July Writing Challenge Day 20: Clowning Around

Hello all. Welcome back. Before we get started today I just want to remind everyone that tomorrow is the last day of “phase 2” of this monthly challenge. After tomorrow I will be attempting to take everything I’ve learned, all this growing as an author I’ve hopefully been doing, and put it to work. In other words I will be taking story ideas that I’ve had in the past, but never actually done anything with, and actually sitting down and working on them. With any luck I will have 2-3 first drafts of stories by the end of the month. After that I can take a step back and focus on revising and reworking them.

But that’s for another day. Today I continue with my hour of writing exercises, and tonight I chose to do a simple prompt exercise. The prompt I chose was “The nation is run by _____”.

I….I’m not gonna lie, I have no clue why I chose to write what I did. I just took the first word that came to mind and ran with it. And…the first word that came to my mind to fill the blank was “clowns”. Yeah.

Honestly, I blame Terry Pratchett again. In his book “Making Money”, there’s a character who is secretly a clown. And there’s this line that goes something like “You think the ringmaster runs the circus, Mr. Lipwig? Only by consent of the clowns!” I basically just stole that and started playing with it for this story. The end result is….well, it’s down below, so go ahead and read it.

Thanks, and enjoy.

By E W Morrow
Word Count: 974

The room was small and dimly lit. One of the fluorescent tubes in the corner kept flickering. The constant strobe was getting on Herschel’s nerves and he wondered why they didn’t just fix it. Then he realized that the reason they didn’t was exactly because it was getting on his nerves. That’s what it did, it annoyed people. Irritated them. Made them edgy, erratic. Herschel laughed quietly.

The door to the room opened and two men in blue suits walked in. They were both tall, with brown hair and strong jawlines. In fact, they were so similar that you’d believe them if they said they were brothers. Herschel’s eyes narrowed as he looked at them. Gingerbread men. Cookie cutter. He leaned back and the folding chair he was sitting in creaked. The men sat down in identical leather chairs and regarded him silently.

“How about we just skip the formalities,” Herschel said. One of the men arched an eyebrow and looked at his counterpart.

“And what would those be?” asked the man who hadn’t reacted.

“The part where we dance around whether I did or didn’t do what we all know I did,” Herschel said. “And we can probably skip the psych profile, too. I’m not going to plead insanity.”

“Very well,” said the first man.

“Then where does that leave us?” asked the second.

“Hell if I care,” muttered Herschel. He cracked his knuckles. The hand cuffs on his wrists clinked.

“Perhaps,” said the first man as he set a pad of paper on the table between them, “you would care to tell us why.”

“Why?” balked Herschel.

“Yes,” said the second man. “Why did you storm in to a crowded studio and open fire on a celebrity panel during the live performance of a late night talk show? And why, after both of your magazines were empty, did you sit down and wait to be apprehended by the police? Why not attempt escape in the confusion?”

Herschel sighed and closed his eyes. He’d known this was coming, known it when he’d cleaned and oiled the guns, known it when he’d left his house that evening, known it when he’d clubbed the security guard and hidden his unconscious body in the supply cupboard. He’d seen it coming, and yet, it hadn’t been like this in his imagination. It had been…bigger. Louder. Not cuffed to a table in a little room with a flickering light. It made it all seem pointless now.

“I’m not sure I have an answer for the last part,” he said after a few minutes’ silence. “I just—I don’t know, maybe I just didn’t think things through past the part where the bullets were flying.”
“Well, start with the first bit then,” said the first man. “Maybe the second will come to you. Why did you shoot those people?”

“Because the country is run by a bunch of clowns!” Herschel shouted. Utter silence followed the outburst. Neither of his interrogators looked at the other, and neither one’s expression changed all that much.

Finally, the second man said, “You’re sure you aren’t trying for the insanity plea?”

Herschel sagged back into his chair. He hadn’t realized he’d stood. He rubbed his wrists where he’d strained against his cuffs.

“What do you mean?” asked the first man.

“Exactly what I said.” Herschel rolled his eyes at the men’s blank expressions. “I know, it sounds crazy. Or else a like a bad joke. ‘Hur hur, congress is full of clowns, har har’. Well it’s not. This country, maybe the world, is run by fucking clowns.”

“Clowns?” asked the second man. “Wigs. Big noses. Balloon animals. Pies. That kind of thing?”

“Maybe,” Herschel said. “Probably not. Hell, I don’t know.”

The first man jotted down a few notes on his pad of paper. He had small, neat handwriting. Herschel was surprised to see that the man was taking his notes seemingly without irony. No itallics, no ironic quotations, no doodles in the margins. Just a simple bullet pointed list of the conversation’s progress.

“Please,” he said, noticing Herschel’s interest, “continue.” There was another minute or two of silence as Herschel ordered his thoughts.

“Who runs the circus?” he asked, finally.

“The circus?” asked the second man.


“The ringmaster.”

“Though,” said the first man, “I imagine you believe differently.”

“Damn right,” Herschel said. “The ringmaster’s a front man. A pretty face and a loud voice. But do you think he’d have any control if the clowns didn’t let him?”

“What do you mean?”

“The ringmaster tells everyone where to go, right? He announces the acts and directs the flow of events. But what would happen if you put a single clown next to him?”

“What?” asked the second man.

“Nobody’d be looking at the ringmaster anymore, that’s what,” said Herschel. “One pie, one squirt from a fake flower, and boom, he’s finished.”

“What does this have to do with the events of last night?” asked the first man levelly.

“This country’s like one big circus,” Herschel said. “And it’s being run by the clowns. You know what clowns do? They distract people. Whenever anything goes wrong, you send in the clowns and they make people ignore it. That’s where the phrase comes from. It used to be that there was a balance of power but now, hell, the clowns have taken over. That’s all anything is anymore, just one big distraction. Movies, television, music, all of it. It’s just balloon animals and pies in the face when you get right down to it.”

“I’m having a little trouble believing that these ‘clowns’ are really as powerful as you say,” said the second man with a smirk.

“Oh yeah?” Herschel leaned forward, his voice little more than a whisper. “If the clowns don’t have the power, then why are so many people afraid of them?”


July Writing Challenge Day 19: Triple 7.

Greetings all. Today I went back and chose a nice little exercise I had not yet attempted, the 777.

Some of you may be familiar with this. You go to your bookshelf, and starting at eye level (or any random shelf if you want), you chose the 7th book. You open the book to the 7th page. Then you go to the 7th paragraph on that page. The first sentence of that paragraph is now the first sentence of a short story. All the regular rules apply. You keep writing until time is up, try to establish a setting and at least one major character, and above all just let the ideas flow.

So, the book I chose was an Anthology, and the 7th paragraph was actually just one word. But I liked it, so I didn’t try and cheat and choose another book.

Anyway, today was just a bit of fun trying to stimulate my creativity. It was supposed to be a weird little scene that might set up a bit of a horror story later on. Let me know what you think, and thanks for reading.
The Stone
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 878


The crier was blocked from view by the market crowds, but the word cut through the noise of haggling merchants and squawking chickens like a shark through open water. I put down the clay pitcher I had been examining, it being of poor, and relatively recent, quality despite the wiry merchants claims that it was an antique of superb craftsmanship, and began to thread my way through the throng of people. I was used to duplicity in places such as this. Anywhere humanity gathered in sufficient numbers you would find one group trying to take advantage of the rest. It didn’t matter if it was in the sweaty, cramped, open air markets of the middle east or the sprawling, air-conditioned mega stores of the civilized world. I saw it everywhere I went, and I admit a morbid fascination with witnessing it first hand. Perhaps this is what drove me to the voice on the other side of the square.

“Come!” cried the voice again. “Feast your eyes upon a wonder of world.” It repeated itself in several languages, some that I could speak, some that I couldn’t, but always it dripped sweetness and charm. “You,” it seemed to say. “I am speaking only to you. You alone are worthy of this marvelous delight. Come and partake of it deeply.” The man was speaking to my head, but the voice commanded my feet, and my feet obeyed.

I came to an open patch of ground, a rarity in a market such as this. The passers by gave it a wide berth, which I found odd, and did not seem inclined to notice the man with they honeyed voice, which I did not. When I cleared the crowd, the man looked only at me. He was short and dark, of skin and hair, but his teeth and eyes were bright and pleasant and—piercing, almost—sharp. He wore sleeveless robes of deep, midnight blue, and he gestured towards me with a muscled arm, welcoming me to come closer.

“Well met, friend,” he said as I neared him. “I’ve been waiting for someone like you.”

“Like me?” I asked. I wished my voice was as steady as his, but it seemed only a whisper. He seemed to hear me, though, and smiled broadly.

“Yes,” he said.

“Why me?” Again my voice was quiet.

“Who can say?” the man replied, shrugging but not looking away. “When the Fates speak, it is often merely a whisper, and they do not answer the questions of mortal men.”

“Who are you?” I asked, perhaps a bit rudely. The man gave no sign of offense. Instead he chuckled softly.

“A simple man. I find things. I sell things. I live and I listen.” His bright eyes seemed to flare for a moment, and then he winked. “I have something for you.”

He reached inside his robes and pulled out a length of string. The ends were tied and in the middle hung what at first appeared to be a simple stone, but as the man lifted the necklace the stone began to twirl slightly, catching the sunlight. There was something else there, on the surface or deep below it, I couldn’t tell, but it shimmered hypnotically. All the colors of rainbow and more besides. At times they seemed to be images, at others words, and then things I could not explain: visual depictions of sounds, olfactory footprints. The words I had were all wrong but it was all my brain could do to decipher the information it was receiving. Then, the man clasped the stone in one dark hand and I slipped out of my trance.

“You—you said you’d been waiting for me?” I stuttered, unsure what else to say.

“Or someone like you,” the man replied. “It is the way of things.”

“But, why me?” I asked again. “I don’t understand.”

“Are you saying you do not want it,” asked the man. He moved to return it to his robes.

“No!” I cried. “I mean—I’ll take it. How much?”

“Nothing,” smiled the man.
“Oh, no,” I stammered. I pulled out my wallet. “Please, take everything I have.”

“Please,” said the man. “I could not except more than a single lira.”

“I can give you everything but my coins?” I asked. A part of my brain knew that this was not how haggling worked, but I pressed on. Perhaps this was—what was it—the way of things?

“Let me see,” said the man, taking a moment to peer over the proffered money. He picked through the bills and coins, all from several currencies. His selection process was inscrutable, seemingly random. He would pass over one bill but take another that appeared identical. The coins he wanted seemed to be at the bottom of the stack. When he was finished he took the money, a startlingly small sum, and slipped it into his robes.

“We have an agreement,” the man said.

“And, the stone?” I asked. The man smiled and gestured with open palms just below my chin.

The stone was there, resting against my chest, the string suddenly making the back of my neck itch.

“Come back tomorrow,” said the man as he turned to leave. “I have a feeling I will have something else for you then.”

July Writing Challenge Day 18

So, today I decided to continue yesterday’s writing exercise, and it didn’t really go so well. I spent a lot of time staring at the screen, trying to think of what to write next. Guess I didn’t put enough thought into it before hand or something. Dunno.

Anyway, this is what I have. Tomorrow I’ll move on to something else. Not long now before I begin phase 3 of my challenge, so stay tuned for that.

Thanks, enjoy.

By E W Morrow
Word Count: 670

As Albert walked through the streets over the next few days, he did indeed see signs that the town was preparing for something. There seemed to be more people about, splashes of color were added to the usual drab earth tones the townsfolk usually wore, and there was a general festive air about the place. The change was most obvious in the center of the town. The broad, cobbled square was the site of much activity. Vendors spread around it’s edges, selling everything from sausage links to shiny baubles and talismans. In the center a low wooden stage was being erected by a group of local craftsmen. The men worked without speaking, only the bang of hammers and the chewing of saws breaking the silence. Again, Albert was bemused at the foreigner’s ability to cooperate without any apparent means of communication. Were those the same men from his office, he wondered? Hard to tell. They all looked the same to Albert. Each man nodded at Albert as he passed.

Despite his misgivings, Albert found himself infected by the festive air. He had a little extra bounce to his step as he walked to and from his office. The town was still a drab, ugly mess of a place, but at least now something new was happening. When the day of the festival finally arrived, Albert had made the decision to go all out. He rose and dressed in his best formal dress, clothes usually reserved for official ceremonies and other matters of state. The vest, a blue, double breasted affair with large brass buttons, was a little tight these days. It pinched under his shoulders and caused his shirt to bunch up uncomfortably. The jacket, gold with blue trim, fit no better, but at least it hid the unsightly puckering of cloth beneath it.

At his hip he wore a sword, a finely crafted rapier with a silver pommel inset with ivory. More than anything, this item was ceremonial. He hadn’t wielded a sword since his boarding school days, and he’d been pretty near the bottom of the class even then. The only time he’d even drawn this one’s blade from it’s sheath was on the day it had been presented to him. All in all, he felt confident that he could just about take on a training dummy. Provided there was only one.

The construction in the town square had continued right up until sunset on the day of the festival. Now there was not only a stage, but tiered benches lining two of it’s sides. A small band played off to a third side, a collection of strings and a few primitive drums. A woman in a flowing yellow dress banged a tambourine and danced through and around the lines of torches surrounding the stage. Men and women milled about, children laughed and chased one another through the crowd. Meat sizzled on tiny portable stoves and peddlers barked out offers.

Through all the commotion, a small man made his way towards Albert. It was Gregori. He had a stein of ale in each hand and he offered one to Albert as he approached. Albert took it and drank. The one good thing about this place, Albert thought, was the beer.

“Welcome, my friend,” Gregori said over the din. “I’m so pleased you accepted my invitation.”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Albert said, finishing his beer in another long swig.

“Come, we have a special seat of honor reserved just for you.” Gregori pushed his way through the crowd. A young woman in immodest clothing drifted past, filling up Albert’s cup with more ale before disappearing behind them.

The seat of honor turned out to be an actual chair that had been placed on the lowest tier of seats in middle of one side of the square. It even had a cushioned seat that, while not quite up to the standard of luxury Albert was used to, was still better than any of the other revelers would have.

July Writing Challenge Day 17: Dictionary Shmictionary

Greetings and salutations. Welcome back to my July Writing Challenge. Today I wanted to do something a little bit fun, so I reached into my bag of exercises and pulled out something I actually hadn’t done yet this month: the dictionary challenge.

Some of you may be familiar with this particular exercise. You open a dictionary (or in my case, use a the random word function on a dictionary website) and find yourself a collection of random words. For today I chose ten. Then you take those words and use them as a framework for a story. These words should help define character traits, setting, problems or conflict for your story. I’ve always said that boundaries breed creativity, so I like setting some for myself.

The ten words I randomly generated were: tactless, suzerain (n; a country that dominates another and makes most of it’s choices for it, though lets it retain a semblance of independence), lupine, blueprint, pucker, disrespectful, persecute, feint, rapier, performance.

Now, just a quick word of warning, I did not get to all of these words in the hour I had to write today, but I intend to. I think I might actually continue this story tomorrow, just so that I can get to them.

The story I decided on focuses on an “ambassador” to a foreign country who is really an agent sent there to squeeze any and all natural resources from the little country and funnel them back into the empire he represents. He’s a brusque, tactless man who doesn’t care much for foreign things. The proposed expansion of the town he oversees angers the local population, but there’s not much they can do because they are effectively second class citizens. The final straw comes when the diplomat decides to start chopping down a section of woods that the townsfolk consider special (i.e. dangerous, the home of something you don’t want to disturb). They decide to invite the diplomat and his cronies to a festival, draw them in to some ancient ritual, and….well I don’t know what yet. Kill them probably, or do something else horrible to them. “Convert” them, maybe.

Anyway, I got about half of the words into the story today, though I tried not to actually use any of them, just hint at them. Tomorrow I’ll try to get the second half.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy.

By E W Morrow
Word Count: 943

Albert squinted and pinched the bridge of his nose. It was only ten in the morning and already he wanted to be home in bed. His home, not the embassy, but just now he would take either. The clock on the wall ticked and clacked slowly, loudly. He could almost feel the gears grinding against one another. Or were those his teeth. It was an ornate clock, hand carved from the dark local wood, and Albert supposed it was quite beautiful, but it’s rustic charm was something he didn’t find appealing and right now it was irritating him.

“Next time I get a gift,” he groaned, “I wonder if it might not be so loud. Damned stupid thing gives me migranes.”

“I believe you would have to speak to the craftsman about that directly, sir.”

Albert opened his eyes and looked at the man seated on the opposite side of his desk. He was a small man, gaunt and gray of hair, and for a moment Albert had forgotten he was there. He’d spoken softly, almost politely, but the men behind him grunted and glared at Albert darkly. Christ, Albert thought, were they there a second ago? A whole pack of them. Albert had trouble thinking of groups of men in this country as anything other than packs. They were all of them lean and hairy, with a hungry look in their eyes, and seemed to have an understanding that went beyond simple speech. Like a pack of—Albert shook the notion away. It was probably just poor diet and adherence to, yes, backwards tradition. That was it. Nothing sinister.

“Right,” he said turning back to the matter at hand. “Might do that. Now, what can I do for you Mr…”

“Lungu,” supplied the little man. “Gregori Lungu.”

“Right, well, what do you want, Mr. Longu?” The little man paused for a moment, but decided to let the mispronunciation slide.

“I would like to inquire as to whether you had given any consideration to the proposal that was submitted to your office last week.” Gregori didn’t wait for the look of confusion on Albert’s face. Instead he produced a slip of paper and slid it across the desk. Albert picked it up and read it. The handwriting was like the man: small, neat, and slightly slanted as to suggest it’s foreign origins. Albert like his letters to stand up straight.

“Oh,” Albert said as he reached the end of the document. “Yes, now I remember. I’m sorry to say that we have taken your comments under consideration but have chosen to go ahead as planned.”

“But sir,” the Lungu said, cutting off the muttering foreign talk from the pack of men behind him, “you must realize that the woods to the north are important to my people.”

“What, sacred or something?” Albert asked.

“You could say that,” admitted the little man. “The people do not worship them, as such. They merely feel that they should be…preserved. Protected. Undisturbed.”

“Sounds like a bunch of superstitious nonsense to me,” Albert said.

“But surely it would be easier to expand the town south, along the river, as opposed to north through the hills.” Albert stood and shook his head.

“Afraid we can’t do that Mr. Longu.” Again, Gregori ignored the mistake. Albert walked over to a cabinet and pulled out a roll of parchment. He laid it out on his desk, revealing it to be a map of the town and surrounding countryside. It had on it many buildings and roads that did not yet exist. It was a map of the future. “Maybe you folk are used to doing things the easy way, but the Empire didn’t get as powerful as it is by doing things that were easy.” He pointed to the map with a pudgy finger. “We intend to press north. Fresh timber, see, that’s what we need. Might even find a few mineral veins in the hills, who knows. But the fact is that we need wood. It’s what your country’s good for.”

There was a fresh round of muttering. Again, it was all foreign to Albert, and he wondered if the men could even speak his language. Probably not, he thought, though they certainly seem to understand it. Gregori hushed them and continued with strained patience.

“The people believe that there are more important things than material wealth to be considered.”

“Nothing’s more important that wealth,” Albert said. “It’s what we’re here for. And remember, what’s good for the empire is good for it’s allies.”

“Allies?” asked Gregori.

“Of course,” Albert said. He thumped the smaller man on the shoulder. “Best damned thing your people ever did. Mighty big of you after the war, too.” He sat back in his chair, the wood squeaking under his weight. Gregori rose to leave. One of the pack stepped forward and whispered something into his ear.

“Perhaps you would be willing to hold off on this expansion until after the festival,” Gregori said slowly.

“What?” Albert asked. “What festival? When?”

“The festival of the equinox,” Gregori said “It is at this week’s end. Have you not noticed the preparations around town.”

“Oh, yes. Yes, of course,” Albert said. “Well, I don’t see why not. Give the men a little time off, eh?”

“Excellent,” Gregori smiled. “You shall be our guest of honor.” The men left silently. The small man’s smile seemed to linger a while after he’d gone. Albert shrugged it off. He poured himself a double measure of brandy from the bottle he kept in the bottom drawer of his desk and drank it, trying to drown out the sound of the ticking clock.

July Writing Challenge Day 16: Ashes 2

Greetings all. Welcome to the second half of my month long writing challenge.

Today I wanted to go back and visit a story from the beginning of the month, one that I was unhappy with for several reasons. First and foremost I was displeased because I felt that the story got bogged down in too much back story and explanations and lost track of what it was supposed to be about. So I started today by re-reading that piece and then completely redoing it.  Same story, same characters, but other than that I started from scratch. I didn’t keep the previous copy open to refer back to, I didn’t lift any passages and put them into the new material. I just went back to the original idea and started typing.

I think that what I have today is better. It’s not great, but it’s better. It doesn’t worry too much about dropping in hard sci-fi, doesn’t try to beat you over the head with an appendix worth of information, and I think it’s a bit more realistic in terms of character interactions and behavior. All in all, I think this is closer to a good first draft for the story this could eventually become. Not sure I want to continue it, but I think I’ve made progress.

Anyway, please feel free to leave any comments or criticisms you have. If you haven’t read the previous story, that’s fine. It might be good for me to hear a point of view that is uninfluenced by outside sources, even if those sources are from the same source.

As always, thanks for reading, and enjoy.

Ashes on the Moon 2.0
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 771

“We’ll be landing soon,” Myra said. She could see the approach lights from the view port on her left. “You had better buckle in.”

“Why?” asked Gabe from the other side of his data-link screen.

“Because I would be very upset if anything happened to you,” Myra said, slipping her own harness over her head.

“If anything happened to your money, you mean.”

“That too.” Gabe rolled his eyes. An explosion pipped from the speakers on his link. Gabe winced and threw the machine on the seat beside him.

“Getting bored anyway,” he said. “I think I’ll go straight to the floor when we get there.”

“No,” said Myra. She pulled out her own data link and activated the front camera. A strand of hair had drifted out of place. She put it back.

“Yes,” Gabe said, drawing out the syllable.

“No,” Myra repeated. She pushed a few buttons. “We have business to take care of first.”

“Yeah, well, tough.”

“Gabe, don’t do this,” Myra said in an exasperated tone. “We’re going to the mausoleum first thing and that’s final.”

“I’d like to see you make me.” Myra smirked and pressed a final button on her data link. A second later Gabe’s link chimed. He picked it up and read the message Myra had forwarded him. It was from their father. “God damnit.”

“Sorry,” Myra said, though she didn’t sound like it. “It won’t take long.”

“What a jerk,” Gabe mumbled.

“The casino’s been there for ninety years, it will still be there when we get done.” Gabe grunted and slouched in his seat. “And put your harness on.”

Twelve surly minutes later their shuttle had landed. Myra stood and reached into the overhead compartment. She pulled out a case made of hard, black plastic and tucked it under one arm. She clucked her tongue at her brother who rose and slumped after her. At the bottom of the ramp that lead out of the shuttle was small gate. Myra handed the attendant on duty the paperwork for her brother and herself and then had a quiet word with a second, more senior looking, employee.

“Please have our luggage sent to this address,” she said, pinging the man’s data link and sending their hotel reservation info as well as a generous tip.

“Very good, madam,” he said with a smile. “Shall I take your carry on as well?”

“No,” Myra said, pulling the package close. “Thank you, that will be all.”

“Are we done yet?” Gabe asked. The attendant made to hand the paperwork back to Myra, but Gabe grabbed it and stuffed it in his pocket. “Let’s go.” He hurried off and Myra watched him for a second, shocked.

“You know,” Myra said, almost running to catch up, “you can be a lot like Dad sometimes.”

“Shut up,” Gabe growled. They’d reached the end of the terminal and he held out his hand and waved it.

“I mean it,” Myra said as a shuttle car whined to a halt beside them.

“That’s great, now drop it.” The interior of the car was clean but sparsely furnished: plastic and metal without even an adhesive veneer to emulate wood or leather. In other words not the kind of car her brother would normally choose. Gabe leaned forward and mumbled directions in the driver’s ear.

“I’m just saying that you can both be assertive when you want to be,” Myra continued.

“Look,” Gabe sighed, “can we just not talk about Dad right now, please.” The plastic cushions squeaked beneath him as he shifted in his seat.

“Why not?”

“Because I…” Gabe began. “I don’t want to. Let’s just get this done and then go have some fun.” He turned and looked out the window, and after a minute’s silence Myra turned to her own and did the same.

A stream of neon lights and flashing, LED bulbs flowed past them. Every forty feet or so there would be a gap in the brilliance that left only black. So black you forgot there was a dome between you and the emptiness of space. It was okay as long as you thought of it as perpetual night and not a great, sucking void held at bay by a foot of k-glass.

Gradually the neon diminished until it was reduced to only occasional highlight rather than the entire backdrop, and the buildings began to take on a utilitarian look. The shuttle car picked up speed as traffic dwindled. After that it took only five minutes to reach their destination. Gabe was out the door before the car had fully stopped, leaving Myra to pay their fare.

July Writing Challenge Day 15

Hello again. Today is the half way point for my writing challenge. Just gotta do it one more time.

I wasn’t really sure what I should write about today. I think I’m reaching the end of the exercises I know and need to find new, unique sources from here on out. In the end I settled on another dialogue exercise, this time one focusing on setting a conversation in a strange set of circumstances. In other words, two people having a conversation at a time they normally would not have that conversation. In this case, a couple having a talk about their relationship during some unnamed calamity. It got a little darker than I intended, but I guess that’s what happens during free-writes.

As always, feel free to leave comments/critiques. Also, if anyone has any writing exercises that they particularly enjoy or find helpful, please let me know.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy.

By E W Morrow
Word Count: 721

The bus rattled as it hit a pot hole and Greg wondered at their luck to get stuck on such a hunk of clap-trap at a time like this. In the distance, a siren wailed. At the front of the bus someone sobbed into a blanket and no one moved to comfort them. It was probably stupid to worry about the state of their transport in light of recent events, but then again, a lot of things were stupid now. It didn’t stop Greg from worrying about them.

“Kat,” he said. His throat was dry and it came out like a croak. “Kat? You awake?” The woman beside him mumbled something but didn’t turn her head away from the window. Outside, the sky was an ashen roof. Greg wondered when it would fall. “I want to talk about last night.”

“Why?” Kat’s voice was hollow, but there was the echo of emotion in it and it made Greg sad.

“Because I think we need to,” he said. Kat turned to look at him. She looked so old now. She had blonde hair, but the dirt and ash had dulled it. Her normally rounded features were a little harder now, not quite gaunt but headed that direction.

“Does it really matter anymore?” she asked.

“It does to me.”


“It just does.” For a moment there was a spark of anger in Kat’s eyes, but then they died again, cold and gray. She turned back to the window. A city block’s worth of darkened and boarded up windows rolled past before she answered.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” she said, finally.

“Were you with him?” Greg’s voice cracked again. He really wanted some water.

“Why do you always go back to that?” Kat asked.

“I don’t always go…”
“Well it seems like it,” Kat snapped. Through a gap in the buildings Greg could see the distant flash of an explosion. It painted a small section of sky red and then was gone.

“Maybe if you told me why you don’t come home some nights I wouldn’t have to worry about it,” Greg suggested. He meant it in a kind way, but Kat didn’t seem to take it as he gave it. She made a face that he couldn’t quite make out in the reflection on the window.

“What, you mean check in with you?” she asked viciously. “Like you’re my mother or something?”

“I didn’t mean…” Greg began.

“Maybe I should get a chip put in,” Kat continued. “Like I’m a dog.”

“Stop,” Greg said.

“Is that what I am? A dog?”

“Stop it,” Greg hissed, grabbing Kat’s arm. She squirmed and pulled but didn’t scream. A pair of military trucks sped past the bus going the opposite direction. The bus rattled again. When it stopped, Greg said, “I’m sorry. I just—I wish you’d talk to me.”

“Well maybe you should trust me,” Kat whispered. Greg let her arm go and she pulled it in close, placing it between her body and the window.

“Trusting and talking are two different things,” Greg said after a while. “I’m not accusing you. I’m just—asking.”

The wail of the siren was almost gone now. All that was left was the rattle as they rolled along, punctuated by the occasional crack of gunfire. The buildings were getting smaller now. Every minute or so they would pass an empty lot and the gray sky would press in again.

“No,” Kat said suddenly.


“No,” she repeated. “I wasn’t with him last night.”

“Oh,” Greg said lamely. “Okay then.”

“I stayed the night at my mother’s.” The bus lurched to a sudden stop. The doors opened and someone, one of the soldiers, got out.

“I see,” Greg said, craning his neck to try and look out the front window. “That’s nice.”

“Well,” Kat said, huddling close to the glass, “she wanted me to talk to a lawyer friend of hers.”

“What kind of lawyer?” Greg asked. The soldier was back on the bus now. He leaned in close to the bus driver and had a few words.

“Divorce,” Kat said, her voice hollow again.

The bus rattled forward again. It rolled through an intersection, and Greg turned watched as a burning wreck of a car came into view and then sank into the ash colored night behind them.

July Writing Challenge: Day 14: Three Suits and a Joke

Howdy all. Welcome back. Today I found a fun little exercise I had never heard of before and decided to give it a whirl. It was called “Three Suits and a Joke”, and the basic premise is….exactly what it sounds like. There are three people wearing suits, telling a joke. You describe the people, visually at least, based only on their suits and how they react to the joke. I kind of took it a step further and let each suit tell it’s own joke. I didn’t really try for much beyond the scope of the exercise today, but I still had fun writing it.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy.

Three Suits and Their Jokes
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 770

You open the door and slip inside. Even though it’s night outside it takes your eyes a few seconds to adjust to the gloom. This isn’t the kind of bar that hangs up neon signs or puts the game on the tube. It’s a hole in the wall that people crawl into when they want to get drunk. But tonight the place is packed, or at least as packed as this place can get, and it takes you a moment to catch the bartender’s eye and signal the usual. Then you slink off to an empty booth and settle in to watch the festivities.

There’s three suits sitting at the bar. It sounds like the start of a joke, but from what you can tell you already missed the start of this joke, and a whole lot more before.

“….and so the bartender, he…” the first suit says, gesturing with his high ball full of whiskey and laughing before the joke is finished. “…he says…Hey, c’mon Sal, help me out here. You gotta know this one.” He gestures to the bartender with a ragged sleeve. The colors on the thick wool are faded and the fabric hangs loose. Definitely second hand. Maybe third or fourth. You wonder if it belonged to a father, or maybe a brother, but decide that genetics can’t account for that much deviation. The suit doesn’t seem to mind though. What it lacks in filler it makes up in volume. He laughs again as Sal ignores him.

“Okay, fine,” the faded suit says. “So….where was I? Oh, right. So the bartender says ‘Hey buddy, why the long face?’!” Laughter thunders from the depths of the faded suit. The other suit’s grin and chuckle politely. “Okay, you’re turn.”

The second suit holds up a finger. It’s a big finger. The martini glass in his other hand is dwarfed as he takes a delicate sip and you wonder how he manages it without breaking it but he does. This suit is tight and crisp, all straight lines and hard edges, which is an impressive feet on such a large frame. The fabric glistens as the suit moves to put his drink back on the bar.

“Okay,” the shiny suit rumbles. “I gots one.” There are several seconds of silence as the suit sits and contemplates. Then, “Back during the Cold War, the Gov’ment made a computer, right? Real smart. And this general, he goes up to it and he says, ‘Will the United States or Russia win the Cold War.” Kay? And so, the computer says….no, wait…yeah, the computer says ‘Yes!’.” There is another long pause. “And so the general, he says, ‘Yes what?’. Right? And, so, the computer, it says to the general ‘Yes sir!’.”

Another pause. Fabric glistens as the suit expands, sleeves outstretched, shoulders shrugging as it looks to see if the other suits will laugh.

“Oh!” cries the faded suit. He roars and slaps the bar several times. “Good one!” By now he’s almost out of his stool.

The shiny suit bobs up and down with proud chuckles of his own. “Yes sir!” he says again, this time throwing in a mock salute. The faded suit roars anew. Several minutes pass and your drink finally comes. The suits all get a refills of their own as the laughter dies down.

“Okay, come on,” says the faded suit doggedly, “it’s your turn, and no more passes. Give us a real good one.”

The last suit is the grimmest of the group. Dark and unremarkable. In fact, if the other suits hadn’t been there, you almost wouldn’t have noticed him at all. It’s not too big, not to small. It isn’t quite black, just a charcoal gray with a dark shirt. You have no trouble believing it’s the kind of suit someone would buy to not be noticed in. He looks at the other suits and sighs. With one hand he takes a sip of beer and with the other he pulls out a cell phone. It’s a small phone. An old one. Easy to carry in the pocket of an unremarkable suit. He flips it open and presses a few buttons.

“What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?” he reads solemnly. The other suits shrug. “I don’t know, and I don’t care.” He flicks the phone closed as punctuation.

The faded suit looks at the shiny suit, and the shiny suit looks back. Something passes between them and they groan loudly. The faded suit starts to thunder, and the shiny suit giggles deeply. You shake your head and turn your attention back to your drink.

July Writing Challenge Day 13: I Forgot the Title I Thought of Earlier

Hello again, one and all, and welcome back to my July Writing Challenge. I’m felling quite a bit better today, and as a result I think I churned out about three times as much as yesterday.

Today I wanted to focus on exposition or, as I’ve heard it called, the “infodump”. As so often happens in genre fiction, there are times when you just have to dump a lot of information on a reader because, if you don’t, they won’t have any idea what’s going on. I don’t know about you, but I’ve often been at a point in a story where this happens and it is really, really painful and boring. And I mean that in two ways. I’ve been in the middle of stories I’m reading, but also stories I’m writing. So, today I decided to come up with at least one way to make an infodump a little more interesting.

This story idea actually came from a long, long time ago. It was an idea for a novel I had, and needless to say I never followed up on it. It was a fantasy story set in a Rome-esque Empire, complete with Coliseum and gladiators. There were three main ruling families, each one having a bit of a monopoly over aspects of the Empire, military, economy, and religion,  and each one would vie for power in the annual games.

This is a first draft attempt to introduce you to those houses as members of the Empire see them. Not sure I did a good job at the info part, but I think it’s an entertaining read nevertheless. And, I got to work on my dialogue a bit more, which is always nice.

As always, please comment and offer any criticisms you have. Thanks for reading, and enjoy.

By, E W Morrow
Word Count: 1409

“I can’t believe how close we are,” said Lucius. He leaned forward, stretching his body as far over the low stone wall as he possibly could. Claudia joined him, though she did not lean out over the drop as her cousin did.

“Are we?” she asked. There was an entire level below them, several tiered rings of seats below thick cloth canopies. All were brightly colored and stitched with symbols and decorations, some more elaborate than others. Claudia was sure that each must mean something, but she did not know what. The sands of the arena were a over twenty feet away.

“You bet,” Lucius said. “I’ve been here loads of times and I’ve never been this close before.”

Behind them, Gaius scoffed. Claudia turned and gave him a look. She and Julius were of a similar age, but her brother was six years older than them. Gaius had been old enough to join their father the last time he attended the games, and he liked to remind her of it constantly. He did not join them at the wall, but instead lounged on the wooden bench they had chosen to watch the games from as if bored, nibbling on a piece of bread he’d bought from a merchant stall.

“What?” Claudia asked.

“Of course we got good seats,” Gaius said, slightly arrogantly. “It’s just the first day.” Claudia looked at him silently. He rolled his eyes and continued. “Nobody cares about the opening matches. They’re just warm ups. Just a lot of show put on by the nobs so they can look good in front of the other nobs.”

“So?” Claudia asked, still not seeing her brother’s point.

“So why would the nobs risk losing anyone good this early on?”

“He’s right,” Lucius said. “You don’t get any good matches until at least day three.”

“I guess I still don’t get it,” Claudia said. Gaius stood, stretched, and joined them at the wall.

“Just watch,” he said. His voice took on a quality not unlike Atrimedies, the tutor their father hired to teach them arithmetic. He pointed to a gate off to the right. As if on cue the heavy iron bars slid up, and through the open mouth marched a platoon of soldiers. “Here we have the fighters of House Bludii. What can you tell me about them?”

“They are one of the three most powerful families in the Empire,” she said, as if it was something she’d learned by rote. “They have held one of the seats of the Triumvirate for over two hundred years and…”

“And are the strategic might behind the Empire’s armies,” her brother finished quickly. “That’s not what I meant. Look at the soldiers. What can you tell me about them.”

Claudia looked. It was hard to make out at this distance, even from such apparently good seats. She could make out very little. There were twenty five men, all roughly identical. They carried shields, not the curved rectangular ones of of the Preatorian Guard or the Legion, but round ones that looked like they were made of wood covered in hide. At their hips they carried the typical military gladius, a short, brutal blade equally good at chopping or slashing. And each one had a standard issue helmet and suit of armor, not the heaviest but not the worst she had ever seen. She said all this to her brother.

“Yes,” he said as though his patience were wearing thin, “but what else?”
“Nothing,” she said flatly.

“Exactly!” Gaius actually clapped at her answer.
“I don’t understand…”she began.

“Oh!” cried Lucius suddenly. “I get it. Just soldiers.”


“Just soldiers,” Gaius repeated. “But no one to lead them. No Legates. No Prefects. I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t even a single Princep among them. No, those are all foot soldiers, probably not very good ones. If they survive, they will be given honors, and if they do not, then it is no great loss to the Bludii.”

“I see…” Claudia said slowly. Something still did not make sense to her, but before she could voice it, Lucius broke in excitedly.

“I wonder what the Gaudii will field,” he said to no one in particular.

“Mercenaries, most likely,” Gaius said. “The Gaudii have two things, a seat on the Triumvirate and a lot of money.”

A second gate, this one off to their left, began to lift at Gaius’s words. A second group of men sauntered out onto the sands of the arena. They were more numerous than the first, there being around forty all together, but they had nothing of the soldiers’ discipline. They whopped and hollered and milled about, basking in the smattering of applause from the half empty stadium. Also unlike the soldiers these men were not uniformly outfitted. Instead they had a loose assortment of weapons, from swords and shields to spears and axes. One even carried a net, though it was not one of the small, weighted nets that seasoned gladiators sometimes used. Rather, this looked like a fishing net of some kind, and Claudia doubted it would be of much use in the fighting to come.

“I can already see what you’re going to ask,” Claudia said. Her brother regarded her with interest and waved a hand for her to continue. “These mercenaries do not look like they have much experience in the arena, nor are they properly outfitted. I would guess that they were therefore largely inexpensive, as far as mercenaries go.”

“Bravo!” Gaius cried, genuinely impressed despite himself.

“I still don’t get it though,” she continued.

“What’s not to get?” asked Lucius.

“If nobody takes the opening matches seriously,” she said before her brother could interrupt, “couldn’t one family simply provide a competent entry and trounce the others? Surely there must be something to be gained, even some small advantage, that one family would want.”

This time, the gates responded to her words, not her brother’s, and a rumbling below their feet signaled the arrival of the third and final entry into the opening match of the games. Gaius cocked an eyebrow but said nothing. Lucius leaned out over the wall further than ever. Claudia looked down. Just above the point where, she assumed, the gate would spill out into the arena floor, was a canopy much more elaborate than any around it. It was bright red, and was embroidered with what seemed to be a temple or some other great building, over which was stitched a highly stylized bolt of lightning.

“Who does that belong to?” she asked Lucius, pointing at the symbol.

“That? That’s the symbol of House Agurius. They represent the heads of most of the temples of the Gods in the city. Very powerful family. Third of the Triumvirate. It’s them we’re waiting on right now.”

“Can’t imagine what the priests are going to bring out first,” Gaius said. “I mean, there’s now way they’ll…” He stopped abruptly. There was a deep, steady rhythm pumping through the stadium. It shook the stones every time it fell. “I don’t believe it. They brought an eidolon.”

“What?” asked Claudia. Her brother didn’t have time to answer.

A roar split the air and the beast stepped out onto the sands. It was enormous, and as each foot fell the source of the pounding rhythm was made abundantly clear. It’s skin was like pale moonlight. It had four legs, each one a dozen feet long, and great talons that dug into the sand. A long tail, as thick as a man’s torso, whipped behind it viciously. The main portion of it’s body rose up between the four legs, and a dozen or more arms flexed and clawed at the air around it. It’s head was obscured, though, hidden behind a mask, all in black, which had been secured to the thing’s head by thick iron bands. The white skin around each band was seared black, as though the bands had been red hot when they were fixed in place. The two groups of men regarded the beast in terror. Some cried out, others fell where they stood, but most fled for the gates through which they had come. It was of no use, the gates had closed behind them and were now firmly locked. The beast roared again from behind it’s mask.

“Well,” Gaius said, his voice trembling slightly. “It seems at least one family agrees with your assessment, Claudia.” Then, they watched the slaughter in silence.

July Writing Challenge Day 12

Hey all. Today’s bit of writing is a short one. I’m not feeling so well, and I’m finding it a little hard to concentrate, so most of my hour’s writing was spent squinting into nothingness trying to make words magically appear on the screen. Still, I lasted the hour, so at least there’s that.

Anyway, I’m going to go take a nap.

By E W Morrow
Word Count: 437

They say everyone who looks into their family history will find a secret sooner or later. I hope that’s not true. Now that everything’s gone digital it’s easier than ever to go digging. Hell, there are websites, entire companies, who’s sole purpose is to sell you the shovel. It’s so easy, but I don’t think it should be. As distance shrinks, as the world get’s smaller, all we have left is time. What good can come from sifting though the past if at any moment you might unearth some secret that time sought fit to bury in the first place.

Then again, maybe it’s not as bad as all that. I confess I am more than a little biased in this regard. The past holds no comfort for me, no buried treasure, only ghosts. Vengeful ghosts. My own family tree bears a branch so black and twisted that I have begun to fear it’s cancer may have spread to the very roots. I wonder if I have been tainted, not just from the things I have learned, the knowledge I have gained, but from birth. Am I capable of, nay inclined to, committing horrors like those I have learned of? Will my unborn child be as ruined as I am? Is it madness to think this? Or would it be madness to believe otherwise? I don’t know.

My own, personal, horror began six months ago. It was several days since my wife, Julia, had taken the pregnancy test. They were happy days. We were jittery with excitement, the kind tinged with a little bit of fear, but I think that was appropriate for first time parents. Of the two of us, I was the more contained. Julia became a whirlwind of nervous energy, and she was adamant about finding ways to focus it. I swear, if I had let her talk me into it, we would have begun and finished converting the den into a baby’s bedroom half a dozen times. Instead, she took me window shopping for strollers and car seats. She compiled lists for future grocery trips and began comparing prices at all the stores in a twenty mile radius from our house. In two days we had four congratulatory meals with four separate groups of friends and family.

And, of course, she signed us up with an online ancestry research site.

I’ve never been one of those people who was much interested in his lineage. My parents had always told me that we were German-Irish and that was it. I never probed any deeper, and until the news of the baby, neither had Julia.

July Writing Challenge Day 11: Backwards Story, Forward Horror

Hello everyone. Welcome back. I had a lot of fun doing today’s writing challenge. So much fun that I spent more than an hour on it. So let’s jump right in, shall we?

I found a cool new list of writing exercises today (which you can find HERE). After scrolling through them I found one that really got the juices flowing. Well, after I got done cleaning my chair, I sat down a wrote a nifty little bit of Lovecraftian Flash Fiction. If you don’t know, I do like me some eldritch horror. Some of my best (or at least favorite) stories have been Lovecraftian in nature.

But I bet you’re wondering what the exercise I chose entailed. Well, the title to the post kind of gives it away, but let me explain. Basically, it’s like the movie Memento. You start at the end and work your way back to the beginning. Not the hardest thing in the world if you just follow the description to the letter and leave it at that. The challenge comes in when you make the backwards structure important to the way the plot develops. You don’t just tell it backwards for the sake of doing it, you make it so that backwards is the only way you could tell it. Or, failing that, at least make it enjoyable, interesting, and believable. For example, the movie Memento is about a guy with a very, very short span of time in which he can remember things, and you spend your time going back through his various “chunks” of memory. You know what happens at the end, but not the beginning, but, then again, neither does the main character, so it makes sense.

And, you know what? I think I actually succeeded. I mean, it may not be the best example ever, but I legitimately think I did exactly what I set out to do. It starts at the end, works to the beginning, and when you get to the beginning, you find out that maybe that was the important part all along, at least in terms of what happens after the end of the story (which is at the beginning).

I won’t say any more, because I would like some feedback and I don’t want to spoil anything, but after the story scroll down a bit and keep reading, I’ll have a question down there that I really would like to have some feedback on.

And, as always, criticisms and comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if you think I succeeded or failed at the exercise, if it style (kind of new for me) worked as a piece of fiction, and anything else you think I could do better. This is a first draft, so if you have any ideas for help on making a second, I’d love it. Thanks for reading, and enjoy.

By E W Morrow
Word Count: 888

Case File #1137-B: Sighting and Human Interaction with Class-C item, Earthly Artifact Bearing the Likeness of [REDACTED]
Subject: Robert Gillman
Transcription of Video Recording of Interrogation
Dec. 21st, 20–
Interrogator: Agent [REDACTED]

—Start of Video—

<In frame is a table with two chairs on opposite sides. A young male, brunette, occupies the chair nearest the top of the frame. A few seconds pass and a second man, Agent [REDACTED] enters and sits in the empty chair. He places a plain manila folder containing several pages on the table, and beside it a pad of paper and a pen. As the interrogation progresses, Agent [REDACTED] takes notes>
Agent: Mr. Gillman, I would like to ask you a few questions about what happened between you and a one Joseph Whitmore last night at around 9:30 pm.

Robert: Look, I already went through this with the other officers. Yes, I confess: I shot Joey Whitmore. I took a .38 and shot him in the back of the head.

Agent: Why did you shoot him?

Robert: Why? <subject slams hands on table> Because I wasn’t sure if poison would do the trick, that’s why!

Agent: Perhaps I should rephrase. Why did you kill Mr. Whitmore?

Robert: Fuck man, really? You gotta ask me that? Jesus, you saw the body. Hell, I bet you even did an autopsy, so you guys should know better than me. He wasn’t human anymore. His skin was getting all scaly in places. And where it wasn’t he was covered in these little…<subject appears to wretch but controls himself>. Fuck man, I mean, I’ve heard of money changing people, but this…

Agent: And by “this”, you’re referring to…

Robert: Yeah, the coin. <Agent [REDACTED] opens his mouth to speak but is interrupted> And before you ask, no, I don’t have it anymore. I buried it. I used the thickest pair of gloves I could find, I carried it out into the woods, and I buried it. And I’m not telling you or anyone else where.

Agent: Why?

Robert: Why? Because the thing was evil, man. I mean, even before the physical changes, it really messed Joey up. You should have heard him near the end. He was crazy. He kept going on about how I was going to steal his girl or some shit like that. And the thing is, Joey didn’t have a girl.

Agent: No?

Robert: Nah, man. But he wouldn’t let it go. He kept saying crazy things like “Stay away from her,” and “She chose me”. Called her “my beautiful one, my ancient princess”. Said ,“She will bless me soon, and I will be the seed for her rebirth. Crazy shit like that.

Agent: And you have no idea who or what he was talking about?

Robert: No. I mean, I assume it was whoever was on the coin. I hardly ever got a good look at the thing, and it was pretty faded, but I guess it could have had the head of a woman on it, sure. She’d have been a pretty ugly broad though, even without the aging. Thing barely looked human.

Agent: Why didn’t you seek help? Why take matters into your own hands?

Robert: Well in the end, it all happened so fast. I just—it just seemed like something I had to do. But, I don’t know, it happened pretty slow at first. It took weeks. He got a little jumpy, maybe you’d call it paranoid. He might have complained about a little uneasiness, some feeling he couldn’t shake, but it wasn’t bad enough to really worry about. I guess in hindsight I should’ve seen it coming, but I didn’t. Does that make me a bad friend?

Agent: Mr. Gillman, one more time, for the record, you first started noticing these changes when your friend came into possession of the coin, is that correct? None of his episodes predate it’s discovery?

Robert: No—er, I mean, yes. No, wait—I mean, that’s correct. It all started when we found the coin.

Agent: Thank you for your time. <Agent [REDACTED] stands and begins to leave, then stops and sits down again> Excuse me, did you say we?
Robert: Huh?

Agent: Just now, you said that this all started when we, that is, you and Mr. Whitmore, found the coin.

Robert: Oh, yeah. We were walking through an old drainage ditch behind his house one day, headed to the gas station to pick up some smokes, and I saw it floating at the bottom of a little puddle, down where the concrete was uneven. I thought it looked interesting, so I picked it up and showed Joey.

Agent: You came into contact with the coin?

Robert: Well, yeah, but just for a second thank god. You know, it’s funny. Joey said we should flip for it. I was kinda pissed when I lost. But, I guess it was really Joey who lost, right? <Agent [REDACTED] gathers his papers and leaves the room hurriedly. As he leaves the frame he is pulling a cellphone from his pocket> Right? Hey! <Subject rises and moves to the edge of the frame> Hey! What am I supp—HEY! Open the damn door! You son of a bitch, open the god damned door! <Subject continues to yell obscenities and repeatedly strikes the locked door with his hands and feet. The door remains closed>

—-End of Video—

And that’s the story. So, here’s the question.

I had written a little “addendum” for the end of the piece, a little note that might have been left on a document, left by the Agent. In it the agent recommended taking Robert and containing him indefinitely in a secure and [REDACTED] location, possibly torturing him until he gave up the location of the coin, or until he turned into something inhuman like his friend Joey, whichever happened first. I took it out because I thought that just ending it uncertainly, just after this shadowy “Agent” took a sudden interest Robert’s brief contact with the coin, would be a bit more unsettling. Is it? Is him being locked in the room a good bit of foreshadowing to his eventual fate? If not, how could I maybe enhance it without the addendum, or should I just add the addendum?

Just some thoughts. Thanks for reading, and for going past and reading some more.