Shocker writing challenge

Submission deadline: March 10, 2013
Voting deadline: March 17, 2013

Write a story not exceeding 2000 words that ends with something that shocks the reader.

Anyone is welcome to submit. Just insert your story as a comment below.

Anyone is welcome to vote. Just reply to your favorite entry and write "VOTE" in the comment text. Don't vote for your own entry.

Please, only constructive criticism; no bashing or venting.

Winner

Like You and Me

by Anneke Ryan

I’m the surviving child.

That’s what Mum and Dad say.

This is Melanie, our surviving child.

They’re downstairs now, Mum and Dad. Arguing again. They do it every year at this time. It’s worse this year, though, worse because this year I’m the age Holly was when she died.

Holly’s my sister. Once each year a cop from up Wellington phones Mum and Dad to reassure them that the Wellington Police Station still holds the missing person file.

Last seen leaving Lawson’s Crossing Central School... date... time. Height: 160cm. Hair: blonde, long. Eyes: brown. Figure: slight. Wearing the Lawson’s Crossing Central School uniform, jumper hitched around her hips the way the bigger girls did in those days; gold earring studs, regulation size; silver necklace, pendant, half a heart with a mock broken side. Carrying a school back-pack, empty lunch box and a couple of books inside.

Kids run off all the time, the cops told Mum and Dad back then. Two weeks later they found the lunch box, past Wellington, alongside the highway.

No-one in Lawson’s Crossing trusts cops, not since the government shut Lawson’s Crossing Police Station, back before I was born. In this town people say, Ten minutes drive from Wellington and you’re better off with your own shot gun and a good solid knife. No-one believes my sister ran off, either. In this town people saw the banged up white ute that afternoon, people heard the engine roar late that night, people went down the river bank, walked in the tyre marks and pondered the scuffed out fire. In this town someone knew someone who heard someone who said someone heard a scream that night. In this town people say, Holly Thomas died.

Lawson’s Crossing Central School got closed down not long after that. Toby and I caught the bus to Wellington South Primary for a few years, fifty minutes each way. Now we’re older so we go two blocks further, to Wellington High.

That’s Toby, resting his back against the orange bomb Torana he’s parked across the road under the old black butt. Not a bad park, considering he hasn’t got a licence. He’s scuffing red dust onto his bare feet, pretending he knows how to whittle shapes out of branches with that pocket knife.

Coming.

As I call out, I swing myself through the window. Then I skim down the verandah post, jump across the dead dalias and catch up with him in a couple of strides. He’s looking at the house now, through the walls, the living room, the dining room, into the kitchen. Slap. He flinches at the sound. Mum howls. Dad slams the back door and I know he’s stormed outside. He’ll spend the rest of the day in the shed, trying to fix the useless Datsun Brett King’s father sold him.

Coming?

This time it’s Toby speaking. Almost a question but not quite. He folds the knife, puts it in his pocket and tosses the whittled branch to one side. Then he reaches for my hand.

We used to hold hands every day when we first met, but that was kindergarten and you had to hold hands with the kid next to you in the row. Miss Price sat us together and sighed and muttered, Five years old, and their only siblings are already on the high school side.

Everyone else in kinder left at two, but Toby and I had to wait until three. Miss Price would sit at her desk with pursed lips, knitting Rugs for the World. Toby and I would sit at ours playing snap, side by side. At three, Holly and Jackson would finish their class and come to walk us home. Holly and Jackson were in year nine back then. They were in year ten when Holly died.

Now we’re in year ten and I like Brett King. He’s in year eleven and he’s got dark brown hair, tossed long and careless over one green eye. He’s smart enough to stay near the top of the class, and street-smart enough to leave the very top spots for the skinny, pale loser-types. And he plays sport. In the summer it’s cricket and I watch sometimes. It’s a boring game, but I can sit in the sun and study his back as he runs forward and swings his arm up to bowl. Sometimes I take my sketch pad and try to draw the shape of his back as he lifts his arm. I don’t show the picture to Brett. He likes sport and fast cars, not art. Even if he’d known who I was he wouldn’t be interested in a drawing.

Brett’s mum wears lipstick and gold hoop earrings and white slacks. She even wears them to Wellington Oval on a Saturday morning. She brings tea in a thermos and buttered pikelets in a plastic container. She opens the container with one long, bronze painted fingernail. Brett’s dad strides. Sometimes he watches the sport, but mostly he just tries to persuade the other dads they need new cars. My dad drove the Lawson’s Crossing kids to Wellington Oval once. Mum stopped him doing that again; she called Brett’s dad a crook, for selling us a second hand car that’s never worked properly.

Toby’s hand’s gotten bigger lately. My eyes move from his hand, up his arm, to his face. I realise I’m looking up at him now, even though I used to always be the tallest. I look away. And I don’t take his hand, not this time.

Toby says, Forget it, Mellie.

Then he says, He doesn’t even like you. He likes Lucy Driver.

Lucy Driver’s got blonde hair, like Holly had. And long, thin legs. She poses sometimes, dresses up for photos for those paper ads that show aftershave and towels and well-brought-up young girls dressed in modest nighties. I think that’s what upsets Mum and Dad the most; they lost the pretty one. The surviving child’s got lanky dark hair and a big nose and chubby thighs that no-one wants to photograph. The surviving child looks like Mr Tanner, the butcher in Wellington. Mum and Dad never say it; but you can’t hide stuff like that in Lawson’s Crossing.

Swim?

The creek’s low this year because of the drought. The banks are wide and high up the tree trunks are the marks of the last big flood. The water lapped the road the year Holly died. I strip down to my cossie, jumping up and down because the sand’s hot on my bare feet. My cossie’s a navy-blue one-piece. Sometimes you see tourists camping at the river curve: women sun-baking in flowery bikinis, as if those stupid bits of material would stay on in the water; and men fishing, or going through the motions mostly. No tourists today, though. Toby thinks nothing of the hot sand. Toby thinks nothing of stripping off completely, dropping t-shirt, shorts and undies on top of his old school bag.

We’re too old for that.

I mean the nakedness, but the way it came out, I could’ve meant the school bag. Too old for school. I finger the pendant at my neck. I run my fingers down the jagged, mock-broken edge of half a heart.

Toby shrugs my comment aside. His forehead creases a bit though, and just for a moment he looks exactly like his brother did, that time after Holly died. Even though I was only six, I remember the cops and the neighbours’ cakes and Dad hitting Mum the first time; I remember the way Jackson looked when he spotted me curled up amongst the dalias, crying. Jackson went off to Sydney a couple of years after that. They gave him bonus marks when he finished school, more marks than he got on the tests; special circumstances because the government closed Lawson’s Crossing Central School down, and because of Holly. Bonuses enough to go to university and study law. Jackson’s got a job in a big law firm these days, Toby says.

We swim and it’s almost like old times. Toby splashes me and I try to push his head under water. He’s too big now for me to win that one. He’s too big for me to push him off when he rests himself on top of me, on a towel, on the river bank. I laugh but Toby scowls and stands up.

What’s he got, Mellie? Toby asks.

I roll over, close my eyes, and try to imagine that the towel under my face is Brett King’s lips against mine. It doesn’t work, because the towel is scratchy and because I can feel the sun burning my back already, and because Toby’s making rustling plastic noises in his bag nearby. It doesn’t work because my imagination’s just not that good, and I’ve never been closer to Brett King than three rows away in the Wellington High School assembly hall. I fall asleep, and in my dream Brett King pushes Lucy Driver against the brick wall outside the hall, presses his tongue into her mouth, and runs his hand up her skinny thigh, lifting her Wellington High School uniform, just like he did in real life. It doesn’t matter so much though, because in the same dream Holly gives me half a heart on a chain, just like she did in real life. She wraps the chain around my neck and locks the links together.

Too old for school, Holly says. Too old for Lawson’s Crossing. Never too old for you though, Mellie. When I’m rich I’ll come back for you, I promise.

In the dream she left then, but in real life she walked me to school the next morning. I’d figured out my own way home by those days, and I never saw her again.

I sit up and I scratch the fresh sunburn on the back of one shoulder. Then I tell Toby something I’ve never told anyone. Holly ran off to Sydney. She didn’t die.

Jackson liked her, you know. Toby tugs something from his backpack.

It wasn’t like that, I say. They were friends. Like you and me.

He even bought a car for her, from Brett King’s father. Toby fingers his knife. A Holden ute. White... Something wrong with it anyway. He traded it up at Dubbo... got the orange Torana.

I’m on my back now, and Toby’s sliding the open blade up over my cossie. He reaches my neck. When I swallow I can feel the tip scratching my skin, just where my half of Holly’s pendant settles against my throat.

That’s not funny, I say, and this time I’m not sure if I mean the ute or the knife.

Toby opens his other fist and I watch silver drop past my eyes, half a heart on a silver chain.

It was her fault, Mellie, Toby says, and he rests Holly’s half pendant up against mine. She should’ve given Jackson what he wanted. He presses the knife harder against my throat. They were friends. Like you and me.

Topic: Shocker writing challenge submissions

Finishing with a shock

Andrew McGeehan 10/03/2013
The amateur electrician.

The Surest Way to a Woman’s Heart

Philip Prentis 10/03/2013
For Sonya and Damien

Love passes through the stomach.
-- Czech proverb


Desmond cut a slice of roasted venison, wrapped it in a dripping coat of thick plum sauce and with a slow, precise movement, pushed it towards Ethel’s waiting lips as they began the gastronomic foreplay of the evening. She gave a breathless sigh, eyes half-closed, tongue flicking out to retrieve an errant trace of sauce from her full, pouting lips. Swallowing, her eyes sprang open and met his hungry gaze, just asking for a slab of meat. Taking her fork, she reached past his sprawling left arm, allowing her little finger to trace a ditsy path along its ridge, before stabbing a morsel for his hungry maw, fuel for that engine of passion that would soon be consuming her body.

*

She let her mind wander, drifting back to the first night they had lain together, she exhausted and thrilled by an experience so wildly beyond anything she could have anticipated, he nervous, apologetic, poised as if waiting for a slap.
“I’m… I’m so sorry,” he had stammered. “I didn’t mean it to… to spring it out like that.”
“Shhh,” she had lulled. “Everything is perfect.”
“It’s just that… when I’m with a woman that I… then it just happens.”
“I love it that it happened like this and I want to do it with you again… and again.”

*

Today he was no longer nervous. Rising from the couch where they had eaten, they kissed, their lips still sweet from the recently ravished crème brûlée cheesecake. Ethel leaned forward and whispered in his ear:
“Tonight, I want you to be the platter for my feast, darling.”
“It will be my greatest pleasure and delight to consume anything my dearest chef will serve,” he said.
They gyrated towards their love-nest, shedding surplus layers of clothing as they went. In a moment, Desmond lay looking up at her dark, expectant eyes, the delicate if modest curves of her sweet body and the smooth skin of her stomach that hid so much of the magic that made her a treasure above all others. Reaching out, he stroked her belly as she murmured:
“Shall we begin with the sweet, sweet dessert?”
“Oh yes! I lust for it,” he said, hands sliding up to her neck and shoulders, “but my hunger demands the main course follow promptly after with no delay.”
Ethel breathed in slow, heavy gasps, eyes closed as his fingers explored her neck and wandered through her hair. Desmond let the loose tips of his fingers trace a series of paths down the length of her face, and then latch onto her full, lower lip. She allowed him to pull her lips wide open, exposing the sensitive organs within. For a moment, he held her there, as a little saliva trickled down his finger; then he entered her. She trembled as he inserted a finger, slid it along the length of her tongue, and then thrust. The crash of sensations that rocked her shuddering body took hold of her and hurled the pent-up energy within her up and out onto her lover’s face. Desmond continued to thrust, as the sweet fire of Ethel’s afters burned at his nostrils and raged at his lips. More and more came out and, as he gasped for breath, mingled with his own, creating a fiery intimacy that demanded reciprocation. Unable to control himself any longer, he raised himself up and vomited full in her face, their bodily fluids clashing in a sensuous cocktail of heartfelt warmth and bile.
At last, with their energies spent, they collapsed exhausted and lay back on the loved-stained sheets, taking in the panorama of olfactory sensations. Ethel, her voice weak but happy, murmured:
“Darling, I think I gave you the starters, too.”

Erm...

Sonya 19/03/2013
I see now why Anneke asked if you were mentally stable :-P

Finishing with a shock

Andrew McGeehan 10/03/2013
The amateur electrician.

Like You and Me

Anneke Ryan 09/03/2013

I’m the surviving child.

That’s what Mum and Dad say.

This is Melanie, our surviving child.

They’re downstairs now, Mum and Dad. Arguing again. They do it every year at this time. It’s worse this year, though, worse because this year I’m the age Holly was when she died.

Holly’s my sister. Once each year a cop from up Wellington phones Mum and Dad to reassure them that the Wellington Police Station still holds the missing person file.

Last seen leaving Lawson’s Crossing Central School... date... time. Height: 160cm. Hair: blonde, long. Eyes: brown. Figure: slight. Wearing the Lawson’s Crossing Central School uniform, jumper hitched around her hips the way the bigger girls did in those days; gold earring studs, regulation size; silver necklace, pendant, half a heart with a mock broken side. Carrying a school back-pack, empty lunch box and a couple of books inside.

Kids run off all the time, the cops told Mum and Dad back then. Two weeks later they found the lunch box, past Wellington, alongside the highway.

No-one in Lawson’s Crossing trusts cops, not since the government shut Lawson’s Crossing Police Station, back before I was born. In this town people say, Ten minutes drive from Wellington and you’re better off with your own shot gun and a good solid knife. No-one believes my sister ran off, either. In this town people saw the banged up white ute that afternoon, people heard the engine roar late that night, people went down the river bank, walked in the tyre marks and pondered the scuffed out fire. In this town someone knew someone who heard someone who said someone heard a scream that night. In this town people say, Holly Thomas died.

Lawson’s Crossing Central School got closed down not long after that. Toby and I caught the bus to Wellington South Primary for a few years, fifty minutes each way. Now we’re older so we go two blocks further, to Wellington High.

That’s Toby, resting his back against the orange bomb Torana he’s parked across the road under the old black butt. Not a bad park, considering he hasn’t got a licence. He’s scuffing red dust onto his bare feet, pretending he knows how to whittle shapes out of branches with that pocket knife.

Coming.

As I call out, I swing myself through the window. Then I skim down the verandah post, jump across the dead dalias and catch up with him in a couple of strides. He’s looking at the house now, through the walls, the living room, the dining room, into the kitchen. Slap. He flinches at the sound. Mum howls. Dad slams the back door and I know he’s stormed outside. He’ll spend the rest of the day in the shed, trying to fix the useless Datsun Brett King’s father sold him.

Coming?

This time it’s Toby speaking. Almost a question but not quite. He folds the knife, puts it in his pocket and tosses the whittled branch to one side. Then he reaches for my hand.

We used to hold hands every day when we first met, but that was kindergarten and you had to hold hands with the kid next to you in the row. Miss Price sat us together and sighed and muttered, Five years old, and their only siblings are already on the high school side.

Everyone else in kinder left at two, but Toby and I had to wait until three. Miss Price would sit at her desk with pursed lips, knitting Rugs for the World. Toby and I would sit at ours playing snap, side by side. At three, Holly and Jackson would finish their class and come to walk us home. Holly and Jackson were in year nine back then. They were in year ten when Holly died.

Now we’re in year ten and I like Brett King. He’s in year eleven and he’s got dark brown hair, tossed long and careless over one green eye. He’s smart enough to stay near the top of the class, and street-smart enough to leave the very top spots for the skinny, pale loser-types. And he plays sport. In the summer it’s cricket and I watch sometimes. It’s a boring game, but I can sit in the sun and study his back as he runs forward and swings his arm up to bowl. Sometimes I take my sketch pad and try to draw the shape of his back as he lifts his arm. I don’t show the picture to Brett. He likes sport and fast cars, not art. Even if he’d known who I was he wouldn’t be interested in a drawing.

Brett’s mum wears lipstick and gold hoop earrings and white slacks. She even wears them to Wellington Oval on a Saturday morning. She brings tea in a thermos and buttered pikelets in a plastic container. She opens the container with one long, bronze painted fingernail. Brett’s dad strides. Sometimes he watches the sport, but mostly he just tries to persuade the other dads they need new cars. My dad drove the Lawson’s Crossing kids to Wellington Oval once. Mum stopped him doing that again; she called Brett’s dad a crook, for selling us a second hand car that’s never worked properly.

Toby’s hand’s gotten bigger lately. My eyes move from his hand, up his arm, to his face. I realise I’m looking up at him now, even though I used to always be the tallest. I look away. And I don’t take his hand, not this time.

Toby says, Forget it, Mellie.

Then he says, He doesn’t even like you. He likes Lucy Driver.

Lucy Driver’s got blonde hair, like Holly had. And long, thin legs. She poses sometimes, dresses up for photos for those paper ads that show aftershave and towels and well-brought-up young girls dressed in modest nighties. I think that’s what upsets Mum and Dad the most; they lost the pretty one. The surviving child’s got lanky dark hair and a big nose and chubby thighs that no-one wants to photograph. The surviving child looks like Mr Tanner, the butcher in Wellington. Mum and Dad never say it; but you can’t hide stuff like that in Lawson’s Crossing.

Swim?

The creek’s low this year because of the drought. The banks are wide and high up the tree trunks are the marks of the last big flood. The water lapped the road the year Holly died. I strip down to my cossie, jumping up and down because the sand’s hot on my bare feet. My cossie’s a navy-blue one-piece. Sometimes you see tourists camping at the river curve: women sun-baking in flowery bikinis, as if those stupid bits of material would stay on in the water; and men fishing, or going through the motions mostly. No tourists today, though. Toby thinks nothing of the hot sand. Toby thinks nothing of stripping off completely, dropping t-shirt, shorts and undies on top of his old school bag.

We’re too old for that.

I mean the nakedness, but the way it came out, I could’ve meant the school bag. Too old for school. I finger the pendant at my neck. I run my fingers down the jagged, mock-broken edge of half a heart.

Toby shrugs my comment aside. His forehead creases a bit though, and just for a moment he looks exactly like his brother did, that time after Holly died. Even though I was only six, I remember the cops and the neighbours’ cakes and Dad hitting Mum the first time; I remember the way Jackson looked when he spotted me curled up amongst the dalias, crying. Jackson went off to Sydney a couple of years after that. They gave him bonus marks when he finished school, more marks than he got on the tests; special circumstances because the government closed Lawson’s Crossing Central School down, and because of Holly. Bonuses enough to go to university and study law. Jackson’s got a job in a big law firm these days, Toby says.

We swim and it’s almost like old times. Toby splashes me and I try to push his head under water. He’s too big now for me to win that one. He’s too big for me to push him off when he rests himself on top of me, on a towel, on the river bank. I laugh but Toby scowls and stands up.

What’s he got, Mellie? Toby asks.

I roll over, close my eyes, and try to imagine that the towel under my face is Brett King’s lips against mine. It doesn’t work, because the towel is scratchy and because I can feel the sun burning my back already, and because Toby’s making rustling plastic noises in his bag nearby. It doesn’t work because my imagination’s just not that good, and I’ve never been closer to Brett King than three rows away in the Wellington High School assembly hall. I fall asleep, and in my dream Brett King pushes Lucy Driver against the brick wall outside the hall, presses his tongue into her mouth, and runs his hand up her skinny thigh, lifting her Wellington High School uniform, just like he did in real life. It doesn’t matter so much though, because in the same dream Holly gives me half a heart on a chain, just like she did in real life. She wraps the chain around my neck and locks the links together.

Too old for school, Holly says. Too old for Lawson’s Crossing. Never too old for you though, Mellie. When I’m rich I’ll come back for you, I promise.

In the dream she left then, but in real life she walked me to school the next morning. I’d figured out my own way home by those days, and I never saw her again.

I sit up and I scratch the fresh sunburn on the back of one shoulder. Then I tell Toby something I’ve never told anyone. Holly ran off to Sydney. She didn’t die.

Jackson liked her, you know. Toby tugs something from his backpack.

It wasn’t like that, I say. They were friends. Like you and me.

He even bought a car for her, from Brett King’s father. Toby fingers his knife. A Holden ute. White... Something wrong with it anyway. He traded it up at Dubbo... got the orange Torana.

I’m on my back now, and Toby’s sliding the open blade up over my cossie. He reaches my neck. When I swallow I can feel the tip scratching my skin, just where my half of Holly’s pendant settles against my throat.

That’s not funny, I say, and this time I’m not sure if I mean the ute or the knife.

Toby opens his other fist and I watch silver drop past my eyes, half a heart on a silver chain.

It was her fault, Mellie, Toby says, and he rests Holly’s half pendant up against mine. She should’ve given Jackson what he wanted. He presses the knife harder against my throat. They were friends. Like you and me.

Re: Like You and Me

Vote 11/03/2013
Unexpected ending

Re: Like You and Me

Jessie 12/03/2013
VOTE.

Re: Like You and Me

Philip 15/03/2013
VOTE

Vote

Sonya Lano 19/03/2013
Lovely story! I've always loved your style

Attack

Damien 22/02/2013

Dark. Cold and dark. Cold and wet and dark.

The only lights around are coming from the front of the store. The store thats about to close. The store thats about to be closed by a young woman. A young woman who is very attractive. A very attractive young woman who is alone.

Or so she thinks. She's sort of alone. Or at least, there's no one in the store with her. But there is someone across the road. Waiting, watching. Someone who means her nothing but malice. Someone who has been waiting for nearly an hour for her to close the store.

Which she's doing now. First, the shutters are lowered. Its a posh store, so she doesn't have to come outside to pull them down, just flick a switch on a wall and they lower automatically. All except for the centre section is lowered all the way to the ground.

The centre section is where the door to the store is though, so it isn't lowered all the way. She walks to the door, unlocks it, steps through, Turns round to lock it behind her, and feels a shove in the small of her back. She falls back into the store, worried, very worried.

She turns to see who or what shoved her. Its a man. A big man. A very big man. She cant see any of his face. Except for his mouth. He's smiling. Showing lots of teeth. Too many teeth. Something isn't right.

He laughs, bends down, reaches for her. Picks her up. She tries to struggle, but to no avail. He's too strong, too powerful. Whatever he wants to do, she knows she is defenceless against him. He lowers his mouth, with his too many teeth, towards her neck, prepares to bite....

She awoke with a start, the remnants of the dream fading quickly, but not before she managed to make a mental note never to drink Absinthe again.

Note: I wrote this years ago, but figured I may as well get you guys started

Re: Attack

Anneke 16/03/2013
I love Absinthe. At the Absinthe Salon here in Surry Hills though they only allow a maximum of 3 drinks. Still, it's all very Gothic.

Re: Re: Attack

Anneke 16/03/2013
Sorry, forgot to put VOTE.

Re: Re: Attack

Anneke 16/03/2013
Tried Czech absinthe for the first time tonight... Wow (pictures own head blowing off)... Now I totally understand the story.

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