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  • Locked thread
Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Erik Shawn-Bohner posted:

I'm in a really good mood today :D How are ya'll?

I've been sick for the last two weeks, but according to the doc I should be healthy by the 17th of May, which is Norways national day, which means I'll get drunk at seven in the morning and walk in a parade with the student theater while yelling quotes from assorted plays at scared kids.

So I'm good.


Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"

Erik Shawn-Bohner posted:

DrKloctopussy has committed a crime and must be punished. She knows what she did.

Her punishment is to write a POEM about some Indian dude's ear. She also knows what that's about.

She's got like two days or something to finish it and post it here.

I hate poetry and I hate you.

Waiter, with half an ear missing

Once he, maybe, commanded armies: wading
Through a field of cinnamon, blood, and banners
Waving thick as wild flowers. Scimitar raised,
Injury ignored.

Was a spy caught eavesdropping: punished. Or a
Lover: lent it, listening under Starry
Nights. But now he touches his earring coyly,
And hands me my change.

Mar 21, 2010

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

He's got three days, then I'm claiming victory by default.
By my watch, Boner's almost out of time. Four hours remain.

Erik Shawn-Bohner
Mar 21, 2010

by XyloJW

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

By my watch, Boner's almost out of time. Four hours remain.

Your watch is as broken as your sense of voice in prose. But you'll get it once I finish my coffee.

Erik Shawn-Bohner
Mar 21, 2010

by XyloJW
Thunderballs: Eternal President of DPRTD, ESB vs Imperialist Pig, Muffy the Vampire Slayer

It was a dirt road that came to a T at crumbling asphalt. You might see three cars an hour passing if you stayed. I straddled my singlespeed bike at the crossroad of existential pondering and longing for a better life, an overgrown graveyard nestled in the armpit of these two directions. The markers were thick, roughly hewn rectangles of stone that stood over the tall grass, sandstone with the comic sans of amateur carving etched on the face identifying those that died long ago or yesterday. No church, no official buildings. It was just a plot of land by a broken highway surrounded by broken barbed wire, and that's where the dead around here went.

I was a child looking down this highway, waiting for the cars to come. They were clean and bubbly compared to the sharp, boxy lines of a car from the 90s. For a second, I could glance through the windows to see the shirts of the people inside, the cut of their hair. But it would be at least a week before I made it to the next town if I rode hard every day. I had been to town a couple times. It was a giant mess of supermarkets, bright lights, cars and screaming drunks that swirled along the twisted, incomprehensible streets. I could have worked at a factory like my father had always done, twining the red hot extrusions of fiberglass with my bare hands, the itching microscopic spears working their way deeper into your skin with every day.

Behind me was the life I'd always known. It was four hours of ride down the dusty road back to where trees where thick and the markers for where people lived was the third birch on your left then go a mile--not that I'd ever actually met any of them. It was back to the acres we lived on and farmed with corn, string beans, and cantaloupe. A pond where I caught brim and catfish. The cattle, chickens, rams. Cottonmouths that swarmed in packs like an ouroboros feeding on another ouroboros. Wringing the life from the necks that would sustain my life as daily a ritual as is coffee.

I crawled through the barb wire to look at the faces of the stones. The grass came up to thick, seedy spearheads that brushed against my neck as I climbed through it. It was a curiosity without morbidity that made me wonder if this is where I'd be buried. The sun would set soon though, so I went home.

Aug 26, 2004

I'll split you open and I don't even like coconuts.

Erik Shawn-Bohner posted:

Thunderballs: Eternal President of DPRTD, ESB vs Imperialist Pig, Muffy the Vampire Slayer

I straddled my singlespeed bike at the crossroad of existential pondering and longing for a better life, an overgrown graveyard nestled in the armpit of these two directions.

The structure of this sentence comically implies that the viewpoint character thinks of himself as an overgrown graveyard.

Erik Shawn-Bohner
Mar 21, 2010

by XyloJW

BananaNutkins posted:

The structure of this sentence comically implies that the viewpoint character thinks of himself as an overgrown graveyard.

That's a great idea if I ever decide to expand this. I tried to follow the spirit of Muffin's post by doing it while drunk and writing by hand in the dark. The product is what was transcribed from the crazy overlapping script this morning >: ) Enjoy.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"

BananaNutkins posted:

The structure of this sentence comically implies that the viewpoint character thinks of himself as an overgrown graveyard.

That reminds me on this sentence from a Gawker article on violence in Chicago:

"It's likely you didn't even know these people were dead, just like most of your friends and family."


Erik Shawn-Bohner
Mar 21, 2010

by XyloJW

Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

That reminds me on this sentence from a Gawker article on violence in Chicago:

"It's likely you didn't even know these people were dead, just like most of your friends and family."


You read Gawker. :laffo:

I owe you and others some crits I'm working on currently. They're not going to be mean unless I go back and add in the funny

Mar 21, 2010

Erik Shawn-Bohner posted:

Thunderballs: Eternal President of DPRTD, ESB vs Imperialist Pig, Muffy the Vampire Slayer
Looks like we need us a judge.


Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Sign ups are closed.

48 hours remain.

Jan 10, 2006

Eurovision is on, greek moustache guy did the moustache stroke thing. Also the finland marry me lady sang "i'll gently caress you" all the way through the song.

europe rules

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

CancerCakes posted:

Eurovision is on, greek moustache guy did the moustache stroke thing. Also the finland marry me lady sang "i'll gently caress you" all the way through the song.

europe rules

And the Romanian vampire warbled his heart out as he ascended to heaven in a ten-foot-high dress.

A shame Montenegro's rapping astronauts didn't make the final, but it was still a good show.

Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Looks like we need us a judge.


Got you. Tomorrow.

Sep 22, 2005

I'm out this week. Excuses excuses and all that poo poo.

Mar 21, 2010
Heads up: "baseball" is getting replaced with "cricket ball" because I'm having none of your Yankee jackanapes and because I've never played or watched a baseball game in my life. I know there's a man called Baby Ruth who points at people and that's about it.

Instead, I'm writing about a superior sport for classy men.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Heads up: research is hard and foreign ideas are frightening to me.


autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007

by Lowtax
Fun Shoe
Mark Zak: Lime & Ice (994 words)

The door was splintered, snapped right off its hinges. Giant chunks of drywall were missing all down the hallway. Mark began to suspect something might be wrong. He slipped the straight razor from his J.Crew boat shoe and flicked it open.

He kicked the door into his condo and lobbed himself in after it, swinging the razor blindly.

“Come at me, bro!”

The door knocked over his kettlebells and slid to a stop. Mark opened his eyes. It was dark, drywall dust filled the air. He popped his collar and breathed through the built-in filter, his upside-down visor beeped and a tight beam of white light cut through the room.

Someone had been inside. His beer pong table was knocked over, cups all over the floor. His CD collection was rearranged: A Perfect Circle was first on the shelf. The order now was alphabetical, but he always arranged it according to chillness; Incubus had always been, and would always be first.

Mark pulled the albums off the shelf, a few fell and slid across the faux-wood floor. He noticed his guitar stand was empty. His lime green acoustic was gone, the one he’d bought to play some Greenday at a bonfire for that bitch Vanessa. It had taken him years to get all the members of the Tragically Hip to sign it.

“gently caress! Why!?” Mark roared, hurling his cd’s across the room. He kicked over his couch and lobbed a kettlebell at the bigscreen, it exploded in a shower of sparks. He ran down the stairs, kicked open the front door and vaulted a planter. His truck was already running.

He parked diagonally across six handicap spaces and bolted up the museum stairs. He pushed past the afternoon crowd, overturning a stroller. A woman started yelling but he was already through the soundproof doors that read Staff Only.

“Professor! Professor! Those fuckers are after me!” Mark yelled.

The professor raised an eyebrow without looking up from his work. He stood over a gently bubbling box, like a greyed-out aquarium. Around the box was an impossible tangle of cables, hoses, sensors and things Mark didn’t know the words for. All of this fed into a giant panel of computer monitors showing graphs and strings of numbers.

“Are you even listening, bro!? They took my fuckin’ guitar, man!”

The professor walked over, slowly, before dropping to one knee.

“I’m sorry Mark, but you’re unmanageable.” He took a bottle of Smirnoff Ice from his labcoat and held it up like a chalice. “You've been iced, bro,” he said.

Mark took the bottle and chugged it; it was the bro code. If you were iced, you had to drink. He could feel his superhuman strength return with every swig.

The monitors now showed the video from Mark’s visor cam.

“I’ve synced it wirelessly,” the professor said before Mark could even ask.

“Hmmm, notice anything particular about your grammar here? Any sort of speech you’re not inclined to using normally?”

“No, bro,” Mark said.

“Well maybe Carl here can walk you through it,” the professor said.

“Carl’s dead you dumbass. Don’t you remember!? His face got punched in,” Mark said.

The professor gestured to the grey box.

“We managed to save his brain, Mark. In fact, he was the perfect specimen. We were worried that without a body the brain would not be able to cope with pure, unfiltered data. However, Carl’s way of life led to an almost complete atrophy of his neural motor controls. He’s quite happy here, in fact.”

One of the screens switched to an in-game view of CoD. Carl was dominating, 75-0 kill/death ratio. Mark gasped.

“Are you ready, Carl?” the professor asked.

A screen flashed YES.

“Voice modulators are active. Welcome back, Carl,” the professor said.

“Bro! you gotta come play CoD with me now. It’s clutch as gently caress!” Carl’s voice came from all around.

“Sure, bro. First I need my guitar,” Mark said.

“Why? You gonna fingerblast that Vienna chick again or whatever?” Carl asked.

“It was Vanessa, bro.”

“Sure. The Interrobang Instigator did it. That’s why you’ve been yelling questions like a downs kid,” Carl said.

“What!?” Mark yelled.

“The same guy that had the fighting trousers stolen. He’s probably wearing them right now.”

“I thought the cops had ‘em?” Mark asked.

“Nope. Vasily was bare-rear end naked when they got there. You better watch out, bro. Anyway, he’s probably going to be at the art gallery tonight or something,” Carl said.

“But why the gallery!?” Mark yelled.

The professor shook his head and took notes a clipboard.

Mark stood with one hand on Danica’s hip and the other holding a Heineken. He scanned the crowd: gay old fucks, girly lookin’ twats, book-readin’ fags. Typical art gallery homos. Some decent chicks, but they all looked pretty uppity.

Someone bumped into Danica, she spilled her wine.

“My shoes! What the gently caress!?” She screeched.

Mark took the guy by the shoulder and swung him around, but the guy kicked Mark’s fist out of the way.

“The fighting trousers!?” Mark yelled.

The man kicked a vase at Mark’s head. Mark ducked and rolled out of the way, finishing his beer. The crowd scattered; someone pulled the fire alarm.

Mark threw the empty bottle at the Instigator’s face. He missed. It tore through a watercolour panorama instead. The Instigator stroked his goatee and laughed before kicking the heavy frame to pieces. He picked up a long, pointed splinter and charged at Mark.

Mark knocked over pedestal closest to him and sent a bowl of fake rotted fruit skittering across the floor. Another alarm went off and a jet of yellow ink shot from the display. It caught the instigator square in the chest.

“My Armani!” He dropped the shiv and tore at his now ruined jacket.

“Mark! You will pay for this!?”

“Where’s my guitar, rear end in a top hat!?” Mark yelled.

“Wouldn't you like to know!?” The Instigator leapt through a window and ran off.

Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW

Jul 22, 2007
Jesus, seems like everyone's holding it right down to the wire this time.

In Focus (924)

She awoke late at night and saw Jake’s glasses on the window, the moon shining in the single lens like a camera flash preserved under glass, and that was when she made a decision. Wide awake all at once, she slipped out of bed, mindful of the springs’ squeal, her bare feet chilled on the splintery planks. She took the glasses off the sill and hung them from the neck of her pajama shirt, where they lay against her breast.

She crept out of her bedroom, watching every step. The house was so small and sounds didn’t have far to travel. She passed two bodies shivering under thin blankets—her cousins, or maybe sisters, she couldn’t remember for sure. They’d stayed with her since the accident and wouldn’t let her drive, but she knew where they’d hidden the keys, in the spidery dark just behind the oven. She cupped them in her hands and slipped out the back door like a shadow.

It was November and the wind found its way through every threadbare patch in her clothes; overhead a fingernail sliver of moon shed just enough light to turn everything fuzz-edged, only a suggestion of itself. She made her way to the car, turned the keys, silently wished for the engine to start. When it did, with a great asthmatic groan, she pulled out onto the road and finally allowed herself to breathe. The glasses against her chest moved in, then out.

When Jake was no higher than her knee, there had been a power outage. She’d woken up to the sound of him crying in the dark, punctuated by the soft click of the light switch uselessly flipping on and off. She’d gone into his room—barely more than a closet—and held him close. When the lights came back on she’d taken off his glasses, so small that they wouldn’t even fit around her head, and raised them in front of her eyes, marveling aloud at how bent and blurry everything became through the glass, spinning around in place, bumping off the walls, until he’d started to laugh.

That had been years ago. Before he’d realized that nothing waited for him beyond the tiny house, the grassless, churned-mud yard, the clothes a size too big or small. The mother who came home late and silent with reddened, blistered hands. One day he returned from school with bruises on his face and a lens missing from his glasses, and she held them and wept until he went soundlessly into his room and shut the door. That night he left, and the next morning, he was found.

After that night she spoke to voices on the phone and couldn’t recognize their owners. The world hazy and unfocused as if viewed through a smear of grease. The glasses were a secret; she hid them away when the sisters-or-cousins were around. She kept them warm against her skin. Who was to say what would have happened if she’d returned them earlier. Who could tell her how Jake must have felt leaving without them, to a world of fog and phosphorus, or the reasons why he’d left. If he wanted to escape, or just find where the traffic moved quickest.

She drove to the highway, went a little further, and then pulled over to the shoulder. Here, here was the place. The road lay silent and bare, lightening and darkening as clouds passed under the moon. She switched off the car, stepped outside, and though the frozen asphalt bit through her soles, she walked to the middle of the road. The highway and the ranked sentinels of bare trees now seemed so insubstantial that she felt as though she might fall straight through the earth and into places unseen. She raised her hands, breathed on them until they stopped shuddering, then pulled out the glasses and put them on.

They were still much too small for her head, squeezing her temples like thin fingers, but through one eye, her vision snapped into focus. She could see the trees’ skeletal shadows crazed against the darker night, and how the oil smears on the asphalt glistened. And there, not ten paces from where she stood, was Jake, coalesced from the dark. Wearing the same clothes as when he’d left, his limbs too thin, his face a riot of freckles. Sitting down, sprawled out, the pose of one who’d traveled far and finally stopped to rest. She approached him like a sleepwalker.

The world split open behind her. Everything awash in merciless white light. The air began to shriek. She could see Jake look up at her and she flung herself at him, covering him with herself, and the light pounded into her skin and the noise swirled around them like a hurricane until she could feel it all stripping her to the bone, but Jake was warm under her grip and she could feel his heart jackhammer against her own and she held on, held on, until the light and the sound passed by her, over her, through her.

She raised her ringing head. The light was gone, but Jake remained, so flushed his freckles had disappeared, his skin hot beneath her hands. She took the glasses off her face and slipped them onto his. The moon winked off the lens. He looked confused, or maybe ashamed; he started to speak, but she shook her head. With solid ground beneath her feet, she looked her son in the eye, helped him up, and brought him home.

Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?
(709 words)

Only two things keep me sane. The first is that I remember the argument my parents had on the day my dad left and never came home. The second is an old newspaper article I found in one of my school notebooks on the day the world went crazy.

I don’t know where the article came from, or who put it there, but I’m glad it showed up. It was about a woman who lived a perfectly normal life with her husband, until one day she woke up and screamed and called the cops because she didn’t know who this man in her bed was. Based on what she said, she was single, an artist, and in fact didn’t live in that city anymore. She’d just started a relationship with a sculptor and they were planning on going to China for an “inspiration tour.”

She had no memories of her life with her husband. In fact, she had no memories of her life at all, past a certain point. There were memories, and some of them tallied up, but most were radically different. She ended up getting a divorce from her heartbroken husband and leaving in an attempt to find her old life. No one really knew what happened to her afterwards, but the writer of the article said he was going to attempt to track her down and find out.

More important than the article was what was written on the back in pen: “The world will flip back in a year. Do not accept your life or you won’t remember who you are when it goes back.”

It made sense to me that this would be some kind of parallel universe. More sense than my dad never leaving and my parents being loving and doting and kind. It creeped me out, that first day, seeing the house neat and bright and tidy with Mom cooking breakfast and this familiar man sitting at the table reading the paper.

So I ran away.

I’d planned it before, on those nights when Mom had been drinking hard and abusing me harder, saying that it was my fault Dad left, my fault for pinning her in one place, the usual trash. I’d planned it out, and I was old enough that no one would ask what I was doing on my own. Money wouldn’t be an issue, if I got some dead-end job on the other side of the country, and I was used to taking care of myself.

It would have been easy for me to pretend I was running away from a broken home, but in this world my loving, anxious parents wanted me back. I had vanished so unexpectedly my Mom was acting like I’d been kidnapped from my bed as if I were five years old, and was begging for my return over the airwaves.

I lived in constant fear that someone would recognize me and turn me in. My body ached, stuck between fight and flight, and my hands wouldn’t stop shaking. I ended up telling people I had nerve damage. Changed my name from Colton to David, shaved my head, paid in cash whenever I could. The article got transferred to my wallet so I could have it on me at all times. I tried not to make friends, so that I wouldn’t miss them when the world ticked back over.

There’s a week left. I’ve started having nightmares, ones where I get pulled off the street and dragged back “home,” or ones where I’m being chased by some monster and I can’t escape no matter how I run or hide. I wake up shaking and sweating, and the sleep loss has already started to show. I look like I’m dying.

I worry about the article being wrong. What if things don’t change back in a week? What if I’m stuck in this life forever? Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. I could go back and live in a happy home like I’d always wanted. But what if I do that and then the world flips back, like it was just late or the person who wrote on the article was wrong about the length of time?

What if I’m insane already?

CantDecideOnAName fucked around with this message at 01:58 on May 20, 2013

fart particle
May 14, 2013

by toby
Spring Break in Suburbia - 1,000 words

I rubbed my thumb on the point of the arrowhead. It was weathered from the oils in my skin. Then I felt Jessica’s, but it was still sharp. My cellphone rattled on the nightstand and lit up the ceiling. I thumbed in the pass code and swiped the screen:

“It happens tonight.”

This was the other text message I’d been anticipating. I was never good friends with Cory, but I can’t think of anyone who was. No one could keep up with him. It didn't make much difference who I was; he was just glad someone was back in town.

We happened to meet right after I left Jessica’s for the last time. I sat at a table outside a cafe and watched people from behind a book. Mothers and their teenage daughters ordered coffee. Boys in grass stained baseball uniforms begged permission to visit a video game store. An elderly woman and a little girl bonded over a crochet needle. I must have looked out of place when Cory saw me.

Another text message:

“Never mind, not tonight.”

I was relieved. I didn't know what Cory had in mind. I said “nothing crazy,” but wasn't sure what that meant to him. At his house, he proudly showed me a stack of newspaper clippings: Vandals caused $300 worth of damage. Vandals left a giant block of melting ice in the driver seat of an unlocked car. Vandals defaced an archaeological site out in the fields.

My phone vibrated again:

“Never mind. I’m picking you up.”

None of us could keep up with Cory.


“How’s college?” he asked from the window of his mom’s white Camry. Before I could answer, he floored the pedal, flying down the street and jerking the steering wheel.

“Cut that poo poo out,” I said, and he did, but he laughed and said Don’t worry.

I took out my cellphone and accidentally dragged the arrowheads out. Cory swept them off the floor.

“Nice. One’s for me?”

“No,” I said, snatching them back.

“That’s good. Seemed a little gay.”

I had to laugh. The whole story came out when I let it slip that one was Jessica’s.

“God, she’s such a bitch,” he said. He held a button and my window rolled open. “Just chuck that poo poo out the window.”

“She might want it back.”

He gave a look. “She doesn't want it back. Just get rid of it. Put your hand out the window, let go, and it’s gone!” he said, pantomiming the motions.

I put them back in my pocket and didn't speak until the car stopped. He parked on the side of a steep, meandering street. We walked up the sidewalk and trailed off to a path of dried leaves. The path quickly bled out into a concrete drainage ditch, dug into the hill. On our right, the ground rose up like a wall; to our left, a parallel strip of backyards. Those who hadn't closed their curtains would be blinded by the light from their kitchens. We were invisible.

“Which one do you want?” Cory said, producing two steel-framed slingshots. He explained the tactical advantages of each, and I chose the more comfortable one. We positioned ourselves behind separate yards. Like skilled tacticians, we readied our stones and waited for the mark: now! Their glass panes shattered and broke the silence they’d mistaken for security. Dogs barked and porch lights flicked on. With our eyes accustomed to the dark, we ran bow-legged on the edges of the concrete ditch, stepping over pipes jutting like trip-wire and leaping past puddles. Without even stopping, Cory smashed a few more windows.

The end of the path trickled out into a valley, down into a dirt trail I'd seen used by early morning joggers.

“Okay,” Cory said, “Now we loop back around. Up the hill,” he pointed, “back onto Creekside, and into the car.”

My phone vibrated. Even through all the excitement, I hadn't stopped wishing for it:

“Can you come over?”

I reached into my pocket. I’d dropped the arrowheads. Backtracking was risky, but I couldn't see her without them.

“I have to go back. I dropped something.”

“Forget it, let’s go.”

“I dropped my wallet.”

“Jesus. Okay, I’ll park the car on Cupertino. If you see any cops, run into the brush. You can outrun them.”

I made my way back up the hill. I crouched low and took quick steps while scanning the ground. No one dared step outside their houses, still unsure of what might come from the dark. Near where we entered, I found the arrowheads. I felt the tips, put them in my pocket, and almost ran back the way I came. But, I was closer to the car from here. I could meet Cory and leave sooner.

I felt conspicuous suddenly jumping out onto the sidewalk. The car was still there. I walked around the corner, hoping to see Cory. I turned down the lane and saw a parked police cruiser.

“Hi there, can I speak to you?” the officer asked. I didn't know if running was wise out on the street. Besides, we left the slingshots down in the brush; nothing in my possession could implicate me.

“What were you doing out here?”

“Just walking back from a friend’s house.”

“Can you empty your pockets for me?” He had no reason to ask, but I wanted to leave quickly. I took out my cellphone, wallet, and the arrowheads, placing them on the hood of his cruiser. Curiously, he picked up the arrowheads.

“Where’d you get these?”

“From the ground,” I said too quickly.

“You know anything about objects stolen from an excavation site last week?”

I must have made a convincing face when I understood the connection.

“Possible 459” he said into his radio, and he slipped the arrowheads into his pocket. “Can you step into the vehicle?”

I got into the backseat knowing I would not see Jessica or Cory again tonight and no longer wishing to see either.

fart particle fucked around with this message at 21:30 on May 19, 2013

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Talk about dialog in the fiction discussion thread prompted me to write a piece entirely from dialog. Feel free to tell me exactly how much this didn't work. My pompt prop was an antique shoe horn. It was really hard to resist making some sort of meta-pun about shoe horning a shoe horn into a story.

All My Little Somethings
941 words


"Bobby Guttman says Uncle Wallace is a fag."

"Who cares what Bobby Guttman says?"

"He knows a twenty-one-year-old who works with someone whose friend tried to have sex with Uncle Wal. But Wal said no, cause the guy didn't have enough money."

"That's dog crap, you don't even know if it's true."

"We're gonna find out."


"Bobby says Uncle Wal's got a bunch of gay magazines and videotapes in a secret room in his house."


"Me and Bobby and some people are going to try to find them."


"What the gently caress is your little brother doing here?"

"He found out about the plan and threatened to tell our mom."

"For gently caress's sake, Chase."

"Look, he's just gonna stand lookout. You're not gonna be any trouble, are ya Easton?"

"Uh uh."


"C'mon, Bobby. We didn't find anything. Lets just get the gently caress out of here before my uncle gets home."

"poo poo man, check out the liquor cabinet. Your uncle must be loaded."

"Do you have the spare key?"

"No, you had it."

"Huh, must've dropped it. Maybe Easton has it. We gotta go, Wal could be home any minute."


"Easton, where's Uncle Wallace's spare key?"

"Dunno. You had it."

"gently caress. Whatever, it'll turn up somewhere.



"Go to your room, Easton."

"...found just off of state route ten. Authorities have ruled the death a homicide, and ask that anyone with information contact the Lincoln County Sherriff's office..."

"What's wrong mom?"

"I said go to your room, Easton. One...two..."

"I'm going, I'm going."



"Uncle Wallace, why are your shoes so shiny all the time?"

"Because I like to keep them that way."


"Because a long time ago I wasn't a very happy person. But I had a very good friend who made me take care of myself, all the way down to my shoes. He's gone now, but I like to stay tidy, out of respect for him."

"Where are you going?"

"You reminded me. I have a present for you. I'll be right back."


"What's that thing?"

"It's for your shoes. Here--you slide it in like this, and put your foot in. That's one way I keep my loafers so shiny, no crinkles from squashing the backs of my shoes with my big feet."

"It looks fancy."

"I want you to take very good care of this, Easton. This was one of the first things my friend ever gave me, and every time you look at it, I want you to remember that it's important to keep the special little things close to your heart. Sometimes the big stuff is scary, like what happened to your dad. So you keep this, and remember that you're ok because people love you and want you to be the very best you can be. Got it?"

"Won't your friend be sad?"

"I don't think he'll mind. He's been gone for a long while."

"Is he--is it like with my dad?"

"Yes. It's like that."

"When can we go to Disneyworld again?"

"Next time your mom can take some time off work."

"When will that be?"

"You were just there! If we go too much, it won't be special anymore."

"Why not?"

"'Cause it'll be just another everyday thing. Some stuff is so special that it should only happen once in a great while."



"Mom! I swear to god!"

"They had his loving key, Chase. But the house key was with him when they found his body. I know he gave you a spare. So where is it?"

"I already told you, and the police, and everyone! I was being loving stupid and snooping around and I must've dropped it. I swear to god I had nothing to do with it."

"'I had nothing to do with it.' Get out of my house. You only care about covering your own rear end. That was my loving brother."


"Get out."


"Hey kid."

"Chase! What're you doing here?"

"Don't I get to come see my little brother?"


"Mom'll come around. Pastor Jake has been talking to her."

"Wanna see who can skip a rock the furthest across the lake?"

"Sure. Race you to the dock."

"Hey you already started that's not fair!"


"You got pretty good at that, East."


"Why do you have an old shoe horn in your pocket?"

"It's from Uncle Wal."


"You shouldn't try to be too much like him."


"Our uncle."

"Why not?"

"Because he creeped people out. Plus, do you even remember him having a girlfriend ever? I found out it's cause he was with some rich dude who died. That's why he could always take us out to dinner and stuff. The guy wrote him into his will."


"So that poo poo creeps people out, Easton! Gimme that."


"Look, stuff like this'll get you made fun of at school."

"Give it back! I told Uncle Wal I'd take care of it so give it back."

"Do you wanna end up like him? That's what happens Easton. If you want to act gay go move to Hollywood or something. People here--they don't like it, don't understand."

"I don't care Chase. Uncle Wallace was nice. Now give it ba--"


"Easton? Easton I'm sorry. Talk to me Easton. I'll get it back, I'll go swim out and dive for it I swear. I'm sorry.
Easton come on kiddo, stop it. Why was it so important anyway? No--No come on, don't cry.
Come on. It was just an old shoe horn. It probably smelled like feet.
Hey, hey. You had nothing to do with what happened to him, OK? Look at me kiddo.
Where are you going, Easton?"

V for Vegas
Aug 31, 2004

For those who haven't posted their story yet, please don't name your object in your title /opening screed. TIA.

Jan 10, 2006

Mark of Distinction 566

Pull up yer pants and shut yer mouth, boy. Get yerself upstairs Abbie, we’ll talk later.

See that box? Pass it here then siddown and shut up or

I. will. end. you., boy.

Abbie I said get yer rear end upstairs, yain’t too old fer a smack. We’ll talk about this later.

What’s yer name?

Nathan? What kind of pussy name is that? If I hadn’t just caught ya with yer dick in me little girl I would think ya were some kinda fag. Yera homo, Nathan?

Well then. Give us the box. See this lovely bitta tin? This little beauty I got for killin some blokes. Got it fer killin some dickheads who hosed AROUND WITH MY DAUGHTER!

Ahhhhahh yer face, boy. Ya just shat yerself didn’t ya. Siddown.

I was in Afghan, on patrol. Me and the LT were talkin to some Afghani journalist, he said that there was alotta poo poo gettin stirred up by some crazies, and just then poo poo went boom. Seriously pear shaped. Couple of my boys lost some bits and a sniper started shootin anyone who tried to help em.

The rest of the crew were pinned down in some rug shop or something, so it was just the two of us. Me and the LT knew we hadda gut that bastard right inis nest. The raghead was onna building down the street, good sight to the clusterfuck that our lads were in, but couldn’t draw on us. Lucky for us there was some arcade that ran through the building. loving wacko, country is a warzone but this place had marble all over. We charged past these pris-tine shops and the civvies were screaming at us, I was ready to shoot all of em to get to that loving roof. But once we got to the stairs we tippie toed our way up there, me with me SA80 and him with his 9mm - didn't want to spook the prey.

We look out the door and there was a little nest in the corner, couple of mattresses and some sheets. There was gravel up there, no way we could just walk over there, so we opened up on that corner, pounded it until the mattresses were just springs.

And we walked over, and this girl in a torn up hijab was lyin there. You could tell she was pretty, before we shot her to poo poo. Big brown eyes, long black hair. Beautiful. We had just killed this beautiful young girl, and she had been trying to kill us. What the gently caress is up with this world. She was just a kid, and she looked like Abbie to me. She looked like my girl.

Then she smiled, pulled outta switch and blew me and the LT to poo poo.

Found out later that her brother was a lecturer at the university. Taught loving english lit-er-ra-ture. In Afghanistan for fucks sake. Got himself blown up by a drone, and she joined some movement.

I lost both my legs, one of my arms and got a medal. Fair fuckin deal, considerin some of my boys were tits up.

Abbie mentioned ya, said the two of you met at uni. Bet yer doing some mickie mouse degree.

Echo-nomics? Well there better be some money in that if yer gonna look after my baby. And you better look after her well, because if you mess her around, boy.

I. will. end. you.

angel opportunity
Sep 7, 2004

Total Eclipse of the Heart
Butterfly Dream 558 Words.

I watched Seth connect a grey wire to his laptop, then run the other end deep into the tree hollow. He plunged his hands into the hole and adjusted the connection. I looked back the way we had come, toward the city. Even though we were deep into the forest and well off the footpath, I worried someone would stumble across us.

Seth stood on his toes to reach further into the hole; the laptop beeped and words appeared on the screen: “Boström node detected. Connect? Y/N.”

Seth said, “I never stay connected for more than three minutes, so be prepared to answer my questions.”

“I’m ready,” I said, still not quite sure anything would happen.

Small rectangular lights, most green and some blue, lit up on the bark of the tree near the hollow. Seth focused on the laptop screen and asked, “Eleven November, 2002?”


Seth typed a few lines and hit Enter. “Her death wasn’t wasn’t a glitch. I can only bring her back for one day.”


“Sorry, man. Worry about that later. I don’t think they know about this node, but I’m not going to risk sitting here forever. No refunds either... you told me it was probably a glitch. Anything beyond one day and they’ll notice.”

We sat above Weimar, yellow flowers on rolling hills outshone the setting sun. Warm wine filled our stomachs and souls as we watched the city below. Hand-in-hand we descended into the park where Goethe had birthed the Erl-King; we slept there under the rain and stars. We awoke grass-stained and soaked and snuck into a hotel buffet to drink coffee for hours.

“Will she know what happened?” I asked.

“She’ll probably remember however she died. Come on, let’s do this and get the gently caress away from the node.” Seth looked back toward the city.

I wanted her back, but for only one day?

Her head rested on my shoulder; the softened shadows of the campfire slid across her strong, Persian nose and sheathed her loose strands of hair in pale scarlet. She said she’d write while I painted. We’d drink cava in Madrid and mate in Córdoba and we wouldn’t have kids because they’d drag us down and we’d forget our dreams. Her perfume overpowered the scent of pine, her voice--

“Something just pinged me. They know about the node now. I’m bringing her back; get ready to drag her out of here with us.” Seth typed, then held his pinky over the Enter key. The lights on the tree flashed; blue lights became red.

“No, don’t. She always wore a ring, it was silver with a jade stone. It was gone when they found her body. Can you get it back for more than a day?”

“Uh, are you serious? If it’s just the ring I can get it back for good. You’re still going to pay me the same.”

“Fine. Just get the ring back.”

Seth typed, then reached deep into the tree hollow. He handed me the ring, then reached back in and ripped out the grey wire. I slid the ring onto my finger as Seth shoved his equipment into his bag.

We ran deeper into the forest and away from the city. I ran my thumb over the jade stone and dulled silver. It was better to just remember.

Nov 6, 2009
Oh hey I almost forgot this thing was happening. Guess I'll just have to quuuuuuickly come up with a story then!

Flaming Karma (WC:367)

Emanuel rushed up to the second floor, keeping a handkerchief wrapped around his nose and mouth in a feeble attempt to ward off death by smoke inhalation. The crackling of flames demanded he turn back, let the fire finish consuming his home, but Emanuel could not leave just yet.

He rushed through the unlocked door to his study, looked past the bags of white powder on his desk, and saw it in the frame on the wall behind his chair: A single American Dollar. He ripped the small frame off of the wall and tucked it under his arm. After mumbling a small prayer to the Lord, he ran back out of the office, trying to beat the flames as they began eating into more of the house around him

The heat suddenly caused a section of the house to collapse onto the stairwell, trapping him on the upper floor. There was a window to the outside to his right. It would be a long fall, but Emanuel was running low on options. He backed up a couple of steps, took a running start, then threw his weight through the window. The glass itself held, but the surrounding pane broke loose.

Emanuel felt something crunch as he hit the ground. He couldn't stand up, as his leg was bending in a very awkward and painful position. Was this some sort of message, a divine ultimatum about the nature of his work finally catching up with him?

As the flames consumed the house behind him, he picked up the shattered frame and read the note hidden behind it. It was a folded letter from his nephew several years ago, written in their native tongue, telling him that this was the first dollar he had earned working up North. It came from an honest job, not like the work Emanuel had gotten with the cartel.

Emanuel crawled forward slowly on his arms towards the shouting of the men with the guns. Probably the same ones who had decided to set his home on fire. He wondered if maybe he could buy them off with an honest dollar, considering that his dishonest ones apparently had a much smaller shelf life.

May 7, 2005

A Prayer (877 words)

General Ibiso rolled a wooden bead between his thumb and forefinger. The prayer beads attached to it idly danced in the dimly lit barracks. Watching the General examine the contraband, Alistair could see the scar that ran from the General’s thumbnail up his hand, disappearing under his sleeve. The General's index finger lacked a fingernail, and was perhaps a couple centimeters too short.

“How do they work?” the General asked.

“They, uh,” Alistair said. He winced. “They don’t really work .” He would have used air quotes to emphasize “work” if his hands weren’t tied behind his back. “Religious men. They hold them while they pray.”

“These grant wishes?” The General stared at him, daring him to mock the question.

“No, they merely,” Alistair closed his eyes to concentrate, “they merely help them to pray, to meditate.”

“They help propagandists commit crimes.”

Alistair said nothing. His head ached from beatings, his arms were cramped from restraint, and his tongue was dry and swollen, occasionally snaking uselessly against cracked and bleeding lips, but this questioning was worse than his physical pain. Why didn’t the General just ask for a bribe and send him on his way? Alistair assured himself that if the General was going to kill him, he would have killed him already. This mantra was growing less comforting as the hours crept by.

The General tossed the prayer beads into Alistair’s confiscated duffel bag. They snagged on a crucifix, slumped on a bible. He nodded to someone behind Alistair.

Alistair grunted. He knew he had been hit in his head, but the pain cut at his neck. Slowly, he felt the throbbing work its way up the base of his skull to the upper left side of his head. He retched.

General Ibiso asked, “Do you think you can strut into my country and spit on my law? Spit on me?”

“Forgive,” Alistair said. He grunted. He took a deep breath and almost choked; he couldn’t say on what. The General’s eyes, burning white spots in a sea of deep black and camouflage, narrowed. Alistair tried to focus on the white spots. Alistair feared that if he passed out the General would ensure that he wouldn't wake up again. Alistair feared another blow. Alistair feared saying the wrong thing. While he juggled his fears, he fumbled for placating assurances.

“I thought I was still in South Sudan.” Alistair spit blood. “I thought,” his body jerked against the ropes restraining him as a coughing fit seized him. “I thought – I didn't mean to bring them . . . here.” He grunted. He tried to focus, to stay on his train of thought. “I didn’t know I was in.” Cough. “in.” A croaking gasp. “In.” A shallow breath. A hoarse laugh. “Where the gently caress.” His belly shook. He chuckled in short painful wheezes. “I don’t – I don’t even, even know what the, what this loving place is called anymore.” This was it. He didn’t care. His shoulders shook as he laughed silently. Tears streamed down his face.

The General leaned forward in his chair. “You are in the New Republic of the Sudanese Congo. And as Ruler and Commander-Chief of this sovereign nation you are under my protection.” The General smiled with bright white teeth. “But you must obey my benevolent laws.” The General leaned back. He unsheathed a machete and thumbed the point of it.

Alistair’s breathing evened out. He thanked the God his customers worshipped that General Ibiso hadn’t reacted more violently to his outburst. The General’s toothy smile pulsated as Alistair’s focused shifted from the white eyes. How are all these despots’ teeth always so loving white Alistair wondered. He lost himself in a series of smiling war lords, generals, and supreme leaders.

The General retrieved the prayer beads with his machete and dangled them in front of Alistair. “Why do you sell this trash?” He spit into the duffel bag.

“People can’t get them in many places in central Africa,” Alistair said. “They pay a lot of money for this stuff.” An idea, like lightning, flashed. A chance for bribery: “But I have other things! Gems! Liquor! Many valuable things. I can get much.” His second wind died. He coughed up blood.

“I tell you what,” the General said. “I make you a deal, smuggler.”

Alistair nodded feebly.

The General strutted around Alistair’s chair. He cut the ropes that bound Alistair’s wrists. “I will let you go. You will get me all these fine things you promise and you must also show me on a map the missionaries’ outposts that buy these unlawful goods.”

Alistair nodded again.

The General handed Alistair the prayer beads. “First, you will pray for their deaths.”

“I don’t believe,” Alistair said. “I don’t believe in God. I’m not religious. I just, uh, sell things they need out in the wilderness.”

“All the easier then,” the General said. He laughed.

The General’s laughter shook Alistair. With each bleat another missionary’s face flashed in Alistair’s mind. They weren’t just customers. They had been kind to him. They gave him lodging. They fed him. They blessed him.

“Well?” the General asked.

Alistair closed his eyes. He absent-mindedly fingered the prayer beads. He prayed for all his Christian customers’ deaths.

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

The Silver Star and the Setting Sun
(873 Words)

"Here you go, Sheriff. We turned out his pockets."

"Thank you, Lawrence. Anything we'll have to confiscate?"

"One Derringer pistol, not used in the holdup. Not much else of note. A pencil, couple bucks, a nice thick cigar. Only thing puzzles me is-"

"Don't touch it," called the voice from the holding cell. Lawrence excused himself, left the sheriff and his new charge alone. The sheriff raised an eyebrow and wheeled his chair around to face the prisoner.

"You mind telling me what the hell it is, son?

"I'm surprised you don't recognize it, sheriff. You did put that plug-hole in it, after all."

The sheriff ignored the prisoner's request and picked up the hand-crafted hip flask. It was engraved with an ornate "W," the center of which bent inward from the sucker punch of a .45 round. He did recognize the item, and now he had an idea about who this punk might be.

"So. You're Wolverton's kid, huh? Listen, I didn't want to shoot your pappy, but he was drunk and armed and getting belligerent. We gave him a chance to end his little spree without any bloodshed."

The prisoner walked up to the bars and took hold of them. He leaned forward, pressed his forehead into the iron and locked eyes with the lawman. "That isn't how my mama tells it. She said she was yelling and carrying on, begging for you to put down the gun, saying over and over that he was innocent, but you wouldn't listen. My daddy stumbled out of the saloon, no gun on his hip, not even waving around a drat bowie knife, and you yanked out your Peacemaker and blasted him to the dirt." He sighed, lowered his gaze to the jail's floorboards. "I grew up, Sheriff, with my father as only the vaguest idea save for that beat-up flask you've got your grimy hooks on. Speaking of which, why don't you put that down like I asked?"

The sheriff tossed the flask aside, let it clatter on the dusty boards. "Son, I'll clue you in on something that might just save your life. In this town, my word is law. If you choose not to live by it, then you're likely to die. Your pappy knew that and still decided to mouth off."

The prisoner slammed his hands on the bars, struggled at them like he could tear them apart with passionate hate. "You bastard, you called him a horse thief, a menace to the peace!"

"That second part was true, son. He threatened my peace. This picturesque burg keeps going because I keep it going." He put his white Stetson on, grinned a yellow grin. "Honesty is sometimes... undesirable. Works contrary to the public interest, so yes, on occasion justice must be fabricated. There was a real horse thief, but by the time your pappy stumbled into town, the knave was already in Mexico, home free."

The prisoner slowly lifted his head. His eyes glinted with wildness in the glow of the setting sun, his ears finally drinking in the truth.

"So," he said weakly, "he was just a patsy."

"A drat fine one, too," the sheriff said. "Have you heard of the bank robber who's been making his way West? They call him El Fantasma. The Ghost. Nobody's caught him, nobody knows his face. Now, I realize now that your little stunt down at the Western Union was for show, something to get my attention, but I think it could work out for the best. This robber has just about finished his little spree, but it would be a great comfort to this town if he was caught and put to death. An old-fashioned public hanging."

The prisoner stared. "You go straight to hell."

"Your pappy beat me to that, son. And so will you. How does dawn sound?"

The prisoner looked into the lawman's cold eyes and skeleton grin, his bent, lanky figure looming over his desk. The items they'd taken out of his pockets still lay on the table to the side.

"I'd like to smoke my cigar now."

"I guess that's only fair, kid." He picked up the brown tube, balanced it in his hand, and stuck it halfway through the bars.

The prisoner took it. "How 'bout a match?"

"Shoot, I'll light it for you. Wouldn't want you burning the place down in your delicate emotional state." He struck a match and held it out, the auburn light seeming to peel back his human face and let the devil within shine through.

The prisoner clamped the cigar in his mouth. He leaned through the bars, his spit making the paper coating go damp. A strange flavor spread over his tongue, acrid but a little sweet. Maybe that's what nitroglycerine tastes like, he thought. He'd never had the notion to check, didn't think he would ever have to know. Moving his head closer, he saw the flames begin to lick the other end of his cigarro extra fuerte.

No fear, the prisoner thought to himself. His gaze fell to his daddy's flask. It still glinted in the sunset, still seemed to radiate with the vibrant, lost life that had driven him so far.

No fear. Only justice.

Nikaer Drekin fucked around with this message at 01:54 on May 20, 2013

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
5 hours remain.

Get to it champs.

Aug 2, 2002




Bee for Two
969 Words

Recreation time is from 2:00-3:00 every day; if you behave yourself you can be out in the yard, if you cannot then you assigned one of the less desirable activities.

Julia scanned the small cluttered room. “So, this is quilting?”

The heretofore lone occupant focused on the mess of fabric in front of her, sewing little orange squares to little blue triangles.

Julia orbited the old woman, inspecting her. “So what’re you in here for? Trying to vote?” Julia asked.

The old lady smiled: “Oh, it’s so hard to remember now.”

“I’m Julia. You are?”

“People just call me Granny.”

“Well, this has been a thrilling conversation,” Julia said. She climbed over the boxes of ragged old prison uniforms and leaned against the window facing the yard below. She doodled in the dust of the windowsill in silence until the hour was up.

The next day Julia showed up with a beautiful new bruise across her bare arm. She flopped into a seat across from the old woman.

“Were you part of that commotion I heard down in the caf’?”

Julia sighed. “No, but didn’t stop them from running in and hitting everybody with batons anyway.”

Granny said nothing for a while, and when she spoke it was as if to nobody who was listening. “If one was to put an animal in a cage, for the sake of this example let’s assume it’s a dog, where one half of the floor is electrified, and the other is not, the dog will quickly learn to avoid the electrified side.”

Julia scowled. “Why would anybody do that to an innocent dog?”

“People do these things, don’t ask me why,” Granny said. “Anyway, one day, they are feeling rather dreadful and electrify both sides. At first the dog yipps and jumps about, trying to find the spot that does not cause it pain.”

“That’s horrible!” Julia said.

Granny continued: “Yes, It’s very sad. But eventually it gives up. From then on the dog just wallows in its own self-pity. It doesn’t know why it is in pain. It doesn’t know what it did to cause it, only that it cannot escape no matter what it does. If the other side’s electricity is extinguished, the dog will never notice because it has already given up.”

Granny picked up another blue square and started sewing it to the quilt. “We aren’t so different from dogs you know, psychologically speaking.”

Julia’s eye throbbed. “You are a crazy old woman. Why do you spend so much time in here sewing quilts you’re not even allowed to take out of this room? Haven’t you run out of things to make in your three thousand years locked in here?”

Granny added her newest row to the larger quilt. “I reckon they’ll bring in the director if it was as bad as you say down there,” she said.

“Probably. They got us out of there pretty quick, but some of the girls look like they weren’t movin’,” said Julia.

She leaned forward and picked a needle out of something that looked like a tomato and starting sewing pieces together haphazardly until she had accumulated a chain about an arm’s length. “See, not that hard,” Julia said. Granny nodded. “But I see one thing you did wrong. Toss it over.” Julia gave Granny her fabric. Granny ripped it in half.

“Hey! What the hell did you do that for?” Julia screamed.

“Keep your stitches tighter. The one thing you have to know about sewing. Tight stitches will hold an elephant, loose stitches can be ripped apart by a weak old lady. Start over,” Granny said as she threw the rags back to Julia.

A guard opened the big metal door. “Come on ladies,” he said.

Julia threw her quilting to the ground and stormed out. Granny picked up her quilt and carried it to the door. The guard held out his hand. “You know the rules, Bathtub Betty, nothing leaves.”

“But, it’s going to be so cold tonight, and with the arthritis I won’t be able to get out of bed. I’ll have to get the medics in again, and it’ll be such a fuss. You can come get it first thing in the morning—nobody will know.”

The guard hesitated. “Well, I guess the warden probably want everything running smooth as can be tomorrow. But only for tonight, ok?”

“You’re such a nice young man”, Granny said, as she shuffled past the guard back to her cell.

As she sat on the edge of her mattress holding the quilt, she looked up at the sealed envelope taped to the wall. She had found it stuffed into her one of her son’s pocket while she was moving the damp bodies. It said simply: To Mommy.

She stood up and put it into her pocket, draped the quilt around her shoulders and rang her call button.

The director arrived at sunrise. The guards had spent the night scrubbing the blood off the floors and walls, repairing tables that were broken in the melee, in addition to tidying the place up in general. Now they all stood watch over the women eating breakfast in the spotless mess hall. The warden had even pulled the sentries off the wall to provide increased security.

As the director took his stroll around the prison he noticed an unfamiliar blue and orange banner flapping in the wind. “What’s that?” he asked.

Granny’s quilt had ripped open like an accordion, strong stitches holding tight where they were supposed to, and coming apart at the seams like she had designed. The makeshift rope was tied to a railing at one end, and reached the ground at the other.

Julia was eating breakfast when the alarm sounded; she fell to the floor and covered her head. “Not again!”

Dec 2, 2007

Unfortunately, we had to kut the English budget at the Ivalice Magick Ackcademy.
Two Kinds of Spurs

1,000 Words

Aiden woke up worried, but excited. His mind was made up - had been made up since he broke the taboo and began sleeping full nights. Every morning for the past two weeks, he awoke feeling alive, his brain a writhing nest of glowing-neon snakes. Since, he’d known he couldn’t go back to living the way he had been; he didn’t know how anyone could follow the Government Suggested Sleep Schedule.

Aiden checked for his keys a second time – of all days, this would be the worst to get locked out of the apartment. He walked to the Caffeine Machine perched on his countertop, pressed the plastic power button, lighting it red from within and setting the machine grinding and hissing before spitting out a clear liquid into the shot glass waiting below. He drained half and dumped the rest into the sink – still weaning himself off. He walked to the laundry room, but lingered at the shrine.

Posters made up the bulk of the spectacle, showing leather-clad men on horseback smoking rolled cigarettes. There were a few Cowboy and Indian play sets on a wood table and, in the center, a pair of old cowboy boots complete with spurs Clint Eastwood’s character wore in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. His dad couldn’t believe his good fortune when he bought them at a pawn shop (along with certificate of authenticity). Aiden’s dad had been the only person who cared that stuff still existed.

One morning they’d sat together at the kitchen table, drinking their caffeine mixed with cold glasses of orange juice. Aiden’s Dad spotted him glancing towards the collection and, as usual, seized his chance to quote his favorite western. “You know, there are two kinds of spurs... “

His dad died of heart failure a few years ago, just after Aiden turned 18.
He dared to look out the window for the first time since waking up. It looked out on the six lane freeway that ran in front of his apartment, then row upon row of businesses stretching back in ranks like a shark’s teeth, then the Earth curved and structures tall enough to wink over the edge were hidden in smog and atmosphere. Towering over everything else, were the mountains, stretching from one end of the horizon to the other. For the first time in Aiden’s life, the city was as quiet, empty and lonely as the mountains were. He was the only person in the world who was awake.

Aiden had been cheating. He’d starting going off schedule about two weeks ago. In theory, working all day every day allowed him to fill his nights with anything he wanted, but after even one full day of staying awake, alternating exhaustion with doses of pure energy to make your brain hum and keep your heavy eyelids up and your body moving one half hour at a time, you arrive home with a mind burning dimly, like a sad lantern, and can’t find the focus to do much of anything. Aiden usually drank as little caffeine as he could get away with and, one night while watching a western, he dozed off.

An outburst of cars honking on the freeway outside woke Aiden up twenty minutes before he normally left for work. While he should have been worried about getting to work on time, he fixated on how incredible he felt, how his body and head didn’t slowly pulse and ache, how quickly his mind moved from one thought to the next, and how simple the decision to sleep every night, instead of just Sunday, came to him.

Until today, he’d been too afraid to venture outside on a Sunday. Aiden opened the window and was amazed at the way the world smelled, like grass and wind, all normally covered up by car exhaust. He could hear birds and see a rabbit hopping around near the roadside. He had a new idea.

What if Aiden left, but didn’t return at sundown? What if he left and never came back? He began collecting non-perishable food from the cupboards. What if Aiden went out the front door and started walking towards the mountains? He went into his bedroom and stuffed a few changes of clothes into the hiking backpack his dad had bought him. Aiden now knew what the world looked like when it wasn’t crammed into a too-small suit, and he didn’t want to go back. He grabbed his toothbrush, a book from the shelf in the entryway, tested the weight of the bag and dropped it by the door. Aiden threw his keys into his bedroom from the kitchen and walked to the door, locking the knob from the inside. He put a pair of brown Converse hi-tops on and grabbed a jacket. There was more he needed to undo, there was more Aiden needed to live than just sleeping every night, and it was away from the city and its rules. As he was about to open the door and step outside, never to come back – Aiden stopped. He’d forgotten something.

Walking back towards the kitchen, Aiden stopped at the shrine and removed the spurs from the cowboy boots. Dropping to one knee, and then the other, Aiden strapped the spurs onto his hi tops, tightening them as much as he could on each shoe. “There we go.” He stood up and walked a few steps enjoying the ring of the spurs in their metal frame. “There are two kinds of spurs, the kind that sit on the shelf, and the kind that walk through the door.”
Aiden grabbed his bag and walked through the door, outside into the warm sunshine and the empty world. His sneakers sank into the drifts of cottonwood that built up against his front step. Aiden set off, walking in a straight line towards the mountains, across the road, between businesses and through people’s yards and neighborhoods accompanied by the soft clink, clink, clink of his dad’s cowboy spurs.

May 31, 2012
Wordcount: 992

"'Raining ideas come, however abrasive rebellions die.'" Tracy McKenzie stared and read the text message on her smart phone. "Is this the warning from your lookout, Jericho?" she asked.

A blond sculptured man looked over at her. "I told that moron to text me if our cover is blown but," he said, "all security systems had been disabled three minutes ago. There's no way we've been made that quick." His hands twisted and turned each combination knob on the bolted safe. Leaning closer toward the middle one, Jericho plucked his fingers at it.

Click. Click. Bang

Tracy and Jericho jerked their heads back. Both hugged their backs against the wall when a part of the ceiling collapsed near the hallway's only sliding glass entrance. They looked at each other and back at the hole. "Is there suppose to be a demo crew here too?" said Tracy.

Jericho faked a smile. "Ha. Ha. Who would schedule one on a new office?" He pulled his vibrating cellphone out of a pocket and flipped it open. His smile faded. "'After she hush first, obey reform documents.' Did your text came from a blocked number?"

"Yeah why?"

"Chuey's number isn't masked, but I'm not leaving without that code." Jericho went back to the safe and resumed. "For all the latest tech this building holds, this safe's locks are old fashioned. If only I had my bolt cracker and more time." As he carefully turned the first knob, the door's bolts receded. Jericho's face lightened while he pushed the door. His face became awestricken as he saw an empty space behind the door.

Jericho took out the only thing within it, a long shafted key. Tracy almost trip over her heels catching it when he tossed it to her."Of all the things we are stealing from a hedge fund office, it has to be a key."

"Hold on to it as if I were going to-" Jericho turned left as he heard a security camera moved itself to face Tracy. The HUD light on the camera was red and blinking. He grabbed Tracy's hand. "Somebody's recording us, poo poo!"

"Didn't the whole staff have the day off?" Tracy said.

Jericho jiggled the door's handle before slamming his elbow against the glass. Each time he did, he uttered gently caress until his arm quivered. A few kicks and back slams later, the lock picker shattered the glass. Each camera in the hallway faced them as they ran to the elevator. "Take the fire exit, Tracy!"

"We're not suppose to separate!"

"That code can't be changed again either!" Jericho shoved Tracy, and he waved his arms. "Lose it and we can't open that drat locker!"

"Fine, are we still on for seven o' clock?"

Jericho's face shriveled up. "Go! I'll be waiting on you outside!" He kept pressing the down arrow as Tracy ran to the left.

While Tracy ran, she felt the key vibrating in her pocket. Reasons to not answer the phone came just as quick as reasons to answer it. There were no reason for her to doubt somebody from security came back in. The more she thought about that, the more Tracy felt something was off. Wouldn't the alarm go off by now? There was the silent alarm, but Chuey was outside to see...


Tracy made an abrupt stop. She scanned for any possible blind spots as she noticed three cameras turning themselves on. When they began to move, Tracy resumed running. Her mind were blank as to where to go. A sharp turn to the right revealed a black stairway ahead with a single camera above it. A gust of energy lifted her legs up as Tracy ran and kept her balance.

She lunged up toward a step when she heard a loud clang. Dust swept into her face, making her body flinch while falling. Her cellphone slipped. Tracy watched the rest of the crumbled ceiling tiles after falling on her back. As she reached to the phone, Tracy saw a text message under a jagged crack.


The unblocked number has a name, Chuey, by it. Tracy pushed herself up and limped out a door. A huge red and white sign in the middle stuck out like an obvious ache like the one on her back. Using her hip, she pushed the door open. Her lungs welcomed the dusk breeze. She took a look at her phone, and she walked down the stairs. As she got lower, she heard scuffling.

Tracy ran, but the sound of a muffled gunshot stopped her. She could hear Jericho's voice in her mind as she heard another. Snatching the key out of her pocket, she heard Chuey and him laughing and clanking their beer jugs together last week. That hand numbed as her fingers failed to feel any cold metal on their tips.

She looked behind and saw a man wearing a black blazer. He stared back at her while another shot rang. A loud cracking sound gave her seconds to realize that was her cellphone. Tracy watched him walk back toward the door and bend over. As he entered the building, he pocketed the key and sheathed his pistol within the jacket. An alarm blurted out that was followed by a louder horn.

"Tracy, hurry the hell up! Can't have the fire department putting out our celebration dinner!"

Tracy looked down at the parking lot and saw Jericho motioning her to come with Chuey banging on the horn. The numbness shook her fingers while reminding her of a pair of numbers. That was pushed aside as the fire alarm reverberated into her ears, forcing her to run toward the car.

When she got in Tracy asked, "Don't you think the numbers on the key are part of the code?"

"Numbers? I didn't notice any," Jericho said.

"They are eighteen and one."

"Worry about all of that later," Chuey said, "We have an overdue dinner to go to."

Oct 22, 2010

Fallen Rib
The Gentleman and the Lady
864 Words

It had been three weeks since I'd had real food when I got the message. The request, once decoded, was simple: highly dangerous, substantial pay. No witnesses. I didn't normally take such vague jobs, but a few days of rice gruel and recycled water can make you do crazy things.


That night, I met the client outside of my complex. Barely spotting him in the dim glow of the street lamps, I extended my hand and began to introduce myself.

“Now, now, there's no need for introductions. Your reputation precedes you, my lady,” he said, shaking my hand. “This is no place to discuss our business.”

As he drew closer, I realized that he was wearing a formal men's suit and tie. He was also carrying a patched, black umbrella – a useful item, if one considers the grimy muck that passes for rainwater these days, but the next rainfall was not scheduled for three more days.

“Fine,” I said, releasing his hand. “Take me away.”

He again took my hand and led me through the dark alleyways, ignoring every question I asked, rapidly turning between the buildings until even I had lost my way.


After an almost endless hike through what must have been every side-street and alleyway in the city – cold and barren, as usual – we finally reached his car. He held the passenger door open for me, and I clambered into the sedan, as black and clean as his suit.

My client sat in the driver's seat and pressed his thumb into the ignition plate. “What do you think? It's old, but I had the body fixed up recently.”

I snorted. “Just tell me what we're doing.”

“Of course. You're a busy woman,” he said. “We'll be heading to the climate control center, to commit sabotage. I will handle the security, and your role will be the sabotage itself.”

“And why, exactly, do you want to destroy the climate control?”

“A gentleman must have his secrets, my lady. But I assure you, the importance of this cannot be exaggerated.”

“And the pay you promised me? Was that exaggerated?”

“You wound me, my lady. You will receive your compensation. After all, a gentleman never lies.”


Even at this hour, a number of armed guards waited for us outside our target. The curfew had been abolished years ago, but even still, to be found lurking outside a government agency at this hour would mean certain death. The client and I watched the entrance from around a corner.

“Wait here,” he said, stepping forward into the darkness. “This shan't take long.”

I pressed myself against the wall and waited for his return. Mere seconds later, he approached me, wiping off his umbrella with a white cloth. I turned and looked back at the entrance. The guards had been replaced by corpses, face down on the concrete.

“How?” I said, unable to contain my confusion.

The client simply smiled as he finished cleaning his umbrella. “A gentleman does not keep a lady waiting for long.”


An hour and several more dead guards later, we arrived at the center of the complex, where the control center itself resided. The main console stood in a pit in the center of the room, with various tubes carrying rainwater and electricity leading out of it to the rest of the building. A lift, powered down for the night, was the main point of access.

“After you, my lady,” said my client. He then removed a rope from his jacket and dropped one end into the pit, gesturing for me to climb down.

Sabotaging a system like the climate control center would be impossible from my own terminal. It was a different story with physical access to the console – within seconds, the entire network had opened up to me like a flower. A few minutes more, and the job was done. The console would later burst open, flooding the entire complex, and disrupting the control system; natural weather patterns would resume until a new control system could be built.

Satisfied with a job well done, I reached over for the rope – and grasped only air. I looked up at my client, and saw that the rope had vanished, and he wore the same smile that he had earlier.

“So this is it, huh? This is how you're gonna do this?”

“Of course, my lady! I did tell you that a gentleman never lies.”

Of course. No witnesses. He had, at least, not lied about that.

“There is the matter of your fee,” he said, removing a bundle of dollar bills from his jacket and tossing it into the pit. “I trust that this will suffice. You've been so helpful, in fact, that I'd like to give you a bonus,” he said, throwing something else down there with me. “Good night, my lady.”

I watched him leave, then picked up the umbrella he had left behind for me. I opened it up, sat down, and waited for the rain to start.

Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW
The Big Jump

812 words

"What's this?" Detective Baylor held up a sun hat. Child-sized, silk and wire ivy woven through the straw.

"A hat," Leo said.

"I can loving see that." Baylor spun the hat on the table. The straw was broken in places, brittle with age. The silk ivy leaves were frayed and tattered. "Why was it found in your heap, is my loving question?

"Left it on the seat." Leo leaned back in his chair.

"Goddamnit, listen here." Baylor leaned forward on his end of the metal table, a long finger up. "I love breaking up tough mugs like you. Just give me an excuse." Red veins pulsed in his melted-candle nose. Baylor liked his six Budweisers a night.

"You want me to shoot straight, stop playing games." Leo's tan eyes were dead.

"Shot fuckin straight enough last night, didn't you?"

Leo showed him all his teeth. "Sure I did. I was aiming to kill."

"So you admit you whacked her on purpose?" Baylor licked his thumb and opened his notebook. His pig-eyes were sodium flame, his pen poised above paper like a dagger ready to strike.

" 'Whacked,' like I'm a mafioso."

Baylor cut the air with his pen. "You're related to enough of 'em. Half you Martellos are mobbed up in this burg."

Leo waved a hand. "Sure. You wanna know about the hat?"

Baylor squinted. "I thought we were getting to you knocking off the old broad?"

"One and the same." Leo pointed. "That hat, it was my kid sister's. When I got sent to the home in Paterson -- after my parents were killed, you understand -- she got sent over to the nice place for little girls in Englewood."

"Mrs. Varner's joint." Baylor smiled to show how clever he was.

"I can see why they promoted you," Leo said.

Baylor exploded out of his chair and was around the metal table in a second. He grunted like a hog as his fist smashed into Leo's jaw. Leo's head snapped to the right, his neck wrenching. "Watch your loving yap, baby."

Leo strained against his cuffs for just a second, then relaxed. He rotated his head, made sure his neck wasn't broken. "I'll watch it, I guess."

"I hope you don't," Baylor said. He went back to his chair and sat down, his face redder than before. "So she was at Varner's joint."

"Yeah, Varner's hellhole." Leo focused on a spot just above Baylor's left eyebrow. His throat was full of cement and his vision was swimming. "The old lady, she liked little girls all right. Too much. Maria told me stories over the years, plenty of them."

Baylor's eyes went wide. "You're telling me Melinda Varner played with those little girls?" He wiggled an index finger.

"Not just that. She had friends, older men." Leo paused to spit on the floor. "She'd bring them around sometimes, only for the girls she really liked. Maria was one of them."

Baylor scratched his chin and shut his notebook. "Who'd a thought that nice-looking old jane was a pimp?"

Leo shook his head. He didn't trust his voice to hold

"So you finally up and shot the bag. Why wait so many years? You're what, twenty-five?"

"Twenty-six." Leo swallowed hard. "You don't keep up with the obits, huh?"

"Not unless they're homicides," Baylor said. He laced his fingers over his gut.

"Maria always told me to leave her alone. As much as she hated that devil oval office, she didn't want me doing anything to get in trouble." Leo spit another wad on the floor. "A week and a half ago, she finally couldn't take it anymore. Maria tried to fly out her fifteenth-floor window in Hoboken."

Baylor shook his head but made no sound.

"So I went over to Varner's last night, and did what someone else should have done twenty years ago. And I'll tell anyone else who wants to hear it."

The detective planted his elbows on the table and set his chin in his hands. "That's quite the story. I don't want to believe you, but somehow I do. Heard a hundred yarns from a hundred clever hoods. Yours is the only one I'd buy for a couple dimes."

"I guess that means something," Leo said. A drop of blood fell from his chin to his lap.

"Trouble is, your story won't mean anything to any jury or judge. It's the big jump for you, and the quick swing."

"I know it." Leo closed his eyes for a few seconds. "What more is there anyway?"

Baylor's pig-eyes went soft. "There's always something more. Not for you now, I guess. Sorry about the chin-music a few minutes ago, bo. I'll have the lock-up nurse take a look at it."

"Why bother? Pain is an old friend to me. A little more is nothing. At least it'll be over soon enough."

Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW
Sebmojo, I'll have to respectfully request our duel is postponed to the morrow. No time tonight. Bohner is already tracking.

Judgment for Bohner and Muffin's slapfight will also be posted tomorrow.

Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi
Mar 26, 2005

Cutting it very close this week :shobon:

Montevo-Figo (words: 998)

His hand twitched and scrawled an unexpected signature: Figo.

“Access denied,” the computer said.

He stared at the name, dumbfounded by its alien arrangement of letters, foreign yet familiar. Then he erased it and wrote the one he’d meant—the one he’d practiced since childhood.


His access to the Vilmar Defense Ministry was granted and the gates swung open for him to pass. He did so quickly, afraid nerves would get the better of him otherwise. He’d prepared himself, mentally and physically, for this occasion—for this infiltration. But the emergence of that long-forgotten name rattled him, stirring a memory in his mind.


He hadn’t noticed the lash strike until pain shot up his arm and a welt red as a tomato burned his hand. He yelped, scratching a long streak of ink across the page where he’d been writing.

“No, Figo!” Rike had yelled. “That’s not your name!”

Figo looked up, viewing his haggard teacher through the wetting eyes of a young boy. “S-s-sorry,” he stammered.

Rike slammed the lash against the page. “Don’t apologize, just write! You’re not Figo, you’re Montevo! M-O-N-T-E-V-O!” He leaned in close and his voice slithered to a whisper. “You want to help The Master someday, yes? Help him destroy Vilmar?”

Figo caressed the tender skin of his hand and nodded. “Y-y-yes, sir.”

“Then write your name—your correct name.”

Figo obeyed, sketching the letters as best he could. M-O-N-T-E-V-O. Mon-TE-vo. Mon-te-vo.




His mind returned to the present, the call of his name echoing through the large marble halls of the Defense Ministry. Suliam hobbled towards him on old legs, his wrinkled face curled into a joyful grin.

“Glad you could make it, my boy!” Suliam said, shaking Montevo’s hand.

“My apologies for being delayed.”

“An unfortunate day to be delayed, my boy! So much is happening!” Suliam leaned in, his voice dropping to a whispered slither that rang familiar in Montevo’s ears. “King Vilmar will be present today.”

“We’re to go ahead then?”

“You trained for this, Montevo—were born for this moment.” Suliam backed away, his handsome smile again pursing his lips. “We’re on the cusp of history, my boy! After today, Vilmar will never be the same!”

Montevo beamed, pleasure enwrapping his mind. But it was encroached upon by a feeling of foreboding, and the two emotions wrestled one another like lords combating for a crown.

Was he pleased or saddened by the prospect of killing the King and thrusting Vilmar into civil war? Was it what Montevo wanted? Was it what Figo wanted?

Was he Montevo or Figo?


He'd been but a boy when his parents sold him to Secessionists, their cause one of retribution for atrocities against the down-trodden.

The Master became his guardian.

“You will be an instrument of vengeance, my boy,” the old man had said.

Young Figo died then, replaced by the fabricated Montevo, who hated Vilmar with every fiber of his being. Every day he practiced his name in a journal—M-O-N-T-E-V-O—to remember who he was and what he stood for. The Master looked on, admiring his work, watching the boy grow more and more into the instrument of vengeance he sought.

Montevo infiltrated Vilmar, assimilating to its culture and government, all the while abhorring every speck of dust within its borders. He acquainted himself with businessmen and politicians—ascended to the top of an engineering firm developing the latest weaponry for Vilmar’s defenses. He was envied, feared, and above all respected, and that his enemy trusted him implicitly left him bathed in ecstasy.

And Candice ruined everything.

His attraction was instantaneous, for no one as beautiful had ever crossed his path, and they’d begun a life together despite his distaste for her world. She’d been born in Vilmar, raised among wealth and fortune, yet carried herself with humble dignity he found both admirable and perplexing. He dined with her family, got drunk with her friends, and soon desired nothing more than to be wedded to her—to create a life with his one true love.

But Montevo hated Vilmar and everything encompassed within. To keep the ruse meant hating Candice too, but try as he might, the hate wouldn’t surface. He began writing his name again—Montevo—hoping to recapture that hatred, but it only dissipated, leaving him angered and confused.

Then, one day, he pulled a blank notebook from the shelves and wrote a signature he’d not seen in decades.


Figo didn’t hate Vilmar nor Candice, for he new nothing of either. Figo wanted nothing of war or assassinated kings—held no allegiances to Rike or The Master. He was just a boy without a future, his life hijacked by Montevo and the rage that intoxicated him.

He continued to write Montevo and Figo, the former’s devotion diminishing while the latter’s influence grew. Soon the notebook was filled with Figo, the pages espousing the essence of a boy long dead. His soul grew twisted, his identity becoming increasingly difficult to ascertain as the months wore on and the day of vengeance drew near.

Was he Figo or Montevo?

Or both?


“Impressive,” King Vilmar said, watching the weapons demostration. “It will look good on camera, eh?”

“Very good, sir,” Suliam said, turning to Montevo-Figo, producing the malicious smile of The Master. “Don’t you agree, my boy?”

A voice rang out through an intercom; “We’re live in three…two…one…”

Montevo-Figo pulled a gun from his jacket as the cameras flickered to life. He inched forward, towards the King and The Master, both turned away from him.

He lifted the weapon towards the King, as he’d trained to do his whole life.

Then he faltered, aiming at The Master—at Montevo’s creator. He could pull the trigger now, and become Figo, but Montevo erupted in anger and called for the King’s death.

The weapon swayed between the two, as Figo and Montevo waged war for his identity.

Was he Figo or Montevo?

He made his decision and pulled the trigger.

Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi fucked around with this message at 05:18 on May 20, 2013

May 27, 2012

Dead Don't Talk (490 words)

The car was parked down the road, where Buck had said it would be. Buck, his hair pulled back in a ponytail, was sitting in the driver’s seat.

Carl opened the door and sat down in the back.

“Hey, man,” Carl said.

“Hey, Carl,” said Buck, “how did it go in there?”

“Uh, bad, man. Really bad.”


“So, you gonna tell me what happened in there?” Buck asked as he rolled a joint. The joint was pretty fat and Carl wasn’t sure how Buck was able to roll the thing and continue to drive the car.

“No, Buck,” Carl said. “The less you know, the better.”

“Alright. I take it you guys didn’t score the cash.”

“Hey, listen, man. Give me a second to breath. Stop crowding me with all the lip talk.”

They drove in silence for a long while. Buck hosed around with the radio. He was just tuning in to WQD40 when he heard Carl say something.

“Pass me that joint, Buck.”

Carl took a drag off the joint and then passed it back to Buck.

The silence continued until Buck thought he could take no more. He was just about to speak up when something white caught his eye.

“You slippery son of a bitch,” Buck said. “Is that the pawn? He gave you the loving pawn. Why?”

“Because he’s dead.”



His brother was lying in a puddle of blood. There were too many bullet wounds to count, and Carl was sure he was dead. In shock, Carl didn’t even bat an eye when the dead man opened his eyes and reached for him.

“Carl, man. Come here,” the dead man said.

Carl didn’t move an inch.

“I think I’ll stay over here,” Carl said. “I mean, what with you being dead and all.”

“Oh yeah,” the dead man said and then his hand fell back to his side and his eyes closed and he was quietly dead again.

Carl went over to the body, rooted around in the pockets and found the pawn.


“So, that’s how he died,” Buck asked.

“Yeah, I shot him. Took the pawn and the cash and now I’m here … with you.”

The air in the car got a little thicker with those last words.

“Buck,” Carl said, “how do you want this to end?”

“With me alive, I guess.”


And then Carl pulled a trigger three times; pumping three shots into the seat in front of him. The car, which had been doing about 80 in a school zone, suddenly developed an interest in off road racing. Sadly, its career was short lived when it touched base with a tree: Sonny Bono style.


The chessboard had been passed down through the family from father to son. Carl’s dad had bought it for him last Christmas.

“Checkmate, Carl,” Billy said right after beating his older brother for the fifth time straight.

Carl was getting tired of losing to Billy.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Martello posted:

Sebmojo, I'll have to respectfully request our duel is postponed to the morrow. No time tonight. Bohner is already tracking.

Judgment for Bohner and Muffin's slapfight will also be posted tomorrow.

Yep, done.

Also, fuckit: not going to make this one either.

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 06:45 on May 20, 2013


Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"
Fundamental Particulars

Emily cast a furtive look up and down the hall before closing the door to the office she shared with her fellow doctoral candidate Cheng, Measurement of the Muon Neutrino Inclusive of yada yada yada. She poured a cup of tea from Dr. Kendrick's teapot, a heavy but well-balanced cast-iron pot in the Japanese style, decorated with delicately painted cherry blossoms. The leaves floated and sank in the cup as Emily tried to sip around them.

Drink the tea in quiet contemplation.

What we she even thinking, doing something so silly. Even if Dr. Kendrick swore by it, Emily felt ridiculous. She'd made tea in the heavy pot hundreds of times since she took it from Dr. Kendrick's office, but she'd never been desperate enough to try to read the leaves. She was desperate now. It had been six months since she'd made any real progress in her research. Six months of blearily nodding and making non-committal noises to her new advisor, her parents, her dwindling number of friends.

Swirl the tea three times counter clockwise. One,

"How's your dissertation coming?" Dr. Kendrick had asked, IV's sprouting from her arm, and a breathing tube strapped across her face. "I'd like to read it."
"It's going good," Emily had lied. "I'll bring you the draft next time I visit."
She never managed to produce a draft. She didn't visit.


She'd retreated to her studio apartment and bottles of cheap wine. Trying to find the connections she needed. Particles, particles, particles. Inferencing neutrino max hierarchy something, something, something. Why had she thought she could make it as a physicist anyway. She should have stayed with Mark and become a stay-at-home mom.


When she saw the maintenance men coming to box up Dr. Kendrick's office, Emily had slipped in and taken the teapot. She didn't entirely know why, but she couldn't bear to see it stuffed away in some warehouse.

Turn the cup into the saucer.

The mug clattered against the plate, Emily's hand shaking as she released it. At the same instant, Cheng burst through the door, mouth open. He looked at the cup and stopped.

"What are you doing?" he said.

"Drinking tea." Emily said, feeling the heat rising to her face.

"With your cup upside down?"

Emily shrugged and stuck out her chin. "I'm going to read the leaves," she said, trying to make it sound like the most normal thing in the world.

"You're kidding right?" Cheng looked disgusted. "That's hardly scientific."

Emily just shrugged again.

"I guess some people just aren't cut out for this stuff," he said, grabbing a pile of papers off his desk. "I'm off to the lab."

Emily sat in her chair, shaking with the effort to hold back her tears. Stupid Cheng. Dr. Kendrick always said he suffered from an overly-literal mind, she tried to comfort herself.

Look for patterns.

Finally, she flipped the cup back over and peered in. Nothing, just a random scattering of leaves, as meaningful as stars in the sky. But wait, was that a rabbit, maybe? and the letter A? a boat, a pigeon, a hat? She reached for the book she'd received in the mail that morning: Tea Leaf Reading: Omens and Portents, inscribed "For Emily, may your omens and portents always be good, and your path always clear. With love, Dr. Susan Kenderick."

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