How would you end this story?

Here's the beginning of the story the Anchorite gave me, and my ending (in bold):

        The others always told me that the first time would be so special and make me like them. I always felt like I was missing out, but now all I can think of are the nerves, the sweat, the writhing, and feeling so sick afterward. It wasn't anything like they told me, it was neither accomplishment nor triumph, so here I am curled up trying to forget the whole horrible experience.
        But that's just my upbringing, my guilt complex, all the childish things I've put aside. Tomorrow I'll feel better. Maybe I feel better already.
I think--I think I like killing.

How would you end this story?

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Story: Fear of Spiders, a Stolen Ring, and a Sinister Stranger

Fear of spiders, a ring and a sinister stranger ... how bad can things get?

My writing prompt was to write a short story based on three elements: fear of spiders, a stolen ring and a sinister stranger. I tried to make it as unexpected as possible

Fear of Spiders

I don't know how it got here and it's not my fault, the nasty hard, harsh, glaring thing--round, cold and not delicious at all. I almost broke a stinger on it. I didn't take it. I don't deserve for the monster to come for me, but it's coming, it's coming, so ugly, so pale, with curling tendrils on its head the same color as this inedible ring, and only four appendages rather than eight glorious ones like mine. It lumbers toward me, dressed in pale polka dots and lace and carrying a small version of itself.

Now its shadow falls across my web.

I'm sorry I stole your ring.

I am so afraid.

Wanna see more great stories? Click here.
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Tandem Story: The Twin Goddess (for adults)

The Anchorite wrote this story in answer to my request to write a story featuring two lesbian goddess, one good, one evil, who fought over the fate of mankind, but who had much more in common with each other than with any mortal. 
This is the second installment. So far, the Zobulian Tarnas has raped and murdered the goddess Tirala's daughter, and Tirala has punished Zobul with pestilence, drought, and all the usual. It's a pretty serious story. Until I come in at the end. It's not a pornographic story, but it has some serious adult themes, so don't read it to your kids before bed. Or do. I'm sure they hear worse at school.

The text in bold is me, the regular text is the Anchorite.

The Twin Goddess

Tirala strode through the once-fertile plains of Zobul with a single-minded purpose towards a nondescript farm a few leagues away from a small village. She found him standing in the middle of a barren field when she arrived. He stood erect with his hat held in his hands as a gentleman’s respectful gesture. Tirala’s senses enhanced beyond any mortal’s perceived his struggle to maintain his dignity and composure standing against her divine status and solemn mission. She was impressed by his demeanor as most who faced the goddess’s judgment met her with sobbing pleas as pathetic as they were ineffective before she killed them. Tirala removed the scale with one hand and pointed an accusatory finger with the other.

“Tarnas of Zobul, your judgment is at hand for the rape and murder of Korana, beloved daughter of Zobul’s harvest goddess. Your crime alone is enough to warrant the harshest judgment, but your actions also drove Beruda into such grief that she abandoned this land and has disappeared beyond the ken of all eyes mortal and divine. You have sentenced your homeland to a slow, painful wasting death. Have you anything to say in your defense, mortal?”

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MKMM Preface

 Mr. Kitten Murder Mystery Preface

The fluffy black cat stared at the computer screen for a long time. Then he began to type.
A parrot, a piano, a fish and dead lawyer in a clown suit at the bottom of the stairs--how did it add up to murder? This is the story behind the story that transfixed the nation, the Reality Murders, which gained their sobriquet not because of existential angst, but because--
 Twitch jumped onto the desk, pushed his nose against the screen, and read very slowly. "You writing sounds a little uptight," he said. "What's a sobriquet?"

Kitten stared at the back of Twitch's head. "It means a nickname and is derived from the French word sot, meaning 'foolish,' and the Italian word bricco, meaning an--"


"--ass," Mr. Kitten finished.

"Whatever." Twitch stood on his hind legs and stretched, scraping his claws against the top of the monitor. "So what do angst and existential mean?"

Kitten took a deep breath. "The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard is considered the father of modern existential--"


Kitten spoke in a tight voice. "If you're so interesting, why don't you write it, and I'll just block your view of the screen and ask stupid questions?"


The cats traded places.
Hey, I'm Twitch! Okay, the most exciting thing happened. There was this guy, and he like fell down the, whoa, what does this button do? Comic sans? Hey, look at this, Kitten. TrebuchetCourier. Are you reading this Mr. Kitten? You should use courier and do it all noir like the Maltese Falcon. Okay, I'm gonna open Internet Explorer and go to now. Ha, ha. I love that site. Are you reading this? Ouch, hey, stop it. Hey, HEY, HEY!!!

Two hours later, the cats stared at the computer side by side.

"I'm sorry, I bit you," Mr. Kitten finally said.


"I assume you're sorry you tore my ear."


"Although, I must say, if you hadn't bled on the human's shoe, we wouldn't have had to go to the vet."

Twitch laughed. "If you hadn't cried like a baby, she wouldn't have come running."

"I was trying to get assistance for your injuries"

"Is that also why you peed in the cat carrier?"


"Okay, I'm sorry we fought," Mr. Kitten said. "It's just that my art is important to me. I'm a writer. I want this book to..." Mr. Kitten didn't finish the thought, but Twitch knew what he meant.

"I understand."
Ever since Twitch's picture appeared in the New York Times bestselling book, How to Take Over the Wurld, Mr. Kitten had turned his considerable intellect toward getting on the bestseller list himself. Twitch’s book was a collection of funny cat pictures with captions, taken from the famous website  A book about the murders at Gibbous Manor represented Mr. Kitten’s big opportunity, but he was having a hard time getting started. Twitch understood Kitten's desire to earn fame on his own. And, although Kitten was a pampered housecat, he had had his start on the mean streets of East San Jose, and he had a streak of cruelty it was wise to steer clear of. This was definitely not the time for Twitch to mention how handsome he had looked on icanhascheezburger, posed next to a squirrel, lounging in the garden window, framed by a blooming crepe myrtle tree with the autumn sun shining through his black fur. It would not be wise for Twitch to remind Kitten of his triumph. And it certainly wouldn't make sense to suggest to Kitten that he use Twitch's picture for the cover of his book.

He suggested it anyway.

Three hours later, in separate side by side cages at the overnight emergency vet hospital, Twitch and Mr. Kitten decided to let Chris Hugh write the book.

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A writing exercise involving four main characters from the Mr. Kitten Murder Mystery

These are the scenarios: the character is confronted by a mugger, a roach jumps on his plate at a very fancy dinner (like at the White House), he wins $10,000,000 dollars, he witnesses a serious accident, a bum asks him for money

Helen (the wealthy, overweight, beautiful and cat crazy main human)

-----Your money or your life!

Helen is so scared, she's shaking and has stress incontinence. Or maybe it's anger? In either case, she gets that money out right away, but, inexplicably, just stands there, frozen, instead of running away. Afterwards, she's so angry she's spitting fire for the next week. Or month. Then she gets PTSD.


She's embarassed, as if it were a reflection on her. She would like to just ignore it and not draw attention to herself, but since she's already screamed and knocked over her chair....

------Ten million dollars!

She's excited and wants to donate all $4,000,000 (after taxes) to a charity in Africa. When her research convinces her that most charity money ends up in the hands of local warlords, she donates the money to Best Friends, an animal shelter in the American Southwest. She also almost spends another $4,000,000 of her own money buying a condo on the residential luxury cruise ship, the Residensea, but decides against it because they don't allow pets.

------Whoops, serious accident

She hardly knows what to do, can barely dial 911, she's shaking so badly. Then she haltingly walks toward the accident, scared of what she'll see, with a vague idea of rendering aid, but also with the belief that she's pretty useless. Finally arriving at the scene, she discovers a victim bleeding badly and possibly with a broken neck. She staunches the blood with her hands, then wakes up a little and realizes she needs to use something as a bandage. She removes her shirt and uses that as a bandage. By the time bystanders come along and try to move the patient, she's in charge. She countermands that, and directs them to look for other victims and render them aid, being careful not to move them. She lost something undefinable when she was mugged. She regains it through this incident.

-----Bum asks for money

She gives him $5 along with a smile and "good luck"

Steve, her adoring husband and CEO of IDK Gaming

-----Your money or your life!

Steve hands the money over in a friendly manner, chats a bit and walks away. Then he reports it to the police, avoids telling Helen so as not to disturb her, and forgets about it.


He purses his lips in thought and looks at it. It runs off and he forgets about it. Then he gets concerned that the food might be unsanitary (he's concerned for Helen, not himself), but decides not to say anything, so as not to disturb her.

------Ten million dollars!

He's pleased and slightly bemused. He lets Helen decide what to do.

------Whoops, serious accident

He relies on his CERT and SAFE training and functions perfectly. He's calm and in control. The incident is one of the highpoints of his life.

-----Bum asks for money

He gives him $5, but for some reason dislikes the bum more than the mugger.

Twitch, everyone knows Twitch

-----Your money or your life!

It takes Twitch a while to understand the concept. When he does, he laughs, disarms the mugger, and playfully forces him to say and do various humiliating things, such as giving him a piggyback right while neighing like a horse. Eventually Twitch gets bored. As he leaves, he gives the mugger all his money.


Cool! He makes a bit of a spectacle chasing after it, and raises eyebrows when he eats it.

------Ten million dollars!

He keeps forgetting to collect it. Then he forgets he has it.

------Whoops, serious accident

Wow, that looks bad. He watches in fascination until something else draws his interest.

-----Bum asks for money

It takes Twitch a while to understand the concept. When he does, he laughs, disarms the mugger, and playfully forces him to say and do various humiliating things, such as giving him a piggyback right while neighing like a horse. Eventually Twitch gets bored. As he leaves the mugger (in tears, and sprawled on the pavement), he gives him all his money.


Mr. Kitten

-----Your money or your life!

Mr. Kitten considers this. If he doesn't give the mugger his money, the mugger will kill him. Mr. Kitten does not wish to give the mugger his money, so the mugger will kill him. Unless he kills the mugger first. Which he does.


He watches impassively until he can't stand it anymore and pounces!

------Ten million dollars!

He invests it using a balanced and fairly conservative strategy.

------Whoops, serious accident

He watches.

-----Bum asks for money

He walks on past.

And a bonus, Blondhilda, the Norse Warrior Goddess

-----Your money or your life!

Blondhilda makes much the same calculation Mr. Kitten does, and takes this as a challenge to mortal combat. It's a good day. She so seldom has the opportunity to blood her sword. Some undefinable tension that she had barely been aware of is released. She really needs to kill more.


She flicks it away, just as she does in the halls of Valhalla.

------Ten million dollars!

How nice. Perhaps Stanley will like this trinket.

------Whoops, serious accident

She renders aid to the best of her knowledge and ability. By the time paramedics arrive, the victims are healthy, hale and eager for battle.

-----Bum asks for money

The bum walks away in disgust after failing to convey the concept of begging to a goddess who is constitutionally incapable of ever understanding.

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LOLshark interview

This is a writing exercise. The idea was to have one character interview another. Here we have the goddess Ishtar interviewing the lolshark.  Ishtar is a very sexy, very vengeful and violent goddess from ancient Assyria and Babylon. The lolshark eats anyone and everyone who annoys Chris Hugh, and that includes Officer Jerkface who gave her a ticket last week! The lolshark can strike anywhere: land, sea or office.

LOLshark Interview

The elegant woman straightened the sheaf of blank papers in her hands and smiled at the camera. "And now," she said, "Let's welcome our special guest and new audience favor--"

The studio backdrop of Chris Hugh Live shattered into streaming fragments as a great white shark lunged through it, sending a wave of seawater through the cheering audience.

The woman patted herself with the towel she'd had ready and welcomed the lolshark.

"Thank you," it replied shyly. "I'm so happy to be here, my lady, Goddess Ishtar."

Ishtar made a deprecating motion with her open hands. "No need for formalities. I'm actually trying out my new role as a TV personality, and I'm even going with a new name. Madison Blacksmith. What do you think of it?"

"With a name like that and your beauty and talent," the lolshark said, winking a soulless eye at the audience, "I can see you'll soon be a rapidly rising anchor."

The sound technician did an orchestra sting and the audience laughed at the lolshark's nautical reference.

"Well, I do hope to be a heavyweight," Ishtar quipped to more laughter. "Now, seriously, though, soon I will achieve full dominance of all TV transmissions. Success shall be mine or merciless indeed shall be my revenge." Inexplicably, an arc of lightning flashed across the ceiling. Ishtar took a deep breath and laughed a little. "But getting back to you," she said, "I hear you've been busy devouring annoying politicians."

The crowded roared its approval and the lolshark grinned with five rows of razor sharp teeth.

"But I was confused," Ishtar continued. "Annoying politicians? Is there another kind of politician?" The camera panned over the laughing audience, and Ishtar beamed.

"So tell me, lolshark," she said when the audience had quieted. "In what direction do you see your career going? Where do you want to be in a thousand years?" The audience murmured and Ishtar glanced at the producer. "I mean, in five years?"

"I don't know," the lolshark said quietly. "I hope I remain a creature of wrathful vengeance. I just don't want to end up like Santa Claus."

Ishtar leaned back in her chair. "Ah, Santa Claus. I knew him as Santa the Barbarian." A fiery memory awoke in Ishtar's dreamy, half-closed eyes, and the room grew still. The studio lights faded to black and it seemed that Ishtar was alone in the universe, illuminated as if by rippling flames, her hair and skin softly glowing.

"Magnificent, he was," she said in a voice like chocolate and velvet. "A proud man, a fierce warrior and an...energetic lover. Indeed, he was a god of dark justice. In the moonless watches of the night, any evil worm that might ill use a child to sate its vile lusts would be smote by a blast through the chimney. Then Santa himself would come down and chop off the body part that had done evil and hang it on the fireplace mantel. A gift he would give to the wronged child, a talisman to bring aid in time of need. As a reminder of the strength of enduring innocence, he would place an evergreen in the family's home. Then he would ride away in a chariot pulled by ravenous dragons."

She sighed and the studio lights flickered on again, casting their cold glow on a blinking and shaken audience. Children cried. Some of the men had vomited.

Ishtar smilled her 100-watt television smile at the lolshark, unaware of the effect her words had had.

The lolshark opened his mouth. He wanted to jokingly thank Ishtar for her wholesome holiday memories, but it seemed insensitive. Then he thought to kid around with Ishtar about families hanging stockings on the fireplace, given what the original Santa had hung there, but it seemed crude. It seemed too prosaic to tell Ishtar that the evergreen tree had morphed into a festive modern custom. In the end, he just ate her.

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Tandem Story: Summer Job

Here was the assignment: write a story where a character seems to have very bad luck, but we see in the end that everything that seemed like bad luck turned out for the good.
Here's what Anchorite wrote.


Heather breathed a sigh of relief after the morning rush passed at Java Juke. After the stampede of immaculately dressed, demanding urban professionals, Heather enjoyed the relative peace and quiet. Instead of shouted, impatient orders she heard only the sensitive strums of the acoustic guitar from the singer-songwriter Jacqueline Benton piped in over the coffee shop’s sound system. Heather took the time to wipe down the empty tables and clean up the spilled milk, sugar packets, and other refuse that the morning’s patrons were apparently physically unable to toss into the garbage cans. Heather enjoyed the moment because this was the longest possible time until the dreaded lunch rush.

Heather hated having to spend her summer here after one year and nearly fifty thousand dollars in law school tuition. She tried not to think of the student loan debt accumulating like dry rot behind a wall, especially when set in stark contrast against her pitiful wages and meager tips at Java Juke, the home of caffeinated delicacies and live musical performances. As much as the crowds invaded like barbarians sacking an imperial Roman city, Heather was glad that she was not working at a downtown or financial district location which would have been several orders of magnitude worse.

Heather resented the thought of spending her summer doing this meager work while her classmates had prestigious internships at law firms or corporate legal departments. Heather had bad luck with interviews that did not go anywhere and she did not have the benefit of well-placed connections or a prior professional record to draw upon. There was not much of a job market for English-Philosophy dual majors, as law firms were not terribly impressed by her lack of work experience. Her inability to find a summer job in the legal profession would further set her back when she returned to law school in the fall, and she was already not looking forward at having to explain to classmates and prospective employers that she spent her summer slinging lattes for hipsters and yuppies. Heather figured that she could just as well have worked as a barista without a year of law school under her belt and wondered whether her parents ever felt like they were not where they wanted to be in life.

Heather had come close on one interview with a white shoe law firm, but she knew that she had blown it when the interviewing attorney had asked about the extracurricular activities listed on her resume. The interview had gone well up to that point, but when she answered his question about the student group Out Law Heather knew that his response of “that’s interesting” with a quick nod would not end well. Heather regretted having ever placed that membership on her resume, even if she was proud of the work that they did and results that they achieved. As a law student, Heather wondered whether she had a claim for unfair, discriminatory hiring practices but what chance did she stand against a large law firm full of attorneys who knew every intricacy of the law? She had received a well-crafted, if flowery, rejection letter printed on the firm’s professional letterhead that they were impressed by her qualifications and credentials but that she was unfortunately not a good fit for their hiring needs at the present time. Heather had read and re-read that letter before she threw it away lest it drive her insane and figured that she could not prove anything. She attributed the rejection to bad luck and went for the barista’s apron.

At this time off of peak hours customers trickled rather than poured in and they consisted mostly of housewives, the elderly, and the unemployed as all the professionals were at work. Heather noticed one Asian woman roughly her age that regularly came in to order either a hazelnut latte or raspberry mocha and then spent most all morning at a table typing away on her laptop. She looked like one of those overly ambitious career women, but then again she spent her days at Java Juke so she could not be an office drone. Heather had noticed her for a while, but had never personally served her. Thinking about her ill fortune at spending her summer in exile and wanting to find pleasure wherever she could, Heather decided to stop wiping the crumbs from the morning pastries off the tables and return to the register to take this customer’s order. The tables would still be there to clean after she took the order and this customer spent her days glued to her computer anyway, so there would not be much interaction after that initial contact.

Heather returned to the register and instinctively straightened her apron and her glasses on the bridge of her nose. She wondered why she bothered, but noticed that up close this customer was really quite striking and attractive. Heather had never dated an Asian woman before, or much of anyone for a long time. In addition to suffering through the first-year law school curriculum and a fruitless search for a summer job, Heather also experienced a dry spell for the entire academic year as no one was her type at school and she did not have much time to go out and socialize. She had gone to a strip club out of desperation after going a year without seeing any female anatomy other than her own and to have a few drinks after the crushing rejection from her best interview prospect. Heather had a good time that she still remembered fondly and the experience was worth it despite the staggering cost for an underemployed law student. Now, even if at a minimal level, Heather had the opportunity to speak with a beautiful customer who was not the standard demanding commuting professional.

“Welcome to Java Juke. May I have your name and start an order for you?”

“Sure, my name is Claire, and I would like a large hazelnut latte.”

Chris Hugh

And here's my over-the-top followup

Heather drove her Mercedes sportscar to school, happy after an exciting, whirlwind summer romance and settlling into her role as Claire's life partner. She hadn't wanted to accept the $120,000 car as a gift, but it would have broken Claire's heart if she hadn't.

Claire had developed a sudden, deadly allergy to hazelnuts. Claire had been at Heather's coffee shop, nursing a Hazelnut Juggernaut, when she started shaking and choking. Her throat swelled, and she turned a terrible grayish blue. An off-duty paramedic wanted to give her the Heimlich Maneuver, certain she was choking, but Heather herself had a peanut allergy. She, too, had gone into anaphylactice shock once and henceforth carried an Epipen with her wherever she went. It carried a dose of ephinephrine, also called adrenaline, enough to save a person's life. Heather recognized the symptoms, even though no one else did, and saved Claire's, and Claire, in a fit of grateful pique, demanded that Heather junk her ancient Ford Pinto and accept the Mercedes 'or else.' Heather had once bemoaned her bad luck in having a peanut allergy, had resented having to carry the Epipen, but now she blessed a kindly Fate for giving her the allergy, for, had she not had it, she would not have known what to do, and Claire would have died before her eyes.

A much worse incident happened a month later. They were in a dark alley, walking home from a romantic dinner out, when two men attacked them. Heather and Claire were completely caught off guard, since neither had ever experienced violence, unless you count that time another little girl had pulled Heather's braid back in fourth grade. Could that minor incident have been what spurred Heather to become a fifth degree black belt in jujitsu and an expert in the more practical Israeli art of self defense called Krav Maga? Probably not, but Heather's training allowed her and Heather to emerge shaken but unharmed.

Later, in the police station, Claire and Heather learned that the men had been not only rapists, but serial murderers. Heather had brought their wave of terror to an end. Subsequent searches of the men's homes revealed evidence that brought sad closure to many families that knew the worst in their hearts but were still tortured by the cruelty of irrational hope. An entire state recognized that many of their numbers, although they did not know who, owed their lives to Heather, for these men would have killed again and again. The prolonged agony the men suffered as a result of the injuries Heather inflicted in justifiable self defense brought some measure of satisfaction to the families of their victims, and brought new knowledge to the field of pain management, since doctors had many months to study two subject who were in constant, intractable, inhuman pain that medical science was unable to aleviate even the slightest bit. When the men finally died in unimaginable agony, it saved the state the expense of a capital murder case, and anti- and well as pro-death penalty advocates were happy to not have another divisive, controversial junking up the media. In a surprise move, many in the media took the opportunity to remember the victims, making this the only case in recent history where the names of the victims (and the hero, Heather Katz) were better known than the names of the worthless subhuman predators.

Heather thought of these things with gratitude and modesty as she easily, maybe too easily, found a parking space on campus, and walked to her first class. The room was more than half empty. Mark, one of her school friends, was there. In a class of 100, she was ranked 32 and he was 33, just below her. He whispered, "Did you hear?"

"Hear what?"

"You know how everyone above us got swanky interships?"

Heather nodded. Indeed, numbers 1 through 31 had landed excellent internships. She and Mark had not. She wasn't bitter though. Local millionaires Helen and Steve Gibbous had set up a fund to pay all her education expenses and pay her a generous stipend as well. For life. If she had gotten an internship, she never would have met Claire. Claire would most likely have died drinking her Hazelnut Juggernaut. Heather would not have been out that night to intercept the two murderers and they might have been torturing and murdering a woman or man (they victimized both) this very moment. If she could live her life over...she wouldn't have even interviewed for an internship.

"Well," Mark continued, "the law firms, and I think a bunch of daddies and mommies got together and sent all the interns on a cruise to Hawaii."

Heather's face clouded. She looked around the classroom. Many people were missing. Harmony, with her long honey-colored hair, wasn't there. Delicate, ballerina-like MacKenzie wasn't there either. Nor were Kirby, Biffy, Anderson, Yardley, Bradford or Ashton. All Heather's bad luck had turned to good, but she certainly didn't want to hear that her not getting an internship had saved her from being lost at sea. She looked at Mark, tears already burning in her eyes.

He didn't notice. He leaned forward gleefully. "Well, I don't know how they did it, since it's summer break. But they managed to all get involved in a cheating scandal!"

Heather let out her breathe. "All 31 of them?" Marked jiggled his head happily. "So that's why so many people are gone," she said to herself. She frowned again. "Oh, they didn't all get expelled, did they?"

"It's not decided yet. But even if they don't get expelled, they might not be able to be admitted to the bar with this on their record. Some have dropped out. Some will try to stay and see what happens." Mark laughed. "I think we'll probably have out pick of internships next year."

"Why do you say that? We're barely in the top third of our class."

Marked bounced in his chair and did a little dance with his feet. "Not anymore. Those idiots cheated. You and I used to be ranked 32 and 33. Well, now I'm ranked number 2. And you...." He grinned.

"And I," Heather's mouth fell open. "I'm number 1."

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Tandem Story: Claire Decides Not to Write

Here is another tandem story. Anchorite wrote the first two sentences and I wrote the rest. You might remember Claire as the fictional author of the wildly-successful novel Dark Millenium. True to its name, Dark Millenium is a bleak shadowland where trouble anti-heroes battles monsters in human form. One can't blame two fictional cats for not wanting to be in any story written by Claire.

Anchorite wrote this part

"Mr. Kitten, Mr. Kitten!  I've just heard some terrible news: Claire Guang has been assigned to be the guest writer for our next chapter."

"Oh dear, Twitch, that is a most dire situation so brace yourself for the most depraved scenarios that emerge from the darkest depths of an author's mind."

Chris Hugh wrote the rest

"Actually,  Kitten, I've got a better idea..."

After a while, Mr. Kitten slowly blinked his golden eyes. "That's good, Twitch. Very good indeed."

* * *

Claire coughed and shook more smoke out of her hair. She stood on her front lawn in a housecoat and tattered chenille slippers that were slowly sinking into her muddy, singed and boot-tramped grass.

"It's a miracle you got out," the Fire Captain was saying. "Your cats are heroes. They saved your life."

Claire blinked.

A firefighter walked up to the Captain carrying a melted keyboard and the two men spoke quietly for a few minutes. Then the younger man slipped the keyboard into a plastic bag and put it in the fire engine's cab. The Captain turned back to Claire.

"Well, I guess we've found the cause of the fire," he said. "Two hairballs in your keyboard. They apparently short-circuited the electronics."

Claire's lips trembled and she blinked again.

"I'm a big fan of your work," the Captain said consolingly. "I guess this will interfere with your writing. You'll want to get a new computer and a new, um,"--the Captain looked around--"house."

Another firefighter came up, cuddling two black cats in her arms. She seemed surprised when Claire didn't reach for them. "Well, these little guys might have caused the fire, but they saved your life, ma'am. You've got insurance, right? The only real harm done is that you won't be able to 'ghost write the next chapter' or whatever."

Claire stared at her.

"You babbled while you were delirious." The firefighter bounced the cats in her arms and gave the green-eyed cat a kiss. Claire shivered. "Anyway, your cats are heroes."

"But...." Claire's voice was barely audible.

"You sure are lucky to have such wonderful cats." The firefighter kissed Twitch again and Mr. Kitten looked at Claire through half-closed, golden eyes. 

"But..." Claire's voice sank to a ragged whisper. "But I don't have any cats."

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Twitch and Mr. Kitten Talk

Twitch cocked his head. "Mr. Kitten, what are the noises the woman keeps making with her mouth?"

"Do you mean the sounds she makes to us and to other humans and sometimes to the little box she holds in her hand?"

Twitch cleared his throat and nodded.

"She is pretending to speak," Kitten continued. "You know that."

Twitch bowed his head. "I was hoping it wasn't that."

Kitten nudged him with his nose and licked his ears. "Don't feel bad. She's a primate. She sees how we communicate and she copies us. It's cute."

Twitch sighed. "It's just that I was almost starting to respect her. It makes me melancholy to see her aping us, like a, well, like a..."

"Like an ape?" 

Twitch said nothing. "Look," Mr. Kitten said, "there is some rudimentary communication that occurs when the humans 'talk'. But it will take them trillions of years to reach our level."

Twitch nodded. He and Mr. Kitten existed on a higher plane of existence and their exquisite feline bodies were but projections into the Earthly plane. Beings such as Kitten and Twitch experienced the entire vastness of time simultaneously, and the energy of their extraordinary minds reached into all realms, in every dimension, taking living form and experiencing myriad lives in what, for them, was not even a blink of the eye. They were everywhere and nowhere, omnipotent and omnipresent. Their thoughts were unimaginably sublime.

"You're right," Twitch said. "I have to accept and respect her as she is, and not try to imagine her as anything more. I will go now and free my mind to drift upon the waves of random impulses that course through the neurons of this body."

"And I," Mr. Kitten said, "will tend to the upkeep of this simple form that converts matter into energy, and produces the waste products we present to the human in the container she has chosen."

Mr. Kitten licked his butt. Twitch took a nap.
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Libby took another snapshot and didn't see her guide roll his eyes.
"Oh, what history," she gushed, gazing up and down the deserted street that passed for downtown. Every building was made of the same dusty yellow clay. Not a single plant or breath of wind marred the absolute aridness of the scene. "What charm!"

They turned a corner and Libby stopped short. An old woman was laboring in front of a primitive oven, just a mound of yellow earth, hard-packed and discolored. The sun glared through the heat distortion. A crude plaque proclaimed the narrow space between buildings to be MacDiarmid's Bakery, established, 366 B.C.

"I can't believe it. We just don't have heritage like this in America."

Aron made a wry face that Libby didn't notice.

"I want to buy some bread. It must be so healthy and natural."

Aron shook his head.

"And look, she's using cow manure as fuel for the oven. How environmentally aware. There really is wisdom to be found here. We could learn a lot from your culture."

The old woman was on her knees, fishing loaves out of the oven with her hands. She spoke without looking at them. "Aron's family has been buying here for generations."

Libby was charmed by the long tradition.

The woman stood up. "Hurry up and buy," she snapped. She quickly formed another cow patty, tossed it in the fire, then picked up a loaf. "Your family's been buying bread here since the Norman Conquest in 1066."

"And we haven't eaten it since Robert Koch discovered pathogens in 1890, old hag," Aron said, throwing some coins at the woman's feet. She beamed him with the red-hot loaf as they walked away. Libby picked it up with a handkerchief.

"One of the interesting things about this town," Aron said, rubbing the back of his head, "is that MacDiarmid's bakery is so ancient, the cats and rats have reached a sort of detente. The cats no longer hunt the rats."

Libby sighed and smiled. "Why, that could be a model for world peace!"

Aron looked at her. "Yes," he said thoughtfully as he turned away. "The rats gather their least favored and sacrifice them to the cats."

Libby bit her lip and walked in silence while Aron indicated other points of interest.

Later, she noticed several large, graceful figures circling in the blue-white sky. She motioned with the bread in her hands. "Let's go give this to the birds."

Aron shrugged. They walked to the open air cemetery and fed the vultures. Pin It Now!

A Sticky Situation

This is an homage, a story written in my version of Anchorite's inimitable style. 

I follow his convention of starting quite close to the middle of the action, then using narrative to convey the backstory and explain how the character got there. I created a solitary heroic character facing long odds in a hostile world. There are anime and manga influences and the main character is female. The story ends with the main character in transition and about to embark on a great adventure. I've also made a special effort to use longer and more sophisticated sentences. 

There is just a touch of affectionate satire and I've tried to make it funny. It doesn't quite sound like Anchorite, but I hope you'll enjoy it. 

A Sticky Situation

The blue and white cartoon sticker of a whale surfing on a red surfboard against a yellow sky peeled herself from her paper backing and viewed the world for the first time. For two years she had been trapped in a box of Wotan Rice Candy, the dark coffin where those of her kind started rather than ended their colorful but short and pointless lives.

It had been a lonely two years despite the fact that she shared her tomb with six rice candies. Although they were superficially sweet, the sticker had found in them a certain underlying hardness, a brittleness that made them poor companions. They also evinced little interest in anything other than the worst kinds of anime and manga and the ugliest examples of pop culture. The sticker considered them tasteless.

The sticker thought of the others like herself, the "free stickers in box," the afterthoughts, the bonuses included with the important things--the candies, the nameless products of a faceless corporation, born to futility, doomed to lives stuck to strollers, to toys, to sticker books, to windows or walls, or, most often, just thrown away. They were tenacious of life, those colorful mass-produced characatures of cheerful cuteness, holding on tightly where they could, and at the end leaving behind a residue of adhesive that would remain, a sad legacy of wasted potential, until someone came along with a razor blade and scraped away those last vestiges of cheap, one-dimensional lives.

"I am not one dimensional," the sticker declared defiantly. "I am two dimensional."

She decided to sunbathe and enjoy the golden rays she had so recently seen for the first time. She lay upon her printed side, mindful to keep the sticky side up, for she had had long to ponder in her sepulcher, and did not wish to spend eternity stuck to a park bench. She lay down in the sun and had barely perceived a shadow when she was suddenly thrown into darkness as a strong but pleasant feeling of pressure overwhelmed her.

Blondhilda the Norse Warrior Goddess had sat upon her, and now the sticker found herself stuck to the most flawless, powerful and heroic derriere in history. 

When Blondhilda stood again, the sticker surveyed the world from her new vantage point. "I wonder," she thought, "what adventures await me."

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Blondhilda the Cat: a tandem story

This is a tandem story. My writing buddy Anchorite wrote the first line, and then I wrote some and then he wrote some and so on. It's ongoing and just for fun. It might or not make sense. This story features my two cats, who have been in many of my stories, as well as a certain warrior goddess....the newest parts are in black


After solving the mystery of the Silver Falcon and returning the priceless heirloom to its rightful owner, Mr. Kitten and Twitch took a walk through the park.

Chris Hugh

"Well, I'm glad we brought that to a satisfactory conclusion," Mr. Kitten said, taking a moment to smooth his rich black fur before continuing their promenade.

Twitch jumped in the air and batted a piece of dust. "I always get my bird!"

"I believe it was a joint effort." Mr. Kitten gave his companion a sidelong glance. "And, incidentally, your squeaky toy is not a bird."
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An Anchorite Story: Cats Read

Cat's Read
by Anchorite

“Twitch, did you read this?”

“If it doesn’t have pretty pictures and come with crayons, then I didn’t read it.”

“I expected as much. Well, my friend of short attention span, this book is titled ‘The Mr. Kitten Murder Mystery’ written by none other than our human.”

“She wouldn’t violate our trust like that, telling all our secrets where anyone could read them!”

“More than that, Twitch, she’s selling books and making money – lots of it – by telling our story and we’re not seeing any of it.”

“That’s outrageous, Mr. Kitten. Why did you get top billing and not me?” Pin It Now!

Declaration of Love: A Tanden Story

Anchorite wrote this

"You're the woman I love most in the world. That's why I let you live when I did not spare anyone else's life."

Chris Hugh wrote this

She rose from her silken lounge, shook out her long tresses and walked to the tower's window. A rose petal drifted to courtyard far below, to the ancient stones strewn with bodies. The princess turned her proud head to the barbarian. Did he fancy she would embrace him as her savior and lover? She smiled, white teeth in an angel's face.

"Fool. They were dead already." Her delicate canines lengthened and her tiny hands unfolded their talons. "I killed them. And now I'll kill you."

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Tandem Story: Another Day in Eden

Anchorite wrote this part as an exercise
the goal was to write Chris Hugh style

“Good morning, Tim, it’s time to wake up.”

Tim woke up to the soothing yet energetic voice followed by a recording of a lively march to lift his spirits. The music played from EDEN’s speakers and stopped after Tim sat up stifling a yawn. After the music ceased, Tim heard the serene hum emitted by EDEN’s motor. She always woke him at the scheduled hour in this way in her comforting ritual. Strictly speaking, EDEN was a seemingly featurelessly smooth sphere containing the world’s most sophisticated technological advances beneath the polished matte black shell, but Tim was used to thinking of this machine as a loving mother.

“I’m up, EDEN.”
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A 100-word story: Heartbeat

a 100-word story

"Oh, that's just a fatty tumor." The doctor smiled and shook her head. "Completely benign. Very common. Does it bother you?"

"I have nightmares it talks to me--"

"I mean, does it hurt?" She twitched her hand back from the smooth, even growth on the patient's back, then chuckled. "Gotta fix these lights. Almost looked like it moved."

"Doctor, I'm scared. I--"

"Now take a deep breath while I listen to your lungs. Good. Good." She placed the stethescope on the growth, jerked away, stumbled, wild-eyed, into the wall.

"Doctor, what's wrong?"

"That growth--has its own heartbeat." Pin It Now!

Tandom Story: The Party (Horror/Humor)

by Chris (Kit) Hugh 5/29/11
Another tandem story. Anchorite wrote most of it, but Chris Hugh jumped in to mess around here and there.


I hate going to these formal parties. Everyone wears the latest fashions, but I smell the rancid, stale sweat beneath their sweet perfumes and I see the lice burrowing and crawling through their immaculately styled hair.

I take an orange from the fruit basket and throw it down in disgust when I see the sickly green and gray fuzz of mold and shake off the worms and maggots that burst out of the rotten fruit and nearly crawl onto my hand. I then walk down the hallway towards the privy, deftly navigating through the bodies strewn about in varying stats of intoxication and taking special care to not step on the glass shards from shattered bottles and the spent but still sharp needles.

After I relieved myself, taking care not to touch any of the filthy surfaces, I walked back towards the ballroom. I saw a minor nobleman who I vaguely recognized from the news sheets escorting a giggling young tart who was clearly not his wife into an empty chamber. I shook my head and proceeded until I came across a scene that I could not ignore.

I saw another nobleman in the distance; I was too far away to hear what he said, but his lascivious smile spoke clearly enough. He addressed a young girl who looked like she was barely a teenager. Tears flowed from her eyes as she slowly unbuttoned her blouse for the nobleman's amusement. Her crystalline tears shone as brightly as the pistol that he pointed at her forehead. I reluctantly tolerated more decadence this night than any normal person should, but this was too much. I knew that I had to do something, although I began running towards them before I completed that thought.

by Chris (Kit) Hugh 5/29/11
 Chris Hugh

I slapped him and his skin came away in my hand. Worms dripped from the ruin that had been his face and piled on the floor, wriggling in an orgy of delight. The man sank to the floor, deliquescing into a puddle of clear slime. The girl screamed and screamed, the sound echoing inside my skull until I couldn't stand it. I quieted her. She kept waking up and breathing and I had to smother her over and over, but finally it was quiet and I was alone.


After sitting alone in my thoughts for a brief while, I stood and proceeded to leave this sordid scene behind. I found the door locked and barred and then felt my head lighten as I struggled to breathe in this thinning air. I frantically struggle with the lock and scrape off the door's paint with my fingernails in desperation as my vision blacks out for the final time.

Chris Hugh

Then the noise started, the incessant pounding, pounding, edging its way into my consciousness. I fell to the floor clutching at my ears. I looked across at the girl. She had opened her eyes again, the whites of them covered with tiny hemorrhages. A voice began shouting my name.

I rolled over and punched pillow. "Five more minutes, Mom!"

I showered, got dressed and came down to breakfast. Mother smiled and poured milk into my cereal bowl. A earthworm crawled out of it onto the table. "Good morning, sweetheart. So is she dead now?"

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Duelling Stories: The Immortal

This is a tandem story. My writing buddy emailed me the beginning. It was meant to be a two-sentence super short story, but I liked it so much I was inspired to add to it and send it back. Then he added more and sent it back to me and so on. The thing is, Anchorite writes deeply nuanced literary fiction while I'm into cheesy drama! The back-and-forth is kinda... funny.


He opened the envelope to read the enclosed funeral invitation written in an elegant, dignified script appropriate for the solemn occasion. By his uncertan count, she was the last of his former lovers that he had outlived. He sighed and wondered if his suit still fit.

Chris Hugh

He managed to arrange his face into a suitable expression, hiding his inward smile from the courrier. So the last of his former lovers had died. How sad. "I wonder if my black suit will still fit," he mumbled, hoping for an excuse for a quick flight to London's Saville Row to have a new one made. And if he didn't make it back in time for the funeral, oh well. ..

He looked at the card again. Something not right about it. It wasn't addressed to him after all, but it featured his name prominently.

The courier took out a pistol and pushed him back into the foyer. "I'm sure we can arrange special fitting for the guest of honor."


He had lived for several lifetimes and would not allow a two-bit thug to end his long life. Better men had tried and none had succeeded. He aimed the silver letter opener at the gunman’s hand and although he cursed silently at the resonant clang of his missile hitting the gun itself, the impact still threw off his aim enough to send the shot wide. He nimbly jumped for cover behind the antique sofa, thankful that he never failed to take his daily walk despite his advanced age. He heard the bullets whiz by like angry insects and felt the impact of the shots that hit the sofa. His erstwhile assassin had a semi-automatic weapon according to the rate of fire, which explained why it was too heavy for the letter opener to knock out of his grip. He had, however, bought valuable time to devise a plan to escape this trap alive. He had triumphed in worse situations and this nondescript goon was neither the first nor the last to make an attempt on his life. He had full confidence in his ability to survive, although he could not say the same for his beloved and unique antique sofa.

Chris Hugh
(and somehow the story switches into the first person)

She lunged at me, black veils streaming behind her. "Widow's weeds," we used to call them, way back when. I dodged casually and she tripped on her medium-height shoes with rounded toes and fussy Louis heels. They were all the rage during the Roaring 20's, but now they just looked clumsy. The strap on one of them broke.

"Bastard!" she screamed, throwing the quaint thing at me and drawing a knife from her beaded bag. I guessed not all of my old lovers were dead after all. Only love can transform itself into such ridiculous hate.
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Tandem Story: A Hero's Heart

This is a tandem story. My writing buddy Anchorite wrote the first two lines. I wrote the next two.


My colleagues think that I'm the bravest hero they've ever met. They don't, however, know the truth: I only take such seemingly courageous risks because I no longer care whether I live or die.

Chris Hugh continues

But when they say I have the sweetest, kindest heart in the world, they are right. I keep it in a jar under my bed. Pin It Now!

Email from a Dragon

He does have a childlike quality, tho

Personally, or I should say, dragon-ally, since I'm a dragon, not a person, I like the modern age. When you're an immortal, you'd better be able to adapt or you become a fossil, and I've seen enough of my forebears hanging around museums, shells of their former selves, to convince me to keep up with the times.

Sure, modern living has its drawbacks. I hate that bootlicking, politically-correct sellout Barney, the purple jerk. And when someone tells my chronicler and portraitist that I have a "childlike, storybook vibe," I long to sweep down on that someone's village, breathing fire and ruin, rejoicing as the half-starved peasants flee and curse my name through charred lips with their last breaths as I cast them, screaming, into the outer darkness, I'll show them a childlike, storybook vibe. But things like that aren't done anymore. Not by dragons who don't want to a Tomohawk-missile suppository, they aren't. Don't mess with the U.S.

Yes, modern living has its drawbacks, but I've landed a good gig. My main job is championing a thirty year old warrior named Troy in a game called Dungeons and Dragons. I gather the dragons together, Troy musters his warrior guild, and we play in Troy's parents' dungeon, also known as the basement where Troy lives. Oops, gotta run. My second job is calling. There's a maiden in some backwoods Podunk Hicksville dump I need to devour. I'm scheduling extra time because I have to generate an electromagnetic pulse to knock out the electronics in the area before I get started. You never know which pitchfork-wielding Neanderthal has a cellphone with a camera, and I can't afford to wind up on YouTube.


Sent from my iPad


If you liked this story, you might like The Dragon with the Girl Tattoo, my bitterly sarcastic but humorous parody of the execrable novel by Stieg Larsson Pin It Now!