After events at PSB, we grab as many authors as we can to contribute to an ongoing cycle story (or exquisite corpse if you prefer). The author can only see the entry that directly precedes them and then have about an inch and a half of space to write what happens next. 2018 picks up where 2017 left off. Going forward, we’ll (try to) post the story monthly, so it’s a little easier to digest. Read on for a tale of magic, talking animals, and whiplash inducing plot twists, told by some of your favorite authors.
Except for Annabelle. She biked the way some people stroll on the beach; smiling, warm, hair streaming like tapes on a kid’s handlebars. People smiled when she went by. Except for Evan. He never smiled.
-Katherine Arden, 1/5/18
Especially not at bikes. They terrified him. All the darting and whooshing and bells. He’d rather just walk or take the bus. It seemed safer.
-MarcyKate Connolly, 1/6/18
And so he walked. But he hadn’t walked far before he realized that he had forgotten his briefcase and all the papers therein that proved his case. He turned around to go back and then he saw her.
-Douglas Heath or Alison Simcox, 1/9/18
She looked the same as she had ten years prior--or was it twelve?--but, strangely, younger, with brighter eyes, and skin that nearly glowed blue in the light of the street. So radiant and strange she seemed weird, today, on this day of all days, that he nearly stopped. But before he could say anything she turned a corner and instead of following her he went back to his apartment for his briefcase,
-Lauren Markham, 1/10/18
inside the brown briefcase was a bard. Inside the bird was a bone. And on the bone was a prayer.
-Tara Skurtu, 1/13/18
Earlier that day, the bird had nibbled on a bone-sucking, snotflower, while resting on a whale carcass; the bird felt the prayer go down, but couldn’t hear it.
-Andrea Lawlor, 1/18/18
The prayer was to Saint Mordred, the god of death, who came in the night to challenge mortals to high stakes parcheesi games.
-Mackenzi Lee, 2/3/18
The thing is, mortals find it so easy to outwit death. The challenge was nothing to them.
-Lita Judge, 2/3/18
All it takes is a book, a chair, brownie, fairy dust, holy water, and a rabbit with a lucky foot still attached.
-Annie Gaughen, 2/6/18
And then when you sit down, calm your mind, you’re transported into this world, at once magnificent and at once terrifying. There is your mother, standing with a pair of sunglasses in one hand, waving at you to come closer, closer. You want to but…
-Mira T. Lee, 2/7/18
There is a fence between the two of you, a rock wall actually, the stones as big and round as stones can be. There is a gap, though, not far from where you stand. Will you walk to it?
-Benjamin Ludwig, 2/8/18
You walked through gaps before. How did this one come to be here? Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down. Didn’t Frost write that? You’re not going to walk through this gap. You are going to plough through this wall and it must come down.
-Meg Kearney, 2/8/18
“TEAR DOWN THE WALL!” she yelled. But no one listened...so she wandered off and found herself in a cornfield.
-Box Brown, 2/9/18
There, she found a scarecrow, dressed in a tattered tuxedo. “Do you have the time?” he asked. “Or the year?” Sorry,” she said, “I don’t talk to men filled with straw.”
-Lyndsay Ely, 2/13/18
“I’m not a man,” he said. “I’m made of matter and sunshine, like you, but I am neither man nor woman.” She thought--well, what’s to lose? She said, “Let’s go over the next hill to the valley of clocks. There we’ll find space enough and time.”
-Vandana Singh, 2/15/18
Well, there is always something to lose, but I’m not sure what it is. As you ask, the losses multiply and so the thing is to avoid the valley of clocks. There will not be enough space and time. Gather ye rosebuds… etc
-Michael Meltsner, 2/20/18
“Time,” he thought, holding the pen at the ends of his fingers and balancing it on his teeth. “What does it even mean to imagine its passage, the waters rushing past the point of viewing, the standing in the middle of a river whose present can never be grasped?” He reached for the gun.
-Derek Thompson, 2/21/18
Then he unloaded it. He took the pen and pushed it into the barrel of the gun. “Time,” he thought, “will always overcome death.”
-Susan Cooper, 2/24/18
The moment of flame and fury, the movement of pen through barrel, the revelation that all time has been neatly divided into the nameless before and the endless after.
-Charles Coe, 3/1/18
Then he decided enough philosophizing and went out to eat a hotdog, even though he knew it would give him heartburn--another flame.
-Marge Piercy, 3/1/18
One hotdog let to another, and another, which was followed by a “blooming onion.” But he stopped when he stared into the depth of the onion, like looking into a deep, deep mine. It was then that he heard the voice of…
-Ted Page, 3/8/18
...the guardian of The Onion Spirit. “You came here to partake of the onion! You must be judged. Do you value the earth from which it comes? Do you value the rain that makes it sweet and juicy?...I see you…”
-Sarah Grace Tuttle, 3/10/18
The guardian of the forest wants to protect and preserve us from the evil real estate developer who wants to cut down the trees and ruin the landscape by building an upscale development. A woman decides that she is the guardian--She works with the trees to stop it.
-Leslie Wheeler, 3/15/18
But it turns out the real estate agent is not so evil after all. Instead he is working to infiltrate a conglomerate that is the real engine behind the effort to remove all the trees and destroy the landscape, by posing as just another of the man evil real estate developers.
-Curt Eriksen, 3/16/18
Yet being evil is not as simple as he expects. The land that he attempts to infect with toxic waste somehow rejects the poison and sprouts a large pink flowering tree that grows to the sky. Instead of a massive hotel, he now needs to sell a treehouse.
-Jen Petro-Roy, 3/20/18
And no one wants to buy this tree house. It’s pink for one thing. And more like a flower than a house. For the right customer it will be perfect, but finding that customer...The funny thing is, he finds he likes this business. Possibly he even has a knack for this business. But can he combine it with his thirst for evil?
-Jessica Shattuck, 3/22/18
Perhaps he could. Perhaps not. He looked out the window and though it over. He could definitely combine it with his thirst for grape juice. And that could, in the right circumstances be a little bit evil. Outside, a three legged dog was crossing the street.
-Kevin Prufer, 3/28/18
followed by a little girl in a pink dress with a pink bow in her hair. He looked again: the dog was wearing a pink collar and a pink bow. That must mean something. Perhaps he would after all. After the pink, the…
-Martha Collins, 3/28/18
rainbow flags lined the street. Never before had the pride parade been so joyous & fee. Couples walked hand in hand led by dogs costumed in festive dress. The little girl in the pink dress tugged on her father’s shirt, indicating she was hungry. They walked to the row of food trucks…
-Cameron Stauch, 3/29/18
The little girl waited for empanadas impatiently, and the clean cut alt-right torch bearing young man yelled “Get away little girl while you still can.” Carlos, truck owner yells, “Vamos, white boy.”
-Steve Almond, 4/2/18
I was watching from across the street and couldn’t believe my eyes. Suddenly I saw a large a large group of marching come down the avenue; carrying signs; “Peace with Justice,” “Solidarity Forever,” “Black Lives Matters.”
-Dan Lynn Watt, 4/5/18
“How did they find so many black and brown sheep, and who made all those amazing signs?” I wondered out loud. “Stop right there!’ growled a low voice behind me. I froze. They’d found me out.
-Sarah Albee 4/7/18
I spun around to see the giant sheep-in-chief, over three hundred feet tall and fluffier than a summer cloud. “So!” it thundered, “you like all the signs we made? We used photoshop.” Oh,” I stammered, “My favorite part is…”
-Sarah Lynne Reul, 4/10/18
Big toe! I have always been a fan of feet” and “Was so pleased to see you highlight those large feet.” I turned to my friend and asked if he had ever seen such magnificent feet. He looked on, somewhat sheepish and said…
-Darin Ingles, 4/11/18
“I knew a guy who was so fat he couldn’t see his feet. He didn’t see his feet for like five years and then they got this fungus. They pretty much fell apart like soggy paper.” ‘Yikes!” “Yeah.” “I wouldn’t want that to happen to my feet.” “No.” “I guess we should take care of our feet.” “You’re right there.”
-Cynan Jones, 4/12/18
“I’m not picking up your crusty toe skin!” The guy shrugged and figured instead they should just get pizza. The waitress took their order and asked what they wanted for toppings. “No need,” the guy said, “I’ve got my own.”
-Tami Charles, 4/19/18
The guy’s skin condition got worse quickly. Within weeks his entire body was crusty. Several medical papers were written on him before the first experimental surgery to reverse his skin so it was inside out.
So he decided to go to Trump’s Candy Max (?) doctor who told him he was fine, the best of the best, and gave him enough ambiens to sleep for a week, by which time his body had healed itself. Or so he thought.
-Susan Eisenberg, 4/26/18
In fact, his small hands had experienced a strange and unrecognizable discoloration, a challenge to his narcissism, and notion of himself as invincible. What could this mysterious malady be?
-Suzanne Leonard, 5/2/18
And on the bulb of his thumb a tattoo of remarkable design. A wand snake whose tail curled all around his poor dead wrist.
-Jess Kidd, 5/3/18
And yet, as they gazed upon it, it seemed to them that the snake began to move, it’s mouth spreading, revealing sharp fangs glistening with venom; and it’s body stretched, and they heard the rattle of its tail; and they knew…
-Aaron Becker, 5/8/18
“I’d love a belt made out of that,” one of them said. “Let me see what I can do,” said the other.
-Stephen McCauley, 5/9/18
But right at that moment, their pants began to glow, as if possessed. The would not need belts. They would need something else.
-Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, 5/10/18
The armadillo was tough to catch, but once they had him, he became docile and calmly eyed them with his gently glowing eyes.
-Maxim Loskutoff, 5/11/18
The armadillo was safely released into the wild. They wasted precious time doing the good deed, but there was still hope they could make it.
-Nisha Sharma, 5/16/18
But then the armadillo was snatched up, hollowed out, & made into a musical instrument. But his shell carried a terrible curse.
-Mackenzi Lee, 5/16/18
Anyone who touched the shell would form a shell around their heart which could only be dissolved by hearing the last lines of the last song played on that instrument, which was hidden in…
-Huntley Fitzpatrick, 5/16/17
...the mouth of a giant whale. After swallowing Jonah, the whale had stayed hungry. The whale knew she should diet, but, honestly, what was the point? The name “whale” was a veritable synonym for size. But perhaps she would change that. She would redefine whales. She would…
-Scott Stern, 5/17/28
...rethink the whole concept and history of whales. And using her special powers of thinking both forward and backward in time, she ignored Jonah for the moment and shot her mind forward to…
-John Butman, 5/22
question of evil and beauty and how Milton described the whole and what Satan was thinking when he began to tempt Eve…
-Margaret Thornton, 5/24/18
But this even would avoid that trash and filth, leave the seed of despair unplanted, and go her own way.
-Patrick K Ford, 5/25/18
But her way would not allow her to exit the garden. There were snakes with grass and a few golf balls lost in passion and a bad swing.
-Jerry Hunter, 5/25/18
Not for the first time, he wanted so badly to be able to hit a solid seven-iron. She knew that was unlikely but so much more likely than fear of snakes.
-Don Rosenstein, 5/29/18
flowers, when the snakes descended from the luggage on the airplane, the flowers screamed. Fortunately, the snake bit the passenger who was least liked and the rest of the cabin cheered wildly.
-Justin Yopp, 5/29/18
And the snake slithered away, humbly, modestly, having served the greater good and passengers were relieved of great fear.
-Philip Goldberg, 5/30/18
And then the hawks dove in, with bombs in their talons and devotion in their hearts.
-Katie Slivensky, 6/5/18
Flying off, the hawks found themselves lost in clouds, their way unclear and in jeopardy.
-Matthew Pearl, 6/6/18
They did not stop until they came to the moon, where they met a hawk they’d known years ago, who claimed to know the way back to earth.
-Daniel Gumbiner, 6/7/18
The hawk tried to get them back to earth, but he spoke only in German--a language none of them knew. So, they were forced to muddle through, trying to communicate through hand and wing gestures alone. And then, the moon stepped in and agreed to translate.
-Meg Little Reilly, 6/13/18
Translating the moon’s language was her life passion. She watched the path every night & listened to the voice that arrived with the moonlight each night, even when the moon spoke in German.
-Elizabeth Garber, 6/20/18
To cook by moonline was one of her greatest pleasures. She went outside and harvested the herbs, searched for mushrooms and ramps, and slowly went back inside with no lights on and proceeded to make herself a half-moon omelette.
-Amy Trubek, 6/21/18
...there were few things more hospitable in life, Peter thought, than the smell of sauted onions. He rarely cooked for himself--the chef’s preferred meal was anything prepared by someone else--but when he had insomnia he sometimes made omelettes fricasseed onion, the half-moon descending coyly in the dawn sky beyond his apartment’s kitchen window.
-Jenna Blum, 6/22/18
He was overwhelmed with the realization of life passing by, irrevocably lost forever. How had he ended up here, half a success, half a failure? The new down held no promises, only regrets.
-Susan Bickford, 6/27/18
with the storm brewing and the anchor cable lost, there was no getting to the island that lay just over the horizon, where his daughter and granddaughter were waiting. There would be no homecoming.
-Andrew Lawlor, 6/28/18
He dove into the water and was immediately surrounded by sharks. The shore looked so deceptively near, yet stroke after stroke, he never came closer. A black fin of the orca appeared and plunged into the middle of the sharks and scattered them. As the waves subsided, a clear, sharp beam of light fined a path to the shores…
-Shelley Hawks & Friends, 7/10/18
As he followed the light, schools of brightly colored fish parted the waters, catching the rays of sunshine. He washed upon the warm beach and basked in the sun
-Heather Curtis, 7/11/18
reflecting on the day. The warm afternoon in contrast to the sterile hospital room. Sun baking his bare arms dotted with the handiwork of a hundred nurses. But this day belongs to renewal and life. Tomorrow brings…
-David Mahood, 7/12/18
a disco party. He never should have agreed to his sister’s hairbrained plan. But if he didn’t go and watch over her, it was sure to devolve into chaos. The last dance party that childhood friend of his Zoe had shown up, and she was always…
-Katherine Lewis, 7/13/18
late! But she skidded in at the last minute, shaking glitter and tinsel from her bright blue hair. “I have an announcement to make! I…”
-Hannah Orenstein, 7/17/18
just got tickets to opening day to see the Red Sox! I’ve never been before. I hope they win. Her friends were envious but turned the conversation in another direction. “So, what do you think is going to happen with Donald Trump?” “Well, now that’s not…”
-Bill Nowlin, 7/18/18
going to turn out as well as this Red Sox game. The Sox are going to kick ass, and Trump’s going to get his ass kicked right into the slammer.” “I can’t wait for the to happen. Then his cronies will finally…”
-Holly Strathmore, 7/19/18
finally pay for what they’ve done. Don’t you remember?” “No. I’ve been drugged and in a coma for the last six years.” “Well, he murdered The Yankees with his…”
-Jane C. Esther, 7/19/18
“...incredible sense of human and sharp wit,” she said sarcastically. Everyone knows that he’s the most boring human ever; ever, ever. Like always and forever boring. It was a known fact. “Yeah, you’re right. Not possible. Right?”
-Fiona Riley, 7/19/18
But she desperately wanted it to be possible. He was so beautiful, a work of art really. The illusion was only shattered when he spoke, and when she was forced to realize how little he had to say.”
-Lisa Borders 7/25/18
“You gonna eat that?” He pointed to my one lone french fry. His finger so close to its yellow skin he may as well have touched it. He knew what he wanted and how to get it, in the most banal way.
-Piper Weiss, 7/25/18
“No,” I said. “Clearly I’m not going to eat that.” I didn’t move and I didn’t push the french fry towards him. “Can I--” he started. “No. You’re not going to eat that either.”
-Paul Collins, 7/26/18
The pulsating octopus finger began to crawl off the plate, then the table, before haughtily sauntered out the door. “Should we follow--” “No,” I said. “Get in the car! We have a situation on our hands.”
-Jackie Wang, 8/1/18
They headed for the car, but the octopus finger was too quick for them. Before they knew it, the finger regenerated into a complete octopus and grabbed them with its tentacles. Fortunately for them…
-Steve Nelson, 8/2/18
They had brought along their Fingeroff ™ , a specially designed spray that would ward off the grabbiest of grabbers. As the octopus tried to dodge it, they couldn’t help but notice the zipper up its back. If only they could…
-Mark Hoffman, 8/4/18
pull down the zipper and find out what was contained. Would it be full of organs, like a human cadaver? Or could they eat the octopus like at the fanciest Greek restaurant? When the octopus turned its back, she yanked on the zipper, pulled, and…
-Daniela Lamas, 8/7/18
it wasn’t an octopus, alas. It was a baby panda. The panda rolled out, fat, splayed, then sat up. What in the actual fuck, she said, but the panda grabbed her leg…”
-R.O. Kwon, 8/9/18
and tied her shoe. “How do you know how to do that?,” asked the girl. “You are just a baby panda.” “I am very good at tying shoes. In fact, I am a magic baby panda, sent to you to tell you something important.” The girl gasped. “Now follow me onto this spaceship...We have a planet to save and you are--”
-Maddie Frost, 8/11/18
“I am not leaving this planet to go save some other planet,” she said. “And as for being a magic baby panda, do you think I’m blind. You look like a clown.” Immediately, the baby panda changed form and suddenly looked like a clown. “So what…”
-David Moore, 8/16/18
shall we do now? Where do we go from here? There are no more magic baby pandas. Only sad clowns. But souls still need saving. They may need to save themselves.
-Joan Berglund, 8/17/19
Too much thinking, she concluded, better to clear one’s mind, to tame the emptiness, to consider mundane things like what type of toothpaste to buy and what to watch on TV that night--or, more radically, not to watch TV at all, as hard as that would be to imagine, but to sit, staring emptily at the wall where that only painting hangs.
-Seth Rogoff, 8/27/19
Meditation, she concluded, was something she needed to incorporate into her life. She wanted to be more present, more mindful. She wanted to savor whatever time she had left on this early and stop just going through the motions.
-Maria Leonard Olsen, 8/29/18
But that would come later. First, she had a bachelorette party to attend, in all its extravagant, Vegas-glittering glory. There would be no lack of actions to go through there and when it was over, her need for spiritual cleansing and mindfulness would be at a maximum.
-Caroline Linden, 8/30/18
She had the chalice in her hands, brought it to her lips. The ruby liquid trickled down her throat and a warmth spread into her belly. Her skin split and the scales formed along her forearm and her shins. When the spikes grew from her spine and her pupils narrowed, the reptilian transformation was complete.
-Rebecca Caprara, 9/1/18
Well, Ted thought. There goes that first date. You meet a girl, offer her a drink, and she goes full reptile. He sighed and called a cab. The night was young. He still had time to binge watch “The Good Place.” All was not lost.
-Stephanie Gayle, 9/4/18
“The Bad Place,” however, was not on TV, so Ted began to watch “Stranger Things,” and before he could understand what was happening he was in the Upside Down and the reptile girl was back! She wanted to shave his head because she had shaved hers. Ted hid in the bathroom and began to pray.
-Blanche Boyd, 9/6/18
But prayer was futile and Ted realized he would have to learn to accept himself for who he was. Self-love was never his forte, so he stepped out of the bathroom and invited her to watch Queer Eye with him. If anything could make him love himself, it was that.
-Courtney Summers, 9/8/18
Unfortunately, Ted had a stroke. As he recovered in rehab he couldn’t help but notice that one of his eyes had gone queer--it focused only on the future.
-Cheryl Suchors, 9/13/18
Ted’s one clear eye had an unflinching gaze of what would come to pass. With it, he decided to take on the task of direction humanity out of its self destructive path, driving by greed.
-Didn’t get this attribution
He knew it was a lost, hopeless endeavor, and he had an acute awareness of all the shortcomings, the disappointments, the sheer frustration that comes with good intentions.
-Juan Gabriel Vasquez, 9/28/18
Nevertheless he persisted. And one day, when he was least expecting it, good fortune intervened. He found an envelope with his name on it, and the contents of his life changed.
-Belle Brett, 10/2/19
The contents of the envelope told him how his life would end, how much time he had, and where he would breathe his last.
-Catherine Magia, 10/3/18
His tongue was dry from licking stamps. If only he could muster the moisture to seal the envelope.
-Raul the Third, 10/5/18
What to do for a dry tongue? Then he heard a patter against the window glass. Rain. He lifted the sash, stuck his head out, opened his mouth, stuck out his tongue and--marvelous--it was wet again.
-Whoops, missed this attribution.
Now I can talk smoothly again; thank you rain for quenching my thirst and loosening my tonugh besides giving life to the thirsty earth and renewing it.
-Missed this one, too. Sorry!
Without this rain the seeds that lie waiting in the earth would not grow. But now they can and as the seeds grow into luscious plants, so will my words. This story is just beginning. I have a lot to say.
-Emilie Boon, 10/13/18
I bought a diary in which to write my thoughts, and I write every morning after watering the garden. I am dredging up my elementary years, reliving my role in the school play and…
-Kerri Maher, 10/17/18
My role in planning one of the century’s greatest crimes.
-Howard Mansfield, 10/18/18
Which lead me to the bowels of London’s sewers, a dark & lonely & wet place.
-Virginia Pye, 10/23/18
Hail to my “local” bookstore, true agora, meeting place where things come together. What better place to work on work.
-Ellen Ruppel Shell, 10/25/18
That’s where I learned the secret of life--he who controls himself, controls the world.
-Damien Echols, 10/30/18
Little did I know there were many, many more secrets to uncover about the self, the world, and everything in between.
-Francie Latour, 11/3/18
In particular, what was the secret ingredient in Tia Sofia’s deep dark chocolate cake?
-Dianna Sanchez, 11/6/18
And why, given her professed love of classical music, did she eat all of it at once.
-Bob Katz, 11/13/18
For everyone knows it is nigh on impossible to enjoy Albeniz’s “El Puerto,” one of the most energetic compositions ever written, with a stomachful of pumpkin pie.
-Lisa Halliday, 11/15/18
It can be negotiated delicately, however, if one has confined themselves only to cocktails, provided the confinement is not too potent.
-Sonya Taaffe, 11/16/18