90 comments

Mar 04, 2021

Fiction Sad Suspense

Deep blue waves launched our sailboat higher as the storm darkened the skies in the southeast. My brother David and I woke this morning to heavy seas and high winds. We’d never seen so much lightning in our lives. We checked the radar and saw the hurricane had shifted overnight, looking for warmer water. With the storm headed right at us, we turned further west to go around the outside. The Caribbean was no longer a safe option, so we hoped for Bermuda or the outlying islands. All morning we struggled against the wind and waves, and our progress was slow. David and I felt good about our chances as Bermuda was only a 100 miles away. By midmorning the water roiled dark blue as waves capped in white rose and fell higher and higher. 


“Look!” cried David. He pointed to the sky as another flock of birds flew away from the storm. 


“If we could only be so lucky,” I said. “Is everything tied down?”


“As much as can be,” he said.


“Close the cabin, it’ll be raining soon.” 


“You think we can outrun this all the way to Bermuda?” asked David.


“I’m going to try,” 


By noon we had both vomited our breakfast and watched it wash away from the waves crashing across the deck. Several radar checks showed we were still on the outer edge of the storm and losing our lead. The waves were bigger and further apart, so we steered into them, hoping we’d see land by nightfall. Things were looking good until the afternoon. Wind kept whipping into our faces, making it hard to see. Holding on was second nature to breathing, but after hours of sailing, exhaustion took its toll. I sent David down below to get some rest, and I’d hold the wheel for a few more hours than we could trade. Darkness in a hurricane at night is different. The waves and the sky looked alike and telling one from another was near impossible without lightning. Near 5 o’clock I saw an object silhouetted by clouds highlighted by the storm.


I knew I felt tired, but something about this seemed bad. I kept on course keeping watch, but it disappeared from sight. Almost a half hour later it showed up again, and I wondered if we’d come across land, but a bright flash of lightning outlined the hull of another sailboat. I steered clear of it and hoped the captain of that boat saw us and he’d do the same. I thumped my hand on the deck to wake David. He came on deck and we traded posts for a while. I told him of the other boat and I went below. 


Thump, Thump, Thump “Charlie!” cried David. “Charlie, get up here we have a problem.” 


Grabbing my raincoat, I climbed back on deck. 


“I think I see it again.” He yelled. “The boat is on the port side and getting closer. I’ve lost it in the waves again.” The compass showed we were still on course, and I made a correction to go further west. 


“Do you think the captain of that boat has seen us?” I asked.


“I don’t think it has a captain,” he shouted. We looked at each other knowingly. 


“You think it’s drifting on its own?” I said. A thunderous boom from above drowned out his voice, but I heard enough. 


“YEAH,” 


Waves are one thing, but a ghost ship riding on the ocean, in the middle of a storm, could spell disaster. David suggested turning on the engine and trying to hold position, then turn away when we saw it again.


“It won’t start!” I shouted.


“What?” he yelled


I had to shout into his ear. “The engine won’t start!” He gestured he would go below and find out what’s wrong. I stood as high as my feet would allow and looked frantically for the other boat as he disappeared down below. Despite the storm, I could hear my heartbeat as the adrenaline coursed through my body. “Where are you?” I said, “Just let me see you one more time.” As I struggled to see through the stormy night. Not knowing, not seeing, only praying, I saw the ship ahead of us. A burst of lightning and the ghost ship appeared on the crest of a wave. The engine hadn’t started yet, but I saw it and we were inline with each other. I pounded on the deck for David to hurry. I shouted I could see the boat. It disappeared below a wave and saw it rise again as we sunk into the next trough. By the next wave I could tell we were gaining on it and I pounded harder and harder on the deck. “David, hurry!” I shouted. I knew he was doing his best, but we were in danger. 


Calling him over the storm felt like spitting in the wind. It drowned out my words, and he didn’t hear me. I pounded harder and harder until David poked his head up and saw what I’d been yelling about. Off the starboard side now, the derelict boat was floating and rising among the waves beside us. The sight sent shivers down our spines. In a flash of lightning what I’d feared most was happening; it was coming right at us. I cried out to David as we held on for impact. The crash never came as a rogue wave-cut between us and tossed it off its collision course. 


I held on the wheel and crawled forward to David, “You’ve got to start that engine!” 


“OK, I got it, I got it!” He yelled as I struggled to my knees, and crawled back to the wheel. A moment later the engine started, and I could put the gear in reverse. As the engine came to life, the boat pulled back in time to miss a full broadside. The ghost ship still clipped our bow and pulpit. Neither of us got hurt, but we trailed this boat up and down the trough. I began pulling the rudder to Port into the next wave. I wanted to throw the boat in full throttle forward when we had enough space to turn. David opened the hatch and tried to climb out when the wave I was attacking knocked him off balance and he fell back into the cabin. I reached out for him but couldn’t take my hand off the wheel. A wave hit the deck and over the hatch and into the hold, flooding the engine room. Again, our boat was as dead as the ghost ship. 


David climbed to the opening, and we looked at each other as sickness overcame us. Again we were floundering in the storm at the mercy of the other boat. The ghost ship wasn’t far off, and we were ultimately going to hit it if we didn’t get the engine started again. David closed the hatch and ran down below. He must have been standing in knee-deep in the water, trying to start the pumps to drain out of the engine room. I knew he would help pump manually, but it would take time to get the water low enough to start the engine again. He must have prayed as hard as I did not to hit the empty boat threatening to destroy us. I saw the ship getting closer, so I pounded rapidly on the deck and screamed for him to get out so he didn’t get caught inside if we collided. Dave had to know the other boat was coming in, and we were about to slam into each other. I don’t know how he did it, but he kept pumping and pumping, and the engine started from the ignition down below. 


On deck, I pulled hard on the wheel to direct us away from the other ship. I fought with tears in my eyes, grunting, and screamed at the waves. We’d finally made it clear. I watched a wave come between us as the ghost ship crest over another. David left the engine running and returned topside, closing the hatch this time. 


He crawled on his hands and knees to me and shouted. “We’ve got to find a better way to get away from that boat! I’m going to put up the jib and see if you can steer us out of here!” I didn’t argue and waited for David to make his way forward. The ghost ship slid behind us, and now it followed us like a NASCAR race. I saw the forward jib rise slowly as David pumped the gear as fast as he could. The boat moved, so I pushed the throttle forward. Turning the rudder to starboard, I looked back to see I’d steered away from the other boat. I didn’t care if I’d turned us a complete 90 degrees, as long as we headed in a direction far away from that dead ship. 


I hardly remember what happened next. It all happened so fast, I still can’t make sense of it. The jib was open and helped pull us away. I turned into the oncoming waves to cut away from the old wreck. Even with the extra speed, it just wasn’t enough. We came around just as a wave, bigger than all the rest, hit us and we rolled over. Without explanation, we continued to roll and surfaced upright again. The main mast broke, and it ripped everything off deck and tossed into the water. It was all so fast I barely moved from my position. I fell flat on my back in the wheel well with one hand twisted in the wheel itself. Scrambling to my feet and called out to David, but he didn’t answer. I looked all over the deck, and along the side of the boat. All along I yelled and yelled his name. I checked the cabin in case the roll had knocked me out, and he’d found his way below. He wasn’t there either. I crawled all over the deck looking for him, calling over and over for him to answer me.


As the wind and waves whipped around the boat, I couldn’t see him anywhere. Climbing forward, I looked around in the water. Hand over hand I crawled over every inch of railing looking for him floating nearby. I nearly fell in myself. Crawling back into the stern next to the wheel, I shut off the engine. I just sat there and cried. David was gone, and I was all alone. 


“David, are you still out there?” I asked as I cried. “DAVID!” “DAVID!” again, and again I called him. All I heard in return were whispers of thunder as the storm carried my brother away. Finally, I shouted, “I LOVE YOU!” I fell to my knees and cried. “I love you, David, and I’ll tell mom and dad what happened.” 


The storm spit me out somewhere in the mid-atlantic. As the morning sun rose higher and higher, I stood on the cabin roof looking for David. I tried to maintain hope his body would show up, but the effort became exhausting after several hours scanning the horizon. What was I going to say to everyone? How would I tell them what happened? Sliding on my butt to the edge of the cabin roof, I slipped off and went below. I slept fitfully as exhaustion overtook me. I woke often and looked out the window, hoping to see David clinging to a piece of wood, calling for help. It was maddening; I felt like I’d lost him repeatedly as I realized he wasn’t there. 


The batteries were dead, and unfortunately, everything was electric. The radio wouldn’t work, so I had no way to call for a mayday. Sitting on a bench in the cabin, I watched the contents of the cabinets floating on the floor, swaying with the rocking of the boat. My body was both hot and cold. The boat pulled to the port from the weight of the mast and rigging dangling in the water. I didn’t know how I was going to keep going. Frankly, I didn’t care. Daytime passed into night as I sat there lost and alone. I finally lumbered to the front of the berth and climbed into bed. 


Sometime later I woke and sat on the deck in a dark, heavy fog. Listening to the water lap against the boat. In the darkness, I thought I’d heard a ship’s bell. Ding… Ding… soft water splashed, it was quiet, then again, Ding… Ding… Nothing was in sight as I looked around. Could there be another boat in the fog? Were they signaling their presence, so we didn’t collide? I started pounding on my boat and calling out, making noise. I pounded the deck harder and harder as I shouted with a dry mouth.  


“Hello! Hello! I’m here! Hello!” A dim shape emerged through the fog. It was a boat. Then I realized it was the ghost ship from the storm. As the current drew us closer and closer, a man stood on the deck next to the wheel with one hand, ringing the bell and his other, holding a light with a dim yellow glow. Ding… Ding… Ding… Ding… came the sound, Ding… Ding... “Hello! Can you hear me!” I shouted. The man just stood there facing the front, ringing the bell, not hearing or seeing me. As the boat came closer and closer, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was David.


“David! David! Hello! Brother, I’m so glad to see you!” I shouted as he just stood there at the helm ringing the bell. “David!” I cried. “Over here!” Slowly David left his place and stood on the starboard side amid-ship. Looking towards me but not seeing me. It’s like he looked right through me. David’s eyes were gaunt, his skin was pale, and his lips were blue. I called louder and louder with tears streaming down his cheeks. “DAVID! DAVID! I’m so sorry! I love you! David! Please don’t go! Please don’t leave me. I’m so scared.” 


I woke up lying on the bed crying. It was only a dream. David was somewhere on the other side of life looking for me like I was looking for him. I cried into my pillow! If the dream taught me anything, it gave me hope I could keep him alive in my heart. It became my goal to make it home and tell my family what had happened, and give them peace. 


From then on, I talked to David as if he were there with me. “Alright, brother lets get home.” 


I cleaned up the cabin and ate a cold meal of franks and beans. Stepping into the engine room, I started pumping out the water. Progress was slow, but in a few hours half the engine was visible. It was then I realized the water stopped going down. I couldn’t believe it, I was sinking. Stuff I hadn’t picked up still lay all over the floor between the engine room and the forward hull. As I tripped on everything, trying to go forward, I bruised my knees and stubbed my toes. Pulling up the bed and peering into the hull, I saw it. Not the worst thing I’d seen, but I was still sinking. A crack just along the waterline and water flowed freely into the boat. I pulled every pillow, bed cushion, and blanket I could find and stuffed it inside. It would not hold forever, but maybe it would slow it down. I pumped most of the water out of the engine room and dried out the filters. I just needed enough power to get to land. On deck I began cutting away the rigging, pulling me to the port side. Line after line slipped into the water. I cut the last line and watched it fall away. 


A hand, I saw a hand reaching up underwater as the rigging fell away. David, it had to be David. My heart broke again. All this time it had caught him under the boat and I didn’t know. There was nothing I could do. The sail and rigging were pulling him to the bottom of the ocean. I thought I’d already experienced the worst day of my life when I’d lost my brother. Now, I didn’t know what to think. I watched until all traces of him and the rigging disappeared. I cried and cried. 


I had to get back home. Checking all the maps, checking my compass, I found little else to tell me where the storm spit me out. Turning east should lead me back to the mainland. Turning the ship, I used half my gas to head home. I didn’t want to use it all at once, so I drifted for a few days. I tied off the wheel to help me keep my bearing. Two days turned into 4 and then a week went by without a speck of land in sight. Finally, on the 8th day I saw land. The prowl of my boat dipped lower in the water. Water was coming in despite my pumping nearly every day. I removed all the wet stuffing from the hull and squeezed it out as best I could and let them dry in the sun, but the land I saw in the distance was so close I could smell it. I knew there were 14 miles to the horizon, when you’re on the water. Once the stuffing was dry, I’d start the boat and try to make my way there before evening. 


Just a mile short of land, and shortly after dark, I ran out of gas. The extra water weight dragged me down. The current pulled me closer and closer, but still I’d never make it. I saw lights but had no way to call for help. With a half mile left, I jumped into the water and swam inland. 


I made it. 





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90 comments

Michael Boquet
06:57 Mar 06, 2021

First off, I was glad for the dream sequence. I read the title, got excited for a ghost story, and wound up with a men vs. nature nautical thriller. Great build up of suspense throughout. The scenes set in the middle of the the hurricane were very exciting. All the nautical languages felt very authentic. My only critique is, I think the story is too long. It just keeps going after Charlie survives the hurricane and your great build of tension fizzles to a meandering conclusion. Losing David multiple times also lessens the overall impact of...

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19:22 Mar 06, 2021

Many thanks! I’ll read your latest unless you want me to look at something specific. Robert

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Michael Boquet
23:12 Mar 06, 2021

Current story is fine. Appreciate it.

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Innocent Noble
05:07 Apr 21, 2021

Well said

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09:59 Mar 06, 2021

Very evocative, specifically your descriptions of the storm. "Waves are one thing, but a ghost ship riding on the ocean, in the middle of a storm, could spell disaster" is very strong and I liked the short sentence at the end which gives it a powerful punch to end on. *Very* minor point, but editors usually advise against using capitals for shouting now (e.g. "DAVID" or "YEAH") I'm not entirely sure why, but that is the received wisdom nowadays. :) Good job

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19:14 Mar 06, 2021

Thank you, I’m glad you liked my story. I’ve heard the suggestions about all caps in emails but I wasn’t aware of it in writing. I will do that next time. I hope you enjoy other stories on my list. Robert

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Raven Achlys
21:37 Mar 04, 2021

Wow. This was an amazing story that was incredibly well written. It kept me hooked all the way through and you painted a picture in my mind that was very vivid. I only have one small thing that I noticed: “Thump, Thump, Thump!” Unless someone is saying this, it doesn't need quotation marks and can be set apart from what David is saying.

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21:54 Mar 04, 2021

Thank you I didn’t even notice that much. I will make changes. I’m glad you liked it. I really enjoyed writing this story. Check out my website for more stories. I’d like to keep in touch with followers to update everyone on new stories. RobertGrandstaffhomepage.com Robert

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Joshua Thomas
20:06 Apr 09, 2021

If there is one piece of information most young writers should know Its to know who you’re writing about, develop your protagonist with detail about what they look like, and their interests, but the most important detail to add is their personality, how they affect those around them, and a good story shouldn’t keep the protagonist on one personality, but they should try to change it. Like imagine a 16 year old boy from Peoria, Arizona, and he is nice to his friends at school and his family at home, but imagine that one day he learns of a clo...

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00:17 Apr 10, 2021

I can see how this would create tension. Are you saying this is part of the story we’ve already talked about or is this a new story?

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Joshua Thomas
19:40 Apr 09, 2021

Ok, here it is, Adrian Porks walked into the Memphis State History Museum. He never really liked history, especially when he had homework for it. Adrian hoped the 70s would be a more calming decade, for he was going to be a freshman in those four long years. He looked at the curator, and he was let in. He smiled,” Thanks Sir, but why did you not have me pay?” The small, blonde haired man just stared, then preceded to ask for the next person to come through. The next to come through was a young lady, she looked as if she was in her thirties. ...

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Joshua Thomas
19:44 Apr 09, 2021

I know its developing, and the real reason I wrote this small piece of historical fiction, is to show others how cruel treatment was brought onto these people who didn’t even do anything to be punished with harm, but were only seen as wild animals, and how people like Adrian Porks(I ran out of ideas for a last name and I was eating pork at the time I was writing it) helped support the need of change, and how people like him stood up for the injustice of racist justice

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Bonnie Clarkson
20:34 Apr 01, 2021

I am a Kansas and a landlover, but you kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The only problem I had was imagining a "jib". I feel honored that you chose to follow me because my stories are not nearly as exciting and well written as yours. Keep up the good work.

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02:11 Apr 02, 2021

I can’t thank you enough, I’ve kept practicing and practicing. I hope you have a chance to read a few other stories. “December 6, 1941” has been a popular story. “Murder at Kasserine Pass” and “Annabella” were well liked too. I’ll read you work right away. Keep in touch. Robert

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Bamboo Devi
17:02 Mar 24, 2021

really nice and quite interesting.I just love it "I woke up lying on the bed crying. It was only a dream" "A hand, I saw a hand reaching up underwater as the rigging fell away. David, it had to be David. My heart broke again"

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21:17 Mar 24, 2021

Thank you, I’m glad you liked it. I’m looking forward to reading your work. Robert

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Joshua Thomas
02:42 Mar 19, 2021

Ok my new story was about a boy, he was in a museum in 1959 and experienced two people, a black woman and her child get arrested after sitting in a white only restaurant, he left the museum in rage, and soon visits his father, whom he sees trying to shoo three blacks away, but he sits with the protesters, who were kicked from his fathers restaurant, and so his father just looks at him realizes his faults and helps his son, sound ok or good, just give feedback pls

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05:12 Mar 19, 2021

Sounds interesting, I'll give it a read in the morning. Robert

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Joshua Thomas
02:41 Mar 23, 2021

Ok, i havent submitted it yet, but I can copy paste it, if thats ok with you

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19:33 Mar 23, 2021

Yeah, send me a copy. Robert

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Joshua Thomas
02:41 Mar 23, 2021

Ok, i havent submitted it yet, but I can copy paste it, if thats ok with you

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Joshua Thomas
02:41 Mar 23, 2021

Ok, i havent submitted it yet, but I can copy paste it, if thats ok with you

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Ann Tillinghast
05:31 Mar 17, 2021

I just got done reading it. I enjoyed how you have written it. I used to write a lot when I was younger, but I stopped years ago and now want to get back into. It's seems like I have forgotten how. My recent story is not as good as yours but I'm getting the hang of it again. You did amazing at describing the scenes.

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01:53 Mar 18, 2021

Thank you Ann, I’ve been practicing writing myself and I’m getting a little better. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read anything else but I hope you get to read “Achieving A Dream,” or “December 6th 1941.” Let me know what you think. If you’d like me to read something you wrote please let me know. Robert

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Ann Tillinghast
04:16 Mar 18, 2021

Can you read mine? I only wrote one so far. Thanks for replying back 🙂

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04:29 Mar 18, 2021

Will do! Robert

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Great story, loved the dream scene near the end. I've always loved the concept of abandoned ghost ships. Awesome! Did notice this mistake: "Scrambling to my feet and called out to David, but he didn’t answer." A bit of mixing of tenses. Probably just oversight. Would love for you to check out my newest story, "Falling Ashes." Thanks!

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01:50 Mar 18, 2021

Hey Antonio, thanks for the read. I’m surprised I missed that mixed up sentence. I’ll have to look at it. I’ll read your latest story tonight and I’m looking forward to it. Robert

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John Del rio
18:29 Mar 07, 2021

Great work as always. I like the imagery of the rough seas making them lose their breakfast....maybe add something like “ into the sea”, although we can assume they puked overboard as experienced mariners are won’t to do. I am also checking out your website and the offerings there. Keep up the exceptional story telling.

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22:00 Mar 07, 2021

Thanks John, I appreciate it. I have seen nothing from you for a while. Did I just miss it? It's hard not to communicate within the site. I'm hoping my page will help be find people interested in keeping in contact to update when our stories post. Good luck with whatever you're writing. Robert

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John Del rio
01:38 Mar 08, 2021

Hello, I have 20 stories now. The latest was titled "Tenkha" and I think it may have been the 10th part of a continuous story. On my profile you can see what order to read them in

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01:42 Mar 08, 2021

I’ll read it next thanks for letting me know. Robert

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John Del rio
01:38 Mar 08, 2021

Hello, I have 20 stories now. The latest was titled "Tenkha" and I think it may have been the 10th part of a continuous story. On my profile you can see what order to read them in

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22:41 Mar 06, 2021

Oooh,, this is very well written, such a great plot! Sending you best wishes!!! :)

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Adebiyi Ayobami
22:34 Mar 06, 2021

Beautiful writeup man I really like it.keep it up🔭

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Kay (:
17:04 Mar 06, 2021

This is a good story, just a few notes; you don't capitalize 'OK it's just okay'

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17:12 Mar 06, 2021

This is kind of new. Where I live we usually say and spell it the same. It must be vernacular. I’m glad you liked the story. Thank you for your feedback. Please feel free to subscribe to my website at robertgrandstaffhomepage.com

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Kay (:
22:04 Mar 08, 2021

will you read any of my stories?

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00:25 Mar 09, 2021

Yes I will, do you have anything in particular? Robert

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Kay (:
02:29 Mar 09, 2021

Probably my most recent one, A Naiad's Wish

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Innocent Noble
05:11 Apr 21, 2021

Please mine story too, I wish to hear your wise suggestions

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17:15 Mar 06, 2021

This is kind of new. Where I live we usually say and spell it the same. It must be vernacular. I’m glad you liked the story. Thank you for your feedback. Please feel free to subscribe to my website at robertgrandstaffhomepage.com

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Kay (:
17:31 Mar 06, 2021

No thank you

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Aimee Cardenas
09:00 Mar 06, 2021

A very engaging, well-told story!

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19:16 Mar 06, 2021

Thank you so much! Keep in touch. I’m looking forward to seeing a new prompt. Do you have anything you’d like me to read? Robert

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Aimee Cardenas
22:21 Mar 06, 2021

Thanks, Robert! How about my last story? It's called IoT and Crumpets. It was my take on a tech device that turns against the main character. 😁 I was trying to go for the cozy mystery/suspense feel. Hope you like it. 🙂

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Gerald Daniels
08:22 Mar 06, 2021

Great story, full of intrigue and drama. Just one thing, "and now it followed us like a NASCAR race..." to me sounds a bit clunky. Super.

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19:19 Mar 06, 2021

Thank you, I’m really glad you liked my story. NASCAR was the only way I could think of to show close they were to each other on the ocean. One wrong move could be disastrous. I’ll look for other metaphors. If you have anything you’d like me to read me let me know. Robert

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Gerald Daniels
21:08 Mar 06, 2021

Feel free to read any of my stories, I'm quite new to this writing thing. Thanks for your message

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Spacehuman 🌌
14:47 Mar 05, 2021

Wow amazing story! I love the little descriptions and I could really feel the pain that the main character went through to get to the island. When his brother died I could feel the yern to have him back. I also really like how this story lasted about a month but you put in the important parts to make this perfectly detailed story! Overall, great work on this suspensful and emotional peice :)

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15:55 Mar 05, 2021

Thank you Spacehuman! I’m glad you liked it. Probably one of my favorite prompts in a while. Have you written anything you’d like me to read? RobertGrandstaffhomepage.com Robert

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Badra Abbas
06:29 Mar 05, 2021

I really enjoyed this story! It had an engaging premise, and I wondered what would happen with the ghost ship. A few pieces of feedback: 1. Character movements and locations could be a little smoother, I think. The part when Charlie called David up, then he went down, and then came up again. I think that could be improved, maybe reasoning as to why Charlie went below, or place him somewhere different on deck. It's just something I noticed. 2. I think if a few things became more metaphorical and less literal, the excellent writing here wo...

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16:03 Mar 05, 2021

Hey Moon, I understand the mystery of the other ship it I’ve also read of derelict ships floating around the ocean. Oftentimes they will float around for years and ultimately sink. The survival of the characters and their struggle was my main goal. Then I had to follow the prompt and get the character to the island. I like shipwreck stories and survival stories and I felt this was appropriate. Thanks for the feedback. In the event this was a longer story blending in some of your ideas would work. It’s a space crunch with 3000 words only. C...

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Badra Abbas
16:43 Mar 05, 2021

ohhh that makes sense. Yeah sorry, my issues were just due to not knowing or understanding the concept. I'll be sure to check your website out!

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22:25 Mar 05, 2021

No worries, I hope you like my site and please subscribe to follow along. Robert

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Innocent Noble
05:06 Apr 21, 2021

I made it. The end of the story is soooo, cute........it is vivid and captivating...... I acknowledge your great effort in writing such a master piece,,,,,6 stars to your story,,,,it is simply the best..

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14:27 Apr 21, 2021

Thank you! I liked writing this story. I haven’t found a prompt lately to inspire a new story but I’ll keep looking. I will read your story today. Robert

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Joshua Thomas
01:13 Apr 10, 2021

This is the story i promised in march, sorry for the wait

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