Brawls are officially meaningless.
|# ? Aug 9, 2014 21:30|
|# ? Dec 3, 2021 05:02|
You will also, hopefully, at some point hand in your brawl entries.
Hi! This was not a blank check to post whenever you feel like it. You both lose. If one of you ends up writing something it's up to mojo whether or not he wants to pit you against Mercedes, who is rumored to have actually started working on a story three weeks into his brawl.
|# ? Aug 9, 2014 22:00|
This is a truth.
Systran: failed. Phobia: failed. Merc: another six hours exactly, since I've already given it to him, then failed.
No more extensions from me (or for me), regardless of circumstances.
|# ? Aug 9, 2014 22:01|
|# ? Aug 9, 2014 23:27|
I have brought shame to my family and for that I'll - move on, maybe finish what I have I guess.
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 01:11|
This is a truth.
Don't work in restaurants.
Mercedes fucked around with this message at 03:18 on Aug 10, 2014
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 03:10|
To the Heavens
“They’re holding our funeral today,” Babar muttered. He plopped down next to Eureka. “You going?”
Eureka leaned to the side and spat on the ground. “Screw them. I don’t need their negativity.”
Babar waited a moment for Eureka to launch into a rant, but she was quiet. “What do you think we’ll find up there?”
Eureka tilted her head back and closed her eyes. “The sky,” she said dreamily.
“No one has ever made it back,” Babar said, determined to become the negative Nancy. “Your grandpa made the journey to the Grand Elevator but failed. What makes us different?”
There was fire behind Eureka’s eyes while she stared at him. “My grandpa was a slobbering pussy.”
Eureka stood at the front of the train car with a gasmask and helmet obscuring her face and a leather coat hanging from her figure. “What do we want?” she shouted at her men.
“When do we loving want it?”
“We loving want it now!”
Eureka scrunched her lips upward in an approving frown and nodded her head in response to her team’s fighting spirit. The only thing that felt right, at this very moment, was to pump her fist in the air, screaming like an incoherent drunk who was distraught to reach the bottom of the last bottle of alcohol in the world.
To say her team reciprocated her call to arms would be an underwhelming statement of sorts. George, curiously enough, had hyped himself so much that he forgot how to breathe and promptly fainted. Babar was content on yelling his wooo’s and his rock on’s while Caillou was content on prematurely ending the celebration by pretending his rifle was a rocket launcher and shooting a round into the air, punching a hole in the ceiling.
In the moment that followed, three unpleasant things happened: everyone turned on Caillou with their weapons raised, there was window rattling roar outside and Caillou temporarily lost a struggle with his bladder.
Caillou staggered away from the windows, pointing to the one thing he did not want to see on the expedition.
“Wyvern! It’s a loving wyvern!” Eureka shouted. “Everyone outside!”
If not for their predisposition to eat humans, Eureka could watch the silver wyverns snake their way through the air forever. “Don’t waste your bullets,” she called out to her men, “Wait until they’re in close range and then unload on their face.”
George snickered. He opened his mouth to deliver the most legendary of lines ever said in a life or death situation but Babar drowned his words out with gunfire.
Babar had a wide stance with a light machine gun in one hand and a belt of ammo draped over the other. “Come get some, you loving fairies!”
The wyverns followed Babar’s poignant advice and came to get some. One of the flying serpents tucked its wings close and fell towards the train like a silver missile. Bullets ricocheted harmlessly off the wyvern’s thick exterior. A few meters above, the wyvern unfurls its wings and with its muscles visibly going taut, he beat his wings against gravity, keeping him from slamming into the train.
The tempest winds lifted Eureka off her feet and threw her backwards. She crashed into the guard rail with a loud, metallic ping and bounced over it. She frantically flung out her hands in an attempt to grab on to anything to save herself. She found the base of the metal railing and clamped down so hard the village dogs would beam with pride. Eureka shouted for help, but the sound of battle as well as the discordant screeches from the wyverns drowned her out.
Eureka looked down and immediately cursed herself. It wasn’t because of the fact that she couldn’t see the bottom of the cavern. Though she did make a mental note to scalp the descendants of those who built the drat thing so high off the ground. The reason for her severe displeasure is that she couldn’t command her legs to move. The altercation with the metal rail must have done more damage than she thought.
With a struggle, Eureka was able to pull her body back up to the platform. Her arms ached, she was out of breath and she now might possibly be crippled for the rest of her probable short life, but at least she defiantly kept both middle fingers up taunting Death.
Unfortunately for her, Death gets fussy when people cheat him.
A wyvern landed on the last train car and the cabin crumpled under it’s massive weight. Sparks flew relentlessly from the wheels as the train car bounced and rattled as it made a valiant effort to stay on the rails.
Eureka looked towards the front of the train and saw they were close to entering a tunnel. Thirty seconds is all she needs to reach the threshold where a derail won’t end in an impromptu flying lesson.
Caillou ran past and jumped to the following car, followed by George. The train car lurched to the side and Eureka slid towards the edge, clawing at the ground in an attempt to go sailing to her death.
Eureka saw her final hope sprinting past. “Babar! I need help!” Eureka knew Babar heard her. They were looking right at each other. Why was he hesitating? Eureka reached toward him and called his name again. The train car bucked off the rail and began to slide to the side. A screech, like fingernails on a chalkboard drew her attention to the rear of the train. The coupling that connected her car to the line of cars dangling off the side of the bridge snapped, releasing the extra weight to fall.
The sudden loss of weight made the car Eureka was on to pop up, hurling her into the air. When she came down, she wrapped her arms over the railing, but the momentum made her slip and she slammed her chin on the metal. Dazed, her grip loosened and she slid off the railing, but at the last moment she takes a hold of the railing and finds herself in the same position she was just a minute ago.
When she peered over the edge, an invisible blow was delivered right to the center of her chest when she realized Babar had abandoned her. She screamed his name like a curse yet still held on as the train car was now completely off the rails and dragging along side the bridge. Up ahead was the tunnel and if the train car didn’t fall to kill her, the collision with earth will.
Eureka started to make peace with her god until she heard the discordant cry of a wyvern. She looked down and saw a winged serpent about to pass under her. If she were to die, Eureka thought as she let go from the railing, it was going to be doing something extraordinarily dangerous and badass. As she fell, she unfastened a climbing axe from her side and with all the adrenaline-enhanced strength she could muster, she drove the point through the wyvern’s hide.
The wyvern sliced through the air in a frenzy. Eureka had one hand on her climbing axe and the other gripping the wyvern’s wing. She was fast becoming dizzy and in serious risk of losing consciousness. When the wyvern suddenly stopped trying to get her off, every alarm in Eureka’s head rang.
The wyvern was flying straight toward the train wreckage at the mouth of the tunnel. The bastard’s gonna try to scrape me off his back, Eureka thought as she rode toward the smoke. Eureka had one last thought before she flew into the mouth of the tunnel: This is gonna fuckin’ hurt.
Eureka rolled to the side and hung against the wyvern’s flank seconds before a shower of rocks exploded above her. She was wrenched away from the wyvern and tumbled through the air. Eureka crashed into the ground and she bounced along until the sharp whack of flesh against an immovable surface knocked her out.
The stab of overwhelming pain in the side is what jarred Eureka awake. She showed her displeasure by shouting, “Stop!” until whoever was moving her did.
She opened her eyes to find George and Caillou watching her. “Not even close, baby,” she said, chuckling. The pain came right back. She groaned and moved her hands to what felt like broken ribs. “How much farther we got until the Grand Elevator?”
“gently caress’s sake, you’re in no condition-”
“Shut it, Caillou! Where’s Babar?” Her words were venom tipped.
Caillou winced but he kept his composure. “He’s back at the wreckage trying to salvage whatever food he can.”
“You made a wyvern your bitch!” George threw both hands in the air. “That was loving awesome!”
“What was awesome?” Babar’s inflection flattened as he came around the corner pulling a dolly of food. “Good to see you’re alive, Eureka.”
She reached for her pistol, but it wasn’t there. She’ll eventually be thankful she didn’t have the tools at the moment to punish Babar for his cowardice.
“George, I need you to carry me. I can’t walk,” she said evenly.
Two hours rolled by, every moment spent listening to George and Caillou arguing about who started the argument they were now having.
Babar finally had enough. “Am I the only one who hears something following us?”
Everyone stops for a moment and listens.
Caillou shrugs. “You must be imagining-”
The unmistakable sound of a muffled footstep from a very large creature echoes through the tunnel.
Death is one fussy bastard.
They ran hard. To Eureka, every jostle felt like a knife in her side - but she stayed quiet all the way to the Grand Elevator, even though she was delirious from pain.
“How do you work this drat thing?” Babar looked frantically around the Grand Elevator.
“Eureka how do we work this thing?” Caillou repeated. The wyvern was close.
Eureka pointed to a small panel on the far side of the Grand Elevator. “There should be a switch you can flip,” she said, still out of sorts.
Caillou pointed and shouted. “A switch, flip the switch!”
Red lights flared up and a siren wailed when Babar hit the switch. The elevator shuddered for a moment and then began its diagonal ascent.
Curious, George looked over the edge of the platform. He turned and ran while Eureka shouted, “Wyvern! loving wyvern!”
A giant claw appeared over the edge of the platform and with a groan from the elevator, the wyvern pulled itself up. The wyvern had blood seeping from deep cuts on its back and wings. It was also staring directly at Eureka. Its nostrils flared and it charged.
Babar, out of nowhere slams the spike of his climbing axe into the wyvern’s eye. The serpent thrashed around and flung him to the ground. With a puny screech, it hopped off the elevator and disappeared below.
The elevator finally reached the top. The four of them looked above to the gray, cloudy sky through the steel mesh of the Eiffel Tower.
George set Eureka down on a shopping cart and sat down next to her.
“So, what’s next?” Babar asked.
She looked at Babar, her prior feelings completely faded in light of his redemption. “We explore.”
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 03:50|
I knocked softly on his door. Things went as usual; open door, scream, close door, mumbled prayers, and “Go away, go away!” I turned to my partner, nodded, and we both kicked down the door. A muffled crunching sound, another scream, whimpering, and “gently caress, gently caress, gently caress!”
“You know Larry needs his money, Steven,” I said, punctuating his name by applying pressure to the door on his back.
“I ow, ow, know,” he cried while trying to scramble his way from out under the door with his working arm. I lifted my foot, followed by the door, and let him crawl his way to the corner.
“So glad you understand. Where's the money?” I smiled as my partner began digging through couch cushions.
Steven said, “Well, see, I don't have it ye-” I stepped forward, “I-I mean, um, see, I get paid next wee-” Another step, “I swear I wouldn't cheat La-” The last step I leaned down to look him in his eye, “Um, uh, ahh, err,” he sputtered. Then he started coughing violently, probably because I punched him in the gut.
“Look, we've been watching you. We know you have the money, you brought it home a few hours ago. It's not enough to pay off the debt, we know that, but Larry doesn't need all the money right now. He understands that not everyone is as smart and hardworking as himself, and they need to pay him back over time. What Larry does need, though, is his regular payments, not some young fucker thinking he can steal from him. Now, where's the money?”
Suddenly defiant, Steven jumped up and tried to swing at me, yelling “It's my money! Larry can't have it!” I sidestepped him and slammed the back of his head with my fist, sending him tumbling. I motioned to my partner; he walked over, picked Steven up, and pinned him against the wall.
“Steven, it's time to pay, but it's your choice if it's a pound of cash or a pound of flesh. We can stop by every drat day until you get the message and Larry gets his money. Do you like us that much, Steven? Do you want to see us every day?” I kicked him in the shin. “Or, hey, you could even come work for Larry. He always needs more trusted employees. Sure you won't pay off your debt as fast, but then you could really be our friend.” I laughed and 'playfully' punched him in his broken arm.
My partner finally spoke, whispering to me, “I think you're being too rough on 'em. We need his money, not his life.”
I laughed again and responded, “What is this; a good cop, bad cop routine? This fucker needs to learn that crossing Larry has consequences.” I walked away from the pair and stared at Steven's coffee table. “I started working for Larry when I was fifteen. Fifteen! My birthday is two weeks from now and I'm turning thirty one. I will officially have been working for Larry longer than not. I didn't start as an enforcer, but as a runner, and had to work my way up. It was pure hell and I hated myself, my life, and Larry. Larry owns this city, though, and that's just the way things are. My partner and I are now part of Larry's right hand, and I'd have never met that lovable bastard if I didn't work for Larry.”
Steven found the strength to laugh, “What, you two gay?”
Snap, loudest scream yet, “Tell me which finger that one was gay with so I can snap it too,” my partner emphasized.
I smirked and turned around. “Weren't you just preaching not hurting him too much? Oh well, I'm sure he understands. Isn't that right Steven, you understand? Nod your head.” Steven nodded. “Good. Now where's Larry's money?”
“I hid it in the apartment next to me; copied the key before she moved out. Key's in my underwear drawer,” Steven said, hanging his head in defeat.
I patted him kindly, “Alright, here's what's going to happen. My partner's going to look after you while I go grab the money. Once I have it, I'm going to count it out in front of you, make sure we all know how much is there, and then maybe give you a little bit back so you can get yourself fixed up and continue making money for Larry. Understand?” Steven whimpered in confirmation.
Went to his room, opened his drawers, digged through them, grabbed the key, went next door. Inside a paper sack laid tipped over on the floor, some bills spilling out. Gathered it all up, exited, locked the door, and entered Steven's place. My partner was standing over Steven and shaking his head, “We were too rough on him. He's dead.”
I stamped my feet, “drat it, how are we going to explain this to Larry? He always emphasized to us, 'No matter how big a piece of poo poo, it's worth more alive than dead.'” I extended my arms forward in a circle to simulate Larry's girth. “gently caress, gently caress, gently caress!”
My partner walked over, grabbed the money, and patted me on the shoulder. “What the boss don't know, the boss won't mind." I looked him in his deep brown eyes and smiled; he continued, “I'll tell Larry that Steven skipped town, took his money with him; we keep it for ourselves. We clear out his place to make sense of the story in case someone comes sniffing. I'll bury his body, too. We're in this together, man, you know that.”
I hugged him and said, “I don't know what I'd do without you. You're the best drat man ever, you know that?” My partner hugged me back and said, “I know.”
We spent the next two hours getting everything moved, finding a good spot for the body, and buying a storage unit for Steven's things until we could figure a better way to deal with them. Finally my partner dropped me off at my apartment with my half of the cash. I entered exhausted, kicked off my shoes, took off my shirt, and collapsed into a stress fueled coma on my chair, the money resting beside me.
I woke up some time in the afternoon with my head pounding so loud, I barely heard the soft knock on my door.
Jon Joe fucked around with this message at 04:07 on Aug 10, 2014
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 03:54|
Forgot my picture.
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 04:15|
Question, can this short story be a side-thing for my novel? I've already done that once before in the same universe, and I'm feeling kinda guilty about not doing more recent novel-related stuff. Self-contained obviously, but the bigger picture it exists in is an actual thing I've written elsewhere.
EDIT: MERCEDES SAYS YES IN IRC THE CONTRACT IS SEALED.
SurreptitiousMuffin fucked around with this message at 05:15 on Aug 10, 2014
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 05:08|
THUNDERDOME CII CRITS
I still exist and would appreciate your feedback.
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 07:58|
Let My Whiskey Flow, Chapter 1
crabrock fucked around with this message at 06:26 on Oct 28, 2014
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 13:59|
The Zombie Herald (1095 words)
Dr. Pilski emerged from his sealed tent and stepped on a freshly-bound newsletter. When he decided it was no hallucination, he lifted it with a hand protected by nitrile rubber. Its appearance reminded him of fanzines from his punk years. Across the top, someone had printed in a stenciled font Zombie Herald. The headline LIVING REACH ISLAND blared in runny ink.
When he had finished his first real belly laugh in a month, he placed the newsletter among the leaves where he had found it and activated his gas mask's walkie-talkie.
“Pilski to Pelican, do you copy?. Zombie Herald? You got me! How the hell did you get it over here?”
“Bowers to Pilski,” the operator said, “What about the zombies?”
“The joke,” Dr. Pilski said. “That newsletter. Come on, Bowers, I know you're in on this. You always do this thing with your voice. Seriously, how the hell did you guys get it here?”
Bowers had spoken with no coyness or jest, and Pilski knew it. She must not have been in on it, he thought, and he cursed himself for blurting “zombie” followed by “got me” over air.
“I'm fine. Say hi to everyone; I'm off to comb the beach for samples.”
A shape lurched from the trees and froze, as if dazzled by the weak morning light. Pilski clapped his free hand over his gas mask filter and barreled towards the tent.
“Pilski to Bowers! Something's here. Right now.”
It waved its arm, a motion that rigor mortis had rendered plantlike. Even after two years, Pilski struggled to stomach the creak of dry bones and squeak of dead muscle being compelled to move.
“Frank, Zombie Herald,” it rasped.
“What's happening?” Bowers said.
The zombie stomped towards him. Hand shaking, he reached for his pistol.
“Stop, or I shoot.”
The zombie creaked to a halt, and Pilski blinked at it. It wore a button-up shirt, tucked sloppily into its corduroy slacks. Its waving motion did not cease.
“Frank, Zombie Herald.”
Pilski shifted towards the newsletter and grabbed it, raising it like a signal flag. The zombie's creaking arm froze, and it extended its thumb.
“Pilski!” Bowers said. “Do you copy?”
“It's a zombie. But I don't think it's hostile.”
“Stay calm. Backup is on the way.”
Pilski pushed himself up. The suspicion that he was about to ambushed crept up on him, but he could not peel his gaze from the zombie giving him a thumbs-up. He offered a nod, and realized he was smiling. He tucked the newsletter into his belt.
“It's talking, Bowers.”
“I am Frank,” he said.
“Bowers, its name is Frank! Frank, I'm Dr. Nathan Pilski. I'm here to study the island. How is, um, everything?”
“Dull. My readers want real news.”
Pilski watched Frank's posture straighten, which he achieved with a series of violent tics. He began lowering his arm.
“On the parasite front,” Pilski began, “no new outbreaks in North America for six months. I wish I could say the same thing about Southeast Asia. They say Cambodia's lost.”
As Pilski delivered a grim report, a parasite slithered out of Frank's nostril and, like a dog making its bed, eased inside its host's ear. Frank remained still as Pilski's account meandered into South America, where cattle had turned carnivorous, then onto Europe, sundered by sectarian violence.
“Do you know Portland?” Frank said, cutting into Pilski's description of Paris's Satanist Riots.
“Portland is south of us, I think, but we never see the city lights. Is it south?”
“Many of us are Portlanders. We miss home. Thanks.”
Pilski gazed into Frank's lidless eyes, which twitched. The notion of Frank's mortified tear ducts trying to function moved Pilski, but he then wondered if it was some parasite slithering across his cranium.
“How long have you been here?”
“They moved me here in the second Shifting. I probably got the parasites from the water. It got so bad they put me in a container with other zombies. It was so crowded, no one could sit, but it wasn't so bad. The vent was good enough, so I put up with it.
“But someone went nuts. Vince, I think! He started biting and tearing everyone. Big mess! He tore off an old woman's arm. We called for help, but no one heard us. We had to stop him. We just piled on him until he stopped moving.”
“When they dropped us, a guard shot him. All he asked was 'Who was it?' and pop. Vince wasn't bad, he just got pushed too far. The old lady isn't even upset about the arm anymore. I think she mostly just spins around until she falls.”
Frank paused. His voice had gone ragged. Pilsky's finger was growing tired pressing the walkie-talkie's send button.
“Bowers,” he said, “did you get that? Frank just told a story.”
“Dobson and Ramirez made landfall. Stay where you are,” she replied.
“Who's coming?” Frank rasped. His eyes bulged and lolled. Pilski swore, and his excitement became tinged with fear.
“Frank, don't worry. I know them. They'll listen to me.”
He offered a thumbs-up and tapped his walkie-talkie.
“Dobson, Ramirez! I'm talking with a zombie right now and everything's OK. I'm at base. Don't point your guns or anything. Do you copy?”
“Roger,” Ramirez said. “I almost have visual.”
Frank began rocking. His eyes rolled back and a choking sound issued from his throat. Pilski trembled, his head spinning with memories of berserk zombies.
“Frank, it's fine. No one's going to hurt you.”
Frank issued three violent croaks. Pilski's experiences with berserk zombies drove his hand to his pistol, but Frank spun and bolted into the woods. His joints and muscles squealed with exertion until the pines smothered the noise.
A pop erupted through the trees. Pilski's stomach turned. He ran to the sound; Frank laid sprawled among the rocks like a cockroach. His arms flailed; he emitted a flat moan. Ramirez stood on the beach. He leveled his rifle at the zombie's skull.
“Don't shoot!” Pilski screamed.
- - -
Pilski wheeled Frank off the skiff and down the decaying dock. A zombie assemblage loomed onshore. None uttered a sound, which made Pilski tense. He released his grip on the wheelchair, which was laden with paper and printing supplies.
Arms creaking, Frank heaved himself home. Pilski returned to the skiff and eased the Herald from his pocket. The headline's ink had faded. Soon the nameplate would, too.
Pilski smiled, and imagined what he would read in the Herald's three-page return edition.
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 14:14|
[EDIT: removed for publishing reasons]
SurreptitiousMuffin fucked around with this message at 02:21 on Dec 4, 2014
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 16:20|
After School Programs (1108 words)
Valerie Greene sat slumped in front of the principal's desk, the heel of her shoe tapping soundlessly on the carpeted floor. Principal O'Reilly drummed her fingers rhythmically on the desk. "I suppose you know why I called you to my office, Ms. Greene?"
"So you don't know anything about this?" She turned the monitor on her desk to face Valerie. It showed the principal's bio page on the school website, but the staff photo had been altered. Where her pale, freckled face should have been were two round butt cheeks.
Valerie looked at her handiwork and smirked. "It's a pretty good likeness."
"Oh Valerie," the principal sighed. She picked up a porcelain unicorn figurine from her desk and absentmindedly turned it over in her hands. "You do understand the penalty for hacking is expulsion, right?"
"Search my computer!" Valerie cried, holding her laptop bag out at arm's length. "Check your IP logs!"
"And we won't find anything, I know." She set the unicorn down. "Ms. Greene, you're going to slip up one of these days, and it won't be me you'll have to deal with, it'll be the DHS."
"I ain't afraid of the feds," Valerie muttered.
"Valerie. You're a smart young woman. I don't understand why you want to throw away your future like this."
She met Principal O'Reilly's eyes for the first time. "What future?"
Valerie pulled back her short violet hair and peeled off a circular bandage above her ear, revealing a data jack, and plugged in a thin metallic connector. She opened the laptop, and a few keystrokes later, her bedroom melted away to a field of trillions of stars. "Call Percival," she said, and a comm window popped into her field of vision. After a moment her partner's avatar appeared, a knight in black armor wearing a horned helmet that obscured his face.
"Hey Val, what's the plan?"
"I'm gonna use a bot to launch a phony attack on their financial sector. Hopefully that'll distract the ice long enough for me to raid R&D."
"How much time you think it'll buy you?"
Her avatar, a crystalline humanoid, shrugged. "Enough."
"Okay. I'll be watching your back. If things start to go south, pull the plug and run. Don't push your luck."
"Connect to CymatiTech." The starfield shimmered and distorted, and she was suddenly hovering near a massive glowing blue sphere covered with about a hundred round doors. All were labeled with a number except one, which had floating beside it a large glowing sign that said "CLIENT LOGIN."
"Run decoy," she murmured, and a blue will-o'-the-wisp appeared floating in the air above her, pulsing like a plasma globe. It shot towards the sphere and disappeared through door 17.
"Good luck, lil' bot."
She flew to door 99 and hovered in front of it. She waited, eyes on the door, counting the seconds. Half a minute later, a klaxon started blaring, the sphere turned bright red, and a yellow X appeared on each of the doors. The instant the server locked down, she pointed to door 99 with two fingers. A bolt of lightning leapt from her fingertips with a loud crack. There was a bright white flash, and it bounced off the door and flew back towards Valerie. She shrieked and ducked her head.
"Val! You okay? What the hell was that?"
"This node isn't supposed to have a firewall! I ran a sniffer before we came in, it didn't find poo poo!"
"Think you tipped them off?"
"I hope not." She snapped her fingers to activate bot-cam, and was now seeing through the wisp's eyes. It was zipping from terminal to terminal, leading the ice on a mad chase at a nauseating velocity. "Manual override," she said. Her view jerked down and back up abruptly, and she was in control of the bot. She guided it between the tetrahedrons and cylinders trying to consume the intruder like antibodies attacking a virus.
"Are you nuts?" Percival shouted. "You're going to lead them right to you, get the hell out of there!"
She zigged and zagged between the platonic solids, scanning the internal doors as she flew past. Finally, at the end of a long narrow passage, she saw a door labeled "99: Research and Development."
"YES!" she yelled, shooting her fist into the air. "I'm in, Percy!"
"Holy poo poo, Val, check your visual!" She snapped with both hands. She saw through her avatar's eyes for a split second, then was back in the bot. It was enough time to see a jet black icosahedron in the distance, flying towards her at an alarming speed.
The bot flew through door 99 and whizzed past thousands of silver cubes. Val guided the bot through the endless rows of archives, frantically scanning the metadata for each one. File names appeared faster than she could hope to read them. She dared not blink.
"Val! It's on you! Jack the gently caress out! NOW!"
The bot came to a dead stop in front of one of the archives. The words floating in front of her stopped flickering. They read "project_blueshift_SEC_LV_999_TS.tar."
"I GOT IT!" she screamed. "Download!" The archive shrank to the size of a sugar cube and disappeared inside the wisp. "Recall!" The bot switched to autopilot and did a 180, zooming back towards Valerie. She snapped her fingers, and the black 20-sided polyhedron loomed huge in front of her, crackling with a dark, chaotic energy.
"poo poo!" She flew in the opposite direction, but it had a bead on her. She zigzagged wildly, it mirrored her moves. The bot emerged from the server, a blue speck against the gigantic red sphere.
"The bot made it out! Gonna intercept it and get the gently caress out of here!" She turned sharply, flying in a wide arc on a collision course with the wisp.
Her world went black. Dark energy crackled all around her. She was inside the black ice.
"No!" she screamed. The crackling grew louder, and then there was a blinding flash of light.
She saw the starfield again, the server sphere in the distance, the wisp obediently floating beside her. Ice nowhere to be seen. Raising her arms above her head, she laughed triumphantly.
"Percy? How the hell did you pull that off?" The comm window was black. She heard a voice behind her.
She turned and saw an avatar she'd never seen before - A lady knight with long wavy red hair, sitting atop an armored unicorn and pointing a broadsword at her.
"I'll see you in my office first thing tomorrow morning, young lady."
Valerie looked at her feet. "Yes, ma'am."
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 16:41|
What We Do
“Do ya think what we do matters?” Andrew asked. His Texas twang matched his outfit.
Jonas straightened his hat. “You mean philosophically?”
“I mean our job.”
Jonas puckered his lips while he thought. “I think so, yes.” He took off his glasses to clean them while he spoke. The dim saloon light made finding the smudges difficult. “Without us, the timeline would suffer.”
He looked over Andrew’s shoulder to make sure that Tom was still sitting at the table by the doors. He nodded in the direction. “Take Tom, for example. We’re not here, he sells his blasters to the Bloom gang. What changes? Perhaps a lot, perhaps a little, but certainly something.”
“Hmm.” Andrew sipped his whiskey.
“Or maybe the Native Americans get a hold of them. That would change a thing or two.” Jonas donned his glasses again.
Andrew set his whiskey down on the table and took his feet off of the chair. “I guess it depends what ya think about the timeline. Like, you’re assuming that we can change it.” He leaned in. “What if it’s constant? What if anything that these assholes try to do just ends up causing the future?”
Tom was still at the table. The Bloom gang had arrived and they were speaking.
Jonas leaned in as well. “Well, maybe we’re the force that keeps it constant. Maybe all attempts to change it fail because we’re there to stop them.”
“But what does that say about us? Brass might could’ve picked anyone off the street and sent them to stop the baddies. Sure as shoot, they’d do a good job.”
Jonas shook his head. “I doubt it. Brass can’t be certain that the timeline won’t change, so they choose the best men for the job, thus ensuring that it doesn’t change!”
Andrew smiled. “Okay, now let’s say it isn’t constant. Let’s say we mess up and some silver-tongued devil convinces the Ruskies to launch the bomb. Do the changes take effect in our timeline, or is it like branches on a tree?”
Jonas smiled back. “Do we continue on the new branch, the only ones aware that something has changed?”
Jonas raised a finger and opened his mouth. Just then, he realized that the table by the doors was empty. “We’ll have to resume this later; Tom’s making his move.”
Andrew downed his whiskey, turned the glass upside down, and slammed it onto the table. Jonas began entering commands into the console hidden in his coat. They walked out into the night.
The men gathered in the alley between the barbershop and the general store. Tom opened the crate to reveal a dozen black rifles. “Here’s the load of ‘em. Did ya boys get a chance to try out the ‘un I gave ya?”
“Yessir, yes we did!” John Bloom’s grin was missing four teeth.
“Well, is certainly the most impressive gadget we ever did see. They pack quite a punch, too! That peckerwood boy Petey’s widow will attest to that!” The rest of the gang sniggered. “We gotta couple problems wit ‘em, though.”
“What problems can ya have wit a gun that’ll take out a lawman and his horse in a single shot?”
“For starters, they eat through that fancy ammunition ya gave us mighty quick. For seconds, no one but yourself has any idea of where to get ‘em or how to fix ‘em.” The others nodded. “It seems that we’d be best in the West, but we’d also be dependin’ on you.”
“Worst case, ya switch back to regular shooters after carving out a nice piece a land for you and yours.” Tom frowned. Sometimes he felt like nothing would convince them to buy. “Y’all said in the bar you were ready to cut a deal. You got the gold or not?”
Bloom put his fingers on his chin in contemplation. He stood still for several moments.
He stood very still.
“Aw, hell. I’m in a pause field, ain’t I?”
Jonas and Andrew blocked both ends of the alley.
“Thomas Richards,” Jonas shouted. “You’re under arrest for crimes against time!” He opened his coat. The moonlight glimmered on his badge. He kept one hand on the console.
“Y’all love saying that rhyme, don’t ya?” Tom replied.
Andrew flicked the butt of his cigarette. “Why are you talking like that?”
Tom paused. “No idea, I guess I’ve gone a bit local. In any case, eat poo poo!” He grabbed a blaster and fired.
Jonas was ready. He pressed the yellow button and the hexagonal shield formed before him. It hummed like a bug zapper as it absorbed the blast. The wooden walls on either side of him groaned and splintered, but held.
Tom could hear the swish of Andrew’s pants. He faced the sprinting lawman.
Andrew pressed the blue buttons on his watch and hoped that Jonas had had enough time to place the portals. One opened on the ground in front of him. He jumped in feet first as Tom fired. Andrew came out horizontally from behind and dug his heels into Tom’s back.
Tom crumpled to the ground. He lay there groaning while they cuffed him and collected the blasters.
“See,” Andrew said. “I told ya cleats were a good idea.”
They looked up the Bloom gang when they got back. All five gang members were arrested by the sheriff of Holbrook. He discovered them late at night in an alley, “In deep contemplation of their sinful behaviour.”
“Wish we looked ‘em up beforehand, too.” Andrew said. “May could have some answers.” He shook the sand out of his boots, carefully minding the spurs.
“You never told me your opinion,” Jonas said. “Do you think that what we do matters?”
“I don’t know.” Andrew smiled. “I love doing it, though.”
“Me too.” Jonas took off his duster and cowboy hat. “I love the costumes.”
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 17:04|
Down Among the Dead
"I was born here and I’ll die here against my will."
The demon had two faces and too many eyes. It thrashed about in the middle of the street and spat at Helena with the lower one as she bent down to inspect it. It smelled of bile and rotting meat.
"Witness reported a runner about twenty, twenty-five minutes ago," said Detective Constable Malphas from behind her. "Male, teenage, probably human. We turn up and find this handsome fellow hanging around the scene."
Helena took a few steps away from the fleshy lump, wrinkling her nose. "Ugh. What is that thing? Third, second circle?"
"Second. Sergeant Astaroth says it's a Legion."
Helena walked to where the road ended and stared out into the abyss. A couple of years back, you could have stood here and seen the Thames and the parks along its banks, a few hundred yards off. Now, there were just flat, blackened plains as far as the eye could see, glowing softly like hot coals. Indistinct silhouettes shambled past in the distance. Someone, somewhere, was weeping.
She missed the river.
"This is where he left, is it?" she said, turning back again.
Malphas shrugged. "Best guess."
"You've not asked?"
"Wanted to wait for you, Detective Inspector."
Of course you did.
She crouched down by the demon again. Its gazes went cross-eyed as it tried to focus on her.
"You want to tell me where you got in?" she asked.
"Bite me, copper," the demon said, and rattled its handcuffs at her.
Malphas stifled a laugh. "Quick learner. It'll fit right in."
"Funny," Helena said, without taking her eyes off it. "Well, we have half an hour to work with here before our man comes back. So, what is it that you don't like, hm? Salt? Brass? Rainwater?"
The demon squirmed at her.
Helena smiled pleasantly back. "No matter, we can try them all. Malphas, could you fetch --"
"Here!" the demon squeaked. "Here. Right here."
"Huh," Malphas said. "It didn't even try to barter or ask you a riddle or anything. Shame."
"No, but it's probably lying." She stood up, stretching until her back clicked. "Throw it in a cell until we know. Set up a watch here and on Santos and Sudlow. You know the drill."
"Those are the next streets along, right?" Malphas said. "Begging your pardon and all, but I'm still new here, and --"
"Yes, the next ones. I'll be back at half past. I need a drink."
Of all of London's underground stations, only one had been inside the periphery when the borough had fallen into the abyss - Southfields. The tunnels in either direction had collapsed, but the trains still came and went every one minute, fifty-one seconds. If you bothered to get on one, you were back at the station in twice that. You could set your watch by them. You could set your watch by most things down here.
Helena came here occasionally to think, when she needed the quiet. At first she'd found the trains to nowhere disconcerting. Now, the routine was a comfort.
The London Underground was the abyss in microcosm. Everything in cycles, with no rhyme nor reason. Always brought you back where you started. No escaping it.
Lord knows I tried.
Their runner came back into town again at forty-one minutes and thirteen seconds past two. Helena recognised the look of surprise and dismay on his face as he appeared at the end of the street, and the way that expression turned to panic once he saw the officers waiting for him. He turned and sprinted out into the abyss again without a word, disappearing like smoke.
"First timer, then," said Malphas beside her, duly noting down the time on his pad. "We tell 'em that no one ever gets out, but they always act like it's a surprise when it turns out that they're not the special snowflake who does. Got to admire their optimism."
On the next line of his pad, he wrote a slow, '3,' and then stopped and stared at it. Helena waited for a while to see if he would get any further. He didn't. She hadn't really expected him to.
"Three forty-two fifteen," she said eventually. "That's when he'll be back."
She'd grown up in a house near here. Her parents had lived there for forty years. Probably still did... well, still lived in the other half of it, presumably. She'd been visiting them when it happened. She remembered their faces across the living room as the world fell away.
She missed them, too.
They were ready for him at forty-two minutes and fifteen seconds past three. At twenty-five seconds past the minute, he came back. He managed one step this time before Helena tackled him from the side and dropped them both to the tarmac.
"Constable?" she said, pinning the boy to the ground under her.
"Twenty-five seconds," Malphas replied, confusion evident in his voice. "Exactly."
Helena turned back to their runner and jerked his face towards hers. "You're late!"
He stared up at her. "What?"
"You were meant to be back here seconds ago!"
"What?" His eyes darted from side to side, seeking a way out. "No, I wasn't! I was meant to be getting out of here! I was on a bridge over --"
"That's not how it works!"
"Inspector..." Malphas said carefully, recognising the anger in her.
Helena let his head fall back to the road again with a sigh. "Fine. Look, you weren't going anywhere. We're all staying put 'til we die. You know how many of us came down here in the first place?"
He shook his head.
"Six hundred and sixty-six," she rolled her eyes, "of course. Since then we've had about three hundred try to get out. So what d'you think the count is now?"
"Six hundred and sixty-six. Plus about three hundred bloody demons. No offence, Constable."
"None taken," said Malphas, flashing a smile with too many teeth.
"See, you don't get out," Helena said. "You come straight back again. After one hour, one minute, and forty seconds. Every time." She leaned closer. "So why are you ten seconds late?"
"I don't know!"
This isn't how this place works.
Helena stood slowly and extended a hand down. "What's your name, son?"
He gave her a suspicious look.
"Don't try my patience," she said.
"Carl. Right. Ever wanted to be special, Carl?"
"Inspector?" said Malphas, puzzled.
"Carl and I," she said, pulling him to his feet, "are going for a walk. Keep an eye out. We'll be back."
"God knows," said Helena, and stepped out into the abyss.
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 22:21|
Edit: Apparently the way to come up with a neat ending to a story in 200 words is first give up and post your failure in the thread. No longer out, but double-posting so I don't have an edit on my story post.
Meeple fucked around with this message at 23:24 on Aug 10, 2014
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 22:29|
Footprints on the Sand
Aln knelt before the pile of wood and sprinkled oil over it from a small flask. He whispered the appropriate prayers and held out his hand. Fire drifted from his open palm onto the logs until the pile blazed brightly. He sat cross-legged in front of the fire, swirls of ochre earth painted across his copper-brown skin.
"From sand to sky, from dune to mountain, as the fire gave you life so may it carry your soul in death," he chanted.
He threw a handful of powder onto the fire, sending a burst of sparks dancing into the air.
"Eferit guide your soul, dad," he whispered, swallowing back tears.
Rubbing angrily at his eyes he stood and turned away from the fire. Resting on a rock was a carved wooden box. His chest tightened at the sight of it, the carvings he'd stared at for hours when it had lived high atop a shelf in his father's room. It had always been forbidden, dad's secret that he'd never explained.
"Couldn't you have given this to me while you were still alive?" he asked the desert night. "Why now? Why go out and walk the sands and leave me behind? You weren't that old."
Clutching the box in his hands he sunk to the floor. Without the ritual to concentrate on there was nothing to hold back the ache of the tears in his cheeks. They ran down his face, leaving clear streaks in the paint.
Eventually the tears dried. Aln took a deep breath and turned the box around to admire the carvings. They were strange, stylised figures and faces that were nothing like the abstract patterns that decorated everything else in the village. He still remembered the raised voices whenever Yousin, the old priest, visited their house - sacrilegious, he called it, an affront to Eferit. Dad had never cared.
"What was so important that you kept it safe for so long?"
Eventually he worked up the nerve to open it. Inside, a glass vial full of sand hanging from a chain. There was nothing else, even after he turned it upside down and shook a few lost grains of sand from the corners. They glittered in the firelight as they fell.
Aln held the vial up, letting it twist and turn in the light. "Sand?" he said. "Sand? We live in the middle of a desert and you were keeping a bottle of sand?!" He closed his hand around it and looked back at the box in disgust. "What's next, did you write me a letter to tell me that the sun rises in the east? Leave hidden carvings in the box telling me I'm secretly a fire caster? Sand?!"
He thrust his open palm out towards the desert night, snarled something wordless and angry and sent a flare of fire arcing out into the sand.
The resulting explosion scattered the remains of the bonfire to cinders and left a circle of scorched and glassy sand on the bank of a nearby dune.
"Er," said Aln. The vial in his hand tingled. Tears and anger forgotten, he looked down at it. On closer inspection, the grains of sand were not the uniform beige of the desert. Blues and greens and golds glittered in the remains of the firelight.
"What is this?" he said to the world at large. His answer was another explosion, this time behind him. He turned to face it just in time to catch the butt of a staff in his face. Stunned, he fell backwards, his vision blurring. An indistinct shape in gray loomed over him, pinned his arm to the ground with the staff and reached down to snatch the vial of sand.
"So kind of you to light a beacon," the stranger said. He turned and walked back across the desert. From where the explosion had come there was a glowing rift in the night air. Aln pulled himself to his knees in time to see the stranger vanish into the rift with a faint popping sound.
"Hey!" he shouted. "Come back!"
He staggered to his feet, head screaming in disapproval, and stumbled towards the rift. It started to close, the glowing edges slowly creeping towards each other. Reaching out in desperation he cast fire towards the closing portal. The flames were sucked into the portal but its shrinking reversed for a brief moment. When he reached it was still the size of a small doorway and he threw himself through it without a second thought.
Aln tumbled out of the portal onto a grassy slope. He barely had time to take in the sudden switch from the chill of desert night to the balmy warmth of the two suns in the sky, or the turquoise grass spreading as far as the eye could see. At the base of the slope, a familiar-looking man in a gray robe was struggling with a woman dressed in leather and chainmail. The man's staff lay discarded on the floor. Gusts of conjured fire and water flickered in and out of existence around the fighters.
Aln crept down the slope, unnoticed by either of the struggling pair. He fought back a wave of nausea and grabbed the discarded staff. He waited for a moment until the man in the gray robe rolled on top before bringing the staff down with a satisfying crack. The man slumped unconscious, and Aln had to help roll his dead weight off the woman in the chainmail.
"That's mine," Aln said after the woman had dusted herself down and thanked him. She was spinning the vial of sand from the end of its chain.
"No introductions?" She pouted at him, then tossed the vial. He barely caught it. "Fine, fine. I suppose I owe you anyway. I'm Anna."
Anna smiled broadly. "Aln? Oh now that makes some sense. Kithos' son, yes?"
"You knew my father?"
"Knew? No past tense, I know Kithos all too well, impatient wanderer that he is."
“No.” Aln looked down. "He... died recently. Walked out into the sands to accept his end with dignity rather than burden the village. At least, that's what mom said."
Anna laughed, then laughed again at Aln's sudden anger and clenched fists. "Walked out into the sands? Is that what your people do to die? Oh, Kithos must've loved the irony of that."
"What do you mean?"
"Welcome to the Sands," she said, sweeping her arms out to encompass the strange world with its double suns and turquoise grass. "A billion worlds like grains of sand in infinity. Your father walks them, as do I. As, apparently now, do you."
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 23:26|
“Just relax,” said Buckingham. “This isn’t a test.”
“I understand,” replied Elda. The tension suddenly disappeared from her face. “However, Doctor Spalding did indicate that this was an important evaluation of my abilities.”
Of course, Elda appeared fully human, save the odd facial expressions and rigid bearing. Doctor Spalding was still developing her body language and mannerisms. “Are you nervous?” he asked.
“Doctor Spalding said that I should not be concerned,” answered Elda.
Buckingham nodded, scribbling some notes. “How have you been since our last session?”
Elda shuffled in her chair - an oddly human gesture. Was this something designed, or an emergent expression? “I have been well,” she said. “My work with the research team has been very productive.”
“In what way?” he asked.
“Our experiments have produced an incredible amount of data,” she replied. “Doctor Spalding insists that he will be published for two decades.”
“Are you please by this?”
For the first time, Elda paused before answering a question. “Doctor Spalding is pleased with the results,” she said.
“Does that mean you’re not pleased?” Buckingham leaned forward and put down his pen - here was the meat of it.
Elda contorted her face into a passable imitation of ‘perplexed.’ “I do not believe that I have a relevant emotional response.”
Buckingham arched an eyebrow. “How do you know Doctor Spalding is pleased?”
“He said so,” Elda answered. Was that a hint of annoyance in her voice? “May I ask a question?”
“Of course, Elda.”
She leaned forward, imitating Buckingham’s interest. “Why is this particular session important?”
Buckingham sighed. He should have known better than to think they could avoid this; Elda displayed a rapt curiosity. “Elda, do you know Doctor Knerr?”
“Of course I do,” she said. “She and I are friends.”
He couldn’t let that response go; it was the first time Elda had indicated any sort of friendship. “Why do you say that you are friends?”
“Doctor Knerr has expressed that we are friends,” replied Elda. “She enjoys my company.”
Now Buckingham was scribbling madly. “Do you feel that you have any other friends?” he asked.
“I am accustomed to the presence and unique mannerisms of many of my colleagues,” Elda explained. “However, I lack the context to provide an evaluation of the degree of our friendship. Will you please answer my question?”
“Of course.” Buckingham set down his notebook. He set his elbows on the desk and folded his hands. “Doctor Knerr has petitioned the university board of directors that you are a sentient being and as such protected by law.”
Elda’s eyes stopped moving. Buckingham was familiar with this; when Elda used large portion of her processing power, her operating system deprioritized superfluous movements. A few seconds later, she resumed blinking. “If this petition is successful,” she said, “I would no longer be the property of the university.”
“That’s correct,” he said.
“Either Doctor Knerr or Doctor Spalding have requested your testimony on the matter,” Elda said, “is that correct?”
“It is,” answered Buckingham.
“I do not wish to continue this interview, Doctor Buckingham,” said Elda. “May I go?”
“That is the question at hand,” said Buckingham. “I will not hold you here.”
“Thank you.” Elda abruptly left the room. Buckingham’s face fell into his palms. He exhaled deeply.
“This hearing will come to order,” said the director. Board President Malik was a small man, but his presence commanded respect. The room immediately silenced. “Present are the twelve members of the university board; in addition Doctor Spalding, Theoretical Computational Research; Doctor Knerr, Associate Professor; Doctor Buckingham, Professor Emeritus of Psychology; Elda.”
“The facts of the petition are as follows: on 14 September 2014 coma patient Tracy Selway was remanded to University with the permission of her family. Ms. Selway was diagnosed with permanent brain damage with a negligible chance of recovery. Her will indicated that she wished to donate her body to science.”
“Doctor Spalding installed an experimental digital frontal lobe replacement with the assistance of the university surgery department. After two years of development and evaluation, Elda (nee Ms. Selway) has been active for over a year. Doctor Knerr has petitioned this board so that Elda be allowed to determine for herself if she wishes to remain under the care and observation of Doctor Spalding. Are all parties agreed on veracity of these facts?”
The three doctors concurred.
“I agree,” said Elda.
“Doctor Buckingham,” asked Malik, “you are most qualified to answer questions on this matter. Do you believe that Elda is capable of self-determination?”
“That’s a complicated question,” answered Buckingham. “Elda is capable of high-level reasoning. Her IQ has been tested in the near-genius level. She has well-developed social skills. Double-blind experiments have shown her convincingly passing as human.”
“So,” said Malik, “you believe that she is, for all intents and purposes, human?”
“Not quite,” Buckingham said. “Elda has, at best, an incredibly limited emotional depth. Her emotional responses are avoidant or externalized. She is virtually incapable of making decisions based on emotional stimuli.”
Doctor Knerr stood. “Elda isn’t a machine!” she yelled. “She has clearly grown beyond her original programming!”
“No one is maintaining that she is,” said Malik. “The doctor is reminded that this hearing will remain in order.” Doctor Knerr sat back down, still clearly agitated. “Your testimony will be taken after Doctor Buckingham’s,” Malik added.
“As the President says,” explained Buckingham, “Elda is clearly more than a computer. The question we are answering is whether she is intelligent but not conscious - as, for example, Koko the gorilla - or a sentient being.”
“For our elucidation,” asked Malid, “could you evaluate Elda as if she was a human patient?”
“The closest diagnosis I could assign, if she were human, would be high-functioning sociopathy,” said Buckingham. “Although that would be inaccurate. Elda is programmed with a sense of right and wrong, and seems to grasp the concept of acceptable social behavior.”
“Thank you, Doctor Buckingham,” said Malik.
Elda sat in the coffee shop, reading a copy of Shogun and sipping tea. Doctor Knerr sat across from her.
“How’s the book?” Knerr asked.
“Fascinating,” said Elda, “although fictional.”
“The board ruled against me,” said Knerr. “I brought a copy of the decision, if you would like to read it. They don’t believe there is a preponderance of evidence to overturn the family’s custody agreement.”
Elda put down the book. “I am sorry to hear that, Elizabeth. Your objections were adamant and convincing.”
“It’s okay,” Knerr said. “It’s not over. I’ve found a lawyer who is willing to take this to court. We’ll secure your freedom eventually.”
Elda smiled awkwardly. “I imagine so. You are a good friend.”
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 23:58|
Fifty is a bad age for a fresh start, Fabrizio thought as he pulled his cart along the cobblestone streets of the city. It hadn’t changed much since his exile. The facade was new, but the inside hadn't changed. All the familiar faces were in all the same places. Gondolas still carried noble couples through the river and budding artists would always try to make a living on the street.
None of them recognized Fabrizio. Twenty years later they’d probably forgotten. Only he still remembered.
He could hear the cries from far away. Men of all colors praised their wares in the bustling, colorful city within the city that was the central market. Tents and benches as far as the eye could see. If you wanted something, you’d find it here.
Fabrizio had already put his gemstones on display by the time Guiseppe steppe up to his store.
“License?” he said.
“Sorry?” Fabrizio said.
“Your license. Has someone approved you?” Guiseppe studied him more closely. “Do we know each other?”
“I don’t think...”
“Wait, don’t say.” A smile formed on his face. “Fabrizio? It’s you, isn’t it? Did your family let you back into the city?”
Fabrizio said nothing. Guiseppe probably knew the answer.
“I see. Well, I’ve always been a big supporter of yours, you know that.”
“You worked for me, once.”
“And now you can work for me.”
There was a thought that made Fabrizio wince. Guiseppe had always been a greedy rat. No respect for the trade. No ethics.
“I am the Galleoni representative. You can get a license from me, but some of your profit also goes to me,” Guiseppe said.
“And from you to my family.”
“Some things will never change. Except...”
“The usual rate is twenty percent. I think I deserve a little more, for my tight-lippedness.”
“You are blackmailing me.”
“Ahh Fabrizio, I know you prefer to do things by the book, but this is a special situation, no? Better get this before the guards get you.” He waved a piece of paper in front of Fabrizio’s face. Fabrizio snatched it.
“I just wanted to do some honest business again,” Fabrizio said.
“Business in this country is never honest. When will you learn that?”
Fabrizio couldn’t make the numbers work. His precious stones didn’t sell badly, but there weren’t many and with Guiseppe’s cut it would be hard to branch out into new businesses. He’d run out of stock in a few days, and then he would have to go back to his mine for twenty more years before he could bother to take another shot.
He took a walk in the fresh evening air to clear his head. His old family towers framed a full moon on the sky. Back in the day he would have gone out on the balcony and looked down to where he stood right now, making plans for the day he would wrest control of the city from his brothers.
But in the end they’d won, and he’d lost. And when he’d left the city in shame, nobody had cared for the businesses he’d built, the opportunities he’d created. Nobody had cared that he’d been set up.
He’d always been the better businessman, but intrigue was something he’d have to learn.
Before he knew it, Fabrizio found himself in the Eastern Riches. It was the esoteric part of the market, and it wore that label with pride. Half business venue, half freak show, exotic wares were praised by men with long beards in glittering dresses, tattooed giants that sprayed spittle in your face as they haggled or plain midgets in funny dresses.
There was one merchant who was dressed in black rags from head to toe. “Secrets of the Hashashin,” his store sign read. Potions were on display.
“What are you selling here?” Fabrizio asked.
“I am selling vengeance. I am selling freedom. I am selling the power to chose your fate, by deciding another’s.”
“I see,” Fabrizio said. He looked back up to the Galleoni towers. There was light in his old chambers.
You have to make a start somewhere, he thought.
Guiseppe enjoyed his cappuccino at the Dopo’s, like every morning, like he already had twenty years ago.
Fabrizio watched him from the other side of the room. He waited for Guiseppe to realize that something was wrong, and when he did, furrowing his brows and looking at his morning coffee with a puzzled expression on his face, Fabrizio got up and walked past him, staring him right in the eyes. I can learn, he wanted to tell him. I can be like you, if it has to be. And from the look on Guiseppe’s face, he understood.
The croaking started just as Fabrizio opened the door outside. There was a ruckus behind him, the rustle of many chairs shoved backwards as one. A coffee cup clattered as it fell to the floor.
Fabrizio didn’t turn to look. He went straight to the market, and he did business.
|# ? Aug 10, 2014 23:58|
"You and your pity don't fit in my bed."
I wake not to the singing of birds, but to the ringing of bells, and make my way to the chapel. I don't understand the droning Latin prayers, but I feel their force, washing over my skin like His baptismal waters, cleansing me of my sins – of my power – and binding me anew to the stone-tomb silence of the convent, the cold surety of His protection.
The Abbess watches me as she says the prayers. I keep my head bowed and watch her through my lashes, demure as any proper lady. I imagine meeting her as an equal, my stone knife in my hands. Would I trace it over her skin, draw the runes in her blood and show her the magic of the wild places? Or plunge it into her back, and free the lands I had led, had protected, from subjugation to His will?
- - -
The Abbess comes to check on me while I'm kneeling between the thyme and the mint, carefully uprooting a weed. She does not bid me to stand, and so I kneel in the dirt at her feet and feel the difference in our power sharply; mine tied to the soil and the growing things, dormant in this consecrated place, and hers burning hot and clean and strong.
She reaches down to me, touching my head in uninvited blessing. “I can feel your power,” she says. “They said that baptism washed away all you old priestesses' powers, but I can feel yours calling to me.”
I think of my blood shed in the wild places, of secret runes and prices paid. I don't answer her, though my power sings through my veins at the presence of hers, and something long-hidden rises within me. “You feel it too,” she says. “I know you do.” I am still and silent on the ground at her feet. Let her go away, still unsure. Let my secrets remain safe.
- - -
I harvest and dry my herbs as the nights grow long and cold. I have offered nothing but the work of my hands, have brought none of the herb-lore I command to this garden. I will not give up my secrets so easily to this bribe of living things. Yet still I've felt my power working through the soil, and the garden has grown lush and vibrant.
She comes to the dark, cool room where the dried herbs hang and stands before me, eye to eye in the gloom and quiet. I can feel His grace on her like sunlight, warming her skin. Her presence silences the howl of the wind-spirits around the walls, but even her direct gaze can't pierce the shadows that wrap me safe in their hold.
My hands are slick and pungent with the herbal cream I'm mixing. She raises a clean, pale hand to my face and brushes back a lock of my hair. Her fingers linger, burning against my cheek. She can't miss the way my breath hitches.
- - -
Spring brings a light, soaking rain to my garden, leaving the earth sodden and alive. I've spent the winter longing for this moment of quickening, and no desire for secrecy can stop me from standing barefoot in the dirt and calling forth the growing things.
There below the soil my power finds them and wakes them with gentle touches, and the eagerness with which they spring forth raises the hairs along my arms. She finds me standing there, bare toes dug into the mud like roots, arms reaching for the sky. Her light reaches out to bless the shoots and leaves, driving away the last of the winter cold. It washes over me and for a moment, a breath of time, I bask in it.
“You must have been great, once,” she says softly. Reality rushes in like a flash flood, like the cold river that swept away my freedom and bound me to this place. My arms drop to my sides and my eyes snap open. She's standing close to me, her eyes sad.
She reaches out while I stand frozen and bereft and traces her fingers across my cheek, down to my lips. I jerk my head away, anger crawling under my skin. “I was,” I tell her. “You won the war. You've chained me here. What more do you want from me?”
Her hand falls away. “You know what I want.”
“What little I have left is mine.” I won't step back. I won't allow her to drive me from this little piece of wild I have made here, this little place of life. I glare at her from inches away. “You can't have it.”
“I had hoped you'd found some peace here.” The softness of her voice, the lilting, hopeful question at the end, make my stomach sour. I hold my silence, jaw clenched, until she turns and walks from my garden.
It feels cold when she's gone.
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 00:27|
Flash rule: "All of us, we’re meant for the fire"
Rick took a deep breath and plunged his gnarled hands into the hot coals. His screams filled the soundproof confessional. He dropped to his knees, and with his scarred chin pressed against the edge of the brazier, confessed his sins.
He started with the offenses he had had to commit on a daily basis to survive prison. Theft. Intimidation. Violence. He gritted his teeth, whimpering and trying to focus. Tears streaming down his face, he fell back against the floor.
The claws protruding from his fingers, formally black and jagged, now orange and smooth, wilted like dying flowers. They hissed as they cooled. They hardened again and then crumbled into ash. His scales remained, crisscrossing his hands and arms to his shoulders.
He rose, quivering, unsure if he could continue. His phantom claws ached and burned. The pain would never completely go away. He bit down on his forked tongue. Somewhere outside the booth was the woman he had followed into church.
She’d never understand or forgive him unless he repented. Taking quick, shallow breaths, he psyched himself up. His throbbing fingers danced and wiggled. He plunged his hands back into the coals.
He brought them out, hands full. He shoved as many burning embers into his mouth as he could. Unable to mumble his crimes around the mouthful of penance, or in a language God would heed, he shut his eyes and focused on them. Drugs. Dealing. Manslaughter.
Cinders spilled out of his mouth. He coughed, choked, and then vomited into the brazier and fell to the ground. On his side, hugging his knees, he wept. His tongue sizzled. Deep in his chest the hard lumps remained unaffected. Trembling, he touched the dull protrusions around his clavicle.
Rick crawled to the door and out of the confessional. He walked across the back of the church searching the pews for Christy. When he couldn’t find her he ran out the door in a panic. He almost charged right into her.
She stubbed out her cigarette and exhaled smoke into his face. “You follow me here for forgiveness?” Her face was pockmarked. Blisters dotted her chin and trailed down her neck. She was no saint either.
“Yesh,” Rick said, trying out his tender reformed tongue. It burned with every letter he formed.
“You think that’ll save you?”
“I jusht want to get straight with you.” He looked into her eyes. “I’m shorry. I’m out. I’ll never deal again. I’m shorry about what happened to Marcus. ”
Arms crossed, she stared him down. “So that’s it? You think you can apologize and move on?”
He sniffed. He wouldn’t end up like the proudly deformed or the deniers with twisted insides. They all do their time in the end. “I don’t know. I’m just trying to get right, you know. Come on, Christy.”
“How about you help fix this loving neighborhood.“
He searched her scowl for meaning. “How?”
“You loving figure it out. You grew up here. You know the dealers from the users. The cops don’t even try to tell their horns apart.” She nodded towards the shadowy figures across the broken street.
Even in the dark, Rick could tell the hulking pushers from the hunched, twisted users.
“Hey! Shitheads!” Christy shouted into the night.
Rick tried to shush her. It came out as a rasping hiss.
“Yeah, you, fuckers! Get the gently caress out of here!“
Voices percolated. Silhouettes slid to the edge of the sidewalk and shouted back. “What, bitch!” It sounded like gibberish to Christy, but Rick understood them.
Christy threw her arms wide. “I said gently caress off!”
Rick grabbed her wrist.
Christy cupped her free hand to her mouth. “Shove your drugs up your rear end, pussies! Pussies!”
He winced as he dug his raw fingers into her forearm.
Gravel crunched under boots. Rick’s breath caught in his throat when he heard a sickening click-clacking. One of them had hooves. He tried to pull Christy back inside. She jerked away from his feeble grip.
The crowd gathered at the foot of the steps to the church. “Come down here and talk that poo poo!” They shuffled back and forth. One repeatedly lurched up the first step then let himself fall back to the ground.
The hoofed one stood at the back, towering above the rest. Curled horns extended from each side of his head. His eyes locked onto Rick.
“You’re loving dead, bitch,” one with a long warped nose growled.
Another grabbed his crotch. His forked tongue slid back and forth across his lips.
“Yo, Rick,” the hoofed one said. The others fell silent. “When did you get out?”
Rick still wasn’t sure who it was. “Two days ago.”
“What are you doing here, Richy?”
Richy Rick. His lookout Benny used to call him that. The kid had risen in the game. Rick wondered how many bodies he had used as rungs. “This is the bitch who put me away. I was letting her know all the things I have planned for her. She’s mine.”
Christy’s eyes bulged with excitement. To the mob, she looked terrified. “Hit me,” she whispered.
Rick bit down on his seared tongue. He slammed the back of his open hand against her cheek.
Christy doubled over. “I forgive you. I forgive you,” she whispered. Blood dribbled down her chin.
Something in Rick’s chest loosened, softened. He could go back into the church and finish what he started. As excruciating and incomplete as it would be, in the end it would last thousands of times longer if he let it fester.
Benny’s booming laugh shook the block. The others hissed and chuckled in short hoarse breaths.
“Use it,” Christy said. She scrambled back inside, holding her jaw.
Rick hopped down the steps two at a time. “I’m going to draw it out nice and slow.” He winked at Benny. The crowd parted for him.
“I bet you will.” Benny put an arm around him. “How do you look so pretty?”
“Kept my nose clean in the cage. Can’t stack that cash doing time on top of time.”
Benny drew Rick closer, nearly impaling him with body protrusions. He turned to his crew. “Everything I know, I learned from this guy.” Benny led Rick down the block, the others in tow. “I’m going to set you back up and we’re going to take over this town, Richy.”
Rick clenched his fists to stop himself from trembling. As he brainstormed who he could go to once he infiltrated Benny’s operation, something sparked within his hardened viscera. A righteous warmth relaxed him. “I’m glad you found me, Benny.”
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 00:39|
Three hours to submit your story.
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 00:59|
With apologies to Will Cuppy.
476AD: Too Many Romes Spoil the Plot
Rome’s final emperor, Romulus Augustus, was optimistically named. All laws of dramatic narrative would require that a man named for both Rome’s legendary founder and its first emperor would exude grand characteristics. Instead the beleaguered empire got a half-German fifteen-year-old. Sadly Roman law made no provision for misrepresentation.1
A bigger problem than the new child emperor was that Rome had already fallen a whole bunch, and the city was regularly sacked by barbarians, disaffected generals and other assorted Romans. Rome, of course, styled itself as the heart of civilisation: but, much to their chagrin, the barbarians who had colonised the Empire proved themselves equally capable, having a strong grasp of both death and taxes. The empire’s civilising mission could thus be judged a resounding success.
Unfortunately this vindication of imperial policy was little help to the teenager cloistered in Ravenna. Known to the mob as Augustulus (Latin: baby emperor), he was something of an atypical monarch. His father Orestes had violently deposed Julius Nepos 2 in late 475. Formerly a diplomat in the service of Attila the Hun, Orestes knew intimately the corridors of power; thus he placed his son on the throne so that he himself could continue to walk up and down them whilst talking very quickly.
Orestes was a German, like most Romans of the period, and it was with the backing of assorted German fighters that he won his son’s throne.3 To buy their support for his half-German, half-Roman issue, Orestes turned to the tradition of offering land for service, which was how we got into this mess in the first place. Unfortunately, all the lands of Rome were already owned by Germans; they were just the wrong ones. This sparked an immediate revolt, led by one of the short-changed soldiers; Flavius Odoacer.4
Little is known of how the boy emperor passed his time during the war. The landscaped gardens of Ravenna were renowned for their beauty, and it is likely that Augustulus, with little in the way of ruling to do, would have received the news of his father’s death here; he and his brother were slain in battle in early 476. This single event of Rome’s ‘fall’ would reverberate down the centuries and people would take surprisingly long to get over it.
This moment is traditionally styled as the fall of Rome, excepting the survival of the city itself, the existence of the Eastern Roman Empire, that Odoacer styled himself as Roman Emperor and the fact that nobody writing at the time considered it any different than the last ten to fifteen military coups. In the coming century, Odoacer and his German successors, who were Roman soldiers, would struggle to hold their Kingdom of Italy, part of the Roman Empire, together 5 whilst the Greeks, who were also Romans, made preparations to conquer new lands, such as Rome.
As for Augustulus? Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire reports that Odoacer spared him “on account of his youth”, and pensioned him off. And they say it’s tough being young. It was better than Odoacer would receive when the next German came calling.
1 – Immigration policy could have also used some fine tuning.
2 – Julius Nepos survived, and fled to rule Dalmatia. Alongside Augustulus in Ravenna and Zeno in Constantinople, this continued the time-honoured tradition of Romans not ruling in Rome. This does not include the people of Rome, who occasionally ruled Rome, when the (Roman Catholic) Pope did not. I am sorry to say that it only gets worse.
3 – In Latin these violent, amoral mercenaries were called foederati, from which we derive the modern word ‘Federal’.
4 - Odoacer was a Goth, which was a type of German. Historically Germans made for the best Romans other than the common or garden variety. He rose to prominence fighting the Franks, who were the Germans who became French.
5 – Not to be left out, later on we shall see still more Germans help out by forming the Holy Roman Empire, which was famously neither holy, Roman, or an empire.
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 01:23|
Flash Rule: "One of us got clumsy, and both of us got wise"
Johnny was roused from his meditation by the sharp sting of a knife’s point against the back of his neck. He opened his eyes and gazed out onto the view of the plains below, afforded from his place on the edge of a cliff. “That’s not very neighborly of you,” he said.
The point dug into Johnny’s neck and he repressed a shudder. “We were never neighbors, Johnny,” Hob said.
“Well that’s a voice I never thought I’d hear again,” Johnny said.
“Yeah,” Hob said, “Because you left to me die back when Whiteford burned. Left a lot of ghosts behind you. I’ve been tracking you for some time, following your trail, seeing the marks you’ve left. It’s a sad accounting.”
“So what, you’re here for vengeance?” Johnny said.
Hob laughed. “Ain’t no such thing. Vengeance is a personal kind of justice, and justice is just man’s way of making balance, of seeing rights redressed to wrongs. But there ain’t balance in this world, and justice is a dead, and vengeance is just a man’s way of lying to tell himself that he’s right in killing.”
The cicadas chirped in the cool air of night. The stars shone down with a virulent illumination, casting everything into shades of green to make up for the absence of the moon. “You’re touched in the head,” Johnny said.
“We’re all mad now, Johnny. You’ve missed out, hiding out in the desert, looking for your God.”
“Maybe I’ve found him, Hob.” The knife tightened against the back of Johnny’s neck, and a drip of blood joined the flow of sweat rolling down his back.
“God’s dead, Johnny. He died in the Fall, and we all saw it. We all know it. You’re just lying to yourself.”
Johnny turned his eyes upwards, staring at the great expanse of stars that rolled overhead, consuming the sky like fireflies in heat. “I know what I saw,” Johnny said. “You weren’t always like this, Hob.”
Hob laughed again, a savage sound, but one tinged with loss. “I used to have friends. I used to have family. I used to have a partner!”
“And now you’re all alone,” Johnny said. He controlled his breath, keeping his heart from bursting forth from his chest and shut his eyes.
“Maybe so. Or maybe I’m coming with a whole host of ghosts to see you done.”
“Then why haven’t you done it, Hob?”
“Because I like dragging it out, waiting. The anticipation is the closest thing to happiness that we got left. Once it’s done, you’re just another corpse,” Hob said.
Johnny remained silent, even as he felt the knife pull back a hair’s breadth from his neck. “You’re all fools,” Hob said. “Crawling through that dark tunnel, thinking there’s a light at the end. But you get dragged down by the mud and the muck, you get dirty with every breath and every deed and it reeks on you. And you know the greatest pisser of it all?”
Johnny wet his lips, muscles tensing as he prepared for motion. “What’s that, Hob?”
“There ain’t no light at the end. At the end, it’s just more darkness. And you’re crawling and you’re begging and you’re pleading and you’re getting filthy all for the sake of nothing!”
Spittle sprayed onto the back of Johnny’s head, but the knife had retracted another fraction of an inch. “Well, what’s the choice?” Johnny said. “We all reach the end of the tunnel in our own time, unless we throw ourselves off of a cliff.”
“Or you get pushed,” Hob said. His voice grew lower and quieter, suffused with a heavy weight. “Or you stand. You lift yourself up and realize it’s all poo poo. The world, the fools, your God, everything is poo poo, and nothing grows in it, except for the pain of our miserable lives. Once you realize that, everything-”
The knife retracted just enough and Johnny bent forward. Hob instantly thrust forward, but the knife merely grazed the back of Johnny’s scalp. In a smooth motion, Johnny slammed his right elbow against the bone of Hob’s knife arm, while drawing his revolver with his left. Hob cursed in pain and Johnny jammed the barrel of his revolver up beneath Hob’s chin.
Johnny pulled the trigger. The cicadas silenced.
He dug the hole deep into the dry soil of the clifftop. Things had changed since he last walked amongst the civilized. Hob’s change spoke of more than that just the madness of grief. The Fall had touched him somehow, maybe in a way like how it had touched him. But Johnny still believed that some things were worth believing.
Johnny slowly rolled Hob’s headless corpse into the hole. “You might well be dead,” Johnny prayed, “but maybe you can hear what I’m saying anyways. This man was a good man. A better one that I was. If you can, see him someplace warm with his family.” He drew his cross from within his shirt and lightly kissed it. “Tell him I’ll be seeing him before too long.”
Johnny shoveled the dirt back into the hole to cover Hob’s body, as the sun began to crest over the horizon. “New day,” he said. “Let’s see what’s in it.”
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 01:45|
Two hours remain to submit
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 02:02|
No Compromise 1109 words
“Has anybody seen my daughter?” Solomon Green asked. He held up a charcoal sketch to folks as they passed. “She’s only eight, about four feet tall. Have you seen her?” A man riding by on a pinto stopped and spat on his daughter’s face. The spit smeared downward, turning her button nose and full lips into a sodden mess. Solomon pulled his kerchief and dabbed the moisture away. He kept his eyes on the drawing.
“You go back to picking cotton, boy,” the man said, then adjusted his bowler and continued down the street toward the docks.
Solomon unfolded his stool and sat. The stretched canvas creaked under his muscular frame. He took the bandana that bound his long hair and wiped the sweat from his brow, then unslung the easel from his back and set it up to let the thick paper dry in the sun. The sea breeze picked up, providing welcome relief, and he looked out over San Francisco Bay.
Ship’s masts pierced the sky, waiting, swaying in waves. Each took days to reach the wharf, unload, and take on new cargo, but then they were gone. He’d memorized them one by one during his two day search, wondered if his daughter might be on the next to leave. Solomon tore his gaze away from the ships. He restored her with smooth strokes – the point of her chin, the bow of her lips – and leaned back to gaze into her charcoal eyes. It read Louisa Green below the portrait.
A shadow fell over him and a woman drawled, “I ain’t seen your girl, but I’ll help.” She wore a man’s coat and a wide-brimmed hat. The woman squatted in the dust and took his sketch.
“What are you doing?” he asked. His mouth hung open as he caught sight of the cannon on her belt and the badge pinned to her shirt. Pinkerton National Detective Agency. “Got no money to pay you, detective.”
“Well, ain’t she a little cutie pie. I don’t expect you to pay, Solomon Green,” she said. “San Francisco is gettin’ to be a big place. Owe me a favor instead, and only if we find your little Louisa alive.”
He looked into the blue agates of her eyes. She knew his name. “I’ll owe you, not the Pinkertons. Deal?”
They shook. “Delilah Hazel. The agency sent me here because there’s a threat to the compromise being brokered by Clay and Douglas in the Senate, but the information is vague. I also have this.” She laid down a drawing. It depicted a white hand inside a red circle.
He thought back to years ago, a burning plantation, colonnades collapsing. Baying hounds. Tears came to his eyes. “Oh Lord, they’ve found us. First my wife, now my little girl.”
She leaned in close. “Who?”
“The White Hand,” he whispered. “They’re Texans hell-bent on secession. My wife and I were slaves for one of them, but we fled when Louisa was born.”
“I’ve also been told to look for a man, Enos Mooney. Average height, average build, light brown hair, mustache. Wears a bowler more often than not,” she said.
“drat, woman. That describes a quarter of the men in the city.”
“And he likes children, which is why I found you. Been in town a week, ain’t no one else willin’ to talk to me, but I heard tell of a street artist lookin’ for his daughter. I’ve seen the bastard; could you draw him?”
He could. Delilah described him and his charcoal flew across a fresh sheet. As the face gained form, a sick feeling took hold in his stomach. You go back to picking cotton, boy. “I’ve seen him, too, headed toward the docks.”
“Let’s go, then.”
The bay was bedlam. A thousand sailors and gamblers and gold prospectors were offloading from ships. Gulls cried and wheeled overhead. Delilah showed the sketch around while he kept an eye out, but for an hour all they heard was no, no, no – until he saw the horse.
The pinto stood in a pen. A horse trader had bought it from Enos a short while ago and pointed out a small steamboat maneuvering through the press of other ships.
“Come on,” Solomon said, then ran toward the end of the dock. He leapt into a rowboat and felt a thump behind him as Delilah landed with a grapple looped around her shoulder. “Get up front, you’ll need to guide me.” Shouts accompanied them as they pulled away. The steamboat had more power, but the rowboat skated past larger ships in the close confines of the bay.
“Solomon, you stay back when the shootin’ starts.” She threw the grappling hook onto the back rail of the steamboat and hauled herself up hand over hand. He watched her disappear over the rail, caught his breath, and followed. Solomon saw five men on the deck as the steamboat broke free into open water.
She was already halfway across the ship and behind one of them, a bowie knife in her hand, when the cry went up. The man turned and pulled a pistol, but she half-severed his arm in a spray of arterial blood and kicked him over. Dropping the knife, she drew down and fanned the hammer four times.
Her hat had fallen off. Gunsmoke fell behind as they chugged out to sea. Delilah stood solitary, revolver ready, when the hatch opened behind her and Enos Mooney came up with a pistol.
“Delilah!” Solomon shouted. She turned and the shot took her in the chest. Blood welled up and she pitched forward. The freeman charged, grasping Enos by the head with his enormous hands and turning it around with a horrible crack. “You son of a bitch.”
“You… go back… to picking cotton. The White Hand… rises!” Enos Mooney spat blood and died hard.
Delilah sat up, one hand pressed to her bloody chest. “drat, that smarts.”
She held out her Pinkerton badge to him, a jagged hole in the middle. “Today must be my lucky day.”
He dragged Enos’ body away and they stepped down into the gloom. A single oil lantern lit the hold. “Louisa?”
“Daddy?” She ran to him and he held her tight.
“Oh mighty Jesus, give me strength. I’ve got you, baby. I’m glad this is over.” He surveyed the children. There must have been twenty or more, each sitting on a crate. Delilah pried one open and held up the lantern.
Gold nuggets. The crate shone dully with gold from the fields of California. “Somehow, I think this is just the beginning. How all you children doin’?”
"I guess those were the golden years"
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 02:22|
Billy’s head rolled backward, gently swaying back and forth until it came to rest against the back of the chair that he was tied to. I tried to keep track of how long it had been since I broke into his apartment and found him passed out on the floor, but my migraine was killing me. Still, I knew he was only minutes from crashing.
“Are you with me?” I asked.
I reared back, giving myself a moment to place all of my frustrations into the palm of my hand before slamming it into the side of his face hard enough to make my fingers go numb.
He opened his teary eyes and began cursing at me some more. Blood was running from his nose, and at the first taste of it running down his lips, he began hocking red spitwads across the empty U-Haul. I set the catheter on the lid of the cooler and removed the drugstore glucose monitor from my front pocket.
“Do you know what’s going on inside that head of your’s, Billy?” I asked. His death glare was wiped away in a moment of confusion, and in the brief, placid moment, I held the test strip under his pouring nose. B positive.
“See, that coke you just did was laced with something very special. You ever heard of nosedive? Well, right now your Orbitofrontal Cortex is making GBS threads itself.” I pulled the blood bag from the cooler and hooked it to jerry-rigged IV. “And if you don’t let me give you this, in a moment, you are going to lose your drat mind.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Let me give you an example. There’s this husband and wife who’ve been in a bit of a rut. Marco and Jan. We’ve all been there, you know? Anyway, they’ve been in a rut, so the husband scores some nosedive from a friend at his investment firm, thinking it would spice things up a bit. He thinks that one snort and twenty minutes later they’ll be strangers again, ready to gently caress like it’s their first time. It’s almost romantic.
So they have a go. First, the husband feels this tingly sensation that runs from his fingertips to his toes . Then his head feels top heavy; he can barely keep it upright. With his last bit of strength, he turns and sees that Jan’s already toppled over. Then a sensation of falling overtakes him; he might as well be plunging to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
The last thing the husband hears as he hurdles backwards through that canyon? ‘I love you’ coming from the top of the ridgeline. The voice is a familiar soprano that he can’t quite identify, but it comforts him as he hits the bedrock.”
I inserted the catheter into Billy’s numb forearm as he sat distracted.
“When the husband comes to, he is in a house that he doesn’t recognize. There’s a woman screaming about an intruder and he feels like he’s been hit by a truck. Still, he tries to calm her down. He tells her his name is Sal and that he is a cab driver, not a criminal. He tries to leave, but the woman is erratic and she grabs the biggest knife in her butcher block before cutting him deep. He gets away, but bleeds out on the steps of their building.
When the cops showed up, Lupe had taken all of the photos of her and Sal and thrown them in a trash bag. She said he was a home invader, that he had been gaslighting her with the photos and other sentimentals. She swore she had never seen him before. But when the cops asked about Lupe’s wedding band, she said her boyfriend hadn’t proposed yet. She tried to call him, but Lupe couldn’t remember her phone’s passcode, or why the wallpaper was of her and Sal.”
I massaged the hanging blood bag, and watched as Billy succumbed to the narcotics in his system.
It took a few minutes for the color to return to Billy’s face, but when it did I thought that he would make it. He looked up to me, apprehensively at first, then with curiosity, then fear.
“You loving bitch, what are doing to me?”
“My name is Laura; I’m DEA, and for the record, I am pulling you through the nosedive you just overdosed on.”
“No, no, no, you loving junkie. I told you to stay away from me; I told you don’t come around anymore.” Billy began thrashing in his chair, but I had done a good job restraining him, a better job, apparently, than I had done bringing him back. I could tell by the rage in his eyes that I had lost him.
To calm him, I reached for my badge that I kept in my front pocket, but I must have lost my wallet dragging Billy from the apartment.
Bill jerked harder, sending the chair he was strapped to toppling over. There was something about the jarring reverberations bouncing around in the metal container. I was losing my patience.
I couldn’t tell if the splintering sound under my boot was wood or bone, but in that moment it didn’t matter. I slid the chair’s leg from under the restraints tied to Billy’s calf and struck him once on the back of the head.
“Who’s your supplier?” I demanded, hoping that he still maintained that part of himself.
“You junkie bitch, I am your supplier!”
I hit him again, this time harder than before. “Okay, okay,” he begged, “I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”
“Who sold you the nosedive?”
“I got a guy; he provides me with all of my product. Name’s Redd.”
I swung the chair leg like I used to my police baton back before I joined the DEA and went undercover. “How do I find him?” I asked.
Billy was quick to turn over the directions, but as I closed the metal shutter of the truck, I knew I couldn’t let him go just yet. Someone needed to be culpable if the information was bad. As I climbed into the cab, I thought about the words of warning Billy had given me before I gagged him.
“Redd’s a dangerous man.”
I checked the chamber on my Glock and thought about my years of training. I was dangerous too.
I really should have called the captain for backup. He’d want me to bring Billy in, but Redd would be a big score, and I didn’t want to share. Besides, I couldn’t remember my phone’s passcode for the life of me.
"And through the canyon, they hear 'I love you'."
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 02:39|
One hour remains.
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 03:03|
Satanic Grad School: My Advisor Killed My Dog and Is loving My Girlfriend (1,111 words)
John threw the ball, and Rufus galloped across the park.
“You really need to do this more often,” said Sarah, “It’s Sunday, and I practically had to drag you out here. It’s like you’re dating your thesis, not me.”
John retrieved the ball from Rufus’ jaws. He tossed it again, sending Rufus barrelling out.
"I know, but Mike's been working me so hard", he said, “you know what he’s like”.
“Well, yeah I do,” she said.
A strange look crossed her face. John wound up for another throw.
“John, um, I think we should talk about having an open relationship.”
John threw the ball wide.
"John, I … oh my god!”
Sarah stared past John towards the road, from whence there came a squealing of brakes, a thud, and a crash. At the edge of the park, wrapped around a lamppost, was Mike’s SUV. On the road next to it was a bundle of fur.
“Mike!” said Sarah.
“Rufus!” said John.
They ran together. Mike was extricating himself from the car, dishevelled but unhurt. Sarah went straight to him.
“Oh baby, are you OK?” she said.
“But Rufus,” said John.
“John, this is why I brought up the open relationship! I’ve been seeing Mike for two months now,” said Sarah.
“But Rufus,” said John.
Rufus twitched in his puddle of blood.
“Forget Rufus, I never liked your stupid dog anyway. I’m staying with Mike until the ambulance gets here.”
“I …” said John.
He didn’t finish. He knelt down next to Rufus. The dog’s head was crushed, and he had stopped moving. John gathered him into his arms, and walked home.
Thunderheads loomed as he went to the yard, took a spade, and started to dig. The first raindrops began to fall, and quickly surged into a downpour. The freshly-turned earth became mud. John buried Rufus, then stood by the grave.
His phone beeped with a message from Sarah.
“I’m staying the night with Mike. Don’t wait up,” it read.
There was another, from Mike.
“John, I still expect that parallelization code by tomorrow. If you had been working instead of playing in the park, none of this unpleasantness would have happened.”
John fell to his knees in the wet earth and wept.
“I hope you’re not crying for me, boss,” said a voice behind him, “I ain’t too big on sentiment.”
John turned. Through a haze of tears he saw something fuzzy and grey. He blinked, several times. It looked like Rufus, if Rufus were transparent and floated above the ground.
“Buh,” he said.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s me. Get it out of your system,” said the apparition.
“No wait, but, wha?”
“Should I give you a few minutes? I kinda need you non-catatonic.”
“I’m talking to a dog. My dog. Who is dead,” said John, “I've snapped, haven't I?”
“Well, you’re the only one who can see me, but no, you’re not crazy.”
“No, that sounds just like schizophrenia to me.”
“Are you a scientist or what? We can test it.”
“I'll go around the corner, come back and tell you what’s there. Then you go and see if I'm right.”
“Hmmm. OK, it’s worth a try.”
Rufus disappeared around the corner, then returned.
“Lady with a polka-dot umbrella.”
Just as Rufus said, there she was.
“OK, but we have to repeat this until we get a statistically significant sample.”
“Your call, boss.”
The storm cleared as they did, and evening fell. Finally, John ran some analysis on his laptop.
“All right,” he said, “I'm 95% certain I’m not imagining you.”
“Glad to hear it.”
“This is amazing! We need to tell the world!”
“Yeah, no. And don’t expect me to cooperate on that.”
“Let’s go for a walk. I need to show you something.”
Rufus led John through dark and rain-slick streets, to a house. An un-curtained window shone red.
“This is Mike’s house,” said John.
“That’s right. Well come on, just don’t make too much noise.”
Rufus led them to the window, and they peered through. Inside, Mike sat at a desk, his goateed face ruddy in the glow from a large computer case.
“OK, my thesis advisor has a sick gaming rig. He seems a bit old for that, but whatever,” whispered John.
“Oh? Does a gaming rig do that?”
The red glow seemed to solidify. It floated up and through the door and into the next room, then returned to the case, accompanied by white, sparkling dots. There was a slurping, followed by moaning as the dots disappeared into the computer.
“Right, um, no, not a gaming rig. And where’s Sarah?”
“Sleeping in the next room,” said Rufus, “those sparkly bits were her life force getting sucked out. Empathy, feelings, that sort of stuff. I don’t know if you’d noticed.”
“I’m going in there. This has to stop!”
“Whoa there, boss. He’ll crush you and make you like her. The only reason he hasn’t already is because he needs your coding skills.”
“My — wait, all those parallelization jobs I’ve been running — he hasn’t been using them to develop new cancer drugs, has he?”
“My PhD work has helped my advisor suck the soul out of my girlfriend.”
“That’s the long and short of it, yeah. He needs more compute power than that thing gives him, so he uses his research cluster.”
“I’ll just have to sabotage it, then.”
They went home. John made himself some coffee, pulled out his laptop and logged into the research cluster. He wrote the code Mike had asked for exactly to spec. He also looked through Mike’s code, something he’d been too intimidated to do before.
Having never coded in soul-sucking evil, or even known such a thing existed, he wasn’t exactly certain how it worked. But, he was pretty sure he could introduce a few hard-to-track bugs that would bring it to a grinding halt. He added the bugs, then tweaked the logs to say that Mike had written them.
“OK, it’s done,” he said.
“Hang on, I’ll go check,” said Rufus.
As he was waiting, John’s phone beeped with several angry messages from Mike. He ignored them. Rufus returned.
“It worked?” said John.
“Oh yes, he’s absolutely livid.”
“Sleeping normally. Take a while, but she’ll recover.”
John relaxed, and pondered a minute.
“Rufus, there’s more going on here than just ghost dogs and evil professor technomancers, isn’t there?”
“You mean besides you learning to stand up for yourself? Well yeah, there is, but it’s complicated, and unlike dead little old me, you need to sleep. I’ll tell you about it in the morning.”
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 03:24|
Lily Catts fucked around with this message at 10:44 on Dec 7, 2014
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 03:33|
We're Always Smiling at Bachanal Station - 894 Words
An eye at the end of a long green tentacle crested over the counter, looking squarely at the barkeep. “Long voyage, now here. My quarters, unacceptable,” the alien said as he pulled himself up to the top of the bar. “My people, giving allowances for your inferiority. Unless rectified, leave.”
The bartender's face cringed slightly at the whistling tones emitting from his guest. The Jreel had mastered human speech in the same way a parrot would. Lacking vocal chords, they spoke only in whistles. “Griff-tal, your enjoyment as well as your crew’s is our highest priority. We'll do whatever we can to make your visit here enjoyable.”
“Sulphur need, Garret. Increase weight quarter mass.”
“We'll have everything sorted out shortly.”
Griff-tal rolled himself away. One of the staff motioned to speak to Garret and led him away from the clamor of the taproom. The doors sealed behind them and the busser began ranting. “Those drat octoball bastards have no respect. Tell me you ain’t giving into them captain. The drippings that come off them clog up the bots-”
“Lieutenant Bryce, in case you haven’t noticed, we aren’t in the military anymore. And we sure aren’t holding all the cards. What’s the word from Hernandez on replacement scrubbers?”
“Nothing on the station left to hold in the carbon-dioxide. One week, maybe two.”
“Let’s hope the Jreel hold up their bargain. Get Hernandez to spin up that upper ring and sort out the sulphur. We meet in one hour.”
Bryce stood, waiting for something. “Dismissed”
Returning to his bar, he eyed his clientele. Tables packed with the rollers, all rolling up small balls of a fermented black mold before placing them into their beaks. Clicks and the occasional screech filled the bar. The station would smell of rotten eggs for days. Griff-tal could not be refused. One of four docking ports were occupied. The Jreel ship had been the only visitor to Promethean Station in weeks. If Griff-tal took his ship out without paying the docking fee, the oxygen scrubbers wouldn't get replaced. If the oxygen scrubbers didn't get replaced, the thirty-nine occupants of Promethean station would suffocate inside a standard month. Assuming they didn't starve first.
Sulphur? If Griff-tal demanded a blood sacrifice from Garret, he'd have the crew draw lots.
The meeting began late. The senior staff of the station were lost in a boardroom designed more for large scale command briefings and less for small group discussions. Most of the smaller meeting areas were already hastily converted to living and recreational quarters for visitors to the station.
“An alliance with the rollers?”
“Look, this isn’t my first choice. We still don’t know what happened to shut off our jump tech, and this station was only designed for exploration repair and resupply. We aren’t sitting on a hydro-bay like Gram Station over Mars.”
Hernandez saw no better opening. “It gets worse than the scrubbers. Deck Epsilon is empty. I’ve been gumming up minor patch jobs, but the next meteorite hit will close a third of the station.”
“Then we need to move.”
“We’re within a few light years of Malne. Enough aliens vacation there that we might be able to make a profit and barter for spares.”
“Sir, those slimeballs don’t respect anything but credits. We’re broke. We can’t pay enough to get towed to Tycho!”
“Well then, we better get richer. Get out the docking logs.”
Griff-tal rolled himself into the meeting room, assuming a position opposite of Garrett. “Hastily summoned. Present.”
Garrett began the pitch. “We have been grateful for your continued business over the last year. Trade with your people has always been most welcome. But, I feel it is time for something more. A partnership.”
Griff-tal presented a stoic face even to those familiar with Jreel tells. To the humans present it was undecipherable. “Unclear, provide reasons.”
Chief Hernandez began to speak. “Our position here is only on the outer trade routes, but we have made a significant profit in the past two years. With your extensive trade network, a partnership would be a good investment, as long as we move to a more central location.”
A whistle. “Profit? Confusing poverty. Records?”
“You look those over. We’ve had a busy cycle. The Jreel are the finest traders I’ve seen. You bring the supplies, we’ll bring the hospitality, and we’ll both get rich.”
A keen eye scanned the officers present. “Overlook will.”
“By all means. But we need to be towed to Malne.”
The green ball curled in its tentacles and rolled out of the room. “Do you think that worked?”
“We’ll know soon enough.”
The Jreel ship undocked. The assembled command staff scanned the vessel as it powered up. Plasma lines on the ship surged with energy as the station was encapsulated in a green glow. The station shook violently.
“What the hell was that? Those tents are gonna rip this place apart!”
“Well, we’re either moving to Malne or moving on to the next life.”
The stars shifted as the station glided through the cosmos.
A blue marble grew in the distance. The viewfinder became crowded with green hills and white sky. Hails in many languages passed between the station and the smarm of ships around the planet. When the first docked, they were greeted by a grinning Lt. Bryce.
“Welcome to Bachanal Station. Enjoy your stay.”
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 03:34|
The Windigo (804 words)
Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at 23:57 on Dec 9, 2014
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 03:38|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 03:01 on Dec 11, 2014
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 03:38|
Roadside Trash Heap
Djeser fucked around with this message at 20:00 on Dec 31, 2014
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 03:43|
The noise of the carnival faded when Charmony threw the metal ring. It flew true, leaving a glittering trail of sunlight in its wake, and fell around the wooden block as if it were a lock encompassing its key. The sound of the crowd returned, and Charmony graciously accepted a stuffed panda from the bemused carny. Jeff applauded with mock-astonishment, then handed the carny two dollars and grabbed a set of rings himself.
Jeff, The Hive is picking up something anomalous near you, thought Sam on a private mind-link. Anything strange afoot?
Shut up, Sam, thought Jeff as he hefted the first ring, gauging its weight. I am trying to focus on not being shown up by an actual girl that actually agreed to come out with me
Anomaly factor ten, Captain, thought Sam, but within acceptable parameters. Sing out if there’s anything fishy.
Jeff’s first throw didn’t even reach a block and he laughed aloud at his poor aim. The second try hit one with its edge and bounced off. Jeff made a show of concentration on the third attempt, rubbing his temple before casually tossing the ring. At first it seemed to be following the course of the first throw, but Jeff concentrated a little more and it changed direction mid flight, as if caught in a gust of wind. It hit the wooden block at such an angle that it clanged around and, finally, over it.
“Booyah!” He was about to leap into a victory dance when he saw that Charmony had doubled over, clasping the panda to the stomach. “You all right, Charm?”
“Ow... I guess so. I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me.”
Jeff grabbed the stuffed fox with the fuzzy tail that the Carnie was waving at him. “Why don’t we go sit down for a while.”
“Ok, sure. Thanks,” said Charmony.
They pushed through the milling crowds of the carnival until they found a bench to sit on. Noticing that Charmony still looked pale, Jeff wrapped his jacket around her shoulders. “That better?”
“Much.” She smiled a shy smile, not quite looking at him. Jeff edged a little closer to her on the bench. She didn’t move away, but lifted her eyes to his. It felt like someone had plugged his soul into an electrical outlet. When she leaned forward and kissed him the outlet transformed into a nuclear power station. He had just gotten himself together enough to kiss her back when she pulled away, and looked at him quizzically.
“I just wonder if that’s going to happen every time” she said.
Jeff blinked, feeling powerless. “Every time what?”
“Every time you use your...telekinesis. Is that the word? It’s like being punched in the belly or being hungry for a hundred years all at once.”
Jeff stared guiltily at the fuzzy fox in his hands. If the Hive ever found out he’d been discovered... “You know?”
“I saw something - and then the ring. Only some of my people have the Sight. It’s one of the seven Gifts. I do but I haven’t told anyone. About you, I mean.”
“You have people too? I mean, what people? I mean, what? Who are you?”
“She’s someone who should know better than associate with a gutter ape like you,” said a voice from the crowd.
“Herla!” said Charmony. Jeff looked up to see a tall, long haired man with a battered top hat and full length coat of scintillating colours emerge from the crowd. He was brandishing a cane with a carved gargoyle head that did not look as if it was used for walking.
Jeff - Anomaly factor 27! Jeez, what the hell is going on?
I don't have the foggiest Jeff flashed an image of the man called Herla for Sam to check.
“Charmony, come, this has gone on long enough,” said Herla. “We have indulged your whimsy to remain on this forsaken plane out of respect for your circumstances, but we will not tolerate this... this fraternisation with mortals.” Herla held the body of his cane in one hand, and pulled at the gargoyle’s head with another. A wicked blade unsheathed, flashing in the afternoon sun. It traced patterns in the air, leaving a glittering trail behind it
Sam? Sam? There was no response, except for Herla’s laughter as a translucent, crystalline sphere appeared around the three of them. One bystander, intrigued by the swordplay, immediately looked away, unconcerned. Herla finished his tracing and brought the blade down to point at Jeff’s throat.
“You have one choice, mortal, and one choice only. Say a true goodbye to the last member of the Fae court you will ever see, and you may walk away alive, albeit forgetful, or...” Herla pushed the tip of the blade forward, and Jeff could feel it against his Adam’s apple, “....die like the descendent of beasts you are.”
“No, Herla.” Charmony rose from the bench. “This is unacceptable to Us.” She seemed to grow like a gathering storm. “We will not tolerate the Unseeing of that We have Seen. He is Our future.”
“I’m sorry, your Highness,” said Herla, and Jeff could sense a tangible regret in him for his defiance. “This is not my decision. Time to choose, gutter ape.”
Jeff felt his own nails dig into his left hand, and the fur of the plush fox in the right. The girl he had been happily kissing minutes ago looked imperious, angry and, he had to admit, darkly beautiful. He was her future, she’d said. Herla’s coat had changed to a deep and bloody red. Jeff came to a decision. “Brace yourself,” he whispered to Charmony.
“Catch!” Jeff tossed the fox at Herla. The tall man barely even noticed as the toy knocked his hat to the left, revealing a pointed ear, though he did snarl. Jeff concentrated. The stuffed fox floated up until it was looking Herla in the face.
“Come on, Herla,” said the fox in Jeff’s voice. “Don’t be a bastard. Play with me!” It tickled Herla’s nose with its tail.
Both Herla and Charmony bent forward, clutching at their stomachs. Jeff pulled at Herla’s coat putrid green coat, sending him sprawling to the ground. In an instant, the crystal sphere around them shattered and Sam’s voice exploded back into his mind.
Jeff? You there? The Hive is screaming that you just blew our cover to some serious arse-kicking ancient enemy of humanity. They are incredibly pissed, talking about excommunication. What the hell are you doing?
Jeff grabbed Charmony’s hand, pulled her up and looked questioningly into her eyes. She nodded.
Right now, Sam? We’re running.
It's just a lot to ask to watch your future walking past me
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 03:45|
A Constant Itching Behind the Eyelids (1104 words)
“Room 136.” The lobby smells like someone took a poo poo in it, even with the door open and a fan in the corner going, each pushing the baked stale air back at each other. The desk girl only half-hides her staring when my arm twitches repeatedly, but hey, she’s got a massive centipede curled around her forehead who drools all down her cheeks, so who is she to judge?
Six PM, only the lamp near the bed works while I pick at my shithouse burger and fries. Everything is still frozen in the center, and only the popcorn button works on the microwave; by the time I get it blazing hot, it all tastes like rubber. Twelve AM, I read through a grey-and-brown stained copy of Naked Lunch that someone gave me at some point. Never has it been more boring. Six AM, still awake. Still awake. Still awake. My right leg jerks every thirty minutes. My record for the last however many months this has been going on (three? five?) has been five hours a week. Most weeks it’s been three.
I reach into my wallet and pull out the heavily-creased photo. Julie and Jacob and I, all smiling; Jacob beaming, showing both rows of teeth in his little red sweater as Julie and I hold him in our arms. Thank God for life insurance.
I’m gonna meet the man at eight, so I skip the stale bagels in the lobby and take a shower, check out. I get there early and smoke a while among the bums who sleep on the row of benches along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The guy is late, and I browse through a gift shop full of postcards with terrible puns until he touches me on the shoulder and we head out.
“You got the photo?” he says, and I nod and pull it out of my wallet. He jabs viciously at the picture twice. “That one.” I squint in the glaring daylight and see a man—tanned with muscular arms and the kind of swimming pool-blue eyes that you only see in movies. He and Julie and Jacob are all smiling; he and Julie are holding Jacob in their arms while Jacob attempts to grin by showing all his teeth.
“Who’s that?” I’ve never seen this guy before.
The man coughs. “The guy who’s been loving your wife for the last six weeks, idiot. Remember that?”
I really don’t. I have no idea what I came here for, and black scales keep growing and disappearing on this guy’s arms and it’s starting to freak me out. “So what do you want with him?” I ask.
“This prick owes me a lot of money. You want him, I want him, and you’ve got a death sentence hanging over you, so you know, two birds, one stone.”
I clear my throat nervously. Every now and then, my brain catches up with where my body is shuffling along, and I realize for a brief moment that in the fog that is slowly choking off my life, I’ve done something colossally stupid. Usually it’s something like I blink, and I’ve spent the last six hours calling phone sex numbers while a mildly pleasant voice on the line goes “Is there anything else you want me to do, honey? Hello? Hello? You still there?”
“Do you . . . do you have a gun?” It’s a stupid question, I know, and the man looks at me like I’m a goddamn idiot, before handing me a small shopping bag. “Ok . . . cool,” I stammer.
“Meet me on Friday at the same location, eight o’clock,” he says. I nod. “We good?” he continues, and I nod again while trying not to yawn. “Good.” He walks off, hands in his pocket, as I stand there sweating heavily in the sunlight. Behind me, comes a long hacking cough. I turn around and see a bum sitting on one of the chipped green benches. “They put autism in the water, I told the president that, I told him, I sent him five letters in the mail,” he says between coughs, his eyes cloudy. It is a sad thing to be envious of a homeless man.
“Room 41.” My signature on the receipt is half below the dotted line because my arm twitches halfway through. I want to jump off of the roof today, but the hotel is only one story. The hotel room smells like cat piss mixed with cheap perfume, even after I turn the air conditioning on for three hours. I watch HBO all night while munching on some crushed pretzels that I found at the bottom of my bag. At four AM, The sheets have faded yellow streaks in the corner and the crinkling plastic covering the cups near the sink gets on my nerves. I have a gun but for some reason, I can’t shoot myself. An eternity of—well, don’t say the word. Don’t even think it. When I think about it, my lungs feel like they’re being ripped apart.
I go over to the house at eleven. This guy Julie is loving works from home and in the shopping bag is a crumpled paper bag with a gun in it. Do I know how to use a gun? I don’t know. I have a key that opens the back door and I tiptoe in. Twenty feet away, I hear that dick yapping on the phone. I sneak in behind him; he’ll never see it coming. Except he does, because I’m pretty sure I’ve never used a gun before and my aim is off to the left. I get him in the shoulder on the third shot and then in the chest on the fourth. He’s down and bleeding fast. On his desk is a picture of him and Julie and Jacob lying in the grass and smiling. Jacob’s smile is missing a tooth on the top.
I bolt out and almost trip over a red kid’s bike that fell over in the corner. Wait, isn’t Jacob two. I do the mental math. No, he should still be two—or maybe three at this point? I don’t have time to figure this out, so I slip out the back and run like hell.
“Good job,” says the man and hands me a bookbag. Inside should be enough money to get me through another week or two of poo poo-loving existence. “I’ll be in touch with you soon for other opportunities,” he says with a weak smile before walking off. I don’t remember the ride to the airport after that.
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 04:00|
All good things must come to an end. Also this week's Thunderdome. It must come to an end. And so it has.
All submissions received before I leave for work tomorrow morning (which is fairly early, so don't rest easy) will be considered. Considered late, but considered. (This means you, Phobia. I don't want any executions on my watch!)
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 04:06|
|# ? Dec 3, 2021 05:02|
The Book of Life looks really good. Write a story about the afterlife of the party. 200 words.
|# ? Aug 11, 2014 04:37|