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WRiTE CLUB 2012 Play-offs - Round One / Bout 4

We continue with the first of eighteen bouts that make up the initial round of the WRiTE CLUB play-offs.  They will all span the next two weeks, posted on Mon-Wed-Fri, on this and two other blogs.  Here are the links to the blogs where the other bouts can be found.

DL Hammons @ Cruising Altitude 2.0
Julie Dao @ Silver Lining
Your task is simple…read the submission from each WRiTER below carefully and leave your vote for the sample that resonates with you the most.  If you haven’t already done so in the preliminary rounds, offer some critique if you have time.  Anyone reading this can vote (after signing up on this Linky List) so blog/tweet/facebook/text/smoke signal everyone you know and get them to take part in the fun.  You will have until noon on Sunday (Oct. 28th) to vote on the first nine bouts, then noon Sunday (Nov. 4th) for the second nine.  Vote on as many bouts as you can get around to.  Whether that is one bout, or all eighteen, how much you participate is up to you. 

The eighteen winners will be posted on the afternoon of Nov. 4th and the next round will kick off the following Monday with edited versions of the winning writing samples.

Good luck to both WRiTER’s!

And now…..

In this corner welcome back to the ring.....Sedney of the Castonod.

It’s not like the other. Well… it holds bodies. But not those fondly remembered.

It started as a single grave, after we learned barkers could die… sort of. Garret killed the first one. He’s always been quite the brute. Ma said any boy who sees barkers eat his parents would be that way.

We were beyond the wall collecting dogbane for rope when we found the barker. It must have fallen over a steep ledge. It was a bloody mess, wedged between sharp stones, legs broken. It didn’t bark when it saw us. It didn’t try to bite either. It just stared with black eyes. Never made a sound. Garret didn’t care. God, he was ruthless. He went to it with his machete. Its wide eyes held him as he hacked at it again and again. He laughed when I covered my ears and turned away.

There wasn’t much left when he finally stopped. We collected it in a sack to show off in town. We’d never seen one so still… so convincingly dead. Even now, its grimy skin wouldn’t take a flame so we buried it. Just inside the wall.

That night our blunder became obvious. It wasn’t the first time I’d awoken to screams. A trail of thick black blood connected the ruptured grave to Garret’s window. The barker must’ve remembered what he’d done to it. It left him in a similar way.

Dharman says he heard it barking just before it burst from the ground … but he crawls under the cherope tree to eat its fruit and stare, and argue with shadows.

The grave wasn’t deep enough... They say.

A mistake we made only once.

We grew angry… and bold. Regular parties now hunt barkers as they once hunted us. One grave has become hundreds. They now outnumber houses and so the cemetery creeps ever closer to my window, one silent stone at a time. I shouldn’t complain.

With each new below is one less above…

No one ventures inside the cemetery. A stone wall wouldn’t deter so effectively. Even if someone were willing to up keep the yard, it isn’t allowed.

The more between them and us, the better…

That’s why the headstones lay flat, like great, cold blankets, rather than stand tall to be sought out and gazed upon.

This morning Dharman was hysterical. He wailed and shook and wouldn’t approach the cemetery even for precious cherope.

“They all bark! We’re doomed!”

Like the others I scoffed until, drawing the shortest straw, I was sent to inspect.

I’d never been into the cemetery and now, stealing through bristly grass under gnarled stone sentinels, my hand couldn’t grip my machete’s pommel tightly enough. The stones had withered and succumbed to grey lichen and were ground away by thorny vines. I arrived at the cemetery’s heart, from whence grew a blackened, impassable tangle. I sighed, as going farther was impossible. Then I heard it.

Faint at first, but now inescapable. Barking. From under each stone.


And in the other corner, also anxious to return to the ring, let me re-introduce.... Khanada.

Through her feverish haze, Marie looked up from her bone-thin pallet and saw a man with intense green eyes mopping the floor.  She smiled at him when she saw he had a very kind face and that he appeared to wear a faded red triangle.  Political prisoners were supposed to be very nice.

The janitor returned the smile and continued mopping.  When he came to Marie’s pallet, he slowed down his mopping considerably and leaned down to look at her.

“How old are you, kid?  I don’t see many people your age in this part of the ward.”

She shook her head and struggled to get out one of the few things she knew how to say in German. “Please, can you speak French?  I am only thirteen and did not get enough time at school to learn good German.”

He switched to French. “You must be from a recent transport, if you’re this young and still here.  Do you need real medicine or extra food? I’m a master smuggler.”

“No, no, my Italian doctor friend Caterina is taking care of me.  She told me she won’t let me die.” She closed her eyes against her swimming vision.

“Well, it never hurts to have two people looking after you.  I assume your parents aren’t with you.  If I had children, I’d hope someone were looking after them.” He slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out an orange slice. “Open your mouth, Mademoiselle.”

Marie obliged and let the fruit sit on her tongue, savoring the flavor fulcitrus juices.  Even in Gurs and Drancy, she hadn’t had oranges.

“What’s your name?  I’m Wolfram Engel.”

“Marie Zénobie Sternglass.” She kept the orange slice on top of her tongue. “Are you here long?”

“Long enough.  I don’t suppose you know anything about Paragraph 175.  I ended up here because I violated that statute.” He walked around Marie’s pallet and began mopping more earnestly when he saw one of the overseers walking around.

Marie felt a twang of disappointment when the orange finally dissolved and there were no more traces of the succulent juices anywhere on her tongue or in her mouth or throat.  When she opened her eyes again, she saw Wolfram dusting at a very slow pace.

 “Do you always befriend young patients?”

“Not normally.  I made an exception for you because you’re so young.  And you’re young enough to be my daughter, if I could have children.”

“You can’t have any children? Were you very sick too?”

“No, I’m perfectly able, as far as I know, but I prefer men.  You can see my triangle is pink.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small piece of chocolate. “Save this for later.  When you’re feeling a little better, we can get better acquainted.  I’ll see you tomorrow, Mademoiselle.”

Marie stuck the chocolate under her pillow and drifted off to sleep, no longer so afraid of being alone in this strange place.


Don’t forget to visit the other two sites and vote for your favorite in those bouts as well!  Remember the WRiTE CLUB motto, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sedney gets my vote. This passage still gives me chills. Love the completeness of it, and I'm not normally a fan of flash fiction.

  3. I guess it's time to be nit-picky since these two are so close. Since there were parts of the first one that caused me to re-read and still not understand, my vote goes to Khanada (since there were no parts like that - at least for me).

  4. Tough choice today for me. Both selections have things to like and I voted for both in prelims, but both have a few issues, too.

    I like the premise of Khanada's piece, and the characters are interesting, but it doesn't quite ring true for me. The dialogue -- especially for a 13-year-old-girl in a concentration camp, suffering under a "feverish haze" -- seems off. For one thing, it has a little too much "as you know, Bob" author-telling. Also, the kind janitor quietly mopping the floors, with fruit and chocolate in his pocket, just seems a little too artificially inserted for a concentration camp setting -- I think of much, much harsher conditions in these places.

    Sedney also has an interesting premise, but there are some issues here, too. A few too many ellipses, some odd phrasing (like using "even now" to describe the attempt in the past to burn the skin, for example), and some fuzzy logic (the new cemetery, started after they began killing the barkers is a place the narrator is both familiar with and unfamiliar with -- "I'd never been into the cemetery," and it's both recently built and expanded, yet with withered stones, scarred by lichen and overgrown vines).

    A tough choice, but today I think I'm going with Sedney. I like the creativity of coming up with the zombie-dog barkers.

  5. Sedney's barkers gets my vote. I was going to critique Khanada's piece but Chris's Critique covered everything that bothered me.

  6. Getting real tough but will go Sedney. Good luck

  7. Both of these were well done. Khanada's piece was interesting but Sedney was gripping. My vote goes to Sedney.

  8. Excellent pieces by both. Sedney

  9. Sedney, though I enjoyed both. :)

  10. I have to vote for Sedney. What a creepy, excellent piece. My chest literally felt tight reading it. Khanada's is good as well, but didn't pull me in quite as much (just personal taste). Good luck both!

  11. Great writing by both writers, but I'll have to go with Sedney this time.

  12. I liked both of these pieces the first time around, so well done! For this round I'm going with Sedney. As a snippet it felt more complete to me, so it was more immediately satisfying than Khanada's which left more questions in my mind.

  13. I vote for Sedney.

  14. Sedney, I loved it when I first read it and I still love it now.

  15. I recall that Khanada was a sentimental read however Sedney gets my vote this round for holding my intrigue from the first line.

  16. I vote Sedney. This piece has stuck with me since my first reading, and that's always a good sign of powerful writing.

  17. Sedney. The other still didn't draw me in, and in fact the changes seemed to make it less interesting.

  18. I liked Khanada's piece despite the discrepancies, which can easily be fixed.

  19. Khanada - I liked the feeling of the hope of unlikely friendship in an anonymous authoritarian place. That said, Sedney's was well written, achieving clear imagery without over explaining what these creatures are. I'm a sucker for happy endings though.




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