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 2: Wildlife

For the last three nights in a row, a marten has run across my path. I am rather certain that it is not the same marten, for each night I was in a different neighborhood when it happened. My reaction, on the other hand, was the same each time: exhilaration.

I live in a suburban neighborhood surrounded by mountains on three sides and a very shallow sea on the other. Occasionally, I will get an alert from one of my kids’ schools warning us about boars or monkeys roaming the streets, having left the comforts of their forest for the chaos of cars and supermarkets. I have never actually seen the undoubtedly disorientated beasts but I like the idea that I could see them.

So spying the martens, their slim copper bodies racing across my path, thrilled me. Martens are solitary creatures, controlling a carefully selected territory and only socializing for the usual Spring flings. They prefer the woods but it is not uncommon in Japan for them to establish their habitat in human-dominated regions since every neighborhood is a mixture of modern concrete buildings and old houses with sculpted gardens. Not ideal but they are opportunists and make do with the hand dealt them. They use shallow drainage channels as their main routes but occasionally have to cross a regular street, as I witnessed this past week.

My days, on the other hand, feel decidedly not wild. I work and then come home and prepare for the next day of work, repeating until the week is spent. My food is wrapped up in clear cellophane, my sleep is determined by digital pulses instead of the lightening sky. My choices have become rote; everything feels tame, controllable, and infinitely so.

The flash of the martens disrupts that delusion. That sleek red streak of fur is unconcerned with my PTA meetings, my dentist appointments, my tests that need marking. The martens are living a wild life within our constructed tameness.

We humans are less honest than the marten. We live a pretend life, making up to-do lists to distract us from our own primal nature. We don’t want to be part of nature’s cycle because we know its rotation; instead we encase ourselves with material goods, petty obligations and expectations, thinking that the weight of them can sever our animalness, our birth and bloom, our decay and demise. We keep detailed day-planners and drink Frappuccinos and build highways and shopping malls and pretend that we have a better grip on life than the humble marten, scurrying through the wilderness that surrounds us all.


I knew when I selected this week’s prompt it that there were many ways to interpret the term. And as usual, the writers delivered. Issue 2 features prose and poetry that explore all forms of wildlife and wild lives.

(2) No Signal by Kelli Gavin
(3) Chill Out by Lynn White
(4) La Visite by Sarah Russell
(5) WILD MOTIVES by Jose Varghese
(6) I remember Dunia: The Earth by Annie Bien
(7) The Beast by Sunil Sharma

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

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 2 Prompt 1

This year, the American confectionery company Necco went bankrupt and the classic Valentine’s candy Sweethearts went down with them. After 116 years of manufacturing sugary conversation starters, people will have to rely on their own wits to express their adoration.

For this week’s prompt, I want you to select a Sweethearts’ message and use it. The message should also double as the title. There are many lists of messages available such as this one or this one. And, as usual, 500 words, due 2/14 by 8 pm est via Green Submissions (as a PDF please).

Feel free to write me with any questions or concerns: mercurialstories@gmail.com.

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

(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

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