Grand Fiction Challenge 2020 !!

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Thread: Grand Fiction Challenge 2020 !!

  1. #1

    Red face Grand Fiction Challenge 2020 !!

    Welcome to the Grand Fiction Challenge, 2020!

    Please note that this is an invitation challenge, based on involvement with the 2019 challenges.

    Halfway House.

    rcallaci, Folcro, Sam, Ralph Rotten

    Submissions period: 1st to 14th February (deadline is 23:59 EST)

    Judging period: 15th to 28th February

    First Place
    Year of

    Second Place
    Half a year of

    Third Place
    Month of

    People's Choice Award
    Month of FoWF

    Word limit: 1,000 words, not including title.

    All entries anonymous. Send them to me by PM, and tell me whether you want them to be posted in the secure thread or the public one. You will have a two-day grace period to make edits before I post your entry.

    Any questions, please PM me or ask in the Coffee Shop thread.

    My novels Hidden Content , Hidden Content and Hidden Content are available from Amazon

    Hidden Content Hidden Content Hidden Content

    You can find me on Twitter: Hidden Content

  2. #2
    The Halfway House

    In these days of Lyft and Uber, the ancient cabbie's mystique has faded. But in Stepney there are still cabbies who know the old secrets, and so I hailed taxi after taxi, seeking always those with white-haired drivers. And each time, with my left hand I proffered the seven-sided silver florin with the double-eagle on the obverse, and I asked to be taken to the Halfway House.

    The first hundred times, I was met with a blank stare or polite query, upon which I apologized and sent the cabbie on their way. But late that night, on the one hundred and first attempt, I chanced on a taxi driven by a veritable man-crone. The wizened driver nodded his bald, liver-spotted head, and took my florin, and croaked in a voice hoarser than a raven's: "I know the way."

    I clambered into the cab, and asked him questions, but that patriarch of cabbies never spoke to me again. He drove along a street I didn't know. He turned left seven times in succession, and we passed under the Liminal Bridge. When I saw a grotesque, misshapen werewolf in a duffelcoat shuffling along the pavement, I knew we were in Other-London. And I thrilled and marvelled at the wonders through the windows, glancing excitedly about me as we drove.

    Beneath a gibbous moon, Other-London heaved and seethed with Reason's rejects. Atop Big Ben, the Slenderman wrestled with Spring-Heeled Jack. Men in flat caps were chupacabra-baiting. But we were bound for a stranger place than these.

    The Halfway House is halfway to everywhere. Halfway to our world, halfway to the Dreamlands, halfway to Narnia, and halfway to Hell. The proprietor, Ursula Grouse, says Halfway House is the centre of the multiverse. Maybe it is. In any case, you can do deals in the Halfway House that can be done nowhere else. It's the place where you can exchange your destiny.

    I ought to explain that thirty years ago, I sold my soul to the demon Caulvorax. Selling your soul, for most people, would be a terrible trade, but my soul had been soiled by deeds of such extreme foulness that I could not expect a pleasant afterlife in any religion, and I had received, in dark knowledge and material wealth, good value for it. But now, after thirty happy years, I sought an exit.

    Of course, these Faustian pacts are notoriously hard to escape. Demons are excellent lawyers, and I'd found no loophole in my contract. Only a complete fate transplant would get me out of it. So my aim here at the Halfway House was to swap destinies with someone. And by "someone", I really meant, anyone at all.

    I thanked the driver and got out. The Halfway House was a timber-framed building, made of black oak beams with white infill under a thickly thatched roof. Crooked brick chimneys and box-glass windows made the whole structure feel cottage-like, though it was built on a much larger scale than any cottage. None of the floors were level, none of the walls were straight, and none of the corners were square. Rambling passages ran at random from room to room.

    Ursula Grouse met me at the door, and I explained that I needed to exchange my destiny with someone who wouldn't ask what that destiny was.

    She frowned. "You'll see why that will be an issue," she said. "Most of my customers are looking for transparency in these matters, and they're reluctant to accept the risk of an unpleasant surprise. I may be able to arrange a more... confidential exchange, but that would be at additional cost. And of course, the trade would be with someone else who also doesn't want to disclose. In other words, you wouldn't know what you were getting any more than they would."

    I nodded. I had expected as much. I was probably going to come out of this with a painful condition leading to a prompt and agonizing death.

    "I'd like to meet him," I said.

    "Her," replied Ursula, and she named her price. It was an eye-popping sum, which I paid without quibble.

    Ursula Grouse kept me waiting for forty-six minutes and then conducted me into another room, which contained a huge fireplace and two leather Chesterfield armchairs. Seated on one of those armchairs was a lady in crimson, with dark hair, wing-tipped brows and scarlet fingernails. She looked like someone you'd hire to play a vampire in a movie.

    I began to speak, and she held up a finger. "Please do not introduce yourself. There will be no names," she said.

    I nodded, and waited. Awkward silence.

    She broke it. "Shall we trade?"

    "Iím intrigued," I said. "We've agreed to confidentiality, and I shan't ask you for reasons or details. But if I'm getting your destiny, I should just like to know a little bit about you."

    "And I you," she said. "Perhaps you should speak first?"

    "Very well. I'm fifty-nine years old, and I'm a wealthy Englishman who lives in Paris. I also have a flat in Vienna. I'm not a sociable man and I have no family or particular friends. I have a very large collection of books, some of which are extremely rare."

    She nodded. "I'm older than I look, and I have no family either. I have a difficult job that I no longer want but I can't resign. You would be taking that over. Apart from that, my life is comfortable and easy."

    I looked at her and wondered what the catch was. But then I shrugged. An unknown catch, or eternity in Hell? "Let's do it."

    So we called for Ursula Grouse, who gave us each in turn the orichalcum athame. We cut our hands and dripped blood on the contract, then I spat into her blood and she spat into mine, sealing the exchange.

    And then the lady shed her mortal guise. She was Caulvorax, and I realized I had agreed to spend eternity in Hell doing her job.
    My novels Hidden Content , Hidden Content and Hidden Content are available from Amazon

    Hidden Content Hidden Content Hidden Content

    You can find me on Twitter: Hidden Content

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