Call for Submissions: Master Story Creators Anthology

Call for Submissions

Create your own story and join us in our first ever Master Story Creator’s Anthology. The stories will be published online. Bookstore to be announced soon. Proceeds of the anthology will go to charity.

Here’s how to join:

  1. Draw your own genre card. It doesn’t matter if someone else is already doing that genre.
  2. Use at least two (2) Archetypes.
    • Archetypes: (pick 2) The Christ Figure | The Wrathful Father The Tomboy | The Dandy | The Siren
  3. Use the six drawn Keys.
    • Keys: (use all) Old Photograph | Fan | Blood | Wings | Sacrifice | Dragon
  4. Write your story in 1,000 to 3,500 words.

Publish-ready short stories will be considered for the bundle. Don’t forget to submit the following:

  • Name, Age, Occupation (for our file only), and Pen name.
  • Talecraft Cards used : Genre, archetype, keywords.
  • 3-5 sentences about yourself (real or not, this will come out before your story and it will also be used in our marketing campaigns).
  • 3-5 sentence blurb of your story. This will be used for marketing campaigns.
  • Contact # (Cell and Landline) and E-mail.

For minors, please send consent letter of parents, name and contact details of parents. Send submission and/or inquiries to: maita@komikasi.com or feedback@komikasi.com with the subject: Master Story Creator’s Anthology Submission + Name or Master Story Creator’s Anthology Inquiry.

Deadline of submissions is on Nov. 15, 2015.

Writing Prompt: Childhood Cartoon

I recently came upon an album by a Finnish songwriter named Tuomas Holopainen called “The Life and Times of Scrooge.” Yes, you got that right. As in Uncle Scrooge. Scrooge McDuck. And the music was epic and symphonic metal. Very unlike the Uncle Scrooge we know. But it was really good, and somehow worked.

So the challenge today is this: think of a cartoon you’ve watched when you were young. Now, re-write it into a more serious and a little more mature story while keeping the main points of what made it the cartoon you liked.

EsFANage

By Gerese Axalan

She strode up the stone steps leading to the grand Blackwood Mansion, careful not to trip over her ankle-strapped stilettos. If things were any worse, she was also garbed in a skin-tight, bold red, Chinese-collared dress with a dangerous slit that rode up to one side of her thigh. It was not her usual choice of clothing but she had no other options.

She scanned the grounds at peripheral vision and noticed men in polished suits roaming around. They will be dealt later.

There was a mission waiting.

#

“Your name, Mademoiselle?”

She unclasped her slim, black satin clutch and handed over her invitation.

The man glanced at her name and verified it on the list before him. “Ah, Miss Angelique,” he intoned pleasantly, “Dr. Blackwood is delighted to have your presence. Do enjoy your evening.”

She nodded to him coolly and entered the front door.

Phase one was completed.

#

A string quartet playing Brahms and a few dancing couples greeted Angelique at the grand ballroom. Designer-clad women clung to their partners with sheer possession as if one glance from her would steal their men away. Smoldering gazes crept behind her exposed neck and she heard their thoughts; all of them too mean, insecure and plain nonsense. Angelique resigned towards the refreshment table and whipped out a delicate Chinese fan from her clutch. Light breeze calmed her thoughts, enabling her to focus and observe people around.

“Champagne, miss?”

Angelique closed the fan in one flick and decided that she needed a drink. She was about to reach for a flute when a hand snaked upon the curve of her waist and held it there—provocatively. “Shall we toast for success this early?”

Angelique recognized the voice immediately. And the whiff of aftershave trailing it. “Sorry to keep you waiting, dearest,” he murmured at her neck, “had company before making it here.”

She whirled, only to meet Max’s teasing dark eyes that feasted over her body. He blew a curt whistle. “I did not know that our dearest angel possessed such sinful assets.” Clearly, he did not get her cue and still laid his hand at her waist, as if enjoying it. “As you may have read in the briefing thoroughly,” he stressed at his last word, “we are engaged lovebirds who met at Monaco.”

She would have loved to twist his wrist, maim him and bring agony to his handsome face had it only been appropriate at the moment. But the least that they needed was a scandal to blow both their covers. One careless move jeopardized them…and the mission. Her eyes dropped to his hand that remained loyal at her side. He was dedicated in keeping his cover intact.

Max threw his head back and let out a hearty laugh. “God, if only you could speak.”

But being mute was not that a great disadvantage for Angelique. Rather, it proved very useful for her to blend in quietly, undetected in a crowd. Time was not wasted in idle chitchat. Her gift of intuition was also riveting, enabling her to detect people’s intentions from their nonverbal cues. It worked as an extended sensory organ for her that compensated her inability to speak. Combined, these were her aces that efficiently matched what her job required and demanded: precision, stamina and total anonymity.

Then came the signal. “Do indulge me for a dance, will you?”

#

For the next eight minutes, Max filled her with the mansion’s blueprint: rooms, hallways to possible escape routes. He had been infiltrating Dr. Blackwood’s ‘Mad Lab’ for a year already, taking in the guise of a shrewd geneticist.

The ‘Mad Lab’ tested all the limits of sanity, its specialty including sadistic experiments on animals and humans. Top information revealed that the lab recently extracted a primitive gene to be sold to the highest bidder. If possessed by wrong hands, it could promote a nasty return to archaic living.

Max twirled her around then slowly gathered her back, their bodies closer now. “Please be careful,” he told her, “I’ve seen how they torture the spies they’ve caught—not even your innocent, angelic face would save you from their diabolical means.” The piece was coming to an end and Max brought his lips near her ear. “I’ll be at your back.”

The ‘Mad Lab’ proved nothing like its name. It was a well-lit, spacious underground laboratory that Blackwood kept inside his mansion.

Angelique spotted what Max described as the ‘El Monstruo,’ or the monster, a massive machine that controlled all of Mad Lab’s active experiments. Countless switches lined up its surface, each designated to an experiment. Lights blinked in succession while others remained steady. This was the heart of Blackwood’s madness.

Angelique uncapped her fan’s bottom end, revealing a mini flash drive. She found a port and installed a program to override all ongoing experiments. El Monstruo’s rhythmic hum began to choke on the interception.

An alarm sounded off, and soon, footsteps rushed inside the Mad Lab. Angelique was about to escape when a hand yanked her hair hard that chopsticks adorning it tumbled down to the floor. “Looking for your boyfriend, angel-face?” he asked, resting a gun at her temple. “Or must I say, colleague?” He steered her away from El Monstruo and Angelique saw a heavyset man holding Max by the arm.

“She can’t answer you, Blackwood,” Max said, “she’s mute.”

Blackwood smirked at the revelation. “Can’t your office afford a more able choice?” He spun to Max theatrically. “Now, why don’t we perform a little experiment on you?” Blackwood filled a syringe with his sinister liquid and lifted it up for all to see. “Say farewell to your worldly, debonair ways, Maxwell, for before the minute is up, you will be reduced to a Neanderthal for life.”

“No, Blackwood! Don’t do this!” Max pleaded, struggling from his captor’s grip. Sweat glistened at his temples.

“You know I have no patience with traitors. Think of this as your greatest contribution in the name of science.”

“Blackwoo—“

Angelique scooped a chopstick and poked Blackwood’s eye. Blackwood hollered but managed to sink the syringe down Max’s arm. Angelique could only stare in shock.

Max’s eyes glazed over and bent his head down. Then he began to beat his chest, gorilla-style, knocking down test tubes that his hand came at close contact. Shards of glass shot at every direction that Angelique yelped and shielded her face with her hands.

“My creation,” Blackwood declared, diabolical pride ringing in his voice, “the first of its kind.”

Max punched the man restraining him and beat his chest in triumph. He looked behind him and saw Angelique. A lopsided grin formed on his face as he grabbed her waist and swung her towards El Monstruo in a maddened fashion. Her instincts kicked in and Angelique realized that he was staging a diversion. She yanked the fan from the port and slammed its bottom towards Blackwood’s cheek.

“Yeow!” Dr. Blackwood cried, his eyes rolling out in shock. He writhed and slumped to the floor, unconscious.

“A stun gun within a lovely fan. Very clever.” Max muttered, getting Blackwood’s gun. He looked at Angelique. “Come on, we have a ride to catch.”

#

Max dragged her across the ballroom, waving Blackwood’s gun like a maniac and hollering unintelligible words. It also helped that he had Angelique hauled over his shoulder for added effect. King Kong was on the rampage. Blackwood’s guests screamed, stampeded and scrambled off to flee. “’Fraid I’m taking this Neanderthal role seriously, darling,” he said, darting towards the mansion’s back exit. As the heavy door swung open, four uniformed men were waiting. “Oops,” he said, settling Angelique down at her feet, “We have company.”

Angelique stepped calmly in front of him, twirled her fan like a baton and flung it wide open. Tiny tracker darts speed their way to the tuxedoed men’s direction. They dropped to the ground in drowsy slumber.

Max was impressed. “You never miss.”

She nodded smugly and blew the embroidered top of her secret weapon, which was still emitting smoke.

“Show off,” Max grumbled.

Angelique raised an eyebrow at his words and raised her fan at him.

Max blanched. “Oh no, you will not do what you’ve done to those bad guys with me—unless, you would want to walk all the way to your hotel in those torturous heels.”

She swatted him playfully with her fan.

A loud explosion thundered inside the house, shaking the very ground they stood upon. Max stared at Angelique, dumbfounded. “Don’t tell me that your little toy over there also detonated a bomb.”

Angelique shrugged her shoulders and feigned innocence. She fanned herself as if to imply that such a simple accessory was harmless.

Max threw his hands up in defeat. No wonder the quarters wanted her in this assignment.

By now, the ‘Mad Lab’ and its meaningless contents ceased to exist. Mankind will slumber soundly each night and wake up with their modern lifestyle and sanity intact.

Mission completed.

The Brisé Mystique

By Diana Jean Ibay

“Never lose me, and I will grant you your heart’s desire.”

The line was stitched on my Brisé fan in pink-and-gold thread, and upon reading it, I wasn’t able to stop a chuckle from coming out of my lips.

“Yeah, right!” I snorted, rolling my eyes, “That’s what I need now – a magical fan – who would’ve thought?!”

“Why not, then?!”

I jumped up from my Indian sitting position, as soon as I heard the familiar masculine voice speaking up behind me.

I turned around, and after confirming my suspicions, veiled my surprise with a nonchalant inquiry, “Ah, what brings you out here, dear cousin-of-my-bestfriend?!”

“Followed at your heels when I caught you making your great escape from the shindig back there!” he grinned, adding with mock-seriousness, “As well as escaping the hordes of young women your bestfriend Jenny has been desperately trying to match with me!” then, he inclined his head towards me, “You?”

“Fresh air, mostly. God, the air inside nearly got me high from breathing the massive puffs of smoke of all the cigarette brands known to man coming from all direction!” I admitted laughingly, “And, as you know, this is my favorite place inside this exclusive enclave.”

He nodded understandingly, “Of course.”

With no other words exchanged between the two of us, we proceeded to remove our shoes, fold the hems of our respective outfits, and dangle our legs mid-level into the pristine turquoise waters of the pool.

“There’s just something calming and peace-of-mind-restoring when you look at clean water – something purifying and enlightening…” he grinned once more, gazing subtly at me, “Like you, this is my favorite place here.”

I returned the smile, and nodded, opting to keep silent since I had nothing new to add.

We remained that way for quite some time – bliss in silence, with only the cascading waters of the infinity pool breaking the delightful lull.

===~===

I found myself resting my aching head on his strong shoulders, our feet still in the water.

He was speaking about his plans for his immediate future – like pursuing Graduate Studies as he review and prepare for his Librarianship Licensure Exam, and become an assitant-cum-apprentice of the Director of the National Library.

I smiled, wishing that I could have as much foresight and vision as he evidently does, and…

…That somehow I could have a bigger part in his life.

Pathetic, isn’t it?!

For him, I will always be his beautiful cousin’s bestfriend – nothing more.

And, the most painful of all, I can’t help but agree.

For I never went out of my way to make myself larger than life in his eyes, so damn it if I expected something more from him.

This is why I never liked attending parties such as this… It just makes it harder for me to remove such distractions from my system.

Sighing inwardly, I once again eyed my pretty Brisé fan, which seemed to be sparkling with life.

I raised it up, inspecting it closely, and to my surprise, two new words appeared on it.

“Unfold me”

He noticed my sudden apprehension, prodding him to inquire, “What is it?”

I pointed the two words on the fan, shaking my head slowly, “Those weren’t here when I looked at it earlier…”

He looked at me as if he found it hard to believe what I just said, yet he was torn by the fact he has known for a long time: I’m not an inverterate liar, and I don’t lie just for kicks.

“Do it, then.”

The recherché fan throbbed slightly, as my eyes widened and my lips ajar in shock, a melange of thrill and fear pulsing through my veins.

“Should I?”

“You will never know until you do it.”

He closed the miniscule gap between us, then turned towards me, and ended up clasping my fan-holding hand with his own, murmuring, “Let’s do it together, then.”

His eyes never left my face, as his hand prodded mine to do the inevitable.

Slowly, the fan unraveled gloriously on our hands.

Then, there was light…

===~===

“Mommy! Mommy! Wake up! We’re going to be late! Auntie Jenny’s already here! She’s brought Becca and Laurie with her, too! C’mon, Mommy, wake up!” young and excited voices filled the air.

I sat up, and wiped the remnants of my interrupted slumber off my eyes, which I drowsily closed again.

Little hands poked at me, as I stretched and yawned groggily, grumbling, “Didn’t dawn just break a few moments ago?! I think it’s too early to get out of bed just yet…”

“MOMMY!!!”

“Alright, alright!” I immediately waved the white flag, as I covered my deafened ears, “I get your point! Mommy’s on the move now, see?”

My sons cheered joyously, as I stood up, and hurriedly left the room – most probably to tell my best friend and her children that I was awake at last.

Before I got off from my side of the bed, I nudged at my husband, and murmured, “Honey, time to get up now…”

I heard a groan and shuffling of bed linens before I saw any remote hint of a face –

“Lucas…”

===~===

I let go of the fan, as I uttered shakily, “That… That’s not possible!”

I tried to break away, but he caught hold of my waist, “Why is it not possible, then?”

I laughed mirthlessly, “Oh, c’mon! Do you really have to ask that?!” I shook my head in disdain, “You ask me that question, when we both know the answer to that!”

“Why then?” he repeated, as I recoiled from his slight embrace.

“Why?!” I echoed, bristling at the mere thought, “Why?!”

He never made a move to change his query, so I thundered, “You don’t even know I exist beyond my capacity as your cousin’s bestfriend, Lucas!”

Lucas winced, confirming my worst suspicions.

Indeed, I was only his cousin’s closest confidant, partner-in-crime, right-hand-woman (take your pick) in his eyes – nothing more.

I looked away, pain etching itself on my breaking heart.

This is why some people believe Ignorance is bliss.

It is far better not knowing sometimes…

I got on my feet, dusted non-existent filth off my gown’s skirt, and made a move to leave, but Lucas stopped me, catching hold of my hand once more.

“Don’t leave until you hear me out… please?”

I steeled myself for the apology I didn’t want to hear – simply because it will not be the words I yearned for him to tell me for so long.

“Lia, I…” he paused, as if he couldn’t muster enough courage to say whatever it was he wanted me to hear, “I… I like you – a lot.”

Alright, that was certainly not what I expected to hear from him at all.

“What?!” I cried out in shock, then I looked around frantically, “Oh, God! Am I hearing things, or what…?!”

“No, you heard right!” Lucas cried out, tightening his hold on my hand, “I really do like you a lot, Lia! And, when I say a lot, I really do mean-!”

Then, he made a wide circling gesture, like what we do when we emphasize a point about the entire world, and he grinned, “A lot like that, Lia!”

My heartbeat quickened, as I realized the significance of his words, “You… like me?! Like this?” then, I cheekily made a heart gesture with my two hands, eliciting a chuckle and an emphatic nod from him, as well as a brighter smile.

I pulled him closer, and whispered, “No matter how cliché this may sound, but goodness me, I’ve been waiting for this moment to happen for so long…”

The clock tower beside the colossal tree that has been carrying the massive treehouse (where I used to play with his cousin) since time in memoriam, struck the hour of midnight.

He chuckled softly, and gently tilted my face towards his, as I secretly held my breath in anticipation.

Slowly, his lips descended upon mine, and cliché or not, it really felt as if dazzling fireworks were popping and exploding around the two of us, as we shared our first kiss together.

“I could get used to this…” he murmured lovingly, as I gazed at him, my eyes sparkling with delight, and bantered affectionately in return, “You better!”

We kissed again, then catching sight of the unfolded fan knotted securely on my wrist…

“Lia + Lucas”

Life couldn’t get much better than this!

Lovebird

By Miguel Martin Sarmenta

“Eat me!”

The cake was taunting her, daring her to eat just one more bite. It wouldn’t hurt. Just when she was about to resist, the chocolate drizzle seemed to move on its own, lusciously making its way down the white chocolate shavings and chocolate top, over the edge, finally screaming a maliciously playful “Help me!” as it went over the edge, falling to its doom. “Save me!” it called, pointing to the alleged nobility of the deed which should be able to shadow its gluttony.

“All right. If only to save you, my darling!”

She fell right into it.

She scooped the drizzle, and along with it, a seemingly harmless chunk of the cake. “Oh! But who could have just one bite of this?” she thought. So she ended up having another. And another. “Poor chocolate drizzle darlings and fudgie wudgies!” Before she could say “chocolate overload,” guilt slammed into her face.

She cursed herself. “I keep falling for that. Why can’t I stop at just one bite? Why do I even have to begin?”

Belinda didn’t like that she ate too much. She didn’t like that although she was beautiful, smart, witty, fun and talented, the bubble of her confidence kept getting popped by her weight. She didn’t like that she kept eating the wrong things, that she kept promising to diet but kept breaking it, that she even had to diet in the first place. She didn’t like that she was a damsel in disarray, a damsel with an eating disorder.

It didn’t help that she was an assistant associate editor of a fashion magazine. Sure, she kept up with trends, knew her Vera Wangs, Valentinos and Vuittons, but it was a tantalizing ordeal. She could write and edit libraries of articles on them, but she would never be able to wear them like the models do.

Cameras would flash, jewelry would glitter, and those sexy bodies would taunt her like the chocolate overload. She knew that she was working for a culture that celebrated only certain body types and glorified a certain way of being in the world from which she was excluded, but it paid well. Too well for her conscience. They would probably never make her a full-fledged editor, but they needed her excellent command of grammar and writing style. So she stayed hidden between the lines.

She stood up from her cubicle to return what was left of the treacherous cake. On her way, she kept cursing all the things she didn’t like about life, her work and herself. Then she remembered the only one in the world she did like: Rico.

She would wait for Rico like Rapunzel for her rescuer: with eager anticipation and excruciating agony. Her heart would leap for joy whenever the photo shoot for the next issue would draw near. No, Rico was not one of their models. Belinda had no interest in them. Rico was one of their favorite photographers.

She liked him precisely because he enjoyed it behind the scenes, much like she did, far away from prying, judging eyes who would weigh you each chance they had.

Today was no different. She had waited for the moment ever since they chose his studio again for this issue. Of course, Rico did not know of her ardent admiration. Women like her were not allowed those luxuries or bravado. She settled for those fleeting moments when Rico’s gaze met hers, when they would make small conversation during breaks, when he would ask her if the shot was okay, and all the times he could have needled her because of her weight but apparently chose not to.

He was like his masterful photographs: beautifully appearing in nature, carefully put together by lights and shadows in a divine dark room, and the rest of the world is allowed a glimpse. And of all the times he could have teased her, he didn’t. Maybe he knew a bit of how it was to be judged, of how it is to stay behind those who were pretty enough to be adored by the rest of the world, of how it was to be on the other side of the pretty white fence.

Here she was, waiting for him madly again. Less than an hour until he arrives, Belinda did her prop and set check with Menita, their Production Designer.

Menita seemed like a relic from the Spanish occupation. She would shout her “Que Barbaridads” and recite several saints in alphabetical order when her staff was sloppy. She always got on Belinda’s nerve, but the magazine had no choice for this particular issue. They were doing a full spread on a Maria Clara collection by Tesoro. The designs were of course, a fusion of the near-ancient and the now, but no one knew the 1890s like a relic from the times.

So Belinda was stuck with Menita’s stories of Binondo magicians and of forbidden love trysts at the old Manila Post Office. While Menita ranted on, and in between looking at the clock waiting for Rico, a particular prop caught Belinda’s eyes: a Spanish fan.

Its ribs, boleta and fuente were all drenched in darkness. Its rivet, the outermost edge, was laced crimson, making the fan look as though it were dipped in blood. In its leaf, the area for the design, fully spread, was the image of two lovebirds, painted in gold. On the other side of the fan, there was only one golden lovebird left, and its head was downcast.

“It was the fan of Doña Corazon,” Menita began. This time, Belinda listened to her.

“It was a forbidden love. She and her lover fought hard for their relationship, but in the end, they failed. And the poor man was jailed by the guardia civil. From two lovebirds happily enjoying their romance, it happened that Corazon became that lone, downcast lovebird. The fan was passed down through generations, and it became a legend: in one movement, it can either be one’s bliss, or one’s downfall.”

Belinda suddenly dropped the fan.

“The legend goes that if you desires someone else’s love, you must think of him, then you must hold the fan, fully spread. Then in one swift motion, shut it. And with your eyes closed, you must twist the shut fan three times in your hand. Finally, you must open the fan one last time. If the side with the two golden lovebirds are facing you, you will have your man.”

Belinda reached for the fan again.

“But… if it is the side with the lonely lovebird that faces you, then your heart is doomed.”

The whole studio became silent. “But of course, it is all legend – Nada mas!” Menita said, and then broke out cackling as she went to the restroom.

Belinda grabbed the fan. What did she have to lose? Her entire life had been one of golden loneliness, anyway – all that talent and amazing personality, but always passed over. Now that she had this chance to gain Rico’s love, what’s to stop her? If the legend were true, and she could have his love, then this was the ultimate chance.

What did she have to lose? What was one more heartache, one more silly boy lost, one more chance at happiness lost, one more wonderfully idiotic effort of the world to harass her?

She opened the fan, thought of Rico – beautiful, gifted, talented, humble, Rico – then shut it tight. She felt an invisible chain pull her hand away from the fan, but there was no turning back now. She twisted it once, twice, thrice.

The door to the studio suddenly opened. The photographer was here.

But it was not Rico.

“Hi, I’m Joey Cua. I’ve been assigned to substitute for Rico for this project.” He reached out a hand. Belinda shook it coldly.

“W-What?”

“There was a very sudden change of assignment. There’s a shoot in Argentina, and we had to send our best, which was of course, Rico. But you’ll find that my credentials can take care of this project.”

Menita came out of the toilet finally. “Ah! Joey! Como estas?” It turned out she knew him from a past project. She took him through the entire set-up, seeing that Belinda had been rendered motionless.

Not a word. Not an SMS message. Not a note. Nothing. Did she even mean anything to him?

And now, not even a chance to see him, not even for one brief moment. For just one photo shoot, just to make her feel that she was okay. Would the universe deny even this? She thought she wouldn’t care, and she was now angry she did. She suddenly felt the taste of the chocolate from a few hours ago. All the sweetness now bitter and sickly.

She realized she was still holding the fan. She opened the side facing her.

It was the lonely golden lovebird.

High-Kicking Adored

By Raissa Claire Falgui

“It’s the most memorable birthday present I’ve ever gotten,” Yvonne said, smiling up at Rafael. “Well, maybe except for one.”

“Not another engagement ring, I hope,” Rafael said. He looked uneasy. He was awkward and gangly, quite a contrast to graceful and petite Yvonne. She was a ballerina, he was an accountant; an unlikely pairing, but he had worked for their family’s ballet school for many years and they had grown close in that time.

Yvonne looked down at the ring and smiled. “Don’t worry. It was a gift from my grandmother on my seventh birthday.”

Her grandmother, not long retired from her illustrious ballet career, sent her from Paris, where she’d settled down, a music box with a delicate little dancing girl inside, as harbinger of the child’s destiny.

When she came to visit a month later, she asked Yvonne, “Did you like my present?”

“I loved it!”

Grandmother smiled. “It plays music from Swan Lake. You may dance in that yourself someday.”

“The music is lovely,” Yvonne said politely.

“I’m sure you will treasure the box all your life. You will find it useful, too.”

“Oh, I already did!” Yvonne exclaimed. “I brought it to school for show-and-tell and I found it very useful there.”

“To keep your trinkets in?”

“No, better than that. There was a boy in school who was pulling my ponytail and calling me names and threw a stone at me. So I threw the music box. It flew open and it hit him right on the head and the little dancer poked him in the eye. Was he ever mad! But he’s never teased me since.”

“I was surprised when Grandmother left the room in a huff,” Yvonne laughed. “She took the music box back to keep ‘for when I was old enough to appreciate it.’”

“You became a ballerina after all,” Rafael said. “No regrets?”

“Of course not.”

“You never wished you could be something different?”

“Don’t think so.”

“What about all those Kung Fu movies you ask me to take you to? Don’t you wish you could be like those warrior women maybe?”

Yvonne laughed. “That’s just fantasy! I just really appreciate their smooth flowing movements. Why are you so obsessed with the subject anyway?”

Rafael shrugged. “Just wanted to be sure you were happy.”

“Well I am. I have you and I just got the lead role in Don Quixote.’’ Yvonne was to dance in Don Quixote with a world famous Russian danseur. This was her grand coup. Being just after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the world was anxious to show their support to Eastern Europe. The President and all the ambassadors would be at the gala performance.

But when the night arrived, Yvonne had to struggle to keep up her spirits. She knew Rafael would not be there. Not after their quarrel last night.

Four words was all it had taken to break off their engagement. Yvonne was apologizing last night for being too busy with rehearsals to attend to wedding plans.

“It’s just as well,” Rafael said.

After a shocked silence she flew into a rage. He could see how she must have been when she threw that music box at a bully—he ducked when she picked up her handbag.

But she just opened it and pulled out a tissue to blow her nose.

“Don’t you want to get married?” she asked.

“It’s not that, it’s just…” He admitted he was afraid of the responsibility, that he wanted to find himself first; he never really liked being an accountant only he’d never known what he wanted to do with his life in the first place.

Now he went to the backstage entrance, feeling horrible that he’d made her feel bad just before her gala performance. He had to make sure she was all right.

They knew him well there, so they let him in, just after a guy struggling with armloads of floral bouquets.

Then he stopped. Was that a gun he saw the man extract from the flowers? Yes, there could be no mistake. “Hey, stop!”

The man with the gun started running. Rafael tripped over a coil of rope. When he got up he couldn’t see him. He hurried to stage left, where he knew from the music he heard Yvonne would be, waiting for her cue.

He threw his arms around Yvonne. “I’m so glad you’re safe!” he cried, then gasped as he saw the man at the opposite side of the stage raising a gun to his shoulder.

In the front row, they knew, were the President and ambassadors. He must be aiming at one of them.

“What should we do?” Rafael asked. At that moment, came Yvonne’s cue.

Yvonne leapt onstage. She danced all the way across. With a flying leap, she kicked the rifle out of his hand. As he bent over to retrieve it, she pirouetted and kicked him in the chin. As he fell, she caught up his rifle in her scarf.

Back she flew to the opposite side of the stage with the rifle, which she handed to Rafael just before she went to finish her spirited solo.

Rafael dashed backstage, just in time to point the rifle at the assassin with the cliché, “Stop or I’ll shoot.”

At curtain call, amidst the applause and the bravos, the President rose to speak. “Ladies and gentlemen, I have recently been informed that a Communist rebel was attempting to assassinate me and the ambassadors to create international distrust of our government and to wreak national havoc. But the assassin was caught before he could carry out his misdeed, thanks to a dancer and her fiancé.”

These days Yvonne heads the family dancing school, to which she’s added a self-defense course she teaches herself, with the help of her husband, whenever Rafael can spare time from his security business. They are happy, pursuing their loves together. They’re definitely not a couple to mess around with!

The Unvampire

By Michael Emil Luchico

The darkness fell upon the city. Every boy to get his girl is, sadly, trying to be witty. And whilst this endless dance a relatively young one wakes from his trance. A day away from the sun his reserves of blood are now gone. So the young vampire is now awake; so hungry for blood like it was cake. Slowly he opens his coffin whilst his vampire mother is a coughin’.
“Mother, shall we hunt now?” Brimming with gusto and confidence he said, talking to his mother, the vampire undead.
“Hunt?!” Questioned his mother “You?!” She continued to utter.
“Why? Is there a problem?” In his thick accent, he tried to be composed and decent.
“Ever since you lost your fangs, you’re hardly a vampire to me,” she retorted in disdain, even me, the writer can feel her pain.
“Mother, I am brooding as any vampire. I feel pain in the falling of the rain. Sorrow in a flower taken by a crow. I weep for your broken finger tip. Lament about drying cement,” the young vampire wept as his tears fell in contempt.
“My dear…” Mother vampire replied but the young vampire cried.
“I am romantic too! One time I sent flowers to my lover.”
“Oh the marble lady,” Mother vampire sighed
“She was more woman than any real girl,” again the young one cried.
He then picked up an old music box. Opened it and touched the marble girl’s locks. Then he probed his teeth. All is dull, no good for sinking any meat. The box played a sad tune — making you remember rain in the month of June.
“You’re like a puppy my dear. You bit everything from blocks, rats and even dirty ears,” the mom cried. She lost both hope and pride.
“I even wrote her a song,” the young vampire lost in his own thoughts. He sang terribly like scraping pots. “See I am that romantic. I am a true vampire.”
“But why bite the marble woman? You knew you lacked dental fortitude,” this is what she said — exactly what was in her head. “Even your dentist, before you became a vampire, knows that.”
“That’s it! I can be a full-fledged brooding and swooning vampire with fangs once more!” he shouted.
“How my dear?! Tell me quick!” Mommy vampire replied.
“I will schedule a visit to my ole dentist. I’ll have her shave me new fangs! And then we’ll have her for supper,” shouted the young one full of hope, you’d almost think he was on dope.
He then swept his mother to dance. Gingerly, was his step it was almost a prance.
But he was met with a slap. His mother not taking well what she saw, his load of crap.
“There are no dentists at night! Have you ever heard of dental night cap? I don’t think so. And besides…she was last night’s dinner. So stop this folly! And stay here while I get you your food. It’s such a shame. I’m a vampire not a nanny. And how are you supposed to be dashing and debonair if you have no fangs? I’d pray to God if only we weren’t vampires.”
In her anger, she stomped her foot on the floor. Vampires are extra strong, so she wedges the wooden floor, as well as the door. The door shatters, splinters start to scatter. However, a large sharp piece of the door, shaped like a stake, is hurtling towards her: I tell you I feel this threat is no fake. Caught in a state of shock, her body was seemingly stuck. A big thud followed, she’s pretty scared and felt a little hollow. She then realized the stake didn’t hit her. Her son stood on the way and took the stake for his mother.
She wept and held her son. She felt him fading and soon, will be gone. Then he buckled sounds like talking, combined with a chuckle.
She said,“Speak not son, rest. Save your energy. You’ve saved me so I’ll save you too.”
“Worry not mother,” he said in between coughs and seems to sound like laughs. “I am a vampire. I die of stakes that are wooden. Not ones that are painted to look like oak.”
“What do you mean?” the mommy vampire said as her son bled.
“I changed the oak door to polyutherane door. It’s easier to clean. You hunt all night for me. I’m paying you back by keeping our home. And plastics are easier to clean. By the way mom, the plastic flooring is due to be delivered next week.”
The mother wiped a tear. She had nothing to fear. A smile crept on her face. They started cleaning their place. And when they were done, the mommy would hunt and be gone. She planted her son a kiss, in her vampiric heart there was peace. He smiled a fangless grin as if to say “Mommy, bring me a homeless teen.”

A Tale of Two Boxes

By Erica Gonzales

It was supposed to be another trip to a record store. She was in another city, and in a mall a lot farther from the one she usually went to. She was just taking a tour of the large mall, and steering herself toward familiar territory: a tour of what the record stores were like.

She walked into one of the larger record stores, filled with hundreds and thousands of titles, sectioned off into categories. The ends of each rack had a listening area, with a selection of albums found on the rack. She stopped at a few, and listened to some jazz and some new pop music.

She moved on to another rack and was about to check out the albums when she heard a little voice.

“Please help me.”

It came from the end of the rack. But the only thing there was a music box, the size of half a shoe box, surrounded by samples of rock albums.

“Please help me,” the voice said again. It was a male voice, a baritone.

The girl moved closer to the leather-lined music box. She wondered if she was hearing things, or if she had passed an invisible laser of some sort. Her hand reached for the music box, and reached for its lid.

“WAIT! Don’t open the box!” the voice said.

The girl was now sure that the voice came from inside the little box. She wanted to find out how it was possible. Despite the voice’s desperate protests, she flipped open the lid.

Thereafter the poor princely figure inside began to sing—to rasp and to grate—Crawling in my skin, these wounds they would not heal; Fear is how I fall, confusing what is real…

The girl slammed the lid of the music box shut.

The rasping had been in tune, and did justice to Chester Bennington’s rendition of Linkin Park’s well-known song. But the rasping scratched at the girl’s ears, worse than fingernails scored at a blackboard and amplified on loudspeakers.

“Now you understand,” the male voice rasped from inside. “Whenever the lid is opened, I have no choice but to sing this noise.”

So he was a relatively new cursed music box. “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you,” she apologized. “How do I help?”

“There’s a guy like me in the classical music section,” the music box said. “Could you find him? But you’re probably busy…”

“No, no, I’m cool,” she assured the box. Anything to help the poor singer in the box from the torture of his existence. Well, anything to keep people from walking away from a pretty good record store. She placed the music box back onto its table and walked toward the classical music racks.

She heard a small voice as she passed the opera selections. “Hey. Hey!”

She stopped. She was near a table similar to one in the rock section. The voice came from another little music box, silver lined and gothic. “Hey, man, got a gun?”

“Firearms are prohibited,” the girl answered.

“SMB, at least?” the box asked.

“Also prohibited. What’s your sob story, anyway?” She reached for the lid.

“Don’t you dare open the lid!” the music box demanded.

Despite the music box’s protests, the girl opened it and got blasted by a beautiful operatic You raised me up, so I can stand on mountains; You raised me up to walk on stormy seas…which filled her ears and rocked her senses. Josh Groban could not have done better, but this rendition did not send her soaring on the music. Rather, it made her look for a falling chandelier.

She shut the lid. “Let me guess. You hate classical music,” the girl said.

“Gee, how did you find out,” the music box said. “I got switched with this guy…”

“I think I know. What do you mean, ‘switched’?”

“Just get me to where that guy is and we’ll fix things there,” the opera-singing music box said.

The girl did as she was told and brought the box to where she met the rocker music box.

She put both music boxes on the table and opened them simultaneously, letting out a cacophony of classic rock noise. Then she closed them both at once.

“Recognize each other?” she asked them.

“Give me back my music!” the Chester singer box demanded.

“Get me away from those choirs!” the Josh singer box exclaimed.

“QUIET!” the girl ordered, making both boxes silent. “What do I do now?”

“See the plug at the back of my box?” the rocker music box said. “Just attach it to the other guy’s box. That’s it.”

The girl found a short cable running across the back of one of the boxes. She unplugged it and reattached it onto the other music box. She opened that box, and was treated to a beautifully soulful and angsty I tried so hard and got so far, but in the end it doesn’t even matter… before she shut the lid.

“Thanks, man, you saved my life,” the rocker music box now said, back in his element.

“But what about…you know…getting back to your normal sizes?” the girl asked. After all, it looked like actual humans were in those music boxes.

“Nah, I’m good,” the real rocker said. “It’s a good life here. Cool music, good people. And I don’t have to spend for food and lodging.”

“I must agree,” the opera box answered. “Beautiful music, all free. I can live with singing that pop tune once in a while…just not that trash…”

“What did you just call MY music?” the rocker cried.

The girl took up the opera music box and walked with it back to the classical music section.

Then she walked out of the record store, before another music box talked to her.

The Jester’s Quest

By Ma. Katrina Lucas

Once upon a time, there was a young man named Russell.
He isn’t a brave warrior with large muscles and a big heavy sword, and neither is he a powerful wizard who can make entire galaxies dance the tango. Russell is a jester who spends his days making the court laugh. And when he’s not making them laugh, he’s thinking of new ways to make them laugh.
So one day, he sat beneath a tree strumming his harp, forming a nonsensical song about talking animals and singing rocks. The wind toyed with his red hair as he plucked a single string, listening to the note it left lingering in the air. When it died away, someone sat down on the grass beside him and tapped his shoulder.
“Hello, Russell.”
The newcomer was Sir Alden, a real knight and at the same time, a real magician, which was quite rare. Knights chose swords over words; according to them, by the time you finished saying those magical spells, you would already be toasted by a fire-breathing dragon. Swords were a lot straighter to the point. But the reason why Alden started taking up sorcery was that he was beginning to get too old for the battlefield, and still wanted to be useful somehow.
“Hello, Father.” The jester’s bright blue eyes lit up when he saw who had decided to keep him company. To him, Alden was more than just a knight and a magician; he was a foster father; despite Russell’s exceedingly amusing job, his history was far from amusing.
“I know what you’re thinking,” said Alden, grinning.
“All right, what am I thinking?”
“You’re thinking about being a knight, like me,” said the older man, stroking his beard where it was beginning to turn gray. “I know you. As much as you enjoy being the court jester, you want more out of life. Besides, all the jesters I’ve talked to have felt the same way. But are you really sure you want to become a knight for our kingdom?”
It didn’t take too long for Russell to give his answer. “Of course I am. You know that. Maybe it’s about time I put away my little floppy hat and my harp. No, wait, not my harp. I like playing it…”
“In that case, listen to me, my son. There is something you must do…”

When Alden told him what he had to do, Russell expected an epic journey complete with intense action, real adventure, damsels in distress and using bushes for bathrooms. However, it didn’t even take half an hour for him to reach his destination – a huge cavern beside a slow river and a small patch of forest. Besides those, there was not much else – no people to save, no enemies to fight, no dragons to slay, not even stones to be picked out of his shoes…
“Hey, you in the funny costume.”
On second thought, perhaps he was too hasty. But why wasn’t he told to bring a weapon? Maybe this was part of the test…
“Down here.”
Russell looked down. There was nothing there except for the ground and a rock just big enough for him to sit on. He plopped onto it and sighed. Were his ears playing tricks on him, or what?
“Ouch, get off me, you great big clown!”
Exactly one second later, he leapt off it with a yell, his eyes darting about to see who had spoken for the third time. When he caught sight of his rock, he noticed that it now had two beady eyes and an open mouth. Its teeth were tiny, shiny white pebbles. It frowned at him and let out a sigh as Russell crouched down and gaped at it.
“Did you just…”
“Of course I talked. I’m the spirit of this cave. Didn’t your teachers ever tell you about spirits?”
“Yes – “
“Then I don’t need to explain anything. Just get into my cave and take that stupid box.”
The young man scratched his head; this was all too simple to be a test of bravery, strength and everything else knights needed to be. Then again, all this was meant to make him let his guard down and forget his task.
“Are you deaf or something? Take it!” The rock rolled its eyes – which looked a lot weirder than it sounded. “I honestly don’t know how it got there, or why nobody wants it. Off with you!” It sounded so irritated that Russell quickly sprinted inside.
The cave was just as he had expected it would be – dark, damp and rough. Twice he tripped on the jagged floor. Stalactites dripped water onto his head, and he tripped again – this time, over something that seemed out of place on the cave floor.
Before he bent down to pick it up, he instantly knew that it would have to be the box. It looked and felt a lot like an ordinary box, but appearances were deceiving.
Then it dawned on him that he had done it, he had finished his quest! Sure, it was short and a lot less action-packed than he would have preferred, but it still gave him some sense of achievement. Instantly he bolted out of the cavern and ran all the way back to the castle without even saying goodbye to the rock spirit. It was probably all too glad to be rid of him anyway.
When he reached the drawbridge, Sir Alden was waiting for him, smiling widely. He thanked the jester, took the box from him and sighed wistfully. “Oh…I haven’t seen this old thing in a long, long time…”
“What’s in it?” Russell couldn’t help asking. “Gold? Jewels? A shiny new sword? Something that can bring world peace or at least help me become a knight?”
“Good heavens, no.” Alden opened the box and drew out a small, yellowing roll of parchment. “I’ve finally found my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe after all these years!”

A Day at the Park

By Jose Renato Evangelista

Miranda doesn’t understand what has just occurred. She stands there dumbfounded, cradling a bundle of cloth in her arms. She takes a breath and tries to put her thoughts into order.
It was a beautiful day. Not to be cliché, but the sun was shining and the birds were singing and everything in the world seemed like it was in its right place. So Miranda went to the park, as one does on a beautiful day like this.
She skipped merrily to the park’s center, where a charming stone fountain had been erected so that people may enjoy beautiful days while sitting down on a bench and take pleasure in the tranquil sound of flowing water. There was but one person there to sitting at the fountain that day, however: a tired-looking woman, gently rocking an infant in her arms.
“OHMIGODITSSOCUTECANIHOLDHIMPRETTYPLEASE?” Miranda, loud and giggly, exclaimed to the woman.
“Go right ahead.” Replied the woman; a glint of something in her eyes.
“What’s his na—” As Miranda looked up to meet the Mother’s face, she realized with gripping horror that the woman was already halfway to the exit, and with baby in hand Miranda wouldn’t be able to catch her.
“HE’S YOUR PROBLEM NOW! SO LONG SUCKER!” The Mother cackled maniacally and gave a little jump, all while managing to sprint her way to freedom.
And now Miranda is very confused.
A tap on her shoulder was enough to break her dazed stupor; she turned around to see a portly woman with her graying hair in a bun looking quite concerned.
“Oh, how horrible! I saw everything, the poor thing. What a shameless mother!” The woman spoke in one of those faux-pas British accents. Who does she think she is? Madonna?
Miranda struggled to find words to reply to the elderly woman, although she was almost certain that her mouth was open.
Suddenly, a phone rings.
“Let me hold him then.” The elder takes the bundle from the girl effortlessly. The baby had awakened. It was crying. “Go on, take the call.”
“Richard?”
“Hey Mimi, wanna hit the mall?”
“No!”
“Why? What’s happened?”
“It’s awful. I was in the park and this woman she gave me her baby and ran away and now I have the baby and I don’t know what to do.”
“Wait, YOU HAVE A BABY!?”
“Yes, it’s right over—” She turned to the old woman who was now making a desperate dash across the freshly mowed grass, baby in tow. “NOT AGAIN! This can’t be happening…” And so Miranda took chase.
***
Having lost the woman in a city crowd, Miranda can do nothing but take passing glances at the people around her, hoping that one will be able to guide her to the baby-stealer.
Out of the corner of her eye she sees an elderly man; staring at her intently. In his hands he holds an ornate music box. She sighs as he approaches her.
“Listen, mister. Whatever you’re peddling, I’m not interested. Unless it’s, you know, weed.”
“I know whom you seek.” He begins in a low groaning voice.
“Really!? I mean that’s pretty Deus Ex—”
“Her abode lies deep within the city.”
“The sewers?”
“No, it’s that pawn shop by the coffee place on 5th.”
“Oh! They have the best macchiatio—.”
“You must take this!” He thrusts up the music box in his hands, almost hitting the girl in her face. “When the time appears, you shall know what to do.”
“M’kay…” She wrestles the music box from his arthritic fingers.
He points one hand towards a dark alley, to which Miranda turns. A resolute thwap breaks the climactic silence as the old man’s hand meet with Miranda’s lower half.
“And may I say you have the finest—”
Miranda hurriedly ran down the dim pathway.
***
“Hello?” Miranda calls into the musty antique store. “Oh wait, that’s stupid, I shouldn’t shout because—AIIIEEEHHH!!” A rotting plank gives way causing the girl to drop down into the basement.
“Oof. Is it me, or do I not get to finish my sentences any—”
“YOU! How did you find my secret entrance?” There the baby-snatcher stands; a pot of boiling water set beside her.
“What secret entrance?” Miranda whines. “You just saw me fall through the ceiling!” The girl lies in a pile, slightly disgruntled but unhurt.
“No matter, I am almost done with my stew and soon I shall add the final ingredient: A DELICIOUS BABY BOY!”
“You’re going to eat him!? I was sure you were one of those crazy old spinsters who steal babies because they can’t get a man.”
“Silence! I will grant you a boon, if only to see you squirm.” She gestured towards a small mat, where three figures lay. “If you can guess which of those three babies is yours, you may take him. If not, I shall eat you too.”
“That’s easy.” She pointed towards the middle figure. “It’s that one.”
“What? HOW?”
“Well, the one on the left is a Baby Wee-Wee Doll and the one on the right is a cat.”
“…”
“I’m not a total idiot, you know.”
“Bah! It doesn’t matter. I’ll boil you up anyway.” The lady cannibal cackles.
“What!? No fair.”
“Life’s not fair, dear. Now get in the damn pot.”
Miranda needed to think and quickly. The music box! Grasping the wooden chest to her torso she thought back to her conversation with the old man.

And may I say you have the finest—
Nooo!!! That’s not it.
When the time appears, you shall know what to do.
“I know what I must do!”
She stands; an indomitable look on her face.
“What could you possibly—” The wood of the music box crunches as it hits the crone in the face, immediately knocking her to the floor.
Miranda scoops up the baby and runs for it.
“So sorry I couldn’t stay for dinner.”
The girl takes her leave; vowing to never have children herself.