Volume 2 Issue 4: Red


My mother was born a brunette with raven black hair that glowed blue in the sunlight. Her complexion rivalled Snow White, making her an exception in a blue-eyed, flaxen-haired family. She had me later in life, back in the days when thirty-six is older than it is today. Her style had changed by the time I came along, becoming more comfortable and casual than when she had raised my older siblings. I was born at the very end of the seventies but a decade earlier, my mother had been very fashion conscious and made the most of her dramatic features. She never wore pastels or flower prints or anything soft and flowing. My mother kept her color palate minimal but bold, choosing to wrap herself in black, white, and red. Very few people can pull off red on a regular basis but it was my mother’s signature color at one point and deservedly so. Her nails would be bright cherry red as would her lips, matching everything in her wardrobe.

As an adult, I have tried to do the same but red makes my face look flushed and here in Japan, people only have red cheeks when they are inebriated. So I avoid the color for myself though I appreciate it on others. Red is not an easy color to pull off, but those who can do so with aplomb.

Which leads me to the stories for Issue Four. Eight stories showcasing red as a political statement, as a symbol of hatred, of passion, a memory, a dream. All the stories this week are rich with the color, the authors imbuing their prose with a boldness only red can provoke, and doing so with much aplomb.

(2) Old Reds by Lynn White
(3) The Red Beach by Sunil Sharma
(4) The Lover of Tulips by Kelli J Gavin
(5) Red Mantle with Baboob by Andriana Minou
(6) Broiled Flounder by Michael Natt
(7) Butterflies by J. Rohr
(8) Red Flags by Henry Bladon
(9) Vermellow by Debjani Mukherjee

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Volume 2 Prompt 4

Color prompts are always fun, don’t you think? So far we’ve done blue, yellow, and white. Let’s heat it up this issue with red. 

You get a longer writing session this time and double the word count as well. Make the most of it, writers.

Volume 2 Issue 3

This is our first photo prompt but it will not be our last. I selected this one because it just says so much: a powerful emotion is captured but along with it, a stillness. Is he reacting to the newspaper before him or is he hoping the newspaper will distract him from something more disturbing outside of the frame? Or is he reacting to anything at all? Perhaps the sun is too bright, perhaps he is exhausted from taking care of his colicky grandson so his daughter could get some much-needed sleep.
So many story possibilities in this one picture, six of which are laid out with incredible creativity in this week’s issue.

(2) Lunch by Dawn DeBraal
(3) Trash by Kelli J Gavin
(4) Submerged Vanity by Henry Bladon
(5) In the cafe by Sunil Sharma
(6) Father’s Day by Michael Natt
(7) A Search by Debjani Mukherjee
(8) The Obituary by Mark Kodama
(9) The Other Side by Brandy Bonifas

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Volume 2 Issue 1: Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Hey there and welcome to Volume 2 of Mercurial Stories.

My grandmother had always said she detested the smell of roses, called them funeral flowers, and because she was my first kindred spirit on this planet, I adopted this attitude towards the beloved bloom.

So when Frankie Oscar the Third showed up on Valentine’s Day at my junior high school with a dozen of them cradled in one arm and a heart-shaped box of chocolates covered in fake roses in the other, I found myself more nauseous than delighted. Nauseous and embarrassed. I had gotten a bigger present than any other 8th grader and from my high school boyfriend at that. I should have felt smug as well as delighted. But I did not.

The note he had included in the card made it all the worse. It read just like all his other letters, I love you, sweetheart. Again, wasn’t that what I was supposed to want to read? And yet I found it incredibly boring, the same sentence over and over, hastily scribbled on wide-ruled notebook paper.

My mom told me that I was supposed to keep the roses in the empty chocolate box, a sort of romantic trophy that I would eventually be sentimental for. So I cut off the flowers’ heads and tossed them into the box then stored it at the back of my closet. Later, on a laundry-washing weekend home from college, I came across the chocolate box when looking for an old marbled composition notebook. There inside were the rose heads, their red petals now shriveled and black. The sickly sweet smell flooded the room. I put the lid back on, walked out to where my father was burning a pile of leaves, and tossed the box in whole.

It might seem a little strange, in light of that story, that I should select, for a story due on Valentine’s Day, the prompt “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”. And yet I decided on it because I assumed that my writers would have wide-range of perspectives about the holiday. And I was not disappointed.

Today we have five stories with titles from the now extinct Conversation Hearts candy, the small candy with big messages.

(p. 2) MY SWEETHEART by Louis Kasatkin
(p. 3) Soul Mate by Anna Lindwasser
(p. 4) Flirt by Kelli J Gavin
(p. 5) XOXO by Annie Bien
(p. 6) Soul mate by Sunil Sharma

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Volume 1 Prompt 38

I know that New Year’s resolutions are unfashionable but still, hands up those of you who are still crafting your overly ambitious list for 2019? Don’t be embarrassed, I think it is endearing. The calendar turns over and we believe we can as well, starting anew so we can achieve all we wished for the previous year but better, for now we possess the wisdom gained by not accomplishing a damn thing on last year’s list. 

In this final issue of Volume 1, write your own resolution and give it to one of your characters. This is a two-week prompt and you get a whopping 1000 words to work with in this very special New Year’s issue. 

Okay, get writing. Submission details can be found here.

Volume 1 Issue 36: Oh, the horror.

I have never liked horror stories. As an overly empathetic person, it is impossible for me to watch slasher films or read about the brusque removal of entrails. I have never understood the point of gratuitous violence, of being purposefully revolting, nor have I ever sought to understand. 

With Issue 36’s prompt though, I have begun to consider the appeal. With horror stories, death and gore are expected. The only happy ending is escape. Horror stories address, very boldly in most cases, the senselessness, the obscene viciousness of this life. In dramatic stories, death usually occurs to emphasise life while in horror stories, it is the opposite: life emphasises death. Horror stories give us a safe (albeit offensive) space to examine our human condition along with all its heinous possibilities while (not-so-gently) reminding us that death is part of life (and vice versa). 

My dearly departed friend Alan, the one to whom this issue is dedicated, died at the age of 33, just a week shy of his birthday. His death was horribly simple, shocking in how quickly and quietly his existence was snuffed out. There was no gore, no chainsaw or blade, no pool of blood to step around.
And this is the true horror story: it is incredibly easy to die. An absolute cruelty when you consider how very hard it can be to live. 

The fifteen stories in this week’s issue lead readers in an exploration of fear and fright, using every possible route.

(2) The Carnival by William Falo
(3) The Crawly Space by Dawn DeBraal
(4) The Auditorium by Kelli J Gavin
(5) Messy by Annalie Kleinloog
(6) Stick Figure Family by Sonora Taylor
(7) The House with Secrets by Sunil Sharma
(8) Madhukar’s Wife by Debjani Mukherjee
(9) Failed Attempt at Prompt #36 by Copper Rose
(10) Inside the Caravan at the Mexican-American Border (or Seasons Greetings) by Karen Petersen
(11) ISLAND by Lauretta Kaplan
(12) Last Chance Diner by Mark Kuglin
(13) All Hail the Printing Press by Lesley Crigger
(14) Final Lot by Christy Kunin 
(15) Masked and Relentless by Kathy Sanford
(16) Don’t Look by Olivia Wagner

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Volume 1 Issue 35: P.S.A.

In Japan, there are PA poles everywhere. Since we are a country so prone to disaster, it is necessary to have them so every citizen can be warned, no matter how remote they might be. During the great Tohoku earthquake, among the heroes who were lost were those city employees- mayors, clerks, secretaries- who stayed to man the PA.

When I lived on the island, the PA was used a lot and not always for emergencies. Most of the time it was to tell the fishermen not to go out due to rough waves but there would also be the announcements about house-raisings or bake sales.

Here in Hiroshima though, I never hear the PA. So last summer when the flooding began and the crackle of the PA was constantly letting us know about landslides and overflowing rivers, about evacuation centers, well, it was to be taken seriously.

Unless, of course, you did not understand what they were saying. My coparent has a way of tuning out Japanese in a rather ignorance-is-bliss sort of way. After a day of the PA blasting warnings and him hearing the announcements as background static, the dangers got close enough to trigger the phone alert system, which were in English on his phone.

He texted me frantically, did you know about this?! Landslides! Flooding! What are we supposed to do, we are in an evacuation zone. Mandatory evacuation! Should we evacuate?

I had, of course, already told him what was going on but until he saw it in English, it was not real to him. They discussed this phenomenon on the news afterward, foreigners continuing about their days as if it was just a bit of rain, while Japanese people cleared the shelves of toilet paper and bottled water, headed for higher ground. 

Perhaps it is a bit like that tree in the forest parable: if there is an emergency warning but you don’t understand it, is it actually happening?

This week we have five stories of public service announcements that warn us, bring our attention to dangers that did not exist until we read about them.

(2) “Symphony No. 9 and terror” by Sunil Sharma
(3) “All about music” by Jose Varghese
(4) “Notice to All Adults (First-World Version)” by Kathy Sanford
(5) “PSA- Please Stop Asking!” by Kelli J Gavin
(6) “Lake Rumour” by Scott-Patrick Mitchell

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

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