Cache Cab is the Andy Kaufman of Thunderdome
|# ? May 9, 2014 22:45|
|# ? May 23, 2022 11:51|
One of you basic baby bitches, step up to brawl already! I hunger to redeem myself and you chucklefucks are my ticket.
|# ? May 9, 2014 23:49|
I'm in, and I've brought the gift of Eurovision--specifically my very favorite Eurovision video. (Lyrics here.) Let the LED violin inspire you.
|# ? May 10, 2014 01:58|
If that's your favourite Eurovision video, you haven't watched this one enough. Watch the whole thing. Every time you think it can't get any funnier, it does.
I'm in, and I've brought the gift of Eurovision--specifically my very favorite Eurovision video. (Lyrics here.) Let the LED violin inspire you.
|# ? May 10, 2014 03:02|
I'm in and bringing a gift of Non-Newtonian Fluids. Better not regift it
|# ? May 10, 2014 03:27|
Aight that's it. Sign ups are closed
|# ? May 10, 2014 03:30|
Them's fightin' words.
One of you basic baby bitches, step up to brawl already! I hunger to redeem myself and you chucklefucks are my ticket.
|# ? May 10, 2014 06:01|
Them's fightin' words.
Start Wiggin and Thalamas, the initial brawl post has been updated with your prompt. You have a week, so edit early and often.
|# ? May 10, 2014 06:50|
Counting Time (1188 words)
I didn't vote for your story for the win, because there are too many things I don't understand about it. Your writing is good enough that I don't have much to yell at you about, but I have more macro problems with this:
1) How does the apocalypse cause traffic lights and swinging cords and sparks to be in time? I thought this meant the contagion was in the main char's head, causing him to see everything as being in time. Except there are no other clues toward this and the ending seems to imply that he HADN'T been infected before. So this was super confusing to me. What was with all the counting? Any clues you left weren't enough for me to pick up on this in three read throughs.
2) How did the sister get infected? I thought it'd be through the radio, but you said its lights were off and still had pieces out, so I'm assuming it never got fixed?
3) The sister seems confused/in a daze but is still helping with chores/tasks, so still seems somewhat cognisant, and doesn't make any attempt to warn her brother? her signaling him but him not understanding would be better. or is that was the impatient signaling is about? If so, they seem to break from protocol about the nodding to say it's ok and then taking off their stuff, and he does so just because "suddenly his clothes seemed heavy" which is about as good as "god came down on a rope and made his earmuffs fall off."
I know it's tough in such a small word count, but you need to practice being a little more explicit. I get the idea that you know all these answers in your head, but the way you wrote things is confusing, and leaves too many open possibilities.
|# ? May 10, 2014 16:11|
Used elements: Elephants, the phrase "was pure and untamed, and they were loving every minute of it", a missing person
DRAGONSLAYER (1399 words)
There's a story, talking about a group of blind philosophers trying to describe an elephant by touch. The guy who feels its ears says “This thing has wings! It must be a bird!”. The second feels around its legs, says “Shove off, it's a moving tree!”, which should have probably been the first clue that the elephant was getting pissed off by all the molestation and was about to pancake the lot of them.
Not very good on practical details, philosophers. Good at philosophy, though.
Me, I'm a practical bugger, which might not make sense since I was a knight, but it comes in bloody handy now that I'm king. Third son, probably a servant's bastard, which was a problem, really. First son to carry the family name, second as a backup, what the hells do you do with the third, right? Ended up a knight- but only because they wanted some idiot to martyr himself trying to save the princess from a dragon while the real knights got to preparing their shiny magic armour and all that rot. And it wasn't like the princess was much of a looker- she looked like a pimply cow, all that sugar she's been fed.
But I accepted anyway- not very practical, you might think, but I had a plan.
You see, everyone pays attention to the first and second sons. First son's carrying on the name, so he's got to have the best education- he gets the best swordmasters, the best wizards and so on. Second best's the backup, so he gets some pretty top tutors as well. Third best? You're lucky if they're sober. So I got around and mingled with the servants. Yeah, there were serving girls, but they lost their novelty after I found out they lost their teeth.
No, what really interested me were the merchants coming to court to discuss trade agreements. The jesters who'd go around 'translating' the common people's gripes into easily-understood jokes. The veteran maids who've listened, seen and maybe even done everything (and everyone) in the castle. There's the people worth listening to, not those puffed-up, stodgy twits with- what? Oh yes, the dragon, right.
So! I set off on my heroic quest one fine day. My parents were suitably worried, if a little distant, but even as I set off I heard sniggers here and there from other knights and my family's enemies. Their schadenfreude was pure and untamed, and they were loving every minute of it. Turned the tables on them right quick, ha!
But that was later. Right then, I had a dragon and a trussed hog- excuse me, princess- to rescue. The journey there was surprisingly uneventful, apart from a bandit attack or two along the way, but those died down quickly. Apparently, while it is easy for bandits to take down a single armoured idiot following the Manual of Swords, it's a little harder to do so against a knight who follows the Manual of Nadger-Kicking just like they do. And neither their codpieces nor greaves are tempered steel, so one up for me there.
Anyway, I let them live, albeit without their purses and trousers. What? I know it's juvenile. I was being sent to my death, don't blame me for wanting a laugh. Yes, I know I'm supposed to have some dignity, but honestly we're all going to die- can't take my dignity with me. Besides, it's a tradition down there now, have you heard? Local men going about in naught but codpieces and smiles, it's hilarious. And comfortable. Oh stop that- remember, can't take dignity with you.
Where was I? Ah, yes. After the bandits spread the word, and maybe their- oh, don't be such a prude! You're a bard, I'll bet you've bedded plenty of people, and some who'd barely qualify. Besides, it's not as if I mind, nor should you- this is the Reign of Blue Skies, we must be modern and forward-thinking and all. So, after they spread the word, I wasn't bothered much until I reached the dragon's cave- on top of a bloody mountain. Try climbing up a thousand feet in full plate.
Psst- not easy.
As you can tell, I wasn't exactly tip-top when I reached the dragon's cave. Not that the dragon was pleased with the arrangement either. Wasn't angry, mind you- just resigned. See, she had a plan- go around, terrorize a local kingdom, then kidnap some local noble. If she terrorized the place too long, then they'd send an actual army against her, and there's not a lot thick leather can do against ballistas and arquebuses. Stick around too short, and she'd go hungry. The whole 'kidnapping princesses' bit was so that the rulers would send knights and heroes after her- after all, a ferocious, evil beast like her surely can't be counted upon to spare her hostage if they sent armies, right?
No, of course they'd send some idiots like muggins here to rescue the princess. Then after a few roastings, she'd be 'driven off' while some dumb sod of a knight ends up living the rest of his life trying to please a woman who's used to living on twice his income- oh, and she's the king's daughter so good luck keeping your head if Daddy hears you're not treating his little tw- his little twit right. What a load of bollocks, right?
Thankfully, the dragon thought so too, and I outlined to her my plan, didn't I dear? Welcome back, by the way. Kiss kiss. Anyway, I figured the problem with 'Slay the dragon', was that I'd have to be the poor S who got his S kicked. Mother didn't raise any donkeys, so I decided to leave the S and any assorted S-holery out.
Also, let me just that that with enough magic and creativity, there are no such things as compatibility issues, wink. Yes, I said 'wink'.
You can put that in the scrolls. Adds character.
Oh, there were some problems when I got back with the princess and her captor. And I daresay that the knights arrayed against us would have won- first and second sons all, they were, and whatever thoughts I have about their lineage, their skills were bloody good. Thing is, it's easy to be brave when you're miles away from home and all you've eaten've been trail rations. When you're surrounded by luxury and all sorts of reminders about what you might lose out by being first on the scaling ladder? I reminded them of that fact and they quieted down a bit, didn't they dear? Haha, yeah.
Anyway, the thing about having a bloody great dragon as a queen- oh, thank you dear. Yes, and a manipulative cunning bastard as a king- love your turn of phrase by the way, dear- is that... hold on.
THE WONDERFUL THING ABOUT HAVING A NOBLE WYRM AS A QUEEN IS THAT THE BLOODY KINGDOM, BEING BLOODY RUTTING SECURE, ATTRACTS MERCHANTS AND CRAFTSMEN LIKE NOBODY'S BUSINESS. WELL, THEIRS OBVIOUSLY. IT MEANS THAT ALL THE PEASANTS ARE RICHER, WHICH MAKES THEM MORE WILLING TO WORK FOR US. IT ALSO MAKES THE NOBLES, INCLUDING THE BLOODY STUPID ONES WHO TRIED TO HAVE ME ASSASSINATED LAST WEEK- I'M NOT NAMING NAMES, LORD DALTREN AND LADY ULVRICH- RICHER THAN BEFORE. THESE RICHES WOULD DISAPPEAR IF THE MERCHANTS WEREN'T FEELING SECURE, WHICH IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A BEAUTIFUL DRAGON INCINERATES ENTIRE PIRATE FLEETS.
Sorry about that. People can be so dense sometimes. And... hold on again.
AND THE FACT THAT IT'S STARTED A TREND OF MARRYING INTELLIGENT 'MONSTERS', WHICH HAS ALSO LED TO AN INCREASE IN PEACE AND A NON-INCREASE IN SMITINGS, WOULD MAKE IT BLOODY OBVIOUS TO ANYONE WHO ACTUALLY USES THE BRAINS THE GODS GAVE THEM THAT THE AFOREMENTIONED DEITIES DON'T GIVE A BLOODY RUT ABOUT WHO MARRIES WHOM. THERE ARE BIGGER PROBLEMS, PEOPLE, NONE OF WHICH INVOLVE ORCS MAKING YOU LOT FEEL INADEQUATE.
So yeah, we're living happily ever after, or at least now that I've put the revolt down. Hm? The one that was about to happen, of course. Let's just say the assassins like peace and security much more than they like hopeless odds, and whoops there goes Lord Daltren. Yes, we have food tasters. Pity he didn't have a cutlery taster. Oh well.
And so we will bloody well live happily ever after, put that in too.
|# ? May 10, 2014 18:39|
Frank’s feet landed unsteadily onto the pavement as he stumbled down the street. The laughter of the bar encroached from behind, prying at his brain. He walked forward, slouched forward and balanced precariously. Headlights flashed across his side as the car barreled down towards him. Brakes shrieked and then blackness dragged him down.
He dreamed in the dark. Eleanor laughed as he tentatively sipped at his shot, before downing hers with a single gulp. Her smile shined, warm and bright and white. He tossed back his own drink, coughing at the sudden roughness. He excused himself and slunk over to the jukebox. As their song began to play, he contented to watch her fingers as they beat out the rhythm on the bartop.
But the music skipped, then transformed into a single chord, dissonant within itself, and she froze into a beautiful tableau.
His eyes snapped open and harsh light beamed down from fluorescent fixtures overhead. A needle stuck into his arm, and tubes ran from his nose and the needle. Frank tried to rise from the bed, but his body refused to cooperate. Pain suddenly radiated out from his side, suffusing his flesh. He screamed, but only a faint croak emerged from his throat. As tears began to well in his eyes, the pain dragged him once more into the darkness.
He and Eleanor sat together as they received her prognosis. The doctor’s words faded into an incomprehensible slurry of words. Their hands found each other and they squeezed until the knuckles went white.
The light flooded back in and Frank’s eyes fluttered back open. His breath was heavy. His body was heavy. The light shone, without mercy, down upon his form.
Frank again tried to sit up and his body cooperated this time, bringing him upright. The tubes were gone from his nose and the pain at his side was replaced by a dull throb. He slipped out of the bed, but was yanked back by the needle in his arm. He tore the metal from his limb and winced as a flow of blood rose to the skin.
The room lacked in amenities, though at least he was alone in it. The lack of a bedpan made him think that someone had to come by from time to time, but there was no sign of their presence, not even a clipboard at the foot of his bed. His legs had trouble supporting his weight and the tile floor was cold on his bare feet, but he stumbled towards the door successfully.
He stepped out into a hallway, barren and empty. Light poured down from above, with no windows to break up the pristine whiteness of the interior. The doors were labelled each with a number, his read, “124.” There was a place where the clipboard should have been, but it was empty. The blood rolled down his arm.
One of the doors was marked with the universal symbols for a bathroom, the abstracted forms of male and female. He entered and paused.
Greyness crept over the interior, darkening at the bottom corners of the room. The tendrils worked their way over the cool white, draining their intensity and leaving only rotted dullness. The staleness of the air contrasted with the clinical odor of the hallway. But there was a sink, and a roll of paper towels.
Frank rinsed the still bleeding hole left by the needle and scrubbed down the rest of his arm, before noticing the mirror of the sink was all but destroyed, leaving the tile visible behind. Only a small chunk remained, in the bottom right corner. Slowly, he crouched down and looked at his reflection in the small, jagged triangle of mirror.
Frank had been shaved bald, and a long scar ran from the top of his head, down along his cheek. He scratched at the scar with a sudden frenzy, his breath quickening as the weight of his experiences began to press down on him. His pulled at his flesh, and greyness began to ooze from the scar, wandering over his face. Frank let out a primal shriek and fell backwards, clutching at the floor.
The grey from the floor slid up along his fingers, like rainwater in reverse, forming trails as it wandered up towards his wrists. Frank pushed himself up and barrelled towards the door, slamming through it and out into the pristine white of the hallway. He stared down at his hands and at the greyness that was slowly seeping into his flesh, leaving behind a faint discoloration of his skin.
The strength failed his legs and he slumped down, back pressed against the too clean wall. His eyes closed and once again the black descended like a boulder on his chest.
His wife lay on the bed they once shared. Eleanor had always been a small woman, but the illness had taken so much from her. There was barely any form left to her at all, just a wisp of mist balancing delicately in the sun. Her eyes were shut from the daylight, and he reached forward to squeeze her hand. Her fingers felt so brittle beneath his.
She squeezed his hand back, and then gripped on with a strength he didn’t know she had. Her head turned slowly to face him and she opened her eyes. But her eyes were gone, leaving only an infinite darkness that sucked him in, a dreadful pressure that pulled at every ounce of his being. The flesh of her hand burst open and green, tumorous tendrils stretched out, wrapping around his wrist and beginning to climb up his arm.
Eleanor’s mouth opened slowly and she spoke. He couldn’t make out the words over the growing, ringing din assaulting his ears.
He awoke, back and legs stiff, but cooperating. The blood had stopped flowing, but the red formed a splotch of vibrant color in the stillness. He pushed himself up to a standing position and began to head down the hallway. There had to be someone here. Someone had brought him here, after all.
But even the reception lounge was empty. The furniture, the counters, the floor, all shone in the same whiteness, the utter absence of color. Every step left him drained, his skin seeming too dark and grimy compared to the uniformity that surrounded him. His steps dragged him, one after the other, towards the entrance. He shuffled forth, the pain in his side reigniting from a dull throb into a tearing ache.
He pulled on one of the double doors, opening the world to him.
Greyness infected everything. The trees, the dirt, the asphalt, the lamp posts, and the cars all shared the same rotting color of grey. Nothing moved and no sounds were uttered. The expanse gaped open before him.
The white tugged at him from behind: the comfortable, cold stasis of the hospital. He pulled against that force, to live in the pristine world, and stepped out into the grey. The grey swallowed up his feet and wandered further along his legs with every step.
The scar split and grey oozed forth over his face, blinding his eye. He stumbled on uncertain feet, before falling face forward into the rotted ground, to join the dead world.
|# ? May 10, 2014 19:13|
Plubert The Elephant
subtitle: This Ain't A Title, It's A Goddamn Preface
Plubert the elephant woke up one morning, ready to have some fun. “I think I will go find some friends to play with,” thought Plubert. So he got up and ambled into the forest, looking for adventure.
First, Plubert ran across his friend Hiss the snake. He was wriggling around with some snakes that Plubert didn’t know. “Hello, Hiss” said Plubert. “What are you up to this beautiful morning?”
“Sssssimply teaching these other sssnakesss to do the sssssalssssa, Plubert.”
“That sounds like fun! Can I join?” Plubert pictured himself, his bodacious hips swaying to the rhythm, a red rose between his ivory tusks.
“Of courssssse not, Plubert. Everyone knowssss that elephantssss can’t dance the sssalsssa. Don’t be ssssssilly.” Hiss went back to his wriggling, ignoring the hurt look on Plubert’s face.
“OK, well, you guys have fun.” Plubert walked away, deeper into the forest, determined to find a friend to play with.
Next, he heard rather than saw his friend, Chirp the cricket. Plubert followed his ears towards the bright music and found Chirp high on a branch, playing a violin with other insect friends.
“Howdy, Chirp! What are you up to this beautiful morning?”
“Showing these bug brains how a real musician plays the violin, Plubert.”
“Wow, that sounds like fun! Can I join?” Plubert saw himself on a stage, the spotlight on him as he brought tears to the audience’s eyes with his music.
“Of course not, Plubert. How on earth would you hold the violin with your big elephant feet? Don’t be silly.” Chirp went back to his violin, not noticing how sad Plubert was.
“OK, well, you guys have fun.” Plubert trundled even deeper into the forest, hoping to find someone who would want to play with him.
Plubert found his friend Ooh Aah the monkey swinging through the tree, singing a happy song with his other monkey friends.
“Hi Ooh Aah, what are doing?”
“I’m teaching these bono-boneheads how to sing, Plubert.”
“That sounds like fun! Can I join?” Plubert imagined himself in a grand stadium, singing the national anthem to thousands of fans.
“Of course not, Plubert. How do you expect to sing a beautiful song with those tusks and that trunk? Don’t be silly.” Ooh Aah went back to singing and swinging. He didn’t see the tear in Plubert’s big blue eye.
“OK, well, you guys have fun.” Plubert turned and walked further into the forest.
Plubert wound up at the edge of the watering hole, all alone. He put his head in his hands and sighed. “All I wanted to do today was play with my friends!” He sighed again, a ‘plbrt’ from his trunk signalling his discontent.
Then he heard a different small sigh, this one punctuated by bubbles.
“Hello? Is someone else here at the watering hole? It’s just me, Plubert.”
Plubert looked around, but couldn’t see anyone.
He looked down and saw his friend Snap the crocodile coming up from the edge of the water. “Hi, Snap. What are you doing?”
“Just thinking, I guess. I tried to play with Hiss earlier, but he said that crocodiles can’t dance on account of our goofy knees. Then I wanted to play with Chirp, but he said my claws were too sharp to play the violin! And then Ooh Aah said I can’t sing, since I have the wrong kind of scales.”
“What a day! I tried to play with all those guys, too, but they said that elephants can’t dance or play violin or sing, either!”
Snap laughed. “Really? Well, if they don’t want to let us play with them, maybe we can play together.”
“That’s a great idea, Snap!”
So they played. Snap and Plubert wriggled around and danced a great salsa. Plubert even found some red flowers for him to hold in his teeth. They stomped the ground and music just as good as Chirp had played came forth. They sang, and kept singing long into the night.
Soon, they heard other animals coming towards them, to see what all the ruckus at the watering hole was about. Hiss slithered up to them.
“Wow! You guys really can dance! I’m sorry about before. Can I join?”
Plubert said, “Of course you can!” He placed a red flower between Hiss’ fangs.
Chirp hopped towards the group. “Wow! You guys really can play music! I’m sorry about before. Can I join?”
Plubert said, “Of course you can!” He placed Chirp on a high branch so everyone could hear his contribution.
Ooh Aah came to them last. “Wow! You guys really can sing! I’m sorry about before. Can I join?”
Plubert said, “Of course you can!” He let Ooh Aah lead the next song as everyone joined in. Their voices were pure and untamed, and they were loving every minute of it.
"were pure and untamed, and they were loving every minute of it."
|# ? May 11, 2014 04:13|
Pays de Résistance (1,194 words)
Like I said in the middle, the only beef (heh heh) I had with this is that it's just plain ol' historical fiction, but you said "what a disease!" in the middle of it.
I'm not an expert on history stuff, but some of the things seem like anachronisms, such as punching the wall and saying "i'll squash this rumor." And it's weird having some of the words be in french, but the rest in English. Then again, I read like 0 of this type of fiction, so I dunno if that is common.
Not much else to say.
|# ? May 11, 2014 06:31|
At no point in a man's life does he examine his past decisions more closely than when he is wearing a gorilla suit, covered in feces.
Six hours ago, the plan seemed so simple: Take down an elephant, make it look like negligent care, collect a huge amount of money. But as I lay here, exhausted from the heat inside my furry getup, I began to wonder if I was truly cut out to be a professional hitman.
It wasn't the first time in my life I'd wondered this. Just a month prior, after getting no responses from my ad, I was going to give it up and get a job at my cousin's peanut butter factory. But then I got my first target. An elephant had been appointed Prince of India. It was supposed to be ceremonial, but then the pachyderm started barging into parliament meetings and knocking over tables. So I was called. Three poisoned darts to his neck and I had cemented my role as "that guy who assassinated elephants for money."
Soon after that, the phone rang from an animal activist group. I was given my next target, and the details: I couldn't just shoot the elephant in the face and blame it on the zookeeper. It had to look natural.
Looking back, I think my main problem was that I made things too complicated. Posing as a tourist, I carried my plain black suitcase into the zoo. Once there was no one else at the gorilla pen, I hopped the fence, and made a quick change in the bushes. I thought I could just hang out, disguised as a gorilla, until closing time. I had underestimated how interested the other apes would be with their new arrival. By the time I heard the loudspeakers crackle "the zoo is now closed, please exit the zoo now," I had been pelted with feces from three different species of primate, and two of the larger males were fighting for the right to mount me.
I stripped off my disguise, and bolted for the fence, the now-angry gorillas bounding after me. I hopped up and swung myself over the top, their primate hands inches away from pulling me back down. Making my way to the elephant cage, I pulled out my weapon of choice: A carrot soaked in tranquilizer.
The bull elephant was chained to a thick tree. Clearly in musth, I approached carefully. Otherwise his swelling hormones could spark a fit of rage, or, even worse, arousal. But the elephant was fast asleep, napping in the blazing late dusk sun. It was simply a matter of mushing the carrot into its food, and I was ready to make my escape.
As I darted toward the fence, I felt a strong sting in the side of my neck. Reaching up to swat away what I assumed was a hornet, I felt a dart. I yanked it out, but by the time I reached the ten-foot-high chain link enclosure, I was already feeling nauseated and woozy. I leaned against the fence, summoning the strength to haul myself over. That was when a tall, blonde man stepped from behind a tree and approached me.
"Greetings!" he exclaimed, way too cheerfully.
"Why?" I asked.
"You didn't actually think there was a market for elephant assassins, did you? Of course you did, otherwise you wouldn't have come out here. You probably recognize my voice from our phone call. I am actually John Smythe, elephant assassin assassin."
My last words before he stuffed a ammonia-smelling rag into my mouth were, "there's a market for that?"
|# ? May 11, 2014 11:54|
A present for Bertha
Saturday afternoon, São Paulo zoo.
He took a swig off the flask he had in his jacket pocket; the caipirinha tasted ever so sweetly.
“Do you remember back then, when that sunbeam used to shine just between those two branches up there? And we sat in this bench and that precise ray of light would fall and light our hands…”, he said while clasping her hand.
She smiled shyly and put her head to his shoulder.
“And then children would laugh at old Bertha doing the Water Hose Surprise on unaware bypassers… such a magnificent proboscis, she had… and then we’d throw one of these”, he went ungh as he bent down to pick something on the ground, “seeds at that peanut guy’s head while he wasn’t looking. Just like this –”
He gave the seed a fumbling throw and it plinked off the steel fence ahead.
“Oh, I remember”, she giggled a little and cuddled closer to him. “Those poor peanut-believing idiots… I kinda miss them.” She then sighed, “Poor Bertha.”
His face went glum for a moment. Then it brightened up a little. He looked at her bag and then at her face, and his smile grew.
“Oh, no”, she said, “no, João, no way. You’re not carrying that silly plan of yours any further.”
He kept smiling, thinking of the couple of expensive Sauvignons and the lengthy, though brick-squat leatherbound copy of the book he had put in her bag. Its title read Flor da Minha Paixão and it was very much an 1100-page postmodernist Jorge Amado update. It had a lot of sex scenes. He had tied the book with string and left a loose tip with which he could swing the fine piece of literature around.
Friday night, home.
João sat at the kitchen table. He read the news. It went like this:
SÃO PAULO – Zoológico de São Paulo’s oldest resident, Bertha the elephant, is under veterinarian care at the installation’s own hospital section. The 63-year old female pachyderm – or “cow”, as interviewee Dr. Putsz points out – was relocated this Friday after a complication with ongoing respiratory problems. Interviewed vets blame nearby car traffic from adjacent highways and urban centers. “Put yourself in her place – you’re a five-ton being whose respiratory system alone could outweigh a person”, says Dr. Putsz. “You used to live in a forest and now you have to breathe kilos of toxic stuff daily”. When asked about Bertha’s fate, he adds, “Considering her age and the pollution, I’m afraid the poor elephant isn’t
“Bullshit”, João said.
“What is it, honey?”
“It’s those zoo bastards again”, he laid the newspaper on the table, “I’ve seen it before. No room left in the fields or cages and there are new animals coming in, so they have to make room. So some innocent beast gets the short end of the stick and a big injection with it too. And they never tell it straight – it’s always something else they point the finger at.”
“Oh, no... Which ones are they putting to sleep this time?”
“It’s Bertha, Emília. She’s a tough old mother. I’m not buying this smoke-breathing bullshit.”
“Cristo… out of all…”
“Yeah. And this is why I stopped reading the news… merda, after this, I’m going out. Catch some air, maybe get something. You want anything from the store?”
“No… watch out, though… don’t do anything stupid. I know you, João.”
In the car, he asked himself why her, the elephant he knew – truly knew, he thought – had received such a fate. He concluded it didn’t matter; he was angry. The news made his breath shorter and it made the town stink a lot more than it did normally. João knew Bertha since he was merely a son with his dad, and even after some good years were past he’d take his own son Felipe to shake the trunk and be Surprised. But Felipe was in another time, and with another woman. Soon the elephant would be gone too, leaving João only the ever-tightening city.
Before they got to her, though, he’d give her the party of her life. He bought the wine and returned home.
“Honey, wanna go to the zoo tomorrow? For old times’ sake. Maybe it’ll lift me up.”
Later that Saturday.
He felt the bag for its contents, finished the last of the caipirinha, and then took a deep breath. After making sure no one saw him, he opened the unmarked gray door. He’d seen the white-smocked people enter it many years ago, after a particularly gruesome quarrel between two chimps over a female. He passed a corridor with locked doors and entered the only open room. Immediately after entering, a man in white shouted:
“Hey! This ain’t no visiting zone. Just what on Earth –“
“No! He ain’t here today! Who the hell are you?”
“Well, I'm... visiting. I have a gift for Bertha.” He reached for the string-tied leatherbound Flor da Minha Paixão and struggled a little dislodging it from the bottom of the bag. “Wait a little… minute… there”, he fished it out successfully. “Uh, ahem this gift, however, is for you.” He started centrifuging the book, holding the string-end. “That is, if you don’t let me see her.”
“What? You gotta be kidding me.”
João crept closer and cornered the white man, and though he had little leeway he tried to escape. João swung the book just as the white man made his dash, and it hit him square in the cheek. He fell to the ground, João hitting him some more for good measure.
“Okay, alright, you win, argh! stop!”, the veterinarian said.
“Good. Tell me where Bertha is.”
“In the back! In the back!”
“Show me. Get up! Go on.”
João followed the vet, still whirling his book. The back room had a big resting pad, where the old elephant laid on its side, slowly breathing. It had its eyes closed.
“Oh… drat”, João looked sadly at Bertha. He stood a while observing, then said to the trembling vet, “Give me your keys. And go.”
The white man gave him the keys and scuttled away. João went back to the previous room and locked it. He returned to Bertha and knelt by her side, caressing her cracked grey skin. She did not open her eyes, only kept her slow breathing, which now, João noticed, also had a ragged quality to it.
“No, poor girl, what did they do to you…”
He put the book on the ground and took one of the Sauvignon bottles from the bag, along with a corkscrew. He uncorked it and said, “drat, drat those bastards… What can I do now… Guess I’m gonna have to carry on for both of us. Here’s to you… saúde.” He took a big gulp of the wine.
He unlocked the other room and returned to the elephant. He huddled himself against big Bertha, brushing his hand along her dry skin, tasting the wine, watching time pass. A couple of days later he had a dream. He rode on her back through the streets and she used her trunk to down her bottle just as he did with his hands, and she trumpeted to the wide spaces – their moment was pure and untamed, and they were loving every minute of it.
Used the following gifts: elephants (from the judge), good booze (mine own), the phrase "was pure and untamed, and they were loving every minute of it" (from a pal).
|# ? May 11, 2014 16:56|
Hello. It's me, a giant baby with no grasp of time management. There's a solid chance I'm going to spare judges some atrocious writing today. Be grateful.
|# ? May 11, 2014 20:27|
The sound of elephants
1381 words, using the prompts elephants, onomatopoeia and technology indistinguishable from magic, or possibly the other way around.
Aleph stood nervously in the doorway, looking around the room. Henrik was still sitting at his massive desk with his back to her.
It wasn’t as if I want to be here, she thought to herself. Not like I want to have to ask for help. She bit her lip and waited.
“What’s an elephant?” Henrik finally rose from his chair and turned to face his unwilling guest. One of the many quill pens tucked into the pockets of his ink-stained shirt fell to the floor, unnoticed.
“Well…” began Aleph, “I’m not exactly sure. I think it’s a kind of badger. I’ve got this much.” She pulled a piece of paper from her satchel. Henrik beckoned impatiently for it and pulled the wire-rimmed glasses down from his forehead.
“That’s not very helpful,” he noted. The paper was heavily worn, folded and re-folded. On it, much smudged, was a rather scratchy rendition of a squat, gray animal. Huge, flappy ears, stumpy legs, a tiny twist of a tail and… “What’s that on its face?” asked Henrik, puzzled. He brought the paper closer to his nose and peered myopically at it. “A beak, like a sandpiper?”
“I think it’s a nose,” Aleph offered helpfully.
“Harrumph.” Henrik pushed his glasses back onto his forehead and dropped the paper onto his desk amongst the drifts of ink-stained parchments. “To answer your question, as if it weren’t obvious by now: No, I do not know what sound an elephant makes. Now why on earth do you need to know that?”
“The Duke,” Aleph explained. “Well, his son, little Emelio. Apparently Emelio’s uncle came to visit last month and told the boy all about the circus they’ve got back home. Emelio’s smitten and won’t stop talking about the elephant at the circus. Now his father wants something to keep the boy quiet until the circus comes to visit in the autumn.”
“He commissioned a toy, I take it?”
“Yes, the finest, one that moves and makes all the right noises. Movement I can do, but…” Aleph trailed off. “Here, let me show you,” she said, reaching into her satchel again. She extracted a toy the size of a small dog and set it on the floor.
It was an elephant, a many-jointed model lovingly realised in dark-varnished wood and gleaming brass. Nestled in the heart of the toy was a captive spark dancing in a glass vial. The light it gave off flickered around Aleph’s fingers as she reached in and flipped a switch.
“I gave it a badger’s voice for now,” she explained as the toy elephant started walking. “I don’t think I’ve got it yet, though.”
The elephant stalked across the floor, ears flapping. “CRRRAAAAAAoooowrrrr!” it went, the long nose curling in the air like a serpent hunting. “CRAAAAAAAOWWWRRR!” The windows rattled.
Henrik shuddered. “It doesn’t seem quite right, does it?”
“No,” admitted Aleph sadly, reaching down to flip a switch. The mechanical elephant stopped mid-screech, nose raised defiantly.
Henrik pondered again, the two sitting in nervous and contemplative silence respectively for a few minutes. “So why come to me?”
Aleph shifted in her seat. “Well, you see… you’re the one who can talk to the Wizard.”
“Harrumph. And you just expect me to hike all the way up to the Wizard to ask him, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, can he conjure up an elephant for us?”
”I did make that astrolabe for you last year. You said you owed me for that. And I will pay; the Duke’s being generous.” She folded her arms defiantly, then a sly smile crept up on her face. “Besides, aren’t you just a bit curious too?”
Henrik grumbled inaudibly under his breath and turned away.
“What was that?”
“I said, fine. I’ll do it. Happy now?”
It took them the rest of the morning to hike up the mountain to the squat, stone and iron building. The Wizard was standing motionless opposite the doorway, a human silhouette hidden under a loosely draped robe with a tall, pointed hood. Silver embroidery covered every inch of the robe, tracing out words in an unfamiliar alphabet. Under the hood, the Wizard’s impassive face looked out at them. Its skin was matt white porcelain, segmented like a precisely cracked mask. Between the fragments metal glinted and sparks danced. Its eyes were dark pools of liquid glass, shining faintly with an inner light.
There was a faint whirr and it turned its head slightly to face them. “Welcome,” it said, in a melodious voice like a chorus of songbirds. “How may I be of assistance?”
“Wait here,” Henrik told her, walking across the room. She caught a glimpse of something metallic in his hands as he neared the Wizard before it vanished back up his sleeve.
Aleph stood awkwardly by the doorway as Henrik and the Wizard engaged in a complicated discussion at the other side of the room. She caught only a few words, none of which made any sense to her. At one point, Henrik produced the sketch she’d shown him earlier and held it out. The Wizard took it between impossibly slender ceramic fingers, turning it in front of its face. After a while, it nodded and handed the paper back. Henrik stepped away, looking pleased with himself.
“It’ll do it,” he declared. “Sympathetic magic, it said. The drawing should be enough to synthesise an informatic channel and locate a real elephant.”
Aleph nodded as if she understood and watched the Wizard start its rituals. It glided across the room - she presumed there were feet under that robe, but with the way it moved, she couldn’t be sure - and collected a staff from the corner. With the tip of the staff leaving a shimmer of light along the floor behind it, the Wizard traced out an intricate ring of sigils more precise and steady than any human could replicate.
“Don’t get near the circle,” whispered Henrik to her in an awed tone. “So much as a hair’s breadth of error and the magic will fail.”
She nodded, barely moving her head as she stood enthralled at the sight.
Finally the Wizard finished and glided to the far side of the circle. It raised the staff high and began to chant in its inhuman, melodious voice. Other voices emerged from its mouth, a chorus of overlapping and repeating chants. The air grew heavy, oppressive, and Aleph felt the hair on her arms flattening against her skin.
The Wizard brought his staff down onto the stone floor with a gentle ‘click’. There was a susurrus in the air and a shimmer like a heat haze swept out from the centre of the circle in an expanding sphere until it vanished through the walls. Then, nothing.
After an uncomfortably long pause, Aleph coughed. “Is anything going to happen?” she asked.
Henrik frowned, looking puzzled. The Wizard looked as impassive as ever.
“Aleph, forgive me for asking so late in the proceedings, but just how big is an elephant?” he asked eventually.
Aleph stared thoughtfully into space. “You know,” she said, “I don’t have the faintest idea. I rather assumed they were, oh, sort of normal sized? A big dog, or a pony?”
Henrik looked up at the low ceiling of the room they were in. “Wizard?” he asked. “What are the safeguards for conjuration in an enclosed area?”
The Wizard turned its head to face Henrik. The lights behind its eyes flickered for a moment. “Displacement,” it replied. “Orthogonal to the ground plane. A distance proportional to the impeded volume.” It resumed staring impassively forward.
“What did it…” Aleph started to ask before she caught sight of Henrik’s expression. He was staring up at the ceiling with an air of dread. “Orthogonal to the ground something…?” she asked.
“Up,” he replied flatly, pointing.
Far above them in the thin mountain air, an elephant struggled to come to terms with its new, very temporary surroundings.
Fortunately for Aleph, Henrik and the Wizard, the building was very sturdy and seemed entirely unaffected by the impact. Unfortunately for the elephant, it wasn't very soft.
“TruuuuuuUUUUU-SPLATthump?” repeated Henrik, after the echoes had died down.
“Probably not that either,” noted Aleph sadly. “Maybe I’ll stick with the badger noises after all.”
|# ? May 11, 2014 21:27|
Rewind - 530 words
It had to be there. Searching the boxes in the attic for the old VHS tape was annoying as dust had gotten everywhere. Coughing fits came every now and then as well as the periodic attempt to wipe his eyes. George needed to find the video of his time playing hockey. Trying to find the video tape was also difficult in that he wanted to pause over everything thing else that was buried in the boxes. He had to focus.
George was a betting man. Everything was challenge. He wanted to win, even if winning just meant smug satisfaction. A cloud of dust rushed greet him when he popped open another box. He coughed out a greeting and decided that he put in enough effort. He left the attic if only for a moment. He sat down against the wall of the hallway, finally able to take a deep breath free of dust.
“Can I put this brick back in the attic yet?” said his wife from the den, motioning to the ancient VCR lying in front of the television.
“Not yet. I can sense gold in the mine above,” George said.
Marie let out a sign. She loved her husband, but life with him could be taxing. Fatigue from running from one place to another just to prove a point was weighing on her.
“What would it prove if you found the video?” she asked.
George got back on his feet. “I just think that I can show you,” he said with a smile.
“And what would this prove to me exactly?” she said.
“That I played hockey,” he said.
He scrambled up the ladder, eager to resume his hunt. He dived into the pile of boxes that lain untouched for decades. George had to be careful with his handling. Aging in the attic was not a graceful process. Most were held together by willpower and being compressed against the attic and others. Items toward the top in the boxes were coated in a layer of grime that absorbed into toys, clothes, and knick knacks.
George found the video buried in a box that was filled with other like it. The lettering on the label was faded and torn. This was it. The miner found his gold vein. He smiled and laughed as he carried it out of its prison. He called Marie in and with his palms grey from the grime and dust, put the VHS tape in and pressed play. The grainy tape skipped and popped, but it wasn’t hard for Marie to recognize George in a hockey uniform. He was smiling on the bench with a cut lip proudly displaying the uniform for the camera, the Barnabaus Elephants.
He headed to the fridge to grab a beer from the fridge. It was a dark lager he got from Germany, reserved for only the most important of occasions. He wanted to celebrate. Not only because he won his little challenge, but because there was much he had forgotten. Now was the time to remember.
“What else did you find up there?” Marie asked.
“Let me take a look,” George said as he headed up into the attic.
|# ? May 12, 2014 00:15|
Hunters and Protectors
Elements: Elephants, Coal Mining, Pride
a new study bible! fucked around with this message at 02:36 on Jul 1, 2014
|# ? May 12, 2014 00:18|
Emergency Contact 1384 words Elements: Elephants, an old photo album, hands
Cora walked to the curtain and twitched it aside when she heard a car pull into the driveway. She watched through the window as her daughter stepped out of a new sedan, one she hadn’t seen before. Susan dressed in a blue power suit, but she still had taken the time to accessorize with a bright, yellow scarf. Cora hurried to open the door. “Darling, how are you? It’s so nice to see you, such a surprise.”
“Mother, I’m good. It’s nice to see you, too.” They leaned in for a hug at the same time. Cora could feel her looking at the living room. Just looking at it right over her shoulder. “Sorry for just dropping by. I had a call from your psychologist, he said you missed your last few appointments. I thought I should come check on you.”
“Well, I’m fine, dear. I just didn’t feel like I needed to go anymore, so I stopped. Why on earth would he call?” She looked her daughter in the eye and held steady in the doorway.
“You listed me as your emergency contact. These are court mandated appointments, mom.” Susan stared right back, clenching her jaw. “What have you done to your living room?”
Cora shuffled away from the door. “I suppose now that you’ve seen it, there’s no stopping you. Would you like a cup of tea?” She walked away, leaving Susan to examine the living room, and turned right into the kitchen. She switched on the gas burner and put the kettle on. The polished, copper kettle had been a gift at her graduation from Cambridge in ‘56, before she’d come back to Virginia. Practical and beautiful, she admired the inner fire of the metal while she prepared the teacups and tray, lost in its curves.
“Why are your old knickknacks all over the place?” Cora shattered the teacup she was holding when she dropped it to the ground in surprise.
“We should put a bell on you. That was one of my set from your great aunt, bless her soul!”
“Stay still.” Susan grabbed the broom and swept up the pieces. “Sorry.” The kettle whistled and Cora busied herself with fixing the tea.
“It’s alright, darling. I’ve been sorting through all of the things Tia and I brought back from our travels; she left me quite a few. Oh, we had some amazing times the last ten years. Madagascar, India, Japan. That African safari where we rode elephants.” She picked up the tray and brought it into the living room, then set it down on the tea table. She had never guessed things would get so out of hand. There were stacks of framed pictures, handmade jewelry, carved wood and jade, masks and animals, beer steins, wine bottles, sketches and paintings: every kind of memory taken home from the wilds. It all fit somehow with the half-dozen bookshelves of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction that lined the walls. “To think a car accident in the States- And here I am rambling. Sit, sit.”
They picked up the tea cups, lovely Shelley chintz. “Mom, I can’t do this right now. I have a meeting in forty minutes and it’s twenty minutes away. You need to promise me you’ll stop this and go.”
“People go to counseling because the things in their heads are stopping them from being who they want to be. I’ve already been everything I ever wanted. There’s nothing left for me now that it’s just the two of us.” She remembered her grandmother talking about the old country, about the Family, so close; brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. Now the Family was attenuated, the sound of a coin dropped on stone at the end of a tunnel - valuable and sweet, but far away.
Cora felt bittersweet pride when she looked at her corporate daughter, a woman who needed no one. “You sound like you’ve given up, mom.”
“Dear, I didn’t do anything wrong.” She sipped her tea, back straight. Perfect posture projects poise, she recited in her head, and set the cup down.
“You made an enormous scene at the hospital. They had to call the police to remove you.”
Cora turned away from her daughter. “You know why I did that. She was dying. Tia was my best friend; that’s like family.”
“She was. But you still have to go to the appointments or you’ll go to jail,” Susan pleaded. She grabbed her mother’s arms and turned her around. “Mom, you can’t do this. It’s been months since she died, you’ve been doing so well. I know this is hard and I’m here for you.”
“You don’t know! It’s not the same, Susan.”
Cora cried, the sobs shaking her withered frame, each one a torn page. ”When your father died of cancer, we had a lifetime together and we got to say goodbye. It’s so much easier to let go when you get to say goodbye.”
“Then find a way to say goodbye.” They held together, contact a form of healing. She’d always told Susan that touch had power. When the tears stopped, Susan reached for a large album bound in green canvas, World Travelers stenciled on the cover.
It was Tia’s old photo album, the one where they put the best pictures out of the thousands the two of them had taken with their old film cameras. Tia used to say, “The digital ones aren’t real, Cora.” They looked through it together, mother and daughter. Each picture was like reliving a snapshot of time, flash frozen from the firmament. The day they’d gotten traditional Henna tattoos, a couple of old biddies, how they’d laughed. Susan had never even heard about the camel races, but the pictures were there to prove it.
“Mom, why did you stop writing poetry?”
Cora looked up. “What, dear?”
“Why did you stop? I know you’ve been asked a hundred times over the years, but I’ve never asked. I always figured it was because of dad.”
“I just ran out of things to say, I suppose. People do that, sometimes.” Cora stood, made her way over to the first bookshelf, the section that contained her volumes. Her life’s work, a few dozen books.
“I have to go or I’ll be late. Please, don’t skip the next appointment. When they called, I convinced them that you’ve been under the weather.” Susan hesitated, then opened her pocketbook and handed Cora a piece of paper from inside it.
“This is just like my old writing paper, darling,” she said. And it was. Cream colored, thick, rough. The sheet was quartered and worn soft with age, the edges rounded, a hole in the center from being folded and refolded so often. She opened it. Her own handwriting scrawled across the page, so beautiful in the old days. Her hands shook now, making her writing as quavery as her voice.
“You never published it. I must have read it a hundred times over the years. I always keep it with me. You gave it to me that night we sat up with dad, the night he died.” The last words came out choked. Cora read the poem she had written for her daughter, grown and strong and watching her father die.
Midwinter’s grief (bears) the bite
Of deep cold and long nights, but
Warm heart(h)s to thaw the ice will
End the (hibernation)
Tulip’s long slumber
New growth from old
“You were there that day and every day after for as long as I needed you.”
“You’re my darling girl, Susan. A mother should always be there for her child, even when she’s grown.” Cora clutched the poem to her breast, feeling warm and happy.
“And I should be here for you. You said you stopped writing because you ran out of things to say. What about goodbye?” Susan looked at the objects all over the room. “Tia always loved it when you read her your poems. Why not say goodbye by writing new ones for her? Instead of forgetting her, remember her.”
Cora’s hands trembled. “I do have a few ideas rattling around, but my hands…”
“I’ll come over and you can dictate. We can do afternoon tea, look through old photos.”
“That… That would be nice, dear.”
|# ? May 12, 2014 00:28|
presents used: all of them
Amaterasu opened and closed her new hands. They made disgusting squishy noises. The rest of her new body wasn't much better- she wore a t-shirt that didn't fit over her enormous hairy belly, and pants that were cross-stitched to make them look like a giant double-barrelled laser gun. And worst of all she was in America- so He might show up at any time. Not much time for her to start an evangelical revolution. Where were her cultists, and why did she have such a poor quality avatar?
She looked around the tiny messy office. There were unfinished grocery lists, broken headphones, and half empty bottles of water littered around everywhere. No, wait, not water, clear lube. Didn't this guy ever throw anything away? Next to the window was a mirror facing the door, half covered with still shots from the last several Eurovision competitions. Next to that was a poster of an angry elephant with a monocle and top hat saying- "crush the Tea Party!" Piles of journals were piled up on the desk, and a brief glance through showed that most of them were variations on the John Galt speech. This guy was "creative" enough that she could transform these images into reality- but no more directly useful powers.
Amaterasu looked at the summoning artifact with resentment. The spell wasn't even written in Japanese- just an archaic long dead dialect. Why would anyone read nonsense hiragana out loud from a book of Japanese folktales? Looking around some more, Amaterasu spotted a pile of old VHS tapes with Japanese labels. The words were...not worth repeating. Then she picked up an old photo album labeled "memories with Mikuru-chan". Amaterasu took out a picture of her avatar with his arm draped around an anime girl in a bikini. That explained that.
There was a sudden rap at the door. Amaterasu looked through the peephole. There was a man on the other end wearing a trenchcoat and fedora while smoking a cigar.
"I'm a P.I. looking for a missing person, a one John Wayne Rockefeller. Went out for groceries a while back. His totally hot supermodel wife and billions of dollars miss him."
Amaterasu backed up a few steps, making a point to knock a bottle of lube near the door. There was just one problem with that ridiculous story.
"Detectives don't actually wear fedoras anymore you idiot," she said.
With a whizzing light and a thunderous crack the door blew apart. When the smoke cleared, White Conservative Jesus stood at the ready toting two huge submachine guns.
"I can smell another God from a mile away," Jesus said. "That's imperial units to you devil dweeb. America's too cool for your metric bullshit."
Jesus shot the bottle of lube into the air and turned it into good booze right as he grabbed it in his hand and drank it down in a huge gulp.
"I'm here on a quest for a divine rear end, boy," Jesus smirked. "Your rear end!"
"Well, then," said Amaterasu, slapping her giant smelly butt, blurping out a fart, "come and get it!"
Jesus lifted his hand for a miracle, but suddenly saw that Amaterasu's rear end was jiggling. It was hypnotic. Nothing but asses. Women’s asses. Men's asses. What's the difference? Grab them and slurp and rub their hair all over baby use the clamps and film it to the grindhouse blurry VHS so hot all down there-
"No!" he screamed, dropping the guns. The bullets tore down the poster and broke the mirror. "This is...an abomination! Thou shalt not swap cocks!"
"That's what happens when you're so smugly predictable," Amaterasu said, smiling.
In her pride Amaterasu failed to notice that an enraged Jesus had picked up a broken shard of the mirror. He promptly jammed it into Amaterasu's rear end, determined to end its sexiness once and for all. Amaterasu staggered back, grabbing the remains of the poster as they fell out the window. Amaterasu made a quick incantation and managed to bring the monocled elephant to life just in time for them to land on its back.
Now on the street, the elitist Republican straw elephant bellowed out (in elephantese)-
"Crush the Tea Party! Arrooogah!"
With Jesus and Amaterasu in tow, the elephant tore off down the street, trampling every living creature into roadkill on the path to prosperity. Amaterasu managed to get the mirror shard out of her rear end and used it to reflect some sunlight in the elephant's eyes, slowing down its rampage. In the process, Amaterasu saw her hideous pimply face next to an LED guitar, and shed a tear for what she had become.
Jesus, meanwhile, had worked a miracle (by using his cell phone) and summoned the fire department, who tried to hose the elephant down. Unfortunately the elephant was immune to any form of attack by the public sector. Only a grassroots movement could take it down.
Thinking quickly, Jesus transformed the water into good booze. The elephant's behavior changed immediately- being a Republican abomination, of course it would be compliant if given delicious slushy fluids from the public sector to not get anything done.
Jesus and Amaterasu leapt down to the street.
"What you foreigners don't get," said Jesus, "is that the Founding Fathers were infallible! Even more infallible than me! So of course America will be perfect forever and ever!"
The firefighters hooted and hollered in appreciation. Jesus quickly turned around.
"Stop tempting me!" he screamed. Now all he could see were their throbbing fireman bodies grinding up against fire poles, headphones blasting gay music but then the grinding broke the headphones but those gay firemen didn't care they'd grind with broken headphones too they'd have sex with the broken headphones and stick them up-
"Shut up!" screamed Jesus, letting out a divine shockwave. The ground cracked beneath as they all fell into an abandoned quarry. Amaterasu saw her chance. If she could just get a little coal, then Amaterasu could use it to power the cross-stitched laser cannon on her pants, since according to the second thermotransluscent law of anime physics, any time a God gets access to any power source, it can be used to do anything because magic. She dug away- a single black rock would do.
Jesus glared at the firefighters with unrestrained lust. They ran away in terror as Jesus turned to face Amaterasu.
Amaterasu found the coal and quickly summoned the laser gun from her pants, victoriously transmuting the coal into anime energy. She fired the energy blast- or tried to. Unfortunately Amaterasu had reincarnated into a fat repulsive anime nerd. Apparently she had to redefine the parameter protocols in order to let anyone else aside from a cute magical girl use the cannon, and there just wasn't any time. Jesus was almost upon her.
Desperate, she took out the photo of the anime girl being hugged by her avatar. Jesus was almost upon her now, his holy hands wobbling. Amaterasu them finished her summoning spell, proud and triumphant at her grace under less than ideal circumstances.
She then saw that the object summoned was a body pillow. Stupid magic, only doing exactly what it was told without regard to context. The fluffy object plopped uselessly to the ground. Jesus lay his hand on Amaterasu's head.
"Cast away from these hollowed grounds! By the power of me, I command it!"
Amaterasu could see the life of the man she had possessed. So many magical girls. So much Eurovision. And all that porn combining the two. The horror. Her mind swirled as Amaterasu's grip on reality began to fall apart.
"That's what happens when you mess with America," Jesus said, proud.
He walked away, planning to continue letting all know the good gospel of wealth, guns, and abstinence. But Amaterasu had a vision. She saw Jesus meet the firefighters again at a gay bar. She saw him grinding, and laughing, and turning literally every liquid he could find into wine. There were slushing noises. The gays that Jesus hated so much right now, well, they would soon become his greatest supporters. The religious fervor was pure and untamed, and they were loving every minute of it.
The drunken elephant, now out of booze, was ready once more to crush Amaterasu's profitless body. She welcomed death's embrace. Better luck next reincarnation.
|# ? May 12, 2014 00:31|
(elephants, cross stitch pattern, a completely foreign language)
Nethilia fucked around with this message at 08:27 on Dec 4, 2014
|# ? May 12, 2014 01:06|
Concerning the Heresy of the Divine rear end and the Quest for the Divine rear end Incarnate
Being herein contained:
Djeser fucked around with this message at 19:55 on Dec 31, 2014
|# ? May 12, 2014 01:43|
Greetings from Green Valley! The card read. Big block letters hung over a quiet town. The coal mine was in the background.
Clive had no doubt the kidnapper sent this. Green Valley had been demolished when the mine went under. Everything that could be sold for scrap was taken. And what wasn’t taken was burnt to the ground by angry miners.
The postcard had been slipped under his door just hours after taking the case from the parents. The police weren’t interested at all. As far as they were concerned it was just some seventeen year old girl who ran away from home. Valedictorians don’t run away during finals week.
The entrance to the cave hung agape, a hungry mouth that drank in all the rain would give it.
Clive killed the engine and put on his gloves.
Clive popped the glovebox to grab his piece, but all he came up with was an expired registration paper and speed loaders for his .38. The two hundred mile drive through the mountains of Virginia had made him forget. Forget he had to forfeit his gun to the police after their last run in.
He didn’t have time to think about his gun. A light pierced his eyes. When he rubbed the stars from them it was gone. The bastard must be showing off now Clive thought.
Flashlight in hand he went off towards the entrance.
Rainwater followed the depression that the minecart tracks had left. Two small torrents that raced down into nothing. The rain had been heavy the past month. Flood season was in full swing and mudslide warnings were posted. Clive crept forward and ignored the rain. His flashlight swept back and forth across the cave. Every other tunnel he came across was caved in. Clive heard a splash up ahead. The flashlight was raised to see further into the cave. The light played over a hole in front him. An old elevator shaft. Clive knelt down to look further into the hole. The light didn’t carry all the way down to the bottom. He felt the breeze of air behind him before he heard the squealing tires. Clive was thrown against the back wall. His attacker had smashed into his chest. A couple wet pops echoed in the tunnel. Clive gasped for air. His arms clawed at the sides of the shaft as he fell.
A light blinded Clive as he came to. It burnt into his eyes and scalded the back of his skull. He traced his hand along the back of his head. Blood, dirt, hair, and skin were all tangled into a big knot. Even the slightest touch had sent a stabbing pain straight through his thoughts.
The light blinked out and left Clive in the solitude of the chamber. It was only then he focused on his breathing. The floor of the cavern was covered in a couple inches of water. The entrance to the shaft was above him by about ten feet or so.
Clive looked around for his attacker. No shadows loomed at him from the dark. Though the water sounded different. He went over to where the water was spilling in from the shaft. He reached his hand out until he felt something cold and wet. He ran his hand along the pitted metal, desperate to figure out what it was. Part of the object moved when he touched it. A minecart. Someone had pushed a minecart at him. If his chest didn’t feel like it was burst open he would have laughed.
Water splashed on him as he moved over the minecart. Clive wasn’t going to be climbing out of here. He looked around for another tunnel and couldn’t find one. The light flickered back on for a moment and Clive thought it was his attacker again. He spun around and charged the shadow. The light was knocked away by his foot and Clive turned around to spot the attacker.
The flashlight stopped spinning and illuminated his would be attacker.
A faded blue stuffed elephant. Whose right ear was replaced with crude stitching. Word for word for what the parents said was her only missing personal effect.
Clive propped himself up against the wall and listened to the sound of the rain as it poured in.
Elements: Elephant, private detective, coal mining, missing person.
|# ? May 12, 2014 01:53|
elephant grocery store pride
Elephant (1399 words)
"I'm in Tennessee, Ma." After sixteen hours of hitchhiking Charlie stood at a payphone in front of a deserted grocery store, two changes of clothes in the rucksack at his feet.
"No you ain't."
He disguised his laugh as a cough.
"You'd best be home in twenty minutes. Your Pa's gonna take you round the factory tomorrow. You both need to be up at five and here it is half one."
"I'm not going to the factory. I'm gettin' a job out here. In Memphis." Across the highway a peeling signboard read Big Bend Circus and Petting Zoo: See the greatest performing animal show on Earth!
“Then you’ll see, boy. In a week you’ll be begging your Pa to come get you. You don’t know a good thing when you got it in front of”
The payphone clunked. Please insert ten cents to continue.
"Love you too, Ma," Charlie said.
He crossed the highway and settled himself outside the circus gate. He had barely fallen asleep for nerves when they turned the hose on him the next morning. He didn’t run off, so they offered him a job.
The new kid tickled the elephant's side with the point of his bullhook. Charlie and Shane watched from the fence.
"What are you, one of them protest faggots?" said Shane. "Tear into her, boy! Make her feel it!"
The kid prodded Esther a little harder. She huffed and rattled her ankle chain and he jumped away, almost landing in a knee-high pile of dung. Charlie laughed.
Shane spat into the dust and grabbed his own hook. The kid, streaked with dust and sweat, gave Charlie a pleading look.
"Hey," Charlie said. "She's just an animal. She don't know what's good for her."
"Fine," said the kid. He'd said he was sixteen and probably wasn't. "Then you do it." He shoved his bullhook into Charlie's hand and stalked off.
"loving human being," said Shane. He advanced on the elephant, but Charlie held up a hand.
"She's scared of your dumb rear end," Charlie said. "You ain't never gonna get her into the barn."
"She ain't scared of me, she's scared of that hook you got in your hand. She ain't no friend of yours."
Just outside the gate, the PETA protesters took up another chant.
Charlie shoved his way past the protesters. Like every Wednesday afternoon he crossed the highway. It had widened from two lanes to four and then six, but the tiny grocery store was still there and the payphone was still out front.
He dialed his Aunt Harriet's number.
"Your Pa's dead," she said, instead of "Hello."
"poo poo," said Charlie.
"Are you coming home for the funeral?"
Cars thrummed past on the highway.
"You ain't thinkin' about dodging your own Pa's funeral."
"Is Ma going to be there?"
"Oh, Charlie," said Harriet. "Don’t you think this has gotten a little ridiculous?"
"Hell, Harriet. If I show up now? Thirty-four years old and all I got is a trained elephant that don't even listen? Ma's gonna spend the rest of her life saying I-told-you-so, just like she wanted."
"You’re a grown man. What’s she going to do, spank you?"
"Don't tell Ma I called," he said, like he had every Wednesday afternoon for fifteen years.
That night he stood in Esther's pen, dangling a bunch of bananas. The elephant was a hunched grey lump in the hot dark. Her hide was still stained with blood where he'd forced the hook in.
"Don't sulk," he said. "If you just went into the drat barn when we wanted, you wouldn't get poked."
He shook the bananas at her. She turned her ponderous head and moaned.
"What? You'd rather be in the jungle? You don’t know how good you got it."
Finally she rose, muscles flexing in a sack of skin. She plucked the bananas from his hand. Her trunk was fever-hot and pricked with tiny hairs.
"Don't ever say I don't care about you," Charlie said. He rubbed her shoulder as she chewed in wet spurts. "You don't know the trouble I went through getting those."
PETA finally won. Under court order the animals were shipped away, one by one. And one day some men came, crated Esther up, and loaded her onto a flatbed. Charlie watched from the fence as she bellowed in terror.
"We're hosed," said Shane.
The elephant pounded the floor of her crate.
"We ain't even got another two weeks until we're out on our rear end."
Charlie shook his head. "Suppose not."
"You still got people in Virginia? You goin' back there? "
"I don't know," said Charlie.
Instead he borrowed a car and drove downstate, doing ninety with all the windows down. The elephant sanctuary was somewhere south of Nashville. A girl with a safari shirt and a Jane Goodall ponytail greeted him at the visitor center. "We aren't busy today," she said. "I'll give you the tour."
He rode shotgun in her Jeep. "I hope you don't think I'm a terrible guy," said Charlie. "I never hurt her on purpose, or nothing."
The girl shrugged. She leaned over and turned the radio way up: Britney Spears.
"Doesn't that bother the elephants?"
"Nah." She cracked her gum. "They like to know we're coming. They might even come say hey, if you're lucky."
The girl got out to open an enormous gate.
"Is this where Esther's at?"
She laughed. "We're calling her Imara. It means strength. She's a tough one. With all she's been through."
She looked at him, as if daring him to defend himself.
He decided not to.
He heard trumpeting, then a crash. A few hundred feet from them a half dozen elephants rumbled out of the bush and into the field. They slipped past and around each other in the tall grass, romping. One had a head covered in pink burn scars. Another was unmistakably Esther, a notch in one ear and her hide marked with healing scratches. It was her who approached them.
The girl produced a sack of oranges. "You wanna give her a treat?"
Charlie held out an orange. Esther stretched out her trunk and took it. Her hot breath tickled his hand. "Good girl," he said. "You okay?"
She dropped the orange on the ground and walked over it, leaving it mashed in the dirt. Then she raised her trunk and bellowed once. Swaying, she crashed back into the bush.
The girl laughed. "Compost. Or one of the other ones'll eat it."
"Does that mean she forgot me already?"
Her face turned hard again. "No, of course she didn't forget you. An elephant never forgets."
“I was always decent to her, you know. I was only tryin’ to do what was best for her.”
“You think she cares?”
They drove back to the gate in silence.
He almost turned around four times on the way to Virginia, but each time he remembered how his heart felt when Esther stomped that orange into the dirt.
Harriet let him in. His Ma was propped up on the couch in her nightgown.
"Hi, Ma," he said. She looked a lot smaller than she had in 1979.
"Hi yourself." She frowned.
"You know who I am, right?"
"I'm old, not stupid," she said. "I know my boy, even with that big ol’ beard."
"Ma," he said, "I’m sorry.”
She scowled at him. A soap opera blared in the background.
“And, you know, I lost my job. I was thinking about maybe-”
"If you need a job, you'd best go round the factory and talk to your Uncle Harvey."
Charlie took a deep breath. "No thank you.” If he’d made a mistake coming home, he’d at least make it with dignity.
“No thank you?”
“Well, I was thinking I’d maybe do something different. Go round the farms, maybe, see if anyone’s looking for help. Of course if I can’t find nothin’, maybe I’ll -"
Ma’s stony face cracked. Suddenly, she threw back her head and laughed. “C’mere, Charlie,” she said, reaching out a hand to him. “Calm yourself down. I’m just joshing you. I know you ain’t gonna go to work in no factory. You think I didn’t learn nothing in twenty years?”
An elephant couldn’t forget, but a man might try.
“Okay, then. Can I stay for dinner?”
“Long as you don’t mind helpin’ out with the dishes.”
|# ? May 12, 2014 02:09|
Teeth champed together when they were ripped out of Audley’s arm. Lieutenant Sara slammed the child to the floor while the recruit clapped his free hand over his gushing wound in an attempt to staunch the bleeding. His attacker was lying on the ground, looking as stunned as Audley felt. The young man’s blood painted the birthmark on the child’s back, making the image of the grinning white dog look like it recently had its own meal. He remained rooted to the spot, incapable of thinking he was anything other than seven years old again. Where was Ma? That dog is going to get up and hurt him again!
Sara had to pull Audley from the witch’s cabin. Audley was moving, but he wasn’t sure where. All he knew was that the dog was gone for now.
“I promise you, she won’t get away with assaulting one of my men.” Lieutenant Sara stood from Audley’s bedside. “I’ll be back to check on you tomorrow. Get some rest, rookie.”
Red started creeping from underneath the bandage. Audley wiped his brow and found that the discolored skin was extremely hot to his forehead. Even though it was the morning after, he couldn’t stop reliving the moment where the freakish child bit into him and had to be yanked off him. He wondered what he would do if the moment continued disrupting him like this. Everything should have just not happened so he can go back to his routine, like before the witch showed up.
Lieutenant Sara had left the room while he lied there shivering. He was alone in his bedroom in his mother’s house. He retreated under the covers. Everything sounded like big dogs that would tear him to pieces. The mattress groaning beneath him became growling. The heavy curtains rubbing against the windows in the breeze became scratching. Right before exhaustion took him, Audley considered shutting the window and sleeping on the floor.
Audley opened his eyes to silence. The curtains weren’t moving, the bed made no noise. He was feeling good. At this rate, everything should be back to normal come morning. He couldn’t wait to get back to his usual routine.
He stepped out to the living room. Usually he would here Ma snoring in her room, but it was dark, and there was no sound whatsoever, not even when he tripped over the ottoman.
Audley landed on his wounded arm, and his scream was a blend surprise and frustration. It was the only thing to reach his ears in the deafening silence. He tried pulling his legs underneath him when one wouldn’t move. He paused, breathing hard and exhausted all over again. The cool floor drew the heat from his damp cheek. He felt himself falling back to sleep until he heard rhythmic tapping on the hardwood floor. But Audley couldn’t be bothered to turn onto his back until he felt something sharp dig into his leg. He looked over his shoulder and saw the largest dog he had ever seen in his life, which was very white and very visible in the darkness. It became the only thing he could see, and with alarming clarity. Audley could even count every curved fang it its mouth after it bared them at him in an upturned snarl. He kicked at the beast on instinct, and hollered when the feral monster deftly snatched his foot out the air.
The teeth closing on him brought the familiar panic and pain. Audley’s hysterical shouting was more of a reflex as he flailed, helpless. He couldn’t get a grip on the floor, he slipped whenever he tried to move. He turned back and felt the agony of his shattered ankle dropping to the ground. Before he could try to move again, it was pinned with filthy claws.
Every movement, every effort he made was thwarted by unseen forces. Audley could only watch teeth sink into his leg and part his muscle from bone with a sound akin to oranges being peeled. His dark skin blanketed the beast’s white fangs, his blood coated the dog’s pale, shaggy legs.
He tried kicking again, but his free leg wouldn’t move. Every new shriek grew weaker and dimmed his vision. Watching the monster hound devour him grew more difficult with every agonizing second when finally, Audley couldn’t see, hear, or mercifully feel anything.
Ma was very hesitant to let Audley out of her sight. It was all Lieutenant Sara’s doing that got him back into bed after they found him on the floor, and she couldn’t handle him alone should he fall into another “fit” because Sara wasn’t here at the moment.
Ma insists he only had a fever dream, but Audley couldn’t and wouldn’t be convinced otherwise. His leg was as crippled as his arm now, and for whatever reason, Ma would refuse to acknowledge the scars he got from being attacked. It took days for him to stop seeing the white dog easily pulling him apart whenever he closed his eyes.
It took only a couple days for Audley to get fed up. He waited for his mother to go to the grocer before using the mop as a makeshift walking stick. He stepped outside, wanting to get back into his routine, and right now he would usually be making his way to the barracks.
However, it felt very strange outside. The evening air was stiller than a cat readying to pounce. Audley caught the crowd out of the corner of his eye, and turned in time to see it surge up the path leading to the witch’s house on the hill. He followed, wondering if seeing Lieutenant Sara up near the front was just his mind playing tricks on him.
Audley shed the mop on the way up the hill. He moved faster without the mop, but with much more of a limp. The young man hurried at the faint scent of smoke, though the sneezes from the smoke tickling his nostrils nearly toppled him over on several occasions.
It was dark by the time Audley climbed to the top of the hill. The shouting and clamoring grew louder until the sound of glass shattering calmed the crowd for an instant. As soon as Audley breached the hill, he watched people pitch fire into the witch’s cabin. He was in no shape to stop them, nor did he actually want to.
The witch will be gone, and everything will be back to the way it was before she arrived!
He walked behind the cabin while the crowd cheered behind his back, shouting about the witch burning along with her “avatar of disease.” Far fewer people were back here throwing rocks through windows and chucking torches after them.
Audley was thought to make sure the fire wouldn’t spread to the surrounding trees when he caught a face in the window. The child was still in there.
If that kid lived through the ordeal, he’s gonna grow up hating fire. Audley would’ve laughed if he wasn’t reminded of how he acted the last time he was in that cabin.
Fire licked at the curtains in the windows.
That white dog on his back, that brand of being malice incarnate. The witch was crazy enough to take that in and flaunt it.
He cleared the barricaded back door of the scrap that blocked it.
Maybe the child didn’t ask to be known in such a way. The embodiment of disease and decay.
Audley kicked the backdoor open, to the protest of the villagers behind him.
The child was creepy, never said anything, and the last time he tried talking to him, he was bitten in response. But Audley couldn’t brush away the fact that past the unfortunate birthmark was still a child.
Audley charged into the cabin.
Exchanged: An unwanted avatar
Host gift: psychological horror
|# ? May 12, 2014 02:20|
I'm out, I messed up my time management this week. Next time I enter, I enter with a toxx.
|# ? May 12, 2014 02:27|
Prompts used: psychological horror, magic that seems like science or vice versa, society founded on good intentions that ultimately became dystopian.
I shall meet my crushing defeat honorably...
Nephilim - 1340 words
When you see my visage, you will call me “dragon.” I am Tenno, the last of my race.
By the time humans began to bend metal to their will, we had long since bent reality to ours. When we fled to our last planet, a mere rock meandering about the edge of a solar system, our bodies could reject the void, our eyes saw the world through diamond-hard lenses, we recycled our oxygen within sculpted organs, and renewed our waste through willpower alone. We even learned to generate thrust with our wings. This magic was called wish-weaving, and it enacted a revolution against physiology to paint the heavens with our majesty, but soon, we had nothing left.
Muototsu means “textureless, featureless,” a namesake for the ultimate curse among our kind, and a state of pain and humiliation feared more than death. No sane parent would have allowed a wyrmling with this defect to hatch. If the child lived at all, it would never have survived to become the scaleless beings before me. More likely, this mockery of life hatched from our minds as we plied our art upon the fabric of reality. Long had it been posited that we realize our fears as well as our wants.
When you encounter the scaleless, you learn that “featureless” is a misnomer. The replacement of facets with a smooth surface would be bad enough, but instead you find oozing pores, and the mind spontaneously imagines the painstaking process that might have plucked each treasured gemstone flake from the body of the beast before you. The imperfectly sealed eye weeps tears of blood, and every step is wracked with pain. It should have expired within seconds of exposure, and yet it moves. A dragon’s mind reacts to this countenance like yours might react to a cockroach flying directly at your face. Yet a cockroach merely offends you with its presence. It does not answer your hatred in kind.
The reason I had been able to survive unscathed to this point, perhaps, had more to do with hate than anything. When labeled as cursed by your fellow dragons, you become branded with fear, but eventually that fear will shed its skin and emerge as hate. The Muototsu picked us off from the shadows and soon had us outnumbered, but I did not hesitate.
I was surrounded by three of the Muototsu as I sought my prize. They rushed me from the right, front, and left. As tempted as I was to dismiss them as incapable of rational thought, I knew they were perfectly able to set up an ambush. They were lighter than us, the right one by far, and bloody fast. But I could easily change their momentum. I grabbed the right by its throat and twisted it as I leapt, planted a foot in the small of the back of the one charging in front, then used my wings to turn as I landed. The third was preparing to loose its breath on me. But within a vacuum? This was a new surprise. I tightened my grip on the throat below me as flailing claws gouged at my arms. I was content to wait.
When the gout of flame came, I answered it with my very own ebony inferno, my only companion. The Muototsu were cursed in form. I was cursed in flame. Unlike that of most, my flame doesn’t require oxygen to burn. I wasn’t even certain what it did consume, but while the featureless had to project and sustain a localized cloud of air, mine licked at the well of power that kept it there. The dragons called it blackfire, and when it enveloped the two creatures ahead of me, there was a shift in the substance of thought that allowed them to exist, and they melted like wax in a furnace. When I turned my eye upon the one beneath me, a voice issued forth.
“This one wishes for you to end its suffering, Copper-Crowned One.” From a long since hollowed-out structure, a half-skeletal, half-rotting face surfaced into view. I stared in amazement at the latest affront to common sense. How dare such a wretched creature speak? But if such a beast could breathe fire in a vacuum, surely it had sentience and the ability to project a voice as well.
“You insult our tongue by speaking it, maggot. I will not suffer a wish from it, nor its continued life.”
“Then crush that projection beneath you, my liege, for in so doing, you will grant neither.” The voice flowed smoothly and unperturbed. Glassy eyes stared unseeing as I followed its instructions, even as they pointed straight in my direction. A skeletal finger rose, and pointed past our ruined buildings of once-impermeable rock to a mountain with a door cut in its face.
“The instrument you seek has been prepared for you. We will welcome you.” I then stared back, unwilling to acknowledge this creature’s sapience with the questions I wanted to ask. So, unbidden, it simply began to answer. “Your fear gives us cognizance. Your fellows merely feared our existence. But, you are the last wish weaver, now.”
“You fear that we might be one and the same, maligned as we are. But your blackfire shall always be yours alone, King of the Cursed. Now, claim your prize. Set us free, and pick clean the bones of your dead civilization.”
“Maggot! You have no kingdom, nor have you a king!” The bony creature stood unflinching as the spark that animated him was immolated in shadow.
My course had been set long before the creature spoke, and remained unchanged. As it said, its fellows welcomed my approach to and descent through the mountain, chanting “King of the Cursed,” even as I tore through them, burned them, cursed them. They finally massed about me as I entered the inner chamber that held our society’s most important artifact, a sphere of unidentifiable green metal that was discovered long ago. Rumors held that the first to work the wish-weaving magic was “taught” by this device.
Captivated by its otherworldly shine, I discovered too late that the character of the Muototsu surrounding me had changed. They continued to chant their gibberish as they lovingly, yet firmly pinned me down, and began to pluck out my scales. My beautiful, copper scales. I struggled furiously, unleashing column of black flame, but the pain was too great and the air fled my body, my innards tried to escape every opened orifice, my blood boiled and assaulted my brain.
Yet a part of me remained there. Tendrils of another being’s awareness tugged at it when a tiny metal ball was placed on my chest. It did not speak, yet it communed with me, somehow.
“What is it you seek, featureless one?”
“I sought to crush this charade, this life we’d created.”
“An end to the chaos? Even though your race is dead already?”
“They cannot be allowed to live.” I thought I felt a sneer at my response, and in my humiliation, I changed my mind. “No. I’LL crush them. I’ll crush them myself. Every last one. I just need my scales…”
“I shall be your scales.” A flood of power entered my mind as the green pearl melted upon my chest and spread a black film across my body, hardening and forming articulated armor that no claw could pierce. “In return, I require an oath.”
I flexed my new wings, clasped my new claws around the feeble throats of these tortured souls.
“I will remain as the last of my race, and haunt the universe until it ruptures.”
Flames glanced harmlessly off the black armor. Once again, the Muototsu gave me the joy of combat, and soon tasted the void of blackfire.
“This satellite shall be my chariot, to be ridden from planet to planet, until all life is rendered silent.”
“If that is your oath, then very well. Seek your silence, dragon. I will give you a loud end when you find it.”
|# ? May 12, 2014 02:35|
Happiness You Have Mistaken
Elements: Ultimate, embarrassing defeat becoming a cathartic triumph; a piece of mirror; themes and visuals from Moldova's Eurovision performance in 2010 (lyrics here).
Mercy first saw Bastien onstage at a blues bar, where the man himself was a shadow barely seen behind a smoke-voiced singer, but all the light in the place flashed off his saxophone. Its slow wail brought out the sweetness in her bourbon. She shut her eyes to listen, and so she missed the precise moment when he stepped out of the background and out of the song with notes that weren't blues at all, nor even jazz, but bright and jubilant and a call to dance. He thrust his hips and his sax both toward the sky. Someone up front threw a drink at him, the audience hollered, and he laughed at them all. His band mates grabbed him and shoved him off stage. The bouncer led him away.
Mercy ducked out and met him at the side door. He smelled like the thrown Old Fashioned. Droplets still glittered in his neat beard. "Play that again for me," she said, and his grin was very white in the dim of the alley. He played and kept playing, even when the bouncer opened the door and threw a jacket at him: his own, surely, and Mercy caught it before it could fall. The leather was studded with shards of a broken mirror. She saw herself in them: bright eyes, wild smile.
They went for coffee; his Creole accent softened his consonants. They went to her apartment; somehow he never really left.
Since his former band had tired of his ways, Bastien chased solo gigs while Mercy punched numbers at her accounting firm, and after work, in the rich sunset glow, he taught her to play his saxophone. His fingers pressed hers to the proper keys. The music she made was less golden than the songs so often pouring down from her window when she came home, but beauty would come. Mercy said that. Bastien did not disagree.
And after nightfall, sometimes there was a bar to go to, a stage for him to occupy and a front table for her. Once he called her up to him and kissed her in front of a whistling crowd. She fought to leave him too breathless to sound a note.
His jacket showed her flushed cheeks and full lips. She wrapped herself in it after they left the smoke and the gin. At a bus stop, Bastien played for the would-be passengers and the drifters, and Mercy danced with a handsome stranger, but her eyes were all for him.
He'd played as easily as ever, despite her kiss.
Air freshener hung thick as a miasma in the bedroom, sometimes. Always when Bastien had an early evening booking and she came home to silence. The sheets were crisp, freshly washed. Did he only have secrets to clean up after on those days, or did he distract her from the clues when he was present? She pretended she didn't know. His jacket glittered with sleepless eyes.
North Carolina invited Bastien to play at a blues festival, and Mercy bought their plane tickets. He thanked her in a bed that smelled of new fabric softener.
Mercy left work early the day before the trip: she went straight to the hole in the wall where Bastien had one more sunset gig, asked for a table in the back, and waited for his time. He would see her there to support him. They would go home together. She told herself these things. She didn't need his jacket to show her how she lied.
Bastien came in with a woman who sat in the front where she could see him best, where it would be easiest to pretend he played for her. Bastien scanned the room. Mercy willed him to notice her--but she was the one in shadow now, and he didn't see.
He beckoned the woman to him after the second song and kissed her into a flush. Mercy wasn't aware of standing, nor of crossing the room. But she stood on the stage. Shouting. Screaming. At him; never mind his paramour. Grabbing for the edge of his jacket, only to have her hand knocked away.
Men and women laughed at the show, those few who weren't pressed into a heavy, embarrassed quiet. She wouldn't cry, couldn't. She punched him instead. Or tried. Bastien caught her fist and shoved her from him.
The bouncer escorted her out through the back. No one came to meet her there. In her apartment, Mercy stared into the bathroom mirror, searching for the joie de vivre she had tried to learn from him and for a version of herself that wasn't broken.
She called the airline just past dawn to cancel her reservations on the noon flight to Wilmington, North Carolina. "Both, ma'am?" the man at the desk asked her.
Yes, Mercy's mind said, but she hesitated. "No," she finally answered. "Just one."
The seat beside hers stayed empty as the plane sped down the runway, then tilted up, up, into the space between the clouds and sky. Away. Alone, to remember pleasure in music that wasn't his. She would have to play her own songs, Mercy thought. She would have to live in her own light, and she was done pretending.
Mercy watched the clouds form shapes beneath her as she flew free, and her reflection in the window wore a smile.
|# ? May 12, 2014 02:50|
Only One Place to Go
“There’s something different about you, here” I said.
“That happens when you go someplace different,” she answered.
My sister Mina had been missing for four years. I’d been to four continents looking for her. The only place I ever found her was in my dreams.
When you hear gunfire, the last thing you should do is run.
I dropped to the ground and rolled under the wheels of a parked truck. “Echo to command, shots fired.”
“Roger. Can you confirm target?”
“I don’t think it’s us.” The firing was sporadic, large bursts on and off that sounded like they came from everywhere. Instinct made me look, but it was difficult to find muzzle flashes in the mid-afternoon sun.
“Echo three, report!” my earpiece crackled. “Miriam, what’s going on up there?”
“Sorry John, I don’t think we’re under fire.” I ripped my headscarf off and tossed it just out from under the truck to see if the shooters took the bait, but nothing happened. I rolled out and stood up. “Echo three to team, all clear.”
The gunfire continued, but the other two members of Echo team came around the corner and we continued forward. “What do you think it is?” John asked.
“Could be a wedding,” I said. “Could be an execution.”
“I just don’t want it to be ours,” Alice answered. “Especially not on your last tour, Miriam.”
“Insha’Allah,” I said.
“If only everyone spoke Arabic here,” John sighed.
We moved forward.
“Urdu, Pashto, Berber, Turkish, Kurdish, Uzbek. Half a dozen Semitic languages. Two dozen Persian languages. There’s no single linguistic base here, that’s why the cultures make no sense.”
“You’re thinking about this wrong, Miri. You can’t figure out language, it figures out you.” Mina was always frustrating when the dreams let her speak. I loved to hear her voice, but could never understand what she said.
“You need to study the poetry, not the law,” she continued.
“You were the poet, Mina,” I said. There was suddenly an AR-15 in my hand, logical the way dreams are. “I was never that good with words.”
“Then why are you a negotiator?” she asked.
“Because I’m good with other things.”
We’d made it out of Herat, a city in Afghanistan that spoke a mixture of Persian Farsi and Pashto, and met up with a small convoy that would take us north into Turkmenistan near the border with Iran. When you told someone you were a hostage negotiator they usually pictured highly skilled operatives with satellites and helicopters. We got two jeeps and five other soldiers, who shared their food and stories on the road north.
“Do you know anything about these people?” one of them asked me. Jim. Or Jack.
“The report says they’re journalists,” I told him as I double-checked my dossiers.
“Why are journalists always off somewhere getting themselves in trouble?” he joked, smiling.
“Because someone’s got to keep an eye on us,” I said.
“Not Allah?” he joked the way rednecks joke when they don’t know when to stop.
“He’s not very good with editorials,” I said without looking up.
He gave up. Mina had been a journalist.
“Where are you, Mina?” I asked.
She didn’t speak. She was drawing something. I couldn’t quite see what it was.
In the beginning my questioning had been fierce. Now they were more form than force. Asking the questions was comforting, as was never getting an answer.
“What are you drawing?” I asked.
The dream answered, even though nothing about the scene changed. A white elephant stood at the boarder of a city and refused to cross.
“Al-Fil,” I said. “The elephant.” I knew the story from the verses our uncle recited from the Qu’ran.
Have you not seen what your Lord did with the companions of the elephant?
Did He not make their plot to go astray?
The white elephant would not cross into Mecca to destroy the Kaaba as its master had instructed. This occurred in the year of the Prophet’s birth. Our uncle would finish the story and tell us that even those with the greatest strength bow to Allah’s will.
“Stories, Mina,” I said. “Poetry and stories.”
I hadn’t been a believer since she’d left, but I hadn’t the heart to tell her that it was her fault.
“Only one way?” I repeated. When negotiating with someone, the best way to make them feel secure is by repeating the last three words of their sentence. This tells them that you’re listening and want them to go on.
The hostage-takers had radioed us in a tiny, tiny village in Turkmenistan called Miana, where most of the people spoke either Turkmeni, Kurmanji Kurdish, or Semitic Mehri. They negotiated with me through a translator, who spoke Arabic.
My dossiers had been wrong, the hostages were one journalist and two archeologists, who had all come from the Altyn Depe dig a few miles away. The hostage-takers said they had five people, but I’d only been told three were missing.
“Yes, only one way for them to return the people.” The translator sounded almost bored. “You come, you give the money, you take the people and leave. No stuff.”
Drugs. Photographs. Weapons. ‘Stuff’ could be anything.
“No stuff, Insha’allah,” I agreed. “Where can we take them from you?”
There was a pause and radio static. “Tonight, the northern wall,” there was a wall around the dig-site, “bring the money.”
“Bring the money. We will.”
The sun went down as John and I waited for our hostages to show up. One jeep was with us, the other parked on the south side of the dig, hiding the rest of our group.
I’d been expecting the sound of an engine, but in silence a group of four men came over a small hill to the north of us and approached. Only one of them was armed. There were two men and a woman with them, clearly foreign, one of the men limping badly.
“Money!” the shout came across the scrubland.
“Money!” I shouted back.
One of the men walked toward us with the woman. He shoved her at me, I handed him a duffle bag. He looked inside at the few bundles of American twenties. “No stuff,” he said, looking at me. He walked back, kicked both the foreigners to their knees, then walked away with his companions.
When they’d gone a good distance, John and I went calmly to the two men and helped them to the waiting jeep, then drove around the edge of the dig to the south side. “Not bad for your last negotiation,” he said.
“Not bad,” I answered.
“What did they mean, stuff?” I asked.
“They didn’t like us taking the artifacts,” one of the archaeologists said. “Said that the places things were were the place they belonged.” His leg was broken in three places, but after a few swallows of one soldier’s hip flask – bourbon, I’d thought when I smelled it – he’d become cogent enough to talk.
We stayed the night in Altyn Depe, to give him a chance to rest.
“Come home,” I said to her.
“Home was never there,” she said.
I didn’t know where ‘there’ was.
“You ran away, Mina,” I said.
“No, you ran away,” she replied. “You ran to the other side of the world and the only thing you found was that it was another side.”
She was still drawing her elephant.
It was three day’s drive back into Afghanistan. We’d wanted to start early, but had had to go into Miana to find some opium for the archaeologist, who was slipping in and out of consciousness. We found a family to trade with, but they insisted we stay for a meal. I found no way to politely refuse.
“Thank you for your hospitality,” I said in Pashto. “We are tired and you show us a great courtesy.”
“A great courtesy?” he said.
“Yes, our friend is hurt and you have helped us greatly.” I hoped he understood me this time.
“Helped you greatly?” he repeated.
My skin went cold.
“Yes,” I said. I turned. “John, we need to leave,” I said in English.
“What’s the problem?” he asked.
We walked back to Altyn Depe as calmly as possible. We found the exploded remains of the two jeeps inside the walls of the digsite, bodies and vehicles in pieces.
John pulled out his sat-phone and called for help, but I knew it wasn't going to come. We were in the walls now.
|# ? May 12, 2014 03:00|
Broken and Fixed Shut: 896 words
Presents used: broken headphones, elephants, pride
Ravey hadn’t seen Tom in three days.
But then again, she had been living in a enclosed, safe bubble since he decided to announce to the entire loving world that she might like girls. That absolutely mortifying moment in front of everybody in that mandatory Humanities class stuck like a stupid grease spot in her mind, despite all her attempts to scrub it out. She didn’t talk to anybody, not even her roommates – all they ever did was make stupid half-hearted attempts at conversation, and she could swear that they were just snickering every time they offered to be a listening ear.
“Ravey?” That would be Jessica, who she shared her double room with. “Er… there’s someone at the door for you.”
Ravey turned to ask if that person was Tom, but then he appeared right behind Jessica. He carried his crappy headphones in his right hand, along with what appeared to be a ten-dollar bill. Jessica quietly moved out of the way, allowing him into the room, but stayed in the doorway.
Tom didn’t flinch when Ravey glared at him, and just before she told him to gently caress off, he said, “You said that you would fix my headphones, remember?” At least he looked somewhat uncomfortable. Ravey opened her mouth again, but then thought better of it, and started rummaging around in her drawer. She would at least keep her promises, whether it be to fix poo poo or to keep one’s drat mouth quiet.
When she located her soldering kit – which consisted of a soldering iron, some solder, and some basic screwdrivers – and cleared off some stuff from her desk, she waved Tom over to her bed. “Just… sit over there. Don’t touch anything.”
“How about my headphones?”
“Just toss them over here.” When she saw Tom’s reluctant expression, she huffed. “They’re not going to get more broken. Hurry up.”
After catching them, she got to work, willfully ignoring the uncomfortable silence in the room. Before this whole mess started, Tom had described exactly how his headphones had stopped working, and it seemed to be a simple loose disconnection in the left housing. Just a quick resoldering of the wires, and it should be fixed. She plugged in her soldering iron, and stared at it as it heated up, hoping that Tom would just keep his drat mouth shut and they could both never see each other again.
But considering it was Tom’s flapping jaw that got her into this situation, that was clearly an unreasonable hope. He was clearly aware of the elephant in the room and her feelings regarding it, but that apparently didn’t serve as a large enough obstacle. After a couple minutes, he cleared his throat. “Ravey, I’d just like to say -”
“Say what?” Ravey snapped. “You’re sorry that you decided to reveal extremely personal matters that were clearly meant to be confidential in front of three hundred people?” The iron was hot enough, she judged, and she quickly disassembled the earpiece in front of her, and yep – the wires had clearly pulled away from their connection. This should be quick. Thank god.
“I understand that you’re upset about this, but don’t you think you’re being a bit irrational? I mean, you never told me it was supposed to be confidential.”
Ravey saw red, and it was a good thing – well, surprising, too – that Jessica jumped into the conversation, or else Tom might’ve lost his eye. “Are you saying that sexuality isn’t a personal thing?”
Tom stuttered, “B-but she didn’t say anything! I mean, how was I supposed to know that she thought that stuff was private? She talks about a lot of other stuff that people would consider personal information all the time!”
Ravey held the soldering iron’s tip to the wires, and watched the solder melt over them, connecting them to their proper space. She would’ve answered Tom, but Jessica jumped in again, which was awesome.
“But that was just an assumption. You should’ve asked her first.” Strange, really. Ravey had never heard Jessica say things with such conviction before. The solder hardened. It was done.
“That sounds stupid. Why should people have to constantly ask about this stuff? All it does is discourage conversation about these topics.” Ravey jammed the earpiece back together with a little more force than was necessary.
“Well, if you asked her first, she wouldn’t have been embarrassed in the first place.”
“She wasn’t embarrassed! Right, Ravey?”
That was it. Ravey shoved his cruddy headphones into his lap, snatched the tenner from him and told him, “Yes, I was embarrassed. Jessica is correct. Now leave.”
Tom opened his mouth again. Jessica glared, and said, “Leave.”
Ravey sat down on her bed, and motioned for Jessica to come join her. After a bit, she said, “Thanks.”
Jessica smiled. “No problem.”
Ravey smiled back, but quickly frowned. “Erm, I’m sorry about the way I’ve acted the past few days. I guess I had my head stuck up my rear end and thought that you guys were making fun of me.”
“Hey,” Jessica said. “Don’t worry about it. I understand what’s it like, a little.”
At Ravey’s questioning look, she clarified. “My cousin came out two years ago. He was a bit like you.”
Jessica then stood. “Do you want to get a soda?”
Ravey smiled. “Sure.”
|# ? May 12, 2014 03:00|
The Mystery of the Elephant Statue
Elements: Elephants, Japanese Folklore and Humor, actual Humor.
The cornfield stank of hibiscus and rotten meat, and rot in general. I’m not a man for analogies but bloody speckle still splattered the crops like a brace-wearing trying to sing She Sells Sea Shells ten times over. Also there are an absurdly large amount of cigarette butts all around. I adjusted my bowler and look up at the lady standing next to me.
“This ain’t the work of wolves.” I pull the cigarette from my mouth and rested it between index and middle. “You’re dealing with an Oni.”
Instead of the loud gasp I was expecting, the lady standing next to me covered her mouth and snorted.
“Oh goodness,” Kid says. “I’m so sorry! You’re talking all gruff but I can’t take you seriously with that dress!”
I don’t get mad at her. Half think that exact same sentiment, other half nod and smile. I lift myself, brushing at the dust staining my elaborate petticoats. “Oni are a different breed of yokai. Can’t be killed by conventional means. You did good, calling me.”
The kid looks a bit skeptical, kicking at the disturbed dirt beneath her sandals. “Gosh. That actually does – “ Snrk _”- sound serious.” She holds up a hand. “I believe you, by the way.”
“And I believe you that you believe me.” I nod towards the farm house. “Bring me to the widow.
Something about that tongue twister makes her scratch her head. She shrugs and leads me to the home. House’s got its feet in the grave, or however that cliché goes. The wooden steps creak and moan like it’s begging to be put down. I adjust my bowler hat and notice the obnoxiously large statue near the door.
“Is that a Hindu Elephant?” I note, because for the life of me I can’t imagine why there’s an elephant statue.
Kid shrugs again, finger the latch to the door and slide it open. “Just the regular kind. Nara-sensei has all these trinkets and stuff. S’kinda weird.”
We catch Nara-sensei in the middle of watching paint dry. Kid busts into the room, waving her arms like a spaz trying to fight off a bee.
“Mr. Nara-Sensei! I
“Hanako?” The old man blinks, eyes darting between the Kid and me. “How did you get into my house?”
Kid prods her index fingers together. “I picked the lock?” She gestures to me. “I’m sorry that your wife died! He’s here to help!”
“Hope you don’t mind if I light up,” I say.
I lit up the cigar before he can respond. Nara-sensei’s shaggy brows knit into a V shape.
“Hanako.” He says. “Who is this drunkard and why is he in my home?”
Kid clasps her hands and beams. “His name is Moseley! He’s an American! He can cleanse your farmland and find whatever attacked Uzume! For free!”
“A private shrine maiden,” Sensei mutters, “who is a Yankee,” rubs his bald head, “and isn’t looking for donations.”
“Uhuh! He’s been sober for a month, too!”
“Hmn… Why am I finding all of this hard to believe?”
The cig dangles from the corner of my mouth. “Ain’t dealing in snake oil, old man. You’re looking for the best. I’m it.”
Nara cranes his neck and examines me skeptically. “…Aren’t shrine maidens supposed to be women?”
“Geki.” I grunt, smoke billowing into my nostrils. “Male shaman. Big difference.”
“…then why are you wearing that dress?”
I gesture to my elegant, flowing gown. “This article has been blessed by Amaterasu-ōmikami. Since I am a direct descendant, it is only appropriate I pay respect. Also,” I wave the smoke out of my face, “doesn’t bunch up. Feels right, where it counts.”
Sensei just nods and smiles.
“I’m here to tell you that your wife did not die from a pack of wolves. You’re dealing with an Oni, I’m afraid.”
Sensei snorts. “Impossible. The Oni is fiction, a fairy tail.”
“Not fiction, reality. The Oni is very real and very dangerous,” punctuated by a raised finger, “and most Oni don’t have tails.”
“This is ridiculous. I was willing to give you but I won’t sit here listening to this nonsense. It’s the wolves that have been feasting on my crops for months. That is all.”
“I can assure you that it’s an Oni, Sense-“
“And I can assure you that it’s not.” He threw his hand towards the door. “We’re done here.”
He slammed the door behind us. I vaguely wondered ‘Wait, wasn’t this a screen door a second ago,’ but Kid started tugging on my sleeve and I wonder why a twenty year old girl could be so short.
“What are we going to do Mr. Moseley-Chan? Mr. Nara-Sensei doesn’t believe us!”
I stroke my chin, lollipop between my sugar-stained fingers. “We can’t kill the Oni, but there’s an alternative.”
We wait until the dead of night out in the cornfield with a bucket filled with Lucky Strike because that is the only brand Oni smoke. Kid and I sit cross-legged in the middle of the patch.
“My parents must be worried.” Kid muses, head in her hands. “They probably think I’m out doing depraved things with boys! Wait until they hear that I’m waiting to catch an Oni.”
“Kid.” I say. “You’d be incredibly annoying if you didn’t have the spunk factor going for you.”
There’s a rustling in the crops over yonder. An Oni steps into view, a few ears of corn stuffed into the pockets of her Gucci suit. The Oni are like a Zaibatsu except less finger chopping and more general tomfoolery.
“Oni.” I say, holding up the bucket. “Here.”
“Hey, thanks man.” She says, I assume it’s a she because of the bow in her hair. “You want one?”
“No thanks.” I say, placing the carrot. “I quit yesterday. Say, did you happen to kill the farmer’s wife last night?”
Oni strokes her chin slowly. “Nah. I slept in last night, really screwed up my internal clock.”
“Okay. Nice talking to you.”
Kid blinks. “…That was it? That was your plan.”
“Of course. What did you think I was going to do, have an elaborate fight sequence with them?”
“Yes,” Kid say. “Yes, actually.”
“Oh.” I say.
Suddenly a figure leaps out of the bushes and grabs the Kid’s wrist. I drop my carrot.”
“It was you.” I exclaim.
“Yes, it was me all along.” Nara snarled, pressing the ear of corn to her neck. “And I wouldn’t have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for that pesky Geki.”
“But why?” Kid gasps. Needless to say, she isn’t exactly worried about the dangers of Corn Poisoning.
“Isn’t it obvious? Did you even see that stupid Elephant statue! That woman bought THAT with MY money! She didn’t even liked elephants so why she bought the damned thing is beyond me!”
“You killed your wife over an elephant statue.” Kid repeated, corn pressed to her throat.
“O-Of course when you put that way it sounds really petty! But it’s been like this our entire marriage! Buying things she doesn’t need, asking me to buy things she doesn’t need!”
Kid’s eyes dilate. “Wouldn’t it have been easier to refund it all?”
“I…I didn’t think of - ” He grits his teeth. “T-THAT ISN’T THE POINT! The point is that with the wolves and her, I was losing everything! So I killed her, then doctored everything pin it on the wolves eating my crops! I don’t know anything about this Oni business.”
“Actually, I’m the one who has been stealing your crops.” Oni says, honestly I forgot she was still there. “So, yeah, sorry!”
Nara gets real quiet, like his whole world has crumbled before his very eyes. He presses the corn to her neck. “You move, the girl gets it. I’m warning you.”
He started to back away, Hanako looking more annoyed than frightened. Oni and I stand there, helpless, as he nearly makes it to the clearing when he trips. He starts cursing as he holds his broken ankle. Then he looks lets out a harsh screech as the Elephant statue crushes his head like a scene straight out of an ultra-violent children’s cartoon show. Hanako gets blood on her face. The Elephant was a yokai all along.
“You did good, Elephant.” I bowed my head.
The Elephant statue gazed upon me with a benevolent smile. Then it brought it’s paws together and closed it’s eyes. “Dōitashimashite.”
|# ? May 12, 2014 03:01|
|# ? May 12, 2014 03:13|
crabrock fucked around with this message at 07:00 on Jul 1, 2014
|# ? May 12, 2014 03:16|
Mostly They Come Home 1,321 words
A Missing Person
Francis was in the back with his knees up squeezed against the driver’s seat, teeth rattling each time the truck bounced in a rut. June, his wife, sat next to him clutching her travel bag as if it might fly out the window. She didn’t relax until they turned onto the flat dirt road leading up to the cabin. The driver stopped right out front and waited for Francis to slide their luggage out of the flatbed. Francis handed the man a few dollars for a tip and rapped on the cab roof with his knuckles.
“Call up to the store if you have any problems,” the man said, then added without enthusiasm, “Enjoy your stay.” The suspension groaned as he turned the truck around. Then he was off back the way they’d come, kicking up a swirl of yellow dust.
Francis put an arm around his wife’s waist. “How do you like it?”
“It’s just like in the brochure,” June said, and Francis felt a stirring of pride in himself for picking it out. The whole trip had been his idea, a sort of present to celebrate retirement.
The cabin was made to look rustic, though the inside was fully furnished. They’d even painted the door and windowsills green. Around back a covered patio overlooked the lake, and there was a pier with an aluminum rowboat tied off to it nearby.
“We should go out on the lake while we’re here,” he said. “Good weather for it.”
“Hmm,” June said. “In the meantime, we’ve got sandwiches in the cooler for supper. Tomorrow morning we can pick up some real food.”
They sat on the patio and drank cokes and ate the egg sandwiches June had packed. Once the sun went down, they could see town across the lake, lit up like a Christmas tree along the waterfront where all the tourists were dining and drinking overpriced drinks. Bar music drifted across the lake and Francis drummed his fingers on the table in time with it. He glanced over to find June napping and smiled to himself.
The grocery store was about a mile’s walk away along the dirt road, but the view made it feel shorter. Inside there was a welcome breeze from the noisy overhead fans. Francis and June navigated the narrow aisles, picking out things to eat for the week: eggs, a bag of oranges, pork chops, a microwave pizza, coffee.
The man at the register was talking on the phone. He was turned away from them and had his other hand cupped over the speaker. There was a small portable radio next to him, turned down so low that it sounded like a buzzing insect. Another man leaned straddlelegged against the counter, breathing through his mouth like a pug dog. He wore a dingy shirt with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows, and there was a filet knife in a leather sheathe tucked into his belt.
“You a fisherman?” Francis asked, hoping to make conversation until the cashier was finished.
The man’s head shot around as if he hadn’t noticed them before, or else wasn’t expecting them to say anything to him. He looked confused for a moment, then followed Francis’s eyes to the knife. He patted the handle of the knife. “Yessir. A fisherman. Here on the lake.”
“I like to fish a bit myself.” Francis tilted his head in the general direction of the lake. “What’s out there?”
The man straightened up. He looked down at the floor and made a scuff mark on the linoleum with his boot. “Bass and perch, mostly. Some good sized ones.” The man looked up again, at Francis and then at June, as if he was trying to memorize their faces. “You the folks renting out that cabin?”
Francis laughed. “Is it that obvious?”
“I didn’t mean anything by it. I just didn’t recognize you, is all. Not many new faces around here, you know. Most folks visiting stay farther in town.” He rubbed his bottom lip. “Well anyway, nice meeting you. I better get on.” The man tipped his head and sidled past Francis to the door.
The cashier was still on the phone, only now he wasn’t making any effort at privacy. “Christ,” he muttered. “The last thing we need is posters up all over the place right in the middle of summer. I’ll put one up at the register, maybe someone’s seen her.” The cashier sighed and mopped his brow with the back of his hand. “Yeah, yeah, I hope so too. Just bring it by any time.” He hung up and turned to Francis and June with an apologetic shrug.
“Has someone gone missing?” June asked.
“Some girl from out of town, her parents haven’t seen her since last night.” The cashier waved his hand like he was shooing away a fly. “You know how girls are at that age. They come out here with their mom and dad, get a little stir crazy, maybe go chasing boys or off to find a party someplace. Mostly they come home in a day or so. Mostly they do, you just watch and see.”
Francis heard June calling for him and stepped out onto the patio. She was pointing out at the water.
“Somebody’s out there, just floating,” she said.
Francis squinted in the direction of her finger. There was a person lying on their back in the shallows near a stony patch of shore, pale as a fishbelly, bobbing with the current. It was too far away to make out any features. An icy knot formed in his stomach.
“God, what if it’s that girl?” June said. “I’m calling the police.”
Francis turned, but the screen door was already flapping. When he turned back, the person in the water was moving, making languid backstrokes. As he watched, the swimmer dove under the surface, came back up, and clambered onto shore. Francis yelled for his wife and she came back outside.
“It’s just some kid swimming,” Francis said. “Probably someone else renting on the lake.”
“Just as well, I guess. The phone wouldn’t even ring. I think the line’s dead.”
“I’ll ask somebody in town about it tomorrow.” Francis pecked her on the cheek. “Why don’t you make us up a couple rum and cokes? I packed a bottle in with my shirts.”
“Hah! You never can resist.”
While June busied herself with the drinks, Francis ambled down the short slope to the water’s edge. He picked up a handful of little stones and tried to see how far he could throw each one. He dusted off his hands and meant to head back to the cabin when he noticed the rowboat was gone. He went to the pier and knelt down, joints in both knees clicking in protest. He held the end of the rope in his hand. It had been cut clean through. He guessed there was no point in checking about the phone line. His breath let out like a punctured tire, and that cold knot wriggled back into his stomach.
He went back to the porch and sat down hard on his wicker chair. He thought about the dirt road into town, how in the evening, in the dark, it now seemed like a much longer walk.
June came back out with the rum and cokes. She’d already finished half of hers. The music drifting out across the lake was something she recognized, so she smiled and stood there swaying to it. Francis tried to think of the last time she’d looked so beautiful. He felt a pang in his chest, like a dam had burst inside and soon he would be filled with cold water.
June cocked her head at him. “What’s the matter hon?”
“Nothing. Keep dancing.”
June danced. Francis laced his fingers together in his lap and watched her until the lights across the lake went out.
|# ? May 12, 2014 03:35|
THUNDERDOME XCII RESULTS
The winner goes to Meeple. You used the prompts in a fun, clever way and your story felt the most complete. A close runner up and honorable mention goes to Kaishai whose story was a little more tender but lost to Meeple's originality.
With that being said, even those two stories weren't loving great. They were just the best out of a mediocre showing. And I do mean mediocre. I tried to throw you chucklefucks a fun party and you took a great big dump on my heart. Thanks for nothing.
Cache Cab, Grizzled Patriarch, and That Old Ganon. You were all insultingly terrible in your own special ways. DMs to you all.
RunningIntoWalls. You didn't even write a story. I'm perplexed by your ineptitude. Enjoy your loser's crown.
Oh, and before I pass over the throne, a very special DQ to Drunk Nerds for bringing humor (the non-lovely kind) and then covering his narrator in literal feces. You goddamn idiot.
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 23:59 on May 12, 2014
|# ? May 12, 2014 23:53|
This is your best story that I've read so far in the dome. The contagion was top notch and funny, but I liked it best when you parroted lines about other conditions/circumstances that people actually use. It made the story seem real and relevent, as well as a good commentary on ~real life~. But then your ending happened. It took all that good setup and threw it away with the mickey mouse club "Gee golly! I sure do see the light now!" Add that to "it's right across the street!" and it really feels like you phoned this one in at the end.
With a tighter ending, a little less showing, and some slightly tighter dialogue, this could have been an HM. The concept is great, but your execution was lacking. Still, your writing overall wasn't that bad. A little simplistic and didn't explore other than what was right on the table, but better than many this week.
|# ? May 12, 2014 23:59|
|# ? May 13, 2014 02:21|
Or Not to Be
The ol' stand off. Meh. Nothing really made this unique. Two paranoid people threatening each other's life. We've seen this a billion times before with two people pointing a gun at each other. It's always boring, because ugh SOMEBODY JUST PULL THE TRIGGER ALREADY.
I think a big part of the problem here is: what is at stake? Sure, their lives, but i don't know anything about them or their lives. other than "they love each other." throw in some memories or something. anything to flesh these two people out. make them both into people i don't want to see die. convince me of their love rather than just having them say "i love you!" WHY do i care that one of these people is dead at the end of the story?
Also, the actual stabbing is kind of a weak end. It just sort of happens, and all she really says about it is "man he is crazy." OH REALLY? Again, if I knew who these people are, and knew what the world was losing when this char died, then i might care a little bit more, but right now it's literally two boring characters who are both the same. I don't care who dies because neither of them matter at all.
|# ? May 13, 2014 03:04|
|# ? May 23, 2022 11:51|
It’s About Them
Dis is a good story. You do so many things so well. I really feel like this is a thing that happens in this world, and it feels natural.
One of the main problems, is this didn't feel like it was contagious! That was the prompt! It was like, just a decision people made. They got to plan for it and decided if they wanted it. That missed the prompt pretty hard core for me, and might have kept you from the win.
The very end could use some more work too. Also the short switch to Chris's POV seems too short and sudden for me. Maybe mix in one of his POV's earlier. I dunno. It's just the whole story is about Elise and her thoughts and feelings, them BAM she's dead and chris takes over to say "sucks man. let's get a beer."
|# ? May 13, 2014 03:23|