NOVEMBER Short Story Mix and Match(S.S.M.A.M.) - Page 3

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Thread: NOVEMBER Short Story Mix and Match(S.S.M.A.M.)

  1. #21
    A very gripping, compelling and complex continuation story , very well done! It’s nice that we get to hear more and more about Barabbas and Juliana and their mission and I can’t wait to hear about what happens with those space pirates.

  2. #22
    OK, here's the third one, at the bottom:
    Last edited by Mariana; November 27th, 2015 at 10:04 PM.

  3. #23


    Kristian sat with his back against the sandbags and tried to sleep. He had only a few hours to rest before he would have to help repair the bunker, and in the morning the Russians would be bombarding them again. Air so cold it turned breath into frost crept in from outside, where freshly fallen snow covered ski tracks and dead bodies. Kristian shivered, and again closed his eyes. He was thoroughly exhausted, but sleep did not come.

    It had not been like this early in the war. But now, with the Russians constantly attacking for three days at a time and the bunkers so far apart, the soldiers were slowly wearing down.
    I’m just too tired to be anything but afraid, he thought.


    He jerked his head up, and his friend Jere stood before him, stomping snow off his boots, slapping his hands to keep warm, and breathing out puffs of fog.

    “I found the strangest thing when we were digging out the storeroom,” Jere said, pulling an object out of his pack. “Look.”

    Jere’s outstretched hand held a small object, only a little larger than his palm: a plaque made of wood, beautifully carved. Kristian took it and turned it over in his hands, entranced by the intricacy.

    “I thought you’d like that. But you should sleep.”

    Kristian rubbed his eyes. “I can’t.”

    A shadow flickered across Jere’s face, and he slumped beside him. “I couldn’t either tonight.”

    Kristian looked over in surprise. “What?”

    “It’s just—it seems inevitable that—when we’re defeated, well. . .” Jere looked at his hands.

    Kristian felt a coldness growing inside of him, and he, too, lowered his eyes. “Jere, do you think that when—if we lose, will we lose everything we’ve won in the past? Will we still be Finland, even?”

    “I don’t know,” Jere said, and shakily rose his feet. “I just don’t want to die.”

    Jere walked to the other end of the room and laid on his back. “Try to sleep,” he said, closing his eyes.

    Kristian traced the design on the plaque over and over. It amazed him, enraptured him. It was an image of a mountain with a wheel that looked like an eye at the center; vines and roots grew over the wheel, and two chains crossed in front of it. It was beautiful. His fear receded to the back of his mind, and the carving was all he could see. Then, a most amazing thing happened.

    The pictures in the plaque moved. At first they only quivered, like the flickering of a picture show, except in wood. Then, three figures entered from the left: a stocky, strong figure carrying a hammer, a tall, stately old man, and a young swordsman with long hair and a reckless demeanor. The first figure pried the chains loose; the second brought out a harp and at his singing the roots unraveled. Then the last figure lifted the wheel that looked like an eye with both his hands, and it turned round and round in his grasp.

    Kristian watched in wonder and disbelief, and to his delight, the moving carvings played before him a vaguely familiar story, about the three men taking the object back to their land. As it ended, Kristian finally understood.

    Why, this is the story of the Sampo!
    he thought. From our folktales. From the Kalevala. The three heroes were Ilmarinen, Väinämöinen, and Lemminkäinen, and the wheel was the Sampo, a talisman of prosperity in all the tales.

    “Kristian. Kristian.” Jere’s voice broke into Kristian’ mind.

    “Oh—Jere. Was I asleep?”

    “You never closed your eyes.”

    But it must have been a dream,
    thought Kristian, as the numbness in his hands, his exhaustion, and his fear returned.

    For the next two days, there was barely any rest. By day the Russian artillery fired shell after shell, and by night the bunkers had to be rebuilt. But any time there was a pause, Kristian would take the carving in his hands and watch it play its stories. Whether they were real or inside his mind, he didn’t know, but they all swept him up anyway: he saw Ilmarinen woo the Maiden of the Rainbow, he saw Snowfoot and Lemminkainen defeat Frost, he saw Väinämöinen build a ship from a distaff and spindle. There were tales he knew to be true, too—from history. Gustavus Adolphus, the Caroleans, Elias Lonnrot—all of them lived inside the carvings. And, always, it played the story of the Sampo, the first of the stories that Kristian had seen. And as the fighting wore on, Kristian realized what the plaque really was.

    On the third morning, the pounding of artillery stopped. The Russians had taken a break. It was a freezing day, but, of course, there was work to be done, and no one rested for long. That evening, Kristian found Jere in the bunker.

    “I think I finally know what this is.”

    “What do you mean?” Jere said.”

    “It won’t make very much sense, not until you see. Just, hold it for a while, and watch.”

    “Watch what?”

    Kristian handed the plaque to him with care, and Jere took it, bewildered. He glanced at the image in his hand: the mountain with the wheel at its center. He was about to look away, but, almost immediately, his eyes were drawn back to the carving. And then, it trembled, shifted, and the image of the mountain faded. Coming from somewhere he could not see, an army of soldiers marched, slowly and in despair, before his eyes. They carried something with them, and as Jere looked closer, he saw that it was a casket. He could not hear their voices, and yet he knew what they said: “The king is dead. . .Carolus Rex is dead.”

    Jere jerked his eyes away from the image and covered it with his hand. When he lifted it, there was only the mountain and the wheel.

    “I’m insane.” He turned to Kristian, and drew in his breath sharply. “You saw this, too? You saw the carvings move?”


    “We’re insane.”

    “Maybe we are.” Kristian said, reflecting. “But—maybe not. I’m not sure what you saw, but what I saw was the story of the Sampo. And that wheel with the eye in the mountain? That’s the Sampo.”

    Jere eyed him curiously. “The Sampo from the Kalevala?”

    “Well—yes. And I think, though I’m not sure, that this—this
    is the Sampo. At least, a fragment of it.”

    Jere sighed deeply.

    “At least
    you are insane,” he said.

    “Am I?” Kristian said softly, staring at the plaque in his hands.

    There was silence for a long while, until a deafening explosion shattered it. Jere was on his feet in a moment. “They’re attacking again!” The shrieking of shells cut through the cold of Finnish winter, and the clamour of shouts and gunfire rattled the walls.

    Jere grabbed Kristian’s arm. “Come on, we have to get out!”

    The ground heaved beneath their feet as another thunderous blast resounded through the bunker; Kristian stumbled down, his hands slamming to the ground. Dust billowed all around, and he could not see. Then, with piercing whistle, something whizzed past his ear—a shell.

    Jere’s behind me,
    he thought.

    Jere’s behind me!

    Time seemed to slow, and the explosion was like a thousand explosions, one after the other, ringing like broken bells in his ears. Something ripped into his hand, and pain roared up his arm; his head struck against something, and he knew no more.

    Kristian was dreaming. There was a play going, but it was all in carvings. Small, wooden people bustled around the turns of a clock, and when their part was over, they stood, bowed, threw themselves to the floor and fell out of the wooden world. Time, memories, all passing away out of the wooden world. A wheel adorned with seven eyes rolled in of its own accord, and the wood shifted, changed, blurred,
    come, come, into the memories, into the memories. . .but in the end it all went up in flames, and the wooden world burned away and fell to pieces, and then there was something so beautiful, and bright, and real, but it was too real, much too real to look at now, behind the wooden curtain. . .

    It was the freezing cold that woke him. It crept through his fingers and into his whole body, and there was a dull, throbbing ache in his hand. When Kristian opened his eyes, he was in some kind of depression in the ground, among rubble and icy mud, with the cold, bright sky above. Disoriented, he tried to stand, but the world wheeled around him like a clock, and he stumbled to the ground. Then, the memory of what had happened returned.
    The bunkers must have caved in, he thought.


    Dread suddenly struck him, and he clutched the fragment of the Sampo to his chest.

    “Jere, where are you?” he called, and his clear voice cut through the stillness like a knife.“If you are alive, please answer me!”

    “Jere. . .Jere!”

    He began to search through the rubble from the fallen bunker, pushing away the dirt and broken barricades.

    If he’s been under there this long he can’t have—

    No don’t think about it don’t think about it. . .

    He drew in his breath sharply, and the cold air poured into his lungs so fast he became dizzy. His dream returned to him; he thought of the wooden people who bowed, threw themselves to the floor, and fell out of the wooden world. Time, memories, all passing away out of the wooden world.

    No don’t think about it don’t think about it. . .

    Frantically, he searched through the rubble, the sharp pieces tearing through his gloves, his breath coming out in gasps. The sound of a shell exploding only a few feet away from him snapped him from his frenzy, and he clambered out of the depression. He rushed into the deeper woods, and then huddled near the stump of an oak tree, rubbing his frostbitten hands.

    The realization of what was happening—what had already happened—crashed down on Kristian’s shoulders like a thousand iron weights. He sat frozen, pale, there against the oak stump.

    Then he pulled the fragment of the Sampo out of his pack.

    “A story, Sampo!” he cried. “I want to go into the memories!”

    Into the memories,
    the Sampo seemed to echo, and then the wheel with the eye at the center turned as a key in a lock. Then, it played before him a new scene, one he had never seen before. Hakon the Bastard, a Viking who had come to Constantinople and become one of Emperor Constantine’s bodyguards, was leaving for Norway. All of his men were with him in his ship, but to leave Constantinople’s harbor, the Golden Horn, they had to pass through the chain that guarded the entrance. We’ll go over if we can’t go through, Kristian heard Hakon say, and then a most curious thing happened. The world around Kristian began to fragment, as if breaking into little pieces of wood. And then these fragments, shifted, turned, and Kristian smelt a strange smell and heard clearly:

    “. . .Over the chain, then!”

    “You’re insane. . .”


    Everything flipped upside-down, he turned once in midair, and Kristian landed in the ship of Hakon the Bastard just as it was scraping over the unbreakable chain of Constantinople’s Golden Horn.

    He was inside the memories.


    “Oi, what’s this strange fellow? How did he get here?”

    I have no idea.”

    Kristian opened his eyes, which he realized he had squeezed shut. He was lying on the deck of the ship, and two men stood over him, one a red-haired, stocky yet commanding figure, the other blonde and squinting his eyes suspiciously.

    “Where is your weapon?” the blonde man barked.

    “Um. . .I left it at home. . .” Kristian said.

    “Which is. . .” The red-haired man was looking at him, curious and a little suspicious.


    up, man!”

    Kristian struggled to his feet, held out his hand to shake it, and then, realizing his mistake, put it behind his back.

    “How in Thor’s name did you get here?” the blonde man demanded.

    “I don’t really know myself.”

    “What, are you insane?”

    “Explain yourself,” the red-haired man commanded.

    “Where I come from, what is now to you is only a memory. I came here, from Finland, but not Finland as it is to you—”

    are insane,” said the blonde man, shaking his head and walking away.

    But the red-haired man peered at Kristian, intrigued. “How did you come on my ship?”

    “This is your ship?”

    “Yes. I am Hakon the Bastard.”

    Kristian opened his mouth to speak, but he did not know what to say.

    “I have an interest in strange lands,” Hakon said. “Foreign places. I see this much: you are from the fen-lands, but it is not as they are now, you say. Am I right?”


    “But how can this be? Something cannot be one place and then also another place.”

    “It’s another. . .time. My now is not your now.”

    “Do not speak in riddles.”

    “You. . .you, your ship, your journey. . .where I come from, that is only a tale. I am inside a story, a memory, when I am here.”

    “Then how are you here?”

    “I. . .well. . .”

    “Ah! You have no answer. I thought so. You are not mad, I don’t think, at least, but you are confused. Still, I am intrigued. Tell me: what is it like in these fen-lands that are not

    “Well. . .we are a new nation, just become free from other governments a couple decades ago. But there is a war now, Russia attacked, I was fighting in it

    “Why aren’t you anymore?” Hakon interrupted sharply.

    “I. . .”

    Hakon cut him off. “See, I don’t understand half the things you say, but I know this much: there’s no point in living in what to you is a tale when your homeland is in danger.”

    “Do you know why I leave Constantinople?” Hakon asked, his voice softening. “Do you think I leave Miklagard, the glorious, the beautiful, gladly? I am bound by an oath to my emperor. Do you think I take this oath lightly; do you think that as I break it
    I am breaking now, you see—that I do it without a thought?”

    Tears, so alien to his war-hardened face, sparkled in Hakon’s eyes, and Kristian stared at them. He suddenly thought of an old story, though he could not remember what it was from, where a hero’s tears fell into the sea and there turned to blue pearls.

    “Do you think that I go eagerly?”

    Kristian saw that Hakon’s eyes flashed with fire, and could not say anything.

    “No,” Hakon said, his voice soft again. “I leave this place because I must.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    “They called me the Hakon the Bastard because I did not know who my father was. I sailed south, not knowing where I was going. When I came here, I pledged myself to Constantine and became part of his Varangian Guard. But now I have received news from Norway—they know who my father was and I—” Hakon’s voice became bitter. “In Norway, I am rightful king.”

    “I still don’t understand.”

    “Some may desire to be king. I would rather stay there. . .” Hakon’s eyes wandered to the southern horizon, where the towers of Constantinople rose. “In that city, with my emperor. . .But if I am king, is it not my duty to be king?”

    Kristian sighed, and bit his lip. He shook his head. “You don’t see. You, if you weep, your tears are precious; they become tales, songs to be sung. . .But where I am from, my tears will freeze solid on my cheeks. Tears are cheap, and life is cheap, we run into battle, and we die. . .” he trailed off, clenching his teeth to keep from sobbing.

    Hakon opened his mouth to speak, and then shut it again, still looking at the golden domes in the south. He cleared his throat. “In that city, people say. . .”

    He shook his head, and then started again, “In that city, people believe strange things. They say that even people who are not heroes may live forever, and in their churches there are mosaics of a man with wounds in his hands. Even in the most glorious pictures of him, where he sits at the throne of their God, the wounds are still there, and light shines out of them.”

    Hakon turned to Kristian, and continued. “Perhaps I am wrong, and it seems strange to me, too. .but I think that in any time, no matter where you are, suffering may become something better, something beautiful.”

    Kristian gazed across the wide rippling sea, and saw the rooftops of Constantinople turn to gold as the sun was setting.
    Of course I am afraid, some secret part of him said. But that perhaps is beside the point.

    “In Constantinople, they say the rain falls on both the righteous and the unrighteous,” said Hakon. “And I say, the home of the fallen is also the home of the brave.”

    The last sliver of sun dipped into the sea. The prow was pointed north; the waves lapped against the ship’s hull.

    Tears filled Kristian’s eyes. “I must go back. . .” he whispered.

    “Then go,” said Hakon. “Whatever happens, I will not think it too strange.”

    Kristian grasped the fragment of the Sampo, closed his eyes, and said, “Take me back to now.” Then the whole world seemed to exhale; sea, sky, and ship all breathing out one long breath. He felt himself slowly moving as if he were moving through a dream.

    When he opened his eyes, he was sitting next to the stump, holding the wooden carving.

    He barely noticed the crunching of boots next to him, until he heard a shout nearby.

    “I found him, sir! He’s right here, just staring at this wooden plaque like he’s gone mad or something.”

    In my mouth, if there be sweetness,
    It has come from my Creator;
    If my hands are filled with beauty,
    All the beauty comes from God.
    ~ from The Kalevala (paraphrased)

    Whom have I in heaven but You?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides You.

    ~ Psalm 73:25

    Christ is risen from the dead,
    trampling on Death by death,
    And on those in the tombs,
    lavishing light.

  4. #24
    An intriguing and interesting tale- I felt the cold and despair of war and also the wonder of a dream within a dream. Dear arrow you write with a wisdom beyond your years. A marvelous addition to this collection of short stories. I hope to see two more- you write with a unique voice.

    it seems i will miss the deadline but will submit my story as soon as I'm done. Mariana is our winner - having done all three in the allotted time. And each story was a gem. I hope to read more.

    After I complete my third piece I will start again. I think this is a great space to write and experiment with short pieces of 3000 words or less. I hope to see more writers join this challenge- it's fun and good for the writing muscles.

    happy writing
    Nature weeps, the devil sings
    at mans greed and pride
    and what it brings

    Just lots of useless
    little things

  5. #25
    Hey Guys and Gals,

    Fun challenge--I pretty much failed. One story was fine, short but complete. Second story was way long, and even cut down, still outside of word length (don't read it all if you don't wanna). Third story I just ran out of time on, so it's incomplete. I guess I need the cat o nine tails...




    I'll start reading and giving feedback probably tomorrow. Thanks, it was fun!


  6. #26
    I don’t think you failed and I liked your second story even if it went a bit over the word limit, it was very well written.

    Btw, I really like the idea of keeping this thread as a regular mix and match challenge. Maybe we could try going for one short story per month? And maybe add more themes?

  7. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Mariana View Post
    Btw, I really like the idea of keeping this thread as a regular mix and match challenge. Maybe we could try going for one short story per month? And maybe add more themes?
    I like that idea as well- After I release my third piece (almost finished)-it doesn't count as part of the new challenge, then we can start a one a month short story mix and match with a few more themes. It seems our host is MIA -hopefully we'll be hearing from him if not well do it as a team. We can start it off in the 15th of this month or in jan. In the meantime lets think of new themes.
    Nature weeps, the devil sings
    at mans greed and pride
    and what it brings

    Just lots of useless
    little things

  8. #28
    Okay folks, I got behind this month and ran out of time for both writing and reading, so playing catch up now.


    When Robots Dream: Very interesting story. The writing is accessable and the story is engaging. It is not in a genre that I normally read, so I had to do a litle work trying to understand a few things. I don't know if I understand the number of different beings. It seemed there were at least 3, Androids, Cyborgs, and Humans, but some of the other names confused me (Human-Elites seem to be described as both androis and cyborgs..." Never again would Man’ be at the mercy of the Androids’ or let them think or wander about for themselves. They were to be the Human Elites" and then in the next paragraph "The Human Elites were Cyborg.") For me, there was a decent amount of vocabulary that I don't use and therefore don't convey the same amount of meaning as they may to someone else. I don't really understand the full difference between the androids and cyborgs. One has an artificial brain, and the other a human brain, I think I get that. One is described as "bio-mechanical bodies" and the other is described as "synthetic bio-mechanical bodies"--So one has real flesh and mechanics, plus a human brain, and the other has fake flesh and mechanics, plus an artificial brain? That seems to be it, but as I said, I don't use these enough to have much reference (the terminatory, primarily). There are some capilatization inconsistencies that stuck out--I can't discern a pattern, just seems sometimes in caps, sometimes not: Robot Wars and robot wars, Android and android. One other thing that confused me was the scene going over cost overruns. "going over their doctored Costs and Overrun Reports to the Director" when Marcus Gamma busts in telling them about the Director's suspicions...I understand now that they are going over their reports that they will submit to the director, but the first 2 reads I thought that they were with the director at that moment, then Marcus Gamma comes in and starts talking about the Director...Basically, maybe rework some of that sentence "were reviewing their doctored Costs and Overrun Reports they had to submit to the Director" or soemthing of the sort, or maybe it was just my reading... One other thing that makes me curious is the line, "but in the end his loyalty to the federation outweighed any friendship." I guess this confuses me a bit because the federation is of planets that seem to be filled with the vestiges of humanity and artifial beings. But it seems the purpose of the federation was to kind of hold on to give humans a chance to repopulate. Barabbas is human, right? (or did I make that assumption?) IF he is human, and the federation is made by humans, and he is supremely loyal to the federation (over that of his friends), why is he threatening to destabilize the federation? Did I miss a lot? Or is that a part of his characterization--mixed loyalties? Anyway, just writing out things as I think about them. Thanks for the read!

    Dinosaur Western Time Traveller: Enjoyed your story! Entertaining scene that combined good elements from western, time travel, and dinosaurs. A few suggestions. "too many days without food or water" (sizzling Oklahoma sun). A horse won't last long without any water in the desert. I'd suggest "without any food and too little water", or something that suggests the horse has watered within the last few days (I read that within 3-4 days of no water, organ failure will generally occur.) "Whow"--I would replace with "whoa." "whow" seems to be an archaic form of how, not the phrase for stopping or calming a horse as I thought you intended (if that wasn't the intention, sorry). Also, the bartender pulls a rifle at the first disturbance, but then shoots a shotgun when Robert is almost attacked. I like the useage of lizards (I used it too, in my western) and iguana, but bear in mind that research is suggesting that dinosaurs had as much bird like characteristics and reptillian, if not more. I like the time travel included--I thought it was interesting that we both used a proximity device for our time travel--my folks and I have discussion about how mothing is original--we both wrote stories without reading the other and used a similar conceit to accomplish our plot objectives...ha, there is no original!(sorry, an aside!) Use reins when referring to horse and bridle, not rains or reigns. Also, I think that they would snap their tethers if a dinosaur came around. most reins are fairly thin leather, and wouldn't take much resistance if the creature were truly terrified. If the cowboys are already in the street, the animals may be trying to escae the dinosaur and the men may leap, grab, lariot, their mount to get on before they escape. The time traveller is impressivley stoic about being bait for the T. Rex. He's been "delegated" by firearms to be the one the Rex chases (after Robert jumps off) but he accepts so willingly. Would you? I might be inclined to try to throw my proximity device away, or into the saddle bag of the bartender, or something else to save myself...just a thought. I thought it was pretty funny how matter of fact they are after the event, like rcallaci said, just go back to shoting the bull and seeing about getting a free round of whiskey. Great job!

    I'll add comments to the others as I keep reading through, and I think if I can keep up that doing something similar to this is a great exercise. Finding enough time is the only problem, ha!!

    Thanks for the reads, looking forward to the others,


  9. #29

    The Rustling Robots of Angerdean County: Awesome installment! The story seems to be shifting protagonists to Juliana Nova/The Lady Nova as the primary lead, no? Like Dr. Frankenstein's creation, she seems to be overshadowing Barabbas, or at least becoming very powerful. The mule's dialogue "they're headed for the boneyards." Lady Nova is a badass! Awesome! I'd suggest that cooking the kids is probably pretty easy--I imagine the tough old goats like grandmas and grandpas or someone that worked hard labor most of their life would probably be all stringy and tough and have to be cooked loooong and sloooow to be edible (like brisket or pork shoulder). (Are the horses animals or robots/cyborgs/androids/mechanical? If they're normal animals, that's is an interesting/fun role reversal for the machine to be using the animal, not vice versa...) Part II, the first full paragraph listing all the ship contents was confusing to me. It's like a cargo manifest, but since I don't understand the differences between these classes of beings, I don't really know how many things first settled, or if I really need to know. It kind of distracted me from the story though. How long is 600 light years to a human? Are none of these characters human in the traditional sense? I have assumed that some of them were, but that was/may have been a mistake.Part III, I think it's "hellos" if you are just meaning saying hello to several people. I love the way they are planning to re purpose minds/biological brain material and then control beings that way. Wicked! Which we then see in part IV is how they will control the Govenor and begin infiltrating the status quo society. Great stuff, curious to see how it all ends! Thanks for the read.


  10. #30

    The Sampo: Very interesting story! The dialogue and the action were well written, and I found it foreign enough to be intrigued but not too much too be difficult getting into. I think you did a good job weaving the myth into the story, without it coming across as hokey. I think that Kristian very easily accepts that he is in the past--he doesn't skip a beat at being aboard the ship...that gave me a pause. I'd imagine even accepting all the moving images and craziness he'd seen in the Sampo that he might not really believe he'd gone back in time. Just something to consider--maybe make it a little more difficult to accept or puzzling. Also, he says they'd just recently become a county, but Hakon acts as if he knows these "fen-lands," implying that they were already a region or grouping of people that were known in the that may or may not be slightly inconsistent. But the story leaves me wanting to know what's going to happen to Kristian and the Sampo! Thanks for the read!


    Only failed in the sense that the specific objectives of the challenge weren't satisfied. It was a great exercise though, and I think the concept is a good one that I'd like to continue trying.

    Thanks for all the participation!



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