Here we are—
Round Two of Rachael’s and my BlogWar begins now. This round is a bit different than the original BlogWar (Here and Here) and Rachael’s BlogBattles. We’ve changed up a few things. This time around instead of being given the same word, Rachael and I chose the key word for the other blogger. On top of that, we chose the genre (Noir, Horror, Action, Etc.) for the other person as well. Then the author has to write a story using that word within the genre chosen by their opponent. After that, we need you. If each of you would read the stories and vote in the poll below using the rules Rachael and I have developed. They are as follows:
Read both stories-
- Who best stuck to the genre they were given?
- Who had the best usage of their given theme word?
- Which story was most entertaining?
Each criteria is worth 33% of the vote. The poll is at the end of the blog, below both stories. Both of us agreed that we wanted to keep the voting anonymous, so you won’t see our names anywhere below this point. Everything is based on the stories themselves. We really would appreciate your help, but above all else, we have one requirement.
Rachael and I do this for fun and we want you all to join in. So let’s lean back, take a sip of that beverage of choice, and read some stories!
Thank you and read on!
P.S. Rachael did a number on me and chose a hard combination. She chose well. 🙂 I loved it.
There it was, Persepolis, shining like a beacon of hope in a desert of madness. Its position on the mesa caught a halo of the setting sun in such a way as to take any onlooker’s breath away.
Mr. Darius had named his ranch after the great Persian city as a statement of his power and wealth. There was not another ranch in all of Texas as vast and successful as his.
Mordie dismounted and grunted on impact before he grabbed for Esther’s reins. She relinquished them into his hands without protest and sat atop her mount staring at the grand ranch house for several more seconds before jumping off her mount.
“Well, I suppose there will be no welcoming party.”
“Essie, honey, Mr. Darius and his son are ranchers through ‘n’ through. They’ll be off with the cowboys rounding up the last of the cattle you see over yonder.”
She swiveled around making the layers of her skirts circle her legs then bounce back. Her hand shielded her eyes from the last of the evening sun while she glowered at the grazing cows in the distance.
“Uncle, I know Mama and Papa would have wanted you to take care of me, but I don’t want to do this. I’m afraid.”
“Sugar, things out here in the West, it’s not like back East. You’ve got no choice in the matter if you want to make it. Mr. Darius says give it a week or two then if you still don’t want to marry Mr. Shay then you don’t have to. But in a week I’m heading out to California territory, and you can’t come with. This is your best shot.”
Esther turned pleading eyes on her uncle. “Please, Uncle Mordie. Please let me come with you. I’m strong, and I can cook for you. I’ll even help you pan for gold.”
“You can beg all you want but your pa would never forgive me, and it’s no place for a woman.”
Esther ducked her head and didn’t say another word as she went to her saddle bags and unstrapped them. When she pulled them off the horse the weight of them tugged down on her arms, and she almost dropped the bags in the dust.
Meanwhile her uncle set to work unloading her things from the one of the mules carrying two small trunks. Mordie lugged them one by one up on to the porch, and Esther watched with a despondent frown etched in place. She absently rubbed under the halter of her horse with her free hand but didn’t lift a finger to help him.
An older Mexican stepped out through the front door onto the long expanse of front porch and dried his hands on a white dish cloth. His smile was kind and welcoming. “Hola. You must be Señor Mordecay and Miss Esther.”
His accent was heavy and difficult to understand, but Mordie’s look of confusion was quickly replaced by understanding. “Oh! Yes, sir, we are.”
“Welcome to Persepolis,” the man said while he gestured for them to follow him into the house. “Come, come. Señor Darius will be home any minute. I fix dinner just in time.” His grin was still wide. Esther didn’t bother to smile but gazed around the generous room, a little bit of wonder lighting her eyes. “Miss Esther. I have hot water for a bath. Come. You get freshened up.”
“Thank you,” she said, and a genuine, albeit miniscule, smile trespassed across her face.
“Mr. Mordecay, you have a seat in the parlor, and I get Miss settled.”
He led her down the hall to the right and departed only to return with bucket after bucket of steaming water which he added to an already half-full tub. The last thing he brought in was her trunks. “Thank you, sir.”
When the door closed behind him and she was alone the first thing she did was check her trunks. She unlatched each and threw the lids back. After chucking out all the clothes she kneeled and caressed the hard covers of her books and cried.
Her uncle had made up his mind, sure this was for the best. Her parents were dead, never to return again. Life in the West was harsh, and it had left poor Esther all alone when her family was killed by Comanche raiders.
She wiped the tears from her eyes and took a quick bath since the water had already cooled to a tepid, unwelcoming temperature. After she was dressed and her hair plated in a wet braid it was time to go meet her husband-to-be, Shay Darius.
She tiptoed down the hall and listened to the sound of conversation. The rumble of her uncle’s voice and another man’s softer one wafted toward her, and she faltered in indecision.
“You may as well get it over with.”
She jumped, threw herself back against the wall, and grabbed her collar as all the air was expelled from her lungs.
The freshly groomed young man who’d spoken looked on in amusement, his thumbs tucked into his gun belt. “Sorry, ma’am. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
Esther glared at the grinning fool before dislodging herself from the wall. She gave him her most stern look, one she’d learned from her mama, and vigorously wiped her hands on her skirts several times, then turned her back on him and marched down the hall.
He followed behind her. When they emerged into the great room, Esther was met by the sight of her uncle and two others. “Essie, meet Mr. Darius and his foreman, Mr. Hammand. I see you’ve already met Mr. Shay Darius.”
Her eyebrows arched when she realized he was gesturing to the man standing just behind. Esther’s cheeks glowed red as she turned to face him.
“Welcome to Persepolis West, Miss Esther.” Shay’s cocky smile seemed to stretch from one end of Texas to the other, and Esther looked ready to smack the handsome clean off his face.
Genre: Science Fiction
Spoils of War
“Sir. This isn’t normal.”
The words barely register through my haze. Lying back with my eyes closed, I lie stretched out on a bed in some room of some hospital somewhere that wasn’t Terra. I don’t care where. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. Though it seems to matter to the doctors and nurses and the news crews we weren’t supposed to know about. The Melancholy causes me to miss the Senator’s— That’s who it is I think maybe who cares?—response.
“Sir, I’m serious. This is reaching pandemic proportions. Every soldier who landed on the Meťok homeworld is showing the same symptoms. It’s started to spread to others; soldiers that weren’t even stationed in the same sector as them have come down the The Melancholy.”
That’s my doctor, I thought. She is pretty enough. I might have known her once. She is familiar, but I don’t have the interest in remembering. There may or may not be a relationship too, but none of that means a thing. To her, I’m just a test subject; someone to use in trying to solve the bigger issues of life.
“Nonsense,” said the Senator. He is a large man, fat even by today’s standards. He might wish to look into that, but he probably doesn’t care. “I don’t see why they should feel that way, Doctor. They defeated the odds, won the Interstellar War, and toppled a regime that couldn’t care less about the human race.”
“A civilization that had been standing for several million Earth standard years, you mean.”
“It should be something to be proud of. Now humanity can take its rightful place among the stars—not as a slave to be stepped on, but as a leader.”
“Do you ever think that might be the issue?”
Pride? Did I feel pride? Pride’s a sin. Do I want to be sinful? But did it matter? I’m here. Does that matter too? Does winning won losing? I don’t know.
I roll over and tune them out. They just don’t get it. Things aren’t as complicated as all that. This is just a spell a moment a briefest of pauses. I’ll over it. We all will. Can’t they leave us alone? I didn’t come by and talk to them whenever their dog parakeet pet rock died. This is the same, just different—separate yet similar. Just as identical but not. Eventually—I didn’t know or care when—the Senator left. Good riddance.
Suddenly, lights start flashing and sirens blare in my ears. It’s followed by a mad scramble for the bed beside me. I turn over to see some private—I didn’t bother to learn his name, nor he mine—as he rips needles and patches and different medical equipment from his arms and chest. Pools of blood appear on his clothing. Nurses and doctors flood the room. He fends them off with a tray a water glass a book, hitting several people about the head and shoulders. Then he tumbles from his bed, striking his head on the way down on something I didn’t care enough to look at. His head snaps back and he instantly stops moving.
Removing the body only takes a fraction of the time of cleaning up his mess. I hate every second of it, just wanting them to leave. But instead, they station a guard—a guard complete with gasmask—at the foot of my bed. It took too many hours, but I stop caring that he was there.
I forget how long I’ve been here when everything hits the fan. It starts with the doctor I’d barely recognized from days weeks years I don’t know or care how long ago comes rushing in. She holds a needle in her hand, point upraised and glistening wetly. Dully, I watch her jab it into some tube that was connected to my arm that I consider removing. What is the point? This whole thing is malarkey. If they want to cure The Melancholy, then send me home. All I need is to get out of this dump and—it doesn’t matter and I flop back on my bed.
Then the Meťok strike.
She screams something that I don’t care to catch as I turn away and look out the window. The cruisers—a whole fleet of them—float above the buildings, the city. Then all at once, they fire, lasers cutting down people and turning everything to rubble. Alarms sound and all I can do is look at my doctor as the building started to shake.
Then it all starts coming back to me. The mist crumble as I look at the doctor’s—Susan’s—my wife’s—face, just as the floor gives way. Every line is familiar. Those are my soul mate’s eyes, full of concern for a man too far gone. Rubble dances in the air around us and through the laser beams, completely unnoticed, but this time of my own will. The Melancholy’s gone. My beautiful, wonderful wife did—
Here’s the poll! Vote away!