a thousand years. Books, though, can make memories last a lot longer.

    It felt an eternity before we reached the cliffs where the Khalver had been entombed. Some of us - those too weak - had been left behind to be buried in the sand. I wondered if their souls would reach the Veil now. But we had no choice but to push on.

    The tombs were carved into the rock and blood-red stone doors, their once pristine carvings worn by time, stood the only guard. I took the tattered tome from the bag digging into my shoulder and opened it at the passage where the words to open the doors had been written down an age ago.
    I stumbled over the old words, but, when I had finished, the doors opened with a deep groan. Skeletal remains lay at the doorway and, now that sunlight shone into the tomb, I could see the mass of roiling grey shadows inside.
    One of them rushed out and into Raonaild’s screaming mouth. The light of his soul flickered out in a burst of light.
    I could hear my own voice echoing a “No!” against the cliffs.
    When Raonaild spoke again, it was not with his own voice - or in his own tongue. I stared at the Khalver before me and dropped the book.
    The other shadows rushed from their tomb.

  9. 6EQU--
    by @pmcolt, 291 words

    It was too late to turn back -- for all of them. Three weary explorers stared out the porthole as the spacecraft *A Shot in the Dark* hurtled toward Comet 266P/Christensen.

    "Collision course set," announced Michelson as the main rocket engine died. "That's the last of our fuel."

    Dr. Grigori stared out at the stars.

    "What should we tell Earth?" Dr. Markova asked.

    Michelson shrugged. A world now plagued by climate shifts, mass extinction, and natural disasters too numerous to list needed hope, not more bad news.


    It had started decades prior. A mysterious radio signal from the stars. "Wow!" writ large in the margin by a grad student. Astronomers worldwide tuned to 1420 MHz, but heard only silence. For decades they wondered: was the Signal merely radio noise, or the first evidence humankind is not alone?

    The mystery deepened: the Signal returned, and Comet 266P/Christensen was pinpointed as its source, but against expectations, the Signal showed hints of advanced intelligence. So billions of dollars in venture capital funded *A Shot in the Dark* -- a one-way mission of discovery. Investors dreamed of alien technologies to save the world and pad their bank accounts. If successful, the crew would be hailed (whenever future investments could fund a rescue mission) as heroes by a world desperate for hope.


    But just before arrival, Dr. Grigori made a horrifying discovery. "The Signal is not from the Comet; the comet's halo merely reflects and amplifies it."

    "From where?" Michelson asked.

    "Are you familiar with the Gaia Hypothesis?" asked Markova. "That Earth is essentially a single, unified organism?"

    "Decades of pollution," muttered Grigori. "Neglect. Abuse."

    Markova looked grim as the Signal played over the speakers. "This Signal," she explained, "is the death rattle of Planet Earth."

  10. So am I the only one wondering if aliens came and abducted our judges? I hope they're ok! Hope you didn't get xrayed or go into a writing camp that zaps you or that you eloped with the Trump campaign (sorry, I can't remember every story, but you get it?!). :)

    1. Work got in the way for both of us yesterday, so we're posting the results today! It'll probably be late evening, as usual, just a day postponed! (We posted on Twitter, but I guess we should have put a page here to mention that.)