Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 34

Wheeee doggies, what a whirwind couple of weeks it’s been! Felt like the whole flash world went nuts with the #DogDays contest — the finalists may still very well be napping after their enthusiastic labors. Congratulations again to the top three winners: Margaret Locke (also serving as judge this quarter), Toni Morrow Wyatt, and MT Decker, as well as to the dozens of you who contributed such fabulous stories to the mischief barrel and the many hundreds who took the time to vote. 

THANK YOU too to the sponsors who contributed toward the prizes. Flash! Friday’s a free contest and always will be, but throwing a penny in the jar now and then makes this kind of contest (and other fun things!) possible. Donation button’s right there in the sidebar. Don’t be shy! 

TODAY’S prompt… well, the inspiration came from this day in 1834, when slavery was abolished across the British Empire.  You will have to use your imagination to discover how we wound up in Suriname…

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Boldly returning as judge this week is HRH Craig Anderson. (If you’re wondering how to earn some brownie points, you might consider crafting a particularly clever story title.) Learn more about what he likes in a story here. But be quick about it; this contest closes in just a few hours!  

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Awards Ceremony: Results will post Sunday. On Monday you’ll usually find Flash Points, in which an especially awesome flash story of yours is microscoped. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays.  I (Rebekah) post my own unbalanced writings sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays.   

Now LET’S GET GOING!

Word limit150 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (140 – 160 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Sunday

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Wednesday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity. 

***Today’s Dragon’s Bidding (required element to incorporate somewhere in your story; does not need to be the exact word(s) unless instructed to do so, e.g. “include the name “Conchita Leeflang'”):

Freedom 

***Today’s Prompt:

Berlijn Plantation, Commewijne, Suriname. Public domain photo by Brokopondo.

Berlijn Plantation, Commewijne, Suriname. Public domain photo by Brokopondo.

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263 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 34

  1. Carlos Orozco
    @goldzco21

    Don’t Worry, We Can Cure It
    159 words

    “That’s it across the river. You see it?” the guide said to Dolores. She looked at the mundane floodgate with skepticism.

    “Swim across the river and pass through the gate, then you’ll be healed,” he said. “I know it’s none of my business, but what ails you? Wait; don’t tell me—it’s cancer, right?”

    It wasn’t cancer, but it was something that grew inside her and poisoned every cell in her body. She felt it in her belly where she’d carried him, and it extended to her useless fingertips that refused to hold against the riptide. She needed to free herself from the pain that had consumed her these past ten years.

    “Don’t worry, we can cure it. A panacea, that’s what we are.” He paused a long while and then tested the water. “Whenever you’re ready.”

    Dolores dove into the river. With each breath her lungs filled with liquid air, and with each stroke, again her fingertips released.

  2. Pam Plumb
    @pamjplumb
    159 words

    Swimming against the tide.

    Freedom.
    The word washed through his head. Throwing themselves towards the opposite bank, people were doing anything to save themselves, no matter how stupid an idea. Getting tangled in river weeds, getting nibbled by things unseen, many were struggling to reach the other side. He could see them ducking under. Once, then twice. The third time was the clincher. If they recovered from that one they would be okay. Otherwise…

    He looked over his shoulder. Thousands were coming towards him through unharvested corn that thousands had trampled before them. He felt like turning round, heading home. What other hope was there across the river? He didn’t know that country, didn’t know its people or its land.

    He heard a scream, louder than all the others. He looked and found her. A young girl. Close to the bank she’d dipped. Twice. Then again. He kept watch.

    Then hands gripped, hauled, lifted her to freedom.

    He smiled. The water was warm.

  3. Slave to a dream

    Looking at the 16 Chinese men huddled in the foot of the boat, I realised how small they were and wished I could promise them more than a fated life on the plantation. The abolition of slavery hadn’t reached Suriname yet.

    I lifted my hat for relief but none came.

    I felt the stare of one of the men. I smiled politely. He smiled back, his tooth stood like a solitary grave in his mouth. His eyes slid down to my breasts and I realised I’d sweat right through my blouse. My hand rose to cover them instinctively.

    How would a free white woman be received in such lands? It was dangerous without a chaperone. I thrust my fingers into my satchel fingering my derringer.

    I’d come far and risked much to finally see the famous Kankantire tree and document its religious meaning for these people. I was not going to give up now. I noted the strange edifice ahead.

    160 words

    Avalina Kreska @ avalina_kreska

  4. Heading Upstream

    George stood by the river, looking across to the plantation that Trip Advisor had called ‘Isolated, but charming’. Tourists ‘ooohed’ and ‘ahhhed’ and, not being one to shirk conformity, he furrowed his moustache, nodded sagely and raised his camera to his wandering eye.

    Beside him, his wife, Pam, was freeing the clothes that had stuck to her sweating bosom and was swatting anything that dared come near her (including George most of the time). She looked around, disdain morphing her face into one almighty sneer and declared loudly, ‘Is this IT?’.

    ‘It’s a very famous river, dear.’

    ‘For what? Being muddy and stinking like a skunk in a sauna?’ Pam’s caustic laughter split the serenity.

    ‘Lower. Your. Voice.’

    The embarrassed guide moved everybody along, warning them to watch their footing. Bringing up the rear, George heard a splosh and saw that Pam had disappeared. Momentary alarm passed quickly; with a hint of a smile, he caught up with the others.

    160 words
    Sarah Miles
    @_sarahmiles_

  5. All Seeing
    (160 words)

    The unblinking Eye watched over the land and its people- the captives and the captors. It drank in the horror of humanity without flinching or turning away. It was not impassive just patient. When worshippers approached with offerings they did so with their heads lowered. Prayers for the preservation of land, food and good health were muttered within its sight, but requests (and promises that were better not made) seemed unheard.

    Watchful it waited until she emerged. Unlike the others, she approached holding its gaze. A message only her eyes could translate passed between them, and she knew it was time.

    With new sight, she threw open the locked doors, broke the chains and shackles, introduced a new vocabulary of freedom to the enslaved.

    But the captors refused to learn a vocabulary of tolerance, and they hung the tiny Prophet high so that The Eye would see. And so it wept. And so it wept…..and so the floods began.

  6. 36 hours
    @okiewashere
    160 words

    I felt queasy. Three hours in that nutshell of a boat, in the blaring sun, not having slept since her phone call – I couldn’t take it anymore.
    35.5 hours ago, my phone rang and Cassie told me she’d found the portal. “I go through!” Then, nothing – the connection was dead. Luckily, her last coordinates were on my screen.
    I booked a flight, grabbed my gear, and headed to the airport. One stop in Amsterdam, 25 hours from London to Suriname was straining. I found a fisherman willing to take me to the coordinates.
    I paid the fisherman and stepped on the river bank. The floodgate seemed ordinary from the river. The coordinates led me to the back. I stepped through the trees – there was the portal! I did no longer see or hear the river. Birds were singing as I stepped through the portal to join Cassie on the other side.
    Police ticker: Alert – Jonathan and Cassie Myer escaped surveillance!

  7. Nooitmeer

    Nooitmeer waited on the turbid river’s bank. Behind him stood a doorway as ruined as his life.

    He’d seen Watervrouw once as a child; hiding hungry and tired in the mangroves while the moon cast grey-silver ghost shadows. She rose from the river, pulling her body and shimmering tail up between the mangrove roots. A golden comb shone in her shadow-black hair. The wind fell silent and shadows hid. Nooitmeer was left mute; his voice caught in the other world.

    Watervrouw smiled at him before slipping back to Waterwereld. Her comb remained between the roots. Later he dropped it in the water. Stolen gold wouldn’t buy his family’s freedom.

    Now he stood at the same, but different, river – clothes torn, hands calloused, heart empty. Turbid water rippled silver as shadows hid. He saw her face and dark hair spread in a halo upon the water. He’d no use for gold.

    Nooitmeer let out his breath and fell into her arms.

    Words: 160
    @CarinMarais
    http://www.hersenskim.blogspot.com

  8. The Invaders
    ***
    “They came from over there.”

    “Where exactly?”

    “That gate there, across the river.”

    Vuzoor squinted at the structure, a mere brickwork frame crowned with a wooden pediment. “You sure?”

    Paaie sighed and rested her optical field device upon the grass, pushed her upper torso off the ground and glared at him. “Of course I’m sure. It was that bloody gate they came through.”

    Vuzoor looked at her, clicked his jaw before directing his gaze back to the portal. “More of them huh? Just what we need. The pens are full already, and they keep trying to escape.”

    “Well of course they would, this is their planet after all.”

    “What I don’t get is where they all keep coming from. You’d think we’d have found all their bunkers and compounds by now. They’ve infested the place and burrowed into every nook and cranny. The harder we push them…”

    “Yeah.”

    “Damned humans.”

    ***
    @TheImaginator20
    150 words

  9. The Fall of Dragons
    Ellie, aged 8 (Margaret Locke’s daughter)
    159 words

    Once there lay a little girl named Eliza. She grew up with all kinds of creatures, little, big, and small. But one day dragons attacked her village. One of them picked Eliza up and brought her to where they lived. She was just a baby. She grew up to be eighteen years old. She thought that she always had lived with dragons. One day she went across the bridge, but something happened. Instead of gates there was a portal. Without the dragons seeing, she went in it. It brought her to her old village. She thought that she remembered it. She was scared, so she went back. She told the master dragon. He said he should have told her about it. Eliza said, “About what?” He told her how he kidnapped her and then he brought her back to where she was born. Her parents were happy and hugged her. And the dragons got to live in the village.

    • What a wonderful story! First of all, it has dragons, which already means it’s just about the best kind of story anywhere. But I also love Eliza’s curiosity and courage, and the way the magic portal brought peace between the two worlds. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful tale with us.

    • Sweet story. I enjoyed ‘she grew up with all kinds of creatures, little, big and small. Happy endings for a dragon? Oh alright then – as long as they all get to eat lots of chocolate. (The dragoness with the fluffy scales made me say that)

  10. *** Judge’s Entry, just for fun ***

    Blah Blah Blah
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    158 words

    “When one door closes, another one opens.”

    “There’s freedom in failure.”

    She wanted to scream with rage, to flail upon every pillow, upon every person who’d said those words to her. They’d said them often these last few days, vague faces aiming at consolation, their efforts only reminding her of what she’d lost. She wanted to break things, to hear the satisfying disintegration of what once was, if only to be sure it wasn’t her who was disintegrating.

    “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

    She did none of those things. She sat quietly in her chair, clutching the photograph, the one they’d taken on their honeymoon. At the time, it’d seemed funny, that doorway to nowhere. Now, a painful mockery.

    “Never, never, never give up.”

    “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

    She closed her eyes.

    “Tomorrow is a new day.”

    “Platitudes suck,” she said. She tore the photo in two, smiling.

  11. Dutchman’s Trinket
    Rachael Dunlop @rachaeldunlop
    147 Words

    She slips into the river, softly patting down the ballooning of her skirts in the water. No one has seen her, all eyes on the forest. The Maroons that come in the night want to steal her for her coffee-coloured skin and work-strong thighs. The Dutchman hides her under his bed when the raiders come, under the floorboards, dust and spiders and no air to breathe. Sometimes he forgets to let her out again before the morning. Laughs as he pulls her out, hand up skirt, britches down, his trinket.

    She shakes the thought away, loosened hair turning in the water. She treads softly on the riverbed, long, gliding steps taking her towards her freedom. Behind her, the forest rustles with men looking the wrong way, towards the empty gate. Empty because the Dutchman lies under the floorboards and no one will look for him until morning.

  12. Wade In The Water
    160 words

    She knew the words of the song well, almost as well as she knew the feel of the shackles around her ankles and wrists.

    She could hear them now, the people…her people, as they raised their voices because they could take everything else from them but they couldn’t take their hope.

    She didn’t have a name now because animals didn’t deserve a name and she would slit her own throat before she accepted the one they’d offered her.

    She was a troublesome thing, that’s what she’d heard the Master’s wife say but she was a hard worker and healthy enough to be bred.

    They spoke of her like she wasn’t there, as if she didn’t understand their words….they were wrong.

    The sharp stones at the shore pricked her feet but she barely noticed as the water swirled around her legs.

    The Master would be expecting her soon but she wouldn’t be back.

    She couldn’t swim….it was her key to freedom.

  13. Crocodile Karma

    ‘Hey, pas op!’

    ‘What’s that man shouting, Rupert?’ Matilda wanted to know from her husband. They were on holiday in Suriname. Lord only knows how they came to decide on that destination. They were as British as afternoon tea with a crumbly biscuit. The first day they arrived they were booth pooped. Rupert, the silly man, fell asleep next to the hotel pool, lying under a parasol, assuming the flimsy cotton would protect him against the South American sun. Two and a half hours later he woke up and, just like a chameleon, he had taken the colour of the cushion on his deckchair: deep red.

    ‘Niet doen!’

    ‘He’s waving aggressively at us, Rupert.’

    ‘That must be his slave blood. You know, all this used to be ours in the 17th century. I am free to do what I want, am I not? Now let me take a dive in this river. My burnt skin needs to bloody cool down.’

    160 words
    @bartvangoethem

  14. Abandoned

    @voimaoy

    159 words

    She had come for the botanical miracles. The shaman had told her of the orchids and the butterflies. She would find them in the jungle, where parrots disappeared in the canopy of leaves.

    She found a guide who knew the river. He told her stories, too. Years ago, the British colonists had tried to grow bananas, there. They were going to have a road and a railway, built with native labor. It was all gone, now. The people had reclaimed their freedom, and their peaceful life along the river.

    The dock was still there, although the boards were rotting. She could feel eyes all around, watching. Monkeys screeched alarms above them.

    Banana trees grew along the path. The great house was slowly returning to the jungle. Parrots flew among tattered curtains. On the sofa in the living room, a jaguar was sleeping.

    And there, growing out of the vine design of the oriental carpet, were the orchids, and the butterflies.

  15. The Other Side

    Little Sara smiled and hugged her arms to her chest as fast flowing water hurried freely across her toes. Summer’s breeze fluttered through the trees as she stretched her calf and pointed her foot, digging her toes into the submerged sandy shingle. She wondered how long she’d have to wait.
    Excitement bubbled deep down inside as she stared up at the lead roof above her. Her eyes roamed down the chipped columns, and for a moment she frowned. Did it matter that there was no actual gate?
    She shook her head and smoothed down her blue, cotton skirt with a confident smile. It wouldn’t matter, Mama would still find her.
    Papa said Mama had passed to the other side, but it didn’t matter to little Sara that the floodgate was dirty, cracked and falling apart, it was still a gate, pearly or not, and when Mama was ready to come back, it was here…and she’d be waiting.

    (157 Words)
    @LastKrystallos

  16. Title: Steeping the Queen
    Words: 158
    http://rashatayaket.wordpress.com/

    “All this over tea?” said the Queen as her newly self-freed servants pushed her along.

    “Yes,” sneered one of them. “Just cross the river and through the gate. ‘Only the finest tea off the finest plantation for me.’” he said in his best mockery impression of her.

    “I don’t sound like that at all,” said the Queen. “And all these briars are scuffing my dress.”

    When they reached the river they could see the gate on the other side.

    “Go ahead, Queeny, show us how easy it is,” ordered the rebel rouser. The Queen stood up straight and tucked a rogue curl behind her ear. She faced the river and walked out. Her dress was large and billowy and when she got deeper in the water, air pockets bundled up around her creating a flotation device. And she buoyed down the river like a steeping tea bag in a kettle.

    “Well I wasn’t expecting that,” said another servant.

  17. **Posted for Crystal Alden, Age 9**

    Title: Going Free
    Words: 157

    Sarah longed for freedom.

    “I would do anything to be free and happy, to live a life where nobody can own me,” she thought.

    All of a sudden there was a shout and a lash like fire burned across her back.

    “Get back to work and make it snappy!” said the guard.

    Her back burned, but she went back to work picking the ugly worms off the tobacco plants. Tears fell down her cheeks, though she tried hard not to cry.

    “Hey, you missed one!” the guard said.

    “No!” she thought.

    He made her bite into the live worm, but she spit it out when the guard turned his back.

    “This is it. I’m running away!” Sarah thought. She turned and fled.

    “There’s a river ahead. I’ll float on a log. The gates are there!” said Sarah.

    She floated across, and ran past the gates. “I’ll run north and then I’ll truly be free!”

    And she was.

  18. DEPORTATION

    Brian S Creek
    159 words
    @BrianSCreek

    “I expected more of a fuss,” said the Ferryman. “It’s unheard of for someone to beat Death and get a ticket upside.”

    The boat skimmed silently across the still waters towards the lush, green bank ahead.

    “So, how’d you win?”
    The passenger shrugged. “Guess he was having an off day. Lucky me.”
    “Ha!” laughed the Ferryman. “Had to happen eventually.”

    The bow softly kissed the bank and the passenger was allowed to disembark.

    “Well,” said the Ferryman. “Enjoy your new found freedom.”
    “Thank you.”
    “No problem.” The Ferryman waved as he pushed the boat out. “Place won’t be the same without you, boss.”
    “Excuse me?”
    The Ferryman just smiled before turning away and heading back to the other side of the river.

    Death chuckled. The Ferryman had been a good friend and wouldn’t alert the Underworld straight away. Death turned and walked towards the archway that led to the land of the living. Time to start a new life.

  19. @abrahamwolfgang

    Till Death (160 words)

    He said he’d found it.

    Then again, he’d said that so many times that I’d stopped listening long ago. It’s why I left him. He couldn’t put me before some stupid fantasy. He was delusional, and I only wish I had seen it earlier so that I could have saved him. Instead, his body was returned in a casket from some foreign country I had never heard of.

    That’s when the postcards starting showing up in the mail. As I followed his clues and pieced together the directions, I thought that maybe I felt some of what had drawn him. I was finally participating in his dream of finding some mythical gate to the heavens, of gaining freedom from this life. It compelled me in a way I didn’t think possible.

    I followed until I stood on the shores of that river, my husband standing on the other side, smiling that intoxicating smile, hand perched on an old, stone gate.

  20. True Freedom

    Freedom, sure, I thought I knew what it was. A right or choice someone could make. Like the cost paid so I could have power in the blood. I just never thought my own would be spilt.

    It was always the stained glass that stole my attention away from the sermons. Controlled by the light, a river of purples and reds would dance along the pews. Until the day darkness covered my window. Masked men arrived with sparks of hatred in their eyes. Our praiseful voices changed into screams. Prayers rose with the flaming smoke.

    Attending church was an overlooked gift. The building once stood along the water’s banks with arches twisted along my treasured windows. Because of someone’s decision we both fell that day. But the one I served will never fall. No one’s opinion can change that.

    It was my choice to believe, and I’d choose it all again. For now, you see, I’m free indeed.

    @meganbesing
    158 words

  21. “Forgotten Gate”
    John Mark Miller – 151 words
    @JohnMark_Miller

    “God will deliver us,” Mama murmured, a salty tear streaking down her bruised cheek. She was washing the fresh wounds on my back, and her washcloth was drenched with my blood.

    I wept bitterly. “God hates us,” I thought. Why else would He allow us to be slaves in England? To be sold to this godforsaken plantation outside Paramaribo? To pass through Dog’s Gate?

    “Walk through here and you’re no longer human,” the slavemasters had sneered. “Get in there, dogs!”

    A glorious crack of lightning snapped me from my thoughts, and Mama’s eyes widened. Soon the entire plantation was engulfed in bright flames, and we were sprinting through the woods.

    We laughed all the way to the River Surinam, halting at Dog’s Gate. Bitter memories poisoned our laughter, and I had the sudden urge to walk through. But there was no need.

    Deliverance had come swiftly, and we were free already.

  22. Family History III

    Ah, your ma and da sent you to me for the next part of the tale did they? Not surprising. I known your da since I were John Carter’s quartermaster and he were his cabin boy. Of course we never realised who your ma was ‘til your da tried to maroon her, but she’d changed a might since we’d seen her last, what with her being just a nipper at the time. She knew who we were though – make no mistake – and she knew what she wanted and how to go about getting it. She were her father’s daughter all right.

    Aye, boy. You’re catching on. Cutthroat Carter were your ma’s da, and had she been a lad, more’n likely she would have been the next captain of the Basilisk and not your da. She did inherit something from the old man though: a powerful need for freedom and a map to his island what only she could read.

    @nembow
    159 words

    (N.B. This is part III in what appears to be becoming a series!)

  23. “The Noose Metronome”
    http://irkatstories.tumblr.com
    @iRkat525
    Words: 160

    The hooded man thawked his mallet against the gong, a single note rippling over the crowd. Barefoot among my fellow prisoners, I shuffled forward, hands shackled in thick twine that gnawed on my wrists. The first victim of justice was my cellmate. Rosa shrugged off each guards’ touch as they herded her up the scaffold. She stood there on display for the schadenfreude crowd, sunken eyes staring past them at the shit-colored river.

    “Last words?” the executioner asked.

    Mouth a tight line, she shook her head and he laced the noose around her neck. The sun silhouetted Rosa’s body as she swung through the air like a metronome keeping time with a groaning rope and arch. As I took the stage, the men wrapped Rosa in a stone-filled sack. They threw her to the river. It ate her, burping with liberating bubbles. Death looped around my neck, I met the gaze of every curious onlooker, ready to keep time myself.

  24. Title: Built to Last
    Words: 158
    http://www.fcflrailway.com

    Haso mounted the teetering scaffold, his square in one hand and his eyes fixed on the top of the stone column. He measured, cursed, then climbed down again.

    “Mufa! By! Teagu!” He gestured angrily to the three men sunning themselves by the river. “More fill on this side.”

    They looked at each other and rose slowly.

    “Haso, why do you care?” Teagu groaned. “They will not notice, and if it falls they will just make us put it up again.”

    “Build right, build not right,” he waggled his hand and shrugged. “No freedom, either way.”

    He knelt with the others and began lazily scooping gravel with his bare hands.

    Haso held the parchment out to Teagu, pointed to the charcoal sketch of columns and lintel.

    “No, Teagu,” Haso said, his voice booming. “No freedom, either way. But as long as this stands – two hundred years, five hundred years – it is us who chains them, with our memory.”

    • What a strange tale. I like it I think…Great idea, the building of the archway. Yes, I like it. I especially like the structure bound up with pointlessness and it’s people who make chains with memories. I got there in the end. 🙂

  25. Separate Freedom

    Rebecca and her father waited at the stone gate of the plantation for the slaves to load their boat. She hated seeing the dead-eyed men, backs bent over with heavy sacks, working in the merciless hot sun.

    “If we came to Suriname for freedom, Papa,” she asked, “Why are all the Africans still slaves?”

    “We came here free. Well, not free of persecution for our faith, but no one had us in chains, little one. The Africans were brought here as slaves, by the Dutch .”

    “Hetty says the English have freed their slaves today, and that if we were still English the slaves would be free. Why did the English give us back? “

    “It was the right thing to do.”

    Slaves began to load the Solomon’s boat.

    “Right for whom? “ Rebecca asked.

    Isaac patted her shoulder. “ Once,we were slaves, in Egypt. That is why we celebrate Passover. May God in his wisdom someday free us all”

  26. They Wrote A Song About Us.
    He left me. Just like that. Wanted his freedom. I let him go. Then the song came out and they played it everywhere across the country where he was hitchhiking or riding the rails looking for whatever the hell he thought he was looking for. I bet it drove him crazy hearing that song all those years.
    For the thousandth time I stood at river’s edge and hummed the tune and this time Bobby McGee lurched through the trees across the river. He was filthy and ragged.
    I yelled. “Freedom’s just another word…”
    “…for nothin’ left to lose…” he hollered hoarsely, and dived in.
    I watched as he swam and exhausted himself and hoped he wouldn’t flounder and sink before he got to me. Calm, I slipped into the water and sang our song as he thrashed the last few feet to my outstretched hand. Then I hooked my arm around his neck and dragged him under.

    @rfmaraz38
    157 Words

  27. Slimeball
    by Jefferson, age 13, son of Margaret Locke
    160 words

    There was once a land of good, and of evil. The good called Shynin. The evil, called Slimeball. Now it once so happened that Jake was on his way to the Gateway of Freedom to prove himself able to go outside of his town. If he succeeded, he was free. If he failed, he’d be banished to Slimeball forever. He almost made it to the gate, but a dragon called Challice abducted him to Shynin. He fought his way free, and landed in an arena. Challice landed beside him.

    “Do you think you can kill me?” Challice’s voice boomed.

    “Yes,” Jake answered.

    So Challice charged. Jake picked up something shiny in the sand. It was the Sword of Resistance. Using it, he blinded Challice. Then, seeing his chance, he struck Challice. Challice screeched, and a ray of blue light exploded into the arena, and Challice was gone. Jake won, and found himself at the gate. He was free to leave!

  28. Heaven’s Gate

    Life is a river, always flowing. It passes me by as I wait on my vigil. I used to see them as they went by in the morning, grey and huddled as the mangrove trunks – forty solemn, futureless men in each boat. I guess the guns kept them pliant. Besides there was no way they could swim with those fetters on. Maybe they were awaiting freedom in the next life.
    Some things change, some never will. It’s the powder barges now, still trading in bondage; empty-eyed men tied by circumstance.

    Heaven’s gate, they call it. Her father found me that day, showed me why. He made an island of me then washed his machete in the stream, tinting the cataract red. The river took me away, but it couldn’t keep me forever. Now I wait. One day she’ll be there, beautiful as ever. We’ll enter heaven together. One day.

  29. Heaven’s Gate (149 words)
    @van_demal

    Life is a river, always flowing. It passes me by as I wait on my vigil. I used to see them as they went by in the morning, grey and huddled as the mangrove trunks – forty solemn, futureless men in each boat. I guess the guns kept them pliant. Besides there was no way they could swim with those fetters on. Maybe they were awaiting freedom in the next life.
    Some things change, some never will. It’s the powder barges now, still trading in bondage; empty-eyed men tied by circumstance.

    Heaven’s gate, they call it. Her father found me that day, showed me why. He made an island of me then washed his machete in the stream, tinting the cataract red. The river took me away, but it couldn’t keep me forever. Now I wait. One day she’ll be there, beautiful as ever. We’ll enter heaven together. One day.

  30. Everyone Gone (154 Words)

    It took three days to travel up the rain-swollen river. Suhan piloted the boat.

    “Doctor go to big house. Very much sick,” he would say over and over like a mantra.

    Each day the sun beat down without mercy, and I would feel my skin blistering as the sweat soaked through my clothes. I listened to the brown water pushing the boat onwards, the birds cackling in the lifeless trees. I drank sparingly from my bottled water.

    On the second day towards evening, the boat collided with something, and Suhan called out in terror. It was a body. Suhan began to rock and pray.

    On the third morning as we drew close to the plantation the river was choked with bodies, and a plume of gray smoke rose into the sky. The great house was burning.

    “Everyone gone,” Suhan said, his eyes like black tunnels. “Everyone gone.”

    Despite the heat, I began to shiver.

  31. The Worlds Obscura
    Evan Montegarde
    159 words

    “I’m amazed, the painting is the gateway, how could he possibly know Jacob?”

    Jacob took a step back as he compared the print with the scene before him across the river. “Nikolaas Verkolje lived and painted in the eighteenth century, he was obscure, yet he saw this place. But how could he have ever been here, in Suriname, to see that gate? I mean look at this picture Olivia, it is an exact duplicate of that gateway. Almost like a photograph from a man who lived and died in Holland 250 years ago and certainly never set foot here. We have to find out.”

    Minutes later, after the drift boat dropped the couple before the gate, Olivia and Jacob held hands and, smiling, walked through. On the other side they saw another gateway, and through it yet another deeper into the jungle.

    It was then, when they finally understood, that the magic unfolded and their shackles were unbound forever.

  32. So close you can taste it
    @dieterrogiers – 160 words

    Our lives depended on it, so we ran, through bushes, through hedges, through thorns, until our feet were more scar than flesh. We ran from the dogs’ barks, distant but closing in. If we looked back, we could probably see their foaming mouths. But look back we’d sworn we never would. Never again.

    Ezekiel knew the way. He had fled before. Or tried. We’d have to reach the abandoned gate on the river bank. There we could swim to our freedom.

    Between the withered trees the white stone gateway summoned us. We sprinted as fast our shackles would allow us. Every bone in our body, every muscle hurt. But we felt no pain. We could smell a long desired freedom. We could taste it.

    Only when we walked through the gate, crying for joy, did we notice the dinghy on the river and Mister Boss, cocking his gun.

    Freedom, while it lasted, would taste as sweet as freshly drawn blood.

  33. In the nick of time

    As the horse charges through the water I grip the reins with fierce determination. I’ve been to this plantation before, enough to know that the news I carry cannot get their soon enough.

    There is a haunting sound in the distance, a slow and steady crack, like tiny thunder. As I round the corner I see a tattered figure hanging limply from a post as the Master brings back the whip. I shout out, “Stop!”
    He looks up, curious as to who dare disturb his favorite sport. I skid to a halt, thrusting the letter at him.
    He sneers, “I will deal with the mail later boy, can’t you see I’m busy?”
    “It’s important.”
    He tears it open and I watch his whole world fall apart. He angrily stuffs it in his pocket and turns back to continue the punishment. I steer the horse to protect his victim.
    He yells, “You’ll pay for this insolence!”
    “No sir, but you will.”

    160 words
    @todayschapter

  34. The Collector

    The song lilted across the river’s muddy waters. Max, crouched on the opposite bank, tweaked the settings of his recorder listening intently. Through his headphones the world was crafted solely from a lament to loss and toil. Honey tones serenading dead lives.

    A whip cracked, thunder tearing asunder tranquility, hushing the choir. Focusing his spyglass, Max watched the plantation owner chastise the cotton pickers, sweat staining the back of his white shirt, the bullwhip hanging languidly in his hand.

    There would be no more song today.

    Max began packing away his equipment; hopefully he had enough material to satisfy his client. He looked back across the bank, watching ebony skin toiling under the fierce sun. A child looked up, her youth corroded by exploitation.

    Once Max would have wanted nothing more than to rescue her, to take her back into the multiverse with him.

    Not anymore.

    He waved, before stepping back though the portal.

    Taking their song with him.

    159 words

    @imageronin

  35. Dear Aunt Agony,
    Please, oh please, help me! I love my fiancé very much and very much want to marry him. However, not long after my father suggested he propose, my intended became an avid DIY enthusiast, and as such, he is insisting that he build our first marital home himself. He has promised that as soon as the house is complete, we will be free to marry.
    Whenever I try to persuade him that he should enlist the help of builders, he refuses saying that he wants to make our home with his own bare hands. I have explained to him I, too, love that idea, but it does mean putting the marriage off for a considerable amount of time. However, he says that is a sacrifice he is prepared to make.
    I wouldn’t mind if the project was even halfway through, but five years have passed already and all we have is a front door.
    Yours
    Frustrated Fiancée

    (160 words)

  36. The river was lapping noisily at his rough little boat, sapping what will he had left to go on. The sun was baking his back, sizzling his skin a juicy red while he laid the oar in his lap and drifted. A breeze shuffled his mud colored hair and he sighed.

    Could he really pull it off? He had all the necessary implements of ritual summoning. The salt. The blade. The book. A gris-gris bundle was carefully tied to his belt, lest it fall into the water. The houngan had said it would work, but could he really say the words? Could he really do this?

    He had to. The oar dipped once more into the water, whorls of sun tipped sparkle tracing his path. There it was, just as the houngan said. Just ahead, tickled by reeds and bearded by the trees, lay the aged stone portal. He licked his dried lips.

    “By your bondage, I will be free.”

    @dangergrrlie
    160 Words

  37. Waiting at the Gateway
    by A J Walker

    There was beauty here in flashes of colourful blink and you’ll miss them moments. But Ade hadn’t seen beauty in a long time. Ninety degrees in this sweaty jungle hot box and he was cold shivering constantly. Crying dry tears from his near gouged out eyes.

    The plantation around him full of the bloodied dying all wanting the end to come swiftly. Praying the sapping heat would speed the inevitable.

    He looked towards the locked plantation gateway as the daily boat approached to disgorge its gift of medicine and food. And their last letters.

    This place once filled with the tears and struggles of slaves now full of the anguish and agony of the dying of this terrible disease. Left to moulder in the jungle to be untouched again by the living; 100% mortality, they couldn’t blame them.

    His last nail peeled from his thumb as fire ants gorged on his decaying legs, but he couldn’t feel them.

    Death: Freedom.

    (160 words)
    @zevonesque

  38. “To be alive…again”
    @Making_Fiction
    158 words

    Billy relaxes on the barstool. The smell of freshly caught fish being untangled from fishing nets awakens slumbered memories. The bar overlooks the Suriname River, today, it’s the colour of liquid clay; its beauty is mesmeric.

    He promised himself he would enjoy every physical sense this time.

    Oh, to be alive…again.

    Once every few hundred years he allows himself a break. The boss is good like that. The boss is always generous.

    “Get you a drink?” the man asks Billy.

    “No thank you, sir. I have this delightful rainbow drink with wooden umbrellas in it. I am Billy…Wilberforce. Pleased to meet you.”

    “Barack,” the man replies.

    They shake hands. Sit silently. Sip drinks. Enjoy the view.

    Billy thinks about Barack, his endearing smile and quiet, but confident demeanour. He wonders, briefly, what sort of life Barack might live.

    What does it matter? He has the confidence of a free man.

    Billy smiles and raises a glass to him.

  39. “The Kill”
    By Michael Seese
    160 words

    I pushed the reeds to one side, and waited a good five minutes. I thought I might have spied some movement on the other bank. But I couldn’t be sure.

    “See anything?” Amber asked.

    “No,” I stated firmly, hoping to mask my indecision. “Let’s do this.”

    We waded into the cool water. It felt great. Like victory. Almost.

    “We’re going to make it,” she said.

    “Let’s hope.”

    We stepped onto the sandy soil, and raced for the prize.

    We were nearly there when a camo-clad figure stepped out from behind the arch, his rifle leveled. I tried to take aim. But he had us. Amber never even reacted.

    Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

    She and I each took two to the chest. I dumbly stared down at the red splotches spreading across my shirt.

    “Damn it!”

    “Nice try, ace,” my opponent said. “But the flag isn’t even in here.”

    I peppered him with three rounds of blue paint, just for spite.

  40. ***Judge’s Entry, for Fun***

    DAYLIGHT

    It was the first thing I saw when I arrived.

    A portal into darkness.

    The darkness crossed over me as I passed through, like a black cloth pulled down over the face of a hostage. Heavy, and damp, burdened by the weight of a million tears and more.

    I folded in my limbs and bowed down my head, like a dried up spider.

    I cannot remember a time that I looked another person in the face.

    I learned my way by listening. This room held screams. That one the clanking of metal. I navigated by the sound of my feet shuffling over wood, then dirt, then tile. Then wood again.

    Wood.

    My bed was wood, and straw. The matchstick felt tiny between my fingers.

    I knew the quickest way out, by now. Had traced it over and over in my mind.

    It was the last thing I saw when I left.

    A portal back into a vibrant world.

    158 words
    @betsystreeter

  41. Passing the Torch

    The river moves sluggishly, barely a ripple on the thick brown surface. The heavy gray clouds linger around like grief.

    At the first light of dawn, the priest begins his daily trek to the temple. Mud clings to his worn-out shoes, and his bones creak in the damp weather. These days he cannot bring out the shine of the brass lamps. The floor is covered in soot. He sighs!

    Something stirs behind the temple. He squints his eyes and spots a young woman. She bows her head.
    “God bless you, my child!” He says.
    Her swollen eyes remain hidden behind the veil.
    He begins to sweep the floor, but she takes the broom from him. He nods approvingly.

    Here, she can remain free, from the memories of the village swept away by the mudslide, from her past, from her caste!

    The temple bells peal. “Bless my child, the future priest.” She touches her belly and whispers to her unborn baby.

    @needanidplease
    160 words

  42. GATE TO FREEDOM

    ‘My father’s grandfather died in 1830. He was born in Africa, made captive, sold as a slave by his own countrymen, and brought to Surinam to work in the sugar plantations. After escaping to the rain forest, he was caught, and both his feet were cut off, so that he could not escape again. It was a slow, painful death.

    Don’t ever forget you owe your freedom to that man, and make sure you bring your sons and daughters here, on the 1st of August, at least once in your life.’

    ‘But father, I don’t understand. You were born in London, and I was adopted in China.’

    ‘Son, this proud, crumbling door is all that remains of a water mill, which belonged to a sugar refinery dating back to 1830, before the emancipation of slaves. That gate, which nature has tried unsuccessfully to bury, holds the memory of something none of us can remember, and yet we must never forget.’

    160 words
    @LucciaGray

  43. The Getaway

    The doors splintered, wards collapsing in a surge of technomantic fire that barbecued the invaders. Leaning from the rooftop, the Contessa trained her spectral pistols on the attackers, firing wildly.

    “They’re in. Time to go. Quentin?”

    She turned, found her husband slumped over the console, one of his prized Scarlatian daggers buried in his back. Standing over him, their valet Michael raised the dagger’s twin.

    “Drop the pistols Contessa, or he’s a pin cushion.”

    “Et tu, Michael?”

    “Nothing personal. We just need our freedom. You aristos have-”

    The pistol twitched in her hand and he dropped. Rushing to the console, she threw his body aside and twirled dials as another blow shook the house. Then she checked her pistols, blew the Count a goodbye kiss and leapt towards the doorway in time.

    Berhind her, Michael hauled himself upright, bloody fingers scrabbling at the date selector. Picturing the doorway appearing in some dawn of time rathole, he smiled, and died.

    159 words
    @Karl_A_Russell

  44. BURN TO FLY
    160 words
    Elisa Johnston – @AverageAdvocate
    ———————————

    Violently, I swayed, more than just a little wind-tossed. Conch’s plan didn’t factor in my fear of heights and the potent gales.

    But Conchita, with her tight curls and snarky grin, motioned me to climb higher still– each branch closer to flight.

    It seemed ages since we’d escaped, which was because neither of us had actually ever left. As a purebred Leeflang Dutchess, I was expected to stay forgotten yet be so committed to the land that I wouldn’t poke my toe out.

    But here, in the hanging high over the river, we were birds. While freedom sung through the roaring wind around us, it also spread our roaring cause.

    When we heard of the slave riots we knew it was time. Liberty must be swept in from the future, from what the soon-to-dawn 1900’s must blossom.

    And so with the plantation burning behind us, we jumped into the muddy river, leaving only a marble arch to memorialize our flame.

  45. The Offering
    (160 Words)

    “It’s an honor to be chosen.” I repeat their words, head bowed to hide the hatred burning in my gaze.
    The priestess beams at me, serene and bloodthirsty, “Your name will be revered for all of time.”
    I supress a snort. Did they really think I hadn’t seen how quickly the names of the chosen were forgotten? They speak of our loving lord, blessing us in return for one “small” display of dedication. But I too have glimpsed the creature they call god, and I know the truth. Countless children served to a monster growing hungrier every day. They think the sacrifices protect them, but one day scraps of orphan won’t be enough. It will rise from the lake and devour any in its path. But I’ll be long gone by then.
    I step up to the altar, gripping the shard concealed in the folds of my tunic. It is not my blood that will sate the beast today.

    ~Taryn Noelle Kloeden
    @tnkloeden

  46. The Tree
    @_HannahHeath
    159 words

    The tree watched as a young couple sat beneath its boughs. Wobbling precariously on its root system, feet dangling into the muddy water that flowed beneath, they watched clouds. The boy insisted that certain ones looked like animals. The girl laughed. She couldn’t see them the way he did; she just saw clouds. But it didn’t matter as long as she sat beside him.

    The next time the tree saw them, the boy showed up wearing a blue uniform with brass buttons. The girl cried.

    The boy looked at the sky. “Do you see that?” he asked, pointing at a cloud. “That’s me coming back home to you.”

    But the tree knew that she only saw clouds.

    Months went by. Finally the girl came. The tree waited, but the boy never arrived. The girl stared at a crumpled letter before throwing it into the brown river. Sobbing, she looked at the sky.

    The tree knew that she only saw clouds.

  47. Nsoromma
    By Adrienne Myshel@amyshel7
    160 words (exclusive of title)
    I clutched the star-shaped pendant around my neck as the boat turned the tree-lined shores. There, unchanged after 30 years. I had returned this day to see the portal through which my incorrigible, orphaned best friend Lena entered when we were 10. We’d sneaked out that sultry evening, cicadas heaving, shadows glowering. “Got to show you somethin’, Tori,” Lena’s bony hand took mine, and she lead us along the swampy footpaths. “Nana said here’s where slaves came through to the plantations. If you be a descendant, you can go back, and be the queen you would’a been if we’d never been stolen. I’ma Queen!” Lena’s gaunt face, regal, more than a motherless waif. “You go first!” She pushed me. I tumbled through the portal. “C’mon Lena,” I laughed on the other side. She removed the necklace Nana had given her, smiling, and threw it to me through the portal’s legs. Then Lena entered, and leg to arm, vanished.

  48. Embracing the Future
    @mishmhem
    159 words

    We traveled, a line of servants snaking through the desert, blazing the trail through the unknown. We were the nameless, water-bearers; porters – handmaids of The Named. Though they came after us, they would be honored as the first.

    That is why, when we reached the mansion, the Named pushed ahead and entered, seeking shelter and refreshment for themselves.

    At dusk, when they had not returned my sister and I were sent to find them. At the doorway, we sensed the evil beyond and stopped. The mansion was a trap, a portal to the abyss beyond dreaming. Inside The Named screamed as even their names were stripped from them.

    My sister, unable to stand life without revenge, threw herself inside while I fought against the place until all that remained was the memory. I moved on knowing that I would not be free until I let go of what was, and embraced what could be.

    That night, we named ourselves.

  49. Engineered for Freedom
    By Charity Paschall
    @CharityPaschal2
    149 Words

    This lake is home to the P265 KRAKEN Biological Anti-Submarine Weapon, engineered by scientists in a world that no longer exists. Dr. Krakenborn and his team were tasked to study the Kraken and learn its weaknesses.

    My ancestors, the original Morlings, were created as anti-Kraken weapons, but something went wrong–the militant traits disappeared. Instead, we looked like humans, but with webbed feet, skin hard as scales, and sentient hair–not military fighters.

    Over time, the Krakenborns lost sight of their mission. They now spend their time studying the accidental Morlings, and learning our weaknesses.

    And I am their prisoner; we are prisoners–myself and the Kraken.

    The stillness here is unnatural. No fish splashes, no cicadas trill, no frogs croak. There is only silence and a bigger silence to swallow it. It’s as though the entire world is holding it’s breath–waiting.

    Waiting for our chance at freedom: the Kraken and I.

  50. Yearning to Breathe

    The heat was oppressive, pressing against her like a limp blanket. Humidity left rivulets of sweat running down her face, dampening her flesh under the restrictive heavy white fabric of her long dress, the hated corset, the breath stealing stays. Mary shifted uncomfortably in the hard seat she currently occupied in the tiny boat. She turned her head to watch the verdant green scenery float past, the straw boater on her head shading her face, while also shielding her from the gaze of the man rowing the boat.

    Mary felt stifled. The heat, the humidity, the clothing, the man. This man who held a claim on her, expressed in the simple gold band on her finger. She glanced down into the murky brown water of the river, then the simple stone arch caught her eye as they drifted past, the open portal inviting, screaming one word to her – freedom.
    ***
    @tilley_girl
    150 words

  51. Manumission
    (wc 160)

    The river carried her away with the smoke, gunpowder and blood. Her body swollen pregnant.

    ****

    Her father, with too many to feed, had sold her to Alford for twenty dollars, a twenty dollar slave girl who now owned his heart.

    At fifteen, Leeze was with their first child. His wife’s children were a closer match to be her lover, but, she chose him.

    “Just don’t embarrass me,” his wife said, “keep it in the quarters.”

    There, he found friends. Papers would say “freed by the will of their master.” First were Pierre and Gustina then Ham and Pearl. Finally, freedom for Alford in papers he requested from the Sheriff.

    ****

    A younger version of him stood behind the door. Self justified patricide prevents scandal. Leeze’s last memory was listening to Alford’s heart as the bullet ripped through her into him.

    Then Leeze ran, longing for her heart to find freedom with Alford’s. Knowing that vision, the river took her there.

  52. The Other End of the World
    [A hundred and fifty-seven ineligible words from one of your FF judges.]

    When the Blackout hit, things went downhill fast. On the first day, I stayed home from the office. While waiting for a 4g signal, I cleared out my refrigerator. My smartphone battery died the next day. The water pressure dwindled to a trickle.

    As days became weeks, inconvenience blew up into disaster. A flood of humanity spilled from the city like the sewage backflow from the toilets. No food. No news. Just disease, gunfire, perpetual hunger. So many dead.

    Long ago, this place was a plantation. We discovered plenty of rusty equipment in the old barn. The fields had lain fallow for a generation. The draft horse that James rescued from the hungry mob pulls the plow through the brick hard ground.

    The river waters lap onto the shore. I hum a cheerful tune as I crank our laundry through the wringer. Beside me, Mary drapes it across a rock face to dry in the bright sunshine.

  53. Ball and Chain
    by Alissa Leonard
    @lissajean7
    158 words

    Julianna sighed, causing Simon to pop his head up to peer at her. “Something wrong?” He asked.

    “No. I’m fine.” She replied, tracing her finger along the rough boards of the small boat.

    Simon propped himself on his elbow. “Fine means miserable.”

    “No,” Julianna smiled at him, “I’m not miserable. Just wishing the boat would go faster, that’s all. Promise.”

    He smiled wide and waggled his eyebrows at her. “Your wish is my command,” he said as he pushed himself up and leaned over the edge.

    She squeaked, grabbing his shirt, “What’re you doing?”

    “Getting out to push the boat.”

    “No way! That water’s dirty.”

    “Julianna.”

    “There could be pirhanas in there! Or…leeches!” Julianna cleared her throat and settled back on the bottom of the boat. “You’re free to do whatever you want, of course, but if you have disease-infested water all over you, I won’t touch you.”

    Simon smirked as he leaned over her, “I’m dry now.”

  54. Schism

    “300 feet or so,” I told Sara, “about the length of a football field.” I can’t believe I still think like that. I haven’t seen a football game, in over a decade. Organized sporting events quickly gave way to combat training and sparring, after the start of the Schism War.

    I glanced back to Sara. She usually rolled her eyes, whenever I made a reference to something from the pre-war era, a world that had ended, before she had been born. Instead, she kept her eyes on the far shore, as it disappeared, below the horizon.

    The land we approached was overgrown, and the only structures were degraded, but I knew, somewhere, in the distance, was civilization. We’d have to avoid Canadian authorities, and find stable work, but we’d be free of the warring sovereign states, the endless Schism War.

    Sara didn’t understand though, and probably never would. She just stared back, silently, at the only existence she’d ever known.

    160 words
    @acmarkz

  55. De Words Jus’ Won’t Come

    “Yes, James, Harold is waiting for me beyond the door. Don’t you worry your little head about me, I’ll be fine.”

    “Aww, ma’am, I done tolt you b’fore, my head ain’t little. It holds all dem mem’ries of takin’ care o’ you and Mr. Harold for nigh on to 65 years. You needed dis ole man. It’s hard to stop worryin’. Whose gonna want this ole man now?”

    “I know, James, you took good care of us. We never had any complaints.

    “I have to go now, James. Thanks for everything you’ve done for Harold and me. I will never forget you.”

    “Oh, Miss Lucinda… de words jus’ won’t come.”

    “Good-bye, James. I’m walking on, now. I can’t keep Harold waiting.

    “Do you hear the singing? The house is just as I remember it—Harold, where…”

    “Lucy, you’re here at last! I’m in the garden.”

    “Oh, Harold, It’s all so wonderful!

    “The angels are singing our song. ”

    @marthajcurtis 158 words

  56. Free to Try
    @mishmhem
    160 words

    Hesitantly, Cassiopeia stood. It was her turn to tell the great story and weave the spell of silver tales to an unmoved audience.

    “In the Time of Dreaming,” she began, falling into the ancient rhythms of the storyweavers. “The Ancient Ones built houses of stone, but when The Dreaming ended, they left, taking their magic with them. Their houses stood for generations along the shores of the Uncertain River, which winds its way randomly through the Lands of Gray Dust.

    “But time has broken their spells, and even the strongest of the great houses finally gave way to even stronger magics – for The Lady Who Travels Unseen, She who’s hand guides the river, has reclaimed the land beneath their homes: taking what was theirs and making it Hers once again.”

    She gave Edris an expectant look and waited for his evaluation.

    “Cass, worshiping entropy is not going to get you out of cleaning your room, but feel free to try”

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