I didn’t write a story for this one during the contest, because I was judging and I don’t like to think too much about the prompt while I’m judging. I don’t want my vision of a story to bias what I’m reading. But I wanted to write something, and here it is.

You sat on the corner of the sectional, knees bent, creating your own little world with you and your tablet. Your face was impassive, but studious, the light flickering in your eyes the only indication that you were busy.

Probably playing Words With Friends, as you so often did. So much better than me, teaching me by beating me up one side and down the other.

But then I saw a twinkle in your eye – just a hint of one. I saw you writing something, and I waited. There it was, a message to me. Nothing amazing – just some simple words saying hi. But then again, your words were never simple. Buried deep within them were messages that I could spend years delving into.

I loved that I brought a twinkle to your eye. That simple things mattered so much. That the touch of a hand on a foot conveyed a closeness I’d rarely encountered.

I saw you writing again. This time, it was words I’d never read. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold. But the twinkle is still there, refracted through a tear. Is it in my eye or yours?


Menage Monday, week 2×34


Despite the floor-to-ceiling windows that dominated the room, the lobby of the temple was cold. Cold air, cold marble, cold granite. Molly couldn’t envision these kinds of places ever feeling warm for her, not anymore. Her mother – the one who always brought warmth to her life – lay dead in a box. People were looking at her, though not many. There were some from where Molly’s mother had worked, Mrs. Janks, who lived across the hall, and her Aunt Judy. Molly didn’t want to be in that room. She knew what death was. She’d lost her dad – though they’d never talked much – when she was 14, and her grandmother even earlier. But her mom mattered in a way the others hadn’t. Her mother dying broke the rules, broke what little sense the world made.

On the table at the side of the room was a stack of books. No more than stories to Molly, they’d meant something to her mother, once upon a time, which is why she was here on this cold Thursday. She opened one of the books and flipped through it, hearing the sound of pages flapping against each other, smelling old paper and leather. On an impulse, she grabbed one of the books and fled outside. There was a torch there, burning in the memory of so many lost. She threw the book in and watched it catch, sparks rising to the sky.

But even that did not bring warmth, not anymore. Not to Molly.


#ThursThreads, week 363

The world was about to change, though I was the only one who knew it. I’d let the bullet fly, but it hadn’t reached its target yet. I’d frozen time here, at this instant, to savor the power I held over humanity.

A man was going to die seconds after I released my hold. An important man – one of many – but his death was going to reveal certain truths that were never meant to be widely known. He held power over all that lay within his domain, a king without the name. Nigh unto a god, as he should be.

Or so he thought.

No one in the world believed in me, in the sense that people believed in gods. Didn’t matter. I could exercise my will over them whenever and however I chose. Rapes, deaths, fantastic fortune, miracles – all were within my power, and I used it often. Reality was so random that no one ever knew.

There was no purpose to my actions other than whatever suited me at the time. It had been fun watching men and women gather power in secret cabals as if they knew secrets that made them immune to fate. And now it would be fun watching it all burn.

I put the gun in the hands of the woman I’d chosen to be the shooter. She was a good woman, by all human measures, and now she’d be a murderer. It was totally senseless, but that was part of the thrill.


#ThursThreads, week 362


I’d poured the whiskey because this felt like an occasion worth commemorating, but now that I had it, I didn’t want to touch the stuff. I just sat there swirling the brown liquid in the glass and watching the memories of how my life collapsed spin in front of me.

It starts with the fire. Seemed like no big deal at the time – no one was hurt, and we all got out of the house without any close calls. Our house wasn’t even that badly damaged. But I didn’t connect the dots between that fire and the one my wife had witnessed at school as a kid, and I made some jokes. Those jokes were the beginning of the end, though I certainly had no idea.

She sure did. She knew in that moment that I’d never see her as a whole person, I’d never remember that she’d be affected by things differently than I would.

The end didn’t come quickly. There were dozens of small injuries like that one to come before she told me it was over. Little moments where I showed her that she’d never be as important to me as she needed to be.

Now it’s over. She’s gone, our daughters living with her in the house – the same house that caught on fire, while I was sitting alone in this studio apartment with a whiskey I didn’t even want.

But I had my own fireplace. I stared into the flames and wondered what was next.


Menage Monday, week 2×32


Mariela eased the door open, looking furtively for any sign of movement. She hadn’t left her apartment for six days, and she’d finally run out of two things: coffee and her ability to stay alone anymore, especially without the internet or her phone. There was a funky smell outside, as if something had gone bad. She knew that when The Bombs went off, most everyone else died, but Mariela didn’t think she was ready to see a dead body. The only one she’d ever seen before was her grandma, and that freaked her out.

She wheeled herself carefully down to the corner store, looking out for anyone else who’d survived. She wanted to find someone else, but was also terrified – what chance would she have against someone who wanted to attack her? Maybe she’d whack them with her cane  – she’d chosen to go out today because she thought she could use it to walk through the bodega – it was such a pain in the ass in her chair.

What would people use to get coffee once the local supplies ran out, even in a local “town” called Brooklyn? Attach cans to strings and start up GrubHub again? The thought made her want to laugh and cry at the same time.

Gods, she wanted a latte.

There was the store, up ahead on the right. Mariela couldn’t see through the door because of sun glare and was about to reach for the handle when she heard the voice from behind her.


For @DavidALudwig

She woke up that Tuesday to a gentle breeze and birds singing through the billowing curtains. The sun had been up for a couple of hours, but not so long that she felt like she’d slept the morning away. She asked Alexa for some energizing music, and it started off with one of her favorites. The good songs stayed on all the way through showering and getting dressed, and she sang along, enjoying having nothing to do but enjoy herself.

That day was a treat to herself after sending a book off to her editor. She was going to have some tea and scones at her favorite local shop and then meet up with some friends for an afternoon and evening out. She’d been cooped up inside, working 9-5:30 and then writing every night, and it was time to enjoy the world.

Getting her tea and a cherry almond scone, she found a table outside by the Riverwalk. The day was warm, but not hot, and the sun reflected off the flowing water just enough to throw sparkles on the wall behind her. Settling in, she opened her tablet to find that one of her friends had sent her a beta version of his next novel, and a thrill ran through her – she’d been waiting to find out what happened to these characters for a long time now.

With hours to go before she was to meet up with her friends, she tapped on the link and began to read.


For @0freetime

Thank Goddess for self-driving cars. If I’d been at the controls when the EULA for my golfing app took over my vision, I’d have killed myself or someone else for sure. This was happening way too often lately. If it wasn’t my parenting OS, it was my career app. If it wasn’t my deity skins, it was my citizenship drivers. I couldn’t even get a good night’s rest, there were so many.

I quick-scrolled through the agreement and blinked to accept. The download and install took just a few minutes, but by the time it was done, I’d made it home. I walked into the house, whistling one of my favorite songs. Sitting in the living room was my daughter, Janie2.5, grimacing at my choice of music. “Dad, can’t you upgrade to a newer music profile? That oldies stuff is yucktastic.”

I just shook my head. When Taylor Swift had become oldies stuff, I had no idea, but I was feeling really old. I entered the kitchen to see my husband there, watching dinner simmer on the stove. Oh, we could have gotten an AutoCooker, but the artistry he had with food wasn’t something he was willing to give up. Unlike our daughter, he smiled when I came in. “Hey studly. Good day at work?”

“Pretty good. And I’m ready to kick your butt on the golf course this weekend.”

“Oh, really?” He laughed. “We’ll have to see if you have any energy left. My KamaSutra app had a major upgrade today.”


For @Bluebirdlouise

The ability to create life is a heady combination of power and fear. I got excited every time I visited MeCorp knowing that I’d come home with a new Me, a better Me, a Me that mattered. I was neurotic, wrapped up in decades of self-doubt and messages about failure, but the Me I’d buy today knew none of those things about my life. I’d worked with their technicians to create the best possible person science could make out of me.

There was only one problem. I thought other people were more important than I was, and each Me had those traits amped up to the nth degree. The first time I made a Me, he didn’t even eat – gave every one of his meals to homeless people, and he died of starvation within a week. The second time, he roamed bad neighborhoods and threw himself in front of a bullet to save a schoolkid. Didn’t even make it three days. We made too many changes for attempt three, and that Me threw himself into an orgy of wish fulfillment that led to his death from a drug overdose in two weeks.

This morning, we gave life to Me number 6, trying to find a balance between valuing others and valuing oneself. That Me came to life angry. “You ask too much of me. No one can think of others before themselves. It’s all an illusion. We only help others when it benefits us.”

He was perfect. A Me that could take on the world without my self-doubt. I nodded to the technician and she pulled out the needle. I’d made a better version of myself, there was no need for the original anymore.


#ThursThreads, week361


I had that dream again. The one where my mom is alive, but I know she shouldn’t be. The one where we’re arguing in our old house, the one I grew up in but left too early, the one that’s filled with pain and anger and sadness and love and comfort and safety.

I had that dream again. The one where I’m in school, but I’ve forgotten to go to class, and my wife and kids are living in the dorm with me but all I do is play videogames. My mom calls, but I don’t answer. I’m too busy.

I had that dream again. The one where I’m being chased down a waterslide by a nuclear missile. I can’t escape it, but it can’t catch me. Somewhere, my mom is calling my name, but I have no voice to answer.

I had that dream again. I’m trying to find someone to date, and I’m thinking, “Didn’t I solve this problem already?” My wife is there, but she wants nothing to do with me, and she won’t tell me why. My mom’s not in this one, but I never feel safe.

I had that dream again. The one where I’m fighting with my mom about nothing and everything, just like we did when she was alive. I know I shouldn’t be fighting with her because this might be the last time we talk, but I can’t help it.

I had that dream again. I was alone.