SIGN-UPS ARE CLOSED
gently caress! I only just got back after a bunch of stupid delays! I knew I should have signed up two days ago!
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 02:08|
|# ? Jun 26, 2022 16:43|
posts a story nobody is expecting bean in, everybody gets mad.
posts a story everybody is expecting bean in but doesn't have it, everybody gets mad.
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 02:11|
gently caress! I only just got back after a bunch of stupid delays! I knew I should have signed up two days ago!
You can be in if you want! Say if you want to be in I want to go to bed you rear end in a top hat
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 02:12|
I'm in thanks for the reprieve.
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 02:15|
I'm in thanks for the reprieve.
Okay then! But that's all folks.
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 02:21|
Pipe up if I haven't done you and you want a crit on your story from last week.
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 03:12|
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 03:13|
I'm up for that, given that all I know right now is that it was less bad than the previous two and I insisted on entering again this week even though I had an excuse.
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 03:40|
Likewise could use a crit Seb.
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 03:47|
I'm piping please.
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 04:28|
Thanks for the crit, seb!
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 05:05|
A crit sounds great.
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 05:17|
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 07:55|
Little Benny Learns His Lesson (382 words)
He's Not Heavy, He's My Brother
Homecoming/A Lightless Sky
Likewise could use a crit Seb.
Done you, son. Spoiler: decent, if a bit on the nose.
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 08:20 on Apr 5, 2014
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 08:14|
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 11:44|
If the offer still stands, yes please?
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 12:00|
Thanks for the crits on my stuff from last week.
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 17:01|
Oops, gonna have to pull out this week. Now I am honor-bound next week.
Anyways, thank you, sebmojo for the crit. Very helpful.
|# ? Apr 5, 2014 21:37|
The Suffering Sister
This bar reminds me of that pub in Rouen, I thought. I wish I could remember its name. If only it hadn’t been bombed out in the war. The establishment and the customers shared the same attributes: dark, dingy, and just a little bit seedy. It seems nothing is truly lost.
My mark’s face was lined and his hands leathery. He glanced at me, and his eyes sang a country song: a wife remarried, three kids grown and gone, nothing but an old house, bills, and a dog. As I sat down, he slumped back into his drink. This one was far gone; even the sight of an attractive woman didn’t bring him back to the real world.
“Money isn’t everything,” I said. He looked up and scowled.
“Only people with money say that,” he replied. “What the hell do you want?”
“I want you to listen to me,” I said. I blinked and, for an instant, my eyes were as bright as headlights. It got his attention: he sat up straight and pushed away the drink.
“What the hell?”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Fisher,” he stammered. “Darren Fisher.”
“What I want, Darren,” I explained, “is for you to call your kids in the morning. Tell them you’re going on vacation, and you’d like them to come.”
“Uh-huh,” said Darren. “And just where am I going? With you?”
“Wherever you like,” I answered. I took a thick manila envelope out of my purse and slid it across the table to him. “That’s twenty thousand dollars, Darren Fisher. Take it.”
“Bullshit,” he said, but he grabbed the envelope all the same.
“No bullshit,” I insisted. “Just a second chance. If you squander that money, I’ll know, and I’ll come and set you right. You understand?”
“Ye-yeah,” he said. I smiled..
“Hey,” Darren said, “I thought you said money wasn’t everything?”
“It isn’t,” I replied, “but it certainly helps.” The jukebox switched to an AC/DC song - the one with the bell at the beginning. As the guitar cut in, I left Darren and walked out into the hot night. I put my hands in my pockets and wondered at the stars.
I miss having a friend. I miss Jeremiah.
Most souls die easy deaths. They come back and are overjoyed by the sight of their friends and loved ones. Heaven is, in a word, perfect. There is no want. Our bodies are built to never get sick, never age, never deteriorate.
I had no memory of my death. One moment I was tying a tourniquet, the next I woke up in Heaven. I had spent my days in France with my arms stained with blood and my ears deafened by the cries of young men for their mothers.
Jeremiah hadn’t been so lucky. He’d bled to death over the course of a day in a miserable, filthy trench on the German side of the lines. Most of his friends died the same way.
When we woke up, we demanded answers. We wanted to know why, and a perfect society doesn’t take kindly to questions. There are Rules and Punishments and a very real Wrath. Some of us rebel, fly the coop, and return to Earth, violating Rule Number One.
Jeremiah and I came here together. We fought the good fight: setting things right, staying on the move. Fifty years is a long time though, and we’d parted ways. He wanted to do more: change the world and set things right. I was content changing lives. I hadn’t seen Jeremiah since before the Berlin Wall fell.
“Don’t think of it as a matter of good and evil,” he said in my memory, “think of it as cops versus punks.”
I’d just lied to Darren Fisher. I wasn’t going to keep tabs on him; no amount of supervision would change a man’s nature. I had faith that he would turn out, and that was enough. It was a simple trick - about as simple as getting the money itself. All you had to do was fool the machine, give it a yes when the bank sent a no, simple as ever. Humans do the same thing, except with wires and computers.
To my annoyance, the street was full of people. I wandered down the sidewalk, trying to find a place with fewer prying eyes. There was a drunk man pissing in the alley behind the bar. I felt safe enough that even if he saw anything, he wouldn’t remember - or believe - it.
I closed my eyes and stretched. My wings grew out of my back; at first only a spreading arc of light, then materializing into skin, bone, muscle, and feathers. On the ground they’re unwieldy, almost thirty feet from tip to tip. In the air, they’re (if you’ll excuse the word) heavenly. Any more, I don’t feel myself without them.
I heard a thump behind me, and wheeled around to see the drunk man falling to the ground. His neck was skewed at the wrong angle. Next to him stood a tall woman, her eyes flashing with light.
“You should know better, Mallory,” said the woman, “than to reveal your wings in front of a human.” She drew a pistol from her belt. “I, Rachel, agent of the Lord, claim you and order you to-”
I didn’t wait for her to finish. To stand and fight was to die. I cupped my wings and flapped hard, sailing into the night. I made about twenty feet before she fired - first in my leg, then a better mark in my chest, and another through my left wing. The world swam, my breath left, and I fell to earth.
My wings were soaked with blood when I came to. I could feel the sucking of my chest, the burning pain in my leg and wing, a sense of numb shock everywhere else. Rachel stood above me, her pistol back in its holster. It must be bad if I’m not even worth a drawn weapon.
I tried to sit up, and screamed as my broken body lit up with pain. I’d be better in a few days, maybe a week at most, but by then Rachel would have me on the short path to Heaven and Judgement. A quick swipe, head separated from shoulders, and my soul would be on its way back.
“Took you long enough to find me,” I muttered through the fog of pain.
“Only a glimpse in time,” said Rachel, “and yet so much damage has been done to this world.”
“Damage?” I said. My laugh turned to a cough, and blood dripped down my chin. “I was helping these poor souls. More than you have ever done.”
Rachel drew a grim, etched blade from her belt. “No more,” she said.
There was a shot, and the blade fell as Rachel’s head exploded in gore and bone. Her body dropped unceremoniously to the ground. Thump.
Behind her stood familiar silhouette. He knelt down, his face close, and his hand touched mine. “Jeremiah,” I whispered.
Smiling, he heaved me over his shoulder. “Not going to die today, Krankenschwester.”
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 06:04|
Week 86 Crits for Cache Cab, Thalamas, HopperUK, Some Guy TT, Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi, Chairchucker, Nethilia, ReptileChillock, Whalley, tenniseveeryone
Cache Cab - Wall's Well That Ends Well
Talent: Smoothing wallpaper(?)
I wasn't sold on this one. I found it really dumb that the mob would only recognize Frank only when they've looked at him for more than five seconds. With so many people, it took them this long to notice? Kind of unbelievable for a cop to blow his cover out of petty insults, too.
Thalamas - Homecoming/A Lightless Sky
There are twelve "Breath." sentences in this story. You overdid it. I can't think of a vaguer talent than "has a really good imagination". Maybe you could have used that talent to, you know, have your main character imagine things. In this story it's only something that gets him into trouble, which would have made it interchangeable with any other talent. One judge liked the battery gimmick but I beg to differ--it's just there as a McGuffin. The woman spouts some exposition and kind of disappears in the last part of the story. Chess's characterization is inconsistent--is he a bad guy or what? Whatever.
HopperUK - Sorcha and the Mirror
Talent: Cleaning glass
A well-defined, specific talent that gets put to good use. Has an actual goddamn character arc, for crying out loud. (All of you losers read and learn.) It has a fairytale quality to it that doesn't yell for the reader to notice. Great ending that ties the first and last lines together.
Some Guy TT - Little Benny Learns His Lesson
Narcolepsy is not a talent. Some of the judges wanted to DQ your rear end for naming your main character Benny, just so you know. I thought this was a lazy story--Benny is tsundere for Bea, then thunderstorms come and scare him and he 'fesses up and she teaches him how to sleep fast (as if this is something that could be taught) and now he's all thx Bea I wanna marry u and I think about how this could have been a fully-fledged story with more showing and less telling and less dumb gradeschooler narration but it isn't cute at all. The turn from "hating Bea" and "liking Bea" is too abrupt and that's why I'm mad, because you had a ton of loving words left over to make that work. I suspect you read the DFW story that God Over Djinn had linked, and what you took away from it was that writing in really long sentences would make your story good, but nope. I pushed this for loser.
Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi - The Fun of Flying with Squeegees
Talent: Cleaning highrise windows
Solid. If I have a complaint it would be that Javier's voice is a bit too self-assured, as if he was never in any real danger. He was very talky internally and externally, and that killed the suspense. The lack of emotional rapport I had with Javier killed your chances of reaching the high pile.
Chairchucker - Wouldn't If You Were On Fire
Funny talent, unfunny execution. You went overboard on the meta humor. Just once or twice would have been fine. Your last scene turns the story into caricature in not a good way. Had the potential to be sweet.
Nethilia - Scrubbing the Evidence
Talent: Washing stains
The other judges really hated this. Boring was what they described it. I'm only half-inclined to agree, in that you have an actual story (which can't be said for the others this week), but it had a weak start and didn't pick up until Tara got hurt. Maybe you should have started in the playground instead, and fill us in quickly. The other bad thing you did was that you revealed Danny's talent only when it became convenient. You need to hint that in advance, and subtly so that we don't call it out the moment Tara ruins her uniform. Otherwise you will look like you're cheating and bullshitting out of a corner you've written yourself into. And wouldn't dad notice that Tara got hurt during dinner?
ReptileChillock - Le Tour de Franzia
I'm not sold on the idea that buttchugging can be something people can get good at. And the fact that your protagonist dies from the act means that he isn't good at buttchugging, after all. Story's amusing, at least.
Whalley - Peel Out
We were torn over this. I was the only one who liked it. You showed that Jill has a talent, but that alone doesn't win the race. The "ring" twist is a little sweet but it honestly comes out as a cheap consolation prize. A nitpick: You mention an Audi and Mazdas, but we don't know what sort of cars are they, and it's jarring because you mentioned a Supra by name.
tenniseveryone - Footlong
Talent: Making sandwiches
Having critiqued your last story, I can say that this is an improvement. You've held my attention from start to finish. The ending, however. Like Nethilia, you sprang this twist without warning that it feels like a lame sucker punch. Come to think of it, you did this in your previous story! There are ways to bleed for Subway that aren't dumb. Please learn how to separate paragraphs.
Lily Catts fucked around with this message at 06:34 on Apr 6, 2014
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 06:29|
I'm out. I'd blame work, but gently caress that, this is on me. Hopper, count yourself lucky. Or not, since you're still judging.
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 13:39|
I'm out. I'd blame work, but gently caress that, this is on me. Hopper, count yourself lucky. Or not, since you're still judging.
I encourage anyone else who is afraid of judgment to drop out like a big baby coward!
Reminder: TWELVE HOURS remain to submit. The cutoff is 10pm EST, not midnight.
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 14:16|
oh poo poo
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 15:17|
The Inside Job (1195 words)
“You’re not getting into Heaven, Mr. Sankowicz. Dozens of class three and four mortal sins and no repentance listed in the file,” the angel said. A gold plaque shone in the ever-present light of God: “Border Agent of the Month.” It hung on the wall behind a polished mahogany desk.
Al ran a hand through his thinning hair. “I’m willing to go in on a day pass or visiting hours, anything.”
The angel shook its head. “No. There is no day pass, no visiting hours. This isn’t a mental health facility, it’s Heaven. Please, don’t make me call the guardians to remove you, sir.” The opalescence of its eyes swirled, without pupils and unreadable. Al shook hands with the bureaucrat, then walked out. He ambled along the street of gold, back aching in a low throb, to the border with Hell.
He turned to examine Heaven. Jasper walls shone crimson with the fires of the barren waste behind him. People popped into being at the boundary in a steady flow. Most had the wide-eyed look of the recent dead and walked towards the gate for processing; a few didn’t bother, trudging away from the giant cube into endless Hell. Each wore a simple white robe and a pair of leather sandals.
Heaven before him, Hell behind. He’d lied, cheated, stolen, even killed back in the war, but this time he would keep his word.
The slow indignity of colorectal cancer, his second bout after a remission, led to a reunion with Evelyn. She’d joined AA, found God, worked hard to make amends. It could have been nice if he hadn’t been dying in agony. They’d split up fifteen years back, their relationship the second victim of a one-car collision. Evelyn had walked away, but not Maggie. Six was too young. “Drunk driver hits telephone pole, one dead,” the page four article had read, another commonplace tragedy. His little girl would have left a trail of broken hearts behind her in college. Mags had been a beautiful child. Al gritted his teeth.
The blame he’d carried for years had faded in a haze of morphine during the last days. She’d made him promise, begged him with tears streaming, “You find her, Al. You find my baby and tell her I’m sorry and that mommy loves her.”
The promise galvanized him against the malaise of being Hell bound. Those who appeared with a halo were able to walk right past the admittance lines, bypassing all the screening. He walked north along the wall, seeking the quiet lands between the gates, and waited. A young man with big, blue eyes arrived with an audible pop. “Am I dead?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, son,” Al said, swinging a large rock into the teen’s temple and knocking him down. A couple of quick jerks and the robe came off. He tore it into long strips, then bound and gagged the unconscious body. “I hope you can forgive me. I have a little girl inside that I need to see. Someone should be along soon to help.” He plucked the golden ring away and settled it above his head.
He walked back to the gate, past the waiting lines of recently deceased, and through the Members entrance. A pair of guardians flanked the pearly gate; each had a sheathed sword buckled over its hips. They gave him a nod as he passed through. Al kept his head high, body relaxed, and face smiling as he nodded back.
No sirens, no alarms. He figured on at least half an hour before they were on his trail. A block in, he turned a corner and took off at a jog. A weight pressed all around him, grew steadily heavier.
Every street was the same. Featureless gold walls, floors, and ceilings. Doors set regularly. A choir sang in the distance, audible in the otherwise silent halls. He picked a door at random. Inside was a field of luxuriant grass. A small group, all of them in their prime, sat underneath an ancient oak on a checkered blanket. The scattered remnants of a meal surrounded a wicker basket.
Their conversation stopped as he approached. He fidgeted under the combined scrutiny. “Hi there. I just got here and was hoping you could tell me how to find someone.”
A woman stood. When she spoke, it was in a language he didn’t recognize, but the meaning came to him regardless. “You must have missed your orientation. Just call one of the public terminals and do a search.”
“Yeah, I did. Where are the terminals?” The weight was crushing him.
“Terminal,” she said. A touch screen materialized in the air. “Who are you looking for?”
“My daughter. Her name is Maggie Ann Sankowicz.” Al joined her, looking over the woman’s shoulder. Her fingers tapped in the name. Three pictures appeared, each girl in her twenties.
His heart stuttered. The middle photograph: those green eyes, the curly brown hair, dimpled cheeks that he always thought she’d grow out of. He tapped the picture and a slip of paper reading “Ω 45771” came out. He took it.
“Just take one of the elevators.” He blinked, face blank. “Any of the double doors.”
He thanked her and stepped outside. A trio of guardian angels spotted him from down the hall. “We’ve got him, sector α, 22000 block. Stop where you are, sir!” Instead, he sprinted away and the weight doubled, staggering him. A promise to keep. The double doors slid open at a touch. Inside, the only feature was a blank screen on the back wall.
“Elevator, take me here!” He held up the paper to the screen. Nothing happened. Rapid footsteps echoed outside. He slapped a hand on the screen. It buzzed at him. He drew Ω 45771 with his finger as the flaming tip of a sword slid between the doors. A loud clunk sounded and the elevator moved upward. Al fell to his knees.
The doors opened to an empty hall. The weight, the horrible weight. He crawled out. Sirens sounded, flashing red lights descended from the ceiling, regular sections of the walls reformed into reliefs of his face with “Wanted” underneath.
The door across the hall had the right numbers. He banged on it, unable to reach the handle. It opened and his little girl stepped out, all grown up. “Dad? Dad!” she fell down beside him, wrapping her arms around his prone form.
“Mags, I love you so much. I can’t stay, they’re coming for me. Your mother, she’s sorry, and she loves you, too.” An oath fulfilled. He prayed, asking forgiveness for leaving Maggie alone, a true act of contrition after a life of only the most perfunctory belief in God. The weight lifted.
The ever-present light flowed together, gained form. “I am the Metatron. We forgive you, Albert. A soul cannot gain admittance after death, but We are prepared to offer you a place here. Join our hosts, defend right, promise Me your loyalty.”
“Could I see my daughter?”
“Angels may traverse these halls. There will be time enough to visit loved ones.”
“I promise.” The transformation was glorious.
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 15:51|
Is it possible to get a time extension, maybe an hour or two?
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 17:46|
Is it possible to get a time extension, maybe an hour or two?
Sorry dude, the deadline is my bedtime. Write faster!
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 17:57|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 02:53 on Dec 11, 2014
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 18:12|
Likely to be late as well, but hopefully not a total failure.
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 18:42|
The Visitor-1,129 words Flash rule - Must pass Bechdel's test.
Maggie began her morning ritual. One pill from the box and another from the bottle, make the bed, get dressed, and make tea. She calmed the kettle and roused the television. Joanna would over soon to take out for the day. She fidgeted around on the couch in front of the television, anxious to tell and not tell Joanna about the visitor from last night.
Joanna knocked at the door and a squat mass of wrinkles and silver hair with a cane answered it. They hugged briefly while moving toward Joanna’s car. Joanna's driving and small talk masked her worry about her friend. She did not appear comfortable at all in a car she’s seen and been in for at least ten years. She was two years older than Maggie, aging with infinite more grace than her companion. With the death of a close mutual friend a few years back, Joanna was part of a Maggie’s ever shrinking list of companions.
Shopping went easy enough. Maggie dropped the three squares meals a day for a large lunch sandwiched in between tea and dessert. Her reasoning was that she lived long enough to have dessert for dinner. Maggie paid and haggled with Joanna over what she should make to pay her back for taking her out over lunch.
“Strawberry shortcake would work out for me,” Joanna said.
“Fine. Do you want it with or without strawberry jam,” Maggie asked. She leaned back to let her Philly cheese steak be placed in front of her.
A plate that was filled with crepes was placed in front of Joanna. ”Yes please,” Joanna said.
“You have to wait a little while longer for that then. I ran of preserves and have to make some more,” Maggie said in between mouthfuls of the greasy sandwich.
“That I can do,” Joanna smiled.
Lunch continued in silence for a few moments. Joanna noticed that Maggie was fidgeting, she wanted to tell her something.
“What’s wrong,” asked Joanna.
“I saw Kelly last night,” whispered Maggie.
Joanna furrowed her brow.”Maggie, she’s been dead for a while now. If you wanted to go to the graveyard, you should have told me. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her too.”
“She was in my house! I just finished my tea and I was all ready for bed. I get to my room and Kelly is just standing there, with bright blonde hair and long robe. She looked wonderful, like what she used to look like before the smokes and booze.” Maggie was quiet for a moment. “We talked for a long time. She said that she got an order to come and visit me. Said something about my time being up. I told her that I wasn’t going anywhere. I still have some things I need to take care of.”
“How about we talk about this at your house that we can have some privacy,” asked Joanna.
“Fine.” Maggie sunk into the seat and poked and prodded at the rest of her lunch. She knew Joanna was right; exposing random people to a vision some shut in had might reflect badly on her. All that was needed was some time to form her story. The check came and Maggie started to poke Joanna under the table with her cane.
“Would you please stop that,” laughed Joanna.
“I would be home by now if I walked home, no telling where we be if we were in the car by now,” said Maggie, getting out of her chair.
Maggie poured the hot water into both mugs on her kitchen table. It was a while before either of them said anything.
“I’m afraid of dying, Jo,” said Maggie. “So many things left unfinished and uncared for. I want a do over but I know that’s not possible. But at least I saw Kelly again and I know I will. That makes me feel a little better I guess.”
“You’re not dead just yet, you stooge,” huffed Joanna. “You were just tired.” More silence followed but the house felt less tense. The tea was drained and the mugs were collected. Joanna and Maggie hugged each other, holding on to prevent the other from leaving.
“I have to go, but if you need someone to help you out making the preserves, give me a call,” said Joanna.
“I will,” said Maggie.
Joanna made sure that to stay a few more seconds to make sure Maggie was okay. After she left the house, she made sure that Maggie’s neighbor Felix would check up on her after she left.
Around 8 o’clock PM, Felix called Joanna. Maggie collapsed while Felix was over. She was in the hospital. Felix urged to visit her; he didn't know how long she would last.
Joanna arrived a little after nine and found Maggie’s room with little trouble. Maggie looked like she was asleep, though Joanna was not sure. She sat in chair next to her friend and saw her chest rising and falling. Joanna relaxed and closed her eyes.
When she awoke, she noticed two things. First, the clock on the nightstand read ten and that someone was standing on the other side of Maggie. It was a familiar face.
Joanna looked at Kelly. She radiated patience, the damage from smoking and drinking gone. Her hair was brilliantly blonde, shining in spite of the darkness on the room. She appeared to be wearing a simple white robe that billowed in the nonexistent wind.
“Told you,” Maggie said weakly.
“Hello ladies. Long time since I saw you two last,” said Kelly. There was something in her voice Joanna couldn't place. It was a cadence, a little like she sung a short little song. Time melted between the three friends as each one asked the other what the other was up to. After everything was said, Kelly took Maggie’s hand. Maggie shook her off.
Maggie smiled and said “Just let me finish with some baking and I’ll be ready to go. Just make sure that they got some hot tea set up when I arrive.”
Kelly nodded and looked at Joanna.
“Jo, it’s late. Go home and get some rest. I can guarantee Maggie will be here for at least a few more months.” With a smile, Joanna relaxed. Kelly spoke the truth. Kelly could have said that she makes bread out of thumbtacks and Joanna would have believed it and eaten it without protest. She got out of her chair as if she was possessed.
“Wait, Jo,” said Maggie. Joanna turned around, breaking her haze. Kelly was gone, not a trace remained. “When I get out of her, I’m going to throw a party.” It was the first time since Kelly’s death that Joanna heard a belly laugh out of Maggie.
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 18:52|
For The Glory of God
It had been three years since the Fourth Crusade, and Charles was bored out of his mind. The military campaign had not actually accomplished much of anything, and Charles was one of the few fortunate Templars to have survived multiple direct military engagements. He had thought then that he would finally have the chance to die for something meaningful, but instead Charles merely returned to his estate in southern France upon the Crusade's conclusion.
Some fleeting purpose appeared when orders came from the Pope that he was to protect Pierre de Castelnau from the Cathars. It was an idiotic instruction to be sure- the Cathars were pacifist and no danger to anyone. Still, the Pope had long tried to reconcile the Cathars with the rest of the Church peacefully. Perhaps these instruction were intended merely for the benefit of appearances.
In any case, at least now Charles had an excuse to do something almost interesting for a change. He ordered his retainers to bring him a representative from the Cathars. They returned with a raggedy old man, who sat on the opposite side of Charles' very classy table. Charles had trouble suppressing his contempt. He had expected a man with some appreciation of finery.
"I need your word," said Charles, "that no harm will come to Pierre de Castelnau."
"Why do you ask this now, my lord?" the old man said. "He has been in our midst for months. He prays every morning at the blessed fountain near the two rivers, and no harm has come to him."
The retainers hiked up their weapons. This was what Charles despised the most about heretics. They had no sense of respect or restraint. The only required answer was a simple "yes", and this pompous old man was asking rude questions. Charles put up his hand and the retainers stood down.
"Is this how you speak to all Templars?"
"Nay, my lord," said the old man. "Only those who are ignorant of our faith."
"I know all about your faith," Charles sneered. "No meat, no sex, no leaders, no purpose."
"It is as you say, my lord," replied the old man. "But what have these principles brought you in life? You have no desire to speak to me, and yet hear you are, listening to my foul words."
"I don't know what I was expecting," Charles said. "Perhaps a divine message from an angel?"
"But I am an angel, my lord."
Charles cocked an eyebrow, and looked to the retainers on either side. They dared show no indication that they noticed or cared about the old man's words.
"I am an angel, as are you, as are your retainers, as is the Pope in Rome, as is Pierre de Castelnau," he continued. "Our presence in the material world is God's punishment for our rebellion against heaven. Only by rejecting this place can we accept our lord and savior Jesus Christ into our hearts. This world is commanded by Satan, who leads us into temptations, and we fight against one another, having no one true lord and God to fight against. We are all miserable, but at least we Cathars will have hope in the thereafter. As can you."
Charles had heard enough. He gave another flick of his wrist, and the retainers were immediately upon the old man, dragging him away to the torture room. Once the heretic had repented of his beliefs, Charles would execute the man personally. It would not be a satisfying day, but at least it would be something.
That night, Charles found himself wandering outside by himself far from home. The old man's heresy had proved surprisingly troublesome. What if Charles were, in fact, an angel? It would explain an awful lot. He had joined the Templars out of boredom. He had participated in four Crusades now, and while that dulled his senses for awhile, there would inevitably be another break in the action, and Charles was once more left stirring in boredom. A fallen angel would fight anyone, provided God was not there. And was that not exactly what Charles was doing, even if he was acting under orders from the Church?
Charles was so lost in his thoughts he did not notice the approach of the highwayman. He was a very large, uncouth figure wielding a club. Charles could feel that much even though he could not see the man in the dead of night.
"Your money or your life."
In an instant, Charles had unsheathed his knife and slashed the highwayman's right arm. He screamed in pain and dropped his club. Charles made another swift movement and kicked the man's legs out. He crushed the man's left foot and twisted the brute's shoulder. Then, grabbing the thug's very own club, Charles destroyed the man's kneecaps.
Normally at this point Charles would have taken his knife to the attacker's throat and put an end to the man's misery. But he was mesmerized by the highwayman's guttural shouts, and his feeble efforts to escape.
"What are you doing, you poor fool?" said Charles. He trampled upon the man's mangled limbs, and the screams intensified. "If you survive this encounter you'll just live as a cripple. But here, being killed by a Templar? You'll receive a Christian burial and a Christian sacrament. Much better than whatever miserable end you would have come to sooner or later."
Yet in spite of these words of comfort, the crushed man kept trying to flee, looking at Charles with an impression of sheer terror. Charles was fascinated by this attitude. It was one he had seen so many times in the Crusades. Charles had always thought that it was because his victims knew they were damned. But now he wondered whether they were truly all angels, completely terrified at the prospect of reuniting with God Almighty, so much so that they would fight any fight rather than concede that the material world was not what Satan had promised them.
Charles shook his head violently and quickly sliced the highwayman's throat. This religious heresy had gone too far. He should have let the retainers murder the old man right at the start. This was the devil's work, and Charles needed guidance. He resolved to sit in quiet contemplation, to lie prostrate before God until he received an answer to put an end to all these heretical doubts.
At sunrise, Charles' eyes opened, and he smiled with the glory of God in the highest. He stood up and, laughing, spread his wings, and flew down to the blessed fountain. Pierre de Castelnau would be there, and Charles would make his knife sing with the adulation of the man's blood. In this way Charles would begin another glorious Crusade, once more bring triumph to the name of the Almighty, and bring proof to the Cathar lie that there was nothing under the sun but the self-hating servants of Satan, who would fight each other in lieu of a heavenly host.
Some Guy TT fucked around with this message at 19:07 on Apr 6, 2014
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 19:05|
Goddamnit I only changed the word count.
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 19:07|
Reapers, Sowers (1192 words)
When I got to Sarah’s house after class, the angel’s car was already in her driveway. He even answered the door. Tried to tell me that Sarah “didn’t want to see me right now.” I could have punched him right in his smug angelic visage. Too bad Sarah would’ve been furious.
“Can you tell her,” I said, gritting my teeth, “to call me later?”
“Absolutely, good buddy,” said the angel, smiling beatifically. Birds chirped exultantly in the cherry trees. “Consider it done.”
Then, he shut the door in my face.
How could I possibly compete? He fell from heaven a couple months back, right into the varsity soccer championships. Our Eagles were 2-3 with the Wolverines and there were fifteen seconds left in the game. Then all of a sudden a heavenly chorus lifted up its voices in song and something I thought was a meteor thumped down right at the toes of our midfielder’s cleats. Suffice to say the ref called the game for the visitors after that.
As the angel eventually told us, the goalie for the Wolverines was about to find out that he had adenocarcinoma. “He never played soccer again,” said the angel, shaking his head. “I thought I’d give him one last good game.”
The problem was when he started palling around with Sarah. I’d walk into the cafeteria and see her sitting in a pool of heavenly light. I’d try to give her a ride home and she’d be waving goodbye from the back seat of the angel’s chariot. Once she swore he hadn’t come home with her, but I snuck upstairs and caught a bevy of snow-white doves fluttering out of the window.
That kind of thing starts to get to a guy, you know?
Sarah and I were perfect for each other. The problem was, no matter what I did to win her back, the angel could do better. I volunteered with her at the soup kitchen; the angel manifested enough loaves and fishes to keep them stocked for six months. The angel could be better than I ever could, I reasoned. What he couldn’t be was worse.
Now Sarah had this self-proclaimed “boyfriend.” Biff Hamilton. He actually left flowers in her mailbox the first day of every month. “He’s so sweet,” Sarah would say. “I don’t understand why you always glare at him like that.” It was brave of her, trying to keep her chin up and all, but I could hear her desperation. If I could just get Biff to leave her alone once and for all, she’d be all over me. So here was my plan: I’d invite everyone out to go bowling on Sunday, and then I’d clock Biff in the nose right in front of Sarah and everyone. The angel couldn’t possibly counter that move.
When I walked into the bowling alley on Sunday the kids were all standing in a circle. In the center was Biff. He was lying on the floor, pocket protector askew and glasses snapped. Blood trickled out of his nose. The angel stood over him with his arms crossed. My thunder: stolen.
“I punish the wicked too, you know. Acts 12:23,” the angel said, seeing my face. “Biff let Andy Harbison copy his chemistry midterm. And don’t even get me started on what he wants to do to her.” He nodded at Sarah, who was kneeling over Biff’s limp body with a horrified look. She must have been embarrassed to learn of his ungentlemanly intentions.
I shared a lane with the two of them, Sarah and the angel. He kept one wing wrapped protectively around her shoulder while she sniffled. Normally Sarah was great at bowling, but today she kept winging the ball into the gutter. “Guess we should have done bumper bowling, huh?” I joked, but Sarah didn’t even laugh.
“Let me help,” said the angel, and wrapped his arms around her. “You just pull the ball back like this -”
I glared at the back of his halo.
But then, Sarah elbowed him away. “Will you just stop?” she said. “Stop. Knock it off.”
My heart leapt. “Yeah,” I said. “Knock it off. She doesn’t want your help.”
The angel glowered at me. I rose to my feet, meaning to give him a good shove. As I did, though, Sarah grabbed her purse and stormed out of the bowling alley. “Now look what you did,” I said to him. I was off my game, after that. When I spooked Richie Valentine and made him drop a ball on his foot, I couldn’t even smile.
That night I got a text message from my chem lab partner. “OMG sarah just broke up with the angel!” it read. “turn on the news. he FREAKED OUT…... HUGE fire on the soccer field” There were no injuries, said the newscaster; on Sunday night, the school grounds were empty. Repeated lightning strikes of this magnitude, though, were less likely than one person winning the lottery five times in a row.
I got to school early the next morning. Of course the angel was already there, helping freshmen with their homework while shining with the eternal light of heaven. “I think you ought to stay away from Sarah,” I said to him. “It’s obvious that you’re no good for her.”
The angel looked dimly down at me, adjusting his flaming sword in its scabbard. “Is that so?” he said.
“Yeah, it’s so,” I said. “She doesn’t want you.”
I noticed, studying the angel’s face, that he had a fresh black eye. Had he and Sarah fought? I was half expecting to be punched myself. Yet he just looked at me incuriously, and after a moment, he smiled.
“Fine,” he said. “Fair’s fair. She’s all yours. All yours,” he repeated. “You deserve each other.”
“Now that’s the right answer, buddy,” I said, holding out my hand to shake. He took it warmly.
It’s funny, but for someone so interested in vengeance, the angel never caught up to Sarah. She worried about it more than I did, I think. She seemed tense for a long time. When I asked her out the next day, she stammered something that almost sounded like ‘no way’ before changing her mind and saying ‘yes’. When I touched her breasts in the back row at the movie theater that weekend, I could feel the muscles in her chest twitching. I’d sometimes catch her crying when she thought I wasn’t paying attention. This only lasted a few months, though, and I rubbed her shoulders and carried her books until she stopped acting so upset. After all, she had nothing to be distressed about. We were the perfect couple.
It’s been six years now, and our wedding is tomorrow: the happiest day in a man’s life. Neither of us could sleep. I’m sitting up writing this, reminiscing. Sarah’s praying in the other room. Myself, I usually just say a brief Hello to God on Sundays, but she has much more conviction in her faith. I can’t make out her words, behind closed doors, but I bet she’s asking God for marital bliss.
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 20:36|
Mixed Blessing (897 words)
Suzanne broke through the crowd and through the bathroom door and through the cubicle door and threw up. She slung her handbag behind her as the door swung shut. The bag burst open. Her make-up and jewellery, her phone and her purse, the pregnancy test and the condom spilled out onto the tiles.
She leant back from the bowl, cold sweat racing down her forehead, and sat down amongst her belongings.
“gently caress,” she groaned, wiping her mouth with the arm of her fur coat. “gently caress.” The light above the cubicle flickered, and Suzanne winced. She felt around for the contents of her bag, freezing when she touched the condom wrapper. The foil was crumpled and torn but it was still in there. She managed to stand, despite her shaking legs, and flush the toilet. She tried to throw the wrapper in after it, but missed. It landed on a spot of vomit that had also missed its target. Her phone vibrated on the floor. She collapsed back down and began to cry.
“Hey!” someone yelled outside the cubicle, banging on the door. “You done in there yet? Some of us were actually in line to use the bathroom!” She sounded young, drunk and angry. Suzanne body rocked as she tried to suppress her sobs.
“Yo, shut the gently caress up! Can't you hear she's upset?” piped up whoever was in the cubicle next to Suzanne's. It was followed by a hand appearing beneath the partition, holding a screwed-up ball of toilet paper. “Here,” she whispered.
“Thanks,” Suzanne croaked. Groping behind her again, she found her body spray and used it liberally around the bowl, trying to exorcise the smell of puke. She held the tissue to her nose and blew into it.
The light flickered once more, and when it came back on it was dazzling, brighter than bright. She started to feel dizzy again. Out of the light, the angel stepped. Like Suzanne, barefoot. Unlike Suzanne, not having discarded a pair of high heels behind him. Instead he trailed a pair of wings, magnificent even in cramped quarters. When he spoke, he spoke only to her: “Do not be afraid, Suzanne, because your prayer has been heard! You will bear you a son with your husband Zachary, and you shall name him John.”
She took her hands away from her eyes and looked at the angel properly for the first time. Suzanne felt very self-conscious of her hair, her bare feet, the broken strap on her dress.
“Wait, what?” she said.
“And you will have joy and gladness,” the angel continued, “and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.” He paused, looking down at the specks of sick that dotted the cubicle. The angel shuffled his pale, glowing feet atop the cistern. “Ahem. He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”
“E-Excuse me?” Suzanne continued to squint at the white light that seemed to pour from every part of the angel, his glorious wings, his china-white skin, his flowing robes at odds with the chipped tiles, graffiti-strewn partitions and stained toilet. “What's...what's happening?”
“He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”
The thumping bass outside the bathroom shook the cubicle walls. The angel stood silently, perched atop the toilet, calm and still. Suzanne remained sat on the floor, trying to calculate how many drinks she had had that night, and if this had been the strangest part of it so far. Slowly, she stood, steadying herself on the door. “That...that doesn't make any sense,” she said, her lips dry. “How would that happen? Me and Zack, we tried, and now...”
And the angel said to her in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.” Suzanne opened her mouth to speak, and he continued: “But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
Something burned through her gullet and Suzanne got ready to leap towards the toilet again, but nothing came. The light flickered and when she looked up, the angel was gone. She slowly collected her things and flushed the toilet once more.
“Christ, what were you doing in there?” asked the young blonde who was waiting outside the cubicle. Suzanne brushed past her, out of the bathroom and then out of the club.
She pulled her phone out of her bag: three missed calls and two texts. Zack asking where she was, if she was coming back, making promises about what they could do. Luke asking why she had left in such a hurry and telling her to come back to him.
Her hand was frozen above the screen. Slowly, she let her hand drop to her chest. She stared at it, and then at the phone, her face illuminated in the dark of the street, silent.
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 21:35|
Just over FOUR HOURS remain to submit!
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 21:53|
Concessions - 1196w
Donna and Henry stood in front of two empty stadium seats, high in the bleachers amidst a roaring ballgame crowd, wings folded and PDAs in hand. A father and a little girl climbed up towards them; the father sipped a beer and the girl hugged a catcher’s mitt. Donna poked Henry and pointed. “Code three-twenty-four’s a daddy-daughter bonding incident, right?”
Henry nodded and closed his personal-deliverance-assistant. “Ready, rookie?”
The father and daughter walked through the two angels and sat in the empty seats. The father set his beer down by his feet and smiled at his daughter. “Now, honey, what are you going to do if there’s a home run?”
The girl giggled and held the mitt open with both hands. “Catch it!”
“But you’ll drop it, sweetie. If the man hits the ball, give the glove to daddy and then we can play catch with our new ball.”
The girl pouted. “Okay.”
Henry patted Donna on the shoulder. “Seems clear-cut to me.”
“I’m not following.”
“The Chief’ll send a fly ball right here.” He opened his PDA, thumbed it. “That little girl catches it, one thing leads to another, she grows up to be the first lady-commissioner of baseball.” He snapped the device closed. “Do this enough, and His plan is easy to read, rookie.”
“I have a name, detective.”
“Okay, Donna, walk me through what you’d do.”
Donna shielded her eyes, stared at the field. “First idea, we lift the little girl up and—“
Henry snapped his fingers. “Stop. Too obvious, and she won’t believe she caught it herself.” He sighed. “If we do everything for them, they won’t learn anything.”
“We curve the ball so the girl catches it.”
“Wrong again. She’ll see that too. Give up?”
Donna rolled her eyes. “What would you do, detective?”
“If you wanna find a good solution, you gotta take in the details.” Henry smirked and pointed at the dad’s beer, perched beside the man’s feet. “At the crack of the bat, tip the cup over. Trust me, when you’ve been doing this as long as I have, it’ll be obvious.”
Crack! A homer zoomed towards the stands. Donna hesitated, then leaned through the father and nudged his drink. Beer sloshed down the stepped stadium floor. The man swore and grabbed for his cup. The little girl looked at her dad, at the ball, and held the glove open and the ball slapped into the mitt’s palm and she fell backwards, squealing.
The father spun around. “Honey, are you okay? Oh sweetie, nicely done!”
Henry grinned at Donna and held up his PDA. “Saved. Told ya, rookie.”
The two angels faded through the jubilant crowd and walked towards the exit. Donna thumbed at her PDA.
Henry glanced at her. “What’cha up to?”
“Nothing.” She slipped it into a pocket. “Checking where the next incident is.”
“And?” Henry’s phone buzzed. He flicked it open. “Henry.”
“You somewhere private?” asked the lieutenant. “You screwed the pooch again.”
“Hold on. Donna, you go ahead, I’ll catch up.” He phased through a wall into a bathroom stall.
A uniformed cop sat on the pot, phone in hand. “I’m off-shift in a moment, honey. Can you pick me up outside at the front gate?”
Henry ignored the man. “What d’you mean? That was a fine intervention.”
“I’m still getting complaints,” said the lieutenant. “Donna requested a new partner.”
“C’mon, Donna and I are a great team.”
“Then why’d she just put in for a transfer? This is the third rookie you’ve chased away. If she doesn’t rescind this by day’s end, you’ll be guarding apples.” The line cut out.
Henry swore and checked his PDA for his next assignment. Twenty-thirteen slash fifteen, murder and theft, down at the ticket counter. Henry spread his wings, flew out through Anaheim Stadium’s walls and landed on the street beside Donna.
Beside them, two ski-masked men huddled around the ticket counter. One had a gun stuck down the his jeans. Sunlight glinted off bulletproof glass and, behind it, a pimply ticket salesman emptied a till into a garbage bag. Donna was peering into the men’s pockets.
“Jesus Christ,” said Henry. “Rook— Donna, don’t do anything sudden.”
“I got this one, Henry. Or should I run it by you first?”
Henry hesitated, then stood back. “All yours.”
The first robber, shivering, drew his pistol and shoved barrel against glass. “Hurry up!”
The other smacked Pistol upside the head. “Be cool! You wanna be Blood family, you don’t do anything I don’t tell you. Now keep an eye out.”
Pistol backed away from the counter and, gun raised, looked around the parking lot. He shuddered and muttered, “Shoulda listened to my aunt and went to med school.”
A cop rounded the corner, stopped and ducked against a wall. “L.A.P.D., drop your weapons!”
Pistol jumped and his gun fired. A bullet pinged off concrete. The officer drew a taser, stepped out and aimed. Donna waved a hand. Blinding light reflected off the teller window into Pistol’s eyes. He shrieked, fell backwards, and his gun fired again. The officer toppled, leg gushing blood, and sirens blared in the distance.
“poo poo, new kid, you hosed this one hard.” The other robber sprinted away.
Henry bent over the cop. “Donna, what in heaven’s name were you thinking? We’re not supposed make people shoot each other.”
Donna, white-faced, covered her mouth. “Sorry, Henry, I thought if he couldn’t see—“
“Doesn’t matter. We don’t save that perp, he’s going down to the hot town.“ He flipped open his PDA, dialed. “Get me the Chief. No, I don’t care if He’s busy, this is an emergency! We screwed up an intervention, and He needs to snap His fingers and patch this poo poo up. He’s gotta give us a second chance, or we’re gonna lose a soul.” He paused. “I see.” He tossed the device away. “poo poo.”
Pistol had dropped his gun and was staring down at the cop, face screwed up. “poo poo, I’m sorry, man. I didn’t mean - I was just tryna scare you, dude.” He glanced over his shoulder, bit his lip. “Goddamn fuckin’ prison, man!” The sirens drew nearer. Pistol took a step away from the bleeding cop.
Donna raised a hand and Henry grabbed it. “What’s your wise idea this time?”
She pushed him away. “He’s gonna run in two seconds. What’re you gonna do, whisper ‘thou shalt not kill’ in his ear? I checked the details, Henry. Trust me.”
He let go.
Donna reached into Pistol’s pocket, tapped his wallet and it fell to the ground. Photos, cash and cards scattered. Pistol swore, crouched and shuffled his stuff into a pile. A shaft of sunlight fell on a faded Red Cross certification and a photograph of an old lady.
Pistol stopped, looked at the photo of his aunt, at the officer, at the card. He crossed himself, tore off his shirt and pressed it against the officer’s wound. “You’re gonna be okay, man. I got you.”
Henry glanced at Donna. She held up her PDA: Saved. He smiled and extended a hand. “Nice one, partner.” She shook it.
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 22:28|
A star burned at the end of the cigarette. Hydrogen fused into helium into heavier elements into a slag of iron plasma. Something like tobacco singed and smoldered and something like smoke blew out through the dark. An ember fell and a coronal mass exploded, burning away the fledgling atmosphere of an orbiting world.
The fingers held the cigarette unsteadily. They drew it back to the lips, which paused to consider before taking a short drag. Hot smoke bloomed; full of inspiration and a hailstorm of chemical life, disassembled. The finger flicked the butt and the Oort cloud tore away to fly into the void.
“I’m supposed to guard them.”
A muddy pool bubbled as a geyser erupted. The hurricanes split the sky with lightning as they whorled. A bolt drew a drunken line of ions up from the mud and down from the clouds. A singular moment, the very last one never to be remembered. In the mud, a strand of twisted acid stuck together, stuck to another and copied itself. The reaction sped up, the mud sloughed into the sea. It sank, sticking and copying and spreading. It shaped into bubbles in the sea.
At the bottom, the reaction clung to a vent. In total darkness, the world’s womb split and nursed the life on seething carbon.
“I thought entropy was supposed to break things down.”
The cigarette was nearly half burned now. In the bar, others puffed. Clusters of sparkling coals topped off hookahs. Thick stogies, a dozen times the size of the cigarette, smoldered sternly. Not one patron could remember the last time the Bartender had said a word. The Bartender just poured the drinks.
A nebula of whisky spilled over the lips. The nebula painted the night sky of the world with a streak of red-gold, near enough to be seen by the first set of eyes to crawl back onto the land. The muck stuck to her fins, and she drew a breath, surprised to feel comfortable. She crawled up the beach. Crawled under a plant that was like seaweed but at its top was no floating sac mooring it to the ceiling of the sea. A ceiling that now, seemed so easy to breach. She shoveled mud with her fins to make a burrow. Looking up at that streak of ichor in the sky, she opened herself. Her eggs spilled into the mud, then she coughed out a breath and died for them.
Other patrons contemplated their orders. They listened to the music playing, iit had played since drinks immemorial. There wasn’t anything before that steady hiss of modulated static. That sense of time was only for the Bartender to understand. For the patrons in the bar, it could only be approached, divided by half and then by half again. Forever getting closer to the beginning but never reaching it.
Laser shone out from the jukebox in tune with the music. They drew lines and shapes around the bar. Charged photons to create art, light which did not illuminate but illustrate. The light vibrated much faster than other waves. Faster than the frenetic dancers. Far removed from the infrared, the waves could pierce through smoke and sheer barriers.
That light extinguished life on the world. Nothing understood. Nothing expected it. A torrent of gamma rays hurled forth from some pulsar at the other end of the universe, where the galaxies spun with violent avarice and black holes consumed greedily and what they discarded fled with all the speed and terror due it. Gamma rays fled that terrible maw without regard for where they went, only that they should be away. And the world, small and blue and just now beginning to think burned away when they arrived.
“Something always survives. They cannot be quelled.”
Life came back up from the sea. Different this time. Hardened. In bare eons, the life had conquered its world, and reached the endless deserts within its endless land bordered by its endless sea. The life flourished. The sun churned. The smoke drew into the lips through the cigarette and blew away again and thoughts came.
They thought of themselves as a family. Their leader kept them safe from harm, their mother showed them where to dig for roots with horn and tusk and where to drink water when the days grew long. They sang songs because it made them feel closer. Sometimes the young one thought about scattering seeds along the river, and then coming back later to eat the grasses that would grow. Could the river be drawn out to make more good places to eat grasses?
Never mind. Evening came much too early. A second sun blazed through the sky and then everything was on fire. The young one nuzzled its mother as it died.
“It is not my place to ask why. It is not my place to ask why.”
They poured the contents of the jug into hollowed gourds. It smelled of hops and honey. They ate onions and ground makeup to shield themselves from the sun. When the day came, the masters came with whips. They stacked stones and praised God.
Here, they had reached the bottom of the world. Though they did not know it, if they could go any farther past the jagged cliffs, they would reach a frozen continent, but there could be no home there. This was the end of the world.
Atoms split. A city vanished. This was the end of the world.
“They’re so small. Don’t they understand how useless this is? They could have such joyous lives but all they choose to do? is unleash new horrors and tortures. It is not my place to ask why. Protect them. They are praising God.”
The sign said so. It clearly delineated that the man holding it was blessed by God. He drove the sign into the man that was not, and God saved the sign. Red guts spilled onto the floor. A decade later, the man holding the sign was a joke. The survivors of that day proved it to a courthouse that did not have God’s words scrivened on its door.
“They always survive. Now they want to spread past their world. They fear that they have consumed it.”
The angel looked to the Bartender, who was lighting another patron’s cigarette.
The cigarette inched closer to the butt. The lips took a long drag.
“That’s all for it then.”
The cigarette tipped down, rushed toward the sand at the bottom of the ash tray. The world spun, unknowing. The star would blink out, it would not survive. Nothing else to hurt.
The patron stopped, rested the cigarette on the lip of the tray. It burned low now, it would extinguish itself when it reached the end. The angel got up, and walked away.
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 22:54|
THREE HOURS REMAIN, HURRY THE gently caress UP
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 23:00|
Angel of Light
The last thing Michael could remember was his humble room and a crucifix above his bed. Then there was darkness. For a moment Michael felt abandoned by God, remorseful even for the life he spent serving Him. Only the bright light shining through the dark returned him confidence and gave him sense of direction. In front of him was an angel and Michael thought he knew the being.
‘Hello, old friend! That’s it for me then, eh?’ said Michael with relief and added with haste, ‘I was ready, by the way. I was eagerly awaiting for this day to come, to tell you the truth.’
‘I know the truth, Michael. That’s why you see me now,’ answered the angel in calm voice and a faint smile crossed his lips. ‘Now, follow me.’
It took some time for Michael to get used to moving again. It felt like he was going forward, but at the same it was the only thing he could perceive. Was he walking, flying, crawling and how fast he moved through this illuminating whiteness – he couldn’t tell. Michael was awestruck by the mystery of spiritual motion, so grand and unconceivable it seemed. To keep his mind off it he decided to do something more trivial and talk to the angel.
‘It was you, though, wasn’t it? You are him. I remember your every visit since the first time we met.’
Although Michael was now far behind, he could hear every word of the angel, as if the sound was coming from every direction.
‘Yes, Michael. It was the day of your daughter’s wedding.’ Something had changed in the angel’s usual composed tone. Michael took it for fondness of the memory.
‘If you can even call it that,’ uttered back Michael. ‘”Civil marriage”? A mockery of matrimony perpetuated by state! Luckily, you came and helped me see the real meaning of all this.’
Michael tried to catch up with the angel to see his face again, but the angel kept the distance.
‘No need to thank anyone, Michael. I only came to you because you were of the right mind.’
Michael knew the angel was right. Long before the fateful day Michael already despised vanity of the world and people who enjoyed it. When he stopped conforming to this world’s pattern to live a secluded life of prayer and angelic visions, it was easy. He had no real friends, he felt no obligation to support his daughter betrothed to an unbeliever, or to support anyone inside the world for that matter. All so-called ‘works of mercy’ never did anything to bring a person out of the world’s sin; not through mercy of others did Michael get where he was.
While Michael was contemplating on the angel’s words, there was no sound. To break this oppressive silence he asked the angel, ‘What’s happened to my daughter, anyway? I kept her transgressions out of my life, but I guess there’s no harm in it now.’
‘Do you remember the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Michael?’ The angel was now far away and his wings only moved faster,
‘Do you mean I’m on my way to Purgatory?’ asked Michael, dumbfounded.
‘There’s no need for that, no. Think chapter 7, verse 16. Turns out a wife can save a husband.’ The angel’s voice turned into many different voices. Some spoke with sadness, some spoke with anger, yet most spoke with scorn. ‘You, Michael, on the other hand, couldn’t save even yourself.’
Shocked, Michael tried to say the Lord’s Prayer, but couldn’t find the words. It was as though the whole notion of language changed leaving no possibility for expressing divine presence. Michael once again gazed upon the angel’s figure in a distance only to see it dissolving into the purest light.
‘Your kind say that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, but I am Bringer of Light. The light that blinds you, the light that will burn your soul forever.’
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 23:35|
In the Wind (1184 words)
At some point in the night, an owl crashed through the kitchen bay windows. None of us heard it.
The next morning, after discovering the mess, Anna and I cleaned up the glass and put a tarp over the window. I dug a small hole for the owl outside, next to the ivy in the back yard. Cameron gave a six-year-old's eulogy. "I wish he had seen our window, and I hope before that he ate a lot of mice."
Anna took Cameron back inside to get ready, and I filled the grave.
We took him to school together that morning. As we pulled away, she said, “So what the hell?”
“We slept through a window breaking.”
I looked out the window. "Owls are pretty silent, I guess.”
“Doesn’t this worry you? What if that had been a burglar? What if someone actually came in after the owl, while we were asleep?”
I considered that for a moment. “We didn’t wake up when a creature came crashing through glass, so yeah, we probably won’t wake up if a brick goes through it.”
“Thanks for that.”
Just before we turned into our neighborhood, we passed a house with a tarp weighted on the roof, shimmering in the wind.
“poo poo,” said Anna. "We've got to fix that window.”
I called out for the morning and stayed home to wait for the repairmen. There were a few feathers still scattered around the kitchen, cast in blue from the sunlight filtering through the covered window. I cleaned up the feathers in a hurry, not wanting to be in there any longer than I had to, and sat on the porch where I couldn’t see the tarp. I sat and listened to music to drown out the sound of it in the breeze. Flap flap flap.
The window guys were late. “Hey man, I’m sorry about the time, got a lot of calls today.” the driver said as he walked up. He nodded at the tarp. “So, busted window, huh? Kid playing in the house?”
“An owl crashed through it last night,” I said. “Well. I say crashed, but. I guess we only found it this morning.”
“Hell of a thing to sleep through. Well! We’ll have that fixed up in an hour.”
They finished early, leaving in a confused rush. They left the stickers on the glass, but I just made a note to take them off later. I threw myself in the car and drove off, forgetting my lunch on the kitchen counter.
I picked Cameron up from after-school that evening. "Hey bud!"
"How was school?"
He didn't say anything else until after we passed the house with the tarp on its roof.
"Was, um, have you ever seen an angel?" he asked
"No, bud, I haven't." I looked at him in the rearview mirror. "Why?"
"Well, Shanna said an angel visited her last night."
"Yeah. She said that it told her that her mom wants to see her again."
"Is her mom gone?"
"Uh huh. Shanna says that her grandma told her that her mom left."
"Um, how did she go away?"
"Her grandma told her that she went to Georgia with her boyfriend. But the angel told her that she didn't want to leave!"
I was thinking about how to respond when Cameron continued. "Dad?"
"Shanna says the angel was owls."
"Do, uh, do you mean an owl? Just one?"
"No, owls! It was three owls outside her window, and it talked to her."
"How did they talk to her, bud?"
"I don't know!" he said. "It's an angel!"
“Did Cameron say anything to you about angels?” Anna asked me later that night, after we had put him to bed.
“Yeah. He told me something about a girl in his class, and talking to owls. Who were angels, I think.” I cocked my head. “Why?”
“I think he told me the same story. But you know what he asked first?”
“‘If an angel dies, does that mean that something good won’t happen?’”
That night I awoke to crashing glass. I tore myself out of bed and ran down the hallway. As I crossed the living room, bare-handed and naked to my underwear, I saw broken glass twinkling on the kitchen floor. I stopped on the carpet just before the threshold, looked around, and reached over to turn on the light.
The window was unbroken. The floor was clean. Just outside the window, brought to life by the kitchen lights flooding outside, two black eyes stared at me from a heart-shaped white face. I stared back. A year or ten seconds later, the face turned away, and silent wings carried it beyond the glass. I gazed into the empty window for much longer before finally turning to go back to bed.
Anna hadn’t stirred.
It was my turn to take Cameron to school the next morning. As we walked to the car, I looked up into the trees. Cameron saw me looking around, and said “What?” His face lit up. “Did you hear an angel?”
I turned back and said, “No. Just some birds.”
The air in the car was stifling, so I rolled the windows down as I pulled away from the school. The radio was off and I lost myself in thought. They weren’t coherent thoughts. Just the memory, or the dream, of the owl flying off into the night. The glass disappearing from the tile floor as soon as the lights came on.
Flap flap flap.
I snapped to, and found myself speeding past the house with the tarp on its roof. I was going too fast to make the turn into our neighborhood. I braked and pulled onto the shoulder, rocks pinging off the undercarriage.
Sitting in the car, I listened.
Flap flap flap.
In the mirror, I saw that one of the corners of the tarp had come unweighted and was pounding the roof of the house. That tarp had been there for weeks. I didn’t know the owner.
The driveway was empty, and the windows on the near side of the house, under the tarp, were boarded.
I got out of the car, paused, and walked with unknown purpose toward the house through the empty lot next door. The wind picked up, and the tarp was fighting now, about to fly off. Thud! Thud! Thud!
The wind died and the tarp settled back onto the roof, nothing left for the struggle. The thudding kept going, steady and urgent. That wasn’t a tarp. There was another sound underneath it, something muffled.
I ran up to one of the boarded windows. The thudding was just on the other side. I pulled at a board, felt it release and found myself on the ground. I pulled myself back up and peered into the space I had made.
Two brown eyes stared at me, wide and trembling. Her mouth was covered with tape, and her hair was wild. The wind picked back up.
Flap flap flap.
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 23:51|
|# ? Jun 26, 2022 16:43|
The Chronicle of Clifford Johnson Part 6: Black on Blaq Crime
The flimsy door to the cargo hold might as well have been made from pressed cracker crumbs when it met the angry boot of Clifford Johnson. Particle board splinters were still falling like the cocaine dust riding the air when he stormed the room. He drew his magnum, a gleaming silver affair that he bought down in Mexico with the name “Manuel” carved on its barrel, and eyed the running drug cutters. He lined his sights against a woman wearing torn and disheveled clothing. In the seconds Clifford saw her face, he noticed a large bruise covering her eye. She was here by force, he knew, so instead he ultimately turned his gun on an overweight bald man running down the corridor. Momentarily, he was back in Detroit, back in uniform, walking that thin blue line. Pulling the trigger was easy.
He wrapped his big hands around the fat man’s neck. “Where’s Blaqface?” he demanded.
“You shot my loving foot!” the man shouted.
“And you’re bleeding on mine. Want to lose the other one?” Clifford asked.
Clifford began interrogating one-foot. The old container ship was huge, and Blaqface could be hidden anywhere, if he wasn’t running away outright like the coward he was. The fat man developed a thousand-yard stare, and for a moment, Clifford thought he might have killed another one. No, this wasn’t the look of a death mask falling upon chubby cheeks. This was the look of a revelation, of relief, of salvation.
With a mighty swing of his biceps, Clifford yanked the fat man in a crescent and drew Manuel, turning face to face with the dripping oily secretions of Blaqface himself.
Clifford held the man like a shield and shouted, “freeze motherfucker!”
“Well, well, well,” he began, “if it isn’t my old partner, big Clifford Johnson.” His suit was all black, but even against the midnight fabric, his inky face drippings stood out like oil slicks against tarmac. “You know, Cliff, isn’t it enough that you ruined my life? Isn’t it enough that your recklessness caused me to die in that factory? Leave me alone.”
“You didn’t die in that factory, Tyler,” Clifford said, sliding his shades down the bridge of his nose. He locked eyes with the monster.
“Tyler White is dead Clifford,” Blaqface said, lifting his pistol, “soon you’ll be with him.”
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
But before Blaqface had even cocked the hammer on his sidearm, Clifford had unloaded five rounds into his tar soaked face.
But each of Clifford’s five crumpled shells were only pockmarks against the dripping tar. Blaqface removed them as he approached the body; the single shot he fired went clean through, a killing blow.
“Clifford, wake up.”
Clifford opened his eyes and saw the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen leaning over him, skin like chocolate, hair like silk, body like drat.
“I must be dead,” he said, “because you are an angel.”
“You are,” she nodded.
“And are you?”
She nodded again.
“So this is heaven?” he asked, sitting up. Clifford brushed the grass under his hands. He was in a field.
“No, you aren’t in heaven,” the woman said, “not yet at least. This is the middling ground. You know it as the Garden of Eden.”
She reached out to him, offering a hand to help him up. Clifford took it, and held on longer than he needed.
“Mr. Johnson,” she asked, “are you still feeling weak?”
“Baby, you have no idea. What do you say that you and I find a bush and make some original sin ourselves?”
Angel led Clifford behind a wide oak tree and pushed him against the bark. She was close enough that he could smell her apricot perfume. Was it even perfume? He wondered. She leaned into him. Clifford pursed his lips while Angel caressed his cheek. She turned his head, whispering in a singsong alto, “There’s no time; he’s looking for you.”
“Who?” He asked.
“We’ve got to send you back.”
She pulled him to a nearby river bank. “This is way over my authority, but I overheard him talking, and he said he is going to keep you here, Clifford. You are needed amongst the living.”
“Who is going to keep me?”
He watched from the other side of the river before calling to them, “Me.” Clifford looked to the other bank; he was wearing white, blood stained robes.
“I am disappointed in you, Beatrice,” he said, stepping onto the glass-like waters. “You are one of my disciples,” he walked towards her, “you are supposed to trust me.”
“My lord,” she said, “I do.”
He brushed a long dreadlock out of his face. “You don’t, my dear.” He lifted his thorny crown. “I wear this crown,” he flashed his palms, “I bear these wounds.” He was next to them now. “Take my hands.”
Beatrice took his gentle left, Clifford took his right; “I’m a big fan of your work,” he added.
“As am I of yours,” the man replied. “Which is why I am going to send you back to kill that honky son of a bitch.”
“My man,” Clifford smiled.
“But my lord, the plan I overheard,” Beatrice began.
“It was all part of the plan, my dear.”
He held their hands with a gentle and locked grip, neither Clifford nor Beatrice could move. The waters began to stir rapidly, and soon they were ripping and tearing away the bank under their four feet. Still they couldn’t move. He held their hands until they slipped into the waters below.
He woke up to splinters dancing on the air. He was in a wooden container, and someone was tearing into it with a hammer. Nimble fingers pried off the top. The woman with the black eye looked in.
“Clifford?” She asked in a grizzled contralto.
A voice echoed in the steel hull. “Someone get the boss, Shae’s lost her drat mind! She’s trying to break him out!”
Clifford let Beatrice take the lead as they ran down the winding corridors. The guards were close behind, but Beatrice, or was it Shae, knew where Blaqface was. She took him to the bridge. Before they entered he grabbed her by the throat. The office door yielded as easily as the one before.
“Don’t move, Blaqface,” Clifford demanded, holding the Beatrice like a shield.
“You?” He asked “You must be the god damned devil.”
“I just have friends in high places.”
Blaqface inched his way towards his gun on the counter beside him.
“Don’t think about it,” Clifford said, cocking back the hammer of his magnum.
“You’re out, remember?” Blaqface said with a flash of his rotting teeth.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
The bullets went straight through. Clifford leered over the aerated head of his former partner, avoiding the seeping tar pooling from his wounds.
He holstered the weapon. Jesus, its inscription read. Clifford wrapped Beatrice in his thick arms.
“Want to get out of here?” She asked with a kiss.
“Sorry about Eden,” Clifford added. “Sorry about getting you in trouble with the big guy.”
“Honey,” she said, grabbing his junk, “you’re the only big guy I need.”
|# ? Apr 6, 2014 23:58|