Weekly Challenge #367 – Blank

Welcome to the 100 Word Stories podcast at oneadayuntilthedayidie.com. I’m your host, Laurence Simon.

This is Weekly Challenge, where I post a topic and then challenge you to come up with a 100 word story based on that topic.

The topic this week was BLANK:

And we’ve got stories by a lot of people:

The next 100 word stories weekly challenge is on the topic of OLD.

And if you want to spam your social networks with this episode, use the Share buttons at the end of the post… this obligatory cat photo should help make the Internet go faster:

Travel cat


THOMAS

Stanley’s mind was a blank. After two weeks of meditation, taking no food, and only sipping water, his mind was clear and thus so vacant that the natural operation of his brain that controlled breathing and movement had stalled to the point where all autonomic functions that sustained life had put him in jeopardy. His friend intervened, putting earphones on his head, and blasting Pink Floyd into his ears, while force-feeding him chili, shots of cinnamon whiskey and tickling him with a feather duster until Stanley’s mind exploded with stimuli and his breathing changed from life threatening to normal breathing.
#

Nick had no offspring. Nick shot blanks. A stuntman for a B film maker, he was responsible for weapons, explosions, and flames used in productions. When the set opened for a father and son day, Nick asked his brother, Don, if he could “borrow” his son to tour the studio, meet the actors, and help him do the set ups for a car chase and gun battle that was being filmed. Don’s son was quiet, but unknown to anyone, was the spawn of the devil, and intent on causing harm when the opportunity presented itself. You know what happened, right?
#
All the pages of TJ’s new book were left intentionally blank. Everything he had wanted to say, was already said in his other books and papers. The book, sold by Amazon, was intended as a novelty, but it soon jumped to number ten spot on the 2013, best seller list. People bought it and used it as a journal, or a notebook. Others put it in their bookcase or displayed it on their coffee table. The cover was made in China, of recycled automobile tires, and titled with gold embossing. Black, thick and malodorous, the books cried out to bibliophiles.
#
TJ’s next book contained blank verse. The first piece, dedicated to his lady friend, was his favorite:
By this morning sun, among red tulips
He stooped to pull weeds, and his knees cried out
Not up to the task, nor willing to submit
To more discomfort , for a glorious yard.

The book of mediocre verse sold one copy to his great Aunt in Waterbury. She had three of her Canasta Club members write fantastic reviews, and asked the congregation at Saint Luke’s if they would also write reviews that she would dictate to them. The author sold three more.
#

He was shot, point blank. Many have heard the phrase, but do not know that point blank is the distance between the gun and the target, such that the bullet in flight is expected to strike the target without adjusting the elevation of the firearm. If the assassin has to raise his pistol as little as one degree in order to strike the victim, it is no longer a point blank shot. Therefore, to avoid being shot point blank, it is recommended that you leap into the air as fast and as high as you can, as the hammer falls.
#
Joe’s assignment was to write a 100 word story using “blank” as the queue word. He wanted to please and impress his writing teacher and coach. He thought of a piece of metal used as a blank to form a car part, analytical blanks as it relates to chemistry, and the expression on a woman’s face when he complemented her on her shoes. He settled on writing more about his uneasiness when trying to engage a beautiful woman. His work as a Gynecologist in a woman’s prison had more to do with his lack of social prowess than anything else.

JEFFREY

Caroline
by Jeffrey Fischer

The first thing people tended to notice about Caroline, before the unkempt hair and jaundiced skin, was her blank stare. She gazed into infinity, not bothered by a visitor’s presence, not even acknowledging it.

Yet behind the unblinking eyes Caroline lived entire lives, free from the institution. She loved, married, bore children and raised them to adulthood, mourned the loss of loved ones. She grew old and died and was reborn, all this in an instant as she gazed impassively at the beige wall. She looked at nothing – and everything.

Shooting Blanks
by Jeffrey Fischer

The doctor looked at me kindly as he told me I was shooting blanks, that my wife and I could never have children, at least not the old-fashioned way.

When my wife could no longer hide her pregnancy, I was confused, then angry. I may be slow, but if I couldn’t knock her up, someone else must’ve done it for me.

When my son was born, the doctors did another test and said he was really mine. Those earlier tests were wrong, they said, or my stuff got better. That made me very happy. I apologized to my old lady for thinking she whored around on me. But I couldn’t stay long – just a few minutes at her grave then the guards took me back to prison.

LIZZIE

Blank Humans

“This is a nightmare,” the man sighed. “We all died. Some of us came back. So what?”
The woman sat in silence.
“Who’s your government source?” she asked, scratching the paint off the table.
“Frank.”
“A fool.”
“I’m afraid we are past that.”
“Just type it, then. Some of us will die again. No one will come back. There aren’t many of us left.”
“They’re…”
“Producing them, I know.”
He started typing – Project for Sector X75: Production of Artificial Humans – Top Secret.
“Were we ever really humans once?”
“Life’s not fair,” she said, the word “Alive” on the rusted table.

TOM

A vague recollection of a breakfast conversation with my beloved Anne connecting the name I saw with a chain of familial reference that lead to the realization that through law I was related to Mr. Poe, the author. In Ernest I repeated, was there need to summon a doctor? He took my hand. The fabric of his coat was thread bare and seemed ill fitting for a man of his station. “Give this to Lee,” he said, a gray shroud fell across his eyes. I tore a blank page from this very journal, hastily penned a note to Dr. Snodgrass.

TURA

I don’t actually know how to say my last name. After choosing it, I googled it. It’s Romanian. There’s a main street in Bucharest named for one Ion BREZoYAnu (or should that be breZOYnu?). He is famous for having a street named after him.

At first I read it as “BREzoYAnu”, but the other week, I thought of saying “breZOIanu”, which I quite like. Or maybe Romanians would squeeze it down to “brezWAnu”? Or “BREZwanu”?

I’ve googled up some Romanian tutorials, so I know what sounds the letters stand for, but as for the stress patterns, I’ve drawn a blank.

YORDIE

The Samurai’s Poem
by Yordie Sands

I approached the samurai seated in my teahouse. I bowed with respect, saying, “konnichiwa honorable sir.”

He looked at me with inquisitive eyes, unlike the blank stares of those warriors who engage in battle to feel alive.

He bowed and said, “Honorable lady, please sit by me. I’ll read the poem I wrote for you.”

If of love I die
then above my grave mound, dear
Yordie come and cry

I smiled and bowed to him.

I’d read many haiku and recognized the one he read to me. It was by the courtesan Oshu, except she didn’t use my name.

MUNSI

He was blank, of average height and average looks, favoring neutral hues in his clothes and uninteresting hairstyles.

He was friendly, personable, but never took a stand on any issue, never offered an opinion that was in the least bit out of the mainstream. He kept to small talk and platitudes, and listened more than he spoke.

Once he left a room everyone immediately forgot he’d ever been there.

He was invisible.

And it was only later that they realized their jewelry was missing, never making the connection to the fellow who’d been with their crowd but not of them…

THOMAS N

She sent me an apology tape. Our relationship began that way, with a mix tape. I declared my love through others’ poetry set to music, encased in plastic. Hundreds of tapes, each song carefully selected to send a message from my heart to hers, or vice-versa were the artifacts of our history. How to respond to this latest betrayal, and the apology? I should be depressed, relieved, angry, something. But I was just tired. I unwrapped the cassette, labeled it, and contemplated the eventual contents. I closed the box, addressed the envelope, and dropped the tape in the mail, blank.

SERENDIPITY

Turn on laptop and stare intently at the blank screen in front of you.

Chew fingernail reflectively.

Let attention wander; distractedly tidy desk. Stare intently through window.

Type for a moment – tippy-tap, tippy-tap.

Pause.

Backspace, backspace, backspace, delete.

Critically examine chewed fingernail. Chew into more pleasing shape.

Sigh.

Make coffee. Drink coffee.

Strengthen resolve… fingers poised over keys… brow furrowed with concentration.

Nothing happens.

Run hands through hair in frustration.

Stare, and stare, and stare at the blank screen, willing words to come.

But the words stay stubbornly silent.

There’s nothing today – my mind is a complete blank.

SAM

The sheriff stood facing the outlaw, hand poised over his pistol, ready to draw.

“When both y’all are ready, I’ll start counting,” said the impartial judge. Both men inclined their heads, in the barest suggestion of a nod.

“Ten, nine,” he counted, while sweat trickled down the sheriff’s brow.

“Two. One. Draw!”

Both men drew and fired but the outlaw was just a smidgen faster. Yet the sheriff stood, and the outlaw fell.

“What happened?” The judge exclaimed in amazement.

“He must have been shooting bl…. shooting blan….what’s the word?” Asked the sheriff.

“I don’t know. I’m drawing a blank.”

STEVEN THE NUCLEAR MAN

This isn’t a story.

You want purpose? You want some kind of reassurance that there is meaning?

There is no evidence that there is meaning. None.

Faith, maybe, but no evidence.

As far as we know, there’s just a huge, empty, terrifying blank. A vast nothing, throwing your brainstem into survival instinct protective recoil. It’s terrifying, no matter how many times you look at it.

You want to just give up. To give in to the nothing.

And then you get up. You go on. You do something awesome anyway.

Then it gains meaning.

Only then does it becomes story.

CLIFF

I’m not saying it was my idea. It wasn’t. I just asked a question, that’s all. It would just be nice to be in the footnotes somewhere, you know? You see, I was working with the boss on the big project. No one knew what the project really was. The boss didn’t like to explain himself, even back then. Problem was, you couldn’t even see the thing. It was just a big blank his studio. So, I said “Why is it so dark?”. That inspired the boss. He sat a moment and then said the words.
“LET THERE BE LIGHT!”

MIATA

This week, I’ve drawn a blank. So, here are some quotes…..enjoy.
“Writing is like surfing – it’s a challenge to stand on the board, but when you do, it’s a glorious ride.” – Sark
“A human being is nothing but a story with skin around it.” – Fred Allen
“Judge each day not by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you have planted.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson
“If music be the food of love, Play on, play on, play on.” – Shakespeare
“Fire not only consumes; it purifies.” – Unknown
“Write a saying and your name will live forever.” – Anonymous

CALEDONIA

“It is a huge expanse of white, gaping emptiness. It could be so many things. It could not be so many things. How will I know? Fingers drum on the clean, white formica worktable. What is it? Hand sorts through the long clutch of wooden handles in the ancient Taco Bell mega-cup. What size? Digits dance over the bottles crammed into the oversized Christmas cookie tin whose lid is long gone. What color? Just make a choice! It doesn’t matter what. The only failure is the failure to engage. The brush poises over the surface. Contact: embracing the many possibilities.”

BONCHANCE AND SEVI

Ode to…

His name was Mr Cinnamon.
He loved to sing.

Lost among the crowd, yet within the throng,
lifted his head and began his song.

Without thought, the flock would open and part
the burdened would feel an uplifted heart.
His songs, each one, were simple and pure
and none could escape the magical allure

of the one who sang
the one who went
by an aromatic name.

He never rumbled.
Always humble.
Females preened and posed.
Offering needed repose.
His first name was always a blank,
He only wanted to do one thing.

His name was Mr Cinnamon
He loved to sing.

JUSTIN

A piece of paper, a blank slate. This is a character sheet for a role-playing game.

Formless, then with dice and a creative mind: life, an avatar into imaginative, fantastic worlds.

The person’s existence is like a character in a play, and only exists when the stage is set and the lights are on. But what will they be like?

The toss of the dice determine if they are strong or smart, and the imagination of the player determines how they will live. What choices they make.

Use wisdom, especially if they’re a mage. Use strength if they’re a fighter.

DANNY

Whenever I’m in public, I always wonder if I reek of alcohol. Whether others perceive my inebriation. My mind draws a blank. I walk down an empty hallway, then start cursing because the hallway never ends. “This isn’t a hallway,” I proclaim, “it’s a god damn treadmill! I grow tired of walking it!” I go to an open bar, stand with drink in hand, in a loud, crowded room. I’m the lonliest man on Earth. Yet I can go online, letting everyone literally walk through my brain. Then I’m at one with the world, yet that world is a delusion.

SINGH

The Tumult Cards

1.
Dante was always drawing Safe Passage and blank Time-Outs, until the first Tumult Card turned up. It brought real storms. Fresh tribulation. Ongoing trouble.

Last time, a car crash, then two cracked ribs. Before that, an obscure company posting – a banishment overseas. But this time, Dante was determined to crash and burn, or crash through and end this cycle of bad karma, or what ever psychological self-sabotage was going one. Three tumults in a row! Could he break the bad cycle?

Francine dealt. Dante turned his card over with trepidation and then, relief. It wasn’t ‘Tumult’. He’d drawn ‘Shadow’.

2.
The lights blew out.

“Francine,” Dante called. “Joe, Krystiana.” No answer. “Hey guys, this isn’t funny.”

But all he could hear was panting and growling in the shadows.

“Alright, I’m done. You win!”

There was the scratch of a match. Dante still couldn’t see much until the flame became a lit candelabra. He was shocked. A leopard, a lion and wolf were sitting around the table.

Their eyes narrowed about to pounce and rip.

Where was the door? No. He’d never make it.

There was only one thing left that he could do. He reached for the deck and drew ‘Paradise’.

3.
Paradise Beach is a heavenly place for a deckchair and a piña colada beside it on a bamboo table.

Composing a homily to sun and surf in his head, life seemed to have turned a corner since the last Tumult Card.

Not for long. The Three sprang from the palms transformed in swimwear. Leopard Girl dropped a porno DVD on his lap, Lion Man thrust a hand mirror before his face and Wolf Girl fanned the deck before him like credit cards. Choose, their glaring looks said. Why leave Paradise after just arriving? They glared. Reluctantly he flipped the Heart Card.

4.
Dante landed on a dance floor. The neon sign throbbed, ‘The Heart Club.’ The topless girl in leopard skin miniskirt danced up to him, eyeball to eyeball. He felt a chill, but couldn’t help grinding hips with her.

“Why am you here?” he asked.

“To be eaten by desire, Dante.”

Then he realised what the throbbing was. It was his heart. She dug in her red fingernails. Dante felt the moment of puncture, but couldn’t stanch the bleeding.

“Help!” He cried, coughing up arterial blood.

There was a Card tucked in her cleavage. He grabbed at it, desperate. It was ‘Giant’.

5.
Dante heard music coming from The Brobdingnagian Brothers Carnival. Wobbling on giant stilts he stepped over the entrance. The crowds were ants. He would much rather be down there eating hot dogs and candy floss.

While thinking this, the massive crowds began to unbalance him. Then another stilt figure stepped over the ferris wheel. It was a giant lion-head.

“Why are they pushing?” Dante yelled.

“Because they think you are vain and lofty,” the lion said.

By now Dante was toppling over.

“Help me!”

The lion flicked a Card. Dante caught it in mid flight. It was the Credit Card.

6.
“Good luck, sucker,” growled the blonde-headed Lion teller.

Gradually he had emptied Dante’s $20,000 credit card in casino chips. Up $57,000 at first, it was gone. Dante was down to his last.

He returned to the Black Jack table. Leopard Girl attached herself to his shoulder, ready to leap on any gazelle competitor grazing nearby.

Turning up two picture cards, Dante hungering for windfall split them for a double Black Jack.

Wolf Girl, the dealer slid over two. He turned them up. Cruelty and Pain.

“Don’t be greedy,” snarled the she-wolf in her tux. “Choose just one.”

7.
She wore pants, jackboots, SS cap. The suspenders over a malnourished chest made her boyishly desirable. She sang and moved, leopard-sleek and didn’t flinch when his riding crop struck her. So far, prostitution and cabaret art had kept her from the gas showers.

Obersturmfuhrer Dante Engel was not a bad officer, but to love a Jewess had to be negotiated through a masquerade of cruelty in front of other guards, just as her blank face hid her own affection. She bowed theatrically and offered him something tucked in the braid around her visor cap. It was the Pain Card again.

8.
Joy and suffering cohabit. Dante didn’t want to move from their bedroom into the spare room, but she left him no choice., Too accepting, forgiving he’d brought pain upon himself. To leave would be to lose — game, set, house.

It was a matter of pride now. He cared what others would think, so endured their rough trade through the plasterboard. She tortured Dante with her lover’s leonine moves. He felt sick in the gut sitting at the mesa of the table cutting the deck of cards. He didn’t want to play, but fate spoke up. ‘Murder’ tumbled out as he shuffled.

NORVAL JOE

Borle panicked, sweat running freely down his face. Flerdy only shook his head.
Fifteen amazon warriors stood behind the two spacemen, their spears aimed at the two men’s backs.
Before them sat a small man in a wicker chair, his bald pate a mosaic of freckles.
“You see? My daughters very persuasive,” he said and giggled.
“We’ve done nothing wrong. You’re holding us illeagally,” Borle protested.
The small man’s face went blank.
“Don’t lie to me. I know who you are. You’re spies for O’Malley,” he said, calling one of the maidens forward. “Katie. Take the sweaty one for questioning.”

“Mr. Dunderspawn. I’ve been assigned by the state as your lawyer,” a man said from outside his cell.
Dergle swolled as he tried to decide if the man’s wrinkled shirt was originally white or was supposed to be yellow.
“Ok. What do we do now?” Dergle said walking to the bars.
Close up the man’s skin had the same yellow cast as his shirt and his few strands of greesy hair failed to cover the pale baldness of his head.
“You just need to sign this,” he said. “I’ll take care of the rest.”
“But this is blank,” Dergle said.

ZACKMANN

“Your sign says Will Draw Stars Living or Not. Draw me a blank.”
“Like polar bears in a snowstorm?” the street artist asked
“Well you see Doc, I want you to draw me the Blanc. The Blanc, I say.”
“Oh, Sy”
“Si”
“As, Sy?”
“Si. Sorry hard to stop that. Not as Sy but that age. Mel Blanc was the voice or rather voices of my childhood. I remember him better form Man of 10000 Voices interviews but really like the work he did with Benny. Maybe he will be easier to draw since he was in black and white”

PLANET Z

Leo Blankfein was the best accountant, but his sense of direction was total shit.

Hire him for a job in Queens, and he’d call you from Hoboken asking for directions.
Hire him for a job in Yonkers, and he’d call you from Harlem asking for directions.
Hire him for a job in the Bronx, and he’d call you from Staten Island asking for directions.

I tried to test this by hiring him for a job in his own apartment.
And he called me from Riker’s Island.

Okay, so the son of a bitch murdered his wife with a claw hammer.

5 thoughts on “Weekly Challenge #367 – Blank”

  1. Oh dear! Looks like the vagaries of email have conspired to send my stories for this week to that great spam filter in the sky!

    Here’s what you missed…

    #1 – Greedy
    I drew a blank, and a great big smile split my face… my game plan was coming together, all I needed was for my luck to hold out and that space I had my eye on to stay free.

    The game progressed around the table and my heart started to pound, until that idiot on my right crushed my hopes completely by tossing an ‘S’ next to the vacant ‘O’ and claiming the triple word score for a measly six points!

    Sadly, I placed the ‘B’ from my ‘JUKEBOX’ at the end of his ‘SO’… summing up my feelings perfectly.

    #2 – Big Game

    “The trick with rhino, is to nail them with your first shot – once they see you move, they’ll charge and when you’ve got two tons of angry muscle bearing down on you, you can’t afford to miss. Of course, you’ve a second cartridge, if you have time, but it’s always best to take them out with the first one!”

    I nodded and handed him the shotgun.

    He broke it, checked both barrels and smiled with satisfaction, before standing and taking aim.

    As the beast thundered towards him, I felt a grim satisfaction, knowing the cartridges I’d loaded were both blank.

    #3 – Lifeless

    Three storeys down, and George wondered whether he’d ever get out of the hospital. With the power off and the lifts out, it seemed the stairs downwards would ever end.

    Eventually they did end, at a corridor leading to a heavy double-door.

    Slowly, with trembling hands, he pushed it open, releasing a stench of rotting flesh that made him retch.

    Too terrified to move, his eyes swept the room, alighting on pallid flesh, dull, lifeless eyes and horribly blank faces… the room was full of them!

    Zombies!

    No… In his haste to leave, George had stumbled into the mortuary!

  2. Hey hey Laurence…

    Thanks for including my story in this weeks program. As always, I enjoyed tuning in and hearing the authors read their stories. I wanna shoutout to Tura, Munsi, and of course, Lizzie.

    1. I’m so glad you took part in the Challenge, Yordie. You totally got the hang of how to write a drabble. Well done!

      A final comment, interesting how listening to the voice of the author enhances the content of the story so much!

      1. Thanks, Lizzie… I always enjoy hearing you read your stories too. btw, I was kind of role playing myself as Geisha Yordie when I read my story, so, not exactly my regular speaking voice. hehe

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