300-word Writing Challenge #36 (January 2020) -- READ FIRST POST!

Ursa major

Bearly Believable
Staff member
Aug 7, 2007

The inspiration image for Challenge#36 is:


Image credit: From The Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library.


To write a story in 300 words or fewer
INSPIRED by the image provided above, in the genre of
Science Fiction, Fantasy, or other Speculative Fiction


Only one entry per person

All stories Copyright 2020 by their respective authors,
who grant the Chronicles Network the non-exclusive right to publish them here

This thread will be CLOSED until January the 10th 2020
As soon as the thread is unlocked, you may post your story

Entries must be posted no later than January the 31st 2020,
at 11:59 pm GMT

Voting will close February the 15th, 2020 at 11:59 pm GMT
(unless moderators choose to make an extension based on the number of stories)

You do not have to enter a story to vote -- in fact, we encourage ALL Chronicles members
to read the stories and vote for their favourites

You may cast THREE votes

NO links, commentary or extraneous material in the posts, please -- the stories must stand on their own


For a further explanation of the rules see Rules for the Writing Challenges

This thread to be used for entries only:

Please keep all comments to the

(Please do not "Like" posts in this thread)


Independent Author & Publisher
Oct 29, 2013
West Sussex, UK
The Beaching of the Marmaduke

“Use the cannon.”
What am I supposed to do with a cannon?
Nine thousand spactar from my spawning bed, I have freed myself and ruined this barbarian fortification. The surviving bipeds have fled.
“Kimla, use the cannon.”
Again, a whisper from the dying: my dynast, lying in a pool of purple ichor. That such a noble flood should be caused by savages is disgraceful.
“Venerati, I have not the means to load the weapon. In honesty, I do not think it powerful enough to affect their vessel.”
My dynast forces himself upright. Ichor spurts. He smiles.
“Daughter of my last clutch, I’ll not make it back to the forest. I’m not asking you to make a final stand. I’m telling you to knock a hole in their precious boat so you have time to get back to the ship and evacuate our survivors.”
I crouch by him and rest my crest against his.
“By ichor, by wing, for clutch and common, I obey.”
Standing up, I gauge the distance and fire my ichor, banking the fury necessary for a spurt of strength followed by a flying retreat. With a roar, I loft the cannon, spin twice, and hurl it out over the bay.
I am headed for the forest before I hear it hit.

John Dutton watches from the tilted forecastle of his beached galleon as something dark thunders into the heavens atop a pillar of pale fire.
He turns to his deputy.
“Mister Stringer, there will no journaling of this week, nor as to why we search and clear the Great Wood. Leave repairing the ship for the nonce. Make sure to build a goodly pyre for those unholy carcasses, and set the chaplain to praying until dawn. Lastly: we need a new fort.”


Delusions of Grammar
Aug 3, 2014
Ballynahinch, County Down
Compass Rose

Rose ordered a course change: two points to port.

The Vengeance ghosted under foresail, water singing along her hull. The landing place loomed out of the darkness, its skeletal crane creaking like a gibbet as they passed.

A pale arc ahead resolved into a stony beach, closing fast. Helm croaked a protest, but he held his course, even as sand grated beneath the keel.

Rose raised her hand.

The crew hauled, bare feet stamping a rhythm. As they dragged a tarpaulin clear, the shapeless lump just forward of the main mast was revealed. Wings unfurled; powerful muscles thrust the creature into air filled with the stench of reptile and sulphur.

Its fierce downdraught swept the crew aside. Vengeance heeled, her deck canting impossibly as dragon harness caught on a spar, then wood splintered and the creature was free.

The island fell away beneath them, blurred by the speed of their flight. Would the dragon fly straight and true, as Rose had been promised, or would it diverge from the course she'd laid so carefully?

Jacob's Ladder flashed by, the top of the mountain too close for comfort, then Longwood House came into view, a sprawling building surrounded by balconies, lawns and fountains. A luxurious prison for an Emperor gone to seed — a traitor who had betrayed them all.

"Bombs away!"

Every grenade hit its target. Vengeance rocked to the blasts, but dragon-speed drew them clear.

In the moment of utter silence that followed, as if all air had been sucked from the world, Rose's heart sang at the honour she'd been given. Then the Longwood arsenal exploded. The force flung Vengeance into the mountain, splintering her to matchwood.

Rose cared not, because now her name would be burned into the history books:

Compass Rose, Wielder of Fire and Vengeance.

Cat's Cradle

Time, now, to read...
Mar 3, 2014

The photo on the easel is switched for another by someone I can’t clearly see. The lighting is arranged so the easel is illuminated while all else is darkness.

“No, try again,” says my unknown inquisitor.

The new photograph is one I thought lost long ago. It’s Tony and I, standing beside his old Pontiac. I’m wearing my blue prom dress and we’re impossibly young.

I think my life truly began that evening – we became engaged, much to my parents’ horror, and stayed married 50 years, till Tony’s passing. It’s my favorite picture of us, and seeing it again overwhelms me with the sadder part of happiness.

“That’s me.”

The picture is exchanged.

“No, try again.”

My older brother and I as kids, holding a treasure map. He drew them for my birthdays. He’d hide my gifts in the woods, buried inside a blue, metal lockbox, and take his little brother on adventures of discovery.

We were born on the same day, two years apart. He told my wife once that he’d tried to make my birthdays special because I was the best birthday gift he’d ever received. So corny, but so him.

“It’s me, I’m certain.”

“No, try again.”

An azure haze traverses my vision, and for a moment I can’t focus on the next picture ...

A well-lit room, a woman and man in lab coats, grinning. They stand beside tall racks of fiber-optics fed computer equipment. On a table before them is an LED monitor whose screen’s only content are the words, Greetings, doctors – I am here. A webcam attached to the monitor radiates blue light that flows into me, fills me.

There’s handwriting across the photograph’s bottom: Finally – consciousness! 6/9/27

“God, that too, but ... these can’t all be me?”

The photo’s replaced.

“Try again.”

Victoria Silverwolf

Vegetarian Werewolf
Dec 9, 2012
Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
From Hell's Heart I Stab At Thee

The nameless ship with black sails drifted eternally between the gray shroud of the sky and the gray mirror of the sea. There was never day or night, never sun, moon, or stars, although there was always enough light for the crew to perform their endless chores. They wept and cursed, but never failed at their tasks, because rebellion drew the attention of the Captain, and one sight of the Captain was enough to drive a living man mad; a luxury which the crew did not enjoy.

Among the crew was one who had been a captain himself, although he now labored as an ordinary seaman. He looked like a man torn asunder, and welded back together by an unsure hand. A mighty scar, much like a bolt of lightning, ran from the top of his head to his knee, where it ended at the same place where a hand-carved leg of ivory began. Despite this infirmity, he labored with the strength of a man one-third his age, and spoke no word of complaint.

This fired the curiosity of the Captain, who summoned him to his quarters. The man showed no fear, which amazed and delighted the Captain, who grew bored of his crew.

"I would grant you a boon for your service," the Captain said.

"Return me to my enemy, that I might slay him."

"If I do such a thing, you will taste of death again."

"Aye. And though its bitterness be beyond measure, eagerly will I feast upon it, if my foe does also."

Because the Captain was the father of lies, he knew the man spoke truly; and because he was the symbol of pride and hate, he gave the man his wish. The man and the whale died together, and the Captain smiled.

Ian Fortytwo

I'm not crazy, my reality is tnereffid than yours.
Dec 30, 2018
Somewhere on this mortal coil.
Why did you steal a ship's biscuit?

"Why did you steal a ship's biscuit?" was shouted at me.

I was never going to answer, I waited for the cat of nine tails to strike my naked back. I would teach these humans a lesson in humility. I wouldn't feel anything and they couldn't draw a drop of blood.

They struck with a deathly strike several times, if I had been a human, I would have fallen to the ground by now. However I remained stoically upright feeling nothing.
Soon they realised their mistake, and one of them drew a musket and fired at me. Still I didn't feel a thing.

Suddenly I broke my chains and turned on them. Several muskets shot at me, still nothing.

Why would humans never learn a lesson and accept us aliens.

Soon many bodies surrounded me, yet none of them were dead, only unconscious and bruised.

I looked around with a smile on my face.

Then unexpectedly a shout, "Cut, that's a wrap."
And the director had a smile on his face as well.


Dec 28, 2019
Here There Be Teachers

"Don't you understand the assignment, Andy?" asked Mr. Mahoney, once they were alone, "You were told to draw a map of a real country, like Japan or Spain. There's no such place as--" he examined the print, "--Karthesia."

"There is!" Andy protested, face rubicund, "It's in the Atlantic, but it's got an invisible curtain around it!"

Mahoney frowned at the boy. He had never seemed the type to make waves.

The drawing--though it looked more like a painted parchment--was well-done, imaginitive. There were even sea monsters in the olive ocean. But this was History, not Art.

Mahoney grabbed the paper, but no sooner had he touched it than he'd fallen through it.

He fell into the ocean, cold but unharmed. He had company; a big, angry cloud blew him away, and a sea serpent, maw gaping, slithered his way. He screamed.

Just then, as if summoned from nowhere, a ship came into view. Arrows arced and pierced the monster. A crew of men in strange attire managed to hoist him onboard. There, they pointed their swords at him and furiously questioned him in a foreign tongue. Mahoney screamed once again as they drew nearer.

"All right! Karthesia is real! Please, help!"

A giant hand dipped down from the heavens and carried him upwards. He was now beside Andy again, though drenched and fatigued.

"Okay," he panted, "A+."
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Easily amused
Feb 21, 2006
Ontario, Canada

Dear Eleanor,
We’ve arrived!
It’s so green here and there are lakes everywhere. Outside, the air is fresh, with a beautiful clear blue sky. The sound the water makes is amazing. I’ve even heard birds chirping.
They whisked us off to ‘The Fort’ for the first night. We rested up and received our allotment packages. So excited for tomorrow!

Dear Eleanor,
Our holding is huge! You could fit three bedsits in our prefab, and the amount of land for our use is almost obscene. You’ll be envious when you see the pictures, though it all has to be cleared for growing. There’s a few machines, but it’s mostly manual labour. No need for the gym here :).
Working outside is incredible!

Dear Eleanor,
What a great community we have. To be honest, I had some doubts about this venture. But the weather is just perfect, and the first crops have been harvested. An awesome bounty! After living with rations for so long, it’s nice to have an excess. Hopefully all you folks back home will benefit soon.
Miss you,

Dear Eleanor,
We’ve heard about war breaking out. I can’t imagine what you are going through. Why couldn’t they wait? The solution is right here. We’ve found a place rich with resources. It’s just going to take some time to get them shipped back. Then there will be plenty for everyone.

We’ve got news about the bombs. Did you get your evacuation passage??? This place can accommodate all our people and then some. Our fortifications are state of the art. They’ll keep everyone safe should the other colonies take sides.


Where are you? No one’s heard anything. Please get back to me ASAP.
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"If Sandfella tickles, giva he a fry"
Sep 9, 2016
Cumbria UK
For the Gander

Colony world C18. Settlement 26.

The alarms began wailing from the watchtowers, the workers dropped their tools and ran for the fort.
Mothers snatched up babies and hurried after them, as the older children hurried in well drilled columns.

Soon all were behind the walls, the gun crews training their weapons onto the approaching vessels. Now was the chance to try the smuggled weaponry, purchased at such a heart-breaking price.

The defenders yelled in despair as force screens withstood the lasers and the craft beached, hordes of marines swarming up the sand, frantic small arms fire bouncing off their armour.

The overwhelmed defenders lay stunned and unconscious as the Hunt-master inspected the haul, marking the ones for shipment and the ones to be released.

“The tariffs allow for 110 here, then 20 years before we can return to this settlement. We should reach their next settlement by nightfall”

The marine captain gestured to three islander corpses, “Can’t we have a -”
“No!” snapped the Hunt-master.
“All accidental kills are reserved for His Imperial Majesty, do you know the value of one of these?
More than your entire company could earn in a lifetime.

Ever since they ventured out with their colony ships two thousand years ago, the fermented juices from human brains has made the most piquant and exquisite sauce in all the eight galaxies”

Jesse Harris

Jan 12, 2020
To Whom Much is Given, Much Will Be Required

Zeke began rolling the old dusty map out along the top of the dais positioned at the center of inner sanctum. The dust of a dead civilization long gone coating everything in the temple. The light from his portable plasma bulbs illuminating the map and casting shadows across all of the decorations, statues, and symbols adorning the room.

He looked up at the main skylight. It was a clear winter night, the stars shining brightly. The secondary skylight was a prism, splitting the light, shooting it against the mirror on the wall. The mirror possessed a special coating that recombined the light. It was showing a near perfect reflection of the night sky.

Zeke dimmed the plasma bulbs. Slowly he lifted the map so he was looking at the reflection through the thin map. He matched the compass to the pole star, Polaris Australis, and the four ships to the Southern Cross. He saw the fort and Octans line up. Alpha and Beta Centauri aligned with the bridge and the landing place. Canopus and the lone galleon matched perfectly.

He looked at the spring house, noting its location against the starscape in his dataslate.

"That old man was right, this planet, this temple, this map; it will lead us to the creators," Zeke thought. "That old man, the heretic of Signus Prime, was right. He spouted about how humans had been the best creation yet the suffered the worst of fates. He rambled how they were given special revelations, that the creators wanted them to come home, but they squandered it all."

Reflecting on his new discovery, Zeke set course for the unknown star, to the source of all life, to get the answers he and all the various alien races of the galaxy so deeply desired.


Shropshire, U.K.
Feb 13, 2006
Shropshire, U.K.
Not Long Now.

It could be worse. It seems I'm below decks on some kind of wooden ship. Question is 'when?'.

Life as a time traveller is difficult enough without having accidentally scrambled the calibrations of the 'where and when' controls on the hand-held. One day a press of the button will get me back close to home but, in the meantime, things are somewhat unpredictable.

Perhaps 'ship' was an over simplification. There are cannons, lots of them. This is a warship. A big one. Time to move on I think before life becomes interesting. Trouble is the capacitors are still recharging so I'll have to 'merge in to the background' for a few moments until the red light turns green.

Fortunately it's fairly dark down here with shadowy places to stand and do nothing and the crew are preoccupied loading the guns. Although there's no actual firing - from this ship, or any other as far as I can tell. It's hellish noisy, there's lots of shouting and issuing of orders - English I think. Perhaps it's a drill. Looks like I've got time to wait this one out.

The nearest cannon is last in line, up against a bulkhead. It's a big brute and going to take some man-handling. I guess the gunners are leaving it to last or it's already loaded. I'll hunker down next to it, out of sight. Not long now.

I think I've just answered the 'when?' question for myself. The gun carries an inscription below a Tudor Rose. It reads, if my Latin serves me correctly, 'Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God King of England and France. Royal Armouries 1537. Mary Rose.'

More activity now. They're opening the gun ports and I can feel the ship coming around. The light's still red...


New Member
Jan 9, 2020
One Act...

The sharp pinch of Hedge's dagger into his back makes Gef jump forward, stumbling down the Ladder a few more steps. The rope around his waist and wrists being yanked taunt by his sudden weight on it causing the Wardsman at the other end to snapped "Hey!"

The Wardsman on the rope was Mell Jenkinson and Gef's best friend since they had both been pups in Longwood. They had chased finches into laundry lines, stole sweet breads from Mama Henna, and made themselves sick on Old Tuck's wild tobacco. Once they had even made Merchant Ines' fur to turn purple right before the County Fair in Longwood.

"You should have know better, Gef," Mell says. "Picking a fight with Murine was just stupid."

Gef felt a twinge of guilt at Mell's words...far more because Mell said them than for what he had done.

The old, sandstone stairs they walked on, called the Ladder, leads down to the Fort and Port Town before it. The Fort sits in the middle of the wide end of the valley and looks out over the sea. This is where they are heading. The Fort and the hearing that awaits Gef getting closer with each step down.

Hedge coughed angrily and growled. "He's not deservin' any kindness."

"Nor wounds," replied Mell acidly glancing sidelong at Hedge.

Hedge humphed at that.

"Get moving, Gef," Mell continued. "Go on..."

The path at the end of the stairs is almost under foot now and Gef feels the shadow of coming change pass over him. He could not shake the feelings that gripped him as he thought of what was coming.

He could not rid himself of the cold certainty he felt in his chest. He thought of Mell and their friendship.

And that it was no more...