NYC Midnight Writing Challenge

Entries By Laura Gross

In 2022, I began entering into the NYC Midnight Writing Challenges. These challenges limit the number of words you can use, provide specific prompts you must follow, and have very limited time for creating your entry (24-72 hours).

Learn more here

"The Trip"

100 word microfiction challenge Round 1

April  2022

Prompts >

Genre: Comedy

Location: Train Station

Mandatory word: Legal

Did not place

My vision smeared technicolor at the edges despite my effort to stay steady.

“Train?” I asked the nearest giant.

I only caught a cackled “illegal substance” to their bird-faced friend in response.

A humongous serpent slowed alongside the platform, scales glistening in halogen cones of light. Immediately, commuters squeezed themselves through slits in its sides.

“Gotta ride the snake,” I realized as it hissed loudly and began inching away. Frantic, I lunged to hop on, missed, and fell bodily.

The snake slithered on.

“I missed the snake,” I told the gnomes as they gathered around. “Gotta catch the next one.”

"The Retrieval Man"

1000 word flash fiction challenge Round 1

June 2022

Prompts >

Genre: Crime Caper

Location: Pool Room

Object: Couch

Placed 11th in group

*Language & Content Warning*

I’m “The Retrieval Man” – a misnomer, but this is still a man’s world and I pick my battles. The Dolphin – my boss – tapped me on Tuesday and said, “Got an easy job for you, Lou.” 

 

Great.

 

My name’s not really Lou, but “Because Louella said so,” doesn’t get it done, so I work with what I’ve got. Anyway, I gather Grippy, Francis, and Brittney – she’s new – and we plan to retrieve the Blue Diamond from where Gerald – fucking useless Gerald – hides it after Sammy liberates it. 

 

Easy.

 

The night of the job, we meet up in the poolroom at The Dolphin Club. It’s a private section of the club we call HQ. You gotta work for the boss to get past the tree trunk of a man at the door. He’s cool but I wouldn’t challenge him to a fight – or debate – it’d be like challenging a wall. I gave him a wink on the way in. Never hurts to be friendly.

 

Inside, I managed to avoid taking a pool cue to the tit – assholes – and, I broke at least one finger on the hand that touched my ass as I passed a table of goons before I plopped into the last chair at my crew’s table.

           

It’s not every day we’re handling jewels the size of a queen’s asshole, and big jobs like this give a great buzz. But the boss wasn’t in today, the place lacked his usual oversight, and it gave everyone an air of mice partying while the cat’s away; A manic energy that was turning my buzz into a prickle of anxiety.

 

That’s when Ben staggered in with a blood-covered Sammy. These two were to get the diamond out of captivity. This much blood was not a good omen.

 

“The fuck?” I asked Ben as he flopped Sammy down on a pool table.

 

It took him a moment to catch a brainwave and when he did the words crashed out of him. “Security shot Sammy. We got out, lost Gerald. He was taking a piss while we dodged bullets.”

 

“Fucking Gerald,” What a fuck up. “Did the rock make it?”

 

Ben looked grey when he nodded. Likely, it was dawning on him that The Dolphin was going to skin all of us alive if this job was botched.

 

“Let’s go!” I bellowed at my team. They fell in behind me as we made our exit.

 

The diamond was supposed to be stashed at 2nd Presbyterian. The four of us gawking out the windows of a minivan was not the subtlety I’d prefer, but I needed confirmation the idiot got his dick back in his pants and the diamond into the church.

 

We notice right away there’s too many people around. All of them coming out of the church carrying shit, and it occurs to me that we are witnessing some bullshit god junk sale.

 

I send Brittney in for recon. Her short skirt will turn heads among the buttoned-collar crowd, but memorable legs are better than a memorable face.

 

I’m watching her romance info from a teenager when Gerald’s wiry form coalesces from the shadows of some garbage cans. He manages to slip in and out of the church without drawing attention. A fucking miracle.

 

“Lou!” he says overloud with surprise when I stop him.

 

“Shut up,” I hiss, “There’s too many people, give me the rock.”

 

“Uh it’s hidden. Y’know that ugly couch in the lobby?” he doesn’t wait for my answer, but I do know the one – it’s in the narthex, “It’s behind the cushions.”

 

I picture a kid hunting for change to buy junk and I’m about to throttle him when movement behind him catches my attention.

 

“Gerald?” I say.

 

“Yah, Lou?” he says.

 

“Is that the couch?” I ask.

 

As he turns, two men – followed by a skeletal, white-haired woman in pearls – are lugging the damned couch down the stairs.

 

I wolf-whistle at Francis followed by hand gestures that would make any baseball coach proud. But the whistle makes the men stop abruptly, which causes the old lady to run into one and fall on her ass, which makes that man drop his end of the couch, which makes the other man curse, which makes a baby cry.

 

I run at the scene yelling, “The couch,” with all the inferred importance I can muster. Now all eyes are on us as Grippy and Francis each, helpfully, take up a corner. And that is when my toe catches the concrete and I fall, bodily, into floral fabric.

 

My face is a mask of embarrassment as I grab the former contents of my pockets from under the couch. “I’m ok,” I proclaim. The four men, and the old woman, who’s upright again, shuffle on.

 

Brittney and I return to the van.

 

When Grippy and Francis return, they look grave.

 

“No diamond,” Grippy grumbles.

 

“The Dolphin is going to lose his shit,” I say, “Let’s get back to HQ.”

 

They all look skeptical, but Francis starts the van. As we’re pulling out Brittney speaks for the first time all day. “Why’d they call him The Dolphin?” she asks – she’s still new.

 

“Ever heard him laugh?” I ask her.

 

“Yah,” she says and then realization dawns, “Oh.” We drive on as she ponders it.

 

Now, we’re all back in the poolroom. Boss’s furious but watching him threaten Gerald is too good, so when he turns to me, I smile.

 

“You’re fucking smiling?” he asks, still all rage and fire.

 

I reach down my top and pull the Blue Diamond from its safe place in my bra, and the room erupts in curses and confusion. “It must have fallen out of the couch when they dropped it,” I tell them like I wasn’t keeping that punchline between my boobs this whole time.

 

The Dolphin laughs his high pitch machine gun laugh and grabs it from me. “Fuck you, Lou,” he says, but he’s smiling and with a wave of his hand we’re all, except Gerald, dismissed.

Operation: Windsock

1000 word flash fiction challenge Round 2

August 2022

Prompts >

Genre: Spy

Location: Wave Pool

Object: Police Tape

*Submitted for judging*

My little eye spied something that was yellow. I’d been waiting among the Saturday night patrons of AlphaBet City Wave Park to see a glimpse of my target for a metric forever. The rhythmic sound of the waves crashing in the pool were starting to make my eyelids heavy. This whole operation seemed to be brought to us by the letter Zzzzzzz. 

 

I dragged my purple hand down my purple face and sighed my relief.

 

Even O, the disembodied voice in my ear, seemed to be suffering from restlessness. “E, do you have eyes on him yet?” was becoming a minute by minute question like we were on a road trip and she had to pee. 

 

“I spy him,” I told her when she asked for the nine hundredth time. 

 

Her keyboard clacked in response as she prepared for the next phase of the night. 

 

I focused my beady eyes on whom the file referred to as subject 6. He was hard to miss. Seven foot tall and yellow like the goddamn sun. The average height in ABC was a much more reasonable 3 foot five, but I wasn't likely to ever lose a tail on him. 

 

Subject 6 was, unsurprisingly, the 6th target of Operation: Windsock. A series of seek and destroy missions that to this moment had gone smoothly and by the book. 

 

Despite it’s birthday friendly veneer, this wave pool was the headquarters of the largest Fur mafia family inside ABC’s borders.

 

There had always been tension between the Felts and the Furs. Different peoples have always had a habit of forgetting we’re all fluff on the inside. Borders are just made up invisible lines, but when two large cities of two very different cultures sit on either side, there can be some real shenanigans.

 

Operation: Windsock was a direct result of the Felt government funding a number of top secret scientific experiments to eliminate moths. A global scourge, these monsters have been eating through everything since the first man was sewn. We keep the lights off at night. We fear for our children. They terrorize us. These experiments will change the world.

 

They also will push Feltdom into a whole new era of prosperity. A golden age. But the nation of Fur and their spies stole our secrets. They intended to beat us to the market. We won’t be standing for that.

 

“Alright E,” O said in my ear, “It’s show time.”

 

My cue to move. I watched the big yellow mass contort himself through the comically small door at the business end of the wave pool into what the blueprints for the building said was the machinery room and followed. 

 

The machinery was still as I passed through the door, the silence echoed in the cavernous room that housed it. There was a break for the machinery to cool and swimmers to rest their soggy waterlogged bodies before another round. 

 

The window to complete this phase of the mission was narrow and critical so i moved fast in the quiet. 6 had the golden goose. His infamous vault, rumored to be a good size for a man of his stature, could only be accessed from his office. Would only open once a night. And required a scan of his eye. Inside was the motherload of secrets. Still encrypted thanks to my work on Subject 3 before he could get his hands on the data. 

 

A siren and the shrieks of excited wave poolers warned of the next round of waves. 

 

I only heard two footsteps before the machinery set to motion. The hydraulics that drive the wave panels churned in alternating patterns. Something deeper in the room rattled with the vibration and something beneath my feet sounded like it needed some oil. The cacophony hid my footsteps, but it hid someone else’s too. 

 

“Who’s in here with me?” I asked O, my voice was drowned out but clear through the technology. 

 

“There’s too much concrete to tell, but I’d guess hired goons? I hear your frown, E. I only see two moving around in there.”

 

I pulled out my side arm. As I waited for her to provide something more useful.

 

“The first one is at two oclock,” she told me as I caught a shadow to my right and framed up to target one. The only indication I hit the target was the flurry of white stuffing that erupted out as he fell back.

 

“One’s down,” i reported.

 

“Target two is coming up from behind, 20 feet.”

 

I spun myself into a more protected position just as a bullet winged a fence surrounding some computer equipment, sending sparks within singeing distance of my face. I returned fire and watched as the impact to their shoulder spun them 360 degrees and then to the ground. 

 

“Two’s down.”

 

“Marked,” the keyboard clacked. “You have less than 2 minutes.”

 

I closed the distance to the door and toed it open. Big yellow and another Fur from the file stood, backs to me, in the process of opening the vault. 

 

“Just in time,” I said for O’s benefit before I stepped fully into the room, gun cocked and fingers twitching.

 

The vault door popped open.

 

I didn’t hesitate. I fired 4 shots dropping both men where they stood. 

 

Stepping over the fluff and thread coating the entrance to the safe, i used my entire body to pry the door open enough to squeeze inside. 

 

“Don’t forget the code,” O reminded.

 

I knelt down by the mass of lifeless yellow, snapped my blade open, and sliced down the seam of his chest. I didn’t have to dig around much to find the paper. I pulled it out and shook off the bits of fluff that came with it.

 

I felt like Jack in the giant’s house. But the code opened the safe. I pushed the contents off each shelf into a sack and then calmly and carefully extracted myself from the premises. 

 

The moth secrets were ours once again.

Love at First Hate

600 word rhyming fiction challenge Round 1

Octoberd 2022

Prompts >

Genre: Fairy Tale

Theme: Punishment

Emotion: Annoyed

*This story was not submitted for judging as it is 723 words long. A full 123 too many*

“Perfect” skin and red lips to kiss in the moonlight

are a siren song to all the men; peasant, prince, or knight

So sad these girls waste years locked up in towers, tight.

True love’s reserved for sad, weak hearts who wish on stars at night

 

I leave my green skin natural and coax birds to my hair

I spend my time on wise pursuits like trading gold for heirs

Once i’ve boiled their bones I sit back in my rocking chair

And wait until I feel new need for deals made fair and square

 

Until I saw him and my heart went still…

 

With hate

 

Ugh this Prince Charming

His beauty alarming

And he, so very disarming,

I resolved to do harming

 

I told him with my eyes

That it’d be best if he died

And with a cackle implied

That he’ll want to hide

 

In return he smiled

Even lingered awhile

But his white teeth were vile

So i ran for a mile

 

And running is not my best skill

Panting deep in the woods, I thought I’d be ill

 

And i was

 

This prince and his gauntlet he’d undoubtedly thrown

I was suddenly in territory deeply unknown

My cackle had always made men go prone

He’d flashed me his teeth and, a coward, i’d flown

 

I’d show him

 

Next time i saw him, i wore my best robe

With spiderweb lace from the far side of the globe

a hat tall and thin enough to be a probe

Plus my favorite bat earrings, one wing hung from each lobe

 

The time after that, I cast mud in his path

A river of filth he’d never get past

I kept up behind him so he’d hear me laugh

Yet knee deep in mud he showed no hint of wrath

 

Then it was war, no more holding back

I cast lizards, and rainstorms, two plagues, and a yak

Everything i could think of, a full on attack

I cursed him and the village like some maniac

 

Through the course of my siege he showed only poise

He sucked out of my life all traces of joy

He laughed and he smiled at each of my ploys

Nary a hint that he might be annoyed

 

A new problem presented. Village tempers did pop

Unlike mr. unflappable they demanded I stop

On every outing i heard my name drop

I was near out of time to come out on top

 

They were building a stake

 

Then in a dream where we stood face to face

My hands ‘round his neck in an passionate embrace

Everything suddenly fell into place

I knew how to get him to yield in disgrace

 

On waking I smashed up a rose and a frog

One eye of newt and the hair of a hog

Then mixed in some water i got from the bog

And sprinkled some charcoal from a fully burnt log

 

On offer, he took my brew without a question

He obviously didn’t fear the digestion

Side effects could include gas and congestion

I titled my hand to enforce the suggestion

 

And he drank it

 

We waited in wonder for what would come next

Signs of it working would show he was hexed

With a love spell that no one would ever expect

This prince would love witches and not a princess

 

When nothing happened i thought i would cry

When he laughed from his belly tears sprang to my eyes

What he said next came as a surprise

“I love you already, don’t you feel likewise?

 

I’m keen on your passion, you’re clever and quick

Your confidence truly is what i would pick

For a partner in all times, let’s get married quick”

 

I gaped at him mouth wide “i thought you were a dick”

 

But when i looked back on this war and my glee

In seeking him out to locate the key

To unlocking the feelings trapped deep inside me

I could see

 

My pathetic weak heart sought love all along

It’s traitorous pounding resembled a song

Of true love that briefly had translated wrong

And now that i felt it, i knew it was strong

Hopping Mad

600 word rhyming fiction challenge Round 1

Octoberd 2022

Prompts >

Genre: Fairy Tale

Theme: Punishment

Emotion: Annoyed

*Submitted for judging*

I couldn’t just turn a blind eye to deceit

I needed revenge, most perfect and sweet.

No one in the kingdom believed prince charming would cheat,

but he did, I can prove it. He was not discrete.

 

He had the nerve to tell me she was “just a frog”.

Then started spending too much time down at the nearby bog.

Plus, there were the warts that sprouted on his lips and… log.

My gut was correct all along; He was such a hog.

 

It seemed to be impossible to hold him liable.

My courtiers all thought his lies were truths most viable.

And despite the fact I’d only ever been reliable,

they insisted my reaction wasn’t justifiable.

 

That’s when I decided I needed some advice

An outside source, a brand new view, even at a price

I marched myself to the local witch without thinking twice.

She served me some delicious tea that smelled like pumpkin spice.

 

She told me she could help and there was more than one solution.

She said she’d gladly do the deed, but there’s no substitution

for doling out to him my very own fair retribution,

and that I’d feel more satisfied with my own contribution.

 

I worked with her the next two weeks to learn her witching trade.

She taught me in great detail how the witch’s brews were made.

Despite her reputation, I never felt afraid.

It’s funny how we don’t all fit into how we are portrayed.

 

It came time that I had all the skills that I would need

to hunt him down, prepare my spell, and finally do the deed.

I hoped that when the deed was done, I'd feel my rage recede.

The witch expressed her confidence I surely would succeed.

 

I found him with his lady frog basking in the sun.

I felt the need to say something before I had my fun.

It felt really important to express that I had won.

It was fitting we were in the bog where all this had begun.

 

“I think you’re truly horrible,” I yelled out from the shore.

“This whole stupid experience has shown me I want more.

Let this be your notice that I’m showing you the door.

It turns out that I find you just to be a bore”

 

The spell went like this:

 

Fairy scales and bobcat tails

Seven snails and a wing of quail

Say goodbye

I hope you cry

You 

Know 

Why

 

And if you are now wondering just what I had cast,

before I tell you, I confess it wasn’t meant to last.

 

I replaced his genitals with those of a frog.

A cloaca is better than warts on your log.

He’d be quite popular down at the bog.

 

And the piece de resistance is what happened next.

He ratted me out, but the court was perplexed.

They didn’t even believe he’d been hexed.

He wouldn’t take his pants off, so no one suspects.

 

He’d suffer for three days which seemed adequate.

His frog parts would disappear lickety split.

Though perhaps a bit shorter, all parts would fit.

This “miscalculation” was deliberate.

 

And as for me, I then felt resolved,

but I couldn’t go back to the court and the balls.

So, I went back to the witch and invested it all

in my witching to see how that would evolve.

 

How ever you slice it, it worked out for the best.

I can’t help the feeling that I have been blessed

with a life of the sort that I'd never have guessed.

I’ve taken a job: wicked witch of the west.