I could totally afford to preface this if I wanted to gently caress da police
“I’ve loved you for years.”
I’m not the smallest bit surprised to see her reaction: a receding smile, a nervous twist of the ring on her finger. I feel guilty. I know what her answer will be.
“Sid… I’m getting married in June.”
“I mean, why are you telling me this?”
I shrug. “I’ll be leaving soon. I guess, I don’t know, I felt like you oughta know. Sorry.
She looks to the ground.
“I didn’t want you to feel uncomfortable.”
The truth is, I really didn’t. I hope one day she’ll forgive me.
We spend a few more minutes being awkward. I give her an awkward hug. She awkwardly smiles at me. I leave the park, and I’m sure that everyone notices how awkward I’m walking.
The hardest part over, I stroll along the road on the outer city limits. Sid Ovenhal is a man who likes long walks. There are only a few houses along the street, situated in respectful distance to one another, surrounded by grass and fields. In the distance, a group of supermarkets and stores are huddled around a huge parking lot. The buildings bathe in the warm evening light.
I sit in the dirt next to the road, on top of the slope that extends away from the the city limit. The sun sets in the distance. The occasional whosh of passing traffic feels soothing.
I pull out my smartphone and open my ToDo-list.
Farewell party. Check. Visit mom and dad at cemetery. Check. Tell Mr. Hammel he’s always been an rear end in a top hat. Check. I check off “Confess to Teri”. My finger hovers over the final entry. “Watch sunset”. My train isn’t leaving anytime soon. I can watch for a few more minutes. Sid Ovenhal always liked sunsets.
The room is bright, spacious and cool. It looks surgically clean. The chair in the middle reminds me an uncomfortable lot of those you find at the dentist. I take a seat. Next to me, a door slides open and three men walk in.
The balding one, in a lab coat, with rimmed glasses, speaks first. He has a German accent. “This experimental procedure, if successful, will be irreversible. Your memory cannot be restored. If unsuccessful, it can have severe consequences. Heavy anxiety. Permanent brain damage. Death. Do you understand?”
“I do,” I say. “It’s a risk, even when it works.” That’s why they pay me. The other man, handsome and groomed, in a suit, lawyer-type, now gives me a clipboard and a grave look. I sign the paper without reading it. If they wanted to cheat me, I couldn’t very much stop them.
While this is happening, the third man, a young lab assistant by the looks of it, uncovers my chest and attaches electrodes to my body. He throws a questioning glance to the scientist, who gives him a nod, and my left arm is injected with some kind of solution and hooked up to a catheter that leads into the chair.
“Well then, Mr. Breckman. Good luck,” he says and the two recede back through the door.
Breckman. I will like that name. Breckman, not a loser. Breckman, new in town. Breckman, not unhappy in love. That’s what they think. That’s what they’ll tell me once I've forgotten the truth.
A bright light shines on me from the ceiling. “Commence the procedure,” I hear a German-sounding voice roar from the speakers. Giant robotic arms approach my face with a mechanic whirr. There are multiple strobes and lamps attached to them. As they near I realize the inevitability of the coming events and panic, only for a second. Then a dark curtain falls over my heart and an odd calamity sets in. I remind myself that it’s not in my hands anymore.
The light show begins.
Kaleidoscopic impressions, intense flurries of color and light, wash over me, in waves, or random, like static. I try to focus, but everytime my eyes want to hook to some impression, it eludes them. My vision blurs. I become hazy. This is what being hypnotized must feel like. I hope that means it’s working.
I think goodbye to my life in that backwater town. An empty studio apartment with just as empty pizza boxes.
I think goodbye to Teri.
Goodbye to Sid.
Where am I?
|# ? May 4, 2014 19:32|
|# ? Dec 8, 2021 21:44|
I'll take one please.
http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3598931&userid=0&perpage=40&pagenumber=71#post428879906 - Also the judges seemed confused as to what I was doing with the prompt, which was http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_contagion
In return I'll crit someone else, first to ask.
|# ? May 4, 2014 20:05|
It was late in the lab. The bright bubble of light around Michael’s bench was all that was left amongst the darkness. Sample plates were stacked up haphazardly in front of him, detritus spat out by the hulking depositors, atomic force microscopes and analysers around the edge of the room. On a glowing computer screen, page after page of data scrolled past as Michael stared intently at it.
His hands felt weak with excitement, the boiling nervous energy in his stomach sending out little shocks that made his fingers twitch spasmodically. He dragged the columns of numbers around, tapped out commands, looked at the results of the statistical analysis. He ran it again, then a third time, and realised he’d been holding his breath the whole time and exhaled in a rush. His vision went gray around the edges but all he saw was the results. Statistical significance. Proof. Validation.
Michael collapsed backwards in his chair, the metal bending ominously. The theory danced in his head, clear as day and glorious in its simplicity. Here was the proof, here was the end of years of research and failure. Michael closed his eyes and started imagining the paper he’d write, the presentations he’d give, the spin-off company he could found. Prizes, maybe? Even a Nobel? Why not, it was revolutionary enough.
Abruptly, mid-thought, the vision came to an end. The helmet clamped over his eyes withdrew smoothly and Michael slumped forward. The notepad lay on the table in front of him, pen beside it, waiting just as he’d planned. Frantically he started writing, trying to capture and pin down the turmoil of memories running around inside his head. Time passed in a blur; there was only the pen, the rapidly filling pages, the thoughts tumbling out of his head and onto paper as fast as he could write. Finally he stopped, put down his pen, closed the notebook.
“I’ve done it,” he whispered triumphantly to himself. “Before it vanished.”
He was interrupted by a gentle three-tone chime and the door next to him slid open. An attendant was standing outside wearing a blankly patient expression.
“I’m sorry, Mr Hampton, but you have to leave now. If you could collect your belongings…?”
Michael nodded, swallowing hard in an attempt to get his voice back. His mouth was dry and it felt like he was swallowing crumpled paper. “Ok,” he managed to croak, sweeping his notebook up into his arms. The pen rolled off the table onto the floor, unnoticed. Behind him, as he staggered out of the tiny cubicle pod, the attendant gave him a disapproving look and picked it up.
At the front desk, another blank-face-and-blank-smiles woman handed him a form. “Could you sign here please, Mr Hampton?” She indicated the bottom of the form and handed him a pen.
Michael tried to bring the page into focus. “CR23b: COMPLETION OF PROGNOSTICATION REQUEST,” it read at the top in bold. There was a lot of small print.
“Once per lifetime… acknowledgement of risk… no warranty, expressed or implied in the prognostication given.. blah blah…” he mumbled to himself as he read through it. There, at the bottom, neatly typed in a box on its own was a sentence that made him stop and grit his teeth in a fierce grin.
“Requested Prognostication: The pinnacle of my scientific career, my greatest breakthrough”
There was a line at the bottom for his signature. He scribbled on it and walked out of the building in triumph.
Michael sat on his sofa and looked down at the notepad in front of him. The details of the vision had faded, leaving just the feelings behind. The sense of clarity, the feeling of joy when everything suddenly made sense.
His notes started out legible and neat, describing the room, the lab bench, the apparatus piled up around him. The handwriting deteriorated sharply after that, excitement pilling words on top of words, sending sentences veering across the page to collide with one another in a carnage of scribbles. Michael’s heart pounded and he clutched at the notebook, trying to force clarity from the scrawl. He peered closely; there were still words here to be made out, meaning could be teased from the page in time. It wasn’t a loss, not yet.
Trying to still the panic he skipped forward, flipping through page after page of increasingly incoherent notes. There were diagrams and formulae in here, he was sure, but they were buried under a strata of words piled over words. He reached the last page - it was mostly empty - and started reading. There was nothing written over the top of this last line; it was describing the end of the vision, the final moment when theory and proof coalesced in his mind. He read it anxiously.
“all makes sense now. I never would’ve seen it before, but it’s so obvious in hindsight. It’s”
The sentence stopped there. Panic couldn’t be held back this time, and Michael frantically turned back a page to see if there answer was hiding there. The page was unintelligible, just scribbled lines that couldn’t even pretend to be writing. He flipped back another page, then another; the writing didn’t make sense, there weren’t even any words there any more. Where before he could’ve sworn he’d seen diagrams, a word here and there to tease from the page, even a whole sentence that he’d understood there was nothing more than childish doodlings. Scribbles filled the page, spirals and loops and scratches, not words.
He turned back to the end, tears dripping from the tip his nose onto the paper. After the abandoned sentence, now just a squiggle of ink, there was a gap and then the writing continued further down the page. This was in a far calmer hand, as if the frantic energy of the rest of the notes had never existed.
“The pinnacle of my scientific career was asking the Prognosticator this question.”
|# ? May 4, 2014 21:04|
Last Ride - 836
Cecil fell hard to the ground. The cold linoleum didn’t give an inch as he collided. He cursed. The nurses wouldn’t give him his nerve medicine because they were afraid it made his dementia worse. He never did understand the hypocrisy of medicine. The slow plod of footsteps was heard from the hall.
“Not again Cecil,” Rose said as she entered his room. “How many times do I have to pick you back up before you learn that you’re not well yet sweetie?”
Cecil had something clever to say. He always did. But this time he could only grit his teeth to keep from screaming as Rose scooped him up in her arms. There was a grinding in his right leg, bone on bone circling around the joint. He had felt this pain before. It had been a long time ago. He was the new challenger at the Tulsa rodeo. The time to beat was eight seconds. The gate flung open and he was off. The leather bit into his hand as the bull bucked and ran. He looked up to the crowd and flashed a smile. The bull lurched underneath him. He wasn’t ready fro the sudden shift and was thrown to the dirt. His leg rotated in the socket like a spinning top, and the top of his foot came to rest on his head. The painted face of the rodeo clown was the last thing he saw before he passed out, he kept saying. “Cecil what hurts? Cecil what hurts?”
“Cecil what hurts?” Rose said as she laid him in the bed. His right hand rose feebly and he gingerly tapped his hip. Rose began to work her hands over the afflicted area. A flicker of fear came across her face as she felt his hip. She rose up and gave him a hurried smile.
“Cecil I’ll be back in a minute okay sweetie?” She rushed out the room.
The pain clouded his eyes and he drifted to sleep. An inescapable heat followed him in his dreams. He focused on his dream. He loaded the trailer to leave for the next city. His boots shone in the Midwest sun. The truck idled as he lit a cigarette for the road. San Antonio was the next stop. If he finished big there he might finally get out of the indie circuits. Thoughts of better belt buckles and a truck that ran halfway decent filled his mind when the passenger door was opened.
“You coming home?” Sue asked him, lighting her own cigarette.
“Can’t. Gotta go to San Antonio,” he had a hard time looking her in the eye when he said this.
“It’s gonna be a big show down there. Couple thousand people. Promoters too.”
“Just like Tulsa right?”
“Just like Tulsa,” he clenched the steering wheel and looked at her. She was pregnant again.
“Is it mine?”
“She is yours yes.”
He reached across her to open the glovebox. He rifled through a brown billfold. He licked his thumb and produced four hundred dollars.
“Here. This should set you right until I’m back.”
Sue took the money without counting it. She glared at Cecil.
“It’s not your money I want.”
“I know that.”
“Then come home.”
“Well when you’re done playing cowboy you can limp on home and meet your children.”
She left him smoking in the car.
“Cecil your family is here to see you,” Rose said and ducked out of the room.
There they were circled around him. He’d seen enough death to recognize vultures.They waited for him to say something, their faces slack with disbelief that he was finally going to die.
“So this is it?” Cecil said.
“Yep.” Sue said.
Cecil laughed and slunk in his bed.
“Haven’t seen a crowd like this since San Antonio, those Texans are always hungry for blood.”
His kids just stared at him blankly. Waiting for him to say something.
“You’re here for a show aren’t you?”Cecil asked. With that he propped himself up on one elbow rotating to bring his legs over the side of the bed.
His right leg hung swung lazily as it drew closer to the floor. His kids looked to Sue to do something. She just waved her hand and watched Cecil.
His breathing came sharp and quick. He wasn’t able to breathe enough air in to make the burning in his chest go away.
He was standing now. His usually stooped shoulders were held back. He teetered from foot to foot. His daughter went to get the nurse.
He took a step towards the door.He used his lame leg to step, dragging his good leg behind him to try and keep some semblance of balance. One hand went above his head and the other went low to keep him steady.
Cecil fell headfirst into the floor. He laughed on his way down. A feeble yee haw scraped out of his throat.
|# ? May 4, 2014 22:04|
Going to have throw in the towel for this week. Toxx'ing self for next time. Apologies abound.
|# ? May 4, 2014 22:54|
There are nine hours left for submissions!
|# ? May 4, 2014 23:00|
“I don’t want to do this.”
“Please? You know I don’t have much time left.”
“It just seems weird.”
I told him where to stand, how to hold his body. I had him smile.
Then, the flash. Immortalized again. We struck the set and began anew.
Recreating every photograph that I’d ever been in before I died was taking longer than I had originally thought. The travel was strenuous, the hours were long, and getting each shot just so was an arduous process that was beginning to wear on my son.
I’d had him pose as I had when I was a young man, arranging flowers in my father’s shop. He recreated my triathlon victory in Germany, complete with my gold medal. We even traveled to the rural hospital where he had been born, and there he had sat in an old and tired waiting room chair, cigar unlit between his exhausted fingers.
Now that we were getting closer to the present, he had become more reluctant.
“It’s weird, Dad. We just took this picture of you last year. Why do we need to do these, too?”
“Trust me, please.”
He posed in my rocking chair, over the new baby’s crib, at Gran’s gravesite. He posed with my coffee and paper, slumped at the kitchen table. He posed with tears in his eyes looking out over the overgrown lawn.
At long last, we had recreated each photo. The process took its toll on me, however, and I had been placed in hospice.
My son sat with me each day, briefly catching naps in the chair when he thought I had fallen asleep. I was growing more tired with every passing hour, and I grabbed his hand one last time.
“Thank you, for everything. I know it wasn’t easy.”
“Dad, anything for you. I just, can I ask why it was so important?”
“Just an old man’s last wish.”
I watched as they put me to rest next to Gran. My grandson, after the ceremony and flowers and words he didn’t understand, knelt by my headstone. He had paper and crayons with him, to keep him busy during the party afterwards where everyone would hold him and pinch his cheeks and sneak him “just one more cookie” to help ease his pain. But he took that paper and put it over my stone, coloring over the raised markings, leaving a negative in green. My son snapped a picture and I smiled, knowing that he wouldn’t make the same mistakes I had.
|# ? May 5, 2014 00:39|
The Hunter stretched out his sinewy limbs. He felt his atrophied muscles relax as he swayed his body back and forth. Although he wasn’t as fast as he once was, he remained flexible. The Hunter grimaced at the sound of his his joints cracking as he arched his back. But, as he straightened his body out, a wan smile spread across his face.
His son scolded him, “You shouldn’t smile. This is nothing but foolishness.”
“I am an old fool,” the Hunter returned. “But, every boy needs a birthday party and every boy needs a gift. Let me bring my new grandson a gift for his birthday.”
The Hunter turned and waved at his infant grandson. The grandson was resting in his mother’s arms.
As the Hunter left, two younger trackers joined him. Together, the three went off in the direction of a nearby antelope herd. The Hunter looked at the recently snapped branches and followed the wide path the herd left in the grass. With a smile three started in slow pursuit of the herd.
The Hunter’s joints ached as he followed the two younger trackers. They kept a slow pace, but the uneven ground made running difficult. As they trailed behind the herd, it broke into smaller groups. After an hour of effort tracking a small group, they winnowed their prey down two older antelope, a buck and a doe.
The run was not consistent. The antelope would burst forward with speed for a mile or so and then would just as suddenly stop. Each time the pair of antelope stopped the hunters would close the gap between them. The Hunter watched as the antelopes’ lungs heaved as they struggled to keep catch their breath. His lungs also heaved as he strained to breathe. Before he could feel rested, the antelope stood up and bolted forward once again.
After hours of pursuit, the two antelope finally parted. The younger hunters split off to follow the doe. The Hunter drank deeply from the water he carried, but stopped before he slaked his thirst. The buck sprinted off into the distance again. The Hunter followed his prey alone.
The Hunter’s legs throbbed as he continued his run. The antelope’s uneven tracks showed that it too was in pain. The Hunter smiled as he approached a tall hill. He ascended the slope triumphantly, expecting to find his prey exhausted from the climb. However, upon cresting the hill the Hunter saw a reformed herd of antelope. His prey had re-entered the fold.
The Hunter screamed in rage. The reformed herd darted at the sound. The hunter chased after bunch, sprinting as fast as he could manage. He nearly lost his footing in the frenzy of the chase. At first all of the antelope looked the same—just a mass of flesh and bone rolling away from him—but he eventually spotted his target struggling to keep pace with the rest of the herd. The Hunter pursued the bull with fresh enthusiasm. Gleaming with sweat he pushed forward as the antelope separated from the herd and collapsed under its own weight.
“Poor old thing, you couldn’t keep up,” he said to the antelope. “I am going to be like you someday soon, but not today.” The Hunter took out his spear and threw it into the antelope’s vitals. After the antelope died, he cut off its feet and removed its entrails through a slit in its gut. With the carcass dressed, he put it on his shoulder and started his trek back home.
By the time he arrived, the feast had already started. The two younger trackers had been successful as well. Flesh from the doe they stalked was crackling over the fire. As the Hunter approached, the hunters came to take the carcass from him. His son came and greeted him with an embrace.
“I’m glad to see that you can still hunt,” the Son said. “We were worried about you.”
“Of course I can still hunt!” the Hunter returned. “Now let me see my grandson.”
The Son brought over the newborn and carefully handed him to the Hunter.
The Hunter’s smile gleamed as he held the child. He whispered into his grandson’s ear “I have many things to teach you. I want to teach you about the sun and the stars. I want to tell you stories about the antelope and the cheetah. I want to teach you how to become a good man. Here’s your first lesson: above all else, you must be persistent, little one.”
|# ? May 5, 2014 00:42|
Larger than Life on the Burning Screen - 1000 words.
The city guard stiffly marched, its pure white robes the only thing of note in the dark, featureless corridor. It halted abruptly and turned to the right, watching impassively as a door slid open in front of it.
Though no emotion showed on the blank space where its face should be, several internal alarms began sounding as it detected the heat signature in the seemingly deserted room. Without hesitation, it lifted its gun, prepared to fire, and was interrupted by a kick in the back. Before it could react, its circuitry was fried by a shot to the head, and the guard went still.
The air shimmered, revealing a woman with a wrist-mounted computer, fiddling with a keypad by the doors of a massive lift. The woman glanced at the scruffy-looking man standing over the smoking wreckage for a second, then returned to her work. “Almost gave up on you, Ben. What happened to the rest of your squad?”
Ben roughly nudged the guard with his foot a few times before easily dragging it into the room and closing the door. “Good to see you too, Lily. Alex’s car got shot down while we getting the hell away from our little distraction. Can’t say it looked good, but it distracted the guards long enough for me to make my getaway.” He unhooked a tool from his belt and began welding the door shut. “Alicia never even met up with us. Guards musta been tipped off, somehow, she probably didn’t even get out of her apartment.” Ben finished, then stepped back to admire his handiwork. “There, that’ll take the bastards a while to get through.”
Lily glanced back again. "Expecting company?"
"I wasn't followed, but as soon as they realize this rotter," Ben gave the guard another kick for emphasis, "isn’t transmitting, they'll be sending a metric shitton of guards after us. Any word from the other-”
“Shut up for a second. I’ve almost got this.” Lily inputted a few more commands on her device, and the lift doors slid open. She entered, followed by Ben. He nervously looked around as the doors closed.
“You’re sure they can’t just make this thing fall while we’re on it, right?” He said. Lily nodded absently, still staring at her device’s screen.
“System’s totally locked up. Gonna take us to the top and then shut itself down. Won’t take long for them to retake control, but it buys us time.” She shut off the display, then leaned against the wall, facing Ben. “Anyway. Ash’s last transmission was mostly made up of panicked screaming, so I can’t say I’m optimistic. Haven’t heard from Mike, but I think he’s still operational.”
“Oh, jesus loving christ- Lily?” A voice suddenly sounded from Lily’s headset. “Site’s got way too many assholes for us to handle, we’re gonna need to- oh, poo poo.”
“Mike? Mike, do you copy?” Lily flinched as the sound of repeated gunfire echoed throughout the elevator, followed by an explosion. The headset went silent. Lily sighed, slumping down a bit against the wall. “Goodbye, Mike.”
“Guess we’re the only ones left, then.” Ben said after a short while. “Gonna miss those sons of bitches.”
“We all knew we likely wouldn’t be walking away from this one. Just means we have to pull this off. Make it mean something.”
“Yeah.” Ben closed his eyes, listening for a while to the sounds of the lift as it continued its lengthy ascent. “Been a while since it’s been just the two of us. Reminds me of that prison break back in ‘97. Good times.”
Lily raised an eyebrow. “The one where we had to lie low in a cave for a month because someone tripped the alarm while we were leaving?”
Ben smiled as the elevator came to a stop. “Good times.” He drew his pistol as the doors slowly opened, revealing a massive control center, the furthermost wall replaced entirely by a window showing a view of the city below. Ben frowned. “Place’s deserted. Think it’s a trap?”
Lily shook her head before walking over to the window and gesturing at the spires of smoke around the city. “I’d say they’re still busy trying to clean your mess up. Was it really necessary for you to set town hall on fire, by the way?”
Ben shrugged. “We got a little carried away. The mural of Our Glorious Overseer was an eyesore, anyway.”
“Can’t argue with that.” Lily sat down in front of a nearby computer and switched on her device. “Now, time to hope Alicia's intel was right.”
Ben leaned against the desk opposite her, keeping an eye on the lift. “It’s so nice to have a handy mole around. Never thought an oversight in some computer code could be so effective.” There was a loud clunk, and the lift began to descend once more. “poo poo, that was faster than I hoped it’d be.”
“Almost… done!” Lily’s face broke out into a grin. “C’mon. Let’s see this for ourselves.” Ben burst into triumphant laughter as they both looked out the window, admiring their handiwork.
“Holy hell, we did it! We actually did it!” All around the city, as The Overseer was delivering his third speech of the day, the giant screens bearing his image burst into flames one by one as they overheated. The entire skyline became covered in smoke. The elevator behind them began ascending.
They stood there for a time, neither wanting to look away for even a moment. Eventually, Lily spoke up. “Think this’ll change things?”
Ben thought for a moment. “Yeah. People’ll open their eyes. See that they can fight back. That it isn't hopeless. Any regrets?”
Lily smirked. “Would have liked to smell the ashes.”
Ben chuckled. “Attagirl.”
The elevator doors slid open, packed with guards. Ben shot the window out in front of him. After sharing one last glance, Ben and Lily took each other’s hands and jumped.
|# ? May 5, 2014 00:50|
I put a lot of firsthand research into my story this week, so thank you all for taking the time to read it. I had to really examine myself to capture the character of Henry; it was an exhaustive process, but we must sacrifice for our craft. I hope the judges like it.
Henry: Portrait of a Goon
Henry momentarily turned away from the scrambled eggs on the stove to check on Mariah, who was staring into her placemat with blank and expressionless gaze. “Hungry?” he asked, before turning back to the grease stained stove top. He added some shredded cheese to the eggs before stealing another look at his wife. Her hair and skin had lost some of their luster over the years, but the rest of her had held up nicely. Henry smelled burning cheese. poo poo. Whatever, she’ll eat it.
He placed the dish in front of Mariah, gently stroking the back of her neck as he circled around to take his seat beside her. She still smells good too, he thought, briefly entertaining ideas of revoking the divorce.
Mariah’s distant, vacant eyes continued to stare through her breakfast. Henry thought about putting a fork in her drat hand and making her eat, but it wouldn’t accomplish much. “Look,” he said with a mouthful of food, causing bits of egg to tumble into his lush goatee, “I know you are mad at me, but people just grow apart.”
She looked at him with listless china blue eyes.
“Don’t say that,” he told her, “I do still care for you.”
"Then why are you so insistent on leaving?" the flat corners of her mouth seemed to ask.
The insolence, Henry thought as he yanked the plate away from her. He cleaned it from the kitchen, calling, “If you didn’t want to get, dumped you shouldn’t always ride my rear end, Mariah!”
Henry moved into the living room, swapping out his food smeared shirt for a less food smeared shirt. He settled into his desk, cracking open a can of Mountain Dew. Henry pulled up the login screen for EVE Online when he heard her muttering.
“What did you say?” he asked, knowing full well the answer. She didn’t understand that the guild fleet needed him.
“But I need you,” he heard. Mariah was looking at him with that sad plastic stare. It was true; Mariah did need him. She had always been a sickly girl, anxious and nervous to the touch. Her previous man was weak of mind and body, not like Henry. Still, even when Henry kissed the nape of her neck in the way that he knew Mariah loved, she tried her best to avoid reciprocation. Sometimes he felt her shudder. So, how could someone fault him for trading up to a better model? She’ll have a fine life with her new man, he thought with minor pangs of regret. The third-hand market is busy; someone will take her.
When Mariah wasn’t looking, Henry tiptoed into the bedroom to fish his favorite Nyarko-san tee from the bottom of his smelly pile of laundry. He knew that Mariah always loved wearing his clothing. He sniffed the armpit of the garment, pungent, in a manly way.
Mariah appeared to be enjoying a moment of peace when Henry crept up behind her, lifting her stiff arms skyward. Cynthia will have more points of articulation, Henry thought as he swapped out Mariah’s shirt, only stopping for a few minutes to grope her chest. There, that was better.
Under weak knees, Henry lifted Mariah and plopped her in front of the TV. He sat down to check his bitcoin account, but was interrupted before he could assess his gains. The doorbell? His delivery was early.
It took an hour of unpacking, but Cynthia, the blonde Ukrainian made bombshell, was truly beautiful. Even unwrapping the plastic was an experience in sensuality as he caressed her silicone skin. Henry had an idea. "Menage a trois?” he asked Mariah.
Five minutes later, Henry was spent. "That all you got?" he heard Mariah whisper, pathetic.
“Excuse me?” He asked.
"You heard me, you impotent, fat, dork," her eyes said.
Henry pointed to Cynthia, her face calm and exhausted with pleasure, “She enjoyed it!” He swore he could hear Mariah laughing.
Henry jumped from this sweaty, Pokemon bedsheets and stormed into the garage. He returned, still in his stained briefs, with a hacksaw.
Henry carried the garbage bag to the recycling bin in the dead of night, whistling a happy tune to himself. Inside, Mariah listened, wishing that she could smile. Her parts would be melted into bottles and parts of household appliances. She wouldn’t be pretty anymore, but, perhaps, happy.
|# ? May 5, 2014 00:51|
Friend of Mine
Nethilia fucked around with this message at 08:27 on Dec 4, 2014
|# ? May 5, 2014 01:24|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 02:54 on Dec 11, 2014
|# ? May 5, 2014 01:48|
One Last Job
Two people sit at the window of a coffee shop in silence. One is focused on a set of meticulous papers resting upon a manila envelope. She wears a white blouse with slim cut blue jeans. Buddy Holly frames rest at the edge of her nose. The soft sound of papers shuffling melds with the bubbling conversation around them.
The other person, a man in a charcoal pinstripe, looks out on the rain drenched streets of the city. There a parade of black umbrellas trickle back and forth accompanied here and there by a soaked dog or waterlogged bag.
The man takes a sip of his coffee and sets the cup down on the table. The mellow thunk of porcelain against wood pierces the soft murmur of the room. The woman looks up over the edges of her frames and arches her eyebrows.
He leans back and folds his arms, looking her in the eye. “I think it’s time for a change.” Her lips draw tight. She takes off her glasses and glances around the shop, then out the window.
“I suppose this is the fourth time in a row we’ve used this shop for business. It’s possible someone might have started putting two and two together. Perhaps one on the west side of town would be better? I think the bakery that makes those chocolate croissants has a cafe attached to it.”
He shakes his head and leans in, a hushed tone edging in. “Not the shop, the business. I’m thinking about getting out. I used to feel a rush when I finished a job. Now all I feel is this vague unease, like everything I’ve done is about to catch up to me in this instant.”
The woman frowns and looks down at the portfolio in front of her. “Well, do you think you can find it in yourself to do one last job? Maybe you’ll change your mind after you’re finished...”
One man stands at the front door of a six story walkup on the south side of the city. He still wears the charcoal pinstripe but now carries an umbrella and bag. He glances between the paper in his hand and the rows of mailboxes. “S. Palliano, S. Palliano… ah apartment 402…” he mutters to himself. His gloved hands carefully fold the sheet before placing it into the bottom of his bag.
He turns the handle on the door, just in case, but of course it’s locked. No problem, as after his first job he has learned to always carry a set of lockpicks.
Setting the bag down he glances over his shoulders, then leans in towards the doorknob. He inserts the picks, then checks his watch. 5.3 seconds later there’s a soft click and the door swings inward. A full second and half short of his personal best.
He frowns to himself and makes a soft toneless rumble at the back of his throat. Picking up his bag he makes his way into the foyer of the building. A light clicks on as he crosses the threshold, illuminating the winding stairwell.
His mind wanders to that first job, when he had taken similar stairs to the fifth floor, two at a time. There was no bag at that point, just a snub nose in his right pocket. He had arrived breathless and full of adrenaline on the landing. But that was so long ago, and this is now. Now he takes the stairs one at a time at an even pace. Once done as a matter of professional tact, now it’s to avoid the dull pain in his knees. Arthritis his doctor says.
He crests the last stair and pauses at the top of the landing. It is a dim hallway carpeted in what was once green shag. Time and feet have transformed it into a compacted grey path. A small directory points him to the right.
This is the first time in years he has gone straight from the brief to the job. There’s a ticket for Mexico in his front pocket for a flight that leaves in a few hours. He can feel each second pass and his stomach tightens. He quickens his steps towards the door at the end of the hallway.
Reaching into the bag he pulls out a silenced handgun. “No need to cause a scene…” he mutters to himself. He breaks into a full run and kicks down the door. Looking down the sights of his gun, sweeping it across the apartment. Clean countertops and fresh paint. The sound of a child crying erupts from the back. He hesitates. Nothing in the profile mentioned a kid.
In that moment there is a sound of rushing air to his right. His vision blurs and he hits the hardwood floor. Someone kicks his hand and the sound of the gun scuttling away echoes in his ears. Another kick, this one to his head. Blood begins to drip into his eyes.
He hears the target muttering to herself as she disappears into the back. He tries to sit up but his body threatens to blackout if he does. The woman returns carrying a child and a suitcase. She steps over him and into the hallway. “I knew that stronzo would send one of his thugs…”
A woman stands with her crying child and suitcase in front of a six story walkup. The rain has stopped a few pillars of light pierce the cloud cover. A cab pulls up to the curb and the driver rolls down the window. “Where too ma’am?”
|# ? May 5, 2014 02:07|
I'm punching out. New job got the best of me and my week just vanished.
|# ? May 5, 2014 02:07|
Land of the Setting Sun 1000 words Flash Rule: Your story is about two friends. One is male, one is female, and there is zero romantic interest between them.
Mae-hui raced the Jeep through the empty streets of Pyongyang. Everyone with courage and the heart of a traitor was outside Ryongsong Residence; she should be inside its walls. The city streets fell away and she let herself breathe as the highway asphalt stretched out in front of her. She punched the Jeep up to 150KPH, pushing it to the limit, and turned on the radio.
“-casualties in the tens of thousands as the crowds press through the minefields. This station cautions-“
“Ahhhh!” She smashed the button, turning it off. At 160KPH, the frame began to shake itself apart like a dive bomber coming in for its final approach. Maybe that’s what she was, just a kamikaze pilot in a losing war, already too late to make a difference. At the top of the hill before the palace complex, one of the tires blew. The Jeep rolled over once, twice, and before she blacked out, her final thought was, I’ll protect you, brother.
In the darkness of her dreams, she saw him standing in an endless, featureless plane. His uniform was crisp and perfect, zipped up the front. Pyong-nam looked so unassuming, a Korean Winston Smith. He walked towards her, but in this place the distance never shrank.
Her only friend. Where everyone else demanded perfection, he offered comfort. Where her teachers asked that she work harder, he only asked for her eternal love. Pyong-nam. Supreme Leader. He stood in front of her now. His mouth opened.
“Brother?” Brother, brother, brother. Mae-hui struggled to flee as the echo of her voice crashed all around, but couldn’t move. He did not reply, but his mouth opened wider and wider until the jawbone dislocated. The structure of his face changed, elongating, becoming reptilian, and scales grew over its surface. His body transformed into that of a serpent and he leaned forward.
“I must consume, sister, or it will all end.” Pyong-nam lunged, engulfing her.
She woke hanging by her seatbelt, looking through a cracked windshield, her face wet with tears. No, the rearview mirror was broken and askew, but it showed the tears were blood. A head wound. Roaring filled her ears, distant and terrible, and she shook her head, which only made her splitting headache worse.
The seatbelt was jammed. She grabbed her knife and sawed through it, falling to the ground, then crawled out onto the highway and stood up (when had that become so hard?). Looking at the wreckage, the front-right tire had blown and the Jeep had rolled at least six times. Her watch indicated she’d only been out a few minutes.
Mae-hui tore off the long, right sleeve of her white shirt and bandaged the gash on her forehead. She turned to face Ryongsong. Innumerable people filled the grounds and the sound of their rage carried over the distance to the crest of the hill. Each wore the symbol of the rebellion, a red and white headband.
Less than a kilometer to the tunnels, she could run that distance in three minutes on a good day. On a flat track. Uninjured. She sighed and started walking, heading for a stand of cherry trees at the southern end of the complex, stopping only to grab her jacket.
Twenty minutes later, she swept dirt and leaves from the top of a trap door and opened it. The backup lights painted the walls garish red. She adjusted her H&K MP7 and started walking. Five-hundred meters, then a guard. Today was April 15th, the Eternal President’s birthday, Day of the Sun, which made the password, “Sunfish.”
“Honored sister.” The guard saluted, his hand shaking.
“Call someone to take me to my brother.”
“Immediately.” The guard spoke into his radio.
Walking through her childhood home, she felt disgust. The one place and one day she had always thought inviolable were being violated in the worst way. The biometric lock on the war room door opened for her palm and she stepped inside.
Pyong-nam sat in his chair at the head of the table. His uniform was unzipped and he held a bottle of Hennessy in one hand and a pistol in the other. “Sister, join us. We were just discussing our problems with the south.” He spoke with great care and in a timbre like dark honey, just as he’d been taught, but it was slurred. The four leaders of the armed forces sat at the table. She let her MP7 rest on her chest and sat down.
General Hwang spoke up. “Supreme Leader, the traitor South Koreans have a quarter million troops marching through the DMZ. Kaesong, Wonsan, and Hamhung have been taken by the rebels. We must escape and establish a government in exile, or we’ll-“ Pyong-nam shot him in the head, splattering the walls red.
“Does anyone else want to run? This is my country! My people! Leave us.” They left at a run.
“I made contact, brother. The Russians will take us in.” He didn’t even ask about her.
“No! I’m going to make them pay.” Spittle flew. He waved the gun. “Now that those cowards are gone, I’m going to launch the nukes, destroy the South Koreans, and detonate the ones we have buried along the DMZ. They can’t shoot all of them down. One big party before I die.” He took a swig from the bottle.
“You can’t.” Mae-hui stared at him in disbelief. “You’ll kill millions, cause a worldwide disaster.”
“Can’t? Can’t! You’re just like the rest of them! I am the Supreme Leader. Me, not you, sister. You’ve always been jealous.” He pointed the pistol at her.
“Brother, don’t.” And that’s when he shot her in the chest.
It felt like the world’s hardest punch when it hit her Kevlar vest. Pyong-nam turned away and started typing commands into a computer. Mae-hui took hold of her MP7 and pointed it at the back of his head. I’ll protect you, brother, even from yourself, she thought, and pulled the trigger.
|# ? May 5, 2014 02:09|
Sorry, going to have to bow out this week. Health issues have gotten the best of me this weekend.
|# ? May 5, 2014 02:34|
docbeard fucked around with this message at 15:39 on Dec 25, 2014
|# ? May 5, 2014 02:55|
"Fog of War"
Blood and gore spattered against the back of the trench as a North Korean bullet took Corporal Grassadonio in the neck. He fell backwards into the frozen dirt, steam rising from the ground as the blood flowed out of him. Everyone dropped their playing cards and rushed over to him. It was immediately apparent that Grassadonio was not going to make it. No amount of pressure would stop the bleeding. Lieutenant “LT” Lavoie looked at Sergeant Allnut helplessly. The sergeant let go of the soaked bandages and held his hand as Corporal Grassadonio quickly bled to death.
Allnut sat next to his dead friend in the frozen dirt. He lit a cigarette and inhaled. The harsh smoke filling his lungs, and he exhaled a white cloud that was half steam and half carcinogens. He looked around at his fellow soldiers. The others hugged their rifles and stared at LT, waiting for their orders. He gave none. Allnut flipped his cigarette over the trench wall and crawled over to the lieutenant.
“We have to do something,” Sergeant Allnut whispered so that the others would not hear. It was bad form to question a superior openly, but LT was clearly in shock. He pulled a cigarette and tried to light it, but his hands shook.
LT shook his head. “You know the rules, Sergeant. There is an armistice. We aren't allowed to fire back.”
“That’s a load of political horse poo poo and you know it, LT.” Sergeant Allnut lit LT’s cigarette for him. “There’s no one but us and the commies out here. The people making those rules are far away and safe in their cozy little conference rooms. They didn't just watch their friend die.”
LT’s eyes widened and looked at the sergeant as if he had never seen him before. “What are you saying we should do?”
Sergeant Allnut gripped his rifle. “We’re going to kill those motherfuckers.”
They dragged the corpse to the entrance of the dugout and covered it with a sheet. The body would keep until the next supply run came in, and they would take him home to be buried. One of the privates worked a bellows in the corner, trying to breathe life into the fire that provided their only heat. Outside, and away from the wall, was a stockpile of anti-personnel mortars.
The Chinese officer struck Corporal Bulguksa in the knee with the butt of his rifle. The Korean soldier crumpled to the ground and dropped his rifle. Others gathered, drawn by the sudden violence and noise. The officer pinned Bulguksa's arms to the ground.
“I could not stand the silence another minute! They shelled the factories my family worked in!” Bulguksa shook with rage. “Their bombs killed my wife and son! We sit idle in political armistice and for what? Our leaders have failed us, and the military will not rise to the occasion. I curse them all!”
The Chinese officer shook the man, screaming. “The military sided with our leaders to prevent further casualties to your people you fool! Do you have any idea what you've done, or what the Americans are capable of doing? Military protocol dictates that I execute you for treason, but I doubt there will be much time at all before…”
The officer was interrupted by the whistling of falling mortars.
The Lieutenant watched through his spotting scope as the mortars fell. They burst in the air above the communist soldiers, shredding the area with shrapnel. Next came shells full of phosphorus, which rained corrosive debris on the survivors. When the mortars died down, LT could hear the screams and wails of the enemy combatants. Lieutenant Lavoie turned away, shuddering. He could no longer watch.
“We got those fuckers good didn't we, sir?” Sergeant Allnut cheered, celebrating what would likely be the only action he would ever see in this war.
Lieutenant Lavoie looked towards the rising smoke.
|# ? May 5, 2014 03:48|
“Come on, it’s your last night,” she said. She bent closer to the mirror, putting on excessive mascara. “You know you’re leaving, he knows you’re leaving, we all know you’re leaving. Just enjoy it. Pura vida!”
It was my last night in a tiny little surfing town in Costa Rica, and every one kept telling me how happy I should be. All I was was miserable.
“Ethan’s putting on this show for you,” Josie said, trying again. She was still applying her makeup. We’d been roommates at the hostel for almost three months, and I loved her, but sometimes the accidents of her were frustrating as hell.
“He’s not putting it on for me, he moved it to Friday for me. He’d still’ve had the show anyway. I don’t know why I got involved with him,” I said. “We both knew it wouldn’t last.”
“Why does it have to last? Why can’t you just enjoy it until it’s done? That was the whole point of this for you, wasn’t it? Drop the military attitude, waste some time, surf, dance, eat coconuts, lie on a beach like a hippie. It wasn’t supposed to last.”
I pulled my red pants on and made a face that she couldn’t see with her nose inches from the mirror. My fire-proofed headscarf and my poi were already in their bag by the door.
“See you there?” Josie called as I headed out.
Every Thursday night there was a fire show in this town too small for a stop light. It was in the street in front of the only bar, and all the fire dancers came out to play and pass the hat. Ethan was already there with his sister and one of his other students when I arrived, a tall shirtless Italian who could’ve easily passed as one of my fellow soldiers. Ethan came up to me, half drunk at 7pm, and wrapped an arm around my waist. I let him. He smelled like ash and salt and weed and I couldn’t get enough of him.
“Chi-ca!” he said, nuzzling my neck. “You preparando for some playtime?” He pressed his mouth up next to me ear, and I could feel his lips roll over that rich Spanish accent as they tickled my skin.
His sister handed me a beer before her brother’d even let go of me. “There’s always a last time, no?” she said, smiling.
I cracked the beer. Ethan grabbed it and took a long swallow before handing it back. “But it will be a good time, yes?” he slurred.
“Yeah,” I said, finally getting a drink myself. “One more good time.”
“Then back to the military, right?” the shirtless Italian asked me.
“I have to report back to-”
“Nobody!” Ethan butted in. He pressed his body up next to mine. “Tonight, she report to nobody but me.”
“Sure,” I said. “Your body.”
It took him a second to get the pun. “Pura vida,” he said, wicked and smiling.
“Pura vida,” I answered, and took another drink.
Attach a Kevlar wick to the end of a chain, dip the wick in white gas and light it on fire, then spin that wick around in a series of circles around the body of a performer. This art is called “fire poi”, after the orbital chains of the same name with which it is performed. When it is being danced, the verb used is “to play” poi.
Ethan’s other students were the first to step into the circle of wide-eyed, sunburned backpackers and bored locals. First the Italian, who wasn’t half bad; then two girls from California who knew about three moves between them; and an older German man who was more about speed than skill.
Ethan draped an arm across my shoulders. “A beautiful start, no?”
“They need work,” I said.
“Everybody need work. No problem. There is always a first time.”
It was the same thing he’d said to me before my first fire show.
Ethan’s sister stepped out next. She was more of a dancer than a player – I envied the grace with which she maneuvered her body around the fire. I could’ve watched her for hours.
After she took her bow, Ethan kissed me hard on the cheek before dipping his poi into the can of white gas. The crowd knew him, and cheered.
“Tonight!” he said, lifting his hands, “Tonight we say good-bye. Tonight, we give our love to Karen. Tonight we say pura vida, before she go home and back to work!” The crowd cheered, and I smiled. It was almost sweet. “Hard work!” Ethan continued, “blowing up all the bad terrorists!”
The crowd laughed, and he started playing. He was a master, there was no denying it. Even when I hated him I couldn’t stop watching.
“He’s good even when he’s an rear end, isn’t he?” the shirtless Italian said.
“Yeah,” I answered, turning to look at him. He smiled back. “You busy tonight?” I asked.
“I’m not planning to sleep with my teacher’s girlfriend, if that’s what you mean.”
Ethan was finishing up. It would be my turn soon. “It wasn’t,” I lied.
“Go play,” he said, ending the awkward for both of us. “You’re up.”
I hadn’t even watched Ethan finish. I passed him as he tried to kiss me, letting him bounce off my shoulder and my cheek.
When you spin poi, they roar like fires in a wind. I don’t know how well I did that night – I didn’t care. I played until the fires died, then came back to myself standing in a circle of cheering people I’d never met before.
I looked over to see Ethan kissing Josie.
The next morning, I woke up and packed my backpack quickly. I didn’t want to wake the Italian, who lay sprawled out naked on my bed.
He mumbled something just as I was walking out the door.
“Pura vida,” I answered.
“Pura vida,” I heard him say.
|# ? May 5, 2014 03:58|
Mike and Doug
991 (or 987, per wordcounter.net) words.
The spores hovered in the red sunset. Douglas and Michael wandered wearily.
“Do you think they’ll come back?”, asked Michael.
“For us? poo poo, no, not here in greenmansville, space Texas, no”, said Douglas.
“Funny you should mention Texas – Admiral Schreck is from there.”
“Hrgh. Don’t ever mention the bastard again. Thanks to him we’re stuck –”
A xenomycoid shaped like a vuvuzela farted its golden contents all around them.
“– gah, stuck here in the land of the fartin’ flora. ‘Herp derp, look at me, wanna kill all I see’”, Douglas skittered left and right, clownlike.
Michael fumbled with his bag; he couldn’t get it closed. He said, “to be honest, though, breaching the Minor-Major line was p –”
“...pretty disregardful of such overlooked and obscure things such as your common grunt/Vespa pilot/RE30 Cluster-Bomber cabin boy’s rights? Such as, my dear Michael, the right not to get disintegrated and pissed away in a plasma river for the greater good’s sake or whatever it is they say now in those Co-League pep talks? Why, Michael dear boy, that’s excellent reasoning; you surprise me every day.”
“Love you too, man”, Michael sighed. “Listen, did we pass through here before? Look.”
Just a little beyond their reach, a translucid pink ball hung in the air. Its exposed innards could be seen around a plaque that jutted from its skin. The plaque said –
“Gleb glub. Great”, said Douglas. “Back to a wonderful night’s sleep in Alien Teepee Motel. I can’t wait to hear that thing go AYIIEEEHREHEARH again from dusk ‘til dawn. Strange, though. Was Dr. Farts here floating merrily amidst us yesterday?”
“Yeah, no; first time it’s here... Two days ago there was only the plaque. Hmm, well, can’t be of any harm, I think. Too tired to care, anyhow. Shall we?”, proposed Michael. Douglas agreed.
They entered the alien village. It was small; all the strange residences were built around a well. The well was no more than a hole in the ground lacquered with a dried-up, waxy substance. The circumventing huts were built with the same material, and they had no more than one entrance.
Douglas and Michael camped in a hut. It didn’t matter which one of them; they were all alike. They spread their blankets on the sandy ground. Michael emptied his bag of its contents; Douglas worked up their WattsUp!? solar to a faint luminescence.
“Sniiiff”, Douglas sniffed. “Shiiit. Goddamn. Look at the air. All thick with that yellow poo poo. gently caress”.
Douglas looked farther up and went pale. Michael turned around to see.
It was black, around the size of a watermelon, and dodecapedic with flaccid black fingers. It wiggled.
“What?”, Michael asked.
Douglas only gasped.
“What did you see?”
“I... gently caress... I... you saw nothing?”
“Um, no. Care to tell me just what had you making GBS threads yourself three minutes ago?”
“gently caress. gently caress. Michael. Just what happened yesterday?”
“After you ate that black crap? Nothing. We did the same stuff we’ve been doing for the past three months. Nothing.”
“You... did eat a little bit of the stuff too, right?”
“Yeah. I mean, if that plateful you gobbled up didn’t cause a million color-shifting tadpoles to come out of your ears (like that time with poor Xerxakis...) and rear end too, I figured it’d be alright to take a bite.”
“gently caress. Then I don’t know just what the... I don’t know, Michael, I guess I’m just seeing things”, Douglas scooped a yellow booger nervously. “It might be the hunger. I wanna eat.”
They ate the tasteless, blocky food they stole from the cruiser three months ago. It tasted flatly as it always did, though a little dusty.
Michael said, “I wish we had lingered on the cruiser a little longer. Or gone somewhere with a better menu.”
Douglas replied, “we’ll find more stuff tomorrow. I hate this assy planet, but at least it doesn’t seem hell-bent on killing us. Good night, Michael.”
omanomanoman Mike WAKE UP
they’re comin’ for us I knew it. gently caress I think they have Zorpians with them. this is not good. gently caress GET DOWN
FFFSSH made the hut’s wall as the laser coming through the door scorched it.
here Mike I have just the stuff. that black bastard told me we should eat it. THUD THUD, outside. here, eat!!!
“Mffhh”, protested Michael as the black mold entered his mouth.
we’re going home. someplace like it, the black thing said.
The walls exploded and from the sky a black-limbed thing big as a Vespa fighter exploded and its fragments landed on the village and became black humanoid things whose skin was like resin, and whose eyes and mouth were cavities with apparently nothing. The villagers went about their business. “Howdy, pardners”, drawled one of them to both of them on the ground. The sky went green, then blue, then red, then green again. Repeatedly.
doug. doug. can you hear me?
Dreamed I was an eskimo. Don’t you eat the yellow snow.
i love you man. all those times. even if we didn’t –
yes, mike. even if we didn’t and just stayed there –
yes, even if we faded. I wanna be with you.
Veteran’s day poppy doesn’t get me high; it only makes me cry.
oh, mike... you’re a faggy bastard but I gotta admit it could never be as good with anyone else on that crap – cleaning the halls, licking the goddamn jocks’ boots. remember the blue comet? how we reeked of ammonia and we were bros. just lookin’ at it. nothing could get to us.
yes doug. one way or another, us.
“Pard', gents, looks like you been on the road awhile, can I get ya’ll anything?”
The red sun cast a shadow over the black-clad officer – under the shadow, they both stared at the sun with fixed eyes. They were close together and drool gathered at their mouths.
“Goddamnit it”, said the officer.
D.O.G.O.G.B.Y.N. fucked around with this message at 04:41 on May 5, 2014
|# ? May 5, 2014 04:32|
Requiem for a Clown 1000
“Finish in 20 minutes or you’re dead”
- the first rule of clowning.
Boris the Clown turned off the engine and sat in the car outside 3301 Forrester Avenue.
(listen to me, it don’t matter if the name stinks - what name comes up first when people type Chicago Children’s Clown into Google? That’s right, Boris the loving Clown, that’s who.)
A high pitched wail drifted out of the dark brick bungalow. It was quickly joined by another, an octave above. Girl screams. Boris sighed, the order form had said it was Sasha’s 5th birthday. Wasn’t Sasha a boys name? It had been when he was young, oi! imagine if he had told Sasha Ivanovich in 4th grade that he had a girl’s name? Boris smiled, he would have beat me bloody.The smile faded. Well, beat me bloody more often.
Another banshee joined the chorus. Boy parties were more trouble than girl parties, but girls were screamers. And these were drilling right into the fifth of Zubrowka vodka that was sitting inside Boris’ head. As he closed his eyes against the screams, he remembered the reason for his hangover and the smile returned.
(so you want the name, the website boristheclown.com, the outfit, the wig, the client list, the blacklist. All of it... and you’ll pay me how much?)
The signed contract sat on the dashboard. But this gig at Forrester Avenue had been paid in advance. Once he was done here he would put the contract in the mailbox. Boris picked up a small suitcase off the back seat and walked up to the house. He pushed the doorbell and waited. Maybe they didn’t hear it. He raised his hand again.
The door opened on a small dark-haired WASP woman. There it was - the classic three stage reaction. Shock at the appearance of a grease-painted man with an orange wig; then recognition that this was the clown she had ordered on-line two months ago; and finally pity, at seeing a grown man dressed that way. It was the pity that always stung.
She recovered quicker than most. “Ah, Mr Sokolov, please come in.”
Boris smiled at the mangled pronunciation. “Please, call me Boris.”
She smiled back. “Thanks Boris, I’m Sarah, Sasha’s mom. They’re all in the living room.”
The screams redoubled when he entered, all eyes fixed on his outfit and wig. Boris worked his way through the maelstrom of pigtails and tiny fists and set down his suitcase on the table. He looked at the clock - 3:30pm on the dot. There was no point calling for attention, the best thing he had learnt was just to start. He launched into his routine.
The screaming stopped immediately. Boris glanced up from where he was pulling a rope of knotted handkerchiefs out of his fist, worried that the kids had all disappeared into thin air. But he saw something even more incredible, they were watching him. Each face rapt with attention at his every move.
The deafening silence attracted the parents from the kitchen who gathered at the back of the room to watch his schtick. But it was no longer schtick, it was a performance. Everything worked perfectly - the timing, the sleight of hand. He wasn’t just interesting, he was leading them by the nose, telling them what emotions they should be feeling - happy, curious, worried, relieved. They were hooked.
Boris looked back at the clock - 3:50pm. He had to stop. But the upturned faces stared at him in fascination. Even the smirks on the adults had been replaced by broad smiles. He had captured them, like he had captured his first audience all those years ago. That first hot shot of acting that convinced him he had to live his life on the stage. That half-forgotten thrill, like seeing an old lover again for the first time in years, crept up his spine. He had to hold this moment. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a deck of cards.
“Take a card, any card,” he gestured to the nearest girl. “But don’t show me.”
She grinned and drew one out. Boris’ heart pounded. Now for the grand finale.
Like a shark swimming up behind its prey, a small girl had circled around Boris, her dorsal fin sliding below his peripheral vision.
“And now I predict... ” Boris began.
With a swift jab, the shark behind Boris lashed out and jabbed his left knee. The knee that Sasha Ivanovich had broken all those years ago; that was held together by small strands of sinew and cartilage.
Boris collapsed, the house of cards in his hands flying out over the audience - every one of them was a seven of diamonds.
The spell broke. The children leapt up and started throwing the cards at each other. The smirks had returned to the lips of the parents. Jabbing needles shot up through Boris’ body as he knelt on the carpet. The pain matched only by the humiliation of his failed act.
Sarah walked over to him and took him by the arm, helping him stand.
“Oh dear, I’m so sorry Boris, I didn’t see little Sasha there behind you. Are you OK?”
Boris gritted his teeth as he stood and looked at the mock sincerity behind the smile. “I’m fine, I’m fine. That was how I meant it to end. Ha, little bubelah - she’ll be a performer herself one day.”
Sarah beamed at the fake praise.
Boris walked out the front door and limped back to the car. Slumping into the front seat he tore off the wig and threw it onto the floor. He picked up the contract sitting in front of him. It was the end of the shame, the ridicule. But still, he’d had them, hadn’t he? Even if it was just for a moment?
The grease paint stained the paper as Boris sat and stared at it for a long time.
|# ? May 5, 2014 04:44|
The Secret Origin Of The Midnight Brotherhood
Alpha Phoenix, The Vanquisher and Mister Phenomenal peeled into the Silent Justice Department garage and tumbled out of the JusticeNissan as the automatic garage door slid shut.
“Did you see the look on their faces?” The mouth beneath the feathered Phoenix mask grinned like a madman.
“They certainly never expected that Phoenix Phormation you came up with,” said the Vanquisher, his unzipped gimp mask revealing a toothy smile. “Five of them, three of us, and they never saw us coming. Biff, Bang, Boom!”
“That’s a crappy catchphrase,V. Not that it matters much any more. Just a shame it has to end” said Mister Phenomenal. He ran a hand through his mane of blonde hair. “I mean, I really felt like we were making a difference in this town.”
The three of them went through the side-door into Alpha Phoenix’s refurbished basement and gathered around its large, wooden table. Mister Phenomenal ran a hand across its circular surface, remembering. “A drat shame.”
While Alpha Phoenix grabbed some beers from the Fortress of Frostitude, the Vanquisher produced a newspaper from his utility belt. He slapped it down on the table. “The latest bit of hero-hate. I just don’t know why the Mayor has it in for us.”
“Mayor Christof’s Vigilante Law In Effect From Midnight Tonight,” read Mister Phenomenal. “look - there’s even a number you can call if you see one of us. Christ, how did we go from kindly-regarded cranks to public enemy number one?”
“You know how,” said Alpha Phoenix, handing out the brews and taking his place at the table. “It’s all fun and games until someone loses a life.” He raised his bottle to the portrait that hung on one wall - a full length photograph of a brightly coloured, caped woman with one foot on the JusticeNissan. “To Morning Glory,” he said, and the others echoed his salute.
They sipped at their beers and sat silent for a minute, not looking at one another, each lost in their own memories of the Silent Justice Department.
Mister Phenomenal looked up at the clock and broke the silence. “Jeez, it’s five minutes to midnight. Is the clock in the JusticeNissan fast or something?”
“I never set it to daylight saving, sorry,” said Alpha Phoenix.
“So we’re still legally superheroes, not misguided miscreants. That’s a relief, though we probably didn’t need to run those reds on the way home. So what do we do with our final moments of legitimacy?”
“There’s a crossword in the back of the paper,” suggested the Vanquisher.
“Are you kidding? C’mon - we gotta do something, I dunno, symbolic,” said Mister Phenomenal. “How about we take off our masks?”
The Vanquisher pushed back on his chair. “No way, I didn’t sign up for that. Secret identities respected - that’s what the ad said.”
“We can change the standing orders with a vote,” said Alpha Phoenix “All in favour of having a kick-arse final moment when we all reveal our identities say Aye. Aye.”
“Aye,” said Mister Phenomenal.
“Passed,” said Alpha Phoenix.
“Jeezus,” said the Vanquisher.
“I’ll start,” said the Phoenix. He removed the feathered Phoenix Mask. Underneath was a pleasant looking man in his mid-thirties. “Hi, I’m Abel - currently working as a stockbroker downtown. And I’m a superhero. For the next minute and a half. I just wanted to give something back to the community.”
Mister Phenomenal went next, untying the purple band that hid everything but his piercing blue eyes. “And I’m James. I’m, um, actually a Male Model - I do a lot of photo spreads for ZappyMart. I guess I just needed something to look forward to - that wasn’t the just standing around looking pretty. And knowing some drunks punch could ruin my livelihood made it that much more exciting.”
The two bare-faced heroes turned to the Vanquisher. “C’mon, V,” said James. “It’s actually kind of liberating. We’ve depended on each other so many times, trusted each other, now we get to have that trust rewarded.”
“Jeezus,” said the Vanquisher. “Ok.” His hands reached around to the back of the gimp mask, and slowly unzipped it. Then he gave the mask a sharp tug and looked at the others as they recoiled, his eyes wide and pleading. “Hi. I’m Mark Christof, and I work down at City Hall as Mayor.”
Alpha Phoenix was the first to manage a response. “Blazing Feathery gently caress!. But...why?”
The Vanquisher stared at the table. “I started doing this as a way to cut through the red tape and get some real work done in this town, plus my wife worked nights. But now we’ve got a kid on the way, and when Morning glory...well, public opinion went so far south against us that I needed to take a stand if I wanted to have a chance in the next election...so…”
“So you sold us all up the river,” said Abel
“Hey, does it matter?” said James. “If it wasn’t him, it would have been someone else.”
“But it was him,” said Abel. “Get out, Christof. I don’t wanna have a final drink with the likes of you.”
Christof looked at James, but James just shrugged and mouthed “sorry, man.” Christof picked up his mask and walked out the side door, latex body suit squelching sadly as he went. The remaining pair heard the garage door scroll up and then down.
“Wanker,” said Abel. “He betrayed us for political expedience. And now we’re just shmoes again. gently caress.”
“Maybe we are,” said James. “Or just maybe our scope just widened - Justice doesn’t come from authority, it comes from, well, justice. Maybe we have to fight on - between the bars of the law.”
Abel stared at him. “I believe you’re on to something. But we’re not the Silent Justice Department any more. That bright day has gone. We’re darker now, edgier, we’re...The Dark Brotherhood.”
“I think that’s from Skyrim.”
“Right. We’ll think of something else later.”
|# ? May 5, 2014 05:08|
A Hero's Tale (905 words)
"We don't need to hear that story," said Billy, with the usual embarassment a middle school student has toward his eccentric father.
"Yes we do," said Jerry, with the usual curiousity a middle school student has toward facts others clearly don't want him to know.
Mr. Lee sat down, relieved to take the pressure of his leg, which limped as always. He was also quite pleased with himself for having found another willing captor to his favorite wartime story, the one about how he got the big medal. There was only so long Billy could keep a friend without ever inviting them once to his home.
"It all started in the thick of North Korea," Mr. Lee said, with a strong and deliberate grandeur flowing through his voice. "I did all sorts of spy work there, but it was all just boring bookkeping until right at the end, when I got the plans for their nuclear missile program. That's when I had to make my escape- by cutting straight across the Western mud flats of the demilitarized zone."
"We really don't need to hear this," Billy said, tugging at Jerry's arm. But he was summarily ignored.
"Why'd you go that way?" asked Jerry.
"It was an accident, honestly," Mr. Lee said. "There was a bridge, but I thought it'd be too easy to spot me, and the water was low. Then I got to the other side. And that's when I had to climb through the mud.
Mr. Lee pulled up one of his pant legs, revealing a hideous grey and red morass of baked dirt and blood that went all the way up to his thighs. Jerry's eyes opened wide in shock and awe.
"You should have seen it before the armys docs had it cleaned," Mr. Lee said, with a chuckle, "It was the most grueling physical experience of my life. The mud was much faster than quicksand, even if it only went up to my belly button. Halfway there I was already exhausted. Then it got worse."
"How did it get worse?" said Jerry, leaning in ever closer.
"A guard spotted me, and made pursuit in the mud," Mr. Lee said, slowly and with deliberate breath. "It was bad enough just fighting nature. Now I had to dodge bullets too!"
Mr. Lee pulled up a sleeve, showing off a pair of nasty looking bullet wounds. Jerry winced, even as he inevitably said-
"Can I touch it?"
Mr. Lee nodded. Jerry prodded the wound, thoroughly grossing himself out while Billy shook his head. Mr. Lee continued with the story.
"Now, I had a gun, but the mud had gummed it all up. But I'd taken a specialty in thrown weapons, so I came up with a plan. I waited until the wind was just perfect, then I threw the gun a hundred feet, right at the guy's noggin!"
"Why?" asked Jerry.
"I was traveling light," said Mr. Lee, "but the mud was almost killing me. So I figured that if I could knock the guy off balance, he'd sink into it completely."
"Did it work?" asked Jerry.
"Oh yeah. He drowned to death right there in the mud," said Mr. Lee. "And he knew what was going to happen too. He screamed. You want to know his last words?"
"Look," said Billy, "I really think that's-"
"What? What?" Jerry said, all the more excited.
"Please! I don't want to die!" Mr. Lee cried out suddenly, with true pain and terror in his voice.
And just like that, all the oxygen was sucked from the room. Jerry leaned back, suddenly confused.
"I'm not an expert on watching people die," said Mr. Lee, "but drowning to death in the mud? That's pretty terrible. I dream it happens to me. Every night. You ever had a dream where you're sure you're going to die...uh...what was your name again?"
"Jerry," Billy said. Jerry was at this point shivering.
"Right, Jerry," Mr. Lee continued. "The guard had a name too, you know. I don't know what it was but I think about that. About how he used to have a family. I became this huge legend for that story, got a medal for it, and a full pension. But it turned out the North Koreans had a backup copy. I can't walk straight, I look like a monster, I have to get electroshock treatments for my depression, I'll always know for the rest of my life that I murdered a man in the worst possible way. And there wasn't even any point. But I did get a great story out of it. And isn't that all that matters?"
Jerry stood up silently, staring into space. After a long moment he spoke to Billy, but did not face him.
"I better go home," he said quietly. "I'll see you tomorrow."
And with that he shuffled out of the house. Billy stared at his father, waiting until Jerry was out of earshot.
"I wish you didn't tell that story every time I bring someone here."
Billy said this very calmly, but he was still frustrated, and slammed the door to his room shut. Mr. Lee listened to all this and, with his usual limp, stood up and moved toward the liquor cabinet. He took out an old bottle of scotch- his only real friend in the world.
"Me, too, son," Mr. Lee said, in between swigs. "Me, too."
|# ? May 5, 2014 05:22|
Nicholas hadn't meant to break his mother's beloved cardinal suncatcher, and he stooped to pick up one of the blood-bright teardrops that had been wings with a frantic notion of putting it together again. The edge of the glass sliced the pad of his thumb, and fresh red spattered the kitchen floor.
"Nick!" His mother grabbed his shoulder. "No, honey, get the dust pan... oh, Lord. Come here."
She led him to the bathroom and doused his finger with iodine, then bandaged and kissed it. "I'll fix the cardinal, Mom," he told her. She smiled a little and shook her head.
She threw the glass and frame away, but Nicholas salvaged them after she'd gone to bed. He worked on them for hours with Super Glue. To no avail. The shards couldn't be un-broken. But he discovered a fascination in himself for fragments of glass, vivid as jewels, bound by soldered metal into a beautiful whole. He studied the windowed lives of saints every Sunday at Mass. With a beginner's kit he made his mother the ugliest bluebird suncatcher God had ever seen.
In shattered glass, Nicholas found his vocation.
Fast forward through fifty years of gold chloride and cobalt oxide, soda ash and lime, cutters and solder; fifty years of birds and butterflies and lampshades for pool halls. Nicholas Devine: Master of Glass. He'd cut those words into the pane in the front door of his warehouse-cum-workshop.
A man in a fine suit stood in the warehouse now, a representative of the city's art museum. "You'd have six months," he said, "free artistic rein, and twenty thousand dollars. In exchange we want your masterpiece."
"Within six months," Nicholas complained. "You should have asked two years ago."
"We didn't have the government grant then. If you can't do it, we'll come up with another plan."
Could he? Nicholas squeezed his hands into fists to test the fingers. They bent readily enough, burn scars chafing burn scars in the familiar way, and they felt steady. He wouldn't look at them while this man watched.
He said, "I'll get started today."
First there were contracts to sign, details to discuss. Nicholas rolled out a sheet of draft paper when Mr. Suit had gone. His masterpiece, he thought, to stand in the museum foyer. They would expect the birds that were his trademark. Might even want them. But the man had said free rein.
His masterpiece. Nicholas rubbed the thin white line across his thumb's pad.
Some of the glass, he colored in the melt: the sheets of soft blue, cloud white, pale gold. Other, smaller sheets, he painted brown with powders and fired in his kiln. Sweat rolled down his sore back and bony sides as the heat tried to bake him. He laid the sheets out for the sun and accepted its promise that yes, the colors were right.
When Mr. Suit checked on him a month in with a flock of fellow suits in tow, Nicholas had the glass ready to show them--and the sketch of Virgin Mary. "Why?" a woman demanded.
"I'll never be more able to do her justice," Nicholas said.
Someone leaked his plan to the city press. His inbox and mailbox filled with letters he didn't have time to read. Twice vandals tried to break into the warehouse at night, and twice they fled from his revolver. Had they imagined he slept?
He scored glass with an even hand, most days. He refused to dwell on the panes he spoiled when his fingers went into spasms. Or the entire week when he couldn't grip the cutter.
The pieces emerged eventually, and set in strips of zinc came, they glowed.
"We want to debut it in sunlight," Mr. Suit said over the phone. "Out in the courtyard." Nicholas hired his usual company to pack the panel and carry it in their truck to the museum, where volunteers got it standing, still wrapped in the cloth that left it a mystery.
In a suit himself the next morning, Nicholas hovered near his creation. Men and women milled in the courtyard on either side of the panel. His tired eyes read a logo on several shirts: SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND TAX DOLLARS; other chests bore a pale face of the Madonna. A few people carried protest signs. Museum security had nudged them to the perimeter.
Mr. Suit spoke into a microphone. "We're proud to introduce this great work by a brilliant artist. Nicholas Devine discovered glass as a child...."
As he told the crowd about Nicholas's history, his accomplishments, Nicholas moved to stand in front of the panel. He would soon see for himself what the full light had to tell. Then the volunteers pulled the shroud away.
She stood amid roses and their thorns, yet her white gown defied them. The blue of her mantle was a misty sky. A touch of red deepened the delicate gold of her rippling halo, a haze of light about her head, at once more brilliant and less warm than the Middle Eastern tan of her face and hands; she held the world. The Virgin looked nothing like Nicholas's mother. He hadn't wanted her to. Nevertheless he recognized her soft and patient smile.
Love in glass. His masterpiece.
A cramp twisted his right hand; he didn't feel it. He heard shouting, but not the words. He saw glory and not the crack made by a thrown rock, but a second stone broke Mary's face and then Nicholas was aware of more rocks flying, of security guards struggling with protesters, of curses screamed at and by the vandals. Men shoved at the panel. It tipped forward.
Nicholas stood steady in the path of the fall. His glass cut him so deeply as it pinned him to the earth that he died with the last, best work of his heart, without fathoming the hatred that destroyed it.
Hail Mary, full of grace.
|# ? May 5, 2014 05:43|
The Boasting Bastard, Backed into his Bunker at the Battle of Buggered Britain
The map that hung on the bunker's wall was pierced with endless red flags. A small circle of blue flags broke up the sea of red, a stalwart speck on the south of the British Isles.
"There are still some people up north." Sergeant Grant said, holding out his glass. "Good people."
"Not a chance..." Churchill slurred, pouring him a miserly amount of whiskey. The cigars they were smoking were Churchill's too, so Grant had no place to complain. They stared at the map for a while longer, until the bunker shook under the force of an explosion. "I was going to win..." Churchill muttered. More to the wall than to Grant. Above them, gunfire echoed.
"They're inside." Grant said. "How long now do you think?"
Churchill's answer was unintelligible, it was lost among a loud groan as he pulled himself out of his seat. For a moment he looked like he would fall backwards, but after a few shaky seconds he steadied himself. "Right?" He waved towards the map, still clutching the whiskey bottle.
"I don't follow sir."
"Before they come." Churchill stumbled towards the map, lifting it up by the corner. Then he began to tap the whiskey bottle against the wall behind it. Grant stood and moved to pull him away, when the wall suddenly opened revealing a small dark corridor, barely big enough for a man to crawl through.
Outside the door, the noise of the gunfire grew closer and closer, before suddenly stopping altogether.
Grant couldn't decide between anger and relief, Churchill only laughed. Suddenly Grant regretted some of the things he had said when he believed their deaths inevitable. "You're a cruel man sir." Was all he could muster.
The silence outside was replaced by German voices. "After you?" Grant said.
Churchill shook his head. "Not a gently caress chance." He said. "I can't go back after what I said. I made promises."
"With respect sir, you're shitfaced. Come on, we'll need you for the counter-attack." Grant was already climbing into the tunnel when he started speaking, until that day he had barely spoken to the man, but after a few hours alone in a bunker, sharing your last thoughts before death he felt at ease enough to swear at a superior.
"You're poo poo face, I'm going down with my ship." He turned away and glanced towards the door, which now shook as the men on the other side attempted to break it down. "Tell them I killed twenty Nazi's before they got me." He said, taking another swig of whiskey. "Make it good, something inspiring."
The man was blind-drunk. As he stood, his head nodded in an uneven rhythm, as if he were listening to music no-one else could hear. Grant let the map fall as he turned and crawled away.
Alone, Churchill turned to the map once more. It all ended here, his own personal downfall.
He smirked at his own narcissism. Taking another mouth-full from his bottle, he pulled his pistol from its holster. Better to die and take information in his head with him than serve as an easy answer to the question of a British Resistance.
The door swung open, grey uniforms stormed the room.
He fired his pistol and continued to drink, as he gasped pulling the cool glass away from his lips he noticed the lack of return fire. He opened his eyes in time to greet the truncheon with a smile.
Now all he could see were flashing lights, a few glimpses of looming grey shadows and falling black lightning.
He took a moment to figure out if he was alive or dead. His eyes finally opened, and above him loomed a blurry officer-shaped blob. Churchill clenched his fists, his pistol had been knocked away in the struggle but he still held his whiskey.
He spat blood, and the German foot on his wrists loosened enough for him to take one last swig from his whiskey.
He had to laugh, as he fell unconscious he wondered if the whiskey was to blame. The glass was still cool against his hand. Probably not...
|# ? May 5, 2014 05:53|
Mutilés (812 words)
Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at 23:54 on Dec 9, 2014
|# ? May 5, 2014 06:39|
Back Up the Stairs
I passed the house every day on my way to work. It had two stories, a three car garage, and a lawn that was always immaculate. Sometimes I’d see a Lamborghini parked in the driveway. I’d never had thoughts about robbing a place before, but going by there day after day while I busted my rear end at the factory got me thinking.
I asked around about it, found out that some big time lawyer lives there with his daughter. I thought that with all the money that must have been holed up in there, no one would throw too big a stink if a little went missing. I thought that if could get a piece of it, I wouldn’t have to deal dope on the side, or beat up meth heads for what little cash they had. If I could get one big score, I’d be okay. Some nights I’d park across the street and just stare at the house for hours. One night, after a real bad day at work, I decided I was ready.
I parked my car and sat there waiting until it looked like the lawyer and his daughter had gone to bed. I must have smoked a pack-and-a-half while I was sitting there. I saw their lights go out and I put on a ski mask and some latex gloves. Nobody locks their doors in that neighborhood, so I let myself right in.
I checked the downstairs but there wasn’t much to be found. They might have left the front door open but everything inside was locked up tight. I stood in the kitchen for a minute or two trying to decide whether or not I should leave, or risk going to the second floor. I end up at the base of the stairs, looking up. I knew that going up there where the family was sleeping was just inviting trouble, but I could see images of CD players, watches, and jewelry. Curiosity’s a bitch, and it got the best of me.
I walked up the stairs quietly and carefully, because every staircase in America’s got one little bastard that’ll squeak and ruin a whole operation. When I got to the top of the stairs I stopped and listened. I listened for movement. I listened for a T.V. I listened for somebody getting up to take a piss. I didn’t hear anything so I continued.
There wasn’t much up there but bedrooms. The first one I saw was the father’s. If I’d awakened proud papa I’d have been in a world of hurt, so I kept moving, past a little bathroom. There was a bedroom at the end of the hall, and I assumed it was the daughter’s. I didn’t really want to wake her up either. I decided to turn back, cut my losses, and just leave. I crept my way back down the hall.
Walking quietly is a funny thing: you never know if you’ve been doing it right until you’re not. I discovered that when the floor squeaked beneath me. Now that squeak was probably as loud as a mouse fart and didn’t wake anybody up, but instinct took over and that was that. I panicked. I ran, faster than I have in a long time.
I barreled down the hallway but it was too late. The old man must have heard me and was standing right in the middle of the hallway, pointing a goddamn shotgun at my head. I couldn’t stop so I plowed into him and we fell down the stairs, me riding on top of him like he was a sled. We hit the ground and he landed on the back of his neck. There was an audible crunch.
I stood up and whispered if he was all right. He didn’t move, so I nudged him a few times with my foot: still nothing. I took a step towards the door when I heard this little shriek from the top of the stairs. I looked up to see the daughter, who gasped and threw her hands over her mouth. We both stood there for a second, staring, neither one of daring to make the first move. Here’s where things get a little fuzzy for me.
I can see myself doing it, but it doesn’t feel like it was me. Just a collection of hazy images somewhere in the back of my mind, like a movie I saw years ago and can’t quite remember. I grabbed the shotgun and charged up the stairs like some kind of big animal, grunting a little with each step. She started to run, but wasn’t fast enough. I raised the gun and fired a couple of times. I don’t know where the first shot went but the second one blew her face apart like a bloody Fourth of July.
I snapped out of my daze and dropped the gun. I ran down the stairs, out the door, and into my car. Afterwards I just drove, up and down the back roads. I must have made it back to my house and gotten into bed. It wasn’t until I woke up the next morning that I realized I was even home. It wasn’t until two days later that I realized I hadn’t stolen anything.
The story was all over the papers. Cops said the father must have shot his daughter, and then thrown himself down the stairs. No one could think of a motive. That house was supposed to be the last time I broke the law, and it was. Some people would say I got away with it, but I’m not so sure. I started taking a different route to the factory; a longer one. On the nights that I can sleep I find myself at the bottom of those stairs looking up. This time I know what’s up there, waiting for me.
|# ? May 5, 2014 06:48|
Just One More Thing Before I Leave
crabrock fucked around with this message at 06:54 on Jul 1, 2014
|# ? May 5, 2014 07:33|
I ask the girls in the bullpen, “Has anyone seen Shapiro?” From the chorus of averting eyes, stifled giggles and the secretive whisper game between Angie and Miranda, I know something went down. Normally I don’t involve myself in schoolyard poo poo. You gotta understand. It’s the bottom of seventh and we’re inches away from a perfect season.
My patience’s running thin. I asked again.
Kelly shrugs. “Maybe Alex ran to the bathroom?”
I heard Miranda mutter “Her water broke.” Angie snickered.
“If she comes back, tell her to get her butt back here.”
I walk back out and approach Raymond. He asks me if I’ve seen her, and I just snort.
“Calm down, Jared. These kids are, what, 14, 15? Why are you getting so upset over this?”
I’m about to go off on how he wouldn’t be umpire if it wasn’t for me when someone tugs on my shoulder.
“Coach Dwyer?” I spin around. Leila, my best player. “Me and Alex got into a fight.”
I stare at her. “Really? When?”
Leila shrugged. “Last inning? Her boyfriend was cheating on her and she thought it was me.” She pushed her bangs back, pursing her lips. “But, like, she totally came at me, so, it was all in self-defense!”
“Whatever.” I press fingers to temple. I’m this close to losing it. “You know where she is?”
“I think she’s called for a ride.”
Raymond nods and I walk towards the exit. On the way, I pass Val, big slab of steak, can’t miss her.
Val looks concerned. “You okay, Jared?”
“Yeah.” Almost punctuate that with a ‘dyke’ but I hold my tongue.
I find Shapiro sitting on a log near the back of the parking lot, tearing strands of grass into tiny little specks.
“It’s your turn.” I tell her.
She ignores me, keeps ripping at the grass.
“Shapiro. Get up.”
I clench my fist.
“I’m not going to ask you again.”
She ignores me again, orange hair speckled with dirt.
“I don’t care if you started a fight with Leila. Just come back. I need you.”
“Issat’ what she told you?” Flicks the blade away. “I’d tell you about how she told me that my mother’s a whore. But I don’t hold a candle to precious Leila Langford, do I?”
“…what’s that supposed to mean?”
She shrugs, like she doesn’t understand the question.
I grunt. “Enough of this bullshit. Get up.”
She smiles at me. “Screw you, Coach.”
“…What did you just say?”
She stood up. “I said, ‘Screw. You.’ I’m done being bullied by you. You’re an rear end in a top hat.”
My knuckles are going white. “Don’t you talk to me like that.”
“Or what?” She smirks. “You’ll put me on the bench, like you have this entire season?”
“Don’t start with me. You started with Leila, you will NOT start with me.”
Shapiro scoffs, places a hand on her hip. “Gosh, Coach. If you love Leila so much, why don’t you marry her?”
“At least Leila listens to me.”
Shapiro snorted. “At least I’m not some shriveled-up old gently caress who gets his rocks off to a children’s game – “
I slap her. Hard.
Shapiro coughs and staggers.
Her legs give out and she falls on her rear end.
She shakes. Touches her cheek, over the imprint of my ring.
Tears form in her eyes. She moans like a baby.
Starts looking at me like I’m some boogeyman.
I squat, face level with hers. I make a fist.
“I am this close to beating some goddamn respect into you.”
She’s shaking. Eyes wide.
“Now you’re going back there and you’re playing. Is that understood?”
Opens her mouth to speak.
I raise my hand. Shuts up, nods.
“Now get up.”
Ray nods at Val as we return. The other team scrambles to get ready. Shapiro stomps over to the plate and rips the bat out of Kelly’s hands.
I walk over to the bullpen and I hear Miranda quote Full Metal Jacket. I stare at Shapiro, knitting my teeth. She’s holding the bat like she wants to beat the catcher with it.
Pitcher lines it up.
Kid swings the bat like an axe. Ball flies under her arm. One.
Shapiro propellers so hard she nearly gains altitude. Two.
Three. She’s out. Shapiro leaves without saying anything. Kelly clenches the game. We win. I tell the girls how proud I am, shake hands with some parents then we all go out to Pizza Hut. See you next year. Sans Shapiro. Happy ending.
….That’s how it should have happened.
Shapiro cracks the ball and it flies over the fence.
What happens next comes straight out of every goddamn baseball movie. The girls run out of the bullpen. The crowd cheers. Artiste claps like she’s at the opera. Raymond whistles and pumps his fist. Everyone’s excited. Except for Shapiro. She drops the bat and covers her face with her sleeve. Raymond notices first, goes from excitement to confusion in three seconds.
I curse under my breath. This wasn’t supposed to happen. My stomach churns. My eyes are glued to Shapiro, gently caress me, this wasn’t supposed to happen.
“Girl knocked it out of the park there.”
Val steps in front of me, blocking my view.
I mumble. “Yeah.”
Val cocks her hip. “Reminds me of when I was young.”
I peer over Val’s beefy shoulder and, gently caress me, Raymond’s pulling Shapiro off of Leila. Leila’s kicking, holding her bloody nose. The rest of the team’s huddled nearby, eyes wide. I look over at the stands. Some concerned parents are walking, most are shocked at what they’re seeing.
I swallow, hard. “Room to improve.”
“C’mon, Jared, don’t be like that. She’s a kid!”
Shapiro’s got her head in Ray’s flab, babbling, fistfuls of his striped shirt. Ray rubs the back of her head and says something. He shoots me a look I can’t read.
Val puts out her yellow-stained fingers. “Good game.”
I don’t shake.
“Yeah,” I say. “… Good game.”
|# ? May 5, 2014 08:00|
Submissions are now closed!
|# ? May 5, 2014 08:03|
Unceasing Downpour (853 words)
Robin stood offstage with the other girls as she fiddled with her dress. This was it. The La Costa Variations choir’s last performance of the school year – a performance at a music festival held at Davies Symphony Hall. As the current group, the El Camino Youth Choir performed what seemed to be an old gospel song, Robin risked a peek at their main female soloist, Marie. She was quiet, still, her shoulders relaxed. In truth, Marie was the only reason the La Costa Variations were at this festival – at one of their earlier performances, her solo in “Wild Horses” had brought one of the rival choir directors to tears. Everybody knew she was going places.
People might think it strange, but Robin wasn’t bitter about Marie’s success at all. She earned it – rumor had it she spent five hours a day practicing with her tutor. And there were whispers that Marie was destined for Julliard. Good for Marie. What was Robin destined for? More hours behind one, maybe two, cash registers. Classes at the local community college, if she found the time and funds. But Robin found that she had become content with her lot about three months ago. This was around the time she found out that they were performing here. After all, isn’t this what the library books she read talked about? A perfect moment exposed indelibly on her brain, to pull out and look at when she worried about her job, when a customer got cranky, or when she was tired?
Marie straightened and walked forward, and Robin snapped out of her reverie. It was time. As Marie opened the door that led to the stage, light streamed in, and Robin was struck with sudden nerves. What if the judges didn’t like their first song choice? It was ridiculous, since she was the one who campaigned for it two months ago when they began preparing for this festival, but… a rock song for a choir? By an relatively obscure band? What was she thinking? What was everybody here, in this choir, thinking?
“Hey, hurry up!” The other girl’s whisper – Jennifer, was it? – enabled her to start moving again, and she stepped out onto the stage floor of Davies Symphony Hall. The bright lights shone down, and the murmur of the crowd reached her ears. Numbly, she stepped to the choir stands and took her position, and tried to reassure herself as Mrs. Deniro began to introduce the choir. After all, didn’t Marie take her side? Marie was the one who arranged the song to fit the group – slowing it down, writing the separate parts… seriously, who would’ve guessed that they loved the exact same band? But it should be fine. Robin and the rest of the choir, boys and girls, looked up as Mrs. Deniro rose her hands.
“Aaaahhh,” the boys sang, building up their vocal harmonies. Marie stepped out of the crowd and in front of one of the two microphones on the stage.
“So why the sudden change, and what’s this all about? I know they speak your name…” Marie, like usual, sang the first verse perfectly, her voice strong and slightly raspy. She launched into the chorus, and Robin, along with the other girls, supplied the harmonies, singing, “So where the heck’s my hope, and why can’t I just try?”
Robin reflected briefly on the censorship they had to apply to the song in order convince Mrs. Deniro to allow the choir to perform the song. That, along with Marie’s good word, was instrumental in swaying her.
As they made their way to their second chorus, Robin stepped out of the crowd, and made her way to the second microphone. Marie, angled towards her, smiled at Robin. As Robin looked across the crowd, she drew in a breath, and sang harmony to Marie on the second verse.
As the lyrics flew through her brain and out her mouth (Can I pull out all the stops, and get out of this town? I want to make you proud…), she found her vision begin to blur. But her throat thankfully remained clear throughout the second verse and second chorus, and when she finished her last couple lines, she wiped briefly at her eyes as she swapped places with one of the boys, who had stepped out to take his turn in the spotlight.
Finally, Marie’s voice lingered over the last note, and after a brief reshuffling, the choir launched into their second song. The rest of their set passed in a blur, but not without some hastily-wiped-away tear trails appearing on Robin’s cheeks. As they left the stage and emerged in the audience to watch the rest of the performances, Robin was persistently troubled by the thought that this moment wasn’t enough, in some inexplicable way. And despite her best efforts, she came to the conclusion that one photo looks pretty drat lonely in an album as she sat in the bus home.
At least graduation was next month. Another perfect moment to fill her photo album – as long as she managed to find a good dress.
|# ? May 5, 2014 08:18|
Got three folks all with brawl submissions to get in for me by 11:59pm Wednesday Singapore time. That is quite a lot ahead of US time. Up to 12 hours in some places. Check that poo poo before you submit.
|# ? May 5, 2014 14:44|
Results of the 91st Thunderdome!
Given that this week's prompt was to give us stories about your characters' finest hours, the submissions were... well. Let the results speak for themselves.
This week's WINNER, living the dream: Tyrannosaurus, for a touching story about a man who's had his time in the sun, and a boy unsatisfied with his.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: No one! That's right, there wasn't one story this week that jumped out and made the judges think, "if only we could have given the grand prize to this one right here." Step it up next week, people.
D.O.G.O.G.B.Y.N., for making pretty much zero sense throughout. Seriously.
Leekster, for a confusing story about a rodeo with a bunch of characters we don't care about.
The News at 5, for a sequence of events with no underlying theme or story arc.
dmboogie, for a boring story about overthrowing Big Brother in a bizarrely bland setting.
Some Guy TT, for a war story with a framing device that actively irritated one of the judges.
WeLandedOnTheMoon!, for an attempt at a joke at the judges' expense. No one's laughing.
And the LOSER, against stiff competition: Drunk Nerds, for a grammatically-unsound mess of a story. We're going to have to talk about some of the fundamentals here.
Crits will come later. For now, Tyrannosaurus, the throne is yours.
|# ? May 5, 2014 16:18|
The start and end of the story work, but the middle really is something to work through.
Nausea - 1,024 words
The story was very unnatural and choppy. Dialogue is something you need to really focus on improving. Instead of using those really long winded sentences, cut back and do more with less. Another piece that distracts from the story is how you go on about things you haven't properly introduced.
I will be doing three crits for this week too. First come, first serve.
|# ? May 5, 2014 17:07|
FINEST HOUR CRITS
Amazing, astonishingly, most of you wrote something recognizable as a story. Not that they were any good, but you seemed to understand that you needed characters doing things.
Unfortunately, this also impaired your ability to convey thoughts in an understandable manner, but hey, baby steps.
Drunk Nerds - Circle of Death
If all the stories this week were like this one, I would be much, much more mad than I am now. You seem to have some idea of how to structure a story, at least, but the content varied between baffling and gross. (Also, you don't have any idea how to structure dialogue. This isn't Said Bookism week.) If you're going to write about anatomical detail in your story, try to know what you're talking about. Oh, and your ending, with the EMT barfing onto a dead guy (!!), leaping into a crashed car (?????) to save a "screaming baby" still inside it's dead mother's womb (!!!????!!!), was disgusting and not in a fun way. The judges had zero qualms giving you the lose.
Entezahn - Gambit
I liked some of the style elements here. What I thought was the main character being oddly self-referential made sense once I got what was going on. Problem is, while there's an interesting idea there, I didn't feel the conflict. It's already happened here--he's made up his mind about going through the procedure. What would have made it more interesting would have been him in conflict over whether to do it. Good idea, poor execution.
Meeple - Prophecy
I didn't understand this the first time through, which isn't a good thing to feel, because it means I didn't understand it enough to like it. I understood the looking-into-the-future device, though you only make it clear what's going on after the fact, so that left me confused. Then the logistics of what the notes said confused me. Then I read the last line and made this kind of face: :/ This is far from the worst story, but it was confusing and I didn't understand the main character's motivations very well, or why he was so invested in this. (After all, if he's seeing the future, isn't knowing that he'll have a great discovery good, even if he doesn't know what it'll be?)
Leekster - Last Ride
I saw what you were going for with this, but you stopped short of where you were headed. That, combined with some poor style choices ('The slow plot of footsteps was heard from the hall.', '"She is yours yes."') got you the DM. I don't know why his hip pain is related to him dying. Most importantly, I don't know why he bothers to stand up. That ending scene might have worked, but you didn't give him any motivation. He just stands up...to show off, I guess?
Starter Wiggin - Say Cheese
The end seems weirdly tacked on. I don't understand how it's a resolution to what's going on, because I don't understand why the dad did the whole photo thing. To teach his son 'not to make the same mistakes' he did? The idea is an interesting one, but I don't get the reasoning behind it. Also, you could have done a way better start by removing the entire exchange in the beginning. It's ambiguous and kind of boring and "Recreating every photograph that I’d ever been in before I died was taking longer than I had originally thought." is a good, captivating opening. I immediately want to know why, but I don't really know. It almost seems like the dad regrets not having more pictures of his son, and then he's glad his son is taking pictures of his grandson? If I have to spend time being confused, that's time I spend not being entertained.
Bushido Brown - Persistence
I thought this one was well-constructed, but not as interesting as other entries. You did have a decent conflict and a character with clear motivations and a resolution, but the weak link there was your description, particularly of the kill. In one sentence, he spears the antelope, in the next, he guts it, and in the next, he brings it home. It didn't feel like the culmination of an exhausting hunt, it felt like a quick list of actions, and you had plenty of words left to make me feel more things about the chase and the kill. Like a number of others, good idea but not as good on the execution.
dmboogie - Larger than Life on the Burning Screen
Here's the plot of your story: Two people get on an elevator, ride it to the top, flip a button, and a bunch of TVs blow up. You padded this out with a truly stupendous amount of dialogue. I don't even know anything about this world other than the Overseer and police drones. There's conflict here, but the conflict is all happening to other people or offscreen. These people do something heroic but they didn't have to struggle at all for it. As soon as conflict appears, they shoot out a window, and jump, presumably falling to the ground, cushioned by the volume of their own dialogue and the cushy, uninteresting stereotypes of their vaguely cyberpunk world.
WeLandedOnTheMoon! - Henry: Portrait of a Goon
Nethilia - Friend of Mine
I ended up not getting the musical reference, but I felt like this worked as a pretty good story. As a side note, it's nice to not read a story about white dudes. The only downside to this is that, without knowing the song, exactly what she's saying to Teresa by singing isn't clear, so the conclusion doesn't make as much sense as it would otherwise.
Tyrannosaurus - Aloha
See above note about stories and white dudes. You painted an picture of someone in an interesting situation, surrounded by interesting people, and faced with a conflict. It felt like your characters had history, their own lives, and their own personalities. Every judge had you on their list for winner, so it was pretty easy to pick.
Greatbacon - One Last Job
I feel like you only gave me part of a story. A hitman goes in for one final job, gets knocked down when he breaks in, and then...? You end it there, without giving any closure to this guy and his desire to stop working. He's on the floor, but he's not dead, he's not even unconscious, and then the story just ends with his mark leaving. What was the point?
Thalamas - Land of the Setting Sun
You picked an interesting definition of friendship. In any event, I liked it, but I felt like all of the energy was concentrated into the latter third. For something that's happening during a rebellion, she was far from the action. It would have been better if you could have gotten a clearer image of the chaos outside. The dream sequence might also have been a little much.
Docbeard - Archival
Your story wasn't bad, but as is a running theme, at first, I was kind of confused. I think you skipped a bit too heavily between each of the breaks, but you had words to spare, so you could have made things clearer. At first, I thought the cleaning AI and the quarantine/pestilence was the same, but apparently it isn't. It seems like the progression from cleaning AI to hivemind overconsciousness is a little quick, but the timeline is a bit hazy, which again goes back to making the transitions clearer.
Sir Azrael - Fog of War
Hey, wow, I was confused here too! In your case, though, it was because of army ranks and the transitions you made where it wasn't clear that there was a shift of point of view. Your story worked, but it wasn't quite as good as Thalamas's North Korea war story. (Better than the third North Korea war story at least.) Also, I don't think this hit the flash rule very well, because fire across the DMZ is not all that inconsequential.
More to come later.
|# ? May 5, 2014 18:28|
THUNDERDOME XCII: The Great White Elephant Gift Exchange!
Sharing is caring here in the Thunderdome so let’s get into the spirit of giving! When you sign up this week make sure you include a present for your fellow writers. This can be anything: a setting, a character, a concept, a genre, an archetype. Simple. Complex. Whatever you want. Whatever you like. Once you’ve done that, look around at what else has been thrown out there. Pick one and include it in your story. You don't have to announce your choice until you submit and multiple people can use the same idea.
Pretty simple, yeah?
Oh. I should mention, though, that you are required to use whatever you suggested, too. So keep that in mind before you try and pass off something loving idiotic.
Oh. And you’ll have to use one from the judges. Seeing as how I’m the only judge right now I’m expecting to see a lot of stories about
Literal elephants, toy elephants, the elephant in the room, the Alabama football mascot, whatever. Go wild!
Word Limit: 1400 words
Signs up end Friday 11:00 pm EST
Submissions close Sunday 11:00 pm EST
Jolly Ol’ Judges:
Giddy Young Gifters:
Some Guy TT
That Old Ganon
God Over Djinn
a hardboiled private detective
an irredeemably bad author
an unwanted avatar
a piece of a mirror
old VHS tapes
the grocery story
a completely foreign language
a quest for a divine rear end
a missing person
Our Lord and Savior White Conservative Jesus
a death wish
the phrase "was pure and untamed, and they were loving every minute of it"
an old photo album
humor (the non-lovely kind)
a cross stitch pattern
technology indistinguishable from magic, or possibly the other way around
a society founded with good intentions that ultimately became dystopian
Entenzahn is now a judge and has bequeathed to everyone the genre of "psychological horror." So you gotta include that or elephants. I'll give you your third possibility whenever the next judge pops up.
Our glorious and heavenly blood queen has agreed to judge your miserable entries. She wants to see "stories about ultimate, embarrassing defeat becoming a cathartic triumph (if only in the eyes of the protagonist)." That's your third choice.
Now get to writing and try not the poo poo the bed like I know you want to!
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 20:00 on May 10, 2014
|# ? May 5, 2014 19:45|
I'm in for this week. And hopefully I'll turn my story in on time.
Present: Broken headphones.
|# ? May 5, 2014 19:57|
I'm bringing onomatopoeia to the party.
|# ? May 5, 2014 20:22|
A hardboiled private detective.
Also I'm repeating the fact I'm offering three crits.
|# ? May 5, 2014 20:25|
|# ? Dec 8, 2021 21:44|
Holy gently caress, I took a week off and everything went to poo poo for you guys. I'm in.
My gift is an irredeemably bad author.
|# ? May 5, 2014 20:34|