Prompt-and-Share Special Contest Edition

Prompt-and-Share special contest edition
Below you will find 3 short stories that were chosen to win the Prompt-and-Share by their peers.  First, you’ll see the rules set out for this particular Prompt-and-Share, followed by the three winning submissions.  (In no particular order)
The Prompt:
750 words max
We’ve all heard the expression “Be careful what you wish for” and for this edition of the
Prompt-and-Share that’s exactly what we are going to focus on.
Your character makes a wish that doesn’t turn out quite as he/she/it expected it to.
Typical guidelines still apply: At least one character, one setting, one conflict and one resolution.
By Adam Boenig:
She had said it would make him beautiful. She had also mentioned a price; but he hadn’t cared. He had given her her money, taken the potion, and left the old crone in her alley.

Jim had been a homely man, to say the least. Long ears, long nose, and a uni-brow were the defining features of his existence. He had been teased for his looks for years, and it had left scars on him; he was afraid to go outside, afraid to meet strangers. He would complain about his love life but that would imply he had one to complain about.

So he had taken the potion, thinking anything could be better than this. He needed something; anything.

He drank it without thought.

Now he stood in front of a mirror, looking at himself. He was handsome; no, gorgeous. He was a sculpted Adonis of a man, perfect in all aspects. And he was happy about it, flexing his new muscle and falling for himself in the mirror. However, he knew that the only way for it to matter was for him to go out.

Getting dressed in an old pair of jeans and a button-up shirt, he took a deep breath and stepped outside into a world he had feared so long. He walked down the hall; people staring as he moved, taking in his breathtaking beauty; and he knew it was good. He made it to the door, opened it, and for the first time in a long time, looked out over the sun-lit streets unafraid.

Now people were staring. He felt proud. They didn’t say much, they didn’t stare for long, but they certainly liked looking at him. Which is the point, right?, he thought to himself.

He strolled down the sidewalk, catching eyes and turning heads, enjoying the air off the tree-lined street and the view of the red brick buildings in the historical sector where he lived and worked. He made it to a tiny local bar, his destination in which to test his newfound glory. He opened the door and stepped in.

Everyone stopped. They turned and stared at the new face that had just stepped in. All eyes were on him; he could feel it.

And then they went about their business.

He was mildly surprised, but thought nothing of it. He sat down at the bar, feeling happy and like he “fit in” for the first time in his life. He offered to buy an attractive woman a drink; because, that is what you’re suppose to do, right? She ignored him as though she didn’t hear him.

He tried again. She still ignored him.

He waves his hand in front of her face. Touched her, poked her. Eventually he grew frustrated and pounded the table; soon, he was throwing furniture.

The crowd complained about the broken furniture, but not him.

That’s when he realized: the price. He would be noticed, yes; but only once. He was beautiful; but no one cared.

Find out more about Adam at: as well as
By Telzey Lee
“I’ve got to go.” Marissa’s voice was a reluctant whisper.

“I know.” Blake said quietly.

Neither of them moved as the seconds ticked away. She didn’t want to go; she wanted to stay wrapped in his arms forever. That wasn’t an option, however, and the conflicting pressures threatened to tear her apart. She let it build to the point where if she was going to go, she had to go now, or not at all. She squeezed him convulsively, and rose from the bench, clasping his hand as she moved away, until finally their arms were stretched as far as they could go, and she had to let go. She hurried away down the hall, to the door where the royals entered. The king, her husband, was already seated on his throne, and she sat next to him.

Court began as normal. Several minutes later, she saw Blake slip in, and she couldn’t help but gaze at him. Soon after that, the king held up his hand.

“There is one among us who wants my place.” he announced, “He won’t challenge me honorably, however, but instead creeps around behind my back, betraying me. I won’t have it anymore, and I challenge him.”

Marissa froze, hoping against hope that Reginald meant something else, meant someone else. That hope died, however, as the king stood and pointed at Blake. Her stomach dropped.

“Guards, seize that man.” he commanded.

There was some hesitation, and Marissa could see people wondering what was going on. Was this part of the entertainment? Blake rose as the guards approached him. Marissa put her hand on Reginald’s arm.

“Don’t do this.” she pleaded. He shook her hand off and stepped away from her. She could see the crowd’s interest sharpen. Entertainment, or reality? Or both? She wanted to disappear.

“Reg, please, this is private.” she tried to mitigate the disaster that was occurring, to no avail.

The guards had escorted Blake to the base of the platform the thrones were on.

“I don’t want your throne.” Blake said evenly.

“No, you just want my wife.” Reginald yelled.

The crowd gasped. Blake was Reginald’s best friend and most loyal knight… and Reginald was accusing him of having an affair with Marissa?!? They looked at Marissa,and she could feel that her face had paled, all but the two crimson spots she could feel burning on her cheeks as the whispering started.

Reginald had gone down the steps, and taken off his gauntlet. He backhanded Blake across the face with it, the classic challenge to a duel. Marissa stood and rushed down the steps, stepping between the two men.

“Stop it.” she shouted. She turned her back on Blake and put her hands on Reginald’s arms. “Let’s go someplace private and talk about this.”

He jerked away from her.

“Don’t touch me, you betraying bitch! He can have you, if he lives through this.”

He threw his wedding ring at them, then drew his sword – his real sword, she noticed, not the practice one he was supposed to wear at events. The crowd hastily drew back, forming a wide half circle around them. Wasn’t anyone going to try and stop him, or call the police? One would think they were really in the Middle Ages, not just the SCA.

“Are you crazy?” she said, stepping in front of Blake, hoping that Reg wasn’t really so far gone that he’d hurt her. She hadn’t wanted to hurt Reg; she still loved him. She loved Blake too, though.

Reginald stared at her for long seconds, then threw his sword on the floor, turned, and walked away. She scrabbled on the ground for his ring, then turned to see Blake walking away in the opposite direction.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, she thought, tears beginning to flow. She gathered her skirts, and half-ran in a third direction. She found a bathroom and hid in the handicapped stall, trying to stifle her sobs.

When she was a young girl, she had thought the King Arthur stories were so romantic. She had wanted love like that. She had overlooked the fact that Genevieve had ended up with neither King Arthur or Sir Lancelot, that she had ended up old and alone, after losing the love of two good men, and helping to destroy something good and true.

Marissa sank to the floor and gave in to her sobs, her heart broken, and her soul with gaping holes in it.

By Tressa Green:
“Son of a…!”

I stomped the brake—squealing tires protested. Fresh coffee tumbled from the holder. My jeans drank the scalding liquid and I bit my lip to keep further expletives from rolling off my tongue. Burnt rubber smoke wafted through the open windows before I took off again. The idiot driver who pulled out in front of me bebopped along, five under, as if nothing happened.

I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. So typical. The little inconveniences of my life piled up so high that any green in the other pasture could only be seen in my imagination. My ill luck blocked out true vision of those lush fields long ago.

Home took longer than normal, but I didn’t have anything to go home to anyway. Silence greeted me behind the locked door. I dreaded weekends for that reason. At least my job, as ho-hum as that nine-to-five was, occupied my time.

I plugged the house key into the lock; it refused to budge. I jimmied it until it finally gave in. The plastic bags numbing my fingers as their weight turned those narrow handles into cutting strands. I refused to set them down while I juggled keys and turned the knob.

One step.

I kissed the floor. Groceries scattered—rolling out in a noisy spray of cans, boxes, and bags. Peeling myself up took effort. I sat on the floor amid my dumped groceries and empty life and wished.

Wished for more. For better. For different.

“I wish things were different,” I said out loud.

Nothing happened. Not that I really expect it. I sighed and picked up the mess. Scuffled to the two-steps-across kitchen. Cool wind ruffled the lace curtain in the tiny window, bringing the scent of late Spring flowers. I sighed again.

Maybe things could be different, I thought.

A smile dared to grace my lips. The wonder of that sensation only caused it to grow.

Yes. Things were going to be different. I would make it so.

Sunlight shafted through the window and the whole cubicle of the kitchen glowed with an almost heavenly light.

I rushed to put things in their place; though, as usual, I dropped cans on my toe, the contents of my freezer spilled out when I opened the door, as did the upper cabinet. None of it mattered anymore.

I wanted to twirl about my three room house; lift my voice to the heavens. So what if I banged my elbow on the door frame or bruised my shin on the end table? The sun shined all through my home, the breeze carried birdsong and sweetness of new buds. It was as if God, Himself, smiled upon me.

My heart leaped with joy my skin couldn’t contain. The breeze became a wind, the birdsong merged with a great chorus, and the light grew so bright, vision fled.

“What’s happening?” I cried out.

“Don’t be afraid,” a whisper cut through the noise.

“I’m not,” I replied.

The light dimmed as did the wind and the song.

“Welcome home.”

I opened my eyes and wept. Things, indeed, had changed.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.