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  • Locked thread
Aug 2, 2002

magnificent7 posted:

Wait. So I can just unload this avaturd anytime I want?

If you don't think the shame of it will inspire you to do better and try harder.


captain platypus
Aug 30, 2009

magnificent7 posted:

Wait. So I can just unload this avaturd anytime I want?


Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

OK, everyone shut up now unless you are posting a story, critting a story or challenging someone.

I will crit the last round entry of the next person to ask me.

Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW

I read most of these stories out loud to my wife while she was driving us from my parents' house back to ours, about a two and a half hour drive. Her opinions had some weight in my decisions.

The Swinemaster posted:

So The Man Walks Into a Bar...

You got part of the prompt here - the cyberpunk bar with the jacked-in customers, and the white Man tryin to hold a brotha down.

But you're missing the atmosphere, the lifeblood of both genres. Where's the sex and violence and sensationalism of blaxploitation? Where's the acid rain, dark alleys, and crushing dystopia of classic 80's cyberpunk?

This story is competent and it gets the point across. But you could have done so much more with it.

Grade: The blonde bitch in Coffy who Coffy beats up, but with a datajack and cybereyes

Voliun posted:

Running is Free

Haha what the gently caress is this poo poo? What is the digital worm and where is it and where is she is it irl or cyberspace oh gently caress it who cares

This was the most muddled piece of unreadable nonsense I've seen in a while. The only reason PHIZ KHALIFA loses instead of you is the horrible run-on sentences and "hero man."

Grade: Trisha Newmark's simrig

CancerCakes posted:

Candyjackin It

You nailed the prompt with this one. Candy's writhing metal camera-hair in the meat, her blaxploitation sexy violence queen get-up in the real. You could have described her better in the meat, though. For even more contrast. What kind of cyberpunk sexy violent black chick clothes is she wearing?

The scene in the cyberspace bar is cool, the conceit of being a video game heroine for ratings and money is awesome, and "scrute" is a great word. Future slang is very tough to pull off, but you did.

You were on the shortlist for the winner, but Fumblemouse edged you out by just this much. Good work.

Grade: Coffy Shears

This isn't blaxploitation, at all, so you missed the prompt. Let's get that out of the way up front.

Other than that, it's not a bad story at all. It pulls of cyberpunk from the top, which is a nice flip of the usual street scum hacker or badass razorgirl or pizza delivery ninja or whatever.

But it ain't blaxploitation. The twist ending is hilarious, but a Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song reference doesn't make it hit the prompt.

Grade: Armitage, but he takes his dark cyberpunk clothes off and is revealed to be wearing a leopard-print bikini bottom and has PIMP DADDY tattooed across his stomach

When you're writing iconic cyberspace poo poo, you need to do one of two things:

1. Make it very clear which is the real world and which is the "consensual hallucination," and make that difference important and meaningful to the story.

2. Make it confusing to the characters and the viewer, so nobody's sure which is which. That also has to be important and meaningful.

You didn't do either. This was a confusing mess of a story about "net-crafted" something-or-others and transformers and dragons and who knows or gives a gently caress what. And, oh yeah, the protags are black so apparently it's blaxploitation.

This wasn't a loser, but it was close.

Grade: One of the Matrix loa from Count Zero but a retarded cartoon version

Mercedes posted:

The Heist

Haha this is a Shadowrun fanfic! I'm making an exception to the "no fanfic" rule because Shadowrun is my motherfuckin jam, son! And I'm like a million percent sure you knew that since I post in the Shadowrun tabletop and Shadowrun Returns threads a lot. So good job choosing your audience I guess.

The names are awesome, and so is the dialogue. It's so stupid and over-the-top that it works. You know that Yolo Swaggins character portrait that one dude made in the SRR thread? He belongs in your story.

You pull off the Shadowrun trolls and cyberware poo poo without missing a beat. I was surprised when I saw the word at first, but of course I knew what you were doing right away.

Overall, this was a fun story, but your craft needs work. You ran a little long on dialogue that started to get repetitive, and short on action that could have made this a runner-up. The ending also sucked balls, quite frankly. We need some kind of resolution, man.

Bonus: If you get your grade reference, I'll buy you plat or something.

Grade: 2XL

The setting for this story is dead-on, at least as far as I could tell - it was hard to see anything since you didn't use almost any visual descriptions at all. The slang and tech language is great, but it floats in a vacuum. The characters are pretty much nonexistent. And you commit one of the most mortal sins - you told the first four-fifths of the story and only showed us the last little bit. You could have gotten the Mecca Voodoo setting and situation across with a couple introductory paragraphs, then showed us the rest of the story through action and dialogue. As it stands now, most of the story is just slogging through plot summary.

Coulda been way better, makes me shake my head.

Grade: Wilson

crabrock posted:

The Wrench in the Cycle

This was another runner-up for me. The cyberpunk was a little weak, but the blaxploitation was pretty good. Overall a good story but I think it was too short for what you were trying to do. Sometimes when you get a 1000 word limit you carve a story down to its essential core. Sometimes you carve too much and you just don't have enough words. This could have used more, better description and atmosphere. As it is there's not much atmosphere at all.

You can blame the word count, or you could have found a shorter way to tell the story and still get the cyberpunk aura into it.

Grade: Soul Flatline


The Funkulatrix

The run-on sentences in this and the use of "hero man" are so bad that my wife told me to stop reading this to her.

I still don't really know what's going on here, but it isn't really cyberpunk and it sure as hell ain't no blaxploitation. It's some kind of high-falutin' prose poem bullshit and it's terrible. Seriously, use some periods. They don't cost anything.

Grade: F

Next batch later tonight or tomorrow.

May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch

I'm in this week.

Nov 7, 2012

sebmojo posted:

I will crit the last round entry of the next person to ask me.
You don't say?

Aug 2, 2002

crabrock posted:

If sitting here is out, I call second place.

Martello posted:

This was another runner-up for me.


Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.

I was elated when I saw you posting in that thread!

Is that person a smuggler in the fourth edition?

If so I could use a Thunderdome inspired avatar and title.

Mercedes fucked around with this message at 23:58 on Aug 7, 2013

Barracuda Bang!
Oct 21, 2008

The first rule of No Avatar Club is: you do not talk about No Avatar Club. The second rule of No Avatar Club is: you DO NOT talk about No Avatar Club

Grimey Drawer

sebmojo posted:

I will crit the last round entry of the next person to ask me.

What about the second person...?

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


Edit: Accretionist also gets a :siren:FLASH RULE::siren: A beggar gets what he wants, wishes he hadn't.

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 21:44 on Aug 8, 2013

Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW

Mercedes posted:

I was elated when I saw you posting in that thread!

Is that person a smuggler in the fourth edition?

If so I could use a Thunderdome inspired avatar and title.

You clearly looked that up on Google. It's the first result that came up. :mad:

Most of his shadowtalk posts are in Vice, the best Shadowrun sourcebook.

However, you're correct. I'll hook you up with something when I come up with it.

Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

Mercedes posted:

I could use a Thunderdome inspired avatar and title.

Jan 10, 2006

Martello posted:

You were on the shortlist for the winner, but Fumblemouse edged you out by just this much. Good work.

grumble grumble grumble Fumblemouse grumble grumble

Chillmatic posted:

Far be it from me to crit a crit, but:

grumble grumble you are absolutely right but grumble grumble grumble

In for historical horror. Flash me if you dare.

I have a historical period / event in mind. If anyone writes about it they win a crit, but it won't be a happy one.

Mar 21, 2013


Grimey Drawer

CancerCakes posted:

grumble grumble grumble Fumblemouse grumble grumble

In for historical horror. Flash me if you dare.

Flash grumble Grumble grumble gumble History sends me to sleep! To counteract my attention deficit, your Moment, at least so far as it appears in your story, must be no longer than 60 seconds. All bomb no fallout, grumble grumble.

Aug 2, 2002

oh fine, I'll do it. In.

captain platypus
Aug 30, 2009

Fumblemouse posted:

Flash grumble Grumble grumble gumble History sends me to sleep! To counteract my attention deficit, your Moment, at least so far as it appears in your story, must be no longer than 60 seconds. All bomb no fallout, grumble grumble.

This is a really cool flash rule.

Aug 23, 2003


Sign me up.

Umbilical Lotus
Nov 13, 2005


crabrock posted:

oh fine, I'll do it. In.

I get to do one of these too!

Since you seem so very reluctant, a flash rule for you! 1,200 words is no longer the upper limit - it is the finish line. You must write exactly 1,200 words, no more, no less.

I believe it's also fair to warn everyone that I WILL have a google window open as I read, and I WILL be checking basic facts.

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

I'm in.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008


I expect to incur the simultaneous wrath of both the story crafting and history gods.

However paltry, if not offensive, my offering will be, I am in.

Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.

M. Propagandalf posted:

I expect to incur the simultaneous wrath of both the story crafting and history gods.

However paltry, if not offensive, my offering will be, I am in.

:siren:FLASH RULE:siren:: Your protagonist is not well liked because s/he flaunts their intelligence.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet

I will meddle with things best left unknown. (I'm in with a toxx because I failed to submit last week.)

I wasn't going to participate this week. I've had the worst week. But the prompt is so completely awesome, drat you.

May 7, 2005


HillockXCapntasticXJagermonster Duel

Cyborg Systa Settles a Score
Flash rule: Story must be cyberpunk in the vein of Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, and blaxploitation in the vein of Foxy Brown
Word Count: 788

Teddy Montag stroked his pencil-thin mustache as he stared at the six translucent human forms surrounding him. A blonde woman in a smart pantsuit materialized to his right. He maneuvered the glowing control sphere hovering in front of him and a leather wingback chair rose from the floor to seat him. The woman’s ghostly visage solidified.

“What happened, Gretchen? I thought you were right behind me.”

“Sorry, Mr. Montag. A customer came by just as you left and I had to get rid of him.”

He tossed the control sphere to her. “Let our guests in.” He straightened his suit and pocket square.

A newly opaque black man in purple velour stormed up to Montag. “The gently caress up with that stasis-hold poo poo, man? I got poo poo to do.”

“I require everyone to be present before entering my encrypted meetings, especially with the security breaches of late. If you don’t like it, you can find new business partners, Jealor.”

Frankie Jealor. Gretchen traced his coordinates.

“Maybe I will, ya bitch rear end poser. You better have called this meeting to reimburse me for that crack-octane you lost.” Angry grumbles from the other guests joined Jealor.

Gretchen felt the hungry gaze of a predator fixed on her. She looked up and locked eyes with a dainty bespectacled man. The corner of his mouth twitched as he stared through her. V. Viscone. Location untraceable.

“True, there was an incident,” Montag said, “But my safe houses and storage facilities, real and virtual, are still the most secure sites in the city. We can renegotiate rates, but we share the losses in these joint ventures.”

“I heard some robot bitch is after you,” Big Boris Bobrov said. “Word on the street is she torched a brothel of yours and set the whores free.”

“Just some augmented oval office with a chip on her shoulder,” Montag said. “Don’t worry about that poo poo.”

Viscone giggled. “You have no idea how thoroughly hosed you are, Teddy. Tell me, why is your ‘assistant’ over there tracing all of our locations and downloading the coordinates of your safe houses?”

Gretchen severed the guests’ connections. They froze, then vanished.

Viscone remained. He plucked a lit cigarette out of empty space. “What’s the rush, Systa?” He took a long drag. “So you survived the hit? At least partially. More than I can say for the other officers. I told you that was a sloppy job, Montag.” He flicked the ashes at Gretchen. Her veneer flickered, darkened, and then restored itself.

“Who?” Montag started. Gretchen hit a key on the sphere. He stopped, paralyzed, mouth agape.

Viscone flicked the cigarette at Gretchen.

Her façade burned away. Her skin pigments darkened. Her golden hair turned to ash and flaked away. A bushy black afro sprouted from her scalp. Her shoulders broadened. Her thin demure lips twisted into a full cocky smile. “An’ who the gently caress are you, Viscone?”

“Mmmm, its funny what the mind’s eye preserves.” Viscone’s image slowly disintegrated. “Have fun with Teddy, but trust me, you don’t want to gently caress with me.”

A muffled voice floated up from Montag’s throat. “Emergency disengage Tango Alpha.” He collapsed into a white speck.

Montag opened his eyes and saw the fuzzy outline of black woman. He shut them again to banish the hazy virtual after-image burned into his mind. When he opened them again she was still looming over him. Metal plating covered the right side of her head and face. A cable snaked from the back of her head to Montag’s. Another one attached to the real Gretchen laid sprawled out on the floor in a stained undershirt. Two armed guards lay dead in pools of blood at the door.

The cables retracted. Systa opened her eyes. One deep brown iris and one red beam bored into him. She grabbed him by the wife-beater and throat and ripped him from the wires attaching him to the mainframe. Plaster rained down as she smashed him against the wall.

“Who is Viscone? Where can I find him?”

A fat bead of sweat slithered along his wispy mustache. “I don’t know! The guy’s a ghost! You saw what he can do. I’ve never even met his employers.”

She slammed him to the ground.

“I can give you the names and locations of all my other clients!”

“I already have the ones that matter, Teddy.” She spit a burning glob of saliva and battery acid in his face. “You’re just another has-been cracker with blood on his hands.”


She slit his throat with the jagged shard of metal that was once her husband’s Federal Drug Enforcement badge. She kissed it. “One down, baby. But poo poo just got a whole lot more complicated.”

Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

(800 words)

Colaman was someone you could get to do things you don't tell your parents about. Too scrawny to be hired muscle, and not detail oriented enough to be trusted with anything technical, he was left with the sort of jobs you could pay anyone desperate enough to do. What made him good at what he did is that he was always ready to take someone's money. No secret meetings, codes, signs, or introductions needed. Broad daylight or underneath a neon sign, you'd walk up to him with an envelope, he'd shake your hand and wouldn't even count the credits then and there. You can't look back and blame a no-talent brother for trying to pay his rent any way he could.

Colaman was posted up by the pawn shop watching shows on the busted-rear end digiscreens there, waiting for that night's employer. What pulls up next to him is this big black person carrier, shiny as Hell. A real rare sight to see in that corner of town where Colaman worked, but that just meant the money had to be that much more exotic. He's right next to the mirrored window when it rolls down, and he's face to face with this chick with her eye makeup done up in metallics to hide the implants themselves. Fashion conscious lady, he had to guess. Rich too. So she offers him a job. Two thou in wired creds up front, and double that when the job is done. How could a hungry bastard like Colaman say no?

He climbs his rear end up in there, sinking into the big plush seats and getting a good look at the client and her associates. Easy enough to look past the chick's eyes, but her friends are two beefed up white guys with the neck veins and chrome look down solid. Wristbands sticking out underneath their suit sleeves hiding the scars, but not the clicks the motors were making. Colaman knew he was pretty outclassed, since the only metal he had back then was in his teeth. They're giving him the eyes too, filling up the back seat with a whole lot of that uncomfortable silence poo poo.

The woman tapped something into her PDA and the driver pulls off onto the freeway. Colaman was riding on the adrenaline of starting to realize he might've been over his head on this one, and it was the only thing keeping him awake. The ride was just that comfortable, at least in the cushion sense of things. They're riding past industrial wreckage and all of that where the old factories were, and Colaman finally pipes up. "So, are we meeting someone? I mean, I'm ready for whatever, but this seems a bit far out of the way."

The woman shot him a look, not entirely harsh, and gathered her words. "You come highly recommended. This job shouldn't be a problem. People speak highly of your professionalism."

Colaman nodded and straightened his spine out, because when someone touts your professionalism you gotta look the part.

"I dig on that, but I'm used to less grandiose affairs. Apartments, motel jobs, cars, that sort of thing. Even some of the old warehouses, for kicks."

"This will be more intricate," she said. "We're going to an office complex. It is, ostensibly, a midware development firm for low-end cybernetic prostheses, but in reality it is a front for a sort of...chop shop. Last week they made the mistake of subduing one of my men when he was off duty. His wrist implant had some valuable data of mine on it."

Colaman exhaled, doing all he could to maintain his posture. This wasn't quite the job he'd had in mind. She continued with the details, about how his delicate hands and ability to maintain calm under any amount of pressure were legendary, and just the qualities that'd be needed for this. And then she talked up his street cred.

"We drove around for several hours, chasing up rumors as to who the best around was. You're practically a ghost. Most anyone would say about you was that you were up for anything, and that you never talked afterwards. I appreciate that integrity."

Hearing the word integrity Colaman slunk down in his seat. He was rolling the word around on his dried up tongue. They'd already pulled up next to the offices, and within seconds he was handed a duffel bag with a prybar sticking out of it, told he had one hour to meet them down the street. He saw them drive off in the reflection of the office's front window.

He couldn't, at this point, just say "Look lady, I thought you just wanted me to gently caress you." After all, she'd paid half up front, and our boy Colaman was nothing if not professional.

Aug 2, 2002

Sweet Temptations
(1200 words sans title)

George Howe hadn’t eaten in hours. Back in England this would have been unheard of for him, but with the scarcity of food on Roanoke Island, it had become the norm. He was lucky if he could eat twice a day. He chased crabs along the shore, but they were too quick, and he grew weary. He settled for berries growing on a bush nearby, and sat to watch the waves. He yawned and wiped his mouth on his sleeve.

When George failed to report to muster the following morning, Governor John White took the on-duty colonists out to search for him. They found him laying on the beach, his body eviscerated.

Ananias Dare produced his drawing pad from his pocket. “They removed some of his internal organs. His stomach and intestines seem to be completely missing,” he said. As the Queen’s appointed scientific illustrator, it was his duty to record all strange sights, even ones as gruesome as this.

John hadn’t wanted William Willes on this trip due to his reputation of being dull minded, but his father was not only rich, but a friend of Sir Raleigh’s. He had already been the cause of a few accidents on the island. While the others tried to prepare George’s body for transport back to the fort, William picked up a few uneaten berries. He popped a few into his mouth, and slowly nodded his head. “These would be fine in a jam with a bit of sugar,” he said.

“You shouldn’t eat strange berries,” said John White. “They could make you ill.”

“I’ll be fine. They look just like raspberries.” William shoved a handful in his pocket.

They carried George Howe back and gave him a proper Christian burial. He was placed next to the skeleton they found upon arriving at the abandoned fort. Both men had the same inscription above their graves: Killed By Indians.

Eleanor Dare visited her father, the Governor, in his makeshift office aboard the ship. She rocked her sleeping baby in her arms.

“Daddy, you simply must return to England if Commander Fernandez insists on us colonizing this island. The savages are more hostile here than in Chesapeake. Everybody agrees that we need more men and more guns.”

John White looked at his daughter and granddaughter, and wished he could put both of them back on the ship to England, but Fernandez had proven to be stubborn and unreasonable and refused. He outranked even the Governor, though if John said he had to speak to the Queen, Fernandez would at least allow him passage.

“Alright Eleanor, if you think it is prudent, then I shall consider it.”

“Don’t worry about me; Ananias will protect us.”

The Roanoke colonists could still see the white sails of the Commander Fernandez’s homeward-bound ship when the Natives attacked. They descended upon the barrels of wheat germ and beer with their torches, lighting on fire what they could not push into the ocean. There wasn’t a grain or cupful left by the time the colonists’ muskets drove the Natives back across the bay, and no time to plant crops before the winter.

Both sides counted their dead and missing. The colonists lost ten of their fellow countrymen, including William, and claimed the lives of three raiders. However, they captured one prisoner of war. The children jeered and threw sand in the stoic Native’s eyes as the men bound his ankles in the stocks.

Ananias Dare spent the night in the barracks with the other men, recounting details of the attack and making diagrams of the weapons and dress they recovered from the attack. His favorite was a hatchet made out of what looked to be human bone. “Absolutely fascinating,” he said.

The other men split William’s personal belongings amongst themselves. A cruel, but necessary, part of life in the colony. They tried the berries he’d brought back and agreed they weren’t unpalatable. Ananias passed; he was too busy drawing.

The night was calm and cool. The moon reflected off the placid sea. Ananias awoke to strange sounds in the dark. He laid listening, not wanting to move from his warm bunk. The wet squelching reminded him of walking through deep mud. There was the tearing of fabric, scratching of wood, and smacking of lips.

Something was under his blanket. It crawled along his leg and the whiskers tickled him through his wool underpants. Ananias lept from the bed and landed on something squishy and warm. It oozed between his toes as he fumbled for a match. He struck it and lit a candle. It wasn’t enough light for him to see clearly, but among the shadows he saw dozens of tiny eyes looking back at him.

They resumed feeding on the deceased: tearing at their insides and dragging body parts from the cavities. Ananias looked down to see that he was standing on a liver. The nightwatch was alerted by his frantic cries. They hurried to the cabin and peered inside; the ravenous creatures did not react to the firing of the muskets, but kept tearing at the dead colonists.

After the men reloaded and approached the cabin for a second time, the creatures attacked them: biting their ankles until they retreated.

“Did anybody get a good look at them?” asked Ananias, standing in his pyjamas and sketching.

Nobody else had seen the creatures, and after they were finished feasting on the corpses, they tunneled into the ground.

The captured Native waved until he got Ananias’ attention.

“You have something to say?”

But the Native did not speak. He slowly brought his hand to his mouth, pantomimed chewing, and then, using both hands: an explosion from his chest.

Ananias nodded. “Yes, all these men ate the berries we found by George’s body,” he said, and went back to his drawing.

Nobody slept for the rest of the night. Rose Payne tried to cook the meat of one of the slain creatures, but when she cut it open, sludge oozed out and the noxious fumes made her sick.

The colonists watched the Natives on the shore eat meat while their own mouths watered. As the weeks passed, their skin sagged and cracked with dryness. The little food they did catch from the sea started fights among the colonists. Several people had tried various methods of treating the berries before eating them, but they all died in their sleep.

Eleanor held Virginia up to her emaciated breast. Her stomach felt like it was churning rocks.

“She’s suckling, but nothing comes out,” said Eleanor. The baby cried.

Ananias lead a desperate charge across the sound with the handful of men who could still hold a musket, but they were slaughtered shortly after making landfall.

The Native in the stockades sat in silent meditation while the colonists dropped one by one, waiting.

Eleanor looked one last time at her beautiful baby girl, and placed the pillow over her face. Eleanor Dare, wife of the Queen’s naturalist, daughter of the Governor, mother of the first baby born in the Americas, ate a handful of berries. The sticky sweet sensation filled her body with warmth, and she enjoyed a blissful, abbreviated sleep.

Umbilical Lotus
Nov 13, 2005


It's very safe to say that the sign-ups are OVER.

Pardon the lateness; Italian wedding. Crabrock, you rocked that flash rule, which only means I have to do wordcount flashes more often.

Jul 18, 2013


The Dutchman
(1192 words)

A casual glance would not have betrayed him. His name was typical of a Dutchman: Jan, I believe. With his graying brown hair and lean frame, he was mostly unremarkable in appearance, save for the darting brown eyes of a hunted deer; a normal, if nervous, old man to any passing stranger. You'd have never guessed he was but 34 when he passed from this realm and, one can only hope, to his just reward.

No, none could have accused him of having lived an typical life. He didn't care for beer, plays, or games, and if he ever had a wife, she'd long left him. His house was by the church and if the window was dark, he was haunting the pews for prayer was his sole comfort and pasttime. Many of his former friends wondered what caused such a change in him, but those who knocked on his door were met with only a fervid volley of prayer and dishes for their trouble.

I alone was privy. Carrying a cross, I waited beside the church and when that prematurely hoary head peeked out of the arch, I greeted him with a blessing and the proof of my earthly origin and righteous alignment. The fear left his eyes, however momentarily, and I was allowed into his dark, cluttered home to hear the tale of what had turned him from rowdy youth to pious old man in less than two seasons:

“I was a deckhand aboard the accursed ship [Editor's note: he would not speak the name of the vessel, though I asked him many times]. I had heard tell it ran to Java and back in a mere 3 months and some odd days, a pace unmatched by any other ship in the Dutch East India Company and, for that matter, any God-fearing craft in the world. There were rumors. But don't people always talk? Big mouths vomiting the half-digested thoughts of small brains.
“Well, perhaps gossip's not always wrong.

“It was 1678, I was twenty and looking for work...and perhaps some adventure. My father was a deckhand before me and I'd had enough experience in ropes and 'Aye, Captain' at his knee to earn myself a place on...his ship [editor's note: “His” in this case refers to a Bernard Fokke, a captain of some renown].

“Well, I was 'in luck'. His mettle was being put to the test by no less than the governor of Java himself! Determined to see if this reputation was deserved only in the minds of commoners, his Honor asked that some letters be delivered on that run. Oh, he was to have his letters in short order. But in truth, there were only two cargo of import on that vessel: vindication and damnation.

“I learned of the wager the first night at sea and marveled that he would take on someone as untried as myself. A pale, thin hand to my right looked up and sighed,

'It doesn't matter.'

“I wondered at this reply. But not for long.
The answer came on our third day. The air was still and fetid as a charnel house. Yet we furled the sails. I thought it odd, but they had made this journey before, not I. Nudging one of the other deckhands, I said with a fool's laugh,

“Captain won't protect his reputation with winds like these!”

“He said nothing, only looked up. The air was even stiller than before.

“It was getting dark and nothing was more welcome than the nightly painting of the heavens. You must understand how dull it is on a ship with no work. And the men were a lifeless, timid bunch: no songs, no laughter, and eyes cast skywards like the old paintings of the saints. Or the refugees as they fled from Sodom and Gomorrah. The stars were a welcome diversion.

“But a heavy footstep from above roused me from my awe.


“'Go to bed, fool!' a voice from the barracks screamed.

“It was too late. I was gone.

“On the deck, I saw the black figure of...him. He whipped around and grabbed me with uncanny speed. I was inches from stark, piercing, unholy eyes. A madman's eyes.

“'Looking for a little bedtime story, son?' he hissed.

“He dragged me to the bow, pressed my throat into the hard, wet wood. Words in some language alien to me and, perhaps to all mankind, were shouted above my head. The sea began to swirl beneath, the waves growing bigger and darker, lapping at the hull like thick black tongues. The wind picked up and a horrid smell came up from the churning darkness. I panicked, thinking he meant to throw me into the jaws of some sea beast. Struggling was in vain for he was stronger than I. The air became scarce and mercifully, consciousness left me, the hellish scene fading to peaceful oblivion.

“One by one, my senses returned and I awoke on the deck to sunlight and wind, the sails still furled. It occurred to me, in the haze of returning consciousness, that I had a madman for a captain and it was best to stay out of his way. I started towards the barracks to sleep away my bruised throat and perturbation of mind. But there was no harm in reassuring myself that my tormentor had only the force of his own flesh, bone, and brain, was there? I staggered back to the bow and glanced down. A great slimy mass of green serpents slithered over the surface of the water, no- above it! The ship sailed faster through those diabolical coils and loops than it could through any Godly substance! All was black again.

“I was carried below and couldn't be dragged back above until we docked, sails in position, a normal ship to all but ourselves. Governor van Goens got his letters in 3 months and 4 days and he his glory. I ran as far inland as my weak body would allow, to a church, pleading for sanctuary. Someone left my pay with the pastor, but I waited 3 months to catch the first God-fearing vessel back home. So here I am, never straying far from the protection of the Lord lest that man, his vessel, and his infernal master lay claim on my soul.”

That was all, for he fell silent and I thought it best to leave him. A very strange tale, indeed. And even stranger is that within a week of relating it, this man who never veered from home and church was seen by numerous people to leave his hovel and walk out into the sea. He was said to scream like an animal at slaughter and disappear, leaving nothing but a brief reddening of the water and ringing silence. A girl of nine insisted she saw green eels rise up and fall on him. But there was no lingering evidence of that. I suppose we'll never truly know how that unhappy wretch met his earthly end. And maybe that's all for the best. Who could bear such knowledge of those three grand arbiters of men: heaven, hell, and the sea?

Cervid fucked around with this message at 06:41 on Aug 10, 2013

Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.

I thought I remembered to sign up, but I didn't. Well I pretty much already wrote something so Imma just continue to boogie on with that assumption.

Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Nubile Hillock posted:

Ima just pretend that the brawl is due friday cos I got work and life stuff to do so y'all can suck it.

So did you mean Friday, Next Friday, or Friday After Next?

Jul 18, 2011

Modern worldly poster

1196 words (including the title)

“Did something hit-” he tried to ask, but there was no one to ask, and his mouth was full of salt. Blood and water, he must have bitten his tongue when...when what? There should have been someone to ask, the boy, or Edward, or Byron. No, not Byron, he had his own boat, which hadn’t stopped him from scrawling his “Don Juan” across the mainsail. He was going to have sharp words. No, he had already, and Mary too, sharper still. Byron had laughed, and soon they were all laughing, as ever.

It was hard to focus. He had to focus. He sat up, or tried, but couldn’t tell if he’d succeeded. Too dark, too cold, too wet (wet!) and...and...there’d been a storm, there was a storm, they were in a storm, the three of them, Charles, and Edward. And himself. Percy. He tried to sit, tried to stand, succeeded at neither and heard a splash and a crash as he fell and the world lit up.

He had always favored words over pigments, the page over the canvas. He could paint this, so clear was the image against black waves and sky, the tattered sails breaking away, the deck disappearing beneath the water, the three of them out there, one standing over the other two.

No, there were only three aboard. He was here, and Charles and Edward were there, and so. “Hello! Who’s there?” is what he’d intended to say. The words rang loudly in his head, but what the wind and thunder did not swallow, the coughing fit and the lungful of water did. And the scream, gurgled, quickly cut off. His? No.

Another flash of lightning. There was someone else aboard, a man, he supposed, though he saw nothing more than a large, brutish profile, standing unshaken by the wind, by the water rising around him, one foot slightly above the other. Percy realized then what he had just seen, what the man’s foot was resting on. Who he was drowning, as if anyone needed help to drown in this.

Percy struggled once more, to gain his footing, floundered once more, but managed to turn over, ending up in a crawl. The chill that had awakened him had passed, replaced by a numbness which suggested it hadn’t passed at all. He was dying, he was in shock, he would drown before the concussion or whatever injuries he’d sustained could do him in, and yet someone was here to murder him, had murdered Charles already, and Edward too, it seemed. He certainly wasn’t moving.

He spat water, replaced it with more of the same as thunder crashed again. “Wh-” he gasped, as much an attempt to expel more water as to ask who, or why, he wasn’t sure which.

He couldn’t see the murderer, couldn’t see anything at all. But he knew somehow that this terrible being, surely no man at all, (what nonsense!) had turned its attention upon him. “Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.” He heard the words as clearly as if whispered in his ear. The voice was Mary’s, was Jane’s, was Harriet’s, was Byron’s and Polidori’s and Keats’ and Trelawney’s. That contemptuous tone, speaking his words in the voice of his people, awakened anger within him, an anger that drove him, at last, to rise to his feet.

For all of a second before he collapsed face-down in the water, turning his head just enough to avoid choking. Lightning again, and thunder, and he twisted ‘round to see the creature standing over him. Patchwork parts, assembled into a monstrous hulk of a man, staring down at him. This, too, angered Percy. “Who are you, thief?” he whispered, or merely thought, but the creature heard him somehow over the thunder.

“Thief, he calls me. ‘Poetry is a mimetic art’, he writes, and still he names me thief.” The figure sounded amused now,

“What else shall I call you, who speak my words, in the voices of those I hold dear?”

“Your little mind gathers the familiar, a voice, a turn of phrase, a monstrous visage from your wife’s masterwork, wraps it all around me like a cloak so that the truth of me doesn’t shatter you. And you name me a thief for this act of charity.

“Shall I instead name you murderer?” Conversation, real or imagined, was apparently to be allowed. “Assassin? I’ll not call you Devil, for there is no such creature.”

“Indeed not? Are you so certain? Call me then a collector of debts, if it pleases you.” Percy tried, and failed, to make sense of this. He was probably delirious. He certainly did owe debts, monetary and otherwise. Before he could say a word, the creature laughed again. “Oh, poets. I adore poets. You all think the world revolves around you. Oh, you’ll have to die. I can’t exactly leave witnesses, particularly not the sort that would be listened to. And it’s not as though I need go to any great effort on your behalf at this point. But I’m not here for the paltry sums you owe.

The creature pointed, Percy could see this despite the darkness that he now realized came not from the storm or the night, but from within, a darkness that would consume everything all too soon. He followed the gesture with eyes that could somehow pierce this darkness, to rest upon the corpse of...


“Edward Ellerker Williams. Who took the wife of another man, a vengeful man, a knowledgeable man. A man who knew how to call in his debts.”

“Please,” He had strength enough for scorn, though he knew by now he wasn’t truly speaking. He wasn’t sure he was even breathing. “He didn’t take a thing. I know Jane,” though never as well as he wished. “And I know what she thought of her first husband, why she left him. What he did to her before she left.”

“And I know you, poet. I know what you would have done, had she allowed it. The serpent shut out from paradise, indeed. But none of that’s of any import to me. A certain man called in a certain debt. The debt has now been paid. And you, little poet, may go to your rest with a measure of understanding, much good may it do you. Although...” The creature hesitated. “Should Jane Williams call upon me, and I believe she may know how, I would be happy to collect her debts as well. Quite happy indeed.”

And with that, the creature was gone, and the storm, and Percy Bysshe Shelley soon after.

The three drowned men were found in time, and much was made of their passing. Some called it murder. Some even spoke of Percy’s old debts, and questioned whether someone had chosen to collect them violently, under cover of the storm. But most, in time, blamed the deaths on poor seamanship or poor ship design, or simple bad luck.

Jane Williams, who had been Jane Johnson, remarried in time. Her first husband, John Edward Johnson, tried to interfere with this marriage, but his death in 1840 put an end to that.

Jan 10, 2006 - play this while reading if possible.

Chankiri Tree 929 words

Bohpa stretched her foot down from the high step of the bus, the toe of her sandal searching for some solid ground. Music of the new republic played loudly from speakers nearby, celebrating the bravery and work of the newly liberated Khmer people.

Kosal shifted suddenly in the sling, and Bohpa struggled to keep her balance as she stretched toward the ground. He was her first child, and without her parents to help her she had found looking after him difficult. Compared to other Khmer women she was old to be having only her first child, but she had put off children to travel to Paris with her husband. She had loved her time there, but after the civil war they had returned to Cambodia, so that Yuan could take his place in the Angka, at the forefront of the new nation.

Recently she had seen Yuan less and less, as his time was taken by the administration of the state. He had been working at the ruling offices later and later, and had stayed the night there more often than their lovely small house in the leader’s compound. After a few days of Yuan sending notes home, to say he would not arrive back that evening, a couple of Bohpa’s friends had told her to take a holiday to the country. A bus would be taking a group to a beautiful orchard, only an hour away from Phnom Penh. Why not take the baby?

Her foot struck the dusty earth of the road, and she stumbled out into the hot sun. An attendant grabbed her arm to stop her falling. “Be careful, mistress! Would you like me to adjust the sling? He looks a little uncomfortable.”

Bohpa nodded as she looked around. A few meters ahead was a small gate, the only break she could see in the high brick wall of the orchard, but above she could see green boughs, and she could smell sweet peaches and wet, fertile earth.

The attendant made some small alterations to the sling: it looked exactly the same to Bohpa, but Kosal shifted and gurgled in a way she had learned to interpret as satisfaction.

She looked up at the attendant, and smiled in thanks. The young girl facing Bohpa, perhaps 13 years old, smiled a dull smile, but her eyes blinked rapidly. Bohpa realised that the girl must be simple, and walked away quickly, towards the gate which was being held open by a young man in overalls. He was young also, no more than 15.

Bohpa looked back over her shoulder, and saw the simple girl helping another woman off the bus. It had been half empty, and as much as Bohpa had tried to encourage the other women to talk to her they had ignored her, and one woman had hugged herself, shaking constantly in an upsetting manner. Instead Bohpa had looked out the window of the bus, at the beautiful fields with people of all ages tending the crops: a return to glory and wonder of the old Angkor Empire for the wonderful Khmer people, who had been cruelly repressed by imperialist neighbours.

It was a convalescence for the retards! What a mix up, Bohpa thought, I must have got on the wrong bus. But this is an orchard, so I must be in the right place. She walked into the sweet smelling orchard, and the boy led her between a series of low dirt mounds, while another closed the gate behind her. Of course - they knew who she was, and would take her to a section of the orchard where she could relax without being disturbed by the other, weak minded, passengers.

The path led among the mounds to a tree. Its bark was white, and it was marked for felling with a red spot. Behind the tree a dozen women lay sleeping, enjoying the strong sun and inspirational music and the strong smell of the peaches that floated through the orchard. A small pile of dolls was a little way to the right.

“May I see him, madame?”

The boy smiled in a similar manner to the girl outside. Bohpa felt fear for a second - what if this simple boy hurt her child? What if he does not realise how fragile a baby is? Yuan had almost dropped their son the first time he had held him.

The dolls reassured her: surely they were familiarising the simple people here with young ones. With their child-like mentality they would be perfect minders. Brother Number One has such wisdom!

She nodded and passed Kosal to the young man. He nodded in turn, and she felt a hand fall familiarly upon her shoulder. He looked at the baby, who began to stir, whimpering for his mother’s teat.

“He’s hungry,” Bohpa said, as she reached forward.

Suddenly a savage kick to her knees made her crumple in the wild flowers. Bohpa cried out, and her baby wailed in concert.

In front of her the boy in overalls held Kosal by the leg so that the child’s body hung, twisted uncomfortably. Kosal screamed again, loudly, and Bohpa watched as the boy walked towards the tree, and with a great effort whirled his arm overhead, carrying his charge towards the tree.

A sharpened spear punctured Bohpa’s back and spine, but she did not feel it as she watched Kosal’s head strike the Chankiri tree.

Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.

Diary of Dr. Johann von Klintz, 3rd August, 1864 trans. Klaus Einhart - Word Count: 1119

I had spent the previous night in the dubious company of Charles Lansdowne, the British consul. There was not much of the gentleman left in the consul - a generously apportioned man, and foul-mouthed - he spent much of the evening smoking languorously on his spindled opium pipe and conversing at me rather than with me. I declined his offer to smoke several times, though it seemed to deter him little from his persistent invitations.

Truthfully I found his company most unpleasant, however I made an effort to keep up appearances - it was no secret that he was the potentissimus in and around Guangzhou, and I was in no hurry to alienate his good graces. I was also bereft of good company and so, even though my English is lacking, I was inclined to spend the evening in the company of one in preference to none.

The night wore on, and afflicted by wooziness brought on by the opium fumes I rambled on in fragmentary sentences of my departure from the Akademie and my travels up to that point. That I was a physician seemed to pique his curiosity greatly. He inquired further about my motives, and I told him of my brief to study oriental surgical technique with a mind to preparing a report for the Akademie back in Berlin. He seemed genuinely intrigued and I felt flattered. He inquired whether I had an interest in anatomy, to which I replied that I did - that I was an understudy of the great Wilhelm Bosch himself. A complete fabrication, of course, and I can only attribute it to the mind-altering effects of the opiate miasma.

He told me that the following afternoon that there was something that would be of great interest to me in the square and that he would reserve me a prime viewing spot. He remained tight-lipped on the matter though I pressed him. I detected a malevolent twinkle in those sunken blue eyes of his, ensconced and shadowed by his blubberous features, though I had no inkling as to what it might mean.

It was soon forgotten and together we shared an amuse bouche of sweetbreads and, my word, a bottle of Spätburgunder - I had had no wine for months, let alone from the banks of the Ahr. We talked some more, and I lamented the desertion of my local translator, whom the consul brashly declared was certainly plying my coin at the whorehouses - we laughed, made merry, and I departed during the small hours in good spirits.

The next morning I rose early. I delivered a letter to the postmaster and took a constitutional around the herbal markets. I tarried there for a time - the cornucopia of fungi and remedies on show was quite fascinating - but I did not want to miss my appointment. I was apprehensive as to what lay in store but was more concerned with not wanting to appear rude, so I made haste to the square outside the Consulate.

When I arrived, a great crowd had already gathered. So thick with people was it that I had to push my way through quite bodily. I will forever wish that I hadn’t, that I had turned around at the sight of the crowd. In my heart of hearts I had somewhat suspected what was happening, but nothing in my wildest nightmares could have rendered me insensitive to what I was about to witness.

I breached through the front of mass of people, who begrudgingly let me pass in deference to my occidental appearance. A small chinaman was tied to a crude cross. Covered in bruises, he hung limply from the bindings on his wrists. Any lingering doubts were dispelled quickly. The first thing I saw was another man with a great carving knife draw back the smaller man’s head and lance both his eyes with savage precision. Blood bubbled from the ruined sockets and the man screamed.

I felt ill. I turned back to find the crowd had resealed around me.

Lingchi - the death of a thousand cuts. I knew of it, and of the three Confucian deaths the victim was to suffer - death of the body, death of reputation and mutilation in the afterlife. I watched in horror as the machete was drawn across the forearm and a slice of flesh removed. A finger, an ear. It was as if I was watching a sculptor working backwards, rendering a human form back to lump of muscle and bone.

For every large slice taken, from the thigh or belly, the executioner pulled a flat iron from the fire and seared the wound. To cauterise and stop the blood flow - purely to prolong the suffering. Chunk of shoulder, corner of scalp, left foot. The smell filled my nose. There is nothing in this world that smells like burned flesh.

I quickly resolved to stop it. As a doctor, I would not allow such barbarism to occur in my presence. Blessing of blessings, I had my doctor’s bag with me. Within it, I had morphine and a number of hypodermic needles. With shaking hands, I produced the bottle and drew a lethal dose.

A clammy hand settled on my shoulder, stopping me. I looked up and saw the grinning face of the consul. He asked me whether I was finding it instructional. I confess, I lost my temper quite catastrophically. I raged at him in my native tongue. How close I came to jamming that needle straight into his porcine belly.

I think I would have had not that poor wretch cried out for my help in German. I brought myself to look towards the man - now without feet and hands altogether, no nose or lips. It could not be, but it was. My bright young translator, my guide for weeks. I had not recognised him before in his sorry state. And now, now he was a torso with stumps and crimson streaks of missing flesh. Like a carcass hanging above a butcher’s table, he was more meat than man. I pulled free of the consul’s grasp and hurried over.

I ended his suffering, though I fear far too late for it to have been much of a mercy. Their gruesome entertainment spoiled, the crowd dispersed. Stupefied, I simply stood. The consul, propelled by a cane, approached me and whispered into my ear:

“What do you think Doctor? Some liverwurst to remind you of home? Or perhaps Zungenwurst? That might be even better.”

He drew a finger across a glistening laceration and tasted it thoughtfully;

“With...yes, I think a Beaujolais.”

Aug 23, 2003


Just wanted to say that this contest is really cool and I'm happy I did this. I haven't tried to write any fiction in many years and I found this far harder than I expected. The first day I had no idea how I'd get all the way to 1200 words, by the end of the second day I had no idea how I'd keep the story shorter than 2,000 words! I don't think I fully succeeded because the story feels a little truncated but all the same this was a very helpful exercise. I just hope the end results aren't too embarrassing.


1262 words

Under a leaden sky three thousand corpses manured the earth, stinking like an abattoir and a latrine trench combined. Drifting on the wind were the moans of the wounded, but not so many as there had been a half hour before. Silence was falling even as the shadows lengthened. A little longer and the transition from battleground to graveyard would be complete.

The bodies lay in twisted heaps of flesh and metal. Here one could see where a few men had been drawn away from their line and slaughtered; there lay a few pin cushioned with arrows and javelins when they made their last stand. Near the centre of the battle where the fighting must have been fiercest the bodies piled three or four high.

Quintus pulled the wool cloak tighter to his body, but it was not the wind that chilled him. He had seen the bloody handiwork of the legions before, but that was ill preparation for the scene that confronted him. Here the enemy had been fellow Romans, and the fighting had been all the more terrible for it

He picked his steps carefully as he navigated amidst the dying light, eager not to step on any dead body or upturned blade. Twenty paces ahead Sextus leaned to inspect another body, and Quintus walked to his side.

“This one will have to do,” said Sextus. Beneath him lay the wreckage of a young man who would never grow old.

“It would be better,” said Quintus, “if we did not pick a citizen. Back there I saw some Nubians, they should serve just as well.”

“He will have to do” Sextus repeated. “Check for wounds. She said that he must still have his belly and throat intact.”

A cursory inspection revealed a deep wound above the knee. It had been a single brutally efficient stab – the kind that would have made any drill master proud. The blade had plunged into the thigh just above the protective metal of the man’s grieve but below the bottom lip of his shield. It was a killing blow, the mark of a well trained legionary. Quintus had seen such wounds before, but never on a fellow Roman.

Together they stripped the man of his armor and then carried him from the field. It was work fit for slaves but Sextus had insisted that they travel alone.

They reached the cave as the first rays of moonlight began to show through the ragged clouds. Amidst the rocky Thessalian countryside the entrance might have been mistaken for a mere fissure in the rock if not for the wisps of smoking drifting up from within.

“These hills are crawling with foraging teams. She tempts fate, keeping an open fire like this.” Quintus said.

“Tempts fate?” Sextus barked out a laugh that did not reach his eyes. “Remember who we are dealing with.”

The entrance of the cavern was narrow, but within a dozen paces it widened into a space as wide as the courtyard of Quintus’ villa. At the far edge of the room lay a vast unlit pyre built of sticks and timber. He could not fathom how a lone woman had assembled such a structure in only a few hours time, and he did not care to let his mind dwell upon the riddle.

A much smaller fire had been set in the centre of the room, and there, tending to a bubbling pot, hunched Erichto, the witch of Thessaly.

With her sallow, wrinkled skin, rotting teeth and half bald scalp she looked impossibly ancient, yet she balanced on her haunches with bended knees, a position that would have produced agony in Quintus’s aging joints.

She had been naked when they left her hours before, but now she was clothed in a mottled shroud. Amidst the remnants of her stringy white hair coiled a living snake, and Quintus saw another serpent was wrapped about her arm. Slowly her head raised up to meet his gaze, and the crone’s cracking lips drew back into a toothless grin as they placed the body before her.

“In the coming days my father shall be master of the world,” said Sextus with a voice that barely wavered “or else rightful heir to the greatest funeral rites Rome has ever known. I bid you do as we have agreed and remove doubt from my mind.”

“You have done well, son of Magnus” said the witch of Thessaly. Casually she dipped a hand into the bubbling pot and stirred its putrid contents with a bony finger. “Let us see what secrets we may learn.”

The witch was humming now, and passing her hands through the air above the cauldron. Then she gripped the cauldron with one hand while with the other cradled the corpse’s head as she began to pour the brew into its mouth.

“This is an ill business,” said Quintus.

The body twitched.

“Aye,” said Sextus, “perhaps-“

“I can show you the shores of the lake of fire,” laughed the witch, “the broken backs of conquered giants, or the snarl of Cerebus himself. Yet you tremble to speak with ghosts, who are themselves afraid?”

The full contents of the pot had bubbled down the corpse’s throat now. Some of the dark and viscous liquid overflowed the lips and dribbled down the chin, but most poured down its throat.
The corpse’s hand curled into a fist.

“Charon, Persephone, Hecate! Hear my call,” hissed the crone. “Remember the taste of the blood I’ve spilled for you! Savour again the infant flesh I’ve fed you! Nyarlathotep hear me!”

The corpse twitched again but did not move. Erichto snarled and gave the body a savage kick. When it remained inert she reached into her hair, pulled free the snake nesting there and violently lashed the corpse with it.

“Do not defy me!” Screamed the witch, her body shaking, spittle flecking her lips. “Shall I unchain the sun and dispatch its fire to your chthonic halls? Hecate, shall I rip free the masks that hide your ugliness from the sight other Gods? Shall I summon you to this earth and leave you to wander here for all eternity? Tremble before me and heed my call, you who would call yourselves immortal!”

Abruptly, stiffly, the corpse began to rise, a puppet held aloft on invisible strings.
Its sightless eyes twitched uncomprehendingly. Thickened blood oozed from the wound in its thigh. The pallid face opened and closed its slackjawed mouth. From the back of the cave came a wind that made the fires dance and flicker.

“Behold, spirit, the son of Pompey Magnus, your master during life,” said the witch. “Answer his questions and I shall restore you to your rest.”

“I am cold” moaned the corpse.

“Do as I bid and I shall warm you in a fire that will put you beyond the reach of further magicks,” said Erichto. “Defy me and I shall leave your shadow to wander these hills for the rest of time.”

“Soon my father shall face Caesar’s men in battle,” said Sextus. “Tell me what the outcome shall be.”

“Son of Pompey, know that soon your father shall dine with us in splendor. O’ scion of an ill fated house, Fortune divides your graves among the lands you have triumphed over and you shall find no place in all the world less dangerous than Pharsalia.”

“Then Caeser will win the war?” asked Sextus.

“Caesar too shall join us,” groaned the corpse. “And he shall bring many with him. Now do as you promised, witch, and release me to oblivion.”

Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.

I don't think I'll be able to finish this by tonight. Having a hard time focusing after I lost my job this weekend.

Mar 24, 2013


A personal letter, ca 1930 (1131 words)

Dearest Ethel,

It is with a heavy heart that I write these words, for I have only dark things to tell in this letter, things I ought to have shared with you long ago. Only now, in the final hours of my life, has my mind been freed from the influence that kept me from seeing those horrors for what they were. Would that I had the strength to take action, but as I can barely lift the pen to write this, I must place my hopes on you.

Do you recall the manuscripts I acquired from the Jesuits eighteen years ago? Among them was a most eccentric text, written in an alien script and filled with illustrations both bizarre and grotesque. You dismissed it as a mere curiosity when I showed you, but I was already convinced that it held a great secret, some insight into the workings of the universe long lost to modern science. After all, I had reason to believe it had been authored by Roger Bacon himself. I know now that this cannot possibly be true—no man of God would ever be associated with such vile things as can be found in that book.

In those first weeks after acquiring it, I spent many nights poring over the contents of the timeworn pages. I did not mention it to you then, for fear that it was imagined, nor later, for fear that it was true, but I felt always as if I were on the verge of understanding what the text said. I could not decipher it alone, however, and no one in London seemed able to help me either.

This, in part, is why I chose to leave you behind and move to America. There, I was certain, I could find a cryptographer with enough skill to solve this mystery. In this I had little luck at first, though I frequently showed the manuscript to potentially interested parties and even held public showings of it. The year before you joined me in New York, however, I was introduced to a man named William Newbold, who seemed both willing and able to solve the mystery of the manuscript.

I left the matter to him, and though we corresponded frequently, I largely put the manuscript out of mind until August 1926, when Newbold asked that I visit him in person. He was agitated when we met, almost irrational, and he repeatedly stressed to me that the author had to be Roger Bacon, and that the manuscript was a collection of scientific discoveries he had not published elsewhere. Though the explanation was satisfactory to me, I wondered what had prompted Newbold's strange behavior. When he died a month later of the same sickness that now afflicts me, I once again grew interested in the manuscript.

Newbold's explanation satisfied the scholarly community, but not me. I continued the search for answers alone, with a morbid obsession I could not explain. I researched in secret, always feeling close to uncovering something both great and terrible.

It was not until last year that I found the key to understanding the manuscript. I will give no details as to how, but I will say it was an ordeal that took a significant toll on my health, both mental and physical, and that it is indirectly responsible for my impending death. I believe poor Newbold found the same thing, and that it affected him even worse than it did me.

Upon translating the first few pages, I found that the book's author, whoever he was, must have been a madman. The text is a mixture of science and weird arcana, of prophecy and incoherent rambling. The first chapter, which I translated before anything else, details methods for growing chimeric plants and the strange mixtures that can be brewed from them.

The section detailing their use was incomplete, however, and so I dared to try only the first. When imbibed in a certain way at a certain time, it was meant to grant a vision of the future.

What I saw in that vision now unnerves me greatly, though at the time I was only fascinated. As the taste of nightshade and knapweed faded, I found myself standing in the middle of a crowded square, and whenever I turned my gaze upon someone, they would fall to their knees in supplication. I walked through the city, and every man, woman and child swore fealty to me. They raised me up, and followed me with empty eyes, and did whatever I bid them to do. With them I traveled across the world, and soon there was no one who did not see me as a living god. They never spoke to each other, and never made a sound except to sing my praises with their hollow, lifeless voices.

Behind me through it all, always behind, no matter where I turned, there lurked a great shadow. It asked that I sacrifice a token few of my followers, and I gladly complied. Then it asked for more, and again I obeyed, and again and again until the world was empty but for me and the shadow. Then it asked me to sacrifice myself, and I was elated at the prospect of doing so, but the vision came to an end before I had a chance to act.

Emboldened by this vision, I set about translating the last few pages, which are the most dense with text. I skipped the middle parts, thinking I could return to them later. What I found in those final pages was a partial record of several more visions. The book's mad author had tested the vision concoction on several others, all of whom saw themselves in the same role I had, as emperors of a dead world. Even then I was not disturbed, but glad, for it seemed to me a good future.

The middle section of the book, which I fortunately did not have time to translate in its entirety, described in detail how to bring about the future both the madman and I had seen. When the stars are right, a scant century from now, anyone who knows the methods can bring about this silent apocalypse.

This must not come to pass, Ethel! I will not have such desolation be the legacy of the Voynich name. I can only pray that the book's vile influence has not yet reached you, for you must destroy it. Throw it on the fire, or if you cannot bring yourself to do that, then throw it away, hide it where it will never be found. If not—if you have fallen under its spell—then I fear the future of mankind will be short indeed.

Burn it, Ethel.

Yours always,

May 27, 2012


Hmmm, I also won't be able to finish in time for this, because of work, but not because I lost my job or anything (sorry about that Mercedes). If it's any consolation I'll post what I was gonna submit if I'd been able to finish in time later this week, because it's so loving dumb. It was an alternate history that would have painted James Earl Ray as a racist vampire hunter. Martin Luther King would have simply been another vampire on his list.

Pretty loving dumb.

JonasSalk fucked around with this message at 00:52 on Aug 12, 2013

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart

Frozen Souls (1114 words)

“The bodies should be less than a mile— Hold, Will.” Sergeant Baker drew his bayonet. “Did you hear that?”

Wind keened through the forest, pines groaned beneath last night’s snow. I shrugged.

“The Bolshies aren’t a mile out. Keep an eye peeled—“

A bayonet thrusted from behind a tree, whistling by my ear. It hung from a rifle gripped by a pale man in a brown wool coat. He stared at me, eyes yellowed and shot through with dark veins.

Sarge lunged and sank his long, polished blade into the Russian’s throat. The communist gurgled and fell dead, his black blood marring white snow. I stared at the metal spike on the dead man’s rifle. A few inches to the left and it would’ve been inside my brain.

The sergeant grabbed the Mosin-Nagant, opened the breach and grunted. “No bullets. At least we’re doing something right up here. Now quit staring like a jay and load him up.” He tossed it away and we loaded the corpse onto my sledge.

It was a miracle we even had the thing; it was supposed to be horse-drawn, earmarked for the retreat from Shenkursk, but its horse broke a leg and Sergeant Baker commandeered it for his little recovery mission. A day tramping through the pines was a small sacrifice if four of our boys could spend their eternal rest back in Michigan. I envied them - they were getting out of Russia.

Four men dead; Sarge was the only one to make it out. I couldn’t fathom how it felt to lose all his men - worse, to go slushing back for their frozen carcasses.

Night crawled towards us and, at last, Sergeant Baker gave up trying to wayfind in dying twilight. We dug into a drift, ate, and slept.

I awoke during darkness to something gurgling, like a hungry stomach in the night. I lifted my head, glanced around. The waning moon overhead silvered snow and blackened trees. The sergeant was bundled up, snoring. Our Russian lay dead on the sledge—

Dark bile bubbled from his neck-wound, pooling on the snow. I’d never seen anything like it. Then again, I’d never seen anyone without a throat.

The goo drained away into the snow, leaving it as pristine-white as ever, and the body lay quiet.

I sat awake listening for a long while, sweating despite the cold. The moon dropped beneath the tree-line before I fell back into bad sleep.


I sat up at daybreak and rubbed my eyes. My head throbbed. Probably not enough sleep.

The corpse had been rolled off the sledge and the sergeant was pouring kerosene over it from a canteen.

“What’re you doing, Sir?”

“Changed my mind, Private. He’s useless to us, a burden.” He struck a match and lit the body. “Look away, Will. Good men shouldn’t watch things like this.”

My headache was nasty, so I kept my head down, packed my stuff and then we marched on.

The night before scratched at my brain until I couldn’t keep silent. “Sir, I have a question.”

“Quiet, Private. You never know what’s nearby out here.”

“That’s the thing, Sir. That body was still bleeding last night—“

“I’ve been in these woods a year now, Will. There are things out here that Christian men shouldn’t ever see or think about. Put it out of your mind and just thank God it’ll be over soon.”

Presently, we emerged into a thicket. Four mounds bulged the snow. The sergeant handed me an entrenching shovel. “Sorry to drag you into this, Will.”

“Dig them all up, Sir?”

“That’s right.”

We exhumed the first, a man wearing a medic’s cross. His veins were blackened, as though ink had frozen beneath his frost-whitened skin.

My rifle’s strap chafed my shoulders as I dug. I set it down in the snow. We dug up three more bodies and put them all on the sledge. All throughout, my headache was a war-drum pounding in my skull.

I knelt to lash the corpses down. A cold wind burned my eyes and they watered. I wiped them.

The body beneath me, like the others, was milk-white with inky veins. One hand splayed across a wound on his breast. Poor guy, a bayonet had pierced his heart.

More tears welled up and I wiped them dry. Inky ooze seeped from the man’s broad knife-wound. I froze. The Russian bayonet was long and thin, not wide and narrow.

I backed up and bumped into something hard. It grunted. I dove aside and the sergeant’s sharp bayonet crashed into the snow where I’d stood.

Baker’s eyes were jaundiced and amethyst ink swam in his pupils. He pounced and sank the blade into my leg. I screamed and pushed him off.

“It’ll be over soon, Will. Don’t fight it.” Black bile dripped from the sergeant’s teeth. “Join us.” He lunged for the bayonet.

I grabbed my rifle and fired. Baker staggered, then grinned, more ooze dripping from the wound. I shot again and he dropped to his knees; another bullet and he fell facefirst in the snow, twitching and grunting.

I crawled to him, pried the kerosene from his belt and doused him. He rolled over, spat up foul black oil and reached for me. “Become us…”

I struck a match and he disappeared beneath flames, writhing and screaming.

I crawled to the sledge as red blood leaked from my leg. I pulled the knife from my thigh and sliced strips off the medic’s coat, tied them over my wound and prayed to God for the strength to hobble home.

I stood and white pain seared my nerves. I pushed my rifle’s muzzle into the snow for support and took a step.

Something gurgled.

More oil bubbled from the bodies on the sledge. It was breeding in them, multiplying. Baker had wanted to drag them back to the Army. Back to the evac line where there’d be a hundred corpses.

I swallowed hard. I had to do it. I had to burn them. Poor guys. I emptied the kerosene onto them, struck a match, prayed and lit them.

My head and thigh were aflame with pain, pain which burned hotter each minute. I couldn’t wait for their ashes; I had go now, before my wound hurt too bad to walk.

I trudged back along our tracks, using my rifle as a cane. It was slow going and the Russian day was short. At dusk, I collapsed against a tree. I took out the sergeant’s bayonet and scraped away dried blood. The polished knife flashed in the dying light.

In its reflection, my eyes were yellow and purple.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet

Ghost Moose
1192 Words

Ashland, Maine
Fall, 1895

“You chose the wrong time of year to come here, son.” The old man hailed me from where he leaned against the general store, soaking up the last hour of sun. He lit a pipe with an unsteady hand, squinting at me with yellowing eyes. “Streams'll freeze up in a couple months, mills'll shut down. And there you'll be with no work and no food.”

I stepped out of the muddy street to stand beside him. “Is that so?” I asked. It had been a longer trip than I'd planned when I'd left my parents' farm outside Boston that spring. I'd used most of my funds getting this far. “I heard it was easy to make it in lumber up here. Enough trees for everyone.”

“Well, sure,” he said, waving his pipe across town to where the old water wheel creaked and turned. “But when the streams freeze over the wheel can't go, and the mill shuts down. Come spring, there'll be plenty of work for you. But until then?” he shrugged and spat into the mud. “ ever hunted? Real money's in hunting, this time of year.”

I shrugged. “Coons and stuff, back home. Some deer.”

He flashed his yellow teeth and held out a hand. “Name's Hill. You want a job? Pay'll be good enough to last the winter.”

- - -

Hill put me up in the Ashland House, where the gentlemen hunters gathered. Most were from out of state, wealthy men who drank and told tall tales while they waited for moose season to open. Their local guides were quiet, watchful men.

One of them pulled me aside the second night, while Hill dozed drunkenly by the fire. “Son, I don't want to speak ill of no-one, but that man you're working for is crazy. You ever think why he might hire you, who don't know the area at all?” It was suspicious, that was for sure, but the money he'd offered had been drat good.

“I imagine he's doing a boy a good turn,” I said.

The guide grunted. “He hired you 'cause we all know better. He's gone out with a new party every year for five years now. Only two men have come back, and they won't say what they saw. But it scared them. You don't want to get mixed up in this, boy.”

I squared my shoulders. “Thank you for your concern, sir, but I've taken his money and I'll do the job.”

The old guide frowned. “You've been warned. If you go and die now, it won't be on our hands.”

- - -

We left town two days before the season opened. “Them back there,” Hill gestured to the Ashland house, “they'll leave the day season opens and rush the woods around here. We'll be well out of it by then. Heading inland.”

“Why're they staying here, if the moose are inland?” I asked, following him. These woods had been heavily cut for lumber, and we walked through old stumps and blackberries. Mill followed the open scar and scanned the forest with quick, nervous glances. His hand stayed on his gun.

“Plenty of little moose here, but we're looking for something bigger.” He increased the pace, forcing me to scramble to keep up. I'd seen the moose heads decorating Ashland House, their horns stretching wider than I could reach. They hadn't been, I thought, little moose.

“Something bigger?” I asked. Hill waved a hand dismissively, eyes on the deep woods to either side of us. Fear tightened my chest as I remembered the old guide's words, but it was too late to back out now.

- - -

Dawn on the first day of moose season found us deep in the woods. There were no sounds of lumbering here, so we whirled at the crackle of breaking branches, a sharp report against the background of the endless sighing of wind through leaves, the singing of birds, and the high, alarmed chirping of the squirrels we passed. Hill's knuckles were white on the rifle stock; his liquor-yellowed eyes wide. The muzzle of the gun wavered as he shook. Quickly, I stepped aside, raising my own gun and following his line of fire.

Something white moved between the trees. Hill fired; the bullet scored a long, pale scar on a tall pine. Flashes of white showed for a moment between the trees, and then there was just the ringing in our ears and the still forest.

“Why didn't you shoot at it?” Hill demanded, voice low and mean. He held the rifle pointed at me, and I couldn't tell if he'd forgotten it was there, or was deliberately threatening me.

“What am I supposed to be shooting at?” I asked, voice climbing with frustration.


- - -

We tracked it through the day. Early in the evening it came up behind us. We heard a snort and whirled, raising our rifles. It stood between two great pines, pale and gaunt, shoulders higher than my head and antlers farther across than the two of us could teach with our fingertips touching. It was white, except at the throat, where where a matted black flow made no sense until I understood the impossible: its throat was slit, gaping, and crawling with maggots.

Fresh bullet marks oozed bright blood onto its pale shoulders. Old scars, laid open to the elements, swarmed with mosquitoes and maggots. I raised my gun, but Hill fired first. His bullet struck dead between the eyes, rocking the thing. It looked at him with great, brown, sorrowful eyes, and walked forward slowly.

“Shoot it!” Hill shouted, backing away. The moose was close enough to touch, a bloody hole between its eyes. I stepped aside as the animal passed, useless gun at my side. I felt the heat rising off its skin, smelled rotting flesh. From this angle I could see the scars across the whole of it's body. Some were older, healed, and some still gaped.

“How many years have you come out here and shot this thing?” I asked Hill, gun still in my hands. Those massive horns were between us now; I could only see Hill's legs, backing away slowly.

“Shoot it!” It's attention was focused entirely on him now. Shooting would bring it around to face me.

“How many times have you come out here, knowing it couldn't die, and caused it more pain? How many hunters have you ordered to shoot it, knowing you can run while it turns on them?” I could see the last five years' worth of scars on the beast's hide, left by hunters that had never returned.

The great white moose charged. Hill screamed, thrashing on the ground under the creature's massive weight. Something snapped and his legs went still.

I cradled the gun in my arms until the moose finished its work, and watched it walk into the forest. Hill lay panting on the ground, whimpering, dying slowly. I raised my gun and sighted, and for the first time in his employ, I fired.

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

(850 words)

The men who died when the torpedoes hit did so without a sound that could be heard over the impacts or the shouts of the living, all hurrying to belt on life jackets and inflate rafts in the dark. Robert jumped into the sea six minutes after the explosion midship. In the second six minutes before the U.S.S. Indianapolis sank and died, he swam hard away from her drag, and by the light of the full moon he saw her torn bulk go down.

What he didn't see were any rafts. The water was full of bobbing men, some of them yelling curses, the ones without jackets clinging to what debris they could find. Robert's friend Georgey swore the night blue nearby; the left side of his face had been seared black.

The hours until dawn ran long and cold, rank with the stenches of salt, burnt meat, and gunpowder.

The real screams came with the morning.

Davis first: the man shrieked a note nearly soprano, and at first glance Robert couldn't tell why, only that Davis was thrashing about like a baby dropped in a stew pot. Then the grey skin surfaced, the black eyes, the teeth. Then Robert knew. Blood flew wide from the place Davis's arm had been. He bobbed down--was pulled down--came back up as there was nothing left to pull, and he wasn't thrashing so much anymore; not at all, in fact. Other men took up the yelling for him, churning the water as they kicked away. Robert willed himself to swim evenly. Calmly. The shark didn't come for him, but no one else got eaten either, not then.

No matter how the sun boiled his skin and his brains, Robert couldn't dunk his head to cool off when the salt in the water tasted like blood to him. Not that day. Not while other men died in the evening. Not after Gibson lost just half a hand and said he guessed the shark hadn't been that hungry.

Robert lost track of Gibson in the night; a chunk of jacket that floated by two afternoons later looked familiar, though.

But maybe he imagined that: no food, no drink, scraps of unwilling sleep, and endless sun and salt did strange things to the head. Sharks glided by him, but they weren't actually there. They'd kill him if they were there. Take his foot. Take his leg. Georgey tried to talk him into diving down to the Indianapolis to drink the fresh water in the commissary. If his swollen fingers had been able to manage the fastenings of his jacket, he'd have gone. In a more lucid moment, he supposed Georgey's failure to come back from the trip in short order meant he never would.

He swam and swam and found a raft. The men on board shoved him away when he grabbed for its side. They wept; they were corpses; they had sharks' teeth. Robert spat the ocean at them and then let himself drift back to the dehydrated and the drowned.

White-tipped fins followed him for at least a mile. Below, where no one else could see. Lying forward on his stomach, he dipped his face into the salt and met a cold, flat eye.

Swim, said the shark.

Robert kicked his legs weakly.

Swim, said the shark. Its fin brushed his jacket, and the straps parted. The U.S.S. Robert went down by the bow.

Sharks kept him from sinking far. They pressed against his sides, took him with them, until he could move as they did, alone. The shark that had spoken flowed up to a pair of motionless legs and tore one free; Robert bit into the other. His teeth slid through cloth and waterlogged skin, but bone was stubborn: he jerked his head and ripped off a shred of flesh sweet and soft with early rot. Snatching, biting, he ate.

And when he felt a roil in the water, he left the corpse and sought the living meat. Blood washed his jaw, more blood the harder it fought, and he feasted on muscle cooked through by fire 'til his stomach stretched and there was no fight left in what remained.

He floated, full. He allowed his fin to show beneath the sun.

A man grabbed his--hand, grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the water, onto a raft already too full. Robert vomited red onto rubber, and the man seized his shirt and hauled him half over the edge to feed the ocean instead.

His savior dragged him back when he'd finished. Robert slumped in his mess and tried to remember the man's name, but names were human. He tasted salt and iron. "Real," he rasped. "Not real."

The man said nothing; a streak of dried blood began at the right corner of his mouth.

Someone else spoke up. "Listen--" Robert heard the cries from the water before the buzz of the plane. Survivors yelled and sobbed all around him, but he was voiceless in the face of rescue that had come too late.


Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012


The Fireside Prayer
(1,121 Words)

The young cop kneeled, leveling his rifle at the scrawny kid with his hands cuffed to the chair. He wondered what a stick like him could have done to merit pulling a dozen of the Chicago PD's finest off patrol. Not only did he look like a bumpkin, faded overalls and rag-shirt and boots stained with poo poo, he also seemed barely there. Even looking straight at him you thought maybe he was just a trick of the light.

The farmers who owned the place had set out six lanterns in two rows on the floor. The ember glow flickered upward and made everyone look dead, catching on their cheekbones and brows and twisting their faces. Eyes seemed to sink back, drowning in dark pools that turned ruddy faces into skulls. The kid's eyes weren't like this, the young cop noticed. The light skirted around his face, kissed it, made black eyes glitter like beetles.

The young cop tightened up and wished the man from D.C. wouldn't stand so close to the kid when he was asking questions. The men around were good cops, sure, but all an accident took was one wavering nerve. The police station had to be more secure than some old barn, he thought. Unless of course this government prick didn't think the police were fit to be involved with the interrogation, beside pointing guns. He'd kept silent as they'd marched through the winding streets and the dry night air, the kid at the front with hands already cuffed behind his back.

Suddenly the sideboards groaned and a gust forced its way through the barn. One of the lanterns close to the young cop's feet seized up and toppled over, glass breaking as it hit the floor. The flame spread and began to consume the old boards, languid, in no hurry. The cops all froze, not wanting to be admonished by the government prick for either dropping their guard or letting the fire spread. The prick heard the clattering of the lantern and turned to face it. He got up to put it out himself, taking his time like the fire did, all eyes on him as he sauntered toward the ring of cops.

He stood next to the fire and shot them a wry, pained look, admonishing them with his eyes. Chicago's Finest? Finest what, exactly? He stomped on the fire and splashed dirt at it with the pointed toe of his boot, until only tiny embers remained, cooling and dying in silence. The prick sneered and turned around and saw the kid standing up, hands free at his sides.

The prick ran for the door but an invisible hand yanked him back. He was pulled through the air, writhing like an upside-down ant all the way, the kid stepping forward to meet him. The prick screamed at the cops, begged them to open fire and kill the son of a bitch. The young cop looked down the sights, finger ready to squeeze the trigger, but then he saw the kid's face. He was grinning like a wicked brat holding his sister's doll hostage, dangling it in front of her with relish before dropping it out the window.

Before anyone could shoot, a wet, grinding snap echoed throughout the barn and the government prick's chest pried apart, erupted in a fountain of blood. His ribs stuck upright, like ivory towers jutting through muscle and skin. Tendons twitched and tugged, contorting the man's limbs, and his last low moan drowned in a gurgling river of blood. The kid watched him go limp and then tossed the carcass aside. It crashed into two of the other lanterns, knocking them into a haystack. Another fire flashed to life, hissing and crackling and baring its teeth.

Some of the cops snapped back to their senses and shot at the kid. He kept smiling. Even when a round flew right on target, seemingly about to make contact, it dissipated without a sound. As the cops hastily tried to reload, the kid took another step and held out his hand, palm up and fingers loose. Serenely, he closed his eyes and clenched his hand into a fist.

Fire exploded from the chests of every cop that had taken a shot. The young cop watched them collapse to the ground, bellowing in agony as they tried to roll around and stifle the flames. This only spread the fire to the floor and to errant strands of hay, and it blazed through the cops' rough, dry uniforms. Each one slowly stopped fighting, but the fire was not content. It licked up the walls and scorched the air, the young cop breathing shallow and fast now, backing away from the kid, hot air and smoke gnawing at his lungs. The barn seemed to be getting smaller, contracting like the belly of Satan. The young cop dropped his rifle and bolted toward the door.

He and a handful of others pounded at the slab of wood, but it stayed rigid, hinges stubborn even as they began to glow red. Without thinking the young cop grabbed the iron handles, only to recoil as the skin on his palms bubbled. He sprang away from the door and tried plunging them into a watering trough, but the water inside was near boiling. He sank down to the floor, on his knees.

The barn walls creaked, balking at the might of the inferno. Smoke strangled the young cop's senses. He looked to the kid, saw his arms outstretched, bathing in malevolent fury. The kid lowered his head, leveling his gaze with the young cop's, coal-eyes shining through the blankets of smoke.

Please, the young cop thought, just let me live. Get me out of here and I'll do anything, whatever you want. I promise. I can't die like this. I don't want to.

The kid smiled a wide, thin smile and the young cop heard a wispy voice in his head. I know you don't. Just remember... a promise is a promise.

Then the barn fell. The young cop suffocated in a tempest of noise and dust and heat and flame, the screams of the other cops piercing through and striking him in the gut. His senses recoiled, wanted to shut down from the assault, but then it all went quiet.

He stood slowly, shaking, just wanting everything to be over, wanting to taste the cool air of the night. He sprinted away from the barn's ruins, out to a clearing, and breathed in desperately. He froze, and then let out a rasping cough. Even then, away from the barn, the air was so hot. And he could taste the ash.

He turned around and saw Chicago burning.

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