300 Word Writing Challenge -- #54 (July 2024) -- READ FIRST POST!

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Nov 10, 2008
nearly the New Forest

The inspiration image for Challenge #54 is:

P6274005 Vyne 3a.jpg

Image credit: ChrisG


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

In addition to receiving
the Dignified Congratulations/Grovelling Admiration of Your Peers
the winner
has the chance of having his/her story published on the Chrons Podcast!


Only one entry per person

All stories Copyright 2024 by their respective authors,
who grant the Chronicles Network the non-exclusive right to publish them here

This thread will be LOCKED until July 10th 2024
As soon as the thread is unlocked, you may post your story

Entries must be posted no later than July 31st 2024 at 11:59 pm GMT

Voting will open on August 1st 2024 and will close on August 15th 2024 at 11:59 pm GMT
(unless moderators choose to make an extension based on the number of stories)

We ask all entrants to do their best to vote when the time comes

but you do not have to enter a story to vote
as we encourage ALL Chronicles members
to read the stories and take part in choosing the winning entry!

You may cast THREE votes

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


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

This thread is to be used for entries only
Please keep all comments to the DISCUSSION THREAD

** Please do not use the "Like" button in this thread! **

Eternal Flight

It was, Eklund thought, three days before he realised that the staircase was probably infinite, Although there was always the impression of light from an entrance around the corner, it never appeared. Just a continuous spiralling down and down, or up and up.

His first thought was that down might lead to hell. Then again it also went up from his starting point. 'Heaven would be up', he reasoned. Why then had he started walking down? Apart from the notion of leading to a ground floor it was just easier, as many a sinner could verify. Up, then, for what seemed to be a day and a half, to his approximate starting point.

He noticed that he was still not thirsty or hungry. Onward and upward he continued. Then stopped. He couldn’t remember how he arrived here.

Maybe if he walked down again he would find a door that he had entered the staircase through.

The Surgeon entered the ward.
“Nurse Atherton, Mr Eklund is stuck on the staircase again. Can you page a couple of orderlies to bring him back to his room?"

The surgeon flipped through the case notes and turned to Nurse Atherton.
“Tragic brain damage. ‘Goldfish syndrome’ you see. Only fifteen seconds of memory replaying in a loop no long term at all. Up and down that flight all day. By the time he has climbed it he has forgotten where he started. And goes down again, like a new flight each time.”

The orderlies guided Eklund back into his room. He looked around at the newly made bed, water jug and flowers.

“Oh, is this heaven?” he asked.
Our Lady of the Tides

Twice each day, under sun or stars, Giorgio walked along the shore at low tide. He gathered sea creatures he could eat and driftwood that, once dried, would provide a crackling fire, releasing pale blue flames and the sharp scent of the sea. Sometimes he found a watch or a pair of sunglasses lost by a careless tourist that he could sell to Alessandro the pawnbroker.

Today he found an enormous shell, unbroken, elegantly curved, richly decorated by nature in spirals of amber and ivory. A wiser man would have seen it as a source of wealth; for Giorgio, it was a gift to be shared.

He took it to a small chapel frequented by sailors and laid it at the feet of a crudely painted wooden statue of the Virgin. Giorgio knew little of theology – Father Martino thought him hardly more than a pagan – but he knew the Virgin was kind to those who honored her.

One night, as the sea hissed and whispered under a quarter moon, Giorgio saw the Virgin. She lay half in the water and half out, as innocent in her nudity as Eve before the Fall. From the waist down her body was deep emerald; above, palest jade. She beckoned to him, rising a bit from where she rested, and Giorgio saw that she took the form of one who dwelt as easily in the sea as on land.

The Virgin rolled into the water and vanished beneath the waves. Giorgio walked into the sea, discarding his ragged shirt and trousers as earthly burdens he no longer needed. He believed he would drown and enter Paradise, shorn of his sins by the grace of the Virgin. Instead, the Virgin took him by the hand and, with powerful thrusts of her tail, led him home.
Arms Askew in Altoona, Pennsylvania

My husband Henry's 'big joke' is to launch himself from the stairs into our open-plan living area like a speed skater, wooled feet gliding over birch flooring, arms askew, legs pumping like a Norwegian while negotiating furniture, bookcases and kitchen island.
It slayed at our parties, and always left me laughing, until one morning when sunbeams – piercing our floor-to-ceiling windows – revealed twin wear-streaks in the floorboards.
Henry will be finding a new big joke.

In Virtual Directory I chose the first flooring company listed – AAI Refinishers (my motto being 'first is best!').
Turns out this was Android-172 and AI Joseph. They were friendly enough, "Yes, ma'am"-ing me constantly.
I'd expected the work would take days, stripping the floor, sanding, re-varnishing. But AI Joseph – in its blinking travel cube that Android-172 carried about – studied the skating path 'molecularly', while developing work plans for its partner.
Android-172 moved furniture, then used a single device (like a cordless vacuum, with keyboard) to smooth over the skateway, and reseal the bared strips by waving the contraption slowly over the exposed wood. It finished with a quick buffing. Total cost: $49.99.
A "Thanks kindly!" later they were gone, the floor looking terrific.

Quality service was how Artificials came, by 2098, to dominate the flooring, siding, plumbing and electrical contracting in Altoona –
and why nationwide, human unemployment was 36%.

The AAA – Anti-Artificials Alliance (the directory's first-listed militia!) – was founded in Altoona, and Henry battled androids (chiropractors, nurses, electrologists) in the 2107 Uprisings.
I last saw him at war's end, prostrate, arms askew, surrendering to AI cubes (psychologists, historians, songwriters).

Now that the fighting's over, I'm renovating my war-damaged home. AAI Refinishers will be out Thursday to repair the flooring – amazingly, they'd granted a lifetime guarantee for the entire living area!
The Choice of Ones Eternity

I remember as a child running around and playing in the corridors of this vast gallery of paintings and statues. I was mesmerized by how all the artworks would softly flow in animated life while listening to their stories on headphones.

“Only a moment longer, sir.”


The last time I was here was for my mother. Now, for my dad.

“We’re ready, sir.”

“Let’s get on with it, then”

The assistant brought the arm’s length statue and placed it solemnly next to mom’s painting. After a few adjustments, it also began to gently move.

“Ah, yes. Julius Caesar. Most popular before Napoleon with men. And your mom’s choice of a Monette, exquisite!”

Temporal Interment begins at the person’s passing with their ‘Being’ temporally trapped. Their remains and temporal ‘Being’ are then incorporated into their chosen artwork, existing in a perpetual eternal loop in their own mind’s eye. Happily, enthusiastic all the time as if, well, as if they were the center of all things throughout the Universe.

‘It’s all about ME.’

“Your mother’s words are the most heard and quoted of all our dwellers.” A term used for ones temporally interred with their thoughts posted to social media. Something I avoid. “Shall we prepare a plot for you? We have many fine works to choose from.”

I glared at the Director as my mind filled with the sights and sounds of Alpine meadows in all their beauty and peace.

“No thanks, I’ve planned a traditional funeral for myself. In the mountains.”

“Traditional? Buried in the ground and forgotten by all of society forever?

“Nature never forgets a life it brought forth,” I said donning my hat and coat. “But society always does and always will.” My footsteps echoed down the halls as I exited into the rain.
My Body is a Temple

Inside Joe, the Temple Himself, the Brain Scribes were writing fiercely. Joe had been cut off while driving his car, but noticed the woman was around his age; he had expected the traffic offender to be either old or young, and she wasn't quite either. The Scribes' written thoughts were circulated to all parts of the Brain Chamber. Had she not seen him? She hadn't been on her phone or anything. Perhaps something was wrong? Was she drunk? Preoccupied? Angry? She didn't look angry, but you can never really tell.

Then he noticed something. Her car slowed, and had a wobble to its motion. The Brain Scribes indited more, each one saying that the lady was in fact drunk. What should he do? She could get hurt or hurt somebody else. Accidents like these happen all the time.

A few horns honked. Joe slowed down so that he could see the woman through her side window. Roll down your window, ask her what's wrong, the thoughts spread. He opened his window and spoke loud enough to be heard. He noticed that the woman was ducking in her seat.

The woman finally noticed him.

She was beautiful. Dark hair, blue eyes, high cheekbones--Joe's type exactly.

"Oh no!" cried the Brain Scribes in unison, "The Heart Poets are taking over! Don't let them touch you!"

The Heart Poets rushed into the chamber, grabbing the Brain Scribes and adding them to their ranks. Pretty soon, the entire Brain Chamber held only Heart Poets.

"Eyes like the cerulean sea," they wrote, "Raven hair frames a beauty so rare."

In that moment that felt endless, the woman brought out her inhaler and sucked on it. She didn't notice him.

"Oh no!" cried the Heart Poets in unison, "The Cynicism Monster will be upon us soon!"

“Just look at this place. Look at it!”

“I am. I’m not seeing anything to eat.”

Tolly gives Aces a withering look.

“Get your mind off stuffing your face for a minute, willya?”

Aces looks about.

“I see stairs and statues and stuff to hold the roof up. Your point being?”

Tolly sighs.

“That roof. Every part of it crafted to design. Those statues: every one in an alcove built for it. All set about stairs that make you walk past them.”

“Still not getting it.”

“Okay. Think of it this way. How long did it take the village to build Ester’s place?”

“Two days. The hunters were back so we had enough folk to do the lifting and the fixing.”

“Right. For that, Ester traded all her spare medicines and tools. But she still owes favours to us, Odette, and Vince.”

Aces looks about, eyes widening.

“Somebody traded to get this built… So much for a hall: the bit you walk through to get to the other rooms.”

Tolly grins.

“Think what this whole pile must have cost to get put up.”

Aces whistles.

“They’d owe so much they’d never be here! Always out paying it back.”

Tolly nods.

“Not according to old Jessan. He said some of them who got this sort of place played tricks like hiring fighters to protect them from those looking for fair dues for their efforts.”

“If they could hire fighters, why not just pay the builders?”

“I asked that. Jessan said it was a big problem with the old world. People believed too easily.”

Aces frowns.

“Believed in what?”

Tolly shrugs.

“Anyone except themselves.”

A hand. That is all I see. It's been years since anyone joined us. Only the cleaning service comes every month so it doesn't look like such an old house. Every fifteen or twenty years, she decides to paint and renovate the whole house. At least I have some distraction besides my hand. I remember exactly when the woman and the man arrived. Some time after me, but they must be feeling the same as I do. The passage of time and who knows, maybe the madness of the mind too?
I don't know exactly how much time has passed. I just know that she is still alive. I don't know if I'm alive.
What pleasure or perhaps the lack thereof exists in her life? And in mine? Is her heart as cold as I deduce I am, since all I have now is a memory without feeling, a body without being? Can I call this shell by that name? Body? Maybe.
It all started with a sudden interest in the house. Weeks passing by in front, waiting for someone to answer, and nothing. Were the gods of yore protecting me? Until my last breath answered.
She was beautiful, just like me. She invited me in with a smile and offered me tea. It was the beginning of the century and it was common for us to do this with visitors. I don't really know what was in the tea, but mentally I woke up in this position, with no further change. I never closed my eyes again and never stopped seeing my hand. I saw no snakes, much less a petrifying gaze. From what little I noticed, my clothes were now Roman. I'm just here. Inert. Intangible. Immortal.
Hell Hath No Fury

My mother warns me about the God of the Sky.

"Men are not to be trusted," she says as we sit before the hearth fire, worn hands carding through my hair with reverence. "And he least of all."

I take her words to heart, but in the end my caution is of little use. One morning by the river he is there before me, chest bare, legs planted as if to straddle the earth.

"Name your heart's desire, girl." His eyes rake over me like hot coals. "And I shall grant it."

Young as I am, I am no fool. "And the price?"

His grin broadens, blinding me like the sun. "Come, maiden, and I shall show you."

I flee, and fight. But you do not refuse the God of the Sky.

After, he leaves me in the ruined meadow, with a purse of heavy coppers and a white stallion grazing beside me.

The wind whispers. My mother's words again. It is not him you should fear, but what follows after.

I clutch the torn ribbons of my dress as she descends, radiant and hateful.

"So," she spits, eyes blazing in bitterness. "You think yourself worthy of the King of Heaven, do you?" Her lovely mouth twists, a mockery. "Such vanity, and from such a little thing! Well, so be it. A statue, then, for the world to remember you by."

Her arm comes down, and then there is my mother hunched, weeping, at my feet. The wet of her tears slides over the cool marble of my skin. I reach for her, but my arms remain still.

The house closes around me. My mother withers, then fades.

I gather dust while the world turns.
The chronicling of Clórach Bunstachain’s Glomstaphonic recital

Clórach Bunstachain pulled back the cuffs of his overcoat, and armed the Glomstaphone.
  • Zimp. It flanged its first note.
  • Bararunk. The bass thumped.
  • Kerrflash. Billions of tiny lumticules scorched through the air and began vibrating to the thoughts of the assembled crowd.
Three judges frowned in practiced concentration.
  • Zimp. Bararunk. Kerrflash. The starry Neptunian sky seemed to dance in time to the music.
‘Oooh’, went the crowd in unison.
  • Baraunk. Zimp. Kerrflash.
The song echoed into the palace.
  • Zimp. Zimp. Kerrflash.
Overlord Dunsoganny and her minions left the opulence of the great hall, and walked to a balcony overlooking the concert field. And stood listening. Transfixed.

Clórach eventually chambered the Umpergons. And the Glomstaphone fell silent. As did the crowd.

‘Bravo’, yelled Dunsoganny. She then looked to the judges, who sat impassively. ‘I think’, she added.

Robocritic FZB3158 was the first Judge to speak. ‘Insufficient data’, it bleeped.

Robald Hobernon was the second Judge to speak. ‘What my metallic friend here means’, he explained, ‘is that there are not enough reviews logged for it to parse and form an opinion of the music.’

Overlord Dunsoganny nodded.

‘I’, continued Robald, ‘on the other hand, am human. And do not need to copy the opinions of others. I thought it was rubbish.’

Overlord Dunsoganny frowned.

‘I meant rubbish in parts. Otherwise great’, corrected Robald, ‘a mixed bag really. I think I’ll also reserve judgement till after the online reviews.’

The crowd, Clórach Bunstachain, Overlord Dunsoggany, her minions, and the other two Judges turned to Judge Furbinart Honglatone.

‘It would seem’, Furbinart noted, ‘that we should wait to see what the majority of Neptunians think before deciding what we thought.’

Someone in the crowd clapped, stopped, yelled ‘rubbish’, and then clapped again.

Overlord Dunsoggany nodded in agreement, and returned to the great hall.
The Assassins of Herostratus

I hate the beast that comes on wings through all my addled thoughts, despite the gifts it often brings, even when besought.

It’s not Depression’s Cur that follows. Let Cerberus be renamed. Cerberus is not the one that stalks so no ideas remain. Nor any from that charnel place, nor even Tindalos. This hound’s in search of no master, and delights to run amok.

Fog is sky grown tired of floating, no pillars bear it up; it’s now ground-lingering, spent, and tired and blurred; a sucking mud. It walks barefoot, unshod of focus, cuts my feet on broken glass; I wear a tattered mantle of resilience, threadbare, purposeless.

The Gales of Overwhelm inundate. Is that birdsong on the breeze? The chatter of a million TVs?

Or is it just stupid me?

The Assassins of Herostratus have set afire themselves, till all is burnt away. All sense remains forbidden, forgotten at the end of the day. My plans, roots that dry and die at twilight, by morning twist and grow in tortuous yearning. And tomorrow repeat — and tomorrow too — without the joy of learning.

Pass me no more tipless matches that evermore I fail to strike; ideas that with a reddened gum would otherwise burn bright. And Oh! the anger, and Oh! the shame, and no one else around to blame. Is this misery a hand-me-down or did I sire this mad domain?

Let London rains wash my dishes, let the wind sweep my floor. Let hurricanes spin the laundry for the effort that abides with me no more. Bind me in a hospital, bundled in a bed; lock me in a chapel where some idiot gods might fix my head.
What you call laziness, bad ethics — or even Plathian ennui. I know that this erratic cur is undiagnosed ADHD.

One foot after another​

The apparition trod its nightly path up the stairs. For any substantial this would have left the carpet threadbare. For this insubstantial, the only thing worn out was the variety.

You’d think being a ghost would open new horizons of opportunity. Looking into locked boxes, scaring cats, making dogs bark and occasionally, scaring the odd substantial.

When the option came to become a ghost, they’d chosen it in an instant. The brochure showing the heavenly variations had felt just a touch too glossy to choose.

The detail as ever though, the small print.

They’d thought it a joke at first. A prank played on a noob ghost by other older insubstantials. After ten nights of walking up the same damn stairs they knew not. The catch? Locked into re-enacting the last few minutes of their life. From dusk to dawn, day to day, month to month, year to year, ad infinitum.

Reaching the top of the stairs they paused, not to delay the inevitable, but doing the same as they did in life.
Here it came, the feeling, that itchy pressure rising through a chest and into nostrils that they once had but now didn’t. The sneeze, when it came, still had the power to close their eyes. Which made no difference as they could see through the lids anyway.

For a moment they tottered on the brink of extinction, grasping at a stair post that fingers slipped off in life and slipped through in death. Arms flailing, windmilling in a desperate attempt to grasp something, anything. One leg stretched out in a vein effort to break the law of gravity.

Then the fall.

Cartwheeling back to the start. No pain, just reset.

And bottom of the monotonous stairs… again.

Step, trudge, slog… even Sisyphus had a boulder to push.